Monday, July 29, 2013


I got the word a few days ago that Elijah was just matched with a family in Italy.

I have such mixed feelings:  I am thrilled for him that he will finally have a family of his own, after waiting 7 long years.

Here he is at age 4 in the foster home Nicholas once lived.

But I am also very sad that he will not be my child.  We have thought of him as ours for so long now.

I can only hope that in some small way we made a difference in his life.  That perhaps our prayers made a difference; that maybe he felt our love across the ocean.

I will always think of Elijah with a bit of sadness, but I am so thankful that God orchestrated it all so that, when we weren't looking for another child, we started a dossier only because of the slim chance that Elijah would need a family.  We wanted to be ready.

Instead, we ended up with our sweet Christopher.  We never would have started an adoption if we thought we were going to adopt another baby.  It just wasn't where our minds were.

I am trying to concentrate on the perfection of God's plan, instead of how mine didn't work out.

Ciao, my little Elijah.  You will have a wonderful life as a little Italian gentleman.  I can already picture you in fine leather and an Italian dress shirt.


Sunday, July 28, 2013


Peter turned six this week.  It's cliche, but I can't believe my baby is so old!  I always tell Peter he will always be my baby, no matter how old he gets.

"Even when I'm 35?"

"Yes, even when you're 35."

Peter wanted to celebrate by going out to Macaroni Grill for dinner.

My parents, Mema and Papa, came with us.

We had a nice meal, and then came home for cake.  No one likes cake quite as much as Peter does!

…well, Christopher seemed pretty into it, too!

Then, yesterday, Peter continued to celebrate by having his best friend Finn come over to go swimming and then sleep over.  It is Peter's first sleep-over.

Aren't the boys so adorable?  They are really such good friends, and get along really well.
What's even better is that Finn gets along so well with all the children.  He fits right in.

Peter is such a sweet, gentle, inquisitive boy.  He loves computer games  -- like all kids, I know -- but he really seems to have a certain knack for figuring out computers and electronics.  He is still very much into his superheroes:  the classic Marvel and Justice League ones but he is now branching out into Ben 10 and other Japanese ones.  He believes with his whole heart in heroes and in good always winning over evil (just like Gandhi said).  He is just such a love.

As many of you know, Peter is our miracle surprise baby.  John and I both carry the gene for Cystic Fibrosis and we have a 25% chance of having a sick child.  We did not know if we would ever have another healthy birth child after Olivia.  Peter was not planned (by us!) but he was the answer to many prayers that I have another healthy pregnancy and get to experience childbirth and nursing one more time.  

His middle name, Samuel, means "God listens."

Every time I look at him I remember how much God loves me and that he hears my prayers.  I am so thankful for my beautiful, loving, healthy little boy.

Happy Birthday, Peter!

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Christopher has ectrodactyly, which is a condition marked by missing fingers and toes on his hands and feet.

I was surprised to notice that I have only briefly mentioned this on my blog.  I think I tend to forget about it because it is not the first thing I think about when I think about my son,  Also, it seems like no big deal to me. It doesn't interfere with our day-to-day life. But I wasn't always so comfortable with it.

When John and I first got the referral for Christopher, we had never heard of Ectrodactyly.  The diagnosis seemed very scary.  Christopher has what is also know as "cleft feet":  there is an almost V-like divide down the center of his feet.  We had never seen anything like this, and wondered if he would ever walk.

There is not a lot of information out there on this condition, as it is pretty rare.  However, I found two great resources:  a private Facebook group which is SO informative and supportive.  And a blog, written by a fellow adoptive mother who happens to have a daughter with Ectro.

Through these sources, I found out that Christopher will indeed walk.  He will be able to hold a pencil and write, he will be able to feed himself, and do almost everything that people who don't have this condition can do.

My biggest concern about adopting him was that my heart would be broken by the discrimination and cruelty of others.  We all know how just the slightest difference causes others to be uncomfortable.  We also know how the "mother bear" can come out when others are mean to our kids.  I didn't want to go there.

