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We had a fantastic few days with the Z family visiting this week.  Have I mentioned how much we love these guys?  It’s amazing to me how deeply our friendship has grown over the last year since Jamie and I first started e-mailing back and forth about photography and our concurrent adoption processes.  We met through our respective blogs and I can honestly say that their friendship (along with several others) is DEFINITELY one of the best things born out of my whole wordpress experience.  I feel so blessed that our paths crossed.  The time we spent in Liberia picking up our sons at the end of the year was very bonding to say the least — it was just a crazy miracle that it worked for us to travel at the same time. 

Jo and Kendra are only two months apart in age and have been writing letters back and forth ever since we visited the Z’s in March.  Joanna was thrilled to see her pen-pal in person again and they had a lot of fun jumping on the trampoline and swinging and sliding together.  Henry and Micah are close in age as well, and obviously have the special connection of having been born in Liberia.   I wish I would have gotten some video of their little drumming session.  They stood on either side of the Djembe that we brought home from Liberia and jammed out.  They kept looking at each other, smiling and laughing hard — I hope they keep the special bond they share as they grow.

We all talked and laughed a lot and played some cards and croquet and took a couple of walks out back.  Ryan, Sarah and Zoe came over for dinner one night, and that was fun.  The next morning, Jamie and I went international and headed to Canada for breakfast — it was great getting some time by ourselves to talk freely.

Believe it or not, I took very few pictures, so I don’t have many to share.  Jamie took a couple photos of the boys together in the wagon that turned out really cute and I hope she posts one. 

Here are a few of the ones I did get as documentation that they actually were here 🙂 :

Jamie did talk us into posing for some “couple” portraits (Yeah, right!  With her talent, there wasn’t much convincing needed! Well… maybe just a teeny bit on Peter’s end…)  Of course the photos she took are utterly amazing — she’s my inspiration.  You’ll have to check out her blog some time in the future to see her talent; I’m not going to post them here since she’s the master and we were simply the subjects… with the exception of this teaser, ’cause I can’t help it.  I love this picture because Peter and I grew up walking this road back and forth to each others houses in high school.  It made me feel like a kid again to be walking it hand-in-hand with him. 

Thanks again, Jamie and Corey, for driving ALL the way up here!  We’re looking forward to the next rendezvous — whether it’s at our place or yours! 🙂

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Here is a post from Amy concerning RLC and Children’s Hope Chest that I wanted to pass on.  Spread the word!

“As some of you know, Red Letters Campaign is partnering with Children’s Hope Chest to launch their Ethiopia care program in Ethiopia!  We are very excited to help with this.  We are currently in the fundraising stage of things…  It costs a significant amount of money to get Children’s Hope Chest up and running in a new country.  Red Letters Campaign (RLC) is committed to helping raise some of these funds.  There are a few ways we plan to help to do this, but you will have to wait until September to find out all the details.  🙂  What we need right now are DONATIONS of GOODS!  Do you make something or own a fun store or business???  Would you be interested in donating to the fundraising efforts of RLC?  All donations will be used in a Project Ethiopia Raffle Fundraiser.  If you have any items you can donate, please contact Amy at amyde63@hotmail.com  Also, feel free to contact Amy with any questions.”

A lot of you know this already, but for those that don’t, Peter is heading to Africa (Liberia) next Thursday.  He will be gone for ten days and will be staying with the Liberian man who lived with us last fall.  We’ve been busy getting things ready for his trip — visa paperwork, collecting donation items, contacting various organizations, researching shipping options, etc.  It doesn’t seem like it was this complicated last time we traveled to Africa.  Maybe that’s because we left on such short notice or maybe because we had all the adoption/visa stuff to keep our minds focused on.  Either way, I’m worried this time that something is going to fall through the cracks.  I just remembered today that we need to make sure to get the malaria meds from the doctor this week so he can start them seven days before landing in Africa.  Do I sound like a paranoid mother sending her firstborn off to kindergarten?  I kinda feel like that mom.  Oh, I know he’s fine on his own… but my dear hubby is a bit of a scatterbrained genius sometimes with way too many irons in the fire and it’s a good thing I’ve invested in sticky notes. 

I haven’t blogged in detail yet about the non-profit corp that we recently started — mainly because we haven’t been completely sure which direction things would head.  We first started thinking about this idea last fall during our time in Liberia… and since then we’ve been researching a ton and contacting other orgs doing similar things.  We’ve been holding all our ideas and plans out to God for adjustment and tweaking as needed.  Right now we feel like the doors have opened wide in the direction we’re headed, and we are walking through them excitedly — but we’re also still very aware of the need for flexibility.  So this trip of Peter’s is a very open, pioneering type trip.  We’re not completely sure what will come out of it long-term — although we have a good idea.  Of course, in the immediate, it’s a great opportunity for him to spend some more time in Africa doing as much good as he can; connecting with as many people and organizations as he can; all the while evaluating how the vision we have fits in with what others are already doing there.

