Three Months Later

I have wanted to write in my blog for weeks now, but my mind seems to always get distracted, or I just don't make time to write. Who can blame me? Ryan and I have stayed busy binge watching all six Star Wars movies and episodes of House Hunters at night, and during the day, I have 1-3 children hanging off my body at all times. So today, I finally feel ready to write. And when I looked down at the date, I realized that today is our 3 month anniversary of Tyson officially being adopted into our family.

The thought brings tears to my eyes. My precious son, born to a woman across the world, has been in my arms for three whole months. A quarter of a year. Praise God for calling us back to China last summer! What would I do without this baby? Seriously. How did I ever live one single second without him? He is a joy and a gift to our lives!

Every night, I hold Ty in my arms, wrap his weighted blanket around him, and sing sweet songs to him. I nearly cry every single time as I think about the woman who gave birth to him. I feel such deep sorrow for her that she cannot put this precious boy to bed each night. All of his slobbery kisses and tight squeezes that should have been hers are now gifts to me. She gave him life, and now we get to live with him.

Ok, have you had enough of the gushy love stuff? Well, I can't any promises, but let's see what else I can share with you.

Brothers for Life

Let's talk about how Tyson's presence has impacted our other three boys. I know this is a huge question for parents when they consider adoption. They wonder, "How will a new child impact my other children?" This is our experience with Tyson. Every single day when he wakes up, I carry him downstairs. Noah, Liam, and Tucker stop whatever they are doing, and with the goofiest grins you can imagine, they begin waving both of their hands as fast as possible and saying, "TyTy!! Good morning, TyTy!!" in high pitch voices to which Tyson replies with squeals, a huge wide smile, and intense waving. Liam kisses Tyson about 45 times a day. He honestly has a compulsive kissing problem, but fortunately, Tyson and I are the primary recipients at this time. Noah is like me - he thinks that everything Tyson does is the smartest, most adorable thing any child has ever done on the face of the planet. We used to wonder if a relationship between Noah and Tyson would be difficult given their age difference of 5 1/2 years. Believe me when I say, they have such a beautiful connection. Last night, Tyson was sitting on my lap (of course), and Noah came and sat beside me. Tyson, who often sticks to me like glue, got up, walked to the other side of Noah, and plopped down next to him. The smile they shared when their eyes met was priceless. Adorable! Tucker continues to be so patient with his baby brother who is always curious about Tucker's toys, books, and projects. He has this sweet compassion for Ty, and his prayers deeply reflect his heart. When it is his turn to pray, Tucker will often say something to the effect of, "Dear Jesus, thank you Tyson's home. Please heal inside his mouth and help him feel better. I just love him so much. Amen." Needless to say, all four boys are all head over heels for each other.


Tyson had surgery on July 16th to repair his cleft palate. Had Tyson been born in the US, he would have had his lip and nose repaired first as a baby and then his palate repaired after that. However, since he is nearly 2 years old now, our surgeon recommended repairing Tyson's palate first so that he could begin making progress with speech and expressive language. I wholeheartedly agreed! The morning of the surgery, I was very concerned with the trauma that Tyson would experience. Having not been in our arms since birth, we were still (and are still) working to gain his trust and build security with him. As our attachment grew stronger, I noticed that his anxiety actually grew stronger, as well. I spoke with some other adoptive mommas, and we all agreed that this was possibly due to his fear of losing our family as he was growing to love us. I shared my concerns with our surgeon, Dr. Tholpady, and he invited me to put on a white suit and bring Tyson back to the OR myself. This was such an unexpected gift, and having the ability to hold my son, place him on the table, and stay with him until he was asleep was more than I ever could have hoped for that day!

