Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Auggie is five.

Auggie turns FIVE TODAY!!
I can't even contain myself. I am not sure if I should cry or clap or I don't even know.

Can I please tell you, I love this kid.
He has not had easy beginnings.
But, how he has come alive.

Let us peruse the photographic evidence.
My favorite kind.
It is the easy answer to the question, Why do you adopt?
Because. This. 

Auggie getting checked in at the hospital, directly after arriving in the U.S.A. 8 lb. 4 oz.

Auggie and the oldest.

Auggie getting his first round of fluids after being admitted, September 2015.
**Please note, the green jammies are the SAME set that one of our boys
wore home from the hospital when he was three days old.

Auggie and his younger brother. They think they are VERY funny.

Gaining weight. November 2015
Auggie and his fourth hospital stay in five months. January 2016

It is Auggie's birthday today. My five-year-old now weighs 17.6 pounds. More than double his weight in September. He has grown almost 4 inches. He has chipmunk cheeks. And the sweetest smile. 
He LOVES to hear his oldest brother call him "Tater"...poor Auggie will probably never be called Gideon. He has ALL the horrible nicknames. Tater. Sweet baby boy. Bebe Gaga (Adam's version of "Baby Auggie") Sweetness. Tiny. Tiny Hiney. Teensy. Bitty Boy. It is pretty gross. We are gross people.

This boy has had four hospital stays in five months. Auggie has not been very good at being sick. yet. He is getting progressively healthier and will have surgery to begin fixing his airway as soon as he is well for 4 weeks in a row. This 4 week-in-a-row rule is proving rather challenging. But we are working on it.

 Big kids. The big kids are just so cool.


They love little Auggie.
They squeeze him and love him and call him all the horrible nicknames.
And he laughs. 
And I smile.

Auggie turns five today.
He is smaller than an average 12-month-old.
His tiny, weary, body bears witness to years of an entirely deprived existence. 
One that no human should ever have to endure.

I will not sugar-coat...this has been hard.
Some days we are tired. And some days I cannot sleep thinking of his little friends.
They will always haunt me. Living and dying in my dreams.
Alone. Cold. Hungry. 
With no one to hold their hand as they drift between this life and the next.
I can never erase the images. The smells. The horrifying silence from my memory. 
I wonder if Auggie can.

Today, Auggie will hear us sing a very out-of-tune, obnoxiously loud "Happy Birthday."
He will see us smile and he will smile back.
He will tolerate us squishing his face. A little. 
Today, he will spend his first-ever birthday out of a crib and in the thing every child should have...
a family.

Today, we celebrate this boy. 
The one we never thought we would meet.
This precious life. 
Our tiniest of tiny boys.

Happy Birthday, Little Auggie.
How we love you.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The New #8. In a semi-long nutshell.

Well friends. We are D.O.N.E.

We always considered the possibility of Auggie. The possibility of the little boy with the big eyes and the gaunt face. That boy. The boy that started us on our road to international adoption. The boy that became unavailable before we could get him. So we got our sweet and wild teeny boys, Adam and Asher.

But, Auggie was still there in the back of our mind...the "what if" of our life. The missing piece to our ever enlarging crew of people. The child we talked about getting if  everything was perfect, we could afford it, our house was done, and our kids were doing well.

Laugh with me, or at me.

Our life was entirely the opposite of ready. Completely the other side of perfect.

We found out Auggie may become re-available (is that even a word?) in the midst of absolute craziness. In the midst of one of our children falling apart. In the black, dark pit...In that time was when we got information that we may be able to get Auggie out. In the most inconvenient, inappropriate time. So we thought that surely, surely we just could not. We could NOT.

We prayed. Sweet Moses, how we prayed.

And in a decision that went against all my rational, logical upbringing ever taught me...we said yes. But only sort of. The possibility that Auggie would still be unavailable was rather large. And we knew he was in a delicate condition...could he travel? Would he survive? I prepared myself for the probability of Auggie not ever getting home. We did some paperwork, but assumed chances were strong that it just wasn't going to work. 

