Deuteronomy 4:35

You have been shown these things that you might know the Lord is God besides him there is no other.

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Special Trip

Have you ever gotten to be a part of something that is just so special you wish it could last forever?  Well, last weekend my man, who is a youth pastor, performed the wedding ceremony for a young woman whom we absolutely love like our own.  It was such an immense honor to walk alongside this young woman in her teens.  We have stayed in touch despite moving out of state, and so we have a deep, deep love for her.  The littles were so excited to attend their first wedding!  This was totally a JOY for Anna Mei as she is so social.
This young woman, whom Sean performed the wedding for, was a huge part of our lives when we brought Anna Mei and Jillian home.  We did life together with this special girl on a regular basis so seeing her marry a Godly, young man who is so in love with her was such a wonderful feeling.
Amber invested in my Em so much too in those days.  Emily was about eight when she started having dinner with us once a week.  She would do homework next to our little girl, who is now grown, and play games with her all night.

Molly was happy to meet everyone as this was her first large gathering of our friends from back home since she has joined us.  She fit right in.
 It was such a sweet night to celebrate and reconnect.  My girls danced and danced.
Anna Mei, loved reconnecting with our friends the most.  This girl is so wired for relationship.  She loves so deeply with such a beautiful heart.  She talked about how beautiful the wedding ceremony was for days.  She kept calling the groom..Amber's boy.  "Why Amber's boy...." she would say when asking about the night.  It was darling.
She loved seeing her big Anna most.  Anna (the big one), and her amazing mom, were with me in China when Anna Mei was placed in my arms.  Anna Mei is named for her, and my little Chinese treasure loves her with all her heart so seeing her big Anna always makes her happy.  I sat looking around and feeling so very blessed to have so many special people in my life.  What an incredible trip for an amazing union.

Our Jillian reconnected too as these were her people in the beginning.  These were the friends who saw her so broken and near death.  She was so isolated, and in darkness, but they loved, supported, and prayed for us as we worked to win her heart.  It was beyond hard in those early months, but this village was always, always what we needed.  I left this weekend sad to not have them so close, but so very thankful that God allowed them to be near in that season that was so very hard because they were Jesus hands and feet to me again and again.  I will be forever grateful for that, and for this weekend!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

She Knew She Was Home

 Recently, we were able to make a trip home for a very special occasion.  We stopped by our old neighborhood park.  This place was one of Jillian's most favorite in the world at that stage in her life.  She was a swinger then.  She hasn't been into swinging like that for years, but here, in this place where she was a swinger, she was swinging and swinging just like she did when she was two and these were her stomping grounds.  This momma's heart knows that she knows when she is home.  I know she remembers these places where we overcame so much, and where light shown through her dismally dark world as she learned to live in our family.  These are the places where her heart, ever so slowly, opened up to receive our love.  These were the fields we ran with her, stared into her eyes, and just learned to be still together.  There is something so very sweet about being home with this baby where her life first began with us by her side.
 It is especially sweet to have Molly here now.  Those early days, nearly five years ago now, I longed to bring home more, but never dreamed we would actually do it.
 Seeing them all together, though they were gathered from different corners of China, as sisters in matching clothes playing here in this place makes my momma's heart fill with gratitude that God would bless me so!
 I remember Jillian, at two, climbing here for hours.
 Jilly's love of gravel was born in this very pit as she would spend hours raining the gravel over this giant tire.  She would watch it fall again and again.
We stopped on this hill many, many times as we played here.  Through snow, falling leaves, and rain we explored this park.  Now, we are so far from it as we live in another state, but it is still so near to my heart.  Beautiful memories were made here.  Moments that define me, and changed my life as I was able to reach my first beautiful Chinese treasure walking beside her here.  God restored her before my eyes in this neck of the woods, and it is so very special to walk with her here again!  We have all come a long way in the last two years since leaving this place.  We have added two more daughters, and continued to see God move in ways we never dreamed.  I can't wait to see where the next five years take us, but for now I long just to sit and savor these days together.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Keeping the Littles Busy

 This girl has such a desire to learn.  I am homeschooling her for kindergarten next year and I couldn't be more excited because she loves learning!  I have been creating experiments for her and she is so easily engaged.
 We put some apples in different liquids to see what would happen to the fruit if they were left out for a few days.  She even helped me choose which liquids we should use as variables and, boy, did she think she was big stuff designing her own science experiment.
 She was very serious about recording her results too.

