Adopted Joy Our Family's Adoption Journey Into Joy Sun, 11 Aug 2019 06:09:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Adopted Joy 32 32 Showers of Blessing Sun, 11 Aug 2019 05:59:17 +0000

Over the last few weeks there has been a flurry of plotting and planning between the grandmas, the best friend, and the older sister to put together a baby shower for Megan and Andy and their precious boy.

Because I am not gifted in this area, I was especially blessed by all the many talents and joyful labors poured out by all who were involved to bring it to fruition.

Megan’s best friend Amelia and her mom, Kimberly, added sparkle and fun to the festivities with fun games with prizes, and special touches of decor. I couldn’t have run a game time to save my life, but Amelia ran that show like a pro.

Grandma Barbie and Grandpa Jim were hands on helping from start to finish with set up and tear down, providing door prizes, chips, veggies and dip, helping make the fruit salad, cleaning up afterward. They are some of the finest examples of selfless giving that I know and I love them so! Oh and the beautiful cupcakes were a sweet gift from their DIL Lindsey, an extra special hit with the many children who came along to help celebrate.

Our menu of pizza, fruit salad, Caesar salad, and punch was greatly augmented when Andy arrived laden with party trays from Pei Wei – totally unexpected but such a blessing!

And finally, none of this would have come together without Laurent, who keeps me on track, gives solid advice, has a great eye for decorating, and is super organized when I am at my ADHD worst. I can’t even count the ways she made today possible, I think she did a lot I didn’t even know about. But all her shopping and organizing and chopping fruit for a whole week and staying up late Friday night to decorate the room – with lots of help from Natalie as well – paid off beautifully in a really fun party today, and I give great thanks to God for blessing us with so many loving friends.

To all who helped and all who came bearing such beautiful and needed gifts for the baby, thank you!! Our hearts are so full of grace tonight.

I am delighted once again to feature photos of the party that were mostly taken by Natalie and Alyssa. They captured lots of the happy faces and moments of the day!

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Mt. Lemmon Fri, 26 Jul 2019 06:15:56 +0000

We've never in all our 22 years in Arizona explored much south of Phoenix beyond Casa Grande, so it was with great anticipation that we set out for a brand new destination: Mt. Lemmon, located just to the north and east of Tuscon.

I was completely unprepared to find mountains tall enough to have a ski area and pine trees so far to the south! What a delight it was to see so many beautiful new sights throughout the day.


Our family vacation times have been unusually limited this year for various reasons – some health related, some financial – so we try to work around it with little excursions when we can. Last Saturday we grabbed the opportunity to get out of the valley, out of the oppressive heat, and make for higher elevations.

We’ve never in all our 22 years in Arizona explored much south of Phoenix beyond Casa Grande, so it was with great anticipation that we set out for a brand new destination: Mt. Lemmon, located just to the north and east of Tuscon.

I was completely unprepared to find mountains tall enough to have a ski area and pine trees so far to the south! What a delight it was to see so many beautiful new sights throughout the day.

I didn’t know how well I would do with climbing, and was prepared to hang around next to the van while everyone else climbed higher, but Paul had other plans. When we arrived, after driving through the tiny community of Summerhaven to scope out their cute, touristy options for lunch, we followed the signs that pointed the way to the summit.

As we pulled into a shaded parking lot next to some brown wood-sided buildings, my husband, with that characteristic twinkle in his eye that says, “Have I got a surprise for yoU!” – jumped out, saying, “I’ll be right back!”

We wandered around in the shade, made use of the personal-size lavatories, and before long he was back, triumphantly waving in his hand tickets for each of us to ride the ski-lift all the way to the tippy-top of the mountain! I’d never dreamed there even was a ski area there, let alone that one could ride the lift in the summer! So cool!

There was excitement and trepidation as we all paired up for our ride. I was thankful Paul was taking Ruben, and Laurent was in charge of Ellie, as I wasn’t even sure I could get myself on the lift properly – was pretty afraid I would actually fall off in the process of trying to sit down on the moving bench when it came around. Thankfully, Alyssa was fine hopping on by herself, and I miraculously managed to get on and stay on, and up-up-up-and-away we went! And in spite of long-term fear of heights, I was utterly enchanted all the way.

