Wednesday, December 26, 2012


There's only ONE good reason for two blog posts in one day!!!!!


That's right. It's finally here. On it's way to our home right now. To be signed (tearfully and joyfully!) and returned POSTHASTE to move us on to the next step. WITHOUT the clout or advocacy we anticipated that we'd need. When I contacted the agency earlier this morning to see where we were going to start with an intervention, the receptionist said our SW would call back as soon as she could get free. The whole two hours we waited, I really felt the tug of war going on in my spirit that I posted about earlier today. It was so exciting to hear her say, "I have a Christmas present for you guys."  It seems that a package of documents had arrived after my initial call and our Letter of Approval was FINALLY included in the delivery. We're all very relieved that it's here and that we didn't have to "pull out" the big guns 

And wanna hear some really cool "extra" news we discovered? We're already more than a week into our "wait" for the next step (for those who are counting) because our LOA was actually issued - on December 19th!!!!!

We may never know "where" it was, or why it was not showing up our agency tried multiple times to track it, but we are really glad it's here. The Boss has all the next-step-paperwork ready to go in tomorrow's mail. And I'm busy finishing up a care package to "introduce" our gang to our girl. I know. I know. You don't care about any of those "next step" details just now. Really. I don't either. I'm too darned excited to FINALLY be able to share her sweet-ness with you all.

Without further ado,
The Gang is pleased to present to you
Miss Brynna Rose RuiJuan.
Currently residing somewhere
in the huge city of Beijing.
Soon to be firmly entrenched in her loving home
in the good old U.S.of A!!!!!!! 

This is her royal cute-ness, likely when she was
about 6 months old or so.
This is THE picture that The Boss fell headlong over.
He said, "I think this is our daughter" with tears in his eyes.
And a smile on his face. 

This is the picture on her "official referral" form
in the original Chinese.

I really wish we had dates attached to the pictures. But we don't. Only guesses. In fact, this whole file represents a ton of guess-work and really, was such a leap of faith. Especially once The Boss decided she was "The One." But really, it's okay - we're trusting HIM together to give us the answers we need, when we need them. And now we are even in the "knowing" that a file given to us represented "The One." I was certain when we were researching about Li'l Empress's needs that she was "The One" in that journey. And look how great that has turned out for us!

Here she is, doing "tummy time" on the mats.
Again, I wish I had a firm grasp on her age here.
We think she's about 6 months old here, too.
You can see, she's a tiny peanut, regardless of her age.

Here she is, "cruising"  according to the updates
from mid-October.
She's 16 months old in these two pictures.

The file says she's "extroverted" and pleasant.
I think she might even look a little mischievous here.
Like, "hmmmmm, what will it take to totally wrap
this Daddy whom I am hearing about all around my fingers?"
Heh. Not much, sister. NOT. MUCH. AT. ALL.

And then today's email exchanges between us and our agency got even sweeter. I inquired about the next steps from signing and mailing out the I800 paperwork. An email came back with surprise attachments!

Can you believe those cheeks?
She's still a very tiny peanut.
She'll be 18 months old this weekend
and only weighs 18 lbs. and 11 oz.
She's only about 28" tall.
Really. A teeny little thing.
But she's gained some weight since
the last update and that's a good thing.

So, there you have it. Our little mei-mei in living color.

We ask for your continued prayers. We will not be disclosing the nature of her need publicly on the blog. But we do need you to know that it is VERY important for this little one to stay strong and healthy throughout the cold Beijing winters. (The Boss checked Beijing weather this weekend and it got down to 7 degrees. SEVEN DEGREES! Oh, my heart!) She will be facing quite a few medical interventions in the months upon coming home to join our gang and it is vital that she continue to put on weight and have a strong immune system to face it all.

Aren't you glad you came by The Gang's place today?! Doesn't that little face just make you want to smile all day long?! Or is that just me? I'm thinking I'm already a little wrapped.  Mmmmm, yeah. just a little.

For those who are not "fluent in China adoption-ese"
this site is an EXCELLENT resource for understanding
the steps of the process from LOA to traveling to our girl!

For the more visual among us, 
there's always this post to help you understand
what we are working through.

Stand Firm

We had really hoped to have
significant news of movement in our journey to Mei Mei
to share with you all by Christmas Day.

To have an official
Letter Of Approval
of our intent to adopt our Mei Mei
in hand, "signed, sealed and delivered"
as our very best Christmas gift this year.

To finally be able to show her sweet face to you all,
to captivate you as she's captivated us.

But that wasn't how it all played out.
After weeks of glitches and delays,
after weeks of watching the trends
and seeing the "ranges of normal expectations" 
quickly come and then just as quickly go,
we still have "no new news."

Being "outside" the ranges of normal trending
is an uncomfortable place to be
when you know where your girl is
and what her daily life,
what her daily struggle to thrive in the midst of her environment
is likely to be like.

So last Friday, our Social Worker and I agreed
that a stronger intervention was required.
Inquiries coming from someone with bigger clout are in order.
But the office closures for Christmas created yet another delay
in even getting that influential advocacy for our process to happen.

So I am trying to wait patiently.
To trust quietly and steadfastly.

It's not easy.
My heart is raw.
My spirit feels weak and weary.
My momma's heart is working overtime
praying for my girl:
for health, for protection over her spirit and her mind.
For God's plans for her life to be accomplished
regardless of what the enemy might do to thwart those plans.

All while praying for and missing Shaggy.
Praying for my boy:
for health, for protection over his spirit and his mind.
For God's plans to be accomplished in him and through him
while he is off on his God Adventure.
This first Christmas season apart
has not been easy on any of us.

Lamentations 3:21-27
has been a refrain on my heart for many days now.

"Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young."

As my sister shared as an encouragement
with me on Christmas Eve,
I've been holding on to this:

Proverbs 13:12
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life."

and standing, albeit on wobbly legs on this:

I Corinthians 15:58
"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.
Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,
because you know that your labor
in the Lord is not in vain."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas...

From Our Home
To Yours.....

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight!

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In Which I Try To Balance Brutal Honesty With Holiday Cheer

Tuesday morning's update about our anticipated LOA dispersal was basically a "no new news update." Which I know is as frustrating to my agency as it is to us.