Then door upon door opened.
Resources made available.
One mountain after another moved.
And the Lord clearly, graciously whispered: GO. 
And when I ignored and fought and disregarded what was so clear...
He yelled. 

So off we went.
To Cherkasy, Ukraine.
To meet a boy we were not prepared for.
An 8 pound 4 ounce 4 1/2 year old.
A starved, emaciated, withering bit of humanity.

A precious, weak, broken boy.
With the sweetest smile.

There is no part of me that was prepared to hold a starving child. I could feel every. single. bone. jutting out of his little body.

But he was alive.
His breathing was labored. His skin color was a pasty white-ish gray. All his veins and arteries clearly visible through the pallor. I could put my thumb and forefinger around his thigh with space to spare.

And I was so sad for this boy. And the others there with him.
And the series of injustices that put them in this forgotten Ukrainian orphanage.

After the cross-oceanic commute. We had court. And the orphan previously listed as "Augustin" aka Auggie, became Gideon David August. Loved son, big brother, little brother, grandson, nephew...a beloved, precious and important member of our tribe.
Thank you, Jesus.

Because of his fragility, we left him in the orphanage as long as we possibly could to keep from shocking his system and to stave off refeeding syndrome until we could get to the states and the blessing of American medical care.

But his day of freedom did come.
Former orphans leave orphanages with nothing. They own nothing. I brought 12-month-old clothing for him to change into. It was completely enormous. He was entirely swallowed in blue and gray fabric. The nannies tucked his pant legs into his socks to keep the pants from dangling long past his feet. And rolled the arms up repeatedly. We made it work.

I walked my son out of that place forever. 
He was scared. So was I. 

We waited in Kyiv for his visa and then we were on our way home-ish. Via the large children's hospital 3 hours from where we live. This turned into a two week stay to stabilize our boy. 

Many times it was a frightening visit. And long. And tiring. And beautiful. 
We met the most wonderful doctors, nurses, therapists, case managers. I am forever, forever grateful for the beginning they gave Auggie in his new country. When I was a blubbery, bumbling mess, these sweet doctors and nurses and staff guided, encouraged and treated Auggie with tremendous kindness. 

There were days when Auggie just felt bad. 

And days when he would perk up for a bit. 
Which was so much fun. 

And slowly.
Bit by bit.
Life was restored.

Our gray-ish boy is, in fact, olive-skinned. Dark hair. Dark eyes.
Completely and wholly beautiful. 

During all the testing and doctoring...nothing was discovered out-of-the-ordinary with Auggie. He has cerebral palsy and was severely malnourished. All other medical issues are secondary to his severe undernourishment. Our boy needed food. And has needed it for a long time. It just seems so simple. 

Auggie is now home. And adored. His bigger siblings cart him around constantly. And his only younger brother, Adam, kisses him 500,000 times (or more) a day.

I will absolutely never understand why and how we live in a world with simultaneous epidemics of gross excess and gross want. Why my son was left to starve. Why his little roommates are starving still. There is no person that will ever acceptably explain this. Because there is no acceptable explanation.

Auggie should never be 25 + pounds lighter than his younger brother.

Adam (blue pajamas): 3 years 4 months.
Auggie: 4 years 7 months. 

I have become convinced that to be indifferent, to do nothing, to ignore, to refuse to act, to stand back and allow broken and wounded populations to continue to suffer...this is the great sin of our lifetime. We are a generation of emotionally paralyzed people, and thus our behaviors become paralyzed. We spend so much time waiting for a sign, a signal, a calling...that we forget to DO. This simply must change. We as humans, as fellow travelers in this life, in this moment, must work, and work HARD to change what is unjust. The moment is now. Stalling has only ever cost us liberties, time, and lives. The procrastination just isn't worth the price.

So, I end this Auggie adoption nutshell (with bonus morality lecture) saying:
GO and DO.
Change the world.
Change a life, and in so doing change YOUR life.
Pay attention to the brokenness. 
Give generously. 
Love big and refuse to look back.
Even when it is hard, you will never regret it. 