I will share more about it in a separate post.  I want to be able to do it justice and I just don’t have the time to write more tonight.  We have some really special friends staying with us this week (the Z family for those of you in the AoH loop) and they pulled in this afternoon.  What an awesome family.  We really, really love them and have been looking forward to their visit all summer.  I’m sure Jamie will take enough pictures to fill up several posts on both of our blogs! — But I do want to share a litte more about the purpose of Peter’s trip before he leaves for Liberia next Thursday.  We really would appreciate prayers for his safety as well as for the right doors to open.  Stay tuned for more…  🙂

…about turning your back for a minute!!!!! 

Just look at those eyes sparkling with mischievousness.  He knows he’s a rascal, but he also knows how cute he is.   You can tell he’s thinking it’s a good sign that mom grabbed the camera —  generally that means absolution to some degree!   :0)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After threatening (er… promising??) for months, we finally got a trampoline for the kiddos.  My sister and I literally grew up on ours, so it’s something I’ve been looking forward to sharing with my progeny.  Can you tell they love it?  🙂

It’s official!  Henry Otoo legally became our son today according to US law.  He is now officially Henry Isaiah G.  Wahoo! 

My favorite part of the adoption decree is the sentence that states “Henry Otoo is hereby constituted the child of said petitioners (that’s us!!) to the same degree and effect as if said child had been born to the petitioners…” 

Yes, sir!

It was actually all a lot easier than I was expecting.  The international adoption process certainly causes a person to expect things to turn out much more difficult and complicated than planned.  It was a breath of fresh air to have this last step go the other direction!  “What?  You mean you don’t need to inspect any of the 137 forms I have with me in this envelope????  Are you SURE????” 🙂

Kind of a cool side note… We were given a couple of different birth dates for Henry in the beginning.  One of the dates was July 15 (today) — this was really significant to me because I miscarried a baby in my second trimester that was due on July 15.  In the end we decided to go with the August 1st birth date because that is the one on Henry’s passport… but I thought it was pretty darn cool that our finalization appointment just happened to be scheduled on this day of all days!  I don’t believe in mere coincidences.

So here is the customary photo with the judge.  I know there aren’t a lot of smiles, but everyone was actually happy and excited…  Really!!

We celebrated with ice-cream cones on the way home.  Not such a great idea in the truck… but yummy all the same! 

And a BBQ with friends to finish the day off.  Thanks, guys, for celebrating with us! 

(this picture doesn’t have anything to do with the post — but I had to include it; I love it when this particular rose bush blooms.  You can smell it from ten feet away!)

Okay, first things first: this is a Completely Random Post.  And it includes some violent material.  There.  You’ve been warned.  Read at your own risk.

So I realize my posts have been getting fewer and farther between.  Not for lack of blog fodder!… but simply for lack of motivation and time. My deepest apologies for my inexcusable slacking.  In all fairness, though, I don’t necessarily see it changing any time soon… but, what can I say?  It’s summer! — Stay tuned for fall and a life-less-crazy! 

But since I am soooo behind with basic updates, I’m going to try to catch up on the last few weeks of happenings and such…

A couple of people have asked how soccer is going… but actually, we’re not playing this year.  We’ve been traveling back and forth to Spokane too much lately to make the twice-a-week trips to Canada feasible — plus we weren’t sure if we could successfully get the youngest kid out of the country and back in again twice a week without resorting to bribery (bribing border patrol officers being completely out of the question, of course!)  I really, really miss it.  I kick things around the house to relieve the built-up soccer tension.  (just kidding… sort of….)  Ahhhh. I deeply love the sport.

So in all our non-soccer-playing free-time (ha, right!!) Peter and I have been filling out mounds of paperwork.  Some of it has been for the non-profit’s tax exemption status, but most of it has been related to our property issue.  We’re in a bit of a “negotiation” (that’s a nice way to put it) with our county’s planning department over some re-zoning issues.  We’ve been jumping through all their hoops ((not really very happy about it!! — but jumping all the same.))  It is a crazy amount of paperwork and fees to get permission to re-zone and sub-divide OUR family property… But hopefully it will all go through soon and we can get to work. 

