Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Just a quick note for my blog readers...

The facebook world knows, but maybe some of you haven't heard...

We were chosen as the December Hidden Treasures Auction family!

Every other month this fundraiser is held for the family of a child in the process of being adopted from Pleven, and this month, it's us!

Amy, the lovely woman who runs the auction, is calling it "Terrific Tony" and she says she's never received so many donations before. With all proceeds going toward Tony's adoption, this project is sure to be a huge blessing!

Now, we just need people to shop!

If you still have Christmas gifts to buy, you may want to check it out. There are LOTS of GREAT items to choose from. Well over 100, actually.

  • Soy candles
  • Bulgarian keepsakes
  • High quality jewelry
  • A brand new boba carrier
  • Kids' clothes and toys
  • Hand crafted art
  • And lots, lots more!

And better yet, your purchases will be tax deductible!

Don't see anything you want in the auction, but could still use the tax write off? Give a gift toward our paypal or Reece's Rainbow FSP (both links on the right column of this blog).

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping to bring Tony home!

Lots of love to all of you.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Winners! (And a peek at our sweet birthday celebration)

*****Edit! I forgot to include my email address: grayc77@gmail.com*****

Monday was Tony's birthday.

Sam didn't have school so we were able to spend the day together. Among other things, we took a trip to the grocery store to buy a box cake and some candles. 

As I was putting our groceries away, preparing to mix up the cake, my phone rang.

(Actually it was on silent. I just happened to walk past it and noticed it lighting up. Oops. Several missed calls!)

I answer.

"Hello..."

"No, nothing too special. Although, I am going to make a cake!"

"What? (Tears.) No, I can save it for another time. Of course, yes we would love to come over! We'll be right there!"

As we were speaking, my friends were pulling a cake out of the oven.

A birthday cake.

And they had a beautiful birthday dinner cooking on the stove. 

There were presents and singing. And lots of love for a precious, precious boy who can't be home soon enough!

We are blessed.


And we're also blessed by all of you!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this giveaway such a wonderful success.

We surpassed my goal of $1,400!

No, really we did!!

Y'all gave an incredible $1,615.17!!!!

WOW!!!

And as if that weren't enough...right at the end of the day, on Tony's 14th birthday, I was given a check for $1,400. $100 for every year of his precious life.

Bringing our total to a whopping $3,015.17!!!

God is so, so good. 

Susanna once said on her blog that she's seen God pour out money like water when it was needed. And I'm watching God do just that for my Tony. 

He deserves it, too. His freedom day has been a long time coming.

Thanks for saying yes to being used by God to bring that day even closer.

Please accept our small token of gratitude for the love you've shown us. If you see your name below, your name was drawn as a winner in our giveaway! To retrieve your prize, please send me an email with your full name and address and I'll contact our donors and get your prize on its way!

Esther -Starbucks Gift Card and Commuter Cup

Kristen - Heart Necklace

Daniel - Target Gift Card

Andrea G. - Choice of Restaurant Gift Card

Anna - Choice of Gift from Baruch's Lullaby

Margaret - Necklace

Heather K. - Jewelry Hanger

Michaela A. - Bounce House Rental

Lauren B. - Scentsy Warmer

Nicole N. - 5T PJs

Alicia S. - Your choice of $10 to Starbucks or Target

Amanda S. - Ultimate Body Applicator

Elijah - Red Lobster Giftcard

Psalm127Mommy - Embroidered Rose

Jeanine - Handmade Hanging Towel

Hazel - Handmade Hanging Towel

Elissa L - $18 to Hooked On Hope

Sarah W. - Choice of Gift from Baruch's Lullaby

Amber K. - Women's Shirt

Carr Family - 2T Girls Shirt

Debbie M. - Plastic Bag Dispenser

Cindy W. - Gift Card to Bed Bath and Beyond

Rachel D. - Tshirt from Basement Ink

Lots of love to all of you.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Happy (Almost) Birthday!!

Just a little over 24 hours left to get in on Tony's birthday giveaway!! Be sure to check it out, share it, and let me know if you donate...I'd sure love for you to win a prize! :)

The guidelines are here if you need a refresher.