It is a life of service. Full and beautiful. Broken and hurting.
Exactly where we are supposed to be.
If we had gone with our initial instinct and decided we just couldn't squeeze in another, new #8 would not only not be with our family...He would no longer call this world his home.

So please. Go.
Say yes, and simply begin with go. 

Sweet Auggie. And his sweet face. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

from another mother.

Happy Mother's Day, Moms.


To all the moms.
This is your day.

This morning Asher pooped on my foot, the bath mat, the floor, and the tub.

Happy Mother's Day to me.

I used to think today was about me.
wrong and wrong.

Mother's Day around here brings about BIG emotions.
Because four of our ten family members remember biological moms.
And sometimes, it hurts.

We spend Mother's Day carefully celebrating the mothers that gave our children life.
Our kids need to know that we still love mothers.
Especially mothers that aren't me.

Some people think celebrating the women that wounded my children is a bit odd.

Our kids have different histories.
Physical abuse. Emotional abuse. Domestic violence. Arrest. Lots of alcohol.
One of our children was shaken. Until his brain knocked against his skull and began to bleed.
Many of our children were exposed to drugs in the womb. Some were exposed after.
One of our kids really wants to meet her mother one day.
One of our kids wishes he could forget his mother in one second, and in the next he wishes he could save her from herself. And falls apart from guilt. from hate. from feeling guilty about hating.

This is our Mother's Day.

Our kids need to know we do not hate biological moms.
We choose to love. Even when we do not understand.
And I really do not understand.

Several years ago, while I was bemoaning our children wanting to celebrate their biological moms once again, Nigel (also adopted) set me straight.

It isn't that adopted kids don't love their adopted mom. It is that they need to know that their origins are still important. That their biological mother is not evil, even if their actions were. Biological moms are a part of their biological children. No matter what. And if we exclude biological family memories from celebrations we are just telling our children that their past doesn't matter, or that it is shameful. And that isn't the truth. 

So, today we will pray.
We will choose to forgive.
And choose to love.
We will hang out with friends and act slightly normal. Slightly.
We will remember the precious women that gave our children life.
We will choose to be grateful instead of bitter.
We will celebrate other mothers.

Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


I get lots of feedback from people when we get asked the question..."Will you adopt more?"

I usually say "I have no idea." 
Because that is the truth.

That seems to strike people as odd. Because we have eight kids.
People assume we can't handle more, don't or shouldn't want or have more...

And that always gets me thinking.
Are these people right?
Have we done enough?

How do I explain to my children with emotional scars, physical scars...

brain damage..

unimaginable neglect...

That we have done enough? 
That we have administered enough comfort to the lonely...
And enough justice to a forgotten population?

What does enough look like? And when have we reached it?

I am not sure.

Is enough even quantifiable? Is it what we decide? Is it a destination? Or more like a journey?
Is it possible, as a believer, to love enough, sacrifice enough or give enough? 
or perhaps we will never see or know what is considered enough this side of heaven.

I am afraid to admit...
Somewhere along the way, I lost my faith in what is real. I lost the ability to decipher what God is and isn't requiring of me. I exchanged what I am called to do for some kind of selfish, quasi-faith that requires nothing but the occasional, temporary discomfort.
And I have to ask myself, is that even faith?

What happened?
I honestly don't know.

But I do know, when I get to the end of this life, I don't want to regret what was left undone. And at the end of our days, we hear about humankind being sorry about the risks they didn't take, not the ones that they did.

What has happened?
Somewhere along the way I began to twist God into what is comfortable. And in so doing, have deceived myself about what is really required of me in this life. Because, you see, I like to be comfortable. So, I convince myself, because we have done "good" things that we have done enough. 

I traded in Truth for the American Dream. And purposefully ignored what I should have been doing in order to satiate my appetite for security. And all that my erroneous logic and arrogance has taught me is that security is a myth

I have spent the larger chunk of my not-so-long-life trying to be safe. Trying to control. 
And friends, it isn't working. 

Now, I find God tearing away at my comfort. He is, once again, stripping away my perception of what is comfortable and secure. And replacing it with Truth. This lesson is currently exceptionally painful. Because it means scraping away at my deep-seated life rules and fighting what comes naturally...day by day. hour by hour. second by second. I have to choose. 

