Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Two years home

Today marks 25 months since Michael and I stepped off the plane in Omaha. Earlier this month we passed a milestone that I've been waiting for since I first saw his face -- he's now been part of our family longer than he spent in his babies home. As much as I know he was loved in his babies home, the joy of knowing he's had a mama and a daddy for longer than he was without is overwhelming. I am so blessed to be his mama!

I don't know why it's been on my mind so much these last few days, but I've been playing the moments I spent at Amecet with Michael and his Ugandan "family" (the babies home staff, not biological family) over and over in my mind. Maybe because of our new family milestone. Maybe because his fifth birthday is coming soon.

I'd never watched the videos of the day I got Michael forever, until yesterday. The moments were so raw and so painful, even though I was overjoyed to have him finally, I couldn't bear to see it until now.


Like with any child, it's hard to see how far they've come when you spend every day with them, but then reminders like this arrive in your inbox! This is a side by side from the beginning of preschool last year and the beginning of preschool this year.

Michael has grown 9 inches and gained 11 pounds since the day I arrived back to Uganda to get him. He's gone from baby to big boy in record breaking time. 

He's still the most joyful person I've ever known, but his ornery side has also emerged more and more. He now thinks it's HILARIOUS to try to roll over while I'm changing his diaper. The other day he did it so fast he was gone before I could get the diaper on him. 

Michael loves school. He doesn't like sharing mama, but he adores his new baby sister and loves when she's on the floor to play with him. He's still a fan of Mickey, but Daniel Tiger has probably usurped Mickey as his favorite. He has a big sweet tooth and is a fan of anything chocolate. 

Saying yes to special needs adoption can be scary. It takes a leap of faith into the unknown. But I look at this precious boy and I ask myself "what if I'd said no?" It's not easy. Sometimes it can be downright hard, but look at what I would have missed! 

It's hard to believe my tiny little boy turns five in a couple of weeks (October 9, Uganda's independence day). I am so proud of him, of the strength he has and the joy he exudes. 

I'm so proud to be your mama, Michael. Happy two years home, my sweet boy.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

How have we let this happen?

I sat at my computer yesterday afternoon and sobbed. I saw a picture of a young girl, just 13 years old, who will lose her chance at family forever in four months.

I sat here, tears streaming down my face, absolutely wrecked for this girl. Can you imagine being 14 years old and knowing you'll never have a family? Knowing the stigma that will follow you the rest of your life, because of a decision someone else made, whether in your best interest or not?

I sobbed. And sobbed.

How is this possible? In a world with 2.18 BILLION Christians, how is this possible?

Three months ago, I sat in a silent orphanage that's home to six-hundred children. SIX-HUNDRED -- I used to live in a town a third of that size. I have seen children lined up in hallways on cots. I have seen rows and rows and rows of children in wheelchairs lined up outside. I have sat in the middle of the orphanage signing paperwork, literally while the Sound of Silence played overhead, but not a sound was to be heard from a child. It's something you can never unsee.

How have we let this happen, Christians?

Jesus, wreck our hearts. Wreck our privileged lives.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

When things don't go how we expect them to

We met in a stuffy hallway seven weeks ago. As soon as we approached the playroom, I saw her nanny holding her. She placed this tiny little girl in my arms and immediately that little girl began to smile.

I've been dreaming of adopting a baby girl from China since I was 8 years old and finally, here she was in my arms. Joy, fear, elation, a feeling of "Oh my gosh. Can I really do this?" that enters my mind every time I meet one of my babies.

But instantly, we fell in love. My soul said "Hey, there you are. I've been looking for you."

Our transition hasn't been easy, but each day it gets easier and most of it's been what we expected -- Some behavior issues from the boys, some sleep issues from her. But she's settling in and the boys are finally enjoying being big brothers. Max told me last night "She's my daughter. I'm Little Max Mama." He insisted on snuggling her until bedtime.

Some things we haven't expected, though.

Since I met her, I've had concerns about her hearing and we confirmed on Tuesday that as of now, she's almost completely deaf. It may be fixable, it may not be. We have several weeks ahead of us before we have any answers.

And last week, I noticed a little spot on her spine, a spot that immediately had me wondering "maybe this isn't CP." Today, our developmental clinic doctors agreed that, given the tightness in her legs, it very possibly could be something else -- either spina bifida or a tethered spinal cord.

None of this we expected and some we even said we couldn't handle.

But I look at her. I look at her and I see my daughter. I look at her and I see the daughter of my Heavenly Father and for some reason, I am the one He chose to be her mama. Even when I said "No, I can't do that," He chose me for her.

We do not know what the future holds for Lorelai, but we know we love her and we know we will do everything in our power to help her thrive.