We didn’t spend very long at the top before heading back down, just long enough to fill our eyes with the soaring vistas below, and get a little (or a lot) sunned.

Coming down was equally if not more fun, especially when we saw, coming up the lift on the other side, a giant stuffed bear riding in a chair by itself!

After our adventure, everyone was hungry, and it was Laurent’s turn to spring a surprise. She decided to take us to the Cookie Cabin, and get dessert for lunch. This place is known for it’s plate-sized cookies, a treat in and of themselves. She went all the way, however, and got cookie sundaes – five of them for our party of ten – and it was a monstrously sugary, devilishly delectable treat. To my undying amazement, the we managed to demolish nearly all of it! It was a truly memorable, and unlikely to be repeated, meal!

Full to the gills, we headed back down the mountain, blissfully tired, having satisfied once more the urge to explore. I hope it wont be long, though, before we are off to reconnoiter yet more of our state’s natural wonders!

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Happy Father’s Day! Mon, 17 Jun 2019 02:29:52 +0000

It’s a banner day when I have all my kids under one roof, so today was an epic win in that department. Only problem was, I didn’t realize until I was editing the “official Father’s Day photo of the day” that my eldest was missing from the pic! Because chaos, is what. She made it into the cake pics for Alyssa’s birthday, though, so it wasn’t a total loss – and Emilio was here, so that’s probably why I didn’t notice – it still felt like the right number of people!

I love the shirt Laurent gave her dad – The BEST DADS get promoted to GRANDPA. He also got a new ranch chair to replace the one that finally wore out, and some new hot dog cookers that are actually long enough so we wont burn our hands while cooking round the campfire.

Alyssa finished off her birthday celebration with more Star Wars loot – a light-saber night light and a Star Wars bedspread, and big brother Mark brought over water balloons and a big slime kit which everyone took out front to make a mess.

It was a good day with my people. I love them all, especially my beloved. I try to keep up to date with my gratitude because it just piles up so high if I let that slide and I can never, ever catch up. He’s my constant, in every way. Raising a family is labor-intensive, there’s no way around that. We were talking just yesterday about what it is that keeps us going, what fuels our marriage. It’s that we have always, from the beginning, felt unified in a mission and purpose beyond just our feelings for each other, and whatever God was calling us to, it was a team effort. The mission has morphed over the years, but that unity has remained and grown more solid with age and experience and confidence in one another. There’s been testing of that “or worse” part of our vows, and I’m pretty sure I’m the one who’s been the test, but Paul is so faithful to me and our family and our mission. It’s no exaggeration to say I’d be lost without him. I’m eternally grateful to God for the man who is father to all the children God has given us, spiritual leader of our home, and my partner in life.

Happy Father’s Day, honey!!

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What Brave Looks Like Mon, 10 Jun 2019 21:13:35 +0000

This morning was a hustle and bustle getting six kiddos dressed in their uniforms, backpacks set with snacks and supplies, and out the door for the first day of summer school.

Ellie was nervous, excited, ready. We’ve been talking with her for weeks, preparing her in every way we could think of for the reality of this day. PTSD is a monster that appears in many different forms for kids who have come through the system. This precious one has been fighting a losing battle with separation anxiety for the last four years, and seemingly worsening instead of getting better. How she would handle willingly walking away from mom for four hours without crying, clinging, wailing, or screaming I had no idea.

When we arrived at school, I dropped off the rest of the kids, then parked. Ellie and I walked in together and were directed to the cafeteria where all the students were sitting at tables. It was a deafening clamor, and, palpably intimidated, Ellie clung to my arm and hid behind me just a bit as we walked across the room to stand beside the wall. The classes were dismissed oldest to youngest, so that at the end, only the new kindergartners (and their parents) remained in the room with their teachers, whose faces beamed encouragement and reassurance.

It was time to line up! I walked her over to the line, gave her a hug and kiss and a “Go have a GREAT day!” and stepped back as she stepped forward. As they began filing out, she glanced back at me several times, with a look of smiling trepidation that gave me a lot of hope. The parents followed along as they trooped across campus to their classroom building, and by the time we got there, she was no longer glancing back.