How do I exchange my cultural Christianity for what is real?
I am finding myself in a state of refusal. To merely exist in a half-lived life.
Even if it seems easier. 

I say I trust. And that I have faith and that God is in control. And then, in the same millisecond, I turn around and argue with the Creator of the Universe about what is and isn't enough for me to sacrifice. I argue about what is and isn't justice in my life. I do like control.

So how do we decide what enough looks like?

If I am supposed to be mimicking Christ and He sacrificed His life, can I offer anything less?
I am afraid I can't. Neither can you.
Are we, as Americans, living out a comfortable quasi-faith, offering paltry, often unwanted, scraps of our lives? I am certainly guilty.

So back to the question at hand.
What is enough?
The truth is, as a believer, my answer must be:
Nothing less than all of me. Nothing less than all I can possibly give.
My life, a sacrifice. In joy. In horror. I give up. I give in.
I have decided that enough is nothing less everything.

What that looks like, in our family, I don't quite yet know.
But, I feel God whispering and beckoning.
Prying comfort out of my tightly clasped hands.
Showing me He is faithful.
Proving step by step that He is able to be trusted.
Even when I am scared at what enough looks like.
He is there. Graciously prodding me along.

Maybe, enough is when there is enough food for the hungry.
Enough families for family-less children.
Enough love.
Enough justice.
When there is enough of whatever is needed to go around.
Not just for you.
Not just for me.
Until the day we have conquered the tragedies of: poverty, hunger, orphans, war, persecution, slavery, famine, My assumption will be that enough has not been reached.

So, join me on this journey. Where social media outrage is simply a powerless and ineffective means to mollify our conscience. Where we (as haves) recognize our superfluous blessings and begin to advocate and serve in the realm of have-nots. Where we set aside judgments, wants, selfishness...even when it feels impossible. Where we meet people in the dark pit that we were once in and blindly offer a helping hand. Only then will enough begin to transition from pipe-dream to possibility

Enough: as much or as many as required

My prayer is that my idea of what is or isn't enough is not determined by fear.
And that we recognize enough may look slightly different for you than it does for me. 
And even when contrary circumstances are stacking up we never, ever quit.
And just like every planetary crises, we must all join together.
In justifiable outrage.
In willingness.
To search, endeavor, work, bleed, die, live, sacrifice...for enough. 

Email: thesometimes8irons@gmail.com
Please feel free to comment below.

Monday, February 16, 2015


As a mom...
Sometimes, I am wrong.
Sometimes, I am afraid.
Many times, I don't know what I am doing.
There is just so much uncharted territory.

Parenting children with special needs has proven especially heart-wrenching.
It would be so easy to excuse behaviors. But, I cannot. I will not.

This week has been hard.
We are tired. We are confused. We are hurt.
We have cried. We have been angry.
We have been so, so sad.

There are some things I cannot fix. And when the damage is done, all I know to do is move forward. Proceeding with caution. With specialists. With interventions. With counseling.
With everything in me, I wish I had answers. And maybe time-traveling capabilities.

I am sometimes reminded, when our life seems normal, that maybe, it isn't.
And I wonder if it ever has been normal.
And if normal does visit us, will it stay?  

I want to scream. Or run away.
I want to repair damage that I can't repair.

God and I have had some major disagreements.
I have questioned. And wrestled. And doubted.

And even in this current despair, I find that I still pray, begging God for healing.
For answers.
For help.
For grace in my many missteps.
For the ability to forgive.  And not ever give up.

I am reminded again and again that I am not enough.
And that I live in a home filled with beautiful, wonderful, injured souls.
And, I am finding, I will not always be able to save these children from themselves.
Even though I desperately want to.

In these hard weeks, I question everything.
I don't understand. And I probably never will. Why children are so often, and easily thrown away.
And why this throw-away mentality can produce generation upon generation of victims.
And victim-makers.

And I am overwhelmed by the enormity of the obstacles.
And when I am finding it difficult to breathe.
And put one foot in front of the other.

