Monday, November 30, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

You may have caught in my post last week that we actually put up our Christmas decor the day before Thanksgiving. I am sure this is a no-no in many households. :) But, since we head out to a tournament to Kansas City the day after Thanksgiving, I just have to come home to Christmas instead of thinking all weekend about how I would rather be home putting up the tree! I tried to capture every moment last Wednesday when the day of anticipation finally arrived!

Getting mentally prepared for a day of decorating!

Last year while strolling through Walmart I came across some super cute mini trees that were pink and blue. They were absolutely irresistible! The thought crossed my mind that we could start a tradition of JJ and Jayla each having their own tree in their room to decorate each year. And, so, last year we started the tradition and added to it that each year they could pick out an ornament for their tree. Here is JJ hanging up the ornament he picked out earlier this month on his blue tree:

And here is a close-up of the ornament he picked out - a fireman dog!

You may remember that JJ also was a fireman for Halloween….so apparently he really likes firemen this year.

And, here is Jayla contemplating hanging her ornament on the tree:


And, then, the alligator tears when she realized that she didn’t want to hang up her ornament, but she wanted to hold it instead (the tears are a little hard to see here, but trust me they were there!)


JJ and I tried coaxing her that it would be fun to hang the ornament, but she had her own agenda, so we had to hang it up for her later once she forgot about it and left it on the floor. :) Here is a close-up of her ornament, which JJ picked out for her this year:

A doggy diva! Quite fitting don’t ya think?

Of course, you’ve also got to sample the decorations to make sure they are up to par!


And here is JJ’s finished product (notice JJ’s socks in this year’s picture):


And Jayla’s tree (last year and this year):


After all of that excitement I then announced it was time to put up the big tree in the living room, and suddenly my helpers ditched me for an Elmo movie!


Then, I corralled Daddy to help me for awhile….that was until JJ and Jayla discovered their Christmas books that I had stored away last year. And, then all of my helpers ditched me for an Elmo Christmas book!

Don’t worry, I still got ‘er done!

And, my two favorite JJ quotes from the day:

(pointing at the fireplace) - “Mommy, why did you hang those boots up there?”

(and, once the big tree was up in the living room) – “Mommy, that is the BIGGEST BIGGEST tree I have ever seen!” (and his voice got louder and louder as he said it)

Happy decorating everyone! :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful

What a beautiful day to express thanks for life and love and family and friends and everything.

Dear Lord, my cup overflows. Thank you for providing me with a husband who has a vigor and an excitement for life. Each day he wakes up he is ready to make an impact for you. I can see it in his eyes. Thank you that his strengths are my weaknesses. Thank you that we balance each other out in every single way. Thank you that Jake’s positive attitude and readiness to ‘step out of the boat’ rubs off on me. Thank you for giving me a husband who loves you, and reads your word, and talks with me about you, and prays with me, and walks his life as such a great leader for our family. Thank you that my husband backs up his beliefs with action and spurs me to do the same.

Thank you Lord that you are my trust. Every day I come up with a new worry about my children. Thank you that I can give my worries to you, and know that I am not in this parenting thing alone. They are your children, and you will teach me how to raise them. Thank you for the precious smile I get in the morning when I get Jayla out of her crib. Thank you for the way she sweetly pats me on the back as we walk out to sit by the fireplace and begin the day. Thank you for the way JJ can instantly put a smile on my face by his utter goofiness, or unmatched sweetness. Thank you that I get to hear the words, “You want to play with me mommy?” What a precious boy you have given me. Thank you, Lord that I get to stay at home with my children each day. Thank you that I never have to miss a single moment with them in these tender years. Thank you for allowing my dream of being a mom to come true.

Lord, I am humbled and thankful for the way you have used us to start your work in Ghana. Your power and your faithfulness have spoken so loudly to me in this adoption journey . Thank you for the way you have grown my faith through this. I’ve learned so much in the past year. Thank you for teaching me that my insecurities are sins, because I am not trusting in you. Thank you for showing me how to blindly follow you, even when I can’t see that the outcome is going to be good. Thank you for whispering to me along the way that I can trust you with every detail. Even the smallest ones that nobody else cares about or thinks about but me. Thank you for the way you encourage me in your word when I feel beat down by this world, by people’s opinions and perceptions. Thank you for speaking through me when I don’t have the words, or when I want to scream instead of be nice. Thank you Lord that you didn’t lie and say it would be easy to follow you. Thank you that instead you’ve promised to be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path as I make my way through this world that is not my home.

Thank you Lord that you have the perfect child picked out for us for our adoption. Thank you that I can trust you to lead us to him, and that I can choose not to worry. Thank you for providing me with friends who have walked this adoption path. I am so encouraged by them, and that they always know just what to say, and when to say it.

Thank you, Lord for surrounding me with friends who are also following after you. When I look around it amazes me that you have given me friends who are in my exact age and stage of life, who are taking the path that leads to you. I get so excited for Thursday mornings when I get to meet up with these friends you have given me. I so look forward to trucking through your word with them. What a beautiful thing it is to be able to share in the joys and struggles of life, and to be comforted and encouraged by those who’s hearts belong to Jesus. I often think about what it will be like someday when we are in heaven, worshiping you at your throne. How cool that will be to look to my right and to my left and see my brothers and sisters there in your presence.