I'm trying to be okay with that for now. It's not easy. With the crazy pace of school concerts, parties, shopping, wrapping, and baking we've been keeping, I'm trying to keep my heart and mind occupied. On the one hand, it feels like a giant holding pattern hovering over the days. On the other, I find myself creating a tightly planned schedule of events during the days and then crashing at night to wonder what I accomplished and where the day went. The contrast of it all is exhausting.

I know I'm not alone in feeling this but last week's tragic events are weighing so very heavy on my heart, in addition to what seems like an already hard holiday season for our gang. I'm confident in saying that I do NOT recommend that your first holiday for one of your kiddoes spreading his wings away from home is the best holiday season to also be waiting for another of your kiddoes to find her way home after two years of longing and waiting. Not that we could have managed it or planned it otherwise. But maybe it'll help you as your little ones grow. Sigh. (Sorry, my snark slipped out there a bit.)

When I slow down to think about it all, I am overwhelmed by the enormity of it all: the tremendous losses our nation has suffered, the anguish of parents and families all over the country, the unknown and even danger that Shaggy is facing, the remoteness and the intensity of his mission, the cold hard winter of Beijing, the fragility of Mei Mei's heart and mind... Oh my... I have to throw out a great big STOP sign and make myself change course. Change focus. Immediately.

I know you'll understand when I say that no new news" was not the message I wanted to hear from my agency yesterday. I'm grateful that they understand that, too. On top of all of the other "stuff" these last two weeks have brought, now this delay represents now weeks "lost" as we approach closures for the holidays here in the States. Which will be  followed by closures in China for their upcoming holidays. Waiting through the resolution of this "clerical error" has forced a conscious choice to keep trusting, to keep confessing that HE is sovereign and HE has not forgotten us. Any of us. HE has not. And on that I am standing.

Each time we sit down to the dinner table together in these last five days, I've found myself almost at a loss for words. Choking up at the privilege of having my kids around my table. Praying for my two that aren't home with us and begging God to grant them safety and health while we are apart. Thanking HIM for the honor of even getting to do a dinner together. I've been amazed at the gratitude I am feeling, even in the midst of the frustration and pain. May I be so humble and thankful moving forward when "normal" returns.

And so I pray. I cry, like I'm sure so many of you are doing this week. I sing Christmas hymns and replay over and over my iPod rotation of silly Christmas songs for Li'l Empress to sing along to. And now I'm off to cook and wrap and shop some more. The good news is that in my need to keep busy and NOT focus on Shaggy's absence, the delays to our process, and now the horrific sadness of the Sandy Hook tragedy, I am almost done our holiday preparations. Here's hoping that my Christmas Eve day can be spent relaxing and hanging out with my gang. We could all use the down time of jammies, cheesey Christmas movies, and free-flowing popcorn.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Don't Squash That Little Nudge

For the last two days, I've really struggled with the wait for our Letter Of Approval.

I mean, I've been bothered by the length of our wait for a while now but I haven't really paid it much mind until last week. Last week, somehow, I had fully convinced myself that our LOA was coming. I knew our agency had a "package on the way" and that we were "due." Over-due if one looks at the current trends on the charts. Which, I was doing. More than I really wanted to and certainly more than I had during waits between milestones previous to this wait for LOA. The last update we had gotten was that we were "in review" and that the next step would be the dispersal of our LOA. PLUS, last week, I was processing the imminent departure of Shaggy to Thailand. And the thoughts of celebrating Christmas without our boy were really hitting home. I think my melt-downs into puddles every couple hours on Thursday and Friday were some kind of internal release valve letting off the steam of it all.

But this struggle, these last two days, has been very different. It was more of a niggling doubt that everything was proceeding normally. An occasional twinge of "something isn't quite right" and not really knowing what to do with it. Frankly, I didn't do well with it. FRANKLY, I've been a bit like a bear with a thorn in her paw for the last two days. (I've made reparations to my family already. They love me and graciously forgive me. I'm so blessed!)

The gals in my DTC group (DTc means "Dossier to China:" this group is a bunch of comrades-in-arms who all sent their dossiers to China in the same season that we did, banded together for information and support) have been looking at our charts, too. A couple of us who are waiting had a chat or two over the last two days about the trends and it seemed apparent to us all that something indeed was not quite right. But I have tried so hard NOT to be a "day counter" or a "chart obsessor" and to trust the process. In doing so, I completely squashed that little nudge I thought I might be sensing. I pushed aside my niggling doubts and occasional twinges. Thus the "release" valve I mentioned. Sigh. One of these days, I will learn. I will!

Last night, I went to bed and fell asleep praying for Shaggy. Early this morning (as in 3:22 a.m. which would have been 4:22 p.m. Beijing time, IF I've calculated correctly. That's regular work-day hours there.) I woke again, praying for Shaggy. As I prayed, I had a sense that I needed to be praying for our LOA. For our dossier. And of course, for Brynna. So I did. I slept quite fitfully for the next couple hours until I finally just got up and started my day.

After I made a cup of coffee and got Li'l Empress settled with her cereal, I jotted off the following note to our sweet Social Worker:
"So, we are on day 75 of our wait from PA (157 from LID).... it's now inching up to the "longer" end of the wait from the DTC group I'm a part of. And when considering that our LOI went in with the request for expedite, we're wondering what's going on. Is there any chance, if you don't get a package today, that you can investigate this for us? I've just seen too many fellow-DTC'ers moving on from LOA even tho their numbers were trending like ours. When it starts to get too "out of the trend" is when these gals start seeing problems or delays with their files. We want to be sure it's not the case with ours."
To which I got an immediate response. This is how I summarized it to our families and some friends this morning, in a request for prayer:

Seems that our trusty SW was already feeling some concern. She had contacted her "on the ground" gal in Beijing on our behalf yesterday. (She was further tipped off when LHAA got a pkg yesterday of documents including one LOA for a family on the EXACT SAME TIMELINE as us.)  Here's what they think is happening: After the Eligibility Review #1 (also called Dept. 1 - which was our last up-date), it looks as  if our dossier was MIS-FILED  into the "Standard Program" (The Non-special needs program... which is currently running on a 6 year wait. Ummm, yeah. RUH ROH!).