I am reminded (by my mother, who is so wise)...to count.
In an annoying, obnoxiously loud, irritatingly repetitive ditty:

Count your blessings, count them one-by-one. Count your blessings see what God has done... 

When I truly examine my surroundings, there always seems to be more blessing than disaster.
Even in collapse and confusion. There are blessings.
Even when, once again, my expectations have been crucified.
I am reminded to count. Because, even in the cruelest moments the blessings are still there.

So, in these times, when broken children seem to be everywhere. When darkness billows and settles. And a functional future is an assumed impossibility. I will sing the song (with the appalling tune) in my head. And count.

Monday, January 26, 2015


Recently, I have been in conversation with wise, kind, adoptive moms about the reality of raising kids with histories based in trauma.

There is so much hurt associated with it.
Theirs and ours.

A few of these women expressed that no one in the adoption community ever voiced  just how hard this journey can be. How much discord broken children can bring into family dynamics.

And I realized, I might have done a disservice to fellow adoptive moms. I share my daily struggles with my closest friends, but I am not so quick to share with the public-at-large. I think before these new, raw conversations, I would have said I was protecting the privacy of the kids or that I didn't want to sound like I was complaining.

But as I examined my true motivations, I think I was protecting myself from judgement. Or worried that I would scare people away. Or make people think we are sorry about our adoptions, which we are NOT. Not even a little bit.

So what actually happens after kids move in?
Some children have a "honeymoon" period. I wish we did. We did not. We skipped that step. I know others have been so fortunate.

We went straight into a whole lot of turmoilI wanted to have those gushy-fuzzy-warm feelings when we adopted. But, I really did not. Part of it may be I am not a mushy, squishy kind of person. And part of it is that adoption is hard.

Every single adoption involves the destruction of a family, that is the reality.
Adoption is born of brokenness. 
And I missed this truth, especially when we adopted older children.

I think I wanted them to move in, be happy, and realize that their life had improved.
And that didn't happen. Far from it.

They moved in, furious, raging, snarling, weeping, stealing, lying...
One of them really, super, hated my guts. I know this because he would write on his school papers (while refusing to do his assignments): Dear fake mom, I hate you. 

Then grief...
Not one single adoption has EVER, EVER, EVER turned out how I planned it in my mind.
Every adoption, I try not to maintain ideas about what it should and should not be like. Because I am always wrong. Without fail...utterly, horribly wrong.
And I grieve the loss of what I thought it should have or could have been. 

Not one single child has been adopted into our family untouched by prior tragedy.
At some point the kids in our house started talking, and what I would hear crushed my spirit

When are you going to smoke weed?
I get THREE meals a day??!! YEEESSS!!!!
Are you going to kick me out now?
Don't forget, you aren't allowed to kill me, my caseworker said so.
My grandpa used to hit me with a belt. That buckle really hurt. 

Sometimes it was the things they didn't say. It was the blank, vacant stares. The way they startled when I would move too fast. The tears over spilled drinks. The food hoarding. The money stealing. It was hiding when they thought they would be in trouble. It was ducking down in the car and crying when they saw a police car next to our vehicle. The scars. Emotional. Physical.

And oh, how I grieve the injustice of it all.  

For their losses. Their tragedies. Their learned, misplaced trust. For the loss of what I thought was normal. I grieved because I wanted a perfect rise-from-the-ashes story.
I wanted from death to life. Defeat to victory.
But, the truth is that my children may not ever completely escape their past.
Chances are it will affect them. Always.

And I grieve. Again. 

The behavior alone was crippling for a couple of years. We did almost nothing outside of our home. We spent the majority of our time managing behavior. Adjusting consequences. Enforcing consequences. Counseling. Psychiatrists. Doctors of all kinds. Readjusting according to specialists' recommendations. Readjusting again when specialists' recommendations didn't work.

In those years, the behavior could be debilitating at worst. Annoying at best. We just kept praying and plugging away. Chipping away at harmful behaviors. Reinforcing appropriate behaviors. It was exhausting. I was sure we were housing future criminals and it would never get better. But it did.

