Thursday, March 5, 2015

20 Years

Earlier this week Matt and I celebrated our 20th Wedding Anniversary. I CANNOT believe we have been married for 20 YEARS! It's crazy to think we have been together for 20 years. When we got married we only knew each other for 6 months. We met at a college party on Labor Day weekend, and from that point on, we spent almost every day together. The first time he met my parents he asked my dad if he could marry me, and proposed later that night.

We didn't have a big wedding, in fact, we didn't have a wedding at all.  We went to the local court house on a Friday, got married in front of a judge, and 5 days later Matt left for basic training in the Army.  Our first 5 months of being married we were apart.  As a matter of fact, we could only talk on the phone once a week. 

After basic training Matt was going to be stationed in S. Korea for a year.  It was an unaccompanied tour which meant the Army was not going to pay for me to go, in fact, they highly recommended I not got.  Yeah, that wasn't going to work for me.  Matt came home in August for 2 weeks before leaving for Korea, by the middle of September I was getting on a plane to join him.  When I got there I was met by one of his Sergeants and was told that I wasn't allowed to be there.  I informed her that I was there on an American Passport and Visa, and that I have every right to be there.  She said they didn't have to set him live off post, my response, "try it."  Needless to say, I lived with Matt in Korea for 10 months.  I came home early because I was pregnant with Blake and didn't want to get too close to my due date and not be able to fly.

From Korea we spent 3 years in Honolulu, HI where Blake was born.  Hawaii is absolutely beautiful, and we made many, many friends while living there.  It was a great experience, but to be honest, we were ready to get back Stateside.  We missed the seasons (what I wouldn't give to be in HI right now), and our family. 

After leaving HI, we went to Washing DC for a little over a year. Absolutely LOVED living there. There is SO much to do. I highly recommend visiting there at least once. Anyway, while living there, I was working full time. Matt was never home, he was always at work. He was an MP (Military Police) and was either always working shift work or training. During this time he was also going back and forth to S. Carolina for Sgt. training. Blake and I lived as if I were a single parent, which is not something I signed up for. I'll be the first to admit I was a terrible military wife. It was not the lifestyle for me. People don't realize how much military wives do, and give up for their spouses. I have so much respect for ALL military spouses. It takes a special person to be able to live this lifestyle. So, after a year in DC, we decided to move home.

About a year after moving home, we were blessed with our daughter Emma. I cannot even express how happy I was to have a daughter. Don't get me wrong, I love Blake, but I so badly wanted a girl. During this, Matt was working and training to become an Electrician, and I was running a daycare out of our home. Life went on. We were happy, and had no plans to have any more kids.  I was more than happy with my boy and girl.

A few years after having Emma, Matt started talking about having one more. So, along came our son Gabe.

God had blessed us with 2 happy, healthy, beautiful children. But something was missing. Before Matt and I got married he knew that someday I wanted to adopt a little girl from China. I have no idea where this came from, but since I was in middle school I wanted to have a Chinese daughter. A year or so after Gabe was born we started looking into it, saw the cost, and ran. There was NO way we were ever going to be able to afford to adopt.

A few more years down the road my urge to adopt got stronger and stronger. Finally, we made the call and set up an appointment to meet with an agency. By the time we left, we had filled out an application and were ready to go. We decided that since the wait at that time was about 2-3 years, we could easily save the money during that time. Until we got the call asking if we were interested in SN adoption and from there, things changed really fast for our family.

In 2008, we turned my dream of adopting from China into a reality when we brought home Mylee. Matt didn't travel with me, he stayed home to take care of the other 3. Never in a million years did I ever think going to China would change the person I would become. When I left China with Mylee, I knew somehow, someway, I would return.

I had no idea at the time what God was putting on my heart. He definitely made it clear that we had more than just 4 kids. After getting over the initial shock, Matt agreed that we would adopt from China just "one more time." So began the process to add another son to our family who we would call Andrew.

Just as we were getting everything wrapped up to leave for Andrew, God once again spoke to me about another child that we were to bring home. This child was different. This child was someone Matt and I said we would never do. This child was a boy, who would soon be 14 and no longer have the opportunity to have a family of his own. Once again I went to Matt with what I knew was an insane idea, but I had to at least try. After spending a few hours talking and praying about it, we decided that we were going to not only add one, but two sons to our family that trip. And so began the process to bring Jaxon home. Because he was aging out, our process was expedited to get us to China in time. He actually turned 14 while we were still in China.