Photo Credit
The procedure, called a Double Furlow Z-Plasty, lasted approximately 3 1/2 - 4 hours. Dr. Tholpady met with us and let us know that everything went very, very well. We are forever grateful to this man who could have chosen any profession in the world and decided to help children have the best quality of life possible! When we were allowed back to the recovery area,  we opened the door and immediately heard Tyson screaming. The inside of his mouth was fire red, and he was clearly scared and in pain. It was hard on this momma's heart, but this was what we had expected. He received medication to help ease his pain, and after some time had passed, we were taken up to his room where we were to stay the rest of the night. As for this next part, I honestly don't want to share all of the details. I will just say that despite being very clear with his nurse about the fact that he was newly adopted and that he would not exhibit pain like typical children born into families (as the needs of orphans are not addressed in the same manner that they are in healthy families)...that we needed to stay ahead of his pain to prevent significant trauma. Unfortunately, Tyson did not receive appropriate pain management during those critical hours after surgery. He ended up requiring morphine every hour for several hours, as they had gotten so behind on keeping it at a manageable level. We had two additional nurses during our stay, and they worked very, very hard to help Tyson stay comfortable and calm. He was extremely panicky anytime anyone came into the room besides Ryan and me. It was absolutely awful to see him so scared and in so much pain. We have since reported the issue through patient advocacy, and I had a long conversation with the manager of that hospital floor. We were assured that this is not the type of care children typically receive. The floor manager shared that they are taking steps to prevent this situation from happening to another child after palate surgery, and for that we are grateful. All humans make mistakes, and while we wish that Tyson would have received the best care post-op, we are still thankful for all of the nurses who work to provide the best care for their patients.


Unfortunately, Tyson's trauma post-surgery was much more significant than he appeared to experience post-adoption. His stress and anxiety levels were off the charts. Ty would panic if I stepped one toe away from him. He needed prescription pain medication every 4 hours for the first 7 days, and I believe he had completely moved to Tylenol and Motrin by Day 10. For the first three weeks post-op, Tyson clung to me for dear life. He was resistant to Ryan and the boys, and by Day 21, I finally cracked. I realized how completely depleted I felt and told Ryan that I didn't have anything left to give. I had been with all four boys, cocooning, playing at parks, riding bikes/scooters outside, swimming, playing video games, making meals, cleaning up, etc. every single day that summer. I had poured my heart and soul into our family and our home for 9 weeks, and I had finally reached my max. By the grace of God, two days later, Tyson began reaching for Ryan, seeking him out for comfort, and playing with him. It honestly felt like he had reached a certain level of security with me and was finally ready to let Ryan into his heart again. I was elated to finally have a break, and Ryan was so happy that his new son was willing to spend time with him again. We started using a weighted blanket and some new essential oils, as well, and both seem to have made a big difference in his emotional state.

We have had two post-op appointments so far and have the last one next Monday. Dr. Tholpady has been extremely pleased with how Tyson's palate is healing so far. I cannot believe that this man has created such a functional, normal looking palate after having a moderate-to-severe cleft there previously all the way from his hard palate to his soft palate. I fully expected it to always look different, but it honestly looks like he never had an issue to begin with. What a miracle! Tyson has had to wear arm restraints for 6 weeks in order to prevent him from putting anything in his mouth. He is also on a completely pureed diet, so thanks to a friend who has let me borrow her huge steamer, I have been making baby food once again! Tomorrow we will hit the 6 week mark since surgery, but Ty's last post-op appointment is Monday. I am very hopeful that we can resume normal foods and lose the arm restraints that day! 

