5.25.2013

Prayer Warriors

video

Back in February, a new friend we met through a FB adoption group visited Tuck's orphanage. She initially gave me two pictures and three videos, and after recently sending her a flash drive to load additional videos and pictures, she sent this one. My heart leapt with joy to see Tucker smiling and having fun with her. This is such a blessing to all of us!

What I have learned this past week is that we have some mighty prayer warriors on our side! Wow, I am still blown away by the number of people who have prayed once, a few times, many times, and even daily for our family. After seeing this video, we hope it helps you feel encouraged when you pray for our sweet son. May 17-21 were very dark, sad days for me. Thankfully, I am feeling much more peace again and have a more positive outlook on the rest of our journey to bringing Tucker home. I know your prayers have helped me, and I know God is hearing all of us. Thank you so much for loving our family!

5.19.2013

Waiting

Waiting...waiting...and waiting.

We have been waiting 51 days for our Letter of Acceptance (LOA). I have been on many roller coasters: Cedar Point, Holiday World, Magic Kingdom, Disney World, Universal Studios, and King's Island. But I must say, this adoption journey is the wildest roller coaster ride I have ever experienced. With thrill rides you have to wait, wait, and wait in line, zig-zagging back and forth, back and forth, until you finally reach the front of the line. You choose which row you want to sit in. You climb aboard, fasten your seat belt, and start that tall climb.

Up, up, up you go until you finally reach the peak. Slowly, the car tips forward and speeds down the hill, taking you up and down, side-to-side, and upside down until a few minutes later, the ride is over. You think to yourself, "That was incredible! So worth the wait!"

I know by the time Tucker is home, we will feel the same way. Every piece of paperwork, each meeting with a social worker, every check written, every trip to the mailbox (praying that something inside will move things forward), each telephone ring (praying it is my agency to give me good news), every minute waiting (166,279 minutes have passed since I first saw my son's picture)...they will all be worth it. I believe that with every ounce of my being.

But in the meantime, the waiting is a roller coaster ride within itself. Two weeks ago, I text some of my girl friends and said something along the lines of "Please pray for me. Tucker has never felt so far away, and I am really struggling." It was a hard day, and I have no idea why. I never call my social worker...like ever. She is awesome, and I trust that when she has news to share with me, she will let me know. But, that day when I was really struggling, I called and left a message for her to call me back. When she did, I apologized and said something like, "Hi. I...uh....I don't really have a reason for calling. I just...I don't know....this is hard. I am really having a hard time in the wait right now." At that moment, and for the next 15 minutes, I was reminded how grateful I was that Ryan and I prayed and researched so hard when choosing our agency. They are simply amazing. My social worker said that she was so glad that I called and told me that this is why she is here. She doesn't just coordinate and facilitate our adoption, but she is here to counsel me through the difficult days.

My SW then spoke truth to my heart while I quietly cried on the other end of the phone. One of my favorite things she said was that God was growing me in this wait. When God grows, stretches, pulls, and pushes us, it hurts. There is pain. But God is using this opportunity to strengthen me. I know He loves me so much that He is going to use this adoption to make me a better mother, a better wife, a better friend, and a better follower. I remember after Noah was born, I realized that it was one of the few opportunities I would have to make some serious and real change. It's hard to change old habits, but when you have a little person depending on you for everything, God stretches, pulls, pushes, and grows you...if you let Him. He is doing the same now. So, I really leaned on those words the past couple of weeks. I celebrated my growth and knew that God was with me in the wait. My social worker also said how much she loved hearing my longing for Tucker. My heart is becoming bonded to a person I have never met, and when the difficult times come (because they will), this love, this attachment, this instinctual I-will-do-anything-to-protect-you-and-love-you will help carry us through those times.

I felt strong. I felt positive. I was glass half full after that conversation.

Then, last Friday, I crashed. Two more weeks of not hearing a word about our LOA had passed. In case you didn't know, that was another 20,160 minutes. And you know how it is when you are waiting for something. You tend to feel every minute that goes by. You can feel that clock ticking away each and every second. I see families on Facebook getting their LOAs much sooner than us, and it hurts. There is real pain and heartache. Sometimes, it hurts like my chest is being crushed. My son is across the world, and all I can do is wait...and wait...and wait.

Fridays are especially hard because you know you spent a week waiting, and nothing happened. You know you won't hear anything for at least two more days. Never did I ever dread the weekend until this adoption journey. Is that crazy or what?