I was doing so many inner fist-pumps!! To see her win the battle on this important day, to vanquish that monster and face something new and scary with determination and so much fortitude – I can’t express how proud it made me to be her mama today.

I know the war is not over. The monster will not go quietly. But this win will fuel the fire inside my little warrior, and I know she will keep coming back to fight that monster and every time she will grow stronger until she slays it for good. And I will be right behind her every step of the way, cheering her on to victory.

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Another Birthday! Sun, 09 Jun 2019 02:50:30 +0000

Today we are low-key celebrating another awesome year of Alyssa – it’s her actual birthday, but due to work schedules, we will have the party next week.

Today, Alyssa is seven years old, and as I told her, I’m always off by a year – she has seemed like a seven-year-old this whole past year, because she’s just ahead of the game. She’s always been a little more advanced than her age.

We love this girl so much! Every year, Alyssa Felicity Joan becomes stronger, more determined, funnier, more competitive, generous, loving, and daring. We are so blessed to watch her grow up!

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Recovering, A New Addition, and Many Portraits Wed, 05 Jun 2019 20:47:00 +0000

It’s been a busy spring – lots going on, despite my being incapacitated with illness for over 6 months. I finally did discover I was hit with both Valley Fever and Pneumonia, and subsequent medications have mostly alleviated the worst symptoms. At this point, the beginning of June, I am on the road to recovery, but it’s a slow road. I’ve lost a lot of stamina, especially in my lungs, so I get tired easily. It’s so hard to be patient while I’m coming back to full strength, but I hardly have any choice in the matter. I’m trying to do a little more each day and exercise my positivity muscles along with all the others!

Without a doubt, this is the biggest news of our year:

Meet grandchild number one, his first portrait at 10 weeks (aren’t these 4D ultrasounds amazing?!). Yes, you caught that “his” — we just found out! Megan is expecting Patrick James to make his official appearance around the end of October. We are all so in love with this sweetheart already!

And let me take a moment to say, the overwhelming support with which Megan has been surrounded by both family and friends from all sides has confirmed all my best hopes for the pro life community. And indeed, it is exactly what I have observed on a regular basis with unplanned pregnancies: Love. Support. Grace. And eagerness to help in any way. We are thankful, humbled, and blessed.

Finishing the school year well, our five Maryvale Matadors deserved an end of year celebration, which coincided beautifully with our one-year Adopt-aversary! We took off for the ranch after work on Thursday and had an absolutely fantastic long weekend. Megan drove up Saturday and joined us for a romp in the White Mountains at Wenima Wildlife Area.

Due to my stage of recovery, I wasn’t able to do as much photography as I usually do, but the kids passed my camera around amongst themselves and got some stellar pics of one another. The weekend was largely commemorated in portraits (with a few floral and landscape shots thrown in by me for good measure). I did enjoy the post processing on all my lovelies, but honestly, they are going to be catching up with me if I give them many more opportunities with the camera!

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Easter 2019 Tue, 23 Apr 2019 18:04:18 +0000

In many ways I feel like I missed the Easter season this year, because I missed the observance of the Paschal Triduum: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Paul was able to take most of the kids to Maundy Thursday, but I stayed home with Ruben. Friday it was impossible to make the Good Friday service, and I can’t even remember why.

Holy Saturday dawned early. We had to leave the house by 7:15 in order to pick up Malinda and then head down to Sun Lakes, where Grandma had the kids registered to join in the annual Easter Egg Hunt. We all thought it started at 9am, so we were there early enough to get a perfect shady spot for our chairs up on a little hill to watch the fun and let the kids run around before the 9:30 start time. Paul had picked up Ana and Jose, and it was a really beautiful time with family. There were balloon animals, face painting, and egg hunts for three different age groups. It turned out only the younger kids decided to participate, and that was ok because the field for hunting was small, and the eggs were few, and it took about 10 seconds for each age group to empty the hunting ground completely. After the hunt we headed back to Grandma’s house for a little belated birthday party for ME! Then it was back to our side of town, drop off Malinda, then home to get everyone shiny for Sunday morning. I also spent some time making a fairly delicious Chicken Dip to bring along to Easter Dinner. Anyway, as full as our Saturday was, there was really no hope of getting to the Easter Vigil – and plus, Geneva was planning to join us for Easter Sunday mass and dinner at Grandma’s, so we opted out this year.