What do these kids need? 
My children desperately need consistency. Never wavering, totally inconvenient consistency.

They also need me to be calm. Which I am working on. Sometimes I panic a bit when a child (with zero filter) announces to strangers in the store: I was in foster care. My mom likes drugs and I know lots of curse words, but my new mom says I can't say them, so I try to remember. But sometimes I forget. I am never sure if the response should be, "Oh, what a kidder...heh heh" (weak smile). Or tell the kid to zip it. Or just walk quickly away pretending I heard nothing.

They need stability. Never-give-up attitude. Swift forgiveness. Time to heal. Grace during setbacks, there WILL be setbacks. Fun. Discipline. Direction. They need every good and noble attribute you can bring to the adoption table.

What I have found is that they need everything I have to offer. And when all I have is consumed, they still need more. And that wholly devastates me. Because my mothering may never be enough. And I have to be accepting of that possibility.

Aspiring Adoptive Families. Let's Talk.
I tell you all of this not to deter you. But to give you a realistic idea of what may happen when you get into real life with a new child that has lost everything. Because while you may be excited and happy and thrilled with a new child, the new child comes in lost. broken. hurt. traumatized.

And it is so easy to fall into the trap of being angry and resentful when your child doesn't fit the mold you set forth for him or her. And I promise you, newly adopted children never fit in quite the way our assumptions dictate.

The chaos made me doubt my capabilities.
I doubted the goodness of the world. The goodness of God.
I doubted that I would be able to raise functional children.
I still doubt frequently. And I think that is okay.

What is not okay is to fixate on the injustices dealt to us, the parents, by these children.
Because life is not fair, we have already learned that lesson.
It is not okay to become bitter. To become unforgiving.
It is not okay to constantly give in to doubt...instead of clinging to hope.

Because there is always hope...There is always hope.
Hope for healing. For new beginnings. For laughter and attachment.
Hope is what will keep you going.
When your resources are gone.
When you are so tired you decide 1PM would be a superb bedtime.
When the child you prayed for WILL NOT STOP SCREAMING.
When your teenager runs away.
When doubt eats away at what is true.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 is almost gone.

2014 will be a memory in short order. For our family, 2014 has been wonderful and horrible. Exhilarating and frightening. It has been a year of extremes for me. Maybe that is standard...I don't know.

This year, obviously, one of our enormous life-changes was adding our two teeny boys to the family. I am not sure if I can adequately put into words how I feel about these two...

Some days, they make me crazy.

Adam is still attached to me like a sweet, squishy barnacle. And when he isn't attached to my person he is hollering. He is the most obstinate child I have ever encountered.  Because no amount of walking away, saying "no", or ignoring will make him stop begging to be picked up. Solitary trips to the commode are now a thing of a past life, devoid of Adam. 

Asher is an excrement machine. I have NEVER been excrement-ed upon as many times as I have in the last 8 months. Poop in the tub? I can clean it with my hands. Yes, people. My BARE HANDS. That poop-squealing girl from when the boys first came home? Gone. There was tub poo five times today. FIVE. And Nigel only cleaned it once...bless him. 

Even when they have pooped on me, peed on the floor (and belly-flopped into it), screamed, yelled, broken kitchen utensils, thrown shoes down the air vent, launched themselves (clothed) into an already-run bath, and stayed awake until midnight...I still just love these boys.

I love their sweet giggles and peculiarities. I love Asher's obsession with facial hair and chins. And I love Adam's excited scream when he gets to eat crackers for snack. Because in Adam's world, crackers are five star cuisine. 

I love these teeny boys.

My wonderful big kids. They have taken the 2014 changes in stride. I am so very proud of all of them. For some reason, they adapt much better than I do. I have not heard any of them lamenting over the time the babies take or that they are too loud or too smelly.
Not. One. Kid. Not one single time.

We are now a permanent family of eight kids. It just sounds insane. When I see pictures of us, I think "That is A LOT of kids!!" But in our real life, it doesn't feel that way. Our life is fairly normal and mundane in many ways. Doctoring visits, therapies, activities, church, friends...you know how it goes.