If this had NOT been caught this week, we'd likely be waiting indefinitely. When our "on the ground" gal inquired, she was told that the only employee who can rectify that mis-filing is the one who is assigned to our file and that employee is out for the day. So she is going back tonight (our time) to follow up and get it moving.
Our sweet SW is NOTHING if not "ON IT" for our family. When she emailed me back, she had JUST finished getting the scoop from her Beijing gal. JUST! I have spent most of today feeling so humbled and blessed. Really. I mean, I could be feeling totally disgruntled and stressed or even angry at the glitch in the process. Indeed, I was ALL of that last week. And again for the previous two days. But now that we know what we're facing, I am instead feeling so awed that God gave us such a gift in this lovely Social Worker. I'm amazed that He was trying to speak to me all along, nudging me to listen to my gut and trust my instinct that something wasn't right. By the fact that He has given me this fierce momma's heart for my girl before I even know her. And finally by how I know He is going to work on our behalf.

We are expecting an answer of some kind tomorrow. Of course, the best possible answer would be our LOA is in the mail WITH the medical expedite being honored forthwith. But I have to be honest, I'm feeling pretty good about whatever answer we get tomorrow. He is always faithful to move on our behalf, in all the seasons and events of our lives. He's even faithful when I'm trying to squash that little nudge!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Next Big Step

Well, the day has arrived. Today, Shaggy boards a plane with the other members of the team they have dubbed "Team Thaibodia" for the "Outreach" portion of their YWAM experience.  We F@cetimed with him last night, to chat, say good-bye and pray together as a family for his team and for him. NEVER in all of my life have I been so incredibly grateful for the technology that allows interactions such as this to occur. While I greatly dislike the inability to hug his neck and kiss him as he journeys off, I am so thankful that he got to hear our prayers over him. From Li'l Empress's prayer for safe travels all the way up to Dr. D's prayer for them to be used by God to The Boss's prayer for anointing and power in sharing The Gospel, the time together was sweet and one I will cherish in the many days ahead while we are missing his physical presence here in our home.

If you could, please pray with us for his team. There are 13 young people from YWAM Arvada heading out today to spend a month in Thailand and a month in Cambodia. They are being led by a young gal named Molly. Please pray with us for the following things:
  • safe travels in each leg of their journey
  • unity, health and physical protection for their team
  • spiritual wisdom and discernment in light of all the new experiences they will have
  • great opportunities to show the love of Jesus to the teams they are supporting and the work they will be doing themselves
  • deepened intimacy and strengthening of their own personal faith journey as they follow the path God has set them each upon

Please also pray for the teams that Shaggy's team is partnering with while in-country. The work these teams are doing include things like campus ministry, ministry to victims of human trafficking and caring for orphaned children. There is much opposition to a lot of what the teams do each day, it's truly a supernatural spiritual battle they must face daily. Pray for strength and clarity in the face of the evil and opposition they face in their mission.

I have an update letter written by Shaggy that I would be happy to email to you if you are interested in what he has experienced and learned thus far. And the team leader will be sending weekly updates that I'd be happy to share with you and your family. Please just email me at the gmail address connected to this blog.

Thanks for praying with us for our boy. We are so proud of him and his passion to follow Jesus' calling on his life. My momma's heart would ask that you also pray for us who are left behind. There were quite a few tears here last night, as it sunk in to the littler kids that their big brother would be flying across the world today. It's a lot to take in and they are doing a great job of supporting him and praying for him. But we all miss him terribly. And all our holiday activities have that little tinge of missing him kind of lingering in the background. Thanks for that, too.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sweet Give-Away Winner!!!

Good Morning all!  I'm excited to announce that Nicole from Living Out His Love is our randomly-selected winner of the Sweet Moon Baby book give-away. Her family's favorite adoption book is The Red Thread, by Grace Lin. That is a new title for me and one I'm sure I'll be checking out soon. Thanks, in fact, to everyone who shared their faves. I've got a whole list of recommendations to work with now as I build our family's library.

While I'm at it, if you haven't ever peeked over to my friend Nicole's blog, I highly recommend that you do so. She's a very gifted photographer and each time I visit her site, I'm amazed at the beautiful pictures she shares. She is also an adoptive momma who is home-schooling her three cutie pies, all while actively advocating for orphan care and supporting adoptive families in her network. I think you'll really enjoy cruisin' around her blog a little bit. Like she says, "grab a cup of coffee (or tea or whatever takes you to your happy place)...." and check it all out. For you readers who are local, you will especially want to look at her photography business. Tell her The Gang's Momma sent you to check things out!

Congratulations, Nicole!!!
I know you and your sweet little ones
will enjoy reading this tale together
for many years to come.
Love ya, girl!


If you are interested in purchasing your own copy of Sweet Moon Baby, may I suggest  that you enter Amazon through my friend Robin's Amazon link. (Please click on that link to be taken there directly.) She's a fellow Living Hope momma and is sewing her way fast and furious to a darling little girl named Gabi Grace. Her partnership with Amazon benefits their adoption to this sweetie pie.

If you would like to connect with the author of Sweet Moon Baby and keep up on the success of this charming little book, you can "Like" their F@cebook page. Consider letting the author know what you think of the book once you've purchased it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Li'l Empress Makes An Observation

I very much needed to get out and about yesterday to take my mind off a "pending package" due to arrive at our adoption agency's offices. For a lunch break, we stopped at the (Very UPscale) Costco cafe. I know, you're all jealous of the decadent life we lead.  Anyhoo.... Li'l Empress and I shared a long picnic table with a Chinese mother and her sweet 6 year old daughter (who looked REMARKABLY like my Li'l Empress. It was uncanny, really!). With a five-year old as extroverted as Li'l Empress, there's no chance for an intimate, quiet lunch in a wide-open picnic table corral cafe like that. So as moms do, once the girls broke the ice, we chatted about age, size, etc. It became quickly apparent that she was gently and politely trying to get an idea of our story. Finally, I cut the sweet gal some slack and opened the door with a "when we brought her home from China" kind of comment. It was all she needed to jump right in and ask about adoption. It was a pleasant conversation and I regret that we both were so occupied with watching over our respective daughters that we neglected to get each other's names and phone numbers. But what happened next was one of those brief moments that I just had to capture while I remembered it.