Sunday morning went pretty well, all things considered, despite a row over the color of a certain person’s Easter dress, who shall remain nameless, but is rather fixated on navy blue, and the gorgeous Easter shade of turquoise I bought her (knowing that she loves all things blue, and thinking how much she would love it) was deeply offensive to her sensibilities. Nonetheless, everyone looked beautiful in their Easter Best, and we made it to church a half hour early, in time to snag the perfect pew at the front of the back. Nothing, my dear friends, nothing in the whole world, makes me happier than sitting in church with my whole family together! It’s been too long and I was so ready for this Easter celebration!

And then I started coughing. And as it got worse, and I’d had nothing to drink and knew that even if I went back and got a drink from the fountain, it was not going to improve, I made the split second decision at about 10 minutes till 9 that I wasn’t going to make it, and had to just leave. I drove home, got my phone that I’d forgotten, drove back, stopped for gas (I was on empty) and then ended up spending most of the mass in the baseball field overflow parking, listening and watching on youtube. But even that wasn’t as bad as it could have been, as the weather was perfectly perfect, and I sat in the van, coughing, but appreciating the blue sky and cool breeze blowing through my shaded window.

It was a good thing I finally had my phone, too, because Paul had been trying to call me. Apparently Ruben had not only pooped his diaper, but also knelt on the ground while playing outside and landed his knee in a pile of doggy poo, so his beautiful seersucker suit was all messed up, and he was really ripe – and they had forgotten the diaper bag in the van. So I came round to meet Paul at the sidewalk by the church. However, when he looked in the back – there was no diaper bag! So at that point he just left Ruben with me and went back into church and I got to wait with Mr. Stinky until everyone else came out.

Thus we arrived at Grandma’s house in quite a state, and were eternally grateful that she is always prepared and has the appropriate size diapers and wipes on hand for whichever grand-thing is currently in need. God bless Grandmothers!

Once his diaper was changed, all the boys were wanting to get out of their fancy vests and ties, so we had to quick wrangle the lot of them into some semblance of formation outside by the back yard prickly pear cactus for family pics. It went pretty quickly, especially since Ellie was NOT in the mood for photos and nothing could mollify her.

And, aside from some cactus bloom photos from the yard, that was it for photos for Nettie. I spent the rest of the time enjoying the fam, and watching the cousins enjoy each other. What a gift it is to have family close by!!

Pics from the weekend. (Note: I’m very proud that my Photoshop magic skills were sufficient to the task of cleaning up Ruben’s messed up suit pants.)

Nettie’s Blazing Chicken Dip

Ok “Blazing” might be a stretch, depending on how much red pepper you put in. I’m going to just tell you how I made this, and you can scale it down to your family size. This would be enough for a good sized party.

Preheat oven to 350F.

6 cans chicken, drained
2 bunches green onions, slice the white, chop the green in 1/4 inch segments
1 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes, oil drained
2 cups shredded cheddar or cheddar mix cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
3-6 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
2 bricks cream cheese, warm enough to mix easily
Equal parts Sour Cream & Mayonnaise
2-4 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1-2 Tbsp Splenda (Optional)
Chili Lime to taste
Red Pepper, either flakes or powder, to taste. Remember, it gets hotter as the flavors mix.

Place canned chicken in mixer and shred. Add in all the rest of the ingredients, and mix in enough sour cream and mayonnaise in equal parts to make a stirrable concoction. It will become smooth when warmed in the oven. Place mixture in baking dish and bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until browning on top and bubble through and through. Serve immediately with whatever you like to dip. Also makes a yummy hot sandwich on buns!

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Thank you, Lord, for hard days. Tue, 02 Apr 2019 07:47:36 +0000

Every night (with rare exception) since before we were married, my husband and I have prayed together. It’s a commitment we made early on when we were dating that I believe has contributed profoundly to the success of our marriage for these 25 years and counting.

In those early days our prayers were always about the future: our life together, where God might take us, and especially for our children, that they would all be followers of Christ and seek to use their gifts to help build His kingdom.

