Margaret Joy

“A girl should be two things:
Classy and Fabulous”
~ Coco Chanel ~

We have Margaret Joy and we have our Georgie!! George’s family day was earlier and I got to be with Rob for it. I was able to spend a fair amount of time with George before Elizabeth and I had to leave to come get Margaret Joy. Rob has all those pictures though and I only have my cell phone and can’t get online easily. I will get them later today when Rob joins me here in Margaret’s province. So here are some phone pictures of Margaret Joy WeiLu!! We went to the civil affairs on Monday afternoon to get her. Thankfully we got to be there at the same time as our friends who are adopting Margaret Joy’s best friend from her foster home. That made it so much better for me having to be without Rob. I saw this precious little girl in pink in a room and it was her. They brought her out to me in a beautiful new dress and beautiful fancy new shoes. Wouldn’t you know it , they brought Margaret Joy out in a pair of Coco Chanel shoes. I thought that was so fitting. The nannies had no idea of course that her mommy has a part time love affair with high fashion or that on my website for Olive and Jane Millinery I have the above quote by Coco Chanel. Margaret Joy was so fascinated by those Chanel shoes and making sure they were just right that she had no idea I was even standing there. I loved it!! I grabbed her up, fixed that pretty new shoe and started giving her kisses and saying I love you. She was nervous and stiff but relaxed pretty quick. The wonderful couple who run her foster home got to be there and I think seeing me with them really helped that transition. It was a long first day but by the time I laid her in bed that night she was perfectly content. Yesterday she officially became our 8th baby and our little caboose. I feel really good writing that. I am a big believer that we can stretch ourselves much farther than we think. Especially if we are followers of Christ. Through Him we can do things that truly so seem impossible. But we both have a peace that we have stretched to where He is calling us and baby girl is the last baby. At least until we’re empty nesters and Rob gets the itch to adopt again. Ha ha! I didn’t know she would actually still be so little. She really functions a lot more like a toddler. So it pretty much is like having a baby again. She needs a lot of help and I am perfectly happy to give it. Lilibet is so obsessed with her. It was love right from the start. We had no idea how Big Sissy would do because she’s been the baby now for a long time. Ever since she was born the boys called her Big Sissy. I have no idea why but she has always been a big personality. She is living up to the name now. She has been amazing!!! She calls Margaret Joy her baby and tries to help her do everything. She takes her shoes off for her and puts them away. She tries to help her eat, she helps her in the bath, sings to her at night. She has almost smothered Margaret Joy and Margaret has not been as accepting of her. She has pushed her away a fair amount. When Elizabeth hugs her or kisses her she fusses. But I’ve encouraged Elizabeth to just keep gently trying to love her and give her space when she needs it. Elizabeth has been a good testimony to me of having patience and not giving up but pursuing relationship with love. That’s pretty amazing in a three year old who has been the spoiled baby her whole life. Finally tonight in the bath Margaret Joy started to crack. She was laughing with her really hard. And at bed she was singing with Elizabeth and holding her hand and not fussing about it. Go Lilibet, you’ve made your mommy proud. It’s so amazing to take in a child who’s not your blood kin and love them as if they were. Adoption is a crazy mix of the intensely hard and amazingly beautiful stuff of life.

Elizabeth Jane and Margaret Joy
Two girls who are indeed classy and fabulous!




























The Story of George Part 1


Our journey to our newest little ones really starts at the same time as the beginning of our adoption of the girls. In summer 2012 Rob and I knew we were supposed to adopt a child.  We both thought it would be a child between ages 3 to 6 years old with a minor medical need.  Then we saw Louisa May and everything changed.  In August, we began the process to adopt her and we felt complete peace from the Lord that she was our daughter.  But even as we started I knew there were more children in Ch*na for us.  During the whole time we were working on that adoption I felt strongly that we would be going back.  What I didn’t know was that in August as we began the adoption for Louisa, two other little children were experiencing one of the most painful moments of their lives.  George and Margaret Joy were both left in the care of their orphanages that same month.  When I read that in their files I finally understood why my spirit felt peaceful and yet still waiting at the same time.

For the first few months after we got home with Louisa and Clara Anne I doubted we would ever adopt again.  It was so hard and the idea of adopting again was no where on our radar.  Then as I’ve shared before, we turned a corner.  There were lots of factors in that but largely it was myself.  I saw a movie for Mother’s Day last year.  Mom’s Night Out. It’s not the best movie ever made, it’s just a sweet, silly, beautiful little love note to moms. To trust Jesus with our families and basically to take a chill pill.  I sat in the movie theater and cried almost hysterically the whole movie.  I cried for days after that and I made other people keep going back to see it with me.  I felt the burden I had taken on my own shoulders lift.  The burden of having to perfect myself, my home and my children was gone.  I put that load back in the hands of the only One who can carry it. It was a really powerful time for me. I had joy and was ready to move forward again with our lives.