After the pair left our table, Li'l Empress looked at me and said, "Mommy, that little girl looked a lot like I do." Ooooh, I could tell this was gonna be a good one. She looked so pensive when she said it.

"Yes, Li'l Empress, she does. Do you know why she looks so much like you?"

"Noooo...." she looked at me with puzzlement.

"Well, you look so similar because they are Chinese."

"HEY! I am from Chinese, too!"  Ummmm, yeah, we're working on that. I'm loathe to correct her often, as it's so stinkin' cute....

"Yes, Li'l E, you are from China and so is that Mommy and her daughter,"  I purposely separated them as Mommy and daughter to probe a little....

"Like you, Mommy? You are from Chinese, too?" she asked with cutely furrowed brow.

"Well, no, I'm not Chinese. Do I look like that Mommy? Do I look like you?" I poked a little bit more.

"YES!" She grinned mischievously and tilted her little chin up at me, daring me to elaborate. So I did.

"Well, let's see. What color hair did that Chinese mommy and her Chinese daughter have?"

"Mmmmm, black. Like mine. See? But mine is really longer, like Shayne's. Right, Mommy?"

"Yes, their hair was black. Like yours. What color hair do I have, Li'l Empress?"

"You have golden hair. It's short and pokey. And golden." She waved her hands all around her head to indicated said pokey-ness. Seriously? Short and pokey? I didn't ask for a style consultation. Harumph.

"Yup. And what color eyes did that mommy and that daughter have? What color does your Momma have?"

"Mmmmmm, brown. Like me. And you have green." As she pointed to my eyes, she just about bounced off her seat, much to the amusement of the older Indian couple sitting behind her. I think they were listening in!

"Yup. And Li'l Empress, what color skin do you have? What color do I have?"

"I have brown. You have white. Well, pink. Umm, white. Pink. White?"  (Yeah, umm, I'm kinda confused about that too, my dear daughter!)

"What color did that Mommy and her daughter have?"

"They have brown, too," she sighed. She was getting bored, I knew I had to wrap this up quickly and lead her to the point.

"That mommy and her daughter look a lot like you, Li'l Empress, because they are Chinese. Remember the momma said she lived in China for a long time when she was little? She was born in China, and so were you. Remember the name of the town where you were born in China?"

"YES! I was borned in Baoji! And Mei Mei is borned in Beijing!"  (We had discussed "home towns" earlier with the mother and her daughter, so the towns were fresh in her mind. I promise, she's not ordinarily that "on the ball" with those details!)

"So, that's a big part of the reason that you look a lot like that Chinese mommy and her daughter. You were born in China. You are Chinese too."

"OH! Thanks, Mommy. Can I have some french fries? Some different drink?"  And she was done. Just like that.

For which I am ridiculously grateful.  I don't know what I would have done if she'd thought deeper and probed more about the birds and the bees of Chinese mommies having Chinese daughters and Pink mommies having Chinese daughters. Costco's cafe is just NOT upscale and intimate enough for THAT talk.

But it didn't stop there.... Nooooo, she had one more observation up her sleeve. One kicker of an observation that burst out of her at the check-out counter. Apparently she'd been thinking still about the conversation at our table. As the lovely Hispanic clerk was checking us out and chatting with me about holiday plans and my cute little shopping helper, Li'l Empress tugged on my coat.

In a really loud voice, she asked me, "Mommy, WHY are there SO! MANY! Spanish and Chinese mommies and kids here today?" 

With her hands flailing and the dramatics in her query, you'd think the girl was straight-up Sicilian!  (The expressive talking with her hands thing? Perfect argument for the nature v. nurture debate!)

The clerk and I just looked at each other and grinned. Gaped, really. This kid does NOT miss a trick. In addition to her astute observations of the faces around her, apparently, she is already attuned to the many accents she heard while we shopped. It was indeed another melting pot experience with my fellow shoppers at that hour of the day.

I just answered her simply, "Well, Li'l Empress, all kinds of mommies all over town need to shop for their families and this seems like a nice sunny day to do it. They must all have had the same idea as YOUR mommy did."

And then she was done. And again, I was grateful... The clerks on each side of our check-out line grinned at me and one of them said, "Wow. You've got some tough questions coming out of that little one, don't you?"

Heh. He has no idea. No idea at all.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sweet Give-Away!

In celebration of the last day of National Adoption Month, I am thrilled to share this review with you and to offer a sweet little give-away to go with it.

Sweet Moon Baby by Karen Henry Clark is a charming and imaginative tale of adoption. It weaves the fantastical story of a sweet little baby girl's journey to her waiting parents. And it does so in a lovely, captivating way that my girly-girls both instantly connected to when they read it - and read it they do! Even when LadyBug is not available to read the words to her, Li'l Empress pores over the pages and tries to re-tell the story on her own. She does a pretty good job of it, as I listen in on her narrative. While I'm certain that there are more "realistic" stories out there about the journey that both children and parents travel to be united through adoption, I'm equally certain that few are as tender and creative as this one. When I flip through the pages, reading of the rivers and roads the parents traverse to their Sweet Moon Baby, I can clearly identify with the imagery that those words evoke. There is great symbolism as I read of twisting waters and soaring hills. I would imagine, as Li'l Empress grows in the awareness of her own journey to our home, she will also come to see the metaphor this tale carries. As a lover of children's literature, the weaving of that metaphor alone would make me love this book. Books that make me and my children dig and connect beyond the surface of the words on the page are very important to me.

The beauty of the words and the depths of meaning that they carry are only one reason I love this book. As a bit of back-story, it's probably helpful to know that while I love meaningful children's lit, I don't often buy a book unless the art work in the book is just that: ART.  In fact, I have a whole collection of children's books that I have purchased over the years simply because the art within the pages moved me so much. I was first introduced to this book at an adoptive parents seminar last spring. At the intermission, I wandered up and down the product tables and kept coming back to this book. Each time I opened it up, I was delighted by the pictures and the expressions on the faces of each of the characters. I bought it immediately. Truthfully, I bought it before I even read it all the way through.