Most of all, thank you Lord for opening my eyes and my heart to your glorious truth. Thank you for the hidden treasures in your word that can only be found through digging in. Thank you that I can read your word and understand it. Thank you for the way you have so filled me up that I can’t help but now pour you out to others. Thank you for the opportunities you have given me to share my faith, and my hope, and my certainty in you.

Your love never fails. Your word never fails. Your promises are never broken. For these things I am so thankful.

John 1:16
From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

I cough when I eat ice cream.

Each Sunday night I make a to do list for the following week.

My favorite movies are Hope Floats, Marley & Me, Love & Basketball, and P.S. I love you (I cried every 15 minutes during this movie!)

We put up our Christmas decorations the day before Thanksgiving (now, if we had Thanksgiving dinner at our house instead of my mom’s I wouldn’t do this, but there is freedom when you don’t have to keep up the fall décor for the main event!). 5 years ago I bought a fakey tree at Lowes that I loved, loved, loved. It was a 9 foot tree. When we got it home (at our other house at the time) and put it up, I soon discovered that our ceiling height was only 8 feet!!!!!! No, I didn’t think to measure. Seriously, who does that? :) So, enter my step-dad and his chain saw. He cut off the top, we plopped a star on it and it was as good as new. Now in our new house, it fits like a charm with room to spare up top!

I ♥ chips and salsa.

In college Jake and I used to eat at King Buffet every Sunday evening. One time I made him try pot stickers and he acted like he was poisoned. He’s not much for trying new types of foods, especially ones that look a little different, but pot stickers are my fav!

Since I started blogging I’ve fallen completely behind on my scrapbooking! I think the time I spend writing my posts is the time I used to spend taping pictures, and writing notes, and making fancy schmancy pages.

I love to play cards. Spades and rummy 500 are my favorites.

I DO NOT like seafood Sam I am (even just the smell of it makes me queasy).

The minute I get home from going somewhere I change into my comfy clothes and pull my hair back!

The inside of my car is a disaster zone.

In highschool I was a waitress at Taylor’s Maid-rite. I bet you didn’t know that they have cow carcuses hanging from the ceiling in the basement cooler? It’s like a scary movie down there. But, at least you know your juicy bun of grease is fresh fresh fresh!

I didn’t find out Santa wasn’t real until 4th grade!

I love getting dressed up!

I’ve never had a cavity.

I always wanted to be a sea animal rehabilitator. I think I actually made up the name of this career, but it sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? I didn’t want to be a marine biologist. I more wanted to help injured ocean animals and take them back to Sea World and rehabilitate them. Too bad we don’t live by the ocean.

I love Tuscan and Mediterranean style home décor.

I was born 1 day before my mom’s birthday, and JJ was born on my birthday. No inductions, au natural.

I’ve lived in Minnesota, Nebraska, Arizona, California, and Iowa.

I want to open up a dessert restaurant called Nelly’s. I would sell every kind of dessert you could imagine…pies, cheesecake, every type of bar under the sun, ice cream, frozen desserts, fridge desserts, fruit desserts, chocolate desserts, yum, Yum, YUM!

Flies give me the heebie jeebies. And, whenever I grab the fly swatter the flies diappear.

I started dating Jake because he looked like a rebel with his shaved head and tattoos. Then I found out that he is a teddy bear disguised as a rebel.

I ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ having a little boy and a little girl. I wish everyone got to experience having a child of each gender.

The only place I can fully relax is at my mom’s house. Can you say quiet country road, wood stove burnin, apple cider brewin, and kiddos entertained? Ah, sheer bliss.

And, #25: I’ve been dreaming about dogs. I want one SO bad. But, we will never be able to have one since we travel almost every weekend. I can’t imagine having to find a place for him to stay every travel weekend. Golden retrievers are my weakness. Have you seen this video?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Honest Look

I’ve realized a lot of things since starting a blog, and one of them is that I so appreciate honesty….even when it’s not necessarily pretty. I think that’s one reason why I love this blog:

http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/

I’ve been wanting to post about this blog for awhile now and I am just now getting around to it. This 21 year old girl, Katie, is living in Uganda, caring for the sick, dying, malnourished, unloved, children…some who have been left on dirt roads to die. She is also the main caretaker for 14 Ugandan girls who live with her and call her ‘mommy’. I cannot even describe how this girl’s posts touch my heart. Her words are full of truth, gut, honesty, and most of all, they are biblical. She is living out the verse: 1 John 2:5-7 But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. Every time I read one of her posts I think that it was the best one she’s ever written….until the next one, and the next one. Her life is inspiring, her biblical wisdom is unreal, and her faith is put into action every moment of every day. I hope you will start tuning into her posts if you haven’t already. They are intense, but give you a great perspective on life. Here is a little excerpt from one of her recent posts to give you a glimpse into her life in Uganda:

Last Thursday as I was meeting with some women in the village of Masese, one of them got a call from her brother that there was a child dying near the local steel mill and did she know anyone who could help... So it was off to the steel mill where I met the sickest little boy I have ever seen (I know, I know, I say that every time, but I am serious.... God just gears me up for it a little at a time...) David looked merely dead, breathing shallowly as I took his naked, 15 pound, 4 year old body into my lap. His mom was "scrapping", or digging around the steel mill for nickel-sized pieces of scrap metal that she may be able to sell for 2 cents. As we waited for her to come back, I felt sure that this child was going to breathe his last at any moment. When she got back to their closet-sized home, she explained that her husband had left her for another woman last year when she miscarried (often viewed as a curse in rural villages). Since he has been the only one providing an income for her, David and her other 3 children, and since she had never been to school, she began the practice of picking scrap metal. In just 30 minutes in her yard, WITH shoes on, I cut my feet twice... It broke my heart to think of all the physical pain she was having to endure every day as she cut her hands and feet trying to find this metal that may sell for enough to buy them a small sack of corn flour. She cried as she explained that they had not eaten in three days because no one had wanted to buy her metal. I felt certain that David would not make it through the night, and I am guessing I do not have to tell you what happened next. I scooped him up, put him in the car and took him home where my sweet, loving girls welcomed him with open arms, and we gave him all the ORS and Pediasure he wanted :)

And, that is just a quick glimpse into her everyday life. She’s living a very purposeful life, and I think once you start reading, you will be hooked and forever changed.

Also, from Katie’s blog I started following another blog of a family who adopted one of the little girls in Katie’s care. One day on this family’s blog, the mother did a post about the unpredictability of Uganda adoption, and she could have literally stolen the words right out of my mouth as it compares so much to Ghana adoption! If you are interested in reading that post, you can click here:

http://joiningthejourney.blogspot.com/2009/10/home-sweet-home.html

Monday, November 23, 2009

Take 'Em Captive

I’ve been thinking about this verse lately:

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

This verse reminds me that as a follower of Jesus, I need to focus on truth. Irrational, fearful thoughts should have no place in my mind. Lately my mind has been taking the latter route regarding our adoption. Usually it starts with me thinking: What if the child we adopt comes and messes up our family? Then from there, I can work myself up into an entire ‘what if’ situation that if left long enough to stir around in my mind, can create in me a horrible feeling of fear and uncertainty. And, this is how the devil works. He is out to destroy and confuse and deceive and to cause us to live in an unsure state. He makes the path ahead blurry, causes us to question God’s promises, and whispers lies to us. Just like he whispered to Eve in the garden, “Did God really say that?” (Genesis 3:1).

But, there are many verses in the Bible that aid us in knowing what our defense should be. One thing that I’ve learned is that these ‘what if’ situations that I get my mind worked into are NOT based on truth. They are based on lies and my underlying fears. I remember when JJ was about 8 months old I started taking him for runs at a path that surrounded a lake in Ames. One day this thought popped into my mind: What if that man running towards us trips and knocks me over and causes the stroller to fall into the lake? Yes, this sounds pretty silly doesn’t it? But, this one thought caused me to be fearful every time we approached someone else on the path. I would hold my breath until we were past them. I knew at the time that this thought was irrational and silly, yet, it would always pop into my mind and make my body weak and my palms sweaty.

But, here is the good part. We don’t have to entertain every thought that comes into our mind. We can choose what we will think about and what we won’t. God’s word tells us to “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) We can put a stop to thoughts that are full of lies and exaggerated what ifs. We can take control of our mind. I’ve seen this happen first-hand with Jake and his obsessive compulsive disorder. Before Jake was a believer I had seen him a few times in which his mind had completely gotten him into a state of havoc, and had him paralyzed in fear….literally. Thankfully once Jake become a follower of Christ, God removed almost every single part of this awful disease in his mind. And, what’s left of it, Jake is now able to overcome through God’s wisdom found in his word. Jake can now discern when an obsessive thought has entered his mind, and he can pray it away and choose not to act on it. To Jake, taking his thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ means freedom, in a way that many of us will never understand.

Of course, we don’t have to have OCD to know what it’s like to have a lie floating around in our mind. The challenge is to grab hold of each thought and hold it up against God’s standard found in the first verse – is it true? Noble? Right? Pure? Lovely? Admirable? Excellent? Praiseworthy? If it doesn’t fit, then it’s most likely not something to be dwelling on or becoming fearful about. From here it is then our choice to stop entertaining the thought, pray it away, and move on.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Breakfast Boycotter

You might have heard me mention that JJ is what I call a breakfast boycotter…..I’ve tried to give him everything under the sun for breakfast, and he just doesn’t want it. For awhile I was just wasting food…I would literally put something on a plate for him, or in a bowl, and it would just sit there all morning, only for me to throw it out completely untouched by lunchtime. Well, as of late, I’ve finally gotten him to at least eat a bowl of fruit in the morning! So, he has that and his 2 glasses of milk and he is rarin to go until lunch.

Well, on Monday when we got back from our tournament trip we were running a little low on groceries. We had a few sad looking strawberries left for fruit, and so I cut out the icky spots and JJ gobbled them down for breakfast.

“More strawberries, please,” he said.

“Sorry, all out. Want something else?”

“Canteloupe, please!”

“Sorry, we don’t have any. I can pick some up at the store today.”

“Grapes please!!!”

“Sorry, honey, I don’t think we have any grapes left either.”