After such a cold start to the summer, It’s finally been HOT the last few weeks.  We’ve had our usual hundred degree temps — although it has been averaging in the low 90’s this week.  We were in Spokane a few weekends ago at Hoopfest with the Lairds (had a GREAT time with them!) and it reminded us a little of being in Liberia!  The intense heat and the insane amount of people crammed into a small area was unmistakably like the Monrovia airport. 

Of course, the warmer weather has brought out the doggone weeds.  My annual war to keep the acreage under control has resumed once again…  It’s never ending, I tell ya.  And, of course, there is also the battle against the dirt and the mud that my kids track into the house all day long.  Some days I think wistfully about how nice it would be to live in the middle of a city with neat and tidy little patches of grass where the sidewalks end and a postage-sized neat and tidy little yard in back of my neat and tidy little house (that’s how it is, right?  Please let me keep my fantasy!) 

With the onset of the heat, I’ve found that my kids literally live in their swim-suits… and when those get too constricting, their birthday suits. (There ARE benefits to living thirty miles out in the country sometimes! 🙂  It seems like there is always one cousin or another under-foot as well…  Such is summer around here.

 

This last week in particular brought some excitement (although not necessarily all good excitement…)  Thursday morning we had a major wind storm with gusts 60-70 mph that knocked over old buildings and blew down trees (and probably would have carried off small children had any ventured outside!!) It was all very exciting to sit inside and watch — even though we knew it was only a matter of time before the electricity went out. 

And like clockwork, it did.  And since practically our entire county was out as well… and since our section of the grid is at the bottom of the priority list, we were out of electricity both Thursday and Friday.  So no AC, no coffee, no computer, no way to recharge the phone, no lights after dark… I’m such a wimp.  Going days without electricity always reminds me just how reliant I am on all my plug-ins! 

In addition to the outages, the downed power lines sparked all kinds of wildfires.  We heard the constant hum of fire planes and helicopters for three days straight.  Saturday afternoon Peter and I were outside working and we looked across the field toward my parent’s house and noticed a small strand of smoke on the hillside.  We called and reported it, and then kept an eye on it.  Within an hour it had tripled in size and it kept growing all day.  Thankfully it was finally shut down after dark.  We would have been a little more worried if the river wasn’t between our house and the mountain.  This is a picture about an hour after it started.  It’s amazing how fast wildfires can spread in an area like ours where things are so dry and the forests are so thick.  I always wanted to be a wildland firefighter.  We have friends that are and it’s really an adrenaline-loaded job.  Not the kind I’d want now as a mom… but maybe someday when I’m old.  (Do they take old lady firefighters??? :0) )

Friday night and Saturday morning we butchered chickens.  (Yes, you read that right.) We raise chickens… and that means somewhere between the fuzzy chicks from the feed store and the rosemary roast chicken on the dinner table is a weekend of *ugh* that I choose to not think about before or after it happens.  It’s just part of living on a farm.  I don’t like it, but I do like the organic, home-grown chickens currently residing in my freezer!  (No hate mail, please!!) 

Peter’s mom actually does most of the raising of the chickens, we just get together as an extended family to help at the end.  So thankfully it wasn’t just Peter and me.  AND I got the easy last step job of cleaning and bagging them before the freezer.  How lucky am I?  But I’ve done every step before, and I’ve survived… We grew up raising chickens so it’s really just part of life.  (I know, I know… I am REALLY starting to sound like a weirdo!!)   

Joanna was so funny this year.  We decided to finally break the news to her about what we were doing (i.e. “where chicken really comes from.”)  You should have seen the look on her face as she realized what we were saying!  But she was actually totally fine with it.  She helped me bag up the birds in the kitchen and told me that they weren’t “real” chickens anymore… they were “chicken to eat.”   

I decided to spare you pictures of the poultry event.  Yeah, I kinda figured that might be a little too much for a g-rated blog…

So, um, anyway… moving right along.  🙂

Through a series of events, we ended up getting a little backhoe to use for the weekend.  Peter was in boy-heaven.  Seriously.  I couldn’t get him off it!!  It WAS handy, and he DID get a lot of projects done super-fast that would have taken five times as long without it… but I think he invented some “projects” too… just to get to play some more!  🙂  Henry loved it too.  He would have sat on Peter’s lap all day. 

So there you go.  A totally-random update on the fam.  I WILL try to post more.  I have about a zillion summertime pictures of the kids that are begging to be posted!  🙂

I hope y’all’s (am I allowed to use that term? I am about as far from a Southerner as one can get!!  It’s just such an easy word to use…) Anyway — I hope y’all’s Fourth of July’s and subsequent weekends were grand.