As time went on we prayed about all the ups and downs of our lives, the joys and struggles. Thanksgiving for our children and the joy they brought, intercession for their struggles and those of our loved ones near and far. Prayers for our neighborhood kids and the hard realities they faced every day. Prayers for wisdom and guidance in our journey into the Catholic Church.

Recently, almost every night it seems like our prayers begin with, “Thank you, Lord, for hard days.” We are most definitely in the hard days. Day after day, week after week, month after month, this process of transitioning from foster to adoptive family has brought so many surprises, so much joy, but so much heartache and trauma.

Yet, St. Paul tells us:

“Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

We can’t possibly walk this path without praying, literally, without ceasing.

Why? Because there’s so much you don’t know, you can’t possibly know, and nobody can adequately tell you or prepare you for the way trauma manifests itself in children who have suffered this unspeakable tragedy in being severed from their birth families. And when you commit to love them for however long God sees fit to place them in your care, you are, however unwittingly, committing to taking all that trauma, anger, fear, and profound anguish, upon yourself. Whenever, and in whatever ways it comes out, no matter what: you are bound by love to absorb it and live through it with them every day, all the way through a loss you can barely fathom and onward, by faith, toward healing.

This makes for hard days. Days when you must learn how to respond in love to a child with impulse control issues who screams “I HATE YOU! I HATE GOD!” and slams doors and runs away barefoot, because it’s all too much. Days of comforting a four-year-old who can’t stop wailing in agony every time daddy leaves the house, due to her separation anxiety. Days of rage fits and apologies and hugs and reassurance. Days when, at our house, any or all of these may be happening with up to seven children at once. Days we can’t get through without a whole lot of prayer.

So thank you, Lord, for hard days. And thank you for the way you bless our lives by sprinkling us with liberal reminders of your constant presence. By your grace, keep us clinging to gratitude as we cling to your hand, and help us never to miss the beauty beside this rocky road.

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Wildflowers Mon, 25 Mar 2019 02:05:05 +0000

After a Spring-break week of mostly-stellar behavior from the kids, who cleaned every day, played outside, barely fought, and got to watch tons of Marvel movies too, I wanted to top it off with some exploration. It’s been agonizing for me to see so many gorgeous wild-flower photos online from all my AZ Photography people, without being able to join in the fun, so I decided we had to head up to Bartlett Lake, where I heard there is a bumper crop of wildflowers this year.

It was NOT disappointing!! I’ve never seen anything like it, here or in any other state I’ve lived. The hills were covered in orange, yellow, purple and white for miles! I could have stayed all day, trekking around and getting shots of the landscape, but I was happy to capture some color right beside the road, and doubled my enjoyment with kids romping amongst the flowers.

We will definitely be heading back up there again now that we’ve seen what a beautiful area it is.

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Looking Ahead Thu, 14 Mar 2019 07:14:57 +0000

Last week I took mom in for what we both supposed was going to be just your typical yearly eye exam, and turned into a four hour ordeal of tests, exams, consultation with the Ophthalmologist, and ultimately the beginning of another round of monthly injections to help reduce the swelling in her retina. But the ice-cream topper on that cake of fun was a referral to a cataract surgeon for cataract surgery as soon as possible. Neither of us expected that. For over a year, all has been quiet on the eyesight front, so we’d gotten rather settled.

Well, it’s time to shake things up. Tomorrow she goes in for another test to determine what lens they will use. Then in two weeks, she will have cataract surgery in her right eye, with two followup visits, and two weeks later they will do the left eye, and two more followup visits, and then continue with the injections monthly. And all these appointments and procedures have to be scheduled around her thrice weekly dialysis. As you might imagine, this is going to be a much busier time than usual!

Everyone we talk to who has had the surgery exclaims about how much better they were able to see as a result. However, the doctors are not necessarily predicting a big improvement in her vision with this (although there might be some), but they say it will help them see INTO her eyes better, so they can better treat the retinopathy.

I am hoping there will be some improvement for her so that it will seem a little more worthwhile to go through all of this! I know mom will appreciate your prayers for her as she undergoes these procedures, and I will surely appreciate them as I manage the schedule and keep everyone going in the right direction at the right time.

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