The fruit man gave up his requests and sat quietly for a minute. A few minutes later I heard JJ rummaging around in the fridge. I kind of forgot about it, and went on making my grocery list. A few minutes later I looked up and saw JJ had gotten a bowl full of cherry TOMATOES and was cheerfully eating them at 8:30am, still in his jammies! I had to snap a picture!

At least I can say he's getting his veggies!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Little Girl Can Never Have......

TOO MANY SHOES!!!!!!!!!!!
(and a mommy can never have too many friends who pass down their daughter's outgrown shoes to us!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pictures from Practice

JJ's FAVORITE thing to do now at practice is to imitate Daddy's every move. :)

Here he is on the sidelines, imitating Daddy's coaching stance as Jake runs practice.

He's got this one down! Jake always stands like this on the court!

Imitation #3 (arms crossed - he has a little work to do on this one)

And, here is my favorite imitation!
JJ is going to make a great coach some day!

And here is the coach in action...



JJ and Jayla are getting pretty used to gym life!

Of course it's not a night at the gym without some dribbling!

And, I know you are probably sick of watching these dribbling videos by now, but I just had to post two more! JJ has been dribbling and 'shooting' during timeouts at gametime. It is so fun to watch him! He is just too stinkin cute!
video

One more!
video

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tournament Trip to Lincoln


This past weekend we traveled to Lincoln, NE with Jake’s girl’s teams to kick-off the winter season of tournament play. During the winter months, Jake only has his 3rd through 8th grade teams for practice and weekend tournaments since the high school kids are busy with their school teams. We travel a few weekends a month with the younger teams…mostly the tournaments are held in Iowa or in the Midwest. I am sure you can imagine how excited JJ was to be getting to go to a hotel again! He kept saying all weekend, “I’m having a fun day!”

The first item on the agenda once we made it to the hotel was to go swimming! Here is the tournament crew off to the pool:

(lil J.J., Nyla, Jayla, big JJ)

Can you tell they are getting impatient with my picture-taking already?


Jayla is quite the swimmer!



A few months ago, JJ was afraid to jump in, but not now! Watch this....

video


Jayla's new thing is that she LOVES ELMO! This comes in handy when I need to get ready in the morning!


Nyla brought her markers to the games, so they did a lot of coloring!


JJ and I tried to get some snuggling in...


That was until Jayla got jealous and tried with all her might to push JJ off my lap! Coach Seay got a picture from the bench because he had turned around to see what was going on since Jayla was screaming "Mine!"


It's a good thing Daddy had a free lap in between games!


And, of course Jayla had to chat with the girls in between games!


And, she even snuck in some time to help Stacy check her blog back at the hotel.


Coach Seay worked on some dribbling drills with Nyla and JJ, with a few distractions as you'll see in the video!
video

And the trip was topped off with a GLORIOUS double dip of rainbow sherbet ice cream from Baskin Robbins...it doesn't get any better than that!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday on My Mind

Did you know that two things happen when you put your faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins?

The first thing that happens is that God gives you a NEW LIFE here on earth. Which of us would say we’ve never messed up? Which of us wouldn’t desire a second chance? Which of us is without problems? Which of us doesn’t want better relationships, a peace during times of trouble, directions for this trip we call life? Before the point that we put our faith in Christ, the Bible would say that we are living for ourselves, not for God. We are gratifying our sinful nature. Spiritually dead. Maybe you have felt this way. That you are just walking through the hum drums of life….going through the motions. You feel like you need some change, but don’t know where to start. Maybe you feel like ‘religion’ is just a bunch of hoops to jump through and that it doesn’t look like something you are interested in. Maybe you are even searching….for fulfillment, for a change of pace, for refreshment. Well, I will tell you today that if you keep trying to do this on your own, you are going to turn up empty. God would tell us to give up our ‘rights’, our entitlement, our desires, and let HIM do the work in us. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:25) God has put in each one of us a desire to know HIM. With every longing, every craving, every wish, it seems that we try to fill ourselves up with things other than God. But, we must recognize that our fulfillment can only be satisfied in a relationship with God. God will often try many attempts to wake us up and teach us this. Maybe you are feeling God speaking this to your heart at this stage in your life now. It is at this point in which the Bible reassures us that we should NOT look ‘inward’ for help. Instead, we are to look at the cross, where God sent his Son Jesus to die for us, so that we can have access to God.

Once you put your faith in Jesus, God begins to work in you. After this point God tells us that we are a new creation. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17) When we put our faith in Jesus, we are made alive through him. Sin now longer has reign over us. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with that we should no longer be slaves to sin. In the same way count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6: 6,11) Being a slave to sin just means that we are in a continual cycle of sin, trying to find fulfillment, getting it temporarily, but then when the fulfillment is gone we must sin again to be fulfilled...thus sin becomes our 'master'. But God gives us hope. He asks us to give up our life as we know it (the cycle of sin and living for ourselves) and he will give us a new life. It is the work of the Holy Spirit…..a gift from God that we receive after our faith is put in Jesus.