So here's the deal everyone. This is the last week in May that officials will be processing adoption paperwork in China because they are transitioning to a new computer program from May 27-May 31. Sometimes before these big "shut downs" as they are called, officials will process a TON of paperwork...clean off their desks so to speak.

PLEASE PRAY WITH ME THAT OUR LETTER OF ACCEPTANCE IS PROCESSED THIS WEEK AND SENT TO OUR AGENCY. PLEASE!

We have no idea what kind of delays could potentially occur with the new system as they work out the kinks. We know we will definitely lose a week during the transition, and who knows how many weeks after that could pass. This is why receiving our LOA this week would be such a blessing. After we receive our LOA, we will still have many steps before bringing Tucker home, but we can't start them until we have this official LOA. So many of you are already praying for us, and I can't thank you enough. We definitely feel them and know that God is hearing all of us.

Another mom who adopted her son from Tucker's orphanage sent a picture to me on Mother's Day. The picture has Tuck sitting with 4 other sweet babes on the playground. I've cropped it to help remind you who you are praying for tonight, tomorrow, and the weeks to come. Thank you so much!
My beautiful son
"I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you." (John 14:18)

5.15.2013

Happy 5th Birthday Noah

The big 5 years old today
Happy birthday, Noah!!
I cannot...for the life of me...figure out how you are already FIVE years old. Seriously, just yesterday you were a newborn lying next to me while I was writing about your birth story, and today you woke up as a 5 year old kid. I really thought I would cry this year on your birthday. I've never cried before because each year I get so excited for you to experience new things, but you are no longer a baby...not a toddler...not a little guy. You are a boy through and through, and you are heading to kindergarten next year. I thought that would make me cry.

Turns out...once again, I am excited for you, buddy. So excited about what lies ahead, and so happy with the boy you have become these past 5 years. If someone asked me what I love the most about you, I would easily say that I love your heart. You are truly one of the most compassionate little kids I have ever known in my entire life. You care SO much about everyone. You worry when people get hurt and immediately check to make sure they are ok. Liam falls fairly often, so you are constantly having to ask him if he is ok! :) It's given you great practice. You are an AWESOME big brother! Seriously, you are so kind to Liam and oftentimes will ask Liam what he wants to do before just telling him to do what you want to do. Pretty good for a 5 year old, buddy! I love how rule-bound you are, as it has made it so much easier to parent you! I can give you a rule, and you might ask why, but once you understand, you follow the rules pretty well.

Noah, I have always been pretty strict about not getting physical with other kids, even Liam. We just don't tolerate hitting, kicking, pushing, etc. Sometimes I worry that as you get older, you won't be "tough" enough, as the world believes that boys should be strong and tough. However, I keep reminding myself that we aren't living our lives according to the rules of this world. We are trying to live our lives the way Jesus taught us to live - to love others unconditionally, to forgive others when they hurt us because He forgives us for our mistakes, and to help people when they need it. I love how much you love to read your Bible each day. You know the stories so well, and you are learning so much from them. I love that special time with you! Recently, you played with someone who wasn't very kind to you, and on the way home, I talked with you about what a friend is. I told you about how friends are people who treat you kindly, and when other kids are not kind to you, you have to love them and forgive them but that you don't have to play with them. You know what you said? You said, "Mommy, can we just pray for them to be nicer?" That's the heart I'm talking about. I love your heart.

I am so looking forward to having another summer at home with you this year. It will be your last summer before you go off to kindergarten, and I hope it is a special one! I can only imagine the fun we will have as a family and with the friends and family we love. Hopefully, by the end of summer, Tucker will be home with us. I know it will be really hard to have Daddy and I gone for so long in China, but I also know you are going to have a great time with Grandma and everyone else you will get to see. It will be a new experience having two brothers for sure! I am confident of this, though. God chose you specifically to be the oldest brother of our family. He knew you would lead your little brothers to great things. My hope is that they follow your lead and learn so many new things from you.

I love you, Noah, my sweet blond haired, blue eyed boy. You can keep growing and turn 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10. It doesn't matter because you will always be my baby no matter how big you get. I love you forever, and I pray that God can continue to guide your daddy and I to help you become a man with great character and a heart that loves Jesus.