Speech Therapy

Tyson started speech therapy through First Steps two weeks after surgery. He is eligible for 1 hour of therapy each week. When he first came into our arms, he could basically vocalize the schwa sound ("uh") at different intonations. He was picking up several basic signs very quickly: more, please, thank you, eat, drink, milk, mommy, daddy, good boy, sorry, help, and all done. He was even putting three signs together after being home just a couple weeks (more eat please). It was obvious that Tyson was ready to communicate! He has had five speech therapy lessons, and I cannot believe how much progress he has made already. Ty's therapist is AWESOME! She has such great presence with him, is knowledgable about her field, and knows just when to push and when to pull back. I am learning so much from her! The first session focused on his imitation of pretend play with the idea that if he imitated those motions, he would hopefully imitate sounds and later words. The next session introduced more pretend play, as well as cause and effect toys. If Tyson communicated through sign language, he would get the "reward" of playing with the toy. He learned the sign for "go" and "open" and uses them spontaneously and frequently. The third session began more focus on signing and using sounds to request. He was a rock star and attempted to make any sounds that the therapist requested! He is now able to make several sounds: k, d, g, h, l, m (though this is tricky with his lip), n, t, w, and y. Tyson is attempting the sounds for -s, -z, -p, and he is beginning to add some variation with vowels. We heard a pretty good -oo and almost a long -e the other day! So far, he is able to say the following words: momma, dada, Kya (surprise!), and Gēgē (older brother in Mandarin). He woke up saying "Tucka" on Sunday morning and began saying "dog" last night! During breakfast, he will show his preference by trying to say "congee" (kuh-kuh) and "yogurt" (yuh-yuh). It's adorable! I am amazed by this progress! Tuesday during speech therapy, I was showing the therapist pictures of Tyson's orphanage on my computer, and photos of the baby room caught his eye. I initially worried that he might become upset - I hadn't shown him any pictures since leaving China yet. Instead, my concern was quickly washed away when he began excitedly pointing and waving and squealing when he saw photos of his daddy and Noah in the baby room. It was PRECIOUS!!! He was saying an approximation for "hi" while waving and then started to say "Noah" and "dada." Even though the pictures were filled with people he lived with at his orphanage - nannies and children - he did not acknowledge them at all. Instead, he kept finding his daddy and brother in each picture and waving and vocalizing. I am not sure I've ever seen a bigger smile and more joy for so long. My heart felt so much happiness - he knows his people and clearly has positive feelings about them! I started showing him pictures of Liam and Tucker, and he again attempted to say their names (EE-um and Tuh-kuh). It was absolutely adorable, and I wish I would have recorded it. I might have to try that for next time.


The past three months have challenged us as we've transitioned into a family of six, especially with surgery in the mix, but they have also brought us so much of joy. I think everything Tyson does is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. I'm like a first time parent except that I'm totally not...haha! I look forward to the days when he feels even more trust and security in our family and when he feels more permanency with us. I can only imagine how things might be in another three months! With that said, mid-November he will be facing another surgery to repair his nose and lip, as well as get tubes placed in his ears. Will you pray with us that Tyson's trauma will be as little as possible, especially after what happened after his first surgery? We are hoping that after almost 3 more months together, he will feel that much more secure and safe in our arms. Appropriate pain management at the hospital will be very helpful, too! I am going to miss his big, wide smile, but after seeing the progress he has made with his speech in just five weeks, I cannot wait to see further progress after his lip repair.

Tyson, I can't imagine our family without you! I love you and cannot wait to see what God has in store for your life. So thankful that I get to be your mommy. You are a gift!


Weighted Blanket Miracle

So many times I have thought to myself, "Oh I need to write about X" or "I can't wait to post about Y and Z." I have many posts I would like to write but just haven't had the time lately. However, tonight we had a HUGE breakthrough, and I am dying to share all about it. 

Tyson's surgery and specifically his recovery was extremely traumatic for him. I will share more details later, but for now, just know that he has been TERRIFIED to be apart from me. His anxiety and hyper-vigilence during the day has been in overdrive. You can imagine the terror he has felt when taking naps and going to bed at night. We tried co-sleeping and sleeping in his room, and neither option worked for him. The poor little guy just could not relax and get into deep sleep. He ended up screaming and crying all throughout the night. The idea behind co-sleeping and sleeping in his room was that every time he woke up, he would see us/me there beside him and feel more secure. The hope would be that his security at night would transfer to security during the day, too. 

When those ideas did not pan out, I reached out to an adoptive momma for whom I have great respect, and she suggested that I try a weighted blanket. I looked into purchasing one, and they can be crazy expensive. I decided to jump on Pinterest to see how to make one. After getting a good idea of how to put one together, I thought about what materials I could use. I remembered that I have 3 blankets that are silky on one side and various textures of fleece on the other. We received them as gifts when we were pregnant with Noah. I also had rice on hand. Rather than spending a lot of money buying material and poly pellets when I didn't even know if he would like it, I decided to give it a try today!

When you make a weighted blanket, you need to sew columns first in order to put the rice in each "square" and then sew that row closed. I knew this blanket would be perfect because I could just follow the lines already present. 

