Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Readers Digest version

On January 1st I boarded a plane, bound for Bulgaria, to bring our daughter Alexis home. What I didn't realize then was that I was actually boarding the crazy train, destination not in sight :-) Since that fateful day, we have been on one wild ride. At some point I hope to go back and chronicle each adventure in detail, but for now, I give you the "Readers Digest" version of the last 4 months:

I spent January 1st-7th in Bulgaria, finalizing our daughter, Alexis', adoption. If you are just joining in on the fun, you can read all about it here.

Alexis and I arrived home on January 8th, which also happened to be Richard and Joshua's birthday (best birthday present ever, right?)! We celebrated a few days later, but unfortunately it appears that my camera was not invited to the party, because there is not a single picture in existence!

Daddy and Joshua (Easter 2011)

Doctors appointments, post placement reports, homestudy updates, playing catch up with school and adjusting to life with a new family member, consumed the next two weeks. If you're hoping for more details about this period of our lives you might want to start praying for a miracle because it was such a blur that I am having trouble remembering anything other than the fact that we all came out alive!

On January 22nd, our triplets, Maren, Lukas and Jacob, celebrated their 6th birthday! Can you believe that it was only six years ago that our adventures in parenthood began!? To say that the Lord has given us an increase might be a bit of an understatement ;-) Furthermore, can you believe that in just six years our tiny babies have grown from this:

Into this:

How I love this crazy trio of energy, intelligence, compassion, laughter and Christ-like love! More evidence of how much my Father in Heaven loves me!

On January 26th, Alayna and I loaded up the car and headed to Philadelphia for surgery. . . .in the middle of a blizzard! Everything was smooth sailing until we reached West Virginia, then the snow began. The next 10+ hours involved white knuckles, 30 mile per hour speeds and lots of adrenaline. At one point, we were even sideswiped by a semi (and I might have peed my pants just a little!). BUT, 13 hours after leaving home, we arrived at our destination, slightly terrified and extremely tired, but in one piece!

On January 27th Alayna had her right leg amputated through the knee and a tenotomy on her left foot (this is one of those topics that I plan to expound upon in the future, but remember, we still have 3 months of adventure to cover). Two days later she was discharged from the hospital and we began the trek back home, this time, in much calmer weather!

Alayna's right leg and left foot before surgery

Another view of her right leg before

Alayna's right leg and left foot after surgery

Less than 24 hours after surgery she is unphased and wishing I would leave her alone so that she could listen to her music

Two weeks after Alayna's surgery I returned to Philadelphia, this time with all 8 kids in tow, for a post-surgical follow-up appointment for Alayna, as well as appointments for Joshua and Evan. As I was changing the dressing on Alayna's leg the night before her appointment, I noticed that her incision had dehisced (that's fancy for, "the surgical incision had opened up"). Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) this was not the first time that we had experienced wound dehiscence, so I knew immediately that we were likely in for a real "treat"! After examining the wound, the doctor sent us home with the necessary supplies to apply wet-to-dry dressings 2-3 times per day and we scheduled a follow-up appointment for two weeks later.

The kids and I returned to Philadelphia 2 weeks later. The wound had continued to open but it WAS healing so I was given instructions to continue the wet-to-dry dressings and return again in two weeks.

Outside of the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey-Our home away from home

So, two weeks later, the kids and I returned to Philadelphia again. At this point the wet-to-dry dressings were not keeping the wound moist enough (despite how often I changed the dressing) and we had reached a plateau in the healing process. Several wound care specialists were called in to look at Alayna's leg and together we came up with a new plan. Unfortunately, this plan involved an extended stay in Philadelphia. What I thought would be a routine trip of 2-3 days had suddenly turned into 2 weeks. . . .by myself, with 8 kids, totally unprepared :-) Have I mentioned how much I love a good adventure!? Fortunately, Richard happened to be on a business trip in Washington DC and he and his dad spent a day gathering needed "supplies" that they sent with my mother in-law to drop off for us on her way to visit my sister in-law in New York (did you catch all that?).
We know how to make ourselves at home in small hospital exam rooms :-)

Truth be told, other than the initial stress of learning that we would be staying for 2 weeks, not two days and trying to figure out all of the logistics (specifically, managing all of our diet restrictions away from home (Lily (Celiac) is gluten and dairy free and Lukas (ADHD) is gluten, dairy, egg and refined sugar free), the kids and I had a great time. In the past 3 years, we have been to Philadelphia over 50 times and this was the first time we have ever had the opportunity to really experience Philadelphia. We had a blast doing it.

Two weeks after we arrived, we were given the green light to go home and, yep, you guessed it, return two weeks later. And we have lived our lives in two week intervals ever since (But don't worry, this isn't really anything new. Remember how I said we've been to Philadelphia 50+ times in the past 3 years?)!

Our most recent adventure in Philadelphia (some of you may notice a familiar face. . .that amazing smile belongs to Aaron Nalle, recently rescued from an institution in Ukraine, now changing lives with his incredible spirit and fantastic smile!)

Don't worry, our trips to Philadelphia aren't the only things keeping us busy. During the past 3 months we have also had 9000 other doctors appointments (closer to home, thank goodness), Richard has been on 5 business trips and is still in school part time, and Alexis fractured her arm during one of our rare three week breaks (Daddy+6 kids on a trampoline=not a happy ending).