This book's amazing art work almost makes me want to buy a paperback copy just to be able to take the book apart and frame its pages. Really.

Except that I don't know if I could possibly buy a book just to dismantle it. As I used to tell the boys when they were little and in "destructo" stage: "Books are our friends. You need to treat them with respect. Be gentle with their pages and covers."  I know. I know. That's a little weird. Even for me.

Each page is sprinkled with lovely images that remind me of the children's books that my Grandma had stashed on the veranda for my cousins and I. They have an air of innocence and a sweetness to them that fits perfectly with the gentle rhythm of the story. The baby girl's face, in each of the different parts of her slumbering adventure radiates such peace. The settings are serene but still carry a touch of urgency. The parents are so earnest in their quest. It captures it all. And it does so with great beauty. Patrice Barton is a gifted artist, to have captured it all in the simple and stunning illustrations of this book.

I do really love this story. When the author contacted me and offered to send me a copy for my own library, I was more than happy to tell her that I already owned it. That we already loved it. When I suggested to her that instead I use her offered copy as a give-away in celebration of National Adoption Month, she graciously agreed and I'm so excited to share the beauty of this tale with one of you.

Here's how you can win
your very own signed copy of
Sweet Moon Baby by Karen Henry Clark:
  1. A first entry can be earned by leaving a comment here on the blog about your favorite children's adoption book. If you don't yet have a favorite adoption book, please share a favorite childhood book with us instead.
  2. Earn a second entry by sharing this post on your own blog. Please enter a separate comment back here and include the link to your blog post when you do so.
  3. Earn a third entry by sharing this post on your F@cebook account. Please enter a separate comment back here and include the link in that comment. (Click on the time stamp of your shared link and copy the url to paste here in your comment.)  Please consider "liking" and then "tagging" Sweet Moon Baby's FB page when you do share, so that the author can see how folks are responding to her work. It's certainly not a requirement for this third entry but who doesn't love that kind of encouragement?
  4. Comments will only be accepted till midnight on Wednesday, December 7th. FYI: Comments are set to blog-owner moderation (to protect from spammers), so yours might not appear immediately upon entering.
I encourage you, even if you own this story already, to enter and try to win. This book makes a lovely gift for any of the children in your life who have been touched by adoption. A winner will be drawn by and announced on Friday, December 7th.

You can read a personal, stirring
on Shawn Smucker's blog for more
about Karen's own Sweet Moon Baby.

As November's National Adoption Awareness campaign draws to a close, I would ask you to prayerfully consider how you can continue the efforts of increasing awareness by supporting adoptive families in your circle of friends and family. It might not be financially, but there are many other ways you can participate and honor the building of a family through adoption. I hope my posts throughout the month gave you a glimpse inside the life of this adoptive family. And that if you have particular questions about being an adoptive family, the process of adoption, or other conversations surrounding adoption, you know by now that I'd love to hear from you. If I don't know the answer to your questions, you can bet that I'll be digging up a resource for us both to investigate!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Movement is Good News

We got an email from our agency Tuesday, updating us on our LOA process. For those that aren't fluent in "adoption-ese," LOA means Letter of Approval. That's the "officially official" approval by the CCCWA that allows us to pursue the steps that will lead us to travel.

Well, Tuesday's email means we are "thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close" to the Chinese government's completion of Step #8. I know, put that way it doesn't sound all that impressive. But between the steps #7 and #8, there are a bunch of mini-steps. And the email was to inform us that they are almost done the mini-steps.

Sigh. Typing it all out that way, now it doesn't feel quite as exciting as it did when the email arrived. Hmmmmm... Darn it all. Trust me, it was pretty exciting yesterday!

Anyway, given that we are "thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close" to our LOA, I thought this would be a good time to ask you to pray with us for a few specific things that we've not really mentioned quite so explicitly thus far.

First, would you please pray that our travel to China would coordinate well with Shaggy's return home from his YWAM adventures? It would be so comforting for us and for the little kids to have him "holding down the fort" here at The Gang's headquarters. He's very steady and responsible and we feel fairly confident that it would really help ease the transition for especially Li'l Empress toward welcoming Mei Mei home.

Second, would you please pray with us for continued financial provision? We do know that HE supplies and provides and we are so incredibly grateful for the creative things He's done thus far toward our goals of remaining on this journey debt-free and trusting HIM as we do it.

Third, we would appreciate prayers for Mei Mei's health. Her special need is one that could easily make her susceptible to colds, flus, and other viruses. She is in a very traditional-style orphanage, where there is likely no "central heating system" like we enjoy here in the States. We are praying for a supernaturally strengthened immune system and stability of health while she waits.

Fourth, Mei Mei appears to be a very tiny girl. Which, in and of itself is not terribly concerning. But when coupled with her special need and the orphanage setting in which she lives, we do have reason for concern for how her growth relates to her over-all health. We are praying for very nutritious provision for her and for her body to take it all in and grow strong and healthy while she waits.

Fifth, we have applied for a "medical expedite" in light of her current needs and health status. Nothing emergent is wrong, per se. But given the above two concerns I mentioned, our doctors agree that expediting the process as much as they will allow is in her best overall interest. Please pray for favor in that request!

Finally, would you join us in praying for her little heart and mind? We recently had a friend share that the Lord had given her direction to pray specifically for angelic hosts to cover and surround our girl, to minister hope and peace and love to her in a way that would allow her to be ready to be loved. And ready to love. Again, in a very traditional orphanage setting, individual nurture and care is often in limited supply. And the God-intended nurturing bond between Mei Mei and her birth parents has been interrupted and never replaced with a permanent, loving, parent relationship. Oh, how that hurts to type that out like that. But it's the truth. And we are asking God to provide that for her in the form of His messengers and His Holy Spirit while she waits for us to be able to do it in person.