Almost $800 has come in these last two weeks in Tony's honor. I wonder if we could get that number to read $1,400 by the close of the giveaway tomorrow?

$1,400 for my brave, spunky, awesome 14 year old little man...I think it's possible!

Two friends from the adoption community are running giveaways right now as well and have generously offered that anyone who donates toward Tony's giveaway can also enter their names for prizes from them as well. Follow the links below.
http://covenantbuilders.blogspot.com
http://iwillcometoyou-john14-18.blogspot.com

Time is ticking! Share. Pray. Give.

Happy (almost) birthday, Tony boy! We love you!




Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Wanted

Sam and I must have danced to this song twenty times today.



I held her sweet, brown little hands, turning with her in slow circles as she laughed, swayed back and forth and bobbed up and down. Not to be left out, her arms began dancing along, too.  Her elbows taking turns swinging back, my arms following their lead.

We danced.

She laughed.

I cried. 

After more than a year home, the tears still always seem to be ready and waiting at the gate.

Today they flowed.
From the day you were born And took your first breath You opened your eyes and in came the light He was watching you But all of your life you couldn't shake the lies in your head Saying you're a mistake Oh but you were made By a God who knows your name He doesn't make mistakes  
You are wanted To every broken heart, He stands with open arms You are wanted To every searching soul, look to the rising sun If you're lonely, hurting, gone too far To the outcast, you come as you are For you, you are wanted, you, you are wanted You, you are wanted, you, you are wanted  
Let this be the day that joy takes the place Of all of the years that shame tried to steal away He is calling you Lift your eyes to see His face Come run into the arms of grace  
You, you have been marked You're set apart And He calls you His So you don't have to search Don't have to look for where you belong
It is a holy moment indeed when when you can look into the glistening eyes of a child, fully alive, having endured 7 1/2 years of living hell. To know, because you truly know her now, that she is healing. God is healing her day by day. And she knows it! She knows joy. She knows love. She knows HIM like few of us can say we do. And she knows, I truly believe she knows she is wanted.







Tears of joy flow for my Sam.

Tears of longing flow for my Tony.

I received a precious gift a few weeks ago that I so wish I could share with all of you.

Pictures.

The first a BABY PICTURE.

Oh, but he was perfect. Absolutely perfect. He's lying on his back, his head tilted slightly, his right arm stretched behind his head in true DS style (i.e. impossible flexibility).

Upon further inspection, I notice in the upper right-hand corner of the picture a faint, round, blue stamp. As the story unfolds, this picture was not lovingly saved by a staff member from the baby house who loved him (a mama can hope). No, this stamp tells me that this picture is from his file. It exists because my boy was listed for adoption. As a baby.

There's another photo of him at 10 years old. The size of a 1 year old, if even that. Same blue stamp.

12 years old. Stamp.

In one week Sam and I will celebrate our Tony's 14th birthday.

It would be oh so easy to let the flood gates open wide and wale and mourn and grieve those fourteen years. And truth be told, I'll cry on his birthday. Guaranteed.

BUT.

I know the real truth.

The truth is, Tony has always been wanted. Our Father has always loved him. Wept over him. Sung over him. Rejoiced over him. He has ALWAYS wanted him.

And I get to be the one to tell him.

And you can tell him, too.

You can shout from the rooftops that Anthony David Knuth is wanted.

You can pray with ALL BOLDNESS that NOTHING will hinder this adoption process, and that he will finally, once and for all be home, loved, in a family. Our family.

You can help to ease our family's burden by donating, in any amount toward the cost of his ransom. Every little bit helps. And as a big thank you, and in celebration of the big 14, for every $14 you donate, you can be entered in our 14 days for 14 years giveaway.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for journeying with us and sharing in our excitement.

Lots of love to all of you.






Tuesday, September 17, 2013

14 Days For 14 Years (A Birthday Celebration For My Boy)

On the last day of this month, my little-big boy will be turning 14 years old!! FOURTEEN!!!

In my previous posts about Tony, I've focused heavily on his suffering. His years (and years and years) of waiting for love.

