A New Smile for TyTy

Four years ago, I wrote the following words in a blog post the night before Liam's cleft lip surgery:

I've wondered so many times why God decided to give you this special smile. Years before I had you and your brother, I always was drawn to the pictures of children from other countries who have cleft lips/palates. I think it was God's way of preparing my heart for your arrival. I know someday we will understand why, and I am excited to see where this journey leads us together as a family.... Your birth was a catalyst for something, possibly many things, and I cannot wait to find out what happens next.

How I look back at that night with such a smile on my face! I had no idea the plans God had for our family. As one of my dear friends said, I love that chapter of our family's story. I love how everything has come full circle. God has truly worked all things together for good. The Lord used Liam's smile to guide us to China, to Tucker, and ultimately to Tyson. Exactly four years later, I am once again sitting at my computer, writing about my son's surgery. God is in the details of our story. 

And now, tomorrow morning, we will rise from our beds before the sun comes up, get Tyson out of his crib, and drive downtown for his second major surgery. When he had his palate surgery, Tyson had only been in our arms for 7 1/2 weeks. Now we have almost 6 months under our belt, and we have worked hard to build a foundation of trust and security with him. I am hoping that Ty will feel even more comforted in our arms as he recovers from this procedure. After Ty's palate surgery, we had some issues with pain management, but today we received incredible news that was a HUGE answer to prayer. Tyson will be able to recover in a unit where nurses are very skilled at pain management. What a weight off our shoulders, as I'm hopeful that he will receive optimal care! We should only have to stay one night and come home Friday morning or early afternoon. 

After Liam's surgery, he was bruised and swollen, and to be honest, he looked so completely different to us. We are expecting the same to be true with Tyson. This procedure will repair his lip and nose, and we are hopeful that Dr. Tholpady is as skilled at lip and nose repairs as he is at palate repairs. Ty will also receive tubes in his ears - the first of our four kids. I've been sitting with Tyson in front of our living room mirror, running his finger across my lip and then doing the same to his. I use simple language like "open" on his lip and "closed" on mine in hopes of helping him gain some awareness. He is definitely curious about what I'm showing him. 

I think we've made it abundantly clear, but just in case, we truly love Tyson's smile just the way it is. I find him absolutely beautiful! At the same time, I know that in order to make progress with his speech and language, this surgery needs to take place. Do you know how many words have B, P, and M in them? Most people have been very kind Tyson's appearance, and only a few children have said anything hurtful. One day at the chiropractor, Noah came up to me, and his face was bright red. He said that a child called Tyson ugly, and Noah was super upset about it. It was a good teachable moment for all our boys. I talked with them about how God has gifted them to each other for many reasons, one of which is to protect each other. We did a role play in front of that boy and his brother and practiced using our big voices to tell people they need to be kind and asking them to apologize. We've seen those children many times since and have never had another issue. I love how much these boys love each other and hope that they only grow closer as time passes.

As I think about tomorrow, I keep having the same thought over and over again.

We could have missed this.

What a privilege it is to be Tyson's mommy, daddy, and brothers. What a privilege it is to show him that we will always be with him; we will always fight for him; and we will always love him. We will help him recover through as many surgeries as he needs. We will find the best speech therapists for him and celebrate all of his success with communicating. 

Tyson is one of the best gifts of my life. As much as I am happy to have him home, my heart breaks for his birth parents who cannot be part of his life right now. It is very likely that Tyson's cleft lip and palate are the reason that he was relinquished, as it's quite possible that they could not afford his medical care. So beyond sad. To be at a point in Tyson's life where his cleft lip and palate will be repaired is heartbreaking. Family preservation is such an important piece of orphan prevention, and I am so grateful for organizations like Love Without Boundaries and their Unity Initiative to help families afford medical treatment to decrease the likelihood of abandonment. Right now three precious girls, who were abandoned need cleft-related surgeries: Violet, Susan, and Katey. And in reality, there are thousands of children just like them in need of these cleft-related procedures and a family. 

If you are someone who loves children and wants to be a parent or would like to have more children, I really encourage you to step into the life of one of the millions of children waiting for a family. We could have missed this. These precious ones are so worth it.

