Saturday, January 11, 2014

Year in Review, 2013

I have stayed so busy through the Holidays that I really haven't spent much time yet reflecting on 2013.  So, here are the highlights and lowlights...

After opening the Hong Kong program through Lifeline just before Christmas 2012, January and February were very busy months at work.
Me in Hong Kong with one of the amazing
social workers at Mother's Choice, Janice.
It was so fun to approve applications for our very first Hong Kong families. What a joy it has been to walk alongside them throughout this past year!
(You know who you are!!) 

Having an active role in bringing children into their forever families is so rewarding!
Me, Connor (with his tongue out!), Cameron and Cooper alongside
 two very precious adoptive mamas, Amy & Connie!
On the home front was a whirlwind of last minute adoption fundraising and international travel as we brought our newest sons, Connor and Cooper home in March.
Connor's Gotcha Day!
March 11, 2013

Cooper's Gotcha Day
March 13, 2013
It is mind-boggling to me that they will have been home a year in 3 short months!

The Spring all but vanished from view in the "adjustment period" for our new family of 7!

I did take a quick trip to TN last Spring to attend the 2013 Annual Orphan Summit in Brentwood.

It was an amazing time!

My first SUMMIT!  I was a little excited to be there!

My precious SC friends helping our comrade, Dan Cruver, set up for his meeting. 

Dr. Karen Purvis
up close and personal

We had fun taking "Ipad Jess" around the conference
with us since she couldn't be there in person.
David Platt and me!
Will never forget his preaching that night, it was so great!

Watch out, Charlie's Angels!
Why yes, that IS Nicole C. Mullen and me!

The incomparable Dave Wood with me and Sharon Lyon!

Adeye Salem and me!
Such a precious lady, Christ follower, adoptive mama and orphan advocate!

The Summer of 2013 was hot. 
Very hot! 

Our best summer activity was when all 5 boys joined Agape do Karate!  They have done so well and we just love the Christ-honoring, family atmosphere there!

Connor, age 14, on test day!

Tommy, age 9, on test day.

Sadly, my most prominent memory of this past summer was the day that my littlest, Cooper, wanted to learn to ride a bike. 
Hard as I tried, I really couldn't do justice to this simple request. Try as I might to ignore the truth, I had gained so much weight throughout the course of the previous two years, eye-ball deep in one adoption after another, that I couldn't handle the taxing task of running behind my child's bike in June!

I tried. I did. I wanted to be "that mom" that could hang with her kids.  But, sadly, these good intentions practically caused a heat stroke. 

I wish I could say that this was the wake up call that I needed, but it wasn't. No, I blamed my troubles on the heat in Charleston. It was just too hot to be bike riding, right?  

The weeks that followed were filled with busyness and other excuses why I didn't have "time" to help Cooper learn to ride that bike. 

The whole summer came and went and my 10 year old was the only one of our 5 boys who could not ride a bike. #momfail! 

July was the month when Colin and I traveled to Long Island, NY to help rebuild homes damaged earlier in the year by Super Storm Sandy.

What an amazing trip that was!  Colin and I had some good time bonding and we did a LOT of work. 
Of course, it happened to be the hottest week in July NY has seen in years, but who noticed?
I stayed on this porch most of the week because I couldn't handle the direct sunlight, but it was a blessing to serve and we had a marvelous time!

August brought a new home for our family, a hand wrapped gift straight from the Lord!

Much work was ahead, but it was one of those "chores" that changed things in our home.

In September, as we were having our big "move day" weekend coming up, Tom and Colin (without my knowledge) decided to move a refrigerator over to the new house. This proved to be a "stress test" of sorts for Tom's heart, a test that he failed!

Within a half hour, I learned that he was having chest pains and off to health first we went!  Fast forward and Tom is in an ambulance, and on his way to the Cardiac Care unit at our local hospital, and immediately scheduled for a heart cath.

In the midst of all that chaos, I had the privilege of assisting in Lifeline SC's very first domestic adoptive placement!
 (Let's agree that it was a hectic month!)

Even the excitement of our annual Lifeline Staff Retreat held each October was not enough to get me to pay attention to my health though.

While nothing could truly take away the joy of being with my co-laborers in ministry for three days (I LOVE those people!), it was tough to be there, a year after my last trip and be even heavier and more unhealthy than before.

But that was the beginning of the end. 
(The end of my unhealthy life, that is!)
I didn't even know it at the time. 

Just 2 weeks after returning home from that annual trip, I learned about Isagenix!  I wasn't certain if I'd ever really learn how to eat and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I wasn't sure I wanted to badly enough. But that was mainly because I still thought that "healthy" meant "depriving". 