Shortly after that I came across a blog on a website run by a bunch of adoptive moms.  Each blog is written by different people on all different topics of adoption.  No Hands But Ours. I got on this website to catch up on blogs missed and started reading a particular one. The mom had adopted a child with a visual impairment and the blog was an excerpt from a a little book called “Exposed to Hope: Stories of Families who have Adopted a Child with a Visual Impairment from Ch*na”. It was put together by a foster home in Ch*na called Bethel.  I had never heard of this place before. In the blog there was one particular quote that really grabbed me.

It said “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming, “Wow, what a ride!”


(George in the middle on the cover)


There was also a picture of the cover of that book. When I read that blog I knew God was calling us to adopt again.  And little did I know that the sweet buddy in the middle of that picture was our George.  The blog the Lord used to call us back to Ch*na had the picture of our child on it. Amazing God thing!

 After that I started praying that God would direct us to the child or children we should adopt.  I strongly felt compelled that we were to adopt younger children this time, in fact to look for a boy and a girl who would be the same ages as David and Elizabeth.

I started looking on several waiting child pages and one day I saw this precious face, with dimples to make you swoon.  When I saw him I got tears in my eyes and felt gripped by his face.


It said he lived at a place called Bethel Ch*na.  I went and looked at their website and they had such a sweet description of this little guy.

“The first thing that people notice about Gu Lei is his huge, gorgeous eyes! However, he is unable to see through them. Gu Lei is very clever, he can imitate sounds that he hears, including words and animal noises. His imitation of a frog is so good that his teachers thought that there was a frog in the classroom!  We love seeing Gu Lei’s beautiful eyes and the way that he has slowly come out of his shell and started to play, love and learn at Bethel.

‘How can one captivate Gu Lei’s heart? The key is to be genuine. He’s so smart, aware, and sensitive to everything that is around him, that you can’t be half-hearted in your interactions with Gu Lei. It takes Gu Lei a while to truly trust the people and environment around him, but once he feels secure in your presence, it’s all giggles and smiles from there.

His mind is like a sponge– he absorbs everything that he learns and hears, even though it seems as if he is not paying attention. He needs to repeat it quietly to himself multiple times before he can confidently say it out loud.
Gu Lei enjoys jumping on the trampoline and going down the slide, but all of that came after he conquered his fear of the unknown. He was only able to fully enjoy these activities after crying and repeatedly doubting himself. Gu Lei has come a long way from when he first came to Bethel. He went from a timid and shy boy, running away and hiding from class and adults to walking into class on his own to learn new songs and activities.
Although he is not fully confident in himself yet, he enjoys to take on challenges and learn new things. Gu Lei especially enjoys music. He loves the guitar, piano, zither, drums… all things musical! He also has a very sweet singing voice that can only be heard if you lean in toward him. He is truly a delight and a blessing!”

I felt so drawn to him and just started praying that the Lord would please direct us if this was the boy we should adopt.  It’s so hard to look at all the faces of these kids and pick just one.  They are not hamsters, they’re children.  All precious children in deep need.  All equally deserving of love and family. One night I was praying over him and asking the Lord to show me clear direction that this was our son.  All along I knew that we should name a little boy George.  That is Rob’s grandfather’s name and he was such a special man.  He was a really important part of Rob’s life.  We had always wanted to use that name but it never seemed right with our other boys.

As I prayed, I felt led to look up the name George and what it means.  It means “farmer”.  Okay… not what I was thinking.  I was thinking it would mean something like “to see the light” or something really special like that, just perfect for this blind child that would help direct us.  I was a little bewildered but then I felt led to look up more about where he is living.  He is being cared for at Bethel but they have several foster homes.  His is called Duodian.  When I read about it, I seriously couldn’t believe my eyes.  He lives on a FARM!!!  Do you know how many foster homes are located on a working farm in Ch*na????? Um, this is pretty much it. There are rural foster homes but this facility is very unique.  Again, I just cried.  This was about as pointed and marked as it could be.  Our little “farmer” George is actually living on a farm!!! I knew this was our child, I felt the Lord confirmed it and from there the great prayer adventure began.  I asked a small group of women I know who are prayer warriors to pray with me daily about this, that the Lord would clear the way if this little boy was indeed ours.  The Lord answered those prayers in some amazing ways!