Thanks again for the love and support that you've shown thus far in our great big adventure to Mei Mei. And I'll leave you with one big incentive to pray for our LOA and the above requests:  Once we get the official notice of our LOA, we can finally share the pictures of our little girl that we have been poring over for 2 months now.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Flexing With the Times

It's a well-documented fact that The Gang has lots and lots of traditions. I've told you before about our annual treks to the lake, always around my birthday. I've mentioned our baking parties with my family for holiday treats. I've shared our favorite songs and movies and recipes surrounding the many celebrations we do here with friends and family.

I've also mentioned that Shaggy would be home for Thanksgiving but that making it home for Christmas this year is just not going to happen. When we planned our family festivities with both sides of The Gang's gang, The Boss and I intentionally built into the weekend some time for just the 7 of us to be together. We had several conversations about what that time needed to look like but no final conclusion was reached.  On Friday, we were pushing to make a decision as we waited for Shaggy to return from his morning out with his cousins and for Dr. D to limp home from track practice.

And Baby BlueEyes, listening and taking it all in, piped up with the best input we'd had to the conversation all fall long. It definitely struck just the right note with us all, because as soon as we mentioned it to Shaggy, 3 of the 5 of us who were standing there just teared up and dripped together. I'm pretty sure this tradition is the one thing my kids love THE.MOST. about our holiday festivities and it was so fitting that we used our one family day together to do it.

The thing about doing it this early this year, is that we had to get a little creative and a little flexible in the doing. After all, the full blown tradition usually involves a Saturday morning trip to a tree farm to cut a big fat blue spruce. And a day of letting it settle before we spend all of Sunday whole night decorating the tree and the whole downstairs of the house. It's an all-day event for The Gang. With lots of home-made cookies and hot cocoa and Christmas music all sprinkled liberally in there for good measure. But flexing things around a little bit was absolutely the right way to make sure Shaggy was involved somehow in our Christmas preparations.

So while Shaggy visited for a couple hours with a friend, The Boss went up and dragged down our somewhat "Charlie Brown-ish" artificial tree and our boxes of ornaments. He rigged a set of lights up and sorted through the ornaments to pull out all the hand-carved ones from Grandpa and the hand-made ones from all five kids over the years of pre-school, Sunday school, and art class projects.

Once Shaggy returned, we placed our order for Chinese food to be delivered and set about decorating the tree together. It's been a long time since we did two trees, so we kept the little tree fairly simple and "kid" focused. Then we sat and ate by the light of the tree and watched "Arthur Christmas" together. It was pretty much a perfect way to do our one night alone together. The movie struck a great balance between silly enough and just meaningful enough to keep us all connecting and listening to them all laughing together was music to this momma's ears.

There's a lot of change ahead this year for The Gang, and we have so far weathered all the big changes of 2012 pretty well together. I'm experienced enough at this "life" thing to know that the pace of change won't quit any time soon. But for this one night, with a little flexibility and creativity, we got to do one of our most treasured traditions {almost the same} as all the previous years. And for now, that's enough for me.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Re-evaluate Your Methods

Wow. Sunday night was brutal around here. There were LOTS of tears. Shaggy helped us put Baby BlueEyes and Li'l Empress to bed, as part of his good-bye time with them since he had to leave so very early this morning. The reality of just how long it will be till they see him again and have him home to hang out with again really sunk in. These four days together just weren't enough. For any of us. But I think the two little ones really connected with the good-bye differently this time because they have lived with his absence for the last 7 weeks.

Shaggy was so wonderful about it. He spent some time hanging out, talking with Baby BlueEyes, hugging him and really loving on him. As they were winding down their good nights, I happened to look over at Li'l Empress. She was sitting in the living room behind me, silently crying.

Oh. My. Gosh. The silent cry kills me. Yes, I started crying too.

And then she wasn't silent about it anymore.

We walked upstairs together and she crawled in to her bed, just sobbing. Shaggy came over to her room and just crawled right onto her bed with her. He was so loving and comforting and she calmed right down in his arms. The two of them looked up at me with big tears in their eyes.

As she was quieting down, he looked at me and said, "This is the downside of raising a tight-knit family. You might want to re-evaluate your methods."

I just smiled through my tears. We both know, whatever "method" we have employed to get us to this point is exactly the right one for us. This crazy, slobbery, messy love is exactly who we want to be. Exactly who we want them to be. And while they all may express it between them very differently, with or without tears, this close tight-knit family is the greatest accomplishment of my life. The most rewarding, most satisfying thing I've ever done. Even if sometimes it's also the most painful thing I do.

And I won't be re-evaluating that any time soon.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

I haven't been around much this week. Cooking, cleaning, and preparing for our big family weekend has kept me quite busy. And I likely won't be around much till next week. My boy is home from YWAM for four whole long beautiful days and I plan to be very busy hugging him and talking with him about all that God is doing in and through him.

So I leave you with this. And much, much love to go with it.

Happy Thanksgiving from
Our Gang to Yours!

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."
Psalm 100:4-5

Thursday, November 15, 2012

ELMO Has Left The Building

Noooo, I'm not referring to the recent disgusting scandal associated with the furry red guy. That's just really coincidental and certainly very bad timing for this story.... In fact, maybe when you read this story, you'll have a far more pleasant association to imprint in your brain. And more importantly, in your heart! Settle in, it's a bit long this time, but I hope you are encouraged and find it worth your time.

Several weeks ago, when I started promoting our Holiday Open House, I added the pretty red invitation as a picture into my Purchase With a Purpose yard-sale album on F@cebook. My thought was to allow folks from my different blogging and on-line communities to access the details since that album is set to "Public." I then shared that particular picture in several of my on-line groups.

The next day, a member of the Creating a Family forum contacted me. I didn't know her personally but had had several pleasant interactions with her on this forum and she usually posted very hope-filled, encouraging things to folks in the discussions in which we mutually participated. But that's all I knew of her.

Turns out, in her note, she indicated that she wanted to "invest" in our adoption journey but didn't need or want to buy any of the items being sold at the Open House. She wondered if I'd be okay with sending her my address so that she could send me a monetary gift directly. Before I even could respond to that with a yay or nay, she popped another message right back into my inbox and said something like, "Never mind, I want to buy that ELMO TMX toy for $100.You can send it to this address and I'll send you the check when I get the toy." Apparently, she'd been paging through the whole on-line yard sale album and found the furry little guy. She was convinced he'd be perfect for a little friend of hers, so I packaged him up and sent him off the next morning.