Love you!
Amy

Skylander Cake Pops by Stephanie Stucky for Noah's Preschool Celebration

Noah and Daddy at Circle Time

Enjoying an "Eye Brawl" Cake Pop

Playing with the Parachute Outside at Preschool


Noah pretending to sleep so I could sing Happy Birthday to him this morning

Noah enjoying his birthday ribbons

Birthday Party

On Saturday we threw the boys a combined birthday party, celebrating with cakes from Liam's favorite TV show and Noah's favorite obsession interest. Usually, I go a little crazy with birthday parties, and with the our recent move, Ryan begged me to scale things back. I am the gas pedal, and he is the brakes, and this is one time when I can actually say I am thankful for that! I followed his lead, making only one birthday cake, buying one of the birthday cakes (gasp!), purchasing a banner (gasp!), and not decorating with the exception of six balloons (gasp!). You know what? It was glorious!

Liam loves the PBS cartoon Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. It is the cutest cartoon that teaches kids about appropriate behaviors and social skills. Not only is it a great cartoon for little ones, but my kids actually generalize what they learn on that show to real life situations completely on their own. Plus, it gives me 20-30 minutes to get something done without interruptions. It's a win-win situation!

My friend Lisa is an expert with decorating cakes, so I asked if she could help me with Liam's cake this year. Another win-win for us because I got to learn how to decorate a cake like this, and we got to have girl time! I baked a strawberry cake for his face and lemon cake for his ears. Lisa had me draw his face, and then she went to work while I prepped other party food.




A cake this cute deserves three pics!
Pretty incredible, right??? I was SUPER impressed, and Liam really loved his cake! Lisa stayed until well past midnight, and we had a great time. Love that girl! :) I am kicking myself for not taking your picture next to the cake, Lis.

I asked Noah if he preferred that I make Skylander cookies or order a Skylander cake. He chose the cake, and I secretly celebrated inside. Noah was introduced to this video game by his cousin, Micah, and he is pretty crazy about it. He has been drawing Skylanders and talking Skylanders and dreaming Skylanders for about 4 months. So, for his birthday, we celebrated with all things Skylander.


To keep things simple, we invited our immediate family and our friends Kevin and Dalia (and their kids) because they take care of the boys this year while I'm working. They are like second parents to Liam especially, and he adores them. I am starting to think Liam speaks better Spanish then Ryan and me now. I can already tell that Kevin will be someone Noah can talk to someday when he is struggling with something. We are so blessed that our children are loved by so many people! Nearly everyone had a decent drive to get to our house, and we had a wonderful time celebrating with them.


I just love this picture of Noah with his Grandma Till!
After enjoying some Jimmy Johns sandwiches, chips & queso, corn salsa, taco dip, candy dipped pretzel rods, chips, veggie pizza, and a rainbow fruit platter complete with marshmallow clouds (can't believe I didn't take pictures!!), the kids went to play in the basement. We are leaving it unfinished for at least 5 years (unless we keep adopting little ones...then it might be ten), and the kids LOVE playing down there. We have them set up with all of their bikes, cozy coupe, scooters, roller coaster, etc. They had a blast playing!

Thing 1 and Thing 2 riding the scooter together
After some play time, we brought back up the crazies and enjoyed those delicious birthday cakes! We sang to Liam first, and then Noah had a turn. Loved seeing them smile and blow out their candles.



Ryan and I got Noah his Skylander Giants game, and he got to open it soon after eating cake. He and Liam were given so many other wonderful gifts from our family and friends. We don't buy the kids many toys throughout the year, so birthdays and Christmas are a big deal in that department. It got a little crazy trying to corral Liam so that he would open his gifts. I kept saying, "I can't believe I will have two little ones next year PLUS Noah to celebrate with next year. Oh it will be quite an entertaining situation! My favorite part of gift opening was when Liam started doing his famous run. He puts his fists up like a boxer, pushes his lips out, and sticks his head out and runs in slow motion. Wish I had a video!




He is quite the entertainer! Ryan and I truly, truly worry about him. He likes to be silly and make people laugh so much! I can hear the phone ringing now with calls from his teachers...

Noah had his cousin Micah spend the night, which was such a treat! They boys just played all night and fell right to sleep once we got them to bed. We had so much fun celebrating with everyone and can't wait to throw a party or THREE little boys next year!

5.07.2013

Happy Birthday, Liam!