But, in these days leading up to his birthday, I want to celebrate his life. Because, you see, despite 14 years of extreme neglect, my little guy remains, somehow, a ray of pure sunshine. And I'm not the only one who thinks so! (I am biased toward him, of course, but as it turns out, he is unanimously awesome.)

In honor of Big T's big day, I'm going to take the opportunity to let folks brag on him (and share otherwise interesting tidbits about him). Here's what the people are saying (smile):
"I met Tony when I was in Pleven last Spring. He is adorable!" 
From the wonderful, incredible people at our agency, "Every time I mention Tony, Dave (our International Director) lights up. He met, played with, and loved on Tony last February. He is just THRILLED that he has a forever family working to go get him!" 
"He is VERY short, like a 4 year old, and is now stocky due to all the carbs he’s been getting!  He can walk (with a little help) now, with a wide gait, and wanders slowly around and gives strong hugs.  He loves to hold hands and ”dance” back and forth to music.  As soon as he hears music, he wants to stand up and dance!  ...  He’s not in his own world, not resistant to hugs at all, and likes to sit on a lap and play face to face." 
"He's a smiley little love!" 
"He's very smiley and very stubborn...I knelt down and he was quick to climb into my lap and pet my face, good eye contact." 
"Every now and then his sweet-tempered teacher would sing his favorite song to him (about a bear), which resulted in immediate excitement on his behalf and then he would hold her hands and swing his body sideways, dancing." 
"He liked it when I crouched so as to be at his level and he maintained good eye contact then. He just looked straight into my eyes with curiosity and interest." 
"For a child who has spent the last 13 years of his life in an orphanage, he has an unexpectedly positive outlook. He smiles every time the caregivers would sing a children’s song to him and is quick to grab their hands and start dancing. He is just fascinated with music and dancing." 
"He is sensitive to the tone of voice people talk to him with. When I started jesting at him he responded with a smile and then he was laughing aloud. He smiles when praised with “Bravo”."



I can't wait to get that boy home. I've got a hunch he and Sam will be two peas in a pod. We do LOTS of singing and dancing and laughing in this house, so he's sure to fit right in!

Thank you kindly to everyone who has donated so generously to help get Tony here where he belongs! If you'd still like the opportunity to donate, I've got great news for you! In honor of Tony's upcoming birthday, I am so happy to present to you...

The 14 Days For 14 Years Giveaway!!!

Here's how it works:

  1. For the next 14 days, every donation of $14 to our paypal account or RR grant (over ---> on the side of the blog), earns you a chance to win one of more than 20 terrific prizes! Simple, right? Feel free to enter as many times as you'd like!
  2. After you donate, leave a comment or send an email (grayc77@gmail.com) with your FULL NAME and how many entries you've purchased. If you'd like, you can also tell me what prize you're hoping to win.
  3. The giveaway will end on September 30th, Tony's 14th Birthday, at 11:59pm on the dot, at which point I'll draw names to see who won!
  4. If you feel so led, share this giveaway like crazy and bless one very deserving 14 year old on his last birthday without a family.


***************************************

Now, without further ado...here's our super awesome prizes:


Y'all hungry? What's sounds good? One winner will have their choice of a $50 gift card to Chili's, Olive Garden, or Applebees.  (Thank you, Danielle!)




This one's for local families...wait for it...you can win a FREE BOUNCE HOUSE RENTAL!!! Y'all get ready to be the most popular house on your block :) Shout out to my very good and very awesome friends for your support and generosity. (Thank you Schmeeckles!)





You'd be lucky indeed to win a poster or T-shirt from my talented friend over at Basment Ink. If you ever need custom, super-good-looking shirts printed, I know a guy. (Thank you, Ben!)


Two lucky winners may pick any item from this section of the Baruch's Lullaby store, courtesy of an incredible fellow adoptive mama who I had the privelege of meeting in Bulgaria. Check out a few adorable samples below. And while you're at it, you should read her blog. (Thanks Shannon!)