In fact, even when I talked about his condition before he came home, one friend expressed her concern and made it clear she were "very concerned" about how this would affect our family.  "Sam," one friend said over dinner, with a frown on her face, "that is a big deal.  Are you really up for that?" I know she meant well, but I just don't think she got it:  I was not deciding to give my son this condition; he already had it.  The question was:  should he have this condition in a Chinese orphanage, or with us?  The answer seemed obvious, and I would just have to learn to deal with my "mother bear" feelings.

Look how it has affected us!  We all love him so much.  He is nothing but pure joy.

I am sure our hearts will be broken by others' insensitivity.  But we are talking a lot in our family about how most of the stares and comments will be out of curiosity and ignorance, not cruelty.   I think this is teaching our kids at a gut level about tolerance and acceptance and love.

I've already seen a couple of people do double-takes when they notice his missing toes or fingers, but, so far, no cruelty.  

I am so glad we moved past our comfort zone when we accepted Christopher's referral.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Stitch Fix

As I posted recently, I have been feeling a bit depleted lately.  I don't have much time for myself, and I felt like I needed a little pick-me-up.

As I was walking the dog last week, I was listening on my iPod to one of my favorite podcasts, Simple Mom.  The speaker, Tsh, mentioned something I had never heard of before: Stitch Fix.

Tsh said that with Stitch Fix, you fill out an online questionnaire, and then a virtual personal shopper picks out some clothing items for you.  The questions ranged from the prices you were willing to spend on certain types of clothing, to your personal style, body type and your desire to cover or show off certain parts of your figure, and color preferences.

Then it is sent to your door.  I ordered myself one.

It was so fun to anticipate the box coming.

And even more fun to find it at my doorstep, and then open it.

Each Stitch Fix box contains 5 items.  You can keep or return whichever items you choose.  If you choose all 5, you get a 25% discount; if you choose none, you return them all but have to pay $20 for the service.  Of course, you can chose to keep only a few items, also.

I received this dress.  Price: $128:

This tank.  Price: $48:

This peasant blouse (thank you, Ellie) Price: $58:

This chambray shirt.  Price: $58:

And this necklace  Price: $28:

Then I quickly went upstairs to try everything on.  My two youngest joined me.  Of course!  They join me everywhere.

I really love this dress.  Very comfortable -- could probably dress it up with heels or down with flip-flops.  It was also very flattering.

Didn't love the tank top.  Made me feel a bit too busty.  It doesn't take much.

The peasant blouse was really pretty, but a little tight in the armpits (again, the busty problem). 

Surprise, surprise.  I loved the chambray shirt.  I never would have picked this out at the store, but it looked great on.  The embroidery was really pretty, and the color was flattering.

I think this is where StitchFix really excels:  it persuades you to try on things you might never have tried otherwise.

In the end, I decided to keep the dress and the chambray shirt.  I didn't like the way the tank and the peasant blouse fit me, so I sent them back.  I also decided to send back the necklace.  It was very delicate and pretty, but I knew I would never wear it.  I don't change my jewelry very often.  Heck, I usually get my whole look together in under 3 minutes!

It was easy to return everything, as Stitch Fix box comes with a prepaid envelope that I just dropped in the mailbox.  Perfect for this stressed mama.

What fun I had.

Monday, July 15, 2013

It ain't easy

Christopher has been doing really, really well during his first few weeks home.  He is happy, getting used to his siblings and his new home, and exploring everything.  He is trying new foods, sleeping a bit better, and is getting ready to take his first steps.

I, on the other hand, am having a hard time.  
No one said having 5 kids would be easy, and it sure isn't.

My glamorous life: laundry and a couple of kids

I had forgotten how having a baby slows everything down.  I feel weighed down by exhaustion from not sleeping at night, and very literally by the almost 20 pound boy I carry around with me.  It is hard to get much done in the house or with homeschooling because Christopher needs a lot of attention, and this leads me to frustration.

I am never good with transitions.  The beginnings of new phases of my life -- new jobs, new schools, new relationships -- are always hard for me.  It takes time for me to get my bearings and for me to figure out how to do my best in any given situation while also taking care of my own needs.  Right now, I am worn out - I've been trying to do it all and have been neglecting myself.  I am a little sick and a little weary.