Frankly, that morning I made a conscious choice to keep my expectations of this transaction really low. It was certainly nothing personal to her or her promise, but I know how life gets and I know that sometimes things don't work out the way we think they will. So when I sent Elmo out the door and on his way in his snug little box, I did so with a prayer and a release. I was determined to be okay with whatever came of this interaction with this virtual stranger.

Cut to this past weekend. I hopped on the forum to check up on any new news. I was heart-broken to read that this same gal had recently experienced a very difficult situation in her own quest to build her family. I had no words, beyond a simple apology and prayer for comfort. I prayed for her right then and there while I was logging out. I moved on to preparing for our Holiday Open House and frankly forgot all about Elmo or the stranger for the time being.

Tuesday afternoon, I opened the mail to find a check from this virtual stranger. Only, it wasn't for $100.

No. Friends, instead, God showed up in a Holy SWOOP of love and generosity.

The check was for $200.


You did not read that wrong. This total stranger, who loves adoption and loves God, sent our family TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS.

That, my friends, is GOD.

I mean, who else would tell a total stranger to send TWO STINKIN' HUNDRED DOLLARS for a furry, red, crazy noisy toy to another total stranger?? And a SECOND-HAND toy to boot!

Certainly NOT anyone I know. Or rather, any human I know. It reminds me of the verse in I Corinthians:

"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." I Corinthians 1:27

I can't think of much that is more foolish than a crazy, slightly freaky Elmo TMX. And I am totally okay with being "shamed" by my very low expectations of the transaction. Cuz it ended up show-casing a kind of glory and love that few of us really fully know without events such as this happening to get our attention.

That, my friends, is God. And only God.

You see, the other piece to this amazing crazy story is that just Tuesday morning, I was sharing with a friend that God had been showing me how important it is for me to keep my focus on Him. To keep my heart and mind pure of negativity; to flee from vain imaginations that only become distractions to the purposes to which He has called me. To rise above the "human" element of things like our adoption journey and parenting, and keep my eyes trained on HIM and His heart for my family. I had been at our denomination's annual women's retreat on Friday and Saturday. While the event was amazing and refreshing and re-charging in many, many ways, the big take-away that I had was that I was coming into that retreat "battle weary." And that I was there to be reminded just how INTENTIONALLY He pursues me. How DETAILED and EXPLICIT He is in His desire for ME and for relationship with ME. It was like I got a re-charge of "He Loves Me" down to my tippy toes. I was sharing that with my sweet friend on that same morning, as we encouraged each other by phone on this long journey to our little ones.

And then in the afternoon, this check arrived in the mailbox. A gift from a stranger. But make no mistake about it. That gift was from God. And as long as I have breath in my body, I will give HIM the glory and honor and credit for reminding me of His love in such a sweet, and tangible way. I am incredibly grateful to this stranger who listened to His voice and obeyed, even in the midst of her own painful circumstances. It is humbling in all the best possible ways.

Only God knew when Elmo left the building just what his trip across the country would come to mean for this momma.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dr. D Drives!

Several weeks ago, we found ourselves with a "free Sunday afternoon."
Not a normal occurrence around here, but one that must be maximized
The sun was shining, the skies were crystal blue.
The air was very warm and crisp.
And The Boss and Dr. D had a focus.

Yes, it's that time of year again.
Parallel parking The Gang-mobile between garbage cans.

Over and over and over. Almost all afternoon.

Dr. D's a natural behind the wheel!

I can hardly believe my brown-eyed boy turns 17 soon.
OR that he'll be getting his license in a matter of weeks.
Really, it seems like just yesterday he was zooming around
the backyard on his "Big Wheels" bike
pretending to be "Jake Justice" and saving the world.

Let's just hope real driving experiences
do little to resemble his former "zooming"
OR Jake's roaring to the rescue!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Designated Pumpkins

LadyBug and I had a ball back at the beginning of October, decorating the inside of the house with all of our fall-themed candles, wreaths, and other cozy decor. Since that afternoon, the inside of the house has been quite festive, cozy, and comforting.

But it made me realize that the outside of our home needed some decor updating to keep up with the season. Once my Eagles flag bit the dust, I dug out the kids' old fall favorite and had Dr. D hang it for me. The sight of Mickey kicking through a pile of leaves makes me smile every time I see it. Even though recent days haven't been terribly sunny, I love the boost I feel when I look at my front porch. Colorful and welcoming - it's always fun to walk up to my front door and see this little scene.

Li'l Empress is particularly proud of this part of the ensemble.

In her words:
"The big pumpkin is the big Daddy pumpkin.
The one on the right is the Li'l Empress pumpkin.
And the itty bitty one on the left is the Mei Mei pumpkin."

She regularly forgets that Baby BlueEyes
was along that night for the pumpkin picking.
I guess she's so focused on her designated pumpkin personalities
that she doesn't realize she's miscounted!

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Oh, shameful. I know. So sorry for the pop-culture, outdated Ch@rlie Sh**n reference. I couldn't help myself.

My thoughts have been consumed since about 5 a.m. with the fun of announcing the winners of the three great gifts to thank my readers for hanging around here for 1,000 posts. You are all such treasures to me and I'm very excited to have the chance to treat you!

And may I say, I'm also super excited that I chose to extend the give-away deadline. Not only did about 18 of you take advantage of the additional time, but I got a chance to lay down on the couch and rest. This cold has hit my sinuses and particularly my left eye pretty hard. Working on the computer with one eye closed is really hard on the already pounding head-ache. I'm feeling better today; or I should say, the head-ache is subsiding. The other symptoms are still a pain but I can get a ton more done without a thumping head-ache. Ya know?!