My Cute Little Bert Bert,
Oh buddy, you are something else! You pulled quite stunt on us the past two years. You see, when you were a baby, you were such an easy, laid back little guy. You would just go with the flow - probably because you were second born and had no other choice - and you had the happiest personality. The minute you started smiling, you didn't stop (except for those 2-3 months after your surgery)!
Lemongrass Photography

So, you can imagine my surprise the past several months when you began to show us a new side to your personality. I think you worried that unless you did something BIG, we might not give you the attention you desired. As you began scaling everything in sight and climbing as high as possible, you surely got our attention!! Oh Liam, you are your momma's mini-me in so many ways. If only you could have seen the trees I climbed when I was a kid. You truly have no fear, so you scare the death out of me your daddy regularly. Your big brother was always so talkative, and I thought maybe you would be the quiet one. Oh my, how wrong I was! Once you started talking, you just didn't stop. I think you were saying 8 word sentences back in October. Again, you are your mommy through and through. But, as you will come to realize someday, you look JUST like your daddy. I mean, if Daddy had blue eyes and blond hair, you could be twins. I used to joke that when I held you as a baby, I felt like I was holding your daddy in the form of a baby. Isn't it funny how God took pieces of me and pieces of your daddy and put together this completely lovable, silly, adorable little boy?



Liam, you are FUNNY! Seriously, you make us laugh. Sometimes Oftentimes, when you are naughty, just when I go to correct you, somehow you make me laugh. It's terrible! I never did that when Noah was your age. I know it only encourages you, but truly, you are funny, and sometimes you make it hard to get upset with you. You do the craziest things sometimes, and honestly, you scare the heck out of us. You like to entertain people too much, and you like to have fun too much. Sounds a bit like your daddy in college! :)

On a more serious  note, though, Liam you are always the first one to initiate praying at meal time. No matter where we are - in our house or out to eat - you are ready with your hands folded, belting out the prayer. We pray together every night before bed, and you pray right along with me. We go through our closest friends, your aunts and uncles, your cousins, your grandparents, Noah, Daddy, Kya, and me.

You know what else I love about you? You do everything with so much passion. You climb with passion. You cry with passion (seriously, crocodile tears every single time!). You laugh with passion - the deep belly laugh kind of laughing! You throw fits with a passion. Seriously, buddy, 25% of the time you don't want to sit in your carseat (cue crocodile tears). What's up with that?? You also love with a passion. You give hugs and kisses like it's nobody's business. You love your brother and play with him like best friends. Nothing warms my heart more.



Last night, Daddy and I hung streamers outside your bedroom door. Then this morning, Noah, Daddy, and I walked into your room with a video camera and a regular camera singing, "Happy Birthday" to you! You loved every second of it and were so excited to run through the streamers.




We coerced you downstairs for your special birthday breakfast - a chocolate donut complete with candle! You blew out your first candle this morning, and thankfully we got the video. Then you opened up your gifts...a new kickball and some puppets! Your favorite is when we make them sneeze.


Today, you said the sweetest thing. I was surprising you with a trip to the Children's Museum (Thanks, Dalia!), and when I said, "Liam, do you want to go to the Children's Museum," you said, "No." I said, "Then where do you want to go?" You said, "I go China, Mommy." Me, too, buddy! Me too! :) We had the best time today with Dalia, Nate, and Noah at the museum. You played hard, buddy! You played so hard that you slept from 2:30 to 6:00 p.m. today. Now that is what I call a nap! After eating dinner, we gave you the second half of your donut, and this time I got pictures!


Liam, I can't express to you how much I love you. You'll never understand until you are a daddy yourself someday. The love of a mother is one that would lay her life down without any hesitation, as long as it meant saving yours. The love I feel for you is the same love Jesus felt for us, and I am so thankful that God blessed me so that I could experience what this kind of love feels like. You have brought more joy to my life than I ever could have imagined, and you are helping me become a better person each day. I know we have been calling you Bert now for nearly two years, and the name has definitely stuck. Hope you like it, and if not, you can blame it on your dad! :) Liam, I love how God took a tiny, simple smile through you and changed our lives. Before you were born, we were on a certain path. Then, you came into this world, and God rocked us to the core! Last night, we helped fund #13 and #14 Cleft Lip/Clept Palate surgeries for children...this time from China through Love Without Boundaries. We are well on our way to funding 100 smiles, and it is all because of your life. You cannot fully understand this yet, but you have a brother named Tucker, and he lives all the way on the other side of the world. You've seen his room ("Tucka room").  You've seen his picture ("China Baby" or "Tucka Baby). What you don't know is that he is your brother because of you! God worked through your life to change my life. How incredible is that? You have made such an impact in just 2 years, and I cannot wait to see what God does through you next. I love you so much!


Love,
Mommy
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