Yes, after we put our faith in Jesus, God starts working in us. We want to go to church and learn, we want to read our Bible, we want to try and obey God’s commands and we find that they aren’t burdensome. We want to pray, we want to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what he has to say because in him is LIFE, and BREATH, and every longing is fulfilled. We realize that the direction and guidance for our life is found only in God’s word to us, the Bible. We find an excitement and vigor as we watch God transform our life. It’s a ‘pumped up feeling’ that we have for God at this point. We feel alive, TRULY ALIVE for the first time. And, this not to live for ourselves, but to live for God.

The second thing that happens once we put our faith in Jesus Christ is that we have confidence that we will inherit eternal life. Beyond a shadow of a doubt we know that we are going to heaven when we die. We have no fear in death. There is no wondering what happens. There is no “I hope I make it”. There is surety and peace in the face of our certain physical death. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40)

If you’ve never experienced either of these two things, then think about if you’ve ever taken the time to learn about your Savior, Jesus Christ. Do you still view him as a little baby that came at Christmas time? Do you still view him as the guy that little children sing a famous song about at church? To you, is Jesus just a symbol of religion? A crucifix that hangs in your kitchen? A cross around your neck on a silver chain? Or do you know him? Would you say you have a relationship with him? Have you believed with your whole heart that Jesus lived a sinless life, died as your undeserved atoning sacrifice, and was resurrected by God, all so that you can have access to God? Have you placed your entire life on that belief?

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! (Galatians 2:20)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Getting Excited!

Well, just this week it hit me that I am starting to get really excited for our Africa trip coming up! I think I am so excited because I now know that we will be able to work on the adoption while we are there. Praise God! And, since we will get to meet Samuel I feel like I have a strong purpose to go on the trip now! I uncovered my Africa sack from the bottom of my closet….these were some items that I had picked up over the past year since I wasn’t sure when exactly we would be going to travel to work on the adoption. In my forgotten sack I found....

-BUG SPRAY!

-3 sundresses from Target that I got at a steal of a price on the clearance rack a few months ago

-A passport case that my friend Stacy got for me last January! She said the uglier the better so that way it is hard to lose in the airport and everywhere in between. Makes sense, but I love paisley so I don’t think it is ugly at all. In fact, I adore my pink paisley passport holder! Can you say that 3 times fast?

-And the last thing was Jake’s buy…adapter plugs that provide worldwide compatibility for U.S. electronics in over 150 countries! He didn’t have this on his first trip, and with the plug ins being different in Africa, he had quite a time trying to charge his cell phone and plug in his laptop. This was a smart buy.

A couple of other things come to mind that I need to work on before our trip. The first is that I am hoping to make Samuel a welcome book with pictures of our family, home, activities that we do, etc. I had made Solomon a welcome book, and he loved it! It’s pretty easy to create one on Shutterfly. If you are adopting an older child, I think making him/her a welcome book is such an easy way to introduce your family and allow them to be prepared for the sights they will see once they are home with you. Here is a link to a website with good welcome book tips: http://www.comeunity.com/adoption/how/adoption-adjustment.html

The other thing on my trip check-list is to make little videos of Jake and I that my mom can play for JJ and Jayla while we are gone. This was my mom’s fantastic idea, and she suggested having a video for each day with us reading them a bedtime story, singing songs, etc. I think they will really like this, and at least it’s a way that I feel like I can leave them something in which they can still ‘see’ us each day. :) You know, us mom’s get a little worried that our kids are going to forget us while we are away.

Let’s see, I also just sent in everything to get my visa, so that was pretty exciting. Jake’s visa is still valid for another year. All week I’ve also been working on updating our dossier which is the legal documents that we need to begin processing our adoption in court. This will get sent over to Kofi next week so he can begin working on things on our behalf. Our homestudy expires in December, so eventually we will need to update that as well. It’s actually been pretty exciting for me to start working on updating all of these documents. For so long our adoption has just been stagnant, so now that things are moving along, I am feeling a renewed energy for it all!

Jake and I have also begun talking to JJ about Samuel….just starting out slowly for now and trying to be mindful of the uncertainty of status with Ghana adoptions. So far, he's been relating Samuel's coming similar to Yaw coming to live with us. In fact, after I mentioned a few things to him today he said, ‘Like Yaw?’ And then he asked me if Yaw was still going to stay with us. I had to break the news that eventually Yaw will go to school somewhere else and will move out. He just said, “Oh,” and then was quiet for awhile. I am sure it will take him awhile to wrap his brain around that one!

I feel like I could keep writing about all this excitement for awhile! It’s been fun to prepare for the trip, and I am also really looking forward to having 7 days with it being just Jake and I! I can’t remember the last time we got to take a trip with it being just us! Not to mention, could it really get any better imagining the hot African sun heating up my cold Iowa winter bones? It’s gonna feel so good!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Project:Ghana Update

We had an exciting thing come about regarding the foundation that has referred Samuel to us (http://www.compafricare.org/)and how they can become connected with Project:Ghana happenings. When we were first sent Samuel’s information, I started looking around on the CompAfriCare Foundation’s website. One of the first things I noticed was that they had a computer center going in Ghana for underpriviledged children. They also fund and operate pre-schools, hold medical care clinics for those living in remote villages and are involved in numerous other outreach programs for children and families. These projects are not only in Ghana, but in other countries of Africa as well. Their mission statement is: to bring relief to all ethnic groups, particularly focusing on orphans and deserted children and families in remote parts of the world and directing people toward a new vision and assisting them with the skills and resources needed for a better future. In this regard we create a synchronized and conducive world for indigent children thus helping to eradicate poverty around the world. It is our belief that if children are cared for properly and educated, the problems associated with poverty like child slavery, prostitution and trafficking will be completely eradicated.