 This little lady is right in there no matter what we are doing.  She can snip with those scissors like nobody's business.  She even found the scissors on my desk last week and did a bang up job snipping most of my papers.  Oh to be two again!
 Making puzzles for daddy, aka cutting paper into a million pieces for Daddy to reassemble, is Anna's favorite cutting activity right now.  She is so determined to stump him that she will cut and cut!
 These two littles are always under my feet when I am in the kitchen.  The other night, as I was trying to prepare dinner, I kept them busy with tongs, scoops, bowls, and some ice in trays in the sink for a good thirty minutes.
 Molly was engaging in great fine motor practice while Anna Mei was experimenting with the science of ice.
 We have a tent full of rice and dried noodles.  The girls can go inside and scoop for hours with shovels and containers.  Each time I get an interesting new container, like this plastic cookie tray from the kitchen, it keeps this little lady busy scooping and filling it up.
Anna continues to need to work on writing her name.  This girl has, unfortunately, inherited her Daddy's penmanship.  This was just another way to reinforce her name practice.  She used aluminum foil to squeeze and form her name which was great fine motor practice.
Painting is classic.  This little lady hates to be messy so painting with her is a breeze.  I love that smile.  These two fill my days with endless joy, but man are they busy!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bloomsbury Farm Fun

We had a dear friend from back home send us a gift for family fun.  It is such a blessing to be loved by so many.  We treated the girls to the Bloomsbury Farm which is one of their favorite places on earth.  It was such a blessing to enjoy all the activities with my littles, and to have Molly here for the first time.
 The jumping pillow is Anna Mei's absolute favorite activity!  Molly Kate agreed with her!
 We made precious memories as this girl is growing up so much now that we have a new baby home!
 Fun!  Fun!  Fun!
 This sensory seeking girl loves this farm.  Running, sliding, and digging in corn/hay is a perfect combination for a fabulous day in her book.
 This little one loved the hay too.
 The corn box.  It is a giant crib full of kernels that come up to my waist.  Need I say more?  My Jilly billy is in heaven here!  She couldn't wait to get to the corn!
 More corn silliness!
 Daddy was off on Thursday when we visited so Jilly had Daddy to herself.  The littles weren't going to slow her down.  She hardly left the corn!  She would walk a corn field for hours.  It is so peaceful for her to just walk among the stalks.
 This little one walked all. over. that farm, and tried out just about everything.  After a few hours of walking and playing, this little lady was worn out!
 Her legs are getting so long that the little slides don't slide much anymore. :(
 I am surprised that Molly liked the corn as she is not a fan of the rice tent or bean bin at our house.  She did, indeed, have a go at playing in there though, and smiled!
More corn for Jillian!  Seriously, the girl could be found in the corn box or the corn maze most of the day, but she was so, so happy.  She tried the slide once, and liked it, but the corn is a LOVE.  I love this farm!  I am grateful for the gift we received that allowed us to visit!  Thank you for your love and thoughtfulness Connie!  It was a wonderful, family day!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

DELICIOUS Pumpkin Donuts

I found the recipe for these yummy pumpkin donuts on one of my favorite blogs the other morning.  I didn't own donut pans, but went out to buy some ASAP as this recipe looked so very good!  I had to make them.

 I had some especially adorable helpers which also added to my desire to whip some of these yummy, rich tasting treats up.
 These two, with their tall stools, are always, always right beside me as I cook.  I love it!

We were very, very pleased with the final product!
 These eighteen donuts were eaten in a flash.
In fact, the clan can't wait until we make more!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Pumpkin Soup Making Sensory Play

I set up a fun sensory table the other night in the backyard.  I scooped out a pumpkin, and set the seeds and guts in a bowl.  I then added shakers full of sand, squirt bottles of water, dirt, leaves, grass, and water to our table.  I had lots of ladles, spoons, and bowls for mixing too.  Then, I invited the girls to create their own version of pumpkin soup.  It was a huge mess and wonderful fun!

 Jillian was not at all sure about the pumpkin, its guts or seeds, for a long while.  Eventually though, she was right in there with her sisters.
 I only had one shaker for sand.  My natural inclination would be to provide three to erase any fighting, but having one was wonderful for practicing language, turn taking, and sharing.  The shaker was a favorite, and the girls were so cute shaking sand in their soup.
 I know I keep saying it, but you wouldn't even know this little lady has a hand special need.  She does everything her sisters do, and sometimes she is even better at it despite being two.
 Sometimes, soup was created inside the pumpkin.
 Other times, the soup was mixed in some bowls I provided.  Anna added so many natural elements to her soup.  She is quite the chef.
 This girl watched and watched her sisters with this shaker.  She loves shaking sand, and I could see she wanted a turn.  Then, without any prompting from me, she signed my turn.  I was thrilled.
Here she is overcoming her fear of the pumpkin and adding the guts to her soup.  She was great with the tongs.  Jillian loved showing these pictures of our play to her teachers, and she has signed "pumpkin soup" to ask to play this again most every night.  We will be getting more pumpkins as this game made our special treasure very, very happy.

Just watch Molly use the ladle to get water and dump it in Jilly's bowl..