We had a great Fourth.  We rallied our three oldest nieces and set up a hot dog stand at our community’s Fourth of July celebration as a fundraiser for mosquito nets for Liberia.  (Well… actually, I think the Kids Lake project this month is mosquito nets for Sierra Leone… but the kids had already worked so hard on the sign.  I didn’t have the heart to tell them.)

We sold a ton of hot dogs and had a great time sharing with people about Liberia and Malaria and Peter’s impending trip to Africa and all that.  The girls were really excited about raising money to save lives — and I was stoked to see how excited they were!  We also took our stash of Threads of Hope bracelets and sold a bunch of them to benefit families in the Philippines.

It was a great weekend.  We ate a lot of terribly un-nutritious food, laughed with good friends, watched the fireworks show (Henry loved it.  Peter had to take Joanna to the truck because it was just too much for her sensitive little self…) and thanked God for America.  We know our nation isn’t perfect (what nation is??) — but we are deeply proud of what our country stands for. 

Okay, enough words… I’ll get on with the pictures!   🙂

The master-griller himself at the helm… (note the serious look.  Because, after all, it IS hard to grill a perfect hot dog!)

Here’s niece #3 (Nattie) with Henry

Niece #1 (Halle) taking a well-deserved break. 

Niece #2 (Mackensie) selling the bracelets

Like I said, the girls did a great job on the sign! 

Our very-good-best friends lent a hand, too.  Notice Sarah’s adorable bump (and, no, that’s not from too many hot dogs… 🙂  She’s due in October and we are super-excited about Henry’s little playmate.

Speaking of our little man — here he is celebrating his first Independence Day as a resident of the United States doing what he does best: eating.  And eating another hot dog, no less.  Let me tell you — the child can PACK away the dogs.  I have to stop him at four because I’m not sure what would happen if he kept going!  His stomach is only SO big after all! 🙂

Joanna all patriotic (with her new “smiling at the camera” expression.  Don’t ya love this age?!!?!  She looks like she sat on a tack or something!)

…and in action.  As she was ALL day.

More of that cute belly!! 

Henry discoverd the teeter-toter on Friday.  He literally sat on one end and waited for kids to come along so he would have someone to teeter with.  The funny, smuggish look on his face in this photo is on account of the cute girl on the other side at the time. 

She IS a cutie, all right!  (Arynn is one of our neighbor’s girls… Henry definitely likes her!)

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So there you go.  Our Independence Day in photos. 

 

One of the RLC “blog buzz” questions this week was about adopting a child with special needs.  I felt compelled to write a little something on the subject because of how heavily I relied on reading other people’s perspectives last spring while Peter and I were contemplating our special needs adoption.

Here are some thoughts based on our personal process.  (*Please keep in mind that I am utterly and completely new to all this.  I have not parented a child with special needs before.  I’m certainly not an expert!  Until a year ago, I had no idea what a “brachial plexus injury” was… three months ago, I had never even heard of the term “neuronal migration disorder” or the condition “polymicrogyria.”  I’m simply the lucky mom to an amazing child who constantly floors us with his persistence, tenacity and zest for life!  So this is just my own unique, unprofessional, barely-experienced perspective.  🙂 )

Obviously one of the most important things you can do at the beginning is to research like crazy!  Become a dedicated mole digging for as much information as you can get — just as you would if you were given a diagnosis about your child while expecting and had the time to learn about what the diagnosis meant and what it entailed.  Talk to everyone you can who is familiar with the particular special need you are considering.  Read books.  Read blogs.  Speak with specialists.  Learn the vocabulary.  There are a lot of great resources to help you get started.  Here’s one of my favorites:  http://specialneedsadoption.rainbowkids.com/ 

If you are considering a specific child, it is very, very helpful to get a recently updated medical report to review with a pediatric specialist.  Obviously this isn’t always possible (and sometimes, even if you’re lucky enough to get the report, it might not be completely accurate!)  But if it’s possible, go for it.  Even if the agency doesn’t offer, ask if it’s an option for the child to be taken to a doctor for an updated medical report.  And then, if possible, have a list of questions from the specialist for the doctor conducting the medical exam to answer. 

It’s also helpful during the research phase to talk with parents who are raising children with that particular special need.  It makes it so much more tangible and realistic to speak with someone who is in the arena… Someone who knows the trials and the triumphs intimately and can share with you from the perspective of being a parent.  Because as important as it is to research the medical implications, it is also really, really important to remember that medical field isn’t infallible and not all children are the same.  It can seem daunting to read the medical descriptions of certain conditions; It can seem overwhelming to listen to a doctor talk about the care involved and possible complications.  But a mom or dad who knows what it’s really like on a daily basis within a family can change that perception in an instant. 