The day we accepted Samuel’s referral, which was two Mondays ago, Jake started rummaging around on the CompAfriCare website. After seeing some of their projects, he decided to send the President an email to share about the vision for Project:Ghana and also shared with him our adoption journey thus far. About 10 minutes after he sent the email Jake received a phone call from the President of CompAfriCare – George. Jake went into the other room and he and George talked on the phone for almost 45 minutes. I heard lots of chuckling and ‘you’re kidding!’ and ‘wow’ and then I heard Jake say that he would look into flights to Ohio….I had no idea what was going on and I couldn’t wait until Jake got off the phone to find out.

Well, as it turned out, George (who is originally from Ghana and now resides in Ohio) owns 10 acres of land in the Eastern region of Ghana which was donated to him by his family. For the past year he has been coming up with plans to build a school and an orphanage on the land. However, last year he was also trying to set up his 501c3 foundation so that he could receive donations to fund the project, and it took him all of last year to get the foundation approved (it took Jake’s 501c3 about 8 months to get approved). So, George has been sitting on these plans to build the school & orphanage until he is able to raise the money to do so. George told Jake that he had been fasting 1 day per week and praying for the past month that his foundation would ‘go somewhere’ and that God would give him some direction with the project. And then, enter Jake and his plans with Project:Ghana! It’s funny because Jake and I had been praying that God would provide someone to help with the school/academy side of Project:Ghana since we really have no expertise in that area. So, you guessed it, Jake is flying out to Ohio next week to meet with George and hopefully find a way that they can work together and combine their visions into one!

So, a few other names to throw around to you….George has a Vice-President of his foundation that lives and works in Ghana and his name is Kofi. Kofi is our representative for our adoption of Samuel and will process paperwork there on our behalf. Well, we found out the other day that Kofi lives 2 blocks from Jake’s main guy in Ghana – Mark. Got it? Well, Kofi is supposed to be meeting up with Mark to take him and show him the land that CompAfriCare wants to build the school & orphanage on. So, things-are-a-movin’ and I’ll have to let you know how the meeting between George and Jake goes next week!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Adopting Older Children

With our adoption, you may or may not be wondering what on earth we know about raising a 6-year old. And, the truth is, I have thought of this OFTEN. Trust me, I am not taking this lightly. But, there is a point where I need to trust that God will supply everything we need to do this. And, what we don’t know, He will teach us. In accepting this referral, I had arrived at that thought, and I believe it.

I keep telling myself that when I was pregnant with JJ, I didn’t know what it was going to be like to have a newborn. I had never experienced it before. But, I learned. When JJ approached his second birthday I wondered what life would bring with a 2 year old. I had lots of questions. And, I learned answers as the days came and went. And, it will be the same with Samuel. No, I know nothing about 6 year olds. But, I will learn. This is where God has brought us. This is the boy God has asked us to invite into our family. And we will do it. I am SO EXCITED to learn, and to experience this.

I’ve shared before that I’ve been concerned about the subject of maintaining biological order within adoption….I’ve gone back and forth over this….fretting about it in one moment, and then being okay about it in the next. We obviously are not following biological order in our adoption of Samuel since he will now become our eldest child. I can easily get myself all worked up in worry about this, wondering what it will be like for JJ to no longer be the oldest, and instead have an older brother. About 2 months ago my friend who has also adopted sent me the following post from an adoption blog. I keep reading it over, and over, and over because there is SO MUCH TRUTH to what this mom says. Wow, this mom really lays it out there, and every time I read it I love it even more . If I really trust God in the way I say I do, then I can trust him to be in control of this issue of not maintaining biological order within our adoption. Here is how the post starts….

One email that I receive a few times every week sounds a little something like this: "Heidi and Kirk, Your story has been very encouraging to us, as we also feel led to adopt older kids or a sibling group, but I am just very scared of what it might do to our family, how it will affect our current kids, and what kind of short- and long-term implications it might have. Can you tell me how your biological kids adjusted to being knocked out of their birth order? How did your oldest feel about no longer being the oldest? I'm afraid I'm going to be taking away from them something that is legitimately theirs and I'm scared of what that will do to their emotions/personality/self-worth/security/what-have-you. I'm afraid they will feel ripped off."