She is ours and we are hers. No. Matter. What.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Adoption Fundraising Done Right -- Tips and tricks to help you successfully fund your adoption

It's probably no surprise to you that adoption is crazy expensive. I continually hear from people that they'd love to adopt but the cost keeps them from pursuing it. Even for those of us who have been down this road before, the expenses can be daunting.

We are in the process of our third adoption and throughout the past five or so years, I've gotten pretty good at thinking of ways to help cover fees. So, at the risk of giving away all my best ideas, I'm going share some of the ways we've been able to pay for two adoptions (soon to be three)!

Sacrifice. We are pretty frugal anyway, but when we are in adoption fundraising mode, we don't spend extra money. No trips out of town. No Stitch Fix or Birch Box. No unnecessary home projects. You get the idea -- if we don't need it, we don't get it. Why? My thinking is if I am asking others to help us financially, I need to be willing to do everything I can to make this adoption happen.

Side hustle. Throughout all of our adoptions I've done some sort of work above and beyond what we needed to live on that's helped cover fees. During Max's adoption I worked as a medical transcriptionist full-time and ran my Etsy shop. During Michael and Lorelai's adoptions, I ran/am running my Etsy shop. Yes, it means a lot of long days. I am typically up working or taking care of kids 18 hours a day right now. It's hard, y'all, but remember the first point up there? I am willing to sacrifice to bring my baby girl home! It doesn't have to be an Etsy shop. Find what you're good at, whether that be babysitting, dog walking, whatever. Find your niche!

Fundraisers. We have done a TON of fundraisers for these most recent two adoptions; some have been a great success, like our Kantha quilt auction, and others have been duds. Think creatively, look on Pinterest, ask other adoptive families what they did, and if something fails, move on. I've found that it goes best if you don't bank on any one fundraiser being HUGE, but do a bunch of them and keep trying! 

Storytelling. People want a reason to invest in you. If you're not willing to share your story, people are going to have a really hard time connecting to what you're doing. Share why you're passionate about adoption, how you came to choose adoption, what you love about it... Personally, I LOVE telling the story about how God planted the seeds in my heart as a little girl and how my dream has evolved, and has now come full circle!

Networking. One of the biggest blessings of becoming an adoptive mama, aside from my beautiful children, has been the community that came along with my new title. The adoptive community is small, but very supportive and adoptive mamas are FIERCE. You would be hard pressed to find a community that will have your back more. We support each other when adoptions fail, we fund raise for each other, we cry on each other's shoulders when things suck. Search Facebook or Instagram for communities or members who love adoption and get to know them. You won't regret it for a second.

Grants. A huge portion of our fees ($20,000!!) from Michael's adoption were covered by grants. I think we had excellent luck with grants because of his medical diagnoses, but there are tons of grants available for healthy kiddos too! Ask your social worker if they have suggestions and check out the "Resources" tab up there.

Giving back. This goes back to the "Networking" point. Whenever I am able to, I donate or buy products from other families who are fundraising. My birthday is coming up in about six weeks and I told Dan I could really use a new pair of shoes, as both of my favorites have holes in the toes now. The day after we had that conversation, an adoptive mama friend posted on Facebook she had the exact shoes I want in my size, still in the box, and the money would go directly toward their adoption. I will get my new and she will get money toward her adoption. No brainer! Loads and loads of other adoptive families have bought headbands from us, donated to our Pure Charity, or even organized fundraisers for us. Like I said, we have each other's backs.

Tithe. This one didn't occur to me for a long time but when it did I was like "Duh! Why didn't I think of that sooner?" When we first began fundraising for Michael's adoption, we were having a really, really hard time raising anything. Over the course of about three months, we only made a few hundred dollars. It was frustrating and I didn't understand why it was happening. Then the pastor of our church did his first sermon ever about tithe and something clicked for me. I immediately set up for our tithe to be drafted once a month and literally overnight things changed in our fundraising. I don't know if the same will happen for you, but for us giving our finances over to God and saying "we trust YOU to do this" was huge for us!

Don't expect anything from anyone. I fully believe that God has called each and every Christian on this earth to care for orphans (James 1:27) and I long for the day that the Church truly steps up. I believe that if the Church were to take this seriously, no family would have to say no solely because of finances; however, we're not there yet. But at the same time that I feel the Church should do more, I also feel it's not my responsibility to convict my brothers and sisters' hearts; that's God's job. It's between them and Him.

I hope you've come away from this with a few ideas on how you can fund your adoption. Have you successfully fundraised for an adoption? Share your tips below! Have questions? Feel free to ask in a comment below and I'll do my best to answer.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What's in a name? The story behind baby girl Golden's name

Lorelai. I knew from the instant I first heard it that if Dan and I were ever blessed with a little girl, that'd be her name. It's been nearly ten years since that moment and friends, she's finally on the way. 