Part 2 tomorrow



My Daughter’s Speech


One week ago Rob and I got to watch our beautiful oldest daughter give an end of the year speech to the entire elementary school and all their parents. Louisa was in a speech competition a few months ago and won third place! We were so proud of her but it never entered our minds for her to do it again. She was asked by the school to speak at the end of the year assembly AND at the end of the year ESOL celebration. We couldn’t believe she actually wanted to do it. I’ve pretty much cried daily for the past month. Each child’s last day festivities really got me this year. Life just moves too fast. I was fairly emotional the night I took her to the ESOL event, it was hosted in my old high school auditorium. As I carried her up the stairs and got her settled at the front of the room I just couldn’t stop feeling overwhelmed at God’s mercy and the amazing story He has written with our lives. When I stood on that stage as a senior and sang my heart out to Oklahoma, I never would have dreamed that I would have a daughter one day bravely facing an audience in that same place. It seems like yesterday that I was there, with friends, experiencing what was one of the highlights of my young life. My adopted Chinese daughter got to experience one of her lifetime highlights there too and that’s pretty incredible.

The next day she faced another audience and again my own past life kept flashing up before me. We were in the church I grew up attending. Louisa sat in the choir loft that I used to sit in. And I sat in the balcony to watch her. The same balcony I used to love sitting in because it was more “cool” to sit up there. The balcony where I used to stand by my grandmother, Bebe and sing my heart out alongside her to the old fashioned hymns that she so treasured. Love and passion for Jesus Christ filled my heart as a young girl in that place. To get to be in that same spot and watch my child pour her heart out to a room packed with people was to say the least, extremely moving. Louisa spoke of not knowing her birth parents and having to live in an orphanage in China. Of the friends she had there. Of waiting years to be adopted and finally being brought into our family. She spoke of the amazing work her teachers have done for her. They have all gone above and beyond to invest in both of our older daughters. She spoke of having a different past from her classmates but that they all have similar hopes and dreams for their life.

I thought about the dreams I had for my life. Dreams nurtured in that very room. Dreams to serve my Lord with all I had in me and more. I don’t think the “young Katie” standing in that place 20 years ago could have imagined this story. But I know she would be proud. Proud that the older version of herself hadn’t turned back from her First Love. And she would be cheering us on… “go further up and further in”. When Louisa finished speaking, the entire sanctuary of people stood up and gave her a standing ovation. Everyone around us was clapping and cheering and had tears in their eyes. I was just speechless. Louisa sat in awe and took it all in. She was beaming and I was balling my eyes out.

We are very proud of our girl.  She and I have come to this mother and daughter relationship late in the game.  We have a lot of years to make up for and we’re trying to do it as quickly as possible.  I stand amazed at how God is working this out, at the tender details of letting some of these first huge moments in her life occur where my own did.  Giving us a bond we wouldn’t naturally have had. It is an unlooked for blessing.

Louisa is right, we have different pasts but we do have the same dreams. To live a life well lived.

Louisa’s speech ~ https://vimeo.com/129271608



The ones we left behind

I woke this morning early thinking about them ~ the ones we left behind. The children who gathered around me in that orphanage in Ch*na. I couldn’t write about it then because it was too hard and too fresh. But they haven’t left my heart.  Their faces are what I think of when I hear the word “orphan”.


I think of this sweet, precious girl who had lived with my daughters and been their third roomie.  She wept the day we returned to the orphanage.  Wept.  She was sweet and smiling when we first came in but then the tears flowed. Soundless and heartbreaking.  She buried her head in her nanny’s shoulder and cried for the loss of her friends.  I hadn’t known there were only the three of them who shared that bedroom.  She told her nanny she missed her friends and she was scared by herself in that room now. I realized that on the first night I had my daughters there was a little girl left behind.  While my sister and I helped my girls try on their new pajamas and sleep in the bed with their new Mama, this precious little one had cried herself to sleep ~ all alone in a now empty room.


I think of all those sweet kids who gathered around us that day. In awe and in excitement. But with longing in their eyes.  And it certainly wasn’t because I’m a beauty queen. It’s because I’m a Mama. The ever longed for, ever hoped for Mama. They have wonderful teachers and nannies but they dream of family, of belonging. Who wouldn’t? We all want to feel we are special and cared for. Who of us would want to be truly alone in this world?  No father, mother, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent, cousin.  No family members because you do not even know your family’s name. Who of us would want to feel that level of loss?








These children journeyed with my daughters through a very difficult season of their lives. However, most of these children are still waiting for their families to find them.



This is Hope. She still waits.


This is Shaun. He still waits.


And this is Lizzy. She still waits. I stood there in that room in Ch*na with Lizzy and her nannies after all the others had left.  I stood there and held her. And I wept too.  One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was turn around and walk out the door while that little girl cried out her heart. I woke this morning and thought of her face. And the tears came again.

Oh God break our hearts for the things that break Yours.