And now, click the link below to see this mom’s response to this question and to read the rest of her post. It’s pretty honest and awesome (once you click the link start reading in the second paragraph):

http://blessingsfromethiopia.blogspot.com/2009/08/greater-capacity.html

To end, my personal thought is that adopting older children is not for everyone, and it may not fit with every family. You've certainly got to weigh how it will affect the family dynamic if you have other children already. But, if you feel led by God to adopt an older child, I hope that you won't let your fears stand in the way.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More on Samuel

So, I wanted to share a little more today about a skin condition that our little guy Samuel has. The condition is called albinism. You may have heard the term ‘albino’. This is a skin condition in which each parent has the albinism gene, and when put together these genes cause albinism in a child. Specifically, it is a condition in which the skin has lack of pigment, as well as the hair/eyebrows, and sometimes the eyes (causing a blueish color). With Samuel, his skin is about a shade lighter than other Ghanaians, and his hair and eyebrows are very light. His eyes are brown. I asked Yaw if he knew of anyone in Ghana with this condition and he said, yes, there are quite a few there. He mentioned that they look ‘orange’. And, he also mentioned that their hair is orange. Hmmmmm…. the Sullivan household sure doesn't know anything about orange hair, do we?!?!?! In fact, at a tournament two weekends ago I had 2 people come up to me and ask where JJ and Jayla got their orange hair from….they didn’t say red, they said orange! From Samuel’s picture you can easily see an orange tint in his hair, and a bit in his skin. You know, I think it is quite unique that God would bring us an African child with orange hair. What exactly are the chances of that? After I mentioned this to one of my friends the other day she said ‘God is concerned with every little detail, isn’t he?’ I guess so! Anyways, this is not the skin disease which affected Michael Jackson in which the skin keeps getting lighter and lighter (that was Jake’s question). It is simply just a skin condition in which the skin has lost pigment. Our case worker sent us a great article on albinism. Here are some excerpts:

To understand albinism, you need to first know about melanin. Melanin is a chemical in our bodies that colors our skin, eyes, and hair. Sometimes, a child might be born whose body can't make a normal amount of melanin. This is what happens with albinism, which can show up as a lack of pigment (color) in the skin, eyes, & hair of that child. There are different kinds of albinism. Some children with albinism might have pale skin or hair. Other types of albinism might affect only the eyes.

Most children with albinism have blue eyes, and others have brownish eyes. In some cases of albinism, a child’s eyes might appear pink or reddish. This isn't because the iris (the colored part of the eye) is pink or red. It's because the iris actually has very little color. The eyes appear pink or red because the blood vessels inside of the eye (on the retina) show through the iris. Some children with albinism wear glasses or contact lenses to help them see better. Others might need eye surgery. Another problem for children with albinism is that their eyes can be very sensitive to light.

Albinism is caused by a person's genes. Everyone has two sets of genes. Half of your genes are from your dad, and half are from your mom. Sometimes, a mom and a dad might carry an "albinism gene" but not show any signs of albinism themselves. But they might have a child who has albinism. How can that be? Well, this happens because each parent has a normal pigment gene and an albinism gene. For a child to have albinism, the dad's albinism gene and the mom's albinism gene both have to get passed on to the child.

But if a child gets an albinism gene from one parent and a normal pigment gene from the other, the child won't have albinism. Instead, the child will be a "carrier" of an albinism gene — which means he or she would have one normal pigment gene and one albinism gene. So, if that child grows up and has a child with someone who is also a carrier of an albinism gene, there would be a chance that their child might have albinism.

Click on the following link to read the article in its entirety:
http://kidshealth.org/kid/health_problems/skin/albinism.html

So there you have it, everything you ever needed to know about albinism!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Adoption Update!

Did you like my exclamation mark? Well, we have an exciting update to share! Yes, fasten your seat belts….again! About a week and a half ago we received another referral of a little boy available for adoption. His name is Samuel, he is 6 years old, and his mother is giving him in adoption because of financial difficulties. Here we are again friends. :) When I first read that his mother was still in the situation I thought no, no, no, not another one in which the mother is just going to change her mind in a week or so, and we will again be back at square one. (If you are just joining us, this will now be our 3rd referral for adoption….the past two tries the parents have changed their minds on giving their child in adoption after we accepted the referrals) So, you may remember that the most recent one in which this happened Jake and I had decided afterwards that we would no longer consider adopting a child with any sort of parents in the picture. Well, you know what? I think that was quite possibly the silliest thing that we ever came up with. All that was was an effort to try and grasp some sort of control in this adoption process. Ever since I stated that on the blog it just hadn’t been sitting right with me. I just kept thinking, who are we to decide that? God has been pressing into me that HE is the one making the decision for us.

Well, after we received Samuel’s referral we prayed about what to do. My emotions were in roller coaster mode….I needed to have some peace in accepting the referral of another child with a parent still in the picture, not to mention I was getting really tripped up by his age (he is about 2 years older than what I would consider my age cap is). Even a day or so after receiving his referral, I was honestly still thinking no, we will not accept this one, we will wait for the next one, and this mostly because of his older age. But something happened in my heart over the next few days. I can’t really explain it any other way than just feeling a peace to accept the referral and see where God would lead it. Jake and I both commented that weekend that God has filtered out the past two referrals, and if this boy is not the one for us than He will lead us out of it, as he has before. It’s an awesome feeling to just sit in the thought that God will lead us through the rest of this process with Samuel if it is meant to be. And if it is meant to be then I can trust that God has picked Samuel for us.

All that to say, I am getting pretty excited about this one. Things are starting to move fast with the processing of documents, etc., and we should be able to do some court dates during our trip coming up in late December. And of course, we’ll get to meet little Samuel then. It’s an answer to prayer, and I am so thankful. God is so faithful.