I also think it’s important to begin processing the inevitable emotions that come with the thoughts of parenting a child with special needs.  There will be hard questions that you ask yourself in the middle of the night as you stare at the ceiling wide awake.  It’s okay!!  Ask the hard questions.  Take a deep, hard, honest look at any fears or misconceptions or even subconscious prejudices in your heart and work through them.  Let yourself process the “diagnosis” as you would in the case of a biological child.  Grieve if you need to.  It IS difficult sometimes to think about the possible potholes and steep curves in the road ahead.  But it’s so important to do so.  I know that everyone is different in how they process their emotions and their fears and concerns.  The important thing is just to do it. 

And then, even in the middle of researching and processing , you really have to come to peace with the vast amount of unknowns inherent in international adoption.  The reality is that no matter how much you research and prepare; no matter HOW many specialists and parents you speak with, there is just no way that you can be fully prepared for every unknown.  And you have to be okay with that.  Hope for the best, certainly!  Keep a positive outlook, but don’t put undue expectations on the future. 

And while I’m sharing, here’s a bit of personal advice…  If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t share with quite as many people during the “research/contemplation” phase.  It was difficult to deal with people’s pointed questions and fearful assumptions before Peter and I had made a decision (even though I knew they came well-intentioned) because it complicated our thought-processing.   After we had made the decision to proceed and accepted Henry’s referral, it was much, much easier to handle the fear and concern from family and friends.  It was official.  We’d made the decision.  We were well-researched and united in our response to the myriad of reasons why it wasn’t a “good idea.”  We were able to meet people’s strong opinions from a place of confidence. 

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I want to end by saying that no matter how much you research, or how prepared you feel… it’s still a leap of faith.  Just like any other adoption.  Just like having a biological child.  We have no way to know how the future is going to turn out.   That’s the beauty and the mystery of life.   We do our best to make the right decisions, but we have to leap in faith sometimes.  The best and most beautiful things in the world come with the price tag of risk.  Each time we choose to love someone, we are risking heartache and loss.  That’s true in every relationship — loving our kids included. 

In the end, special needs kids are just kids.  Just kids that need moms and dads to love them and take care of them.  To treat them like any other kid.  They are no less deserving of a loving family and parents to take care of them than any other child.  In fact, in some cases because of medical considerations, their very lives depend on it. 

I know that adopting special needs kids is not the road for every family.  But it is the road for some.  It may be a completely unexpected road — like it was for us!  But however you get to it, it’s awesome.

 Mr. Blue and I go way back… (Almost five years — which is an eternity for a bluebird!).  He and Mrs. Blue moved to the “neighborhood” the year after Peter and I did.  We were delighted when they took up residence under our eaves that first year and we’ve kept our fingers crossed every spring since, hoping they’d come back… And they have, year after year!  Every summer we’ve kept a wary eye on our carnivorous felines  — praying they wouldn’t betray the Blues’ confidence in our hospitality.  And so far there have been no casualties — a few close calls!!! — but no casualties.

Our relationship with the Blues has been a cautious one.  We’re not exactly BFF neighbors.  We don’t bother them.  They don’t bother us.  We occasionally remember to fill up the bird feeder with seed.  They sometimes sit still long enough for us to admire their brilliant colors.  We’ve pretty much kept our distance…

Until today!

This wasn’t my telephoto lens, either.  I was THAT close.  I could have touched him easily.  I’m not exactly sure what he was doing just sitting on the fence for so long — and I’m less sure what he was thinking letting me get within twelve inches of him (with my noisy camera, no less!!)  But regardless of his momentary mental unclarity, he really seemed to like having his portrait taken!  Maybe he’s contemplating a future career change??  The modeling industry is lucrative… and with a bod like that, I don’t blame him for trying! 🙂

I was worried that he might be injured (said felines had been roaming all morning) but after about ten minutes of me sitting within a foot of his wings, he finally flew off — obviously unhurt.

A little about me…

Wife. Mother. Friend. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Student. Adventure-lover. Photo-taker. Book-reader. Organic gardener. Granola-maker. Green smoothie drinker. Snowboarder. Soccer-player. Aspiring rock-climber. Sometime health nut. Passionate about justice and mercy. Adoption advocate. Business owner and jewelry designer. Wild at heart. Crazy-blessed to live out in the country with my awesome family.

Photography Website:

Contact Me:

sunfreckled@gmail.com
"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can do." {Helen Keller}

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