Photo credit for all pictures: Lemongrass Photography


Happy 2nd Birthday, Tyson!!

We recently celebrated a very special day for our family, Tyson's 2nd birthday! Before I share about the festivities...

This kid, you guys. God knew all along what He was doing (of course He did!) when He chose our family for Tyson and Tyson for our family. That exact thought has come to mind every single day since we met this precious little guy. What I can't figure out is how we ever lived without him. I mean, just look at that smile!

Ryan's parents wanted to make sure that Ty had the chance to enjoy his birthday gift before the weather became too cold, so he received ride on front loader a couple weeks early. He really loves it! To be honest, Tyson loves toys! He probably loves them more than any other child in our family has ever loved toys. This precious little guy plays and plays and never grows tired of the toys in our house. The same is true for this front loader! TyTy will scoop up his toys and then toss them around, all the while marveling and laughing at his little game.

When I was trying to decide what type of birthday party to throw him, Noah suggested a construction truck theme since Tyson loves his front loader so much! It was such a brilliant idea, and I began finding all kinds of ideas for the party. One of my favorites was making dirt pudding for his dessert rather than typical birthday cake.

A month before the party, the kids ate dinner really well, and we passed our Oreo cookies. Tyson began signing more, eat, and please as fast as possible while shaking his entire high chair. I dipped an Oreo in my milk to make it softer (I still worry about crunchy foods since his surgery), and after one bite, Tyson was in love. He gobbled that Oreo cookie down in record time and began begging and signing again. He started yelling, "Oy-o! Oy-o! Oy-o!"  We were DYING laughing because at that point, Ty had very little spontaneous spoken language. He could say, "Dada, Nah-nah (mama), No-nah (Noah), Y-um (Liam), Tu-kah (Tucker), Ka-ka (Kya), dog, duck, oo-oo-ah-ah (Curious George), and No (of course!). Oh but don't you worry because he learned OREO and used it appropriately not just that night but also a week later when we got them back out. As soon as I brought that glorious blue package out of the pantry, we began hearing "Oy-o! Oy-o! Oy-o!" His highchair was shaking, Ty was signing as fast as he could. Oh TyTy!

So when Noah recommended a Construction Theme, the many uses of Oreo cookies flooded me and made me laugh out loud! We had make-you-own dirt pudding with lots of boulders (Whoppers), rocks (black Sixlets), stones (silver jelly beans), gummy worms, construction cones (candy corn), pebbles (Reese Pieces), and lumber (vanilla wafer cookies). I also made and decorated Oreo balls, which are insanely rich and delicious. We had pulled pork sandwiches, fresh fruit, chips, potato/macaroni salad, and chips to eat, and people could put them in brown paper sacks if they wanted. We had a fuel station with homemade lemonade and iced tea. I found the cutest construction themed shirt on Etsy, and he still squeals every time he sees it!

As much as I wanted to invite all our friends and family to celebrate Tyson's first birthday home, we knew how overwhelming that would have been for him. His grandparents (minus Ryan's mom who unfortunately was sick - we missed you Gloria!), great grandfather, Gale, Aunt Kelli, and cousins Mady, Micah, and Mikayla all came to our home to celebrate Ty's special day. It meant so much to have all of them there and thank them for all of their love and support in bringing Tyson into our family. They have all fallen for our newest son - it would be impossible to feel otherwise, right?!

After enjoying lunch, we all gathered together to watch Tyson open his birthday gifts. One very special gift he received was from his Grandma Till, who made him a book with pictures from the previous year. She makes all of our boys a book for their birthday, and they love to look at them! I know we will treasure them, especially as they grow older. He received several great gift! For those of you with two year old boys, here are some of the gifts he received as you make your lists for Christmas:

VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels Carry-All Cargo Train

Stuffed Teddy Bear and Spiderman

Money for College Account

Needless to say, he was completely spoiled with gifts! He truly plays all day long with them. I love watching him play. There is just something about watching (what will likely be) my last baby doing baby kinds of things. I have the hindsight to know how quickly these days go by, and sometimes I'm afraid if I blink, I will miss it all. I have already missed 19 months of this precious baby's life, and it pains me to think about it. So, when you see me kissing him a thousand times a day or thinking that every single little thing he does is adorable and amazing, give me some grace. I'm soaking in these last baby days with my all my heart.