Oh man, if Sam wasn't growing SO fast I'd want to snatch up these adorable pjs from GAP. Girls size 5T. (Thanks, Elisabeth!)



$10 Starbucks or Target gift card from a generous, fellow-adoptive mama and friend. We got to meet this lovely lady in Bulgaria. Check out her current giveaway to bring home two more beautiful Bulgarian kiddos.  (Thank you, Lauren!)

















Who's thinking about Pumpkin Spice Lattes? Ok, how about now? Starbucks giftcard AND commuter cup! (Thank you, Renee!)


I adore cute little kids clothes, don't you? This size 2T little number from GAP would be perfect for Fall! (Thank you, Elisabeth!)



My friend Elisabeth has the cutest taste! I would love to shop in her closet :) And actually, you sort of can... Ladies silk blend blouse, size large (Thanks, Elisabeth!)


GORGEOUS gold heart necklace, valued at 59.99. Tell me this isn't adorable... (Thank you, Kalia!)





Someday I'll have to tell y'all the incredible story of how God led me to the beautiful friend who donated this lovely silver necklace, valued at $100! It'll make you cry for sure :) (Thank you, Kalia!)



$20 to Red Lobster. Who needs a date night?
Beautiful, framed, embroidered rose. This would look gorgeous in any room. I love it! (Thank you, Natalie!)



It Works brand Ultimate Body Applicator from my friend, and fellow Pleven mama :) She's so close to being fully funded for her current adoption of three kiddos who need out of that place badly. Check out her current giveaway. (Thanks, Amanda!)




Absolutely adorable Bumblebee Plugin Scentsy Warmer with blueberry cheesecake and sugar cookie scent packs. Love this! (Thanks, Katie!)


Y'all don't start a fight or anything, but I know you're all gonna want this gorgeous maple jewelry hanger... (Thank you, Katie!)



Two lucky donors will receive one of these handcrafted, non-slip hanging towels. How cute would these be in a little girl's bathroom? (Thanks, Katie!)




Handcrafted, outdoor-themed plastic bag holder. This thing looks seriously handy. (Thank you, Katie!)





Lots of love to all of you.



Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Musical Stylings of Sammer Love

She has yet to meet an instrument...

video

...she doesn't love...

video

...or know just how to play!!

video

Gentle. Purposeful. Creative.

video

I sure love my little music lovin' girl!

Lots of love to all of you.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Only God. Seriously.

Last spring, maybe some of you remember that a 2nd grade class from my old home in Lodi, California decided to help the abandoned orphans of Pleven. They baked cookies, made the most beautiful signs, and raised a thousand dollars to help pay for nurses to care for the least of these on that orphanage's 6th floor. 




But this class also did so much more than sell cookies. They prayed. Every day they prayed for Sam and others who were stuck on that dreaded 6th floor. And as they prayed hearts were broken. And God's Spirit began to move.

Sometime after their cookie sale, I received a phone call from Sarah (who, it's important for you to know, I've never met!), the mother of one very precious student from my friend's 2nd grade class. Her daughter had been sharing the great need of these orphans with her family, and upon hearing, they knew God was calling. Here's an excerpt from an email Sarah sent me only days later.
"We've been praying and praying and researching and reading about adoption non-stop...we feel God may be calling us to adopt a child from China. God used you and Samantha and the children at her orphanage to open our eyes to the tremendous need of the children who have been orphaned around the world.  And we want to answer God's call, for whatever child He has in mind for us."
Only God. Right?

Well it gets even better!

A few months ago, Sarah sent me an update. (Sarah, no matter how I tried, I just can't tell the story as well as you can! So I'm using your own beautiful words.)
"Hi Grace, 

Last spring I talked and emailed with you about the possibility of adoption.  After hearing about your sweet Samantha Love in Mrs. Steiner's 2nd grade class, our daughter, Emily, became passionate about helping the orphans.  A fire was lit in her by the Lord, and before long that same fire was lit in her 2 sisters and in me, and very shortly after, in Steve (my husband).  We hadn't thought about adoption before this, but your journey with Sam opened our eyes to the needs of the orphaned around the world.  We of course baked a ton of cookies for Mrs. Steiner's class cookie sale and gave money toward Sam's adoption and for the babas at Pleven.  But we knew God was calling us to do more.  After much prayer, it was clear that He wanted us to adopt a special needs child from China.  So we eagerly jumped into action and were soon matched with our sweet little Peter.  He was 15 mths. and had a cleft lip and palate.  We met him for the first time on January 27 and arrived home with him Feb. 6.  He has flooded our family with joy and we are so honored that God chose us to be his family... 