My bigger kids are getting bigger and more and more compassionate to life around them. Adam and Asher have taught them lessons that Nigel and I never could on our own...Let me list them for you, because I really like lists and lessons.

1. To be kind even with no reciprocation.

This is one of those lessons that I have been trying to teach my children for as long as I have been their mom. Be kind, even if kindness is not returned, be kind anyway. These little boys have taught this lesson in 8 short months.

For example: Today, Asher was all wonky. He was just mad. TC would pick him up and Asher would yell and cry and TC would just hold him. TC wanted Asher to calm down and be glad he was being held, but Asher just was not happy. But TC didn't give up and he didn't get angry.

2. To complain less. 

Knowledge of Adam and Asher's past life has really made a remarkable impression on the older children. You will very rarely hear anyone in my house say: "I'm starving" without being dressed down by a sibling. "No one in the house is starving, there are really people starving and YOU are not one of them."  Amen.

3. To be protective of one another, even when it is hard.

The truth is, this road we have chosen has been intensely difficult at times. But this has not kept the entire group of eight children from bonding. The six older kids love their new brothers more than chocolate. More than Christmas. More than new bikes, roller blades and roller skating.
Don't mess with the teenies.

The older six have been asked many questions about the little boys. Some nice, some not-so-nice. A word to the wise: Do not refer to Adam and Asher as "The Downs boys" or ask "What is wrong with their faces?" Just. Don't. The big kids will sharply explain how we use people-first language, or just their names, and the boys are not defined by their abilities or disabilities. And as the lecture continues on it gets more and more intense, all culminating with at least one child loudly proclaiming: "AND NOTHING IS WRONG WITH THEIR FACES!!!" 

4. To love. With no return

I don't mean that my kids have never loved before. But generally, they get something out of it. A nice smile, a kind word, a warm and fuzzy feeling. With Adam, you might get a sweet response that includes a fist bump and a lot of loud, purposeful babbling in reply.

With Asher. Not quite as much. Asher does not try to say TC or Celee or any of the other kids names. In fact, he still says nothing at all. And sometimes, tender-hearted Mia will ask in a quivering voice, "Mom, will he ever say anything?" and then I have to tell her the truth, I really don't know. And my sweet Mia will gather Asher up and squeeze him and say "That's okay, Asher, you don't have to talk, I can talk for you."

And then I cry. Again. Not from sadness. But from thankfulness.

Thankfulness for my eight children. Thankful for my kind, laid-back, up-for-anything husband that kept our six big kids for two months while I was in Ukraine to get one boy, and came back with two.

Just so thankful.

And that is how I will end 2014. With an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Because while this year has brought anguish and despair, it has also brought redemption and grace. Lives in our household have been altered. It has not been simple or easy. Change never is. But we are witnessing loneliness transformed. And beauty slowly being restored.

Goodbye 2014. We have laughed. A lot. We have cried. A lot. We have become better. I hope. We have learned many lessons, and have many more to learn.

Thank you for joining us on a portion of this journey.
Leaving you with a few pictures from this year...

Asher and Adam at their first meeting at the orphanage. 
Adam and Asher, their first day out of the orphanage. Ukraine. 
Home. Siblings meeting for the first time. 
Asher and Judsen, on Asher and Adam's first day home. 
Corban, Mia, and shaving cream. 
Celee and Corban. Renaissance Fair. 
Judsen, Joseph, and TC at Biltmore. 
Hilarious attempt to get a picture. It didn't work.
Joseph and Asher. Out to lunch after our sweet friend's adoption! YAY!! 
Three of the big boys. Making graham cracker houses. Sort of.
We do not take normal pictures. 
Adam and Joe on an evening walk with everyone. 
Asher likes the tub. Silly boy. 
Asher's first Christmas. Sick, sick, sick.
Adam, determined to give Aunt Samie a smooch
Corban with Dad's Nerf gun
Mia and Corban calmly opening gifts.
TC and his light-up drum sticks. TC is so cool. 
Adam and Honey (my mother). December 26th. 
One of many attempts to get kids' picture

And another
Happy 2015, friends. Many blessings.