I write this not to complain, but to keep it real.  I often hear from kind people that I am amazing and patient and a good mom, but I am no supermom.  Strangers, especially, seem to say this when they see me at the grocery store or at Target with 4 or 5 kids.  But I am no different from my friends with 1, 2 or 3 kids.  I get tired and frustrated and I long for just an hour of peace.  I want to sleep late, drink my coffee in silence, and just have things be easy.  Right now just walking across the room is hard, with Christopher clinging to my feet and crying, my toddler vying for attention, and the other kids requesting things left and right.

But, I also know that easy is not what I want for my life.  There is something more that we are all made for.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with enjoying myself and getting a little pampering now and then.  Believe me, I am not some type-A, workaholic, running around following a schedule or a to-do list.  

But, I think we are all given passions or "callings"  -- something we are meant to do while we are here on earth -- and those plans are seldom easy.  They are meant to push us, to cause us to grow, and often that isn't comfortable.

For years, I yearned and prayed to know my life's purpose.  In college, it seemed that most of my friends knew what they wanted to do with their lives.  I had no idea.  I tried to act passionately about medicine (yes, I was pre-med!  how funny to think about that now!) or about television production (equally funny), or later about academics and teaching.  But, it always felt phony and I often ran out of drive and determination to follow through on these career paths.  I think this was because my passion was not genuine, but I was doing what I thought was most impressive or would make me the happiest. And it never worked.

When I least expected it, I found my passion in mothering.  While this is not a 'career' as such, it is my life's work.  I know this in my core, in a way I had hoped to find years before. And, just like many of the career paths I sought, this path is not easy.  In fact, nothing rewarding ever is.

I know this is my purpose, at least my purpose for this time of my life, because even when things get tough, I still want to do it.  

Even in the trenches, I still believe that what I am doing is valuable and that there is no one who can do it -- i.e. mother my kids -- like me.  

Even when I am feeling very sorry for myself as I wade through piles of laundry, endless dishes, and get yet another meal prepared, I can somehow hold on to the bigger vision.

And, although I am grumpy and overwhelmed right now, I am still utterly grateful.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Viva la Independencia!

We celebrated Christopher's first 4th of July as an American with our good friends this weekend.

As you can see, Christopher was not too happy about posing for pictures.

He is going through the stage of ultra-attachment to me -- this is a good thing -- but it makes it very difficult for me to get a good photo of the whole gang.

Good thing the other kids totally adore him.  He gets a lot of love.

Our very good friends brought over lots of yummy food and some fantastic fireworks, not to mention some much needed laughter and stress-reduction.

Its amazing how fast Christopher has become part of the family.  Adding another person changes the entire family dynamic, and sometimes that is really hard.

But, so far, things have only changed for the better.  He has brought out the best in his big sisters and brothers.  (And, I think our good friends seem to like him too!)

Christopher just goes with the flow.  He hung out with us outside as the fireworks were bring set up, and watched the kids play with their glow sticks

and bubbles.

Ellie, by the way, is doing especially well with this transition.  I did not expect this!  She was very comfortable in her role as the baby of the family, and does not like to share.  But, she is doing great.  She is really gentle with Christopher and doesn't seem jealous.  Incredible!

  And -- much to my surprise -- Christopher didn't even flinch when the fireworks went off.  Perhaps he has seen or heard them before since fireworks are used in many Chinese celebrations, too.

 I love this photo of him watching the first one.

 I am feeling really blessed right now.  Such good friends and family, and a house full to the brink of love and laughter.

And, yes, a lot of noise. 

I am reminded how glad I am that I am trying very hard (not always succeeding, but trying still) to remove the unimportant, the distractions, from my life -- the "treasures on earth," as the Bible calls them, and to replace them with what I feel is most important: family, friends, time together, spirituality, education, service.

 Even though it is hard, and at times overwhelming and exhausting (can you infer that Christopher is still not sleeping at night?),

it is so worth it.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:19-21