After her sisters had moved on to playing in the hose with Daddy, Jillian was even using her hands in the pumpkin guts.  My she has come so very far!  My heart overflows watching her!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Absolutely Incredible News

I let my Jilly off at school everyday.  I watch the assistant who is assigned to pick her up from my care greet her with so much love that it takes my breath away.  I watch the other adults working the outside drop off line stop everything they are doing, and watch my Jilly because they are waiting for her to approach them to greet them.  Greeting others is a goal that they have for my sweet girl at school, and everyone there knows it.  All of those around her, stop what they are doing, and wait for her greeting.  She is cherished there, and not just by a few, but by the whole community.  I receive text messages throughout the week from her team of very special teachers.  These messages report her victories and triumphs to me on a regular basis.  These things that are reported would seem small to most, unworthy of a text most certainly, but to these professionals who love and celebrate my girl playing with a peer at recess is worthy of being shouted from the rooftops.  If you had told me four years ago that an army of people in an elementary school would love, and be so devoted, to my very special baby I would have never believed it.  I spent thirteen professional years myself walking the special education halls of a public school, and, while I loved my students, I often felt I was waging war against the establishment as my students were never cherished and valued the way my own daughter is here in our local school district.  They provide her with absolutely everything she needs without counting the cost.  This was so not the case in my own experience as I taught.  My experiences were that we were usually given the cast offs as far as most everything was concerned, and expected to survive on a shoestring budget.  I was absolutely against my Jilly ever going to school because of my experiences.   I tried the school district back home before moving here, and my experiences as a professional moved to the personal side as I was deceived, lied to, and hurt by the very people assigned to teach my child.  I never signed her paperwork, and I wouldn't have let them near her.  Again, this confirmed my "I will never send Jilly to school attitude" as we prepared to move to this state, but I was also coming face to face with the fact that I had added another sweet, little babe to our family who was a bit more demanding of my time than I had hoped.  It led Sean and I to meet with the district here hoping we might find a better case scenario after we moved.  Well, this school district is pretty near perfect.  Perfect because they are 100% about loving and caring for my girl, and giving her exactly what she needs.  She has several assistants that throughout the day give her all the support she needs.  She is reading (by choosing the words on her Nova Chat or pointing to flash cards as she is still nonverbal), writing, modeling words with letter tiles, counting, doing independent tasks, and communicating up a storm through sign language.  Many, many days I wish I could go back to that official in her home land to say "I knew she could!" because his "she would never learn" statement was a bit off.  She has music, PE, and art all with her peers.  She also had adaptive PE everyday (still can't get over this).  She spends as much time as she can with her first grade class, and loved attending the fossil gorge field trip last week where she spent the entire day away from school just like all the other six year olds.  At her most recent IEP meeting, her teachers were sharing with me just how much she was communicating through sign, and how,at times, she was so frustrated that they didn't know what she was saying.  (You should know that while my Jilly can hear everything we say, and follow verbal directions pretty well, she can't speak and uses only sign to tell us what is in her head most of the time.)  I was told she was so persistent though as she led her assistant to the very object she was signing for when they didn't understand her monkey bar sign one day.  One of her assistants was even doing her best to teach herself ten signs a day so she could communicate with her (LOVE), but it is hard to keep up with Jilly.  Last year, she didn't communicate very much at all spontaneously, because it takes my girl a very long to feel safe.  This is her second year in this school, with this same staff, and I suspect that she is now taking off because she is feeling 100% safe.  I mentioned that it would be over the moon incredible if she could have an interpreter full time.  They would be able to model all words and would know her words too.  Then, they could redirect what she signed to her NOVA CHAT because ultimately she will be more widely understood in life if she masters this form of communication so we really want her to master using it.  WellI was crying tears of joys this week in the hallway at my darling girl's school when her amazing teacher told me that the district had approved hiring an interpreter for her full time and that the position was now posted!  I can't believe the resources they pour into my beauty to insure that she will meet her full potential, but I am praising God that we have access to so much for her as I know this is so not the case everywhere.  I can't wait to see where this takes her.  Praying they find the right person for this job as my Jilly is one special cookie.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Broken Record..Another Great Place to Visit Here

 I feel I constantly go on about the incredible things to do here where we live, but we discovered another amazing, free place to visit today.  It was a beautiful day so we decided to check out our local nature center.  I read about their natural sensory based play trail online, and it sounded right up our alley.  It was amazing.  I can't wait to take Jillian here.  It has all the makings of a wonderful day for her without a doubt.  We also had a special guest go with us.  Our friend back home sent us her Flat Stanley to visit for a few days.  We took him with us on our adventure and will chronicle it for her class to read after we mail him back.
 Digging through sand searching for fossils was one of our first stops.
 I can't believe how well this little lady does with all fine motor and gross motor tasks.  She is incredible.
 There was a pit to assemble bones.  There were baskets and baskets of all sorts of bones.  Anna Mei began to sort them by type touching them ever so delicately.
 It was a picture perfect day!  It has always been a dream of mine to be a stay at home mom playing with my littles.  At nearly 40, God has certainly granted me the deepest desires of my heart!
 There were giant rocks to climb on!
 At every turn, there were logs, stumps, and other wood things to explore.  I love the natural blocks and table to build with them on.  I really want to build one in our backyard now.
 After we were done playing on the sensory trail, we had a picnic, and then headed to the hiking trails.  We climbed down the embankment and explored the creek from a dry sandbar.  I really can't wait to have Jillian here!  It will be a dream come true!
Flat Stanley lost an arm along the way, but, no worries, we repaired him in our kitchen hospital when we returned home.  These two both took stellar naps this afternoon, and I am so grateful for the time with these babies!  Good, so very good!