Opening gifts allowed us enough time to make room for dessert. It was the moment I had been waiting for - singing Happy Birthday to Tyson with our family! We stripped him down to his diaper because naked babies are the cutest we didn't want to ruin his new shirt. 

And with so much joy, I lit the candles, and we began singing to the world's cutest baby!

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday dear Tyson.
Happy birthday to you!

I am so thankful this moment was captured in a photo. A child celebrating his first birthday home with his family, watching with wonder at his candles burning, holding his forever momma's finger. 

He began with a spoon...

...and then we upgraded to bare hands. He wasn't too sure about getting messy like that, so we went back to the spoon.

I am sorry, but I have never seen a cuter baby than this little guy! He holds my whole heart in the palm of his hands. When I look at him and fall in love over and over again, I can't help but think about all of the children just like him who sit in orphanages, foster homes, and on the streets, just waiting for someone to invite them home. This baby, this child I never even knew existed, has filled my heart in ways I cannot describe. By God's amazing grace, he accepted me from the moment I first held him. Our prayers for supernatural recognition were answered, and he has loved me from the start. My gratitude for that completely unexpected, undeserved gift is never-ending.

Tyson AnTao, your whole family loves you so much! From mommy and daddy, to brothers and cousins, to aunts and uncles, to grandmas and (great) grandpas, to friends near and far, you are LOVED! I sent pictures of your special celebration back to your sweet nanny who loves you so much. I hope it brought her joy to see you happy and loved. You are a gift to my life! I can't imagine our family without you. You have completed us in so many ways. Thank you for loving us and trusting us. We will love you forever and ever! Happy birthday, baby boy.


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." 


Day 14: Traveling Home

This morning I woke up before my alarm at 4:35 a.m. ready to go! I am not a morning person, but I couldn’t help but smile knowing that, God willing, I will have my two little boys in my arms in 28 ½ hours. It will surely be a long, long day, but this part of our journey won’t last forever. There is something so peaceful about time. No matter what, it is constant. The clock ticks at the same pace whether we are walking or running.

Ryan and I got ourselves ready, and the bellboy picked up our bags in our room at 5:00 a.m. sharp. I got Noah up five minutes later, got him dressed while he slept standing up, and put on his shoes while he laid back down on the couch. In the meantime, Ryan prepared Tyson’s bottle. We were running like a well-oiled machine! I got Tyson out of his crib, and he sucked on his finger as fast as he could. He drank his bottle and finished with a sweet smile on his face. I put on a long-sleeved white onesie on him and a pair of fleece sweatpants. Airplanes get so cold! He was happy and let me dress him without even a whimper. It is usually like dressing a moving train when I put clothes on him. I sat next to him and put on my shoes. Then, we loaded him into my Ergo carrier, put on my backpack that is filled to the brim with his crackers, and walked out the door. Ryan checked out at the front desk, and just as we saw Aron coming to greet us, our friend Rachel and her daughter came walking up. I was so thankful to see her, as we had spent the entire week in Nanning together. However, her husband had to return home early, and I hadn’t seen her much since being in Guangzhou. We waved goodbye to The Garden Hotel, hopped in the van, and drove off.

Ryan is done checking us out of The Garden Hotel!
The hotel personnel had provided us with boxed breakfast, and each one contained 2 hard-boiled eggs, a couple pastries, a yogurt, a juice, and a banana. We ate our breakfast on the way to the hotel. Tyson happily finished off his banana! They are one of his favorites right now. When we reached the airport, our luggage was put on a cart, and we made our way into the very busy Guangzhou airport. We walked to Rachel’s designated airline, and with tears in my eyes, I hugged her goodbye. We met our babies together on Memorial Day, and our time together in China has created a bond that will never end. That is how the adoption community is – once you take the leap of faith, you have an instant family for life.