Although in the end God led us to adopt from China rather than Bulgaria, our hearts are deeply attached to Bulgaria and especially the children in Sam's orphanage.  These children and the country in which they live will always have a special place in our hearts because they are the ones God used to open our eyes to the plight of His children around the world.  God used them to lead us to our sweet Peter.   

So here's another little story of God's goodness... 

Peter's 2nd birthday was last Friday. As his birthday approached, we were debating whether or not to have a party. We just couldn't decide.  But in the end we decided that we would have a party, because all those who prayed with us and labored with us on our journey to Peter really wanted to be a part of his birthday too.  Once we decided to have the party, I really wanted to do something other than presents for him.  I felt like God wanted us to ask people to bring something for someone else, rather than presents for Peter. But I just didn't know what. I prayed and asked God how He wanted to use Peter's birthday for His glory. I asked Him what He wanted us to do.  But no direction came. As our girls were making the invitations for the party, I got a text from Pam Steiner saying "Read Grace's blog NOW!" I did, and as soon as I read it, I knew THIS was what God wanted for Peter's party. He wanted us to raise money for Anthony. And His timing was absolutely perfect. The girls and Steve jumped on the idea and we quickly typed up an invitation for everyone to join us in a special project to help bring Anthony home, rather than bring gifts to the party.   

Everyone loved the idea, and we are so excited that God used Peter's birthday in such a special way.  Some people donated online, but we have a number of cards and checks that we would like to send you, if you'll email me your address.   

Also, Emily, our middle daughter who was in Mrs. Steiner's class last year, wrote a song for you.  She loves to write songs for Jesus, and she wrote this one for you...She is also selling duct tape bags to earn money for Anthony. She's made $7 so far..."   

Is your jaw on the floor like mind was? Need a kleenex? Yeah. I did too.

Here's Peter, meeting his family for the first time!
And here he is...at Home!! I remember seeing this picture for the first
time and the tears that flowed freely down my face. Praise Jesus!
Invitations to Peter's Hungry Caterpillar Birthday! 

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And here is beautiful Emily, singing her very own song for Tony.

Sometimes, at just the right time, God sends encouragement. Someone to tell you, "we're behind you," or "you're not crazy". (Or maybe more like, "You actually are crazy. But we're behind you.") This family has been God's encouragement to me. An immeasurable support and encouragement on this crazy journey. 

Eby family and friends, please know that this beautiful gesture, and your VERY GENEROUS gifts, mean more to us than you can ever know. You've given so much more than just money. We thank the Lord for you. His glory shines so brightly through your love and obedience. 

Now, why it took me so long to share this incredible story...well, we may never know :) But, I figure maybe the timing is actually perfect. Because now... it's my boy's birthday month!! In a few short weeks I will be the proud future-mommy of a FOURTEEN year old!! 

And in celebration of his life, I'm putting together a little something...stay tuned!

Love to all of you.








Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A YEAR!!! (And some days...)

We are blessed.

I was thinking recently, as I was tuckered out from a long, full day, that we've really got it good. Yes, I'm exhausted. And yes, our lives are full. But our lives are also good. Seriously, really good. There's not one part of our day-to-day that I would change. We are happy. And yes, we are blessed.

It's been a while since I've written. And though I sincerely dislike disclaimers like the one I'm about to give (and the others I've posted here in the past), I've really got to explain...