By this point I knew Matt would never go for more, so I didn't push it. I personally didn't think we were done, but I didn't want to rock the boat. Until, I saw an absolutely beautiful girl with medical needs way more than we were thought we could handle. I first saw her picture only a month after getting home with Jaxon and Andrew (May), and waited until August before bringing her up to Matt. To my surprise, he wasn't as shocked as I thought he would be. In fact, he seemed pretty open to it. So, we began the paperwork to bring Kalia home.

When we got home with Kalia Matt made me promise we were done. He was adamant that we WERE done. I on the other hand knew we weren't. I knew I had one more daughter. It didn't matter how many pictures I showed him, or how many stories I told him, he was not budging. Until about a year ago he came to me and said that he had been thinking and praying about us adopting again. He said that it had been on his mind for awhile and that this was obviously my calling. "This is what you are supposed to do," he said. "Who am I to stand in the way?" Of course there were stipulations with this. He said that we would not start looking or doing any paperwork for a year. So, I waited, and waited, and waited, until I thought I was going to burst.

Fast forward to now, and you know how this ends. In just a few short months we will be adding yet another son to our family who we have decided to call Owyn. this adoption is like no other. We are the fast track to getting to him before it is too late. Like Jaxon, he too only has until he turns 14 to get home. What typically takes a year to do, we have less than 3 months. Stressful doesn't even begin to describe these past 2 weeks. I have done nothing but sit at a computer and fill out paperwork after paperwork after paperwork. But in the end, when I am able to wrap my arms around this boy, it will all worth it.

Why am I tell you all this? Because for the 20 years that Matt and I have been married, it has all been about our kids. We don't take lavish vacations. We don't live in a massive, overpriced home, or drive fancy cars. We don't go out and party and drink. We would rather sit at home with our kids and have pizza and movie night. If you would have asked me 2 years ago what I wanted for my 20th anniversary I would have said a new wedding ring (Mylee flushed mine down the toilet right after we brought her home. At the time it was new, I got it for our 10th wedding anniversary). Now, when I look down at my ring finger, that is missing a wedding ring, it is a reminder of everything I have. I certainly don't need a big diamond to prove Matt's love for me. I don't need a big diamond to make me feel like more of a person. What I do need is to know that when I walk through the door, I am going to have not only a husband who loves me and would do anything for me, but 7 beautiful, happy, healthy kids, that God has so graciously entrusted us with to call me "mom."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I'm Baaaaack...