Aron walked us to our ticketing counter. We are flying Air China from Guangzhou to Beijing, and then we will switch airlines. Air China is contracted through United for this portion of our trip home. Ryan is currently walking around the terminal with Tyson. At first he wanted to walk by himself and explore, but now that the terminal is getting busier, he wants his daddy to hold him. When we went through security, one of the officers took him from me as they scanned both he and I, and he was not a happy camper! So thankful that he feels safe in my arms!! I know even this will grow in time. I will celebrate the day that he feels secure enough to be more than an arm’s length from us because his trust in us will have deepened. But for now, I will enjoy my sweet snuggles! Being a parent to all of our children is such a privilege, and adoption has really helped me understand that so much more.

Ryan keeping Tyson entertained while waiting to board our first flight
I am going to try to write throughout our trip home, but much of that will depend on Tyson. I am hoping that once we are on our flight to Beijing that he will fall sleep for a tiny bit since we had to wake him up so early. If not, he will sleep eventually. In some ways, I am sad to leave China, sad to take him from his birth country. However, I am very excited to be home, establish our new normal, and have my family all under one roof! I’ll write again soon.

Getting ready to board in Guangzhou
Waiting for take off
The flight from Guangzhou to Beijing was miraculously on time. Tyson and I sat by the window, and Ryan and Noah sat across the isle in the middle seats. I played with Tyson for the entire 3 hour flight. That little guy didn’t even pretend to be sleepy. We played with his spinny toy and a toothbrush holder. We watched out the window and played peek-a-boo. Although we bought him his own seat, Tyson preferred to just sit in my lap. I turned on Doc McStuffins for him, as our plane had private televisions for each seat. He would watch the show off and on while we played. On Tyson’s seat’s television, I played the latest Hunger Games movie, more or less to help pass the time. I listened to the movie while we played together. I was having fun with him and only had to give him 3 crackers before the flight attendants served a breakfast. I love that most domestic flights I have been on in China include a meal. I chose the eggs with a roll, ham, pea pods, potatoes, and oranges and got Tyson congee with a roll, oranges, and a preserved egg. He loved the roll with strawberry jelly and ate about a third of his congee. He liked the oranges but eventually spit out the pulp, and he attempted to eat the preserved egg but spit it out immediately. I gave him each bite slowly, trying to make the meal last for as long as possible.

Here we go again, guys!

By the time he finished eating, we had about 30 minutes left on that flight. Biting his feet and rubbing the spinny toy all over him kept him laughing and having fun. He needed another couple crackers, but I celebrated that we only used 5 for that flight!! I knew we would need many, many crackers for the long flight to Chicago.

I am so sad in this seat belt!!

We made it to Beijing!!!

As soon as we reached the Beijing airport, Ryan and Noah used the restroom. While waiting for them out in the hallway, Tyson slipped into deep sleep without me even noticing. Haha!! He continued to sleep for about 45 minutes while we walked through the airport, rode the train to our terminal, and walked through immigration. He woke up just before we went through security, and it’s a good thing since I had to take him out of the carrier anyway.

Once we made it through security, we had about 3 hours to kill. We walked over to a waiting area and found a grocery cart with a car that Tyson could sit in while we pushed our carry ons above. It was PERFECT!! Seriously, Beijing, you are so smart to have those carts for small children. Thank you!! What was really interesting was that only one child could fit in the cart. In the US our child-friendyl grocery carts have enough room for 2 children to sit in the car, but in China, with One Child Policy, their carts only have room for one. Interesting, huh? We walked and walked around the terminal. Tyson was happily riding in the car below, so we just kept walking. Eventually, Ryan was getting hungry, so we started looking for restaurants. I said to Ryan, “Look, I think I see a cheeseburger sign ahead!” Turns out, it was just a mirage. Who knew this Indiana girl would crave cheeseburgers so badly at the end of this trip. 

Is that a burger sign in the background? 

We almost went into a restaurant that served sandwiches and Chinese food, but Ryan saw Pizza Hut, and the decision was made. Noah and I went inside and ordered the “regular” size stuffed crust pepperoni pizza that serves 2-3 people. This was the largest pizza at that Pizza Hut, and as you can imagine, we gobbled down every single bite. I ordered Tyson fried rice with bacon, and he ate a huge portion, as well! Traveling apparently makes us hungry. He was super cute! He kept signing “more” and “eat” to us. He is such a quick learner, and I think he is relieved to finally have a method of communication other than pointing and making sounds at people. I can’t wait to teach him more!