Without further ado, here are the three winners
of my 1,000th post give-away celebration:

Winning the $25 Mary Kay gift certificate is my dear friend, Emily (comment # 27). I'm especially excited about this treat for Emily. She just had another lovely little baby and could really use some pampering right now.  I've know Emily since she was a newly-wed. She married one of the young men that was in the youth group where The Boss and I served as volunteer leaders. It's so amazing to have the privilege of watching these young people grow up together and in Christ and begin raising little ones of their own. She's a great example of steadfast, diligent mothering over the treasures God has brought to their home and I LOVE that she is one of my very first readers here at The Gang's All Here! It's a fitting gift for her and for me to share this little bit of luxury with her.

The winner of the lovely Sparrow Fund necklace and earring set is known here as "Viking Clan En Mass" (comment #11). It's my very clever sister's user id - referring to their large, growing (1/2) Norwegian brood who used to live in Massachusetts. Cute, huh?! The first time she commented on the blog with that identity, I was in China for Li'l Empress's adoption trip. I was so jet lagged and wiped out that I had to read it twice or three times to figure out who was commenting. I'm excited to share this gift with my sister - she is a  creative and selfless momma to her clan and rarely buys "pretties" for herself. This set will look so great on her!

Finally, I'm thrilled to share that the $50 gift certificate to Wild Olive tees will be given to Jen (comment #26)! Jen is a brand new reader here at The Gang's All Here! She and I are part of a local on-line support group of adoptive moms in our region, and on some of the local yard-saling sites together also. Turns out as we got "chatting" via F@cebook one day that her sister used to work for my cousin in his restaurant in upstate NY. So her sister actually knows many of my cousins. Jen, her hubby, and their son are waiting to bring home a darling little guy from China. I KNOW she'll enjoy the tees she'll be able to get with this gift certificate!

I think it's kind of cool how the numbers came up for each winner. I love the wide range of experiences that brought each of these gals to The Gang's All Here! - it really is so representative of the "persona" of this blog. And each gift is such a perfect fit for these ladies.

Thank you, to all my readers, new and old. Your feedback and your support for all the crazy things I share here is so appreciated. YOU are to be celebrated, whether you won something here or not. Thank you. THANK YOU!!!!


Before you go, here's a little housekeeping for you:

  1. Please don't forget, if you are interested in purchasing any Mary Kay products, sweet Joslyn is offering an additional 10% off each order if you mention my name.
  2. Wild Olive Tees are still available for our fundraising efforts by using WHITNEY407 in the coupon code at check out.
  3. Our Holiday Open House is this Sunday, November 11th from 2-5 p.m. If you aren't local and want to participate, you can find the public event on F@cebook by clicking HERE or by contacting me by email! The on-line shows will close one week after the event.
  4. Finally, if you won, contact me by email so that the necessary arrangements can be made to get your prize to you.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Grand Celebration!

1,000 posts!

*EDITED: I've extended the deadline for accepting comments
till midnight on Wednesday, Nov. 7th. I'm down for the count
with a terrible cold and a crazy list of things to try and get done.
I need the break :) You need the extra time to enter!

It's finally here. How crazy is this? I know, I know, I can hardly believe it myself. And I'm so excited that you've come along for the fun! Happy 1,000th posts to me. And to YOU!

Yes, you.

If you've been reading here for any length of time in recent weeks, you'll know that this post marks the celebration of YOU, my faithful readers! Today is the day YOU get to enter the big celebratory give-away for one of  three great prizes in honor of my 1,000th post. Remember, this whole celebration is about YOU! This is my way to thank YOU for coming around, again and again. Really, I can't say it enough - I am so excited and thrilled to be able to give YOU something special for being part of The Gang's little corner of the blogosphere.

To refresh your memory, here's a quick run down of the goodies I get to bestow upon three of you lucky readers...


Wild Olive

So here's how this works.  You have an opportunity to win any one of these three treasures and it's really simple!

Here's What You Can Do to Enter:
  1. You can earn one entry by leaving a comment here telling me how you came to be a reader here or by sharing your favorite things about "The Gang's All Here!" that keeps you coming back. (That helps ME by giving me good ideas for topics on which to write. Gotta keep it interesting for you all, since you've been so loyal to keep coming back!)
  2. You can earn another entry by sharing about our Wild Olive Tees fundraising OR Holiday Open House event with your friends on Facebook. Come back here and share the Facebook link in a comment. Sharing about both is greatly appreciated, but it still only counts for one entry. Thanks!
  3. You can earn another possible entry by sharing about our Wild Olive Tees fundraising OR our Holiday Open House event with your friends on your own blog. Again, sharing about both is super sweet of you to do, but it still only counts for one entry. Please come back here and share the link to the specific blog post (as opposed to your general blog url) in a comment.
  4. You can earn yet another entry by sharing about The Gang, my recipes, our adoption journey, our parenting conversations, or even a particular post that you loved on your blog (these can be additional and unrelated to our fundraising efforts). Please come back here and share the link to the specific post in a comment.
  5. I'm sorry to be the heavy, but comments on the Facebook link (via Networked Blogs) will not count. The only comments that will count will be the ones entered as comments below, here at this post. My Facebook readers will have to "click through" and comment with either a google or blogger account, etc.
So that gives you a potential of FOUR ENTRIES to this give-away. That's four chances to win any one of these three awesome gifts. I'm certain you will love any one of them.

Here's What I Will Do With The Entries:
  1. No comments will be accepted after 8 a.m. on Wednesday, November 7th. *EDITED: I've extended the deadline for accepting comments till midnight on Wednesday, Nov. 7th. I caught a bad head cold and have a MONSTER list of things to try and get done before Friday a.m. I've not figured out how to close comments yet, but I will watch the time stamps on my emails....
  2. The winners will be announced Thursday, November 8th - as long as the pending Nor'Easter doesn't interrupt power again. (Yes, sigh. It's true. Another storm is headed our way Wednesday.)
  3. In the interest of fairness, I will use to pull each winner's comment by number.
  4. The first winner drawn will be given the Mary Kay certificate. The second winner will receive The  Sparrow Fund's necklace and earring set. The third winner drawn will receive the Wild Olive tees gift certificate.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via email before you enter. (My contact info is in the sidebar to the left.)

So go. Share. Comment.
Have a ball.

And Thank YOU, again.
For coming back and reading
for the last 1,000 posts.

Here's to 1,000 more!!!!!