I know, it's been awhile since I last posted, a LONG while. I needed a break. I honestly didn't intend for my break to last as long as it did, but life kind of took over. With 7 kids, it's not like I wasn't expecting it, I just wasn't prepared. Like so many others, I took to Face Book to rely on getting my updates, and doing my updates. It was easier, faster, but definitely not as rewarding. I apologize, I didn't realize the impact it would have to stop blogging. At least 2 or 3 times a month I would have someone "friend" me on FB saying they used to following my blog and was so disappointed when I stopped. People would message saying I was such an inspiration to them. How I was so helpful in them bringing their children home. One lady even said that reading my blog was like a good book, and then just one day it just ended, with a big cliffhanger. I honestly had no idea my writing had such an impact on people. I mean come on, I am just an ordinary person. No one special, and certainly NOT a writer. So, I apologize again for leaving everyone hanging. Since Christmas I have been trying to decide if I should start blogging. I've actually started some posts, saved them, and just didn't feel like they were worthy. It's almost like I had a writer's block. I just couldn't get the words out, and even when I did, nothing felt right. I started this blog to document our adoption journey to Mylee, and had NO idea it would lead to so much more. She was supposed to be our 4th and final child. She was the daughter I had envisioned of having since I was little. I knew someday I would have a Chinese daughter, and that's all I wanted. Looking back on it, I was incredibly selfish. However, when I left China with Mylee on my lap, I knew without a doubt that I would return. So, here I am, trying to get back in the saddle. A lot has happened in the past 3 years. Instead of just going through everything that has happened, I will just post an update on each of the kids, that would probably be easier, and much easier to read. Our BIGGEST change will be arriving sometime in May. Let me back up a little... After coming home with Kalia, I knew Matt was done. Now, he's said this with each of our adoptions, but this time I knew, He. Was. Done! I however, knew I wasn't. I desperately knew/know that I have another little girl that I am supposed have call me "mom." So, after a few months, I started bringing up adopting again. To say it didn't go well was an understatement. He assured me again that he was done. So, I finally started to think we were done. I would watch and follow along on FB of others adopting and would get so sad. Knowing that they were doing what I wanted to do. I would read and share all the waiting kids posted and be heart broken that we wouldn't be bringing one of them home. It had been months since I "pestered" Matt about adopting again, and was really coming to terms with the fact that we were in fact, DONE. Until, Matt came to me one day and said that he had been thinking and praying about us adopting again. He said that adoption was my calling and if God was calling me to adopt again, who was he to keep me from that. It's no secret to anyone who knows us that Matt has never been the one interested in adoption. Now, don't get me wrong, he loves each and every one of our kids unconditionally. It's just that he hasn't been the one to initiate it. As a matter of fact, when asked how many bio kids we have and how many adopted kids we have he literally has to stop and think, because to him, they are all the same. So, when he told me this I was kind of in shock. I didn't expect it at all. I was over the moon. I belong to several advocacy sites as well as FB pages that advocate for kids. So, I with Matt's permission, we looked at a couple files of little girls. But nothing felt "right." With each of our other kids, I knew instantly that they were meant for our family. So we went on with our lives. I was starting to think that maybe we weren't meant to adopt from China again. I knew someday we would really be done and started thinking that day was upon me. We started talking about doing foster to adopt. I recently began friends with someone who is a foster parent and she has been very helpful with getting us started and making sure we know the ins and outs. We have 3 of the 4 classes completed. A couple of weeks ago an agency was advocating for a little girl that was 6 (the age we were looking for), so I requested her file, and sent it to the doctor. I really thought this little girl was "the one." While waiting to hear back from our doctor there was an aging out boy being advocated for ALL OVER. He was on every agency page, advocate page, and even personal pages. As a matter of fact I remembered advocating for him on my own FB page back in the fall. I was in shock that he was still available. But adopting an older child was something that Matt and I said we didn't want to do again. (Older child adoptions are just as rewarding, just a little bit more difficult. They come with their own set of adjustments and challenges). So, I shared his picture and went on about my day (this was on a Monday). I think the next day there was a new video posted of him that was just taken the week before. So I watched it, and had the tiniest bit of "what if" going on inside me. I posted a comment about how handsome he was and asking how in the world one would be able to complete an entire adoption in less than 3 months. Of course people started commenting right away about how they had done it, and so and so did it, and it could be done. Tuesday came and went. By Wednesday, I was completely head over hills in love with this boy. I had watched his video several times and stared endlessly at his pictures. My heart was telling me this was our son, but my brain was saying "STOP, NO WAY, NOT GONNA HAPPEN." I don't think in any of our adoptions have I ever listened to my head. I emailed our agency asking what their thoughts on it would be. I mean, we would literally be starting from scratch. We needed to get our HS updated, the whole shebang. She said it was doable, and that it would be a lot of work, but it could be done, she has seen it done. She asked if I wanted to see his file and of course I said yes. At the same time I told her to go ahead and take the other little girl off hold for us. Something just didn't seem right, not with her, with me. At this point I still had not shared any