In order to figure out how heavy to make it, most guidelines suggest 10% of the child's body weight and add 1 pound. All disclaimers say to consult your occupational therapist or pediatrician. So, do that. :) I used my kitchen scale to measure out the appropriate amount of rice.

Rather than get all fancy, I decided to keep things super simple and just cut the silk side of the blanket away from the silk binding around the outside (see below).

Then I pinned the first column and sewed it from one end to the other. After that I pinned the second column and sewed it...and so on...until all columns were sewn.

I used a paper towel tube and inserted it into the first column, pushing it all the way to the bottom square. I had read that rice or other materials often get stuck in the blanket on the way to the right place, so in order to avoid that, I came up with this idea. I took my overall ounces of rice needed, divided it by the number of squares in my blanket, and measured out that amount of rice. I poured it into the first column/square and repeated until all of the first squares were finished in each column.

I pinned that row of squares and then sewed the row closed. The picture below shows the first row complete, and you can see the rice in each individual square.

This picture shows the first 3 rows completed, again, with each square containing the appropriate amount of rice.

When I got to the top, I folded down the silk binding (where I had originally cut the silk layer), pinned it down, and sewed across in order to close the top of the columns. Below is Noah holding the final product.

And here is the back side of the blanket!

The entire project took just 2 hours to complete, and honestly, it would have been less had I not helped Liam after he spilled rice from our sensory bin all over the kitchen floor while he played. :) It was SUPER easy. I am no seamstress, and even I was able to pull this off.

When it came time for bed, we got busy with the normal routine of undressing, using the restroom, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, etc. I could feel Tyson wrapping his legs around my waist for dear life getting clingy, and worry was written all over his face. I doused him with some essential oils, as I've been doing the past several days and then went to say goodnight to each of the other boys. They each reminded Tyson in their Daniel Tiger sing song voice that "Mommy, comes back." We went into his room and turned on the sound machine. He started to whimper a bit, and we sat down to rock. I put his Curious George (that Ryan bought for him at the hospital) under his arm and the new weighted blanket over his body. He started to cry but quickly stopped. I rocked him and sang to him, bumped the rocker into the wall, which I discovered at nap time makes him laugh. We sat there for 10 minutes laughing and making sounds at each other. It was precious time! This was the first time in WEEKS that I have been able to rock Ty without him screaming in terror (i.e., the nap time separation anxiety happened before surgery).

When I stood up to make the transition to his crib, I was prepared for the crying to start, as that was when it usually went to screaming...but it never came. I kissed his face a dozen times and told him I loved him. He still didn't cry with anticipation. I laid him down in the crib and braced myself. He laid there with his arms spread wide, completely relaxed. I couldn't believe my eyes! I just watched him for a bit and reminded him that "Mommy, comes back." When I walked away, he fussed for maybe 3 seconds but never cried...never screamed...and he remained completely quiet.

I almost cried. Seriously. I marched downstairs and wrote this post because I know there are others out there fighting this same battle, trying to build security in the hearts of your children. My heart breaks for the loss Tyson has experienced, and the fear it puts in his heart that I might leave him, too. I am so thankful that I am his mommy forever and that I get to earn his trust and love. Eventually, I am hopeful that he will feel safe and secure in our family. Praise Jesus for the peace that Tyson felt tonight! What an incredible step forward.


Tyson's Smile

I cannot believe that an entire month has passed since I last posted in my blog! After writing nearly everyday throughout our trip to China, a month long hiatus was much needed. I have put off writing this post, because I am addicted to watching Flip or Flop on Netflix I am in denial about what is taking place tomorrow - Tyson's first surgery.

As I looked back at previous posts, I realized that Liam's surgery took place on November 16, 2011, and Tyson's is taking place July 16, 2015. This is no coincidence, friends! God is always, always in the details if you are willing to look. Three years and eight months after Liam had his cleft lip repaired (you can read about it here), Tyson will have his cleft palate repaired. If you click the previous link I mentioned, you will actually see a photo of Tyson's surgeon, Dr. Tholpady at Riley Hospital for Children. Dr. Havlik was Liam's surgeon, and we really loved him, but he moved to Wisconsin. Dr. Tholpady was Dr. Havlik's fellow and actually assisted in Liam's surgery in 2011. I met with Dr. Tholpady a month ago and was very pleased with his level of compassion and confidence, as well as his calm and cautious nature with respect to Tyson being recently adopted. We feel very confident moving forward with him as our lead surgeon for TyTy's care.