Noah with the Chinese Pizza Hut menu

Stuffed crust pepperoni pizza...SO DELICIOUS! Again, this is the biggest size they serve.

So proud that he is signing for more already!

After we finished our food, we found a play area for children on the way to our gate. This is another thing I love about the airports in Seoul and Beijing. The play areas are small, and there are several to choose from throughout the airports. Noah was able to climb and be a boy for a bit. I took Tyson inside the train, and he stuck to me like glue. I am amazed at how overwhelming it is for kids, who have resided behind orphanage walls, to have new experiences like that. He was trembling and making his sounds that tell me he is scared, and all the while, we were simply sitting inside a playground train. Poor little guy! 

Unsure about the playground
Ok, Mom, I'll get on the train as long as I can have my back against you.
This is why cocooning will be so important when we come home. Ty will need a consistent schedule, routine, and the familiar faces of our family for quite some time before we introduce new people and experiences. It is just so overwhelming to his senses and his mind. We still are not dealing with indiscriminate affection. He sticks to us like glue, but he is very scared to be separated from us. I would definitely say he is functioning in a state of separation anxiety, and by separation I mean walking a couple feet away from him let alone leaving altogether. This will just take time as his trust and security grows stronger.

My first double decker plane!

Noah found a very comfy chair before boarding the plane.

Last picture in Beijing
At 3:00 p.m. we made our way to our gate. The waiting area was already very full. I looked out the window and noticed our double decker plane! I’ve always wanted to ride on one, and I was excited to do so with Ryan, Noah, and Ty. We boarded on time and got settled in our seats. Ryan said he wanted to take the first shift since I had Tyson on our flight to Beijing. By this time it was 3:45, way past this baby’s nap time, especially with a wake up call at 5:05 a.m. CUE THE SCREAMING! Oh goodness, can this boy scream and thrash like no one I’ve ever known. He was beyond tired and overwhelmed by all of the people. Ryan wrestled in a bit, and eventually, we gave him a cracker when we realized he wasn’t close to sleeping yet.

Unfortunately, we sat on the plane for over an hour before finally taking off. I was able to catch a quick 10 minute power nap while we waited, and Tyson was entertained by Ryan. Once the engines began to roar, and the plane lurched forward, Tyson crawled up Ryan’s body like a monkey. Ryan held him tight, and eventually, he finally gave in and fell to sleep. He is still sleeping across Ryan’s body now. Food is being served, but I will write again in a bit. Thank you for your continued prayers!!

Thankful for a sleeping baby

Our total flight time, including time on the ground before take off and after landing, was around 14 hours. We spent the rest of the flight from Beijing to Chicago watching movies, passing Tyson back and forth, playing with Noah, eating a couple meals, etc. Noah was doing really well, but I wanted him to get some sleep, so I gave him a melatonin, and he passed out in 2 minutes. His body was so tired! He stretched out across our seats for about 4 hours. Ryan got some sleep here and there, though none of it was probably very restful or deep. I slept in increments of 5-10 minutes throughout the flight, maybe for an hour total. Tyson got two huge sleeps, one mostly in Ryan's arms, and one mostly in mine. I was so thankful!! When he was awake, he would let us entertain him with toys, eat some crackers, go on walks around the plane, and eat meals when served. I honestly can't imagine the flight going any better with a 19 month old baby, though it was still a very, very long flight to Chicago. Those of you who have traveled internationally understand! 

The newest US citizen!!!
As soon as the plane landed, Tyson was officially a US citizen!! HOORAY! All the of the paperwork, home visits, milestones achieved throughout the adoption process, plane rides, and time away from Liam and Noah - 100% worth it to have this little guy in our arms and on US soil. We were SO grateful to be back in the midwest. We made our way from our terminal through customs and waited for our adoption paperwork to be processed. That actually went very quickly, and we were rechecking our bags for our domestic flight from Chicago to Indy in no time. Then we took a train to our new terminal and got back in line to go through security again. I mean, at this point, I was started to feel a bit unraveled. We had gone through so many security check points, so many terminals, so many gates, so many planes, and I was just ready to see my little boys. We finally reached the front of the line, and the lady took our boarding passes. She looked over them for a long time and then had to call a supervisor. The boy who checked us in at the Guangzhou airport did not put Chicago as the departure city on our boarding passes to Indy. I started thinking to myself, "If they make us get back in line to reprint our boarding passes to then go through this security line again, the dam will break, and my crazy is going to pour out." I had held it together the entire trip so well, and I could feel my grip slipping. Thankfully, the supervisor had mercy on us after seeing our e-tickets, and she let us continue through security. Once again, all carry ons were processed, Tyson was taken out of the carrier, computers and iPads put in bins...you know the drill. Noah could do it with his eyes closed now! We made it through security and even saw some of our first smiles from airport employees. We started to believe that we really were almost home.