of this with Matt, but knew I was going to have to. Several families were showing interest in him, but no one was committing. I talked to Matt as soon as he got home that night, knowing what his initial reaction was going to be. Of course it was a “no,” but after getting over the initial shock, we sat and talked about it for hours. Matt is not a spontaneous person. He does not make decisions based on emotions. He is definitely the more logical person in our marriage. Knowing that everything would have to be done in 3 months, it was all about the money to him. He said he needed some time to think it over, and to not push. Of course I knew that time was not something that could be wasted. The next day I kept checking with people to see if his file had been locked, hoping and praying that it had so I could move on. As much as I wanted him to be a part of our family, at the end of the day I just wanted him to have A family. Orphans are considered "unlucky" or "cursed" in the Chinese culture. They have very few opportunities to go to school. If they do get to go to school they attend the lowest level of schools because parents who pay for their kids to go to school don't want their kids going with the "unlucky orphans." However, there are a few who are fortunate enough to be sponsored and are able to go on to college. Just because they have an education does not mean they will be able to get a job. Many businesses will not employ them once they find out they were an orphan because of the "unlucky" orphan stigma. The Chinese are very big on family. In fact, many of their holidays revolve around family. Can you imagine being completely alone? I mean really alone? Just think about it for a minute. Who do you run to when you have exciting news to share? Who do you lean on when you need to cry? Who do you call "family?" Those orphans that never get the opportunity for a family have no one to run home to, they have no shoulder to cry on, they have no one to spend holidays with. They. Have. No. One. So, even though living in the orphanage may not be ideal, to them, it is all they have. They have food and they shelter. Once they are 16 (unless they are one of the fortunate ones), they are released to fend for themselves in a society that "fears" them because they may be "unlucky." 16! Seriously, can you imagine at the age of 16 being forced to provide for yourself? At the age of 16 having no one to guide you or to care? At 16, these are still children. Children who have absolutely no idea how to survive on the streets and unfortunately, many of them don't. I know I am painting a grim picture, but this is reality. While we sit in our nice, warm, posh homes, there are thousands of orphans who are getting ready to age out. Children that because of their age may never have the opportunity for an education. Children that may never know what it feels like to be tucked in and kissed good night. Children who may never hear the words, I love you." Children that because we are scared, scared to step out of our comfort zone, who may never know what it means to be part of a family. Matt came home from work that evening and we talked about it again. We looked at the overall cost, and what we had and there just didn’t seem to be any way we were going to be able to do it. I was devastated. I was frustrated, and I think I was heartbroken. The thought of this child not getting the opportunity to know what a family felt like was breaking me. Matt and I started to come up with some creative ways to earn and raise the money. For one, our agency was offering a grant of $3000 for the family that stepped up for him. Now $3000, seems like a lot, but it’s not when you look at the overall cost. All along I have kept telling Matt we just need to take that first step and let everything else work itself out. Of course him being the more logical one, he was not going to let that happen. So, we went to bed again, with no decisions made. All this time Facebook pages were bombarded with his pictures and videos trying to get a family to step forward for him. I woke up Friday morning praying that someone had committed to him. Still nothing. My stomach was in knots. I waited for what felt like an eternity for Matt to call and give me the verdict. About ten that morning he called to say he just didn’t see how we could do it and that if we did, we were going to have to get really creative in raising whatever money we would need to bring him home. So, I hung up with Matt, called the agency and they were able to lock his file while I was on the phone with them. After that with all logistics. We are literally going to have to move at warp speed to complete this adoption. What usually takes 9-12 months to complete HAS to be done in less than 3. It CAN be done, it HAS been done, and it WILL be done. I have never been more certain of anything in my life. This is our son and we have to do anything and everything to get him home. We are now in a race, a race against time. The clock is ticking. So, it is with complete faith that we once again answered the call to open our hearts and our home to another of God's children. Unfortunately, this journey is nothing like any of the others we have taken. We have less than 3 months to get a year’s worth of paperwork done. Instead of having a year to save, and fundraise, we have less than three months. We have already jumped more hurdles than I care to mention. We have already been on a never ending roller coaster of emotions, complete with highs and lows. Our journey is just beginning, and knowing that we are moving at warp speed both excites and terrifies us. One thing is for sure, when Matt and I started the process to adopt 7 years ago, we had no idea the twists and turns that would be involved. But with every door that closed, another was opened. Adoption is not easy, in fact, it can be quite difficult physically and emotionally. However, the end result is worth the sacrifices, the worry, the unknowns, the up and downs, and anything else in between. We cannot imagine our family without all of our kids. So, as soon as we stepped up and said "YES" to God I knew it was time for me to start blogging again. I started out blogging as a way of keeping and family and friends posted, then it turned into each of our kids' stories on how we found them. It was a journal of how they became part of our family. So it is only right that I continue this blog for our newest son.