Tyson has been in our arms for 7 weeks. We spent the our first 4 weeks home strictly cocooning and focusing on our family of six. Since that time, Tyson has spent a small amount of time with each set of grandparents, attended one 4th of July party, joined friends at one pool party, and had dinner at two different friends' houses. It has been SO nice seeing our friends and family again, though I think Tyson has become more clingy and less secure again as a result of doing so. If I am not sitting still 2 feet from him, you will find us holding hands walking throughout the house together. He panics if I walk to a new area, so you can imagine his response when I leave the house. People have often asked, "Do you think he transitioned so easy to you because he is so young?" I always say no because his initial transition is only a testament to the Lord's mercy, as he really answered our prayers in that way! Because Tyson has lost EVERYTHING he knows, he is understandably very fearful of being losing everything he knows again. Some of you had a parent walk away from you when you were growing up. Others have lost people who meant everything to them, and because of that pain, you may often wonder if and when the people closest to you will walk away, too. Imagine how little TyTy must feel, wondering and worrying that when I walk out of the room, he will never see me again. So so sad.

I am hopeful that this recovery period will help Ty continue forming those deep roots of felt safety and security in our family. I cannot imagine how scary this transition has been for him. To go from living in one place, with certain people, particular food, a certain crib, and a certain language at 20 months old to living in a totally new place with new people, new food, a new crib, and a new language - it's truly unimaginable. Now we are going to rock his entire world again when he undergoes a very painful surgery and recovery I am so sorry, TyTy!

Tyson with my sweet Dad

Just like with Liam, we truly and absolutely LOVE Tyson's smile just the way it is. His lip and nose repair will not take place until November or December, and honestly, I am grateful because it gives me more time to enjoy him with the smile I love so much. Although the lip and palate can be repaired together at times, we have decided to do them separately. When repairing the palate, a device is used to keep the mouth open. As the procedure takes place, the surrounding tissue can become quite swollen. In order to give Tyson the best possible repair on his lip and nose, we have opted to have a second procedure later so that the surgeon is not working with swollen tissue.

I love this picture, but it is a mirror image! His cleft is on the left side.

When we are out in public, I usually do not even think about Tyson's smile until I notice a child staring at him, eyes wide and mouth gaping open. Depending on the circumstances, I will often say something like, "Oh, did you notice his lip? It doesn't hurt at all (kids are often worried that it does). That is just the way God made him. When he grew in his first mommy's belly, his lip did not close all the way. The doctor is going to make it look just like yours." And usually with that, they relax, smile, and say, "Ok!" I am thankful that Ty is so young in these situations, as I know that children with visible differences can become quite frustrated and sad by these situations (and rightly so!). When Liam was a baby, I worried about how people might treat him in the future or if they would hurt his feelings in relation to his scar, but honestly, that has never, ever happened. And when I tell children my Tyson spiel, Liam will sometimes show them his lip with great confidence and pride. This is just the beginning of why I am grateful that my sons share this special bond!

Liam smooching Tyson - brothers for life! 

With that said, I'm going to share something with you. After Liam was born, Ryan and I had such peace that we were done having biological children. I was honestly relieved, too, because I later learned that since we had one child with a cleft lip, our chances of having another child with cleft issues were increased. I remember telling people that I didn't want to go through surgery and recovery again - that it had been so hard. I didn't want to see another baby go through what Liam went through after surgery. Seeing him in pain was difficult, don't get me wrong! But my goodness, what a selfish and short-sided thing to say. What a privilege it will be to hold my new son after his palate repair is complete and meet his every need as he recovers from this procedure!

TyTy signing Mommy in his own special way! 

As I rock Tyson at night, especially in the past few days, I can't help but cry thinking about his biological mother. I am broken hearted that she doesn't get to hold this little boy's hand...that she doesn't get to tickle him and hear his beautiful laugh...that she has to live every day of her life without slobbery wet kisses from this adorable little guy. This surgery has made me think about her a lot. I wonder if a lack of money to address his medical needs was the cause of her relinquishment. I am so honored to be TyTy's mommy, but how I wish I could hold her hand during his surgery and pray together for his healing. I cry for her because she cannot be with him tomorrow as he recovers.