Ty-Ty fell asleep in no time
While I went to freshen up in the restroom, Tyson fell asleep on Ryan's shoulder. It felt SO amazing to put on a fresh shirt, brush my teeth with tap water (had to use bottled water in China), put on some make-up, etc. I emerged feeling a million times better! Tyson woke up by the time I got back, and Ryan went to grab some food for Noah, Ty, and himself. I didn't have an appetite and was just eager to get on our last flight to Indy. I started to crash, and Ryan offered to hold Tyson on our final flight. 

As soon as we boarded, we met so many really nice people on the plane. One woman shared that her daughter had just announced that they were going to adopt from China. Her family had already adopted three children from the Congo, and they also had 3 biological children, I believe. Do you see what adoption does to you? It changes everything, and suddenly, you find yourself surrounded by precious children who were once orphans. Such a beautiful picture of the gospel! Being with these friendly people remained us just how close we were to Indiana. The people here are just so friendly and kind overall! I slept maybe 25 minutes on our final flight to Indy and felt quite a bit better. 

Once we were 20 minutes from landing, I started to feel the tears coming. I was imagining seeing Tucker and Liam for the first time in 2 weeks, and it was all I could do to hold back the tears. The plane landed, and we raced off toward our family and friends who were waiting for us to arrive. Ryan was holding Tyson in one arm, while holding hands with Noah, who was holding hands with me. We walked as fast as we could, smiles on our faces and crocodile tears in my eyes. And then, Allison Mayer captured our homecoming so beautifully, so perfectly through her Red Thread Session (click the link to read about them) for our family! Aliy, I will never be able to thank you enough for your amazing gift to our family! 

I have tears in my eyes, remembering that moment when Liam started to run toward me. I let go of Noah's hand and ran to my son, something we practiced many times before leaving for China. I bawled as I hugged him as tightly as I could, and before I knew it, Tucker was in my arms, too! Once we had a few minutes to visit with the boys, I began making my way around to everyone. I found Danette first and just cried as we embraced. She had taken care of my babies for 2 solid weeks! Not only did she keep them safe and provided so many opportunities for fun and making memories, but she also met their emotional needs from being separated from us for so long. This was especially crucial for Tucker, who needs abundant love and reassurance and security due to his history. Danette, we are FOREVER GRATEFUL for all that you did for our children! We will never even know 95% of how you supported their needs while we were away, but please know that we love you and are so thankful you are part of our family! The boys called Ryan and me "Grandma" many times that first day home. Liam asked, "Will I see Grandma again?" Clearly, they love you very much!! 

I made my way to hug my dad, Ryan's parents, his sister, and our niece and nephew. What a special treat to have them all there and be able to thank each person for helping Tyson come home!! I COULD NOT STOP CRYING! I was so grateful to be home - so much more than words can describe. After greeting those in our family, I was able to go hug some of our most treasured friends. I was still crying as I thanked them for all they had done for not just Tyson's adoption but Tucker's, also. They all had supported us financially, emotionally, physically, etc. for the past 3 years. Noah's friend, Bryson, even came to welcome his buddy home! It was so fun to introduce Tyson to our family and friends, and he ran around us like he owned the place. I'm sure it was nice to finally stretch his legs, but he was so tired, as he stumbled and staggered all over the place. Ryan finally announced that it was time to go home. We walked toward the parking lot together, our prayer warriors and a huge part of our support system all around us. We put Tyson in his car seat, and he cried only for a minute and fell asleep in no time at all. Ryan drove us home. All four of our sons were finally together, sitting side by side. Our family was together. We were home, and you know what? There is absolutely no place like home. 

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