Given that you're here, on my blog, you probably don't live under a rock and you have one or two associations with this name, like this lady here:


I am the biggest Gilmore Girls fan in the world. I mean, they talk fast, make pop culture references no one gets and drink more coffee than should be humanly possible -- Lorelai Gilmore and I are kindred spirits.

But this name has an even more special meaning to me and I want to tell you a story about the lady who inspired it, Lora Jean.


I first met Lora around the age of 4. We'd moved from Texas to Kansas, back to the area where my parents were raised. We began attending the church I'd grow up in and Lora quickly became one of my mom's closest friends. When I was very young, she and her husband owned a Putt-Putt. I remember Lora babysitting my younger brother and I and spending hours playing video games and mini golf. Basically the best babysitter ever!

After some unforeseen life circumstances, Lora began working for my dad as his office manager. She was the one who taught me to type, around the age of 8, something I'd eventually do professionally for many years. And at age 14, she hired me as her assistant for two afternoons a week, gradually increasing my hours and duties as I aged; we eventually spent every afternoon together, working side by side. 


As I grew, though, so did our relationship. Lora was an active volunteer in our church's youth group and she always had her home open to us. I spent countless nights there watching movies and making pizzas (always with a Chef Boyardee crust mix). Her annual Christmas sleepovers were EPIC (details of which I couldn't possibly disclose here. What happens at Lora's stays at Lora's ;). It was always the highlight of the year for the teenage girls in the church.

She was a thoughtful, intent listener and while she was steadfast in her faith, she was never pushy. Because of that, I felt safe confiding in her and she always handled my struggles with grace. Because of this trust she built with care, she was the one who lead me to Christ at age 16.

When I was 17, Lora became very ill very suddenly. It took the doctors several months to figure out what was wrong and she died just a few short weeks after we finally learned of her diagnosis -- multiple myeloma.


It's been 15 years since she died. My heart still aches with sadness when there's something I wish she were here for, like when I got married or when I finally became a mom. As silly as it sounds, I say little prayers in hopes she may know about my boys or our baby girl on the way and I tell my boys about her, the woman who was so important to me she'd be like another grandma if she were here.

And someday, not so long from now, I'll tell my Lorelai about Lora, the wild, crazy prankster church lady in red, who molded her mama into the woman she is today. 

I asked some friends who knew Lora too to share a story that is quentessentially Lora. I got so many amazing responses that I can't put all of them, but below are a few that capture the essence of the woman who shaped so much of my life! 

The lady in RED! Maybe I should say the crazy lady in red.... the Christmas shopping trips to KC and her crazy games to keep us entertained on the way and the only time I ever saw her irritated was when Carol and I got lost in the mall and were a wee bit late getting back to the bus. I think she forgave us, lol. LOVED her spirit. She was SO fun!

I can't hear "Lady in Red" and not think of her because she would tell me how much she loved that song. I also can't see David Hasselhoff and not think of Lora. ha!  I can still recall her distinctive laugh (when she was playing a prank on someone) and/or her high-pitched scream (when we were playing games in youth group and she was getting really excited)...she liked to win. lol

She understood teenagers better than anyone I have ever met before. She understood our flighty and ever-changing emotions, our wiggly inability to sit still for long, and our need to fully experience the world, and never batted an eyelash or took our attitudes personally. During an awkward phase of life, she made me totally comfortable in my own skin - a massive undertaking that I am still not totally sure how she accomplished.

Lora was a quintessential encourager. She helped me get over myself and learn not to take myself too seriously. As mentioned before, she had a way of making you feel like the most important person to her. She had a lot of best friends! At that time in my life I had never experienced such a friendship as hers. She loved me, and she loved my family. She enjoyed being included in our girls days out, and was always so very grateful. I never appreciated her enough. Now I am the one who is so very grateful.

This thread is amazing. No, Lora was amazing. :) A couple fun memories for your project, Kels: 1) Bra sledding - do you remember the christmas sleepover when this was a serious consideration? Still makes me giggle. 2) We went to visit Kelsey in the hospital after visiting hours one night and really felt like we were breaking in. Lora signed us in and made it into a fun adventure instead of letting us feel sad or scared about your being sick.

Lora was an amazing mentor to me.  She was so kind, loving and had so much compassion for ALL.  I will never forget the last time we talked.  She visited me in the hospital after I had my son almost 16 years ago. She had such great advice and I will cherish her forever!!

And Lora would be laughing at the stories and at herself the loudest! One very special lady!

And my own memory: 
Two buckets and a strap (those of you who get this are dying right now). ;)

We miss you so much, dear friend!