Being a mom is hard stuff. Days like today when I am anticipating Ty's palate repair, I want to pack up my family and run for the hills! My flesh tells me to stick my fingers in my ears and hum until the scary parts are over. But my faith...my faith keeps my eyes looking up to our Father who loves Tyson more than I ever could. I know that once again God has gone before us, and He will supply us with everything we need to get through this surgery and recovery together.

Tomorrow, when we go to the hospital for surgery, I want Ryan to hold Tyson and have them take me back to surgery instead. I want to take the pain that my son will experience. I want to suffer in his place. This is love. And this is exactly what Jesus did for us. The desire to prevent our children's pain and suffering is born from the same place that led Jesus to the cross. Oh how he love us! My desire to suffer in Tyson's place is keeping me at the foot of the cross this week. I feel Jesus' deep love for me, and for you, so strongly today.

This is a view I never want to forget

Will you join us in praying for Tyson as we move into this next part of our journey? Here are my focused prayers:

1. Successful surgery that results in complete closure to Tyson's entire palate - that no fistulas form.

2. Tyson's pain is well-managed with medication to prevent unnecessary discomfort or trauma.

3. Tyson will continue to make progress in attachment and bonding while he recovers from surgery.

4. We are all able to get restful sleep in the weeks following surgery.

Thank you for your prayers today, tomorrow, and throughout the weeks that follow. I am very ready to have this surgery behind us. This is an extremely important milestone so that Ty can begin developing expressive language! Our little guy wants to communicate so badly. Although I am super sad for the pain that he will experience, it is such an honor to be his mom and take care of him until he reaches complete healing. We don't have to do this - we get to! I love you, TyTy. I hope your little heart will feel even more secure once this part of your journey is behind you.

Thank you to Michi and Ashley who each saw how much Tyson loved this toy in China and surprised him with one for when we got home. He is spoiled having one upstairs and one downstairs!


Ten Days Home

Allison A. Mayer captured our homecoming and all of these special people so beautifully! 

Today marked our tenth day home as a family! Many of you have asked how Tyson is doing and how our family is adjusting, so hopefully this post will offer you some insight. First of all, I want to thank all of you who prayed for Tyson to feel safe around our dog, Kya. His response to her presence has improved drastically! When she comes into the room or if she gets too close, he will still sometimes scream in terror, but these occurrences are becoming few and far between. Continued prayers in this area are appreciated! We are confident that soon Kya will be a non-issue.

I am incredibly impressed by how easily Noah, Liam, and Tucker have accepted Tyson with open arms. They are very fond of the little guy! Their faces lighting up when he waves hello to them is adorable. Noah is a natural with Ty after having spent two weeks together in China. Seeing Liam play the big brother role has been especially sweet to me. Tucker adores Tyson and is very gentle with him. You should hear his sweet "I'm-talking-to-a-baby-voice!" At the same time, I think Tuck might feel a bit uprooted from his "baby" position in the family. When Tyson is not in my arms or on my lap, Tuck is quick to jump into that space. It is good to be loved!

Ryan and I missed so many of Tyson's firsts over the past 19 months. However, I was thinking today about all of the firsts I have experienced since meeting him 3 weeks ago.

He cut a baby tooth.
I pushed him on a swing.
We took a bath together.
I taught him how to go up and down a slide.
He went to the park with his brothers.
I received my first unsolicited kiss.
He looked into my eyes as he fell to sleep.
I had his intake meeting with First Steps
He rode on my hip while I vacuumed.
I resisted the urge to scratch my nose after he fell asleep in my arms.
I taught him the signs for more, please, thank you, stop, and milk - and he is using them!
I fell in love with his daddy again. This has happened each time we have been given a new son.
I thought of his nanny who is surely missing him but was so happy he had a family.

And today - I cried for Tyson's first momma, who will not see this precious boy grow up.