So, if y'all don't mind, I'll begin this post with a list of excuses. I'll lay them out horizontally instead of vertically, so the list will seem shorter and less whiney (ha!). But really. Here's where we've been the last few months:

We moved in Mid-March to a new rental house by our church (also my work). We committed to adopting Tony at the end of April. Mountains of paperwork have been filled out and fancy-stamped since then. In May I stepped in as substitute VBS director, starting from scratch. Said VBS happened 4 times around the city of Lincoln starting in June. One happened at my house. One week later I had a HUGE three-day-long fundraiser garage sale. On the last day of the garage sale I started feeling sick. Like, really sick. Turns out I had mono. And H. Pylori. At the same time. The H. Pylori was diagnosed first and was treated with duel antibiotics. One said antibiotic had a reaction with the undiagnosed mono, causing a measles-like rash that covered me from head to toe. (Was it itchy? Why, yes. Thank you for asking.) Sam and I lived at my parent's house for the better part of two weeks, after which I began a slow re-entry into life. I'm still experiencing some fatigue. And we're still using paper plates and bowls (and cups and paper towels, if I'm being honest). But I am absolutely on the mend. And now...last week...my baby started kindergarten. I have been crying, literally, for two weeks. (Not constantly, of course, but you know what I mean.)

Whew.

And this is the short list.

Its been a season of challenges. And a season of change and transition.

But even in the midst of challenge and change there has been so much beauty.

***********************************

Now, to get to the good stuff!

A year!

I know it's totally and completely cliche to say, but I'm gonna go there anyway...

I can hardly remember my life without her.

Sam has added immeasurable joy and purpose to my days.

She is funny, clever, strong-willed, loving, passionate, eager, and so, so, so lovable.

And she is the bravest, most resilient and most inspiring person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Here's a little bit about Sam and an overview of our first year together:

  • Last August, when I carried Sam out of her orphanage, she was noticeably smaller than she had been when I met her in April (by about 4 pounds). She'd been living in isolation for an unknown amount of time, but bore marks on her body that let me know that her few interactions with people were not good. She was rightfully agitated and resistant to touch. She cried often, for long periods of time. She didn't throw fits. She cried. NOW, my Sammers is up 3 clothing sizes, 4 diaper sizes, and 18 pounds! She's even (barely) made it onto the growth chart for little girls her age! And she LOVES people and loves to be touched.
This picture, as well as the next, were taken the winter before
Sam came home. This is her too-small, meant-for-a-baby-boy bed.

Here she is in the hotel on our pick up trip. Her baths that week
were pretty traumatic. 
We were both exhausted and overwhelmed when we finally arrived home.  
She got the hang of baths after a few weeks home, but couldn't balance
herself yet in the tub.
She's a new kid. Enough said.
  • When Sam first came home, she had no interest in toys...or in much of anything. She was likely functioning developmentally at age 6 months (Susanna, I had no idea yet what I was talking about when I first made a guess at this! I was later give some good information that helped me, the first time mommy, to understand.) She would sit in one spot until I moved her and needed me to direct her minute by minute as to what she should be doing. NOW, she is an active, busy little monkey :) She LOVES to play and dance and sing and wrestle and swim and...LIVE LIFE! She is now developmentally closer to about 10 months.
Here we are, snuggled up in our "boat" safe from the world around us.
We lived here for a few days.
What's the plan, Mom?
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Girl's got skills!

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Here she is telling us all about it on the 4th of July.

Too fast for mom!

  • She has been under anesthesia four times this year. The toughest by far was a surgery to take out her tonsils and adenoids and replace her ear tubes. Her little body did not appreciate the anesthesia or pain medications and had quite a time waking back up. We stayed in the hospital for three days. Sam was not amused.
Here we are right before heading home with Lucy Loo who
was out and about visiting patients (we spent our last night on
the oncology floor where most patients were they for a longer stay than us).
  • Sam has (almost) mastered two signs. She can say (her own version of) "all done", which she likes to use anytime she's asked to do therapy work. Smart, huh? And she can say "music". A couple weeks ago she pulled that one out during a guest pastor's sermon as if to say, "How about we wrap this thing up and get back to singing?'
  • In March, Sam and I moved out of the community house where we were living with our friends, and into a sweet little rental house two doors down from our church, where I also happen to work. This house and its location have been a great blessing to us so far. 
Here's the Bolivar House where our friends continue to live and do ministry in the neighborhood.
Our friends, Jon and Anna, are in Bulgaria right now picking up their son, Simon, from Sam's
old orphanage. Check out their blog! Simon is a true miracle! gracesfault.blogspot.com
Here's our new place! We love it here. The layout is perfect for Sam, Tony and I.
The main floor is nice and open. I can see and hear Samantha from any room in
the house, no matter where she is. 
Here's our sweet little backyard. We've got a great little hill for sledding.
(If Sam and Tony decide they like sledding, that is!)
Our kitchen has windows! Its nice to be able to look outside while I'm doing the dishes.