One interesting thing about Samuel’s referral is that it came to us from a new organization that our adoption agency has just started working with. His referral did not come from Pastor Sam/Pastor Gideon, and it did not come from Bernice’s family. The organization is called CompAfriciCare Foundation (http://www.compafricare.org/) and it is a contact that our case worker had made on her own trip to Ghana earlier this year. This contact totally came out of nowhere. We so weren’t expecting it, but our case worker had been in contact with this organization for the past 6 months since her trip, and they were trying to work out the details of how they would work together on adoptions. There is more to the story of this organization....and I can’t wait to tell you why Jake and I feel like God has led us to work with them for the adoption. I will post on that later this week.

Well, we know enough about the Ghana adoption process now that it wouldn’t surprise us if the status of this adoption all changed tomorrow. But, God has a plan for this little boy, whether that is for him to come and become part of our family, or not. He knows the beginning from the end. He already knows how this is all going to play out. And I will rest in that. More on Samuel tomorrow.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Month of November

The month of November is National Adoption Awareness Month, a month set aside to raise awareness about adoption & foster care. This year’s theme is "Answering the Call - You don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent.” So, before November gets away from me, I thought it would be fitting to post a few adoption related items that might be of interest to someone out there reading. Even if just one person takes action on one of these items, I will consider this post a success!

Before I share the action items, I wanted to first give you some sobering statistics:

-There are 147 million children worldwide who have lost one or both parents.

-Every 14 seconds an AIDS death leaves another child orphaned.

-Every 60 seconds, 20 children die from malnutrition and preventable diseases. Those who survive often suffer from muscle wastage, stunted growth, mental retardation, blindness or anemia due to chronic malnutrition.

-Approximately 88 million orphans live in Asia.

-Approximately 45 million orphans live in Africa.

-Approximately 14 million orphans live in Latin America & the Caribbean.

-Approximately 1 million children live in public care in Central and Eastern Europe

-More than 800,000 children pass through America’s foster care system each year.

These statistics do not even include the UNKNOWN children living orphaned both here and abroad that go uncounted, unnoticed and unloved.

I know it’s hard to read those, but the way those stats get knocked down are if action is taken. What follows are a few simple, easy ways to start that I’ve been made aware of in the past month:

I’ll begin with the easiest one in the world. Coffee. If you are not a regular coffee drinker, you don’t know what you are missing. If you are a regular coffee drinker, then I have just the place for you to buy your next bag from. Our friends from college, Brandon & Jill, have started up an online coffee store to help with the cost of their international adoption from Ethiopia. It is one of the most unique and cool adoption fundraisers I have ever heard of! They are partnering with One Love Coffee….each bag of coffee is only $12.95 (come on, seriously?!?!) and they receive $5 of the proceeds of each bag sold which will go towards their adoption costs. Not only that, but a portion of the proceeds of Just Love Coffees goes to help build a school for older children in Addis Abba, Ethiopia. This is so neat! To order a bag visit http://www.justlovecoffee.com/thenicolfamily

Next up, a very unique way that you can offer an orphan the gift of family for Christmas 2009. Here is the info from our adoption agency: Up to ten Ukrainian orphans are ready to come to central Iowa for a cultural exchange program sponsored by Bethany Alliance Church in Charles City, Iowa. The children, ranging from 6-12 years of age will be arriving December 25, 2009 and staying until January 3, 2010. There is a need for host families for these children for their short stay….host families that will help these children experience Christmas in a family setting. For additional information, email Nancy Dunham at nancy@aboutachild.org

And, the last one – if you are interested in learning more about adoption or foster care, there is a great informational event coming up that will be held at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines. Click on the following flyer to read details:


A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families. (Psalm 68:5-6)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Favorites About Jayla


Her big brown eyes!

Her Dorito fingers.

That she has the brightest smile on the block!

These subtle, tiny curls.

Her confidence on the court.

Her sassy little sister attitude (note on video - she does not appreciate invasion of personal space)


video

And 4 more things that I haven’t been able to catch on camera:

1) How much she LOVES riding with the car windows down. She squeals, giggles, and sometimes even screams with excitement!

2) When she pats me and says “Mommy”

3) When she cries when I leave on Wednesday mornings to take JJ to music class. She doesn’t like it when I leave the house and she doesn’t get to go with (I secretly smile inside when she latches onto me as Jake tries to pull her off. Why this is flattering, I don’t know, but I feel so loved!)

4) The way she strings together a bunch of sentences full of jabber and acts like she is actually talking and holding a conversation with you.

And, you've already seen this one - but I love it when she plays with her baby dolls!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My Favorites about JJ

This imagination....
(paying bills with Daddy - Jake gives him empty envelopes and index cards to pretend)

And, this imagination.....
(eating dinner with his 'friends')

His crazy outfits!
(notice the beautiful cut-off shirt Jake created for him so he could be just like Daddy; and the lovely black socks with sandals)

That he likes to help me cook!

His love for his artwork
(he has to hang everything on his door that he has colored or marked on)

This beautiful smile!

These big brother antics....
(Video)

video

And, I have 2 favorites that I can't capture with a picture...

1) When he sings along to songs in the backseat of the car

2) When we talk about where we are going for the day, or what activities we will do and he says, "Sounds like a plan, Mommy!"