That's where I was so wrong!

November was my first month of truly healthy eating- probably ever!

It was also the month three of our boys were baptized! What a special day this was for our family!




We also had a wonderful visit over the Thanksgiving holiday from Tom's oldest daughter, Krisha and her family.

So, despite the way that 2013 started, it ended Soooo much better!

The kids are adjusting well.

God provided us with a new house for our growing family.

Tom caught his heart issues just in time and is doing well.

The Lord has blessed our SC office with some amazing staff!

And I am healthier and having more fun with all the craziness that comes with being the only female in our home than ever before! 

PS... I can chase a bike now!

Thank you, Isagenix! 
I can't wait to see what the Lord has planned for our family in 2014!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

CHRISTmas- the season of Thanks?

As we prepared the boys, and ourselves , for the Christmas celebrations through nightly advent readings etc., we also felt it was important to talk about presents. You see, in the world of adoptive families, even something as seemingly simple as Christmas can be a very confusing concept to a child from a foreign land.

What is Christmas?
Why do we give gifts?
Why do people decorate?
Who is Santa Claus?
Why are we always lighting candles?

These are all questions that we've received from one or another of our boys.

So, in addition to the education of our Savior's birth, we also find ourselves covering all the above topics too.

As it pertained to gift giving, we tried to keep it simple. Not just simple to manage, but simple to understand. 

Tom and I really wanted our kids to see gift giving as a true symbol of the gift of salvation that we can receive.

So, we did two things this year that were somewhat new for our clan.

First, we sat all the boys down and explained the significance of gift giving at Christmas time. We clarified that gifts were not dependent on one's "behavior" so much as a reflection of the love of the giver.
(Much like the undeserved love we receive from Christ).
 We also explained that Christmas was not a time to be lavish, and it was not a time where one gets everything they've ever wanted.
 (It may seem common sense to some of you, but for many adopted children, the preconceived notions they have about "life in America" include a life of ease and luxury.)
Personally, I am grateful that this is not the case for our children. So, yes, we covered that ground as well.

In keeping with the simple theme, we told each boy they could expect to receive modest gifts in the following categories:

Something you want
 (within reason)
Something you need
 (as determined my your parents)
Something to wear
Something to read 

Secondly, we instituted a brand new tradition this year.

As I considered how to make a practical connection for our boys on seeing each gift as a representation of our many blessings from God, I thought how nice it would be to verbally do so. 

So, this year, as each gift was opened, we asked the children to share one thing that they considered a blessing from the Lord. 

(Again, a simple task for those who were raised in a Christian home where the concept of thankfulness is routinely taught, not so much for children from hard places).

Well, the "big day" finally arrived. 

{I find it important to pause here and say that, in many adoptive situations, the best plans in the world, the purest intentions ever, cannot guarantee that these things will sink in or that they will be readily accepted by your children.  Most experts will tell you that one of the biggest mistakes an adoptive parent can make, especially around "important" occasions, is to expect too much. It is often a train wreck when we expect that perfect postcard moment to happen because when it doesn't, which really is more often than not, we are so disappointed and disillusioned, that we have a hard time seeing any blessing in the day at all!}

That said, I was BLOWN away that my children not only complied with this extra "responsibility" on Christmas day, but they seemed to really embrace it! 
 (Especially the one child that I expected to pull back and either A. pretend he didn't understand or B. make it clear that he couldn't think of a single thing to be thankful for)

Here are some photos of our fun morning for your enjoyment!
He couldn't figure out why he got a Clemson pullover when
Cameron is the one who loves this team so much!

Stand Tall!
Love me some Wild Olive Tees! 

Handmade for Mom by Connor. Yes, you read that right. Connor.

Books for the beginning reader!

And you thought you would never get one!

I will refrain from any caption here! LOL

Mom, socks?

Enough said!

The "big gift" for my three older sons.
Thank God for Black Friday prices! 

Beginner level indoor helicopter.
He's getting quite good at this now!

Made this boy happy!

The true Clemson fan of our household!

Another precious hand made gift from Cooper!

Tom's annual gift from my Mother and Charles.
That is his "happy face".

OK, so it is educational!  Don't hate!

A REQUIREMENT in a house full of boys!

My "reader" LOVES Percy Jackson!

This boy has waited literally 5 years to get a ROBOT!
He was over the moon excited! 

Lastly, I leave you with a video of our Christmas moments where you can hear for yourselves what the children are most thankful for!

Merry CHRISTmas friends!