Now, lest you think that the past 3+ months have been all trials and no smiles, let me assure you that we have had much cause to celebrate as well.

On March 13th, Lily celebrated her 8th birthday. This was her first birthday in our family and she loved it so much she is STILL talking about it!! She has also started attending school part time, and, after the initial adjustment, she is loving it (many more details to come on this subject later).

On April 28th, Alayna celebrated her 9th birthday. Unfortunately, we had to spend her birthday in the car driving to Philadelphia, but before we hit the road, we were able to start our day with gifts and a breakfast of double chocolate cupcakes. But the celebration didn't end there. The staff at the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey was waiting for her with a huge stack of birthday presents when we arrived that evening AND, when we returned home, she was able to celebrate her birthday again with her Nana (who she just happens to share a birthday and her love of all things chocolate with)!

Alayna and Nana celebrating life and chocolate!

Perhaps one of the most exciting developments of the past 3 months however, is that. . . . .EVAN IS WALKING!!!! That's right folks, Evan is on the move! In his own words, he is a "walking machine!"

A trio of "walking machines"! So proud of my incredible kids and all that they have overcome!

He finally received his new braces (KAFO's) in mid-February and he has been up on his feet ever since! He still needs to use his walker for support, BUT, just a few days ago he took his first completely independent steps! I have a feeling he'll be running circles around us all very soon! And to think that we were told (many times) that he would NEVER walk! Doctors! What do they know!?

Obviously I am leaving out a lot of details, but this IS the Reader's Digest version. I do intend to go back and fill in the blanks on many of our recent adventures because I do feel that it is important to share the things that we have learned and experienced over the past few months. It has been exhausting, stressful and, at times, downright overwhelming, but these experiences have also been the most rewarding experiences of my life and I have learned and grown so much.

The following slideshow is the Readers Digest version of the past 4 months in pictures. The song ("Falling Into You" by Caleb Rowden), aside from being one of my current favorites, serves to remind ME why I do what I do. "For ye are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:20). My Savior ransomed me with His life and with His blood and so I give my life to Him by answering His call to love and serve the children that He has and will yet entrust to me. It is the most challenging thing I have ever done. It is the most worthwhile thing I will ever do. It is for Him.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

We interrupt this prolonged silence. . . .

Yep. It has really been 3 months since my last post. I would apologize, but truthfully, I just needed a break; some time to process all of the ups, downs and in betweens of the past, oh, 3 years or so :-) But this silence has gone on long enough and I am here to break it with some truly joyful news.

Do you remember Dusty? My son, Jacob, had been a prayer warrior for sweet Dusty for a year, praying faithfully for him to find a family every, single day, when we decided to increase our advocacy efforts for him at Christmastime. While we worked to raise money for his grant fund, a wonderful family stepped forward and answered the Lord's call to bring Dusty home. They worked tirelessly to complete their paperwork and, in the process, experienced the many ups and downs that accompany the call to adopt. In mid-April they traveled to Dusty's country and I am happy to announce that Dusty is an orphan no more! Last Thursday, a judge declared Dusty (and his new sister, Sonya) an official member of the Hinz family!

I am embarrassed to admit that I am STILL working to finish Dusty's quilt, but I am almost there and hope to have it waiting for him when he arrives home with his new mommy and daddy in just a few weeks. There is still room on the quilt for the names of those who donated, prayed or advocated for Dusty and/or the Hinz family, so please let me know (ASAP) if you would like your name to be included. If you are just joining us in our efforts to help the Hinz family on their journey and would like to be a part of Dusty's quilt, there is still an opportunity!

The Hinz family is currently holding an iPad 2/iphone 4 giveaway to raise the remaining funds needed to bring Dusty and Sonya home. To learn more about how to enter their giveaway, click here.

I am also extremely happy to report that another little boy who is very near and dear to my heart will soon be joining his forever family. Just DAYS after we withdrew our commitment to Gage, a family stepped forward to bring him home. Not just any family, but a family who had JUST returned home from his country, his very orphanage, with their daughter (and Gage's best friend). A family who already knows and loves him! Words cannot express how my heart rejoiced when I heard this news. My heart still ached knowing that I would not be the one to wrap him in my arms and in my love and call him my son, but to know the he would be joining such an amazing, wonderful and loving family allowed my heart to heal. And, as a reminder of just how mindful the Lord is of me, He gave me the awesome opportunity to meet Gage's new mommy and daddy while I was in Philadelphia about a month ago. What a blessing and privilege it was getting to know Carolyn and David DeVowe and their precious new daughter, Madeline. There is no doubt in my mind that this is exactly where the Lord intended Gage to be!

On May 30th, the DeVowes will meet with adoption officials in Gage's country and receive his official referral and in just a few short weeks, Gage will be an orphan no more! Isn't our Heavenly Father AMAZING! Please keep the DeVowe family and Gage in your prayers as they travel to Gage's country to complete his adoption!

Obviously after 3 months of silence there is MUCH more to report. It is my goal, over the next few days, to bring this blog up to speed, so if you are looking for some entertainment, stay tuned! To say that the past 3 months have been wild and crazy would definitely be an understatement ;-)