Our living room, which opens into... 
...the dining room.

Sam enjoying our new porch swing with her cousins. Unfortunately, our porch
swing hasn't been feeling too well since VBS happened at our house.
I can't imagine why? :)
  • When we moved into our new house, we were zoned to a new school. Sam wasn't attending school at the time, but we were receiving school services including specialists coming to the house each month. When the physical therapist from the new school came over to meet us, she immediately noticed that Sam's feet and ankles needed some additional support. Sam had already been attending private physical therapy for 6 months prior to this meeting, and no one had noticed this! I am truly thankful that we met this lovely lady when we did, because she helped me come to the conclusion that I needed to consider other options for Sam's therapy. We transferred services over to Madonna, and couldn't be happier with the help we've received. We've both learned SO much. And of course, now Sam wears braces on her feet. 
Here Sam is, splashing int the pool with her physical therapist, Mandy.
  • Sam recently went on her very first vacation ever! We went to Estes Park with my family. She was feeling sad and looking pitiful on the drive there, but had quite a nice time once we arrived. 
She did surprisingly well on this fun horse swing outside our cabin.
Her core strength is pretty impressive and she had no trouble at all holding her balance.
Here she is tasting her first roasted marshmallow. She liked it!
So much so that she wanted a real bite! Too bad my fingers were in the way :)

Swinging on the porch with her very best friend, Cousin Audrey.

    We took a scenic drive up a big, beautiful mountain, taking stops along the way.
    Sam even likes playing in icy cold water! I rushed her right back to the car
    afterward for a nice dry change of clothes.
    Here we are near the top of the mountain. We hopped out at this point
    and hiked a little ways. Almost to the tippy top! But not quite. 
    Papa was nice to help me carry Sam back down.
    • Just the other day my super-strong and equally stubborn little girl took FOURTEEN independent steps! (Never you mind that I wasn't home...or that I immediately RAN home from a meeting at church as soon as I heard...or that Sam was hoping I wouldn't find out!) Do me a favor and don't tell her that you know I know.
    video
    Here's Sam practicing her walking with Madi and Aunt Natalie. 
    This is the most walking we've been able to capture on video.
    • And last, but certainly not least! She's started kindergarten!!! Sammers is on week two of her first  year of school and she is doing so, so well! Sam is in a class with "typical" kids, although her teacher has a masters in Special Education. We had our IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting this week, and there were TEN wonderfully kind professionals there to help me create the best possible scenario for my daughter. I must add that this has not been easy for mommy. It was my heart's desire that I would be able to homeschool Samantha. But it just was not going to work. SO, this school, full of people who love Sam (literally around every corner I hear an enthusiastic, "Hi Sam!!") is the next best thing. She definitely is in good hands. So now, I work while Samantha is at school, and we have our afternoons and evenings free to be together. 
    video
    Here's Samantha on the first day of school after I did her hair. 
    She still adamantly dislikes having her hair brushed and done. 
    This day was probably one of the worst. I've been growing her 
    bangs out, because haircuts are even worse than brushing...
    but that means we can no longer just wash an go...the hair 
    must be done. Here she is, just starting to calm down...

    video
    Here she is all packed and ready for kindergarten. 
    Yes, she is standing independantly!! She's leaning a bit, but not much :)

    Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported and prayed for us this last year. We are thankful for each and every one of you.

    Stay tuned for an adoption update on Mr. Tony!

    Lots of love to all of you.