My heart aches at the thought of her living today, maybe even with Tyson's birth father, and wondering what happened to their son. I have prayed that God will grant them peace in a dream - that He will give them a vision of Tyson in our home, surrounded by his daddy, brothers, and me. I pray that it gives them lasting peace for the decision they made. 

Photo credit: Allison A. Mayer

The last ten days have been busy and wonderful and difficult and amazing. We came home to a stocked fridge and pantry thanks to my dad and Danette! Not only did they take care of Liam and Tucker for 2 weeks, but they really went above and beyond in every way. Our neighbor cut our grass twice when we were gone. What a gift! My friend cleaned our house for 3 hours the day we came home - we are so grateful! Another friend set up a meal train for us, and not only did we have dinner the first three nights we were home, but we have continued to have them every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday since then. These meals are continuing through early July! What a gift to our family!! Not having to worry about meal planning and preparing has helped tremendously, especially since Tyson is super attached to me these days (another praise!). So again, thank you from the bottom of my heart those of you who have already brought meals and those who will bring them over the next 3 weeks. I also want to thank my mother and father in law for asking me to make them a grocery list in order to pick up necessities while they were passing through town. What a relief to have our fridge and pantry stocked while I focus on our children! To everyone who has encouraged us and prayed for us, thank you will never be enough. Your intercession on our behalf means everything!

Tomorrow Tyson has his first appointment with a cleft team in Indianapolis. I appreciate your prayers as I fly solo for this appointment. Tyson will see numerous specialists over the course of 4-5 hours, and after our last medical appointment experience in China, we will need your prayers. We hope...

...that Tyson will cooperate with the various specialists who will examine him.
...to find out the course of action proposed by the team.
...that Tyson's hearing is within normal limits.
...that we will learn about speech therapy options outside of First Steps.
...that we will leave with confidence in the proposed treatment plan.
...that we will feel peace about working with these specialists over the next several years.

Photo Credit: Shannon Gill 

I am going to miss Tyson's smile. I know I will - just like I missed Liam's first smile. At the same time, I am very excited for him to learn how to express himself verbally, as his motivation to use sign language has shown me how eager he is to communicate more effectively. This is going to be a long road, but I am so thankful that I get to be his mommy. It is both a privilege and an honor! He is such a gift to my life.


My Heart is Finally Home

Almost three years ago, God asked us to take a journey - to follow Him in a way we never had before. Our knees shook as we took those first steps forward, but He guided us to China, Lifeline Children's Services, and eventually to Tucker. Not long after we brought him home, we knew that we would someday go back to China again to bring another sweet one into our family. So, although we were home together, a piece of my heart remained in China. The feeling only became stronger when I felt pulled to a little boy a few months later. The desire and urgency to return grew stronger and stronger even when life at home was still complicated and in transition. 

When we learned this past summer that the little boy's file was being prepared and would come to our adoption agency, we prayed and had peace that it was time to return to China. For Ryan, this was happening a bit sooner than expected, but for me, I felt like I was back in the place where I belonged. As the months went by, we reached several milestones in the adoption process. Although difficult at the time, God ended up choosing the very best family for the little boy, and I have loved watching him thrive in the arms of his mom, dad, and precious siblings the past few months. The urgency to find the son God had been leading us to all along grew even stronger.

One month later, as my littles middles laid down for their naps, I received a phone call from our social worker about an adorable 1 year old boy with cleft lip and palate. Tyson's file arrived in my inbox soon after, and the rest is history! Four months later we traveled to China and met the little boy in the pictures and videos I had memorized. Holding my son in my arms for the first time was a moment I will never forget. Tyson was more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. 

As I looked out the window during our final flight home from Chicago to Indianapolis, I was captivated by what I saw. So many thoughts came to mind simultaneously. 

We had made it. We had finally made it home. God had gone before us, He had been with us, and His love was shining down on us as we flew within this beautiful creation. The beams of His radiant light reminded me of the one true home where I will live once I have fulfilled my purpose in this world. With the sun almost out of reach, I pondered how those in China were waking up to start a new day. In those moments, my heart released as it said goodbye. We had finished what we started. A sense of completion washed over me. My heart is finally home.

"From life's first cry to final breathe, 
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand.
Till He returns, or calls me home, 
here in the power of Christ, I'll stand." 

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