The Sweetest Days


“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once,


“I believe the nicest and sweetest days


are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens


but just those that bring simple little pleasures,


following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”


― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea


Christmas at The Ruff House


All hail to the days that merit more praise

Than all the rest of the year… John Playford

Merry Christmas and happy new year from the land of many children.  I thought this year would not be a very cheerful Christmas for us. My mother and sister are far away. It has not been the easiest of years for me personally. The landscape of my side of the family has changed quite a bit this year.  I lost my last living grandparent and the Christmas traditions that have long endured through childhood into having my own children are completely gone now.  I have felt a little lost and sad. I have also felt like a failure in the category of faithful Christian mother helping point my children’s hearts to the meaning of the season. We had so much to do in the first half of December, so many parties, celebrations and end-of-the-year school work.  Advent pretty much didn’t happen. I’ve been feeling so much pressure about how to spend the first part of December. On one hand it is wonderful to celebrate and be with friends, at no other time of the year are there so many opportunities to see people and to make merry. I feel these things are precious and should be participated in. It is a treasure to “drive the cold winter away” by the fireside of loved ones. On the other hand I know there is great value in trying to be quiet and restful, to shun the flurry and focus on the Lord.  But for this year I feel like I blinked and it all went by. And I had felt like a failure. However, we have had such a beautiful, special Christmas. We’ve spent lots of time with friends and loved ones leading up to the day and for the 12 days of Christmas we have been quiet and restful and have focused on our family and Jesus. It has been so pleasant, we may do it this way every year! The kids said they’ve never had a better Christmas. They all have acted extremely content with what they were given and how our time has been spent.  They’ve been so enjoyable and I’ll be very sad to see this Christmas go.  On Christmas morning we had our usual morning of singing and a visit with Santa.  Then Christmas evening was spent with our very dear friends on their lovely and, I firmly believe, magical farm!  It was every child’s dream come true.  To make merry with goats and sheep and chickens.  To run through meadows and feed animals apples from your hand.  To be served a flaming pudding and have personalized Christmas crackers.  To gather round a beautiful piano and sing songs that stir even the smallest child’s heart (as she wildly runs around the room tooting on a party blower).  It was beautiful and blessed.  It was a balm to my wandering Christmas soul!  Thank you Lanier and Philip for a Christmas our children will remember when they are old and grey.  This Christmas has been one of joy and peace, and we are very grateful.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you our dear friends and loved ones!

Elizabeth was very taken with Santa this year.


Santa and Mrs. Claus


Mamie and Mima got to celebrate with us via Facetime


Joshua was posing like Grumpy Cat, his favorite present this year



Boys in Elf on the Shelf pjs


Christmas at the Ruff House


Christmas sisters


Christmas in an Antebellum kitchen


“Lulu” the kitty, that belonged to Clara in the morning and Elizabeth by the evening…


Mrs. Lanier made the most beautiful crackers


Puck ended up pinning Joshua into a wall with his head, {if you know Puck and Joshua it makes it doubly funny}







Lilibet may or may not have gone a little crazy in that barn


Louisa May is in love with Diana





Gangsta shepherdess {Rob found her in the sheep stall bossing all the sheep around…}




Vivian our dear friend was able to join us


the FLAMING pudding



Thankfully none of my children caught on fire…again


The gentlemen retired for the evening to read vintage Peanuts books


Then Elizabeth Jane challenged Mr. Philip in chess


She finally decided that she had won and then promptly swept all the pieces off the table…



The scene looks so beautiful here as we belt out a song request from Andrew, “Grandma got run over by a reindeer”


A truly lovely Christmas




10 months.  It has been over 10 months since we walked into a small room in Hefei and met the two girls we’d been dreaming off for a year and a half.  Unbelievable.  It’s hard to imagine life without them.  It has been an amazing adventure since the day we looked at Louisa May’s picture and knew we saw our daughter.  We have had so many wonderful “firsts” with them.  Had wonderful family outings and vacations.  They have been camping, fishing, swimming, to the beach, to the lake, to an official school for the first time in their lives, and on the list goes.  Adopting special needs children certainly has not slowed us down.  The first few months home however were extremely difficult.  It was so hard to adjust that I wasn’t sure if we had done the right thing.  I was simply surviving.  I praise the Lord every day for the women He sent into my life to help me make it through that time.  Women who have been there, done that.  Most of whom I have never met in person but I owe them so much.  There were several ladies who I would send out emergency SOS emails to who always responded immediately.  They encouraged me that the season of difficulty would not last forever.  That the girls would learn what it meant to be in a family instead of in an orphanage.  Who shared with me their hard stories and even just through that lightened my load.  It was hard for two reasons.  One reason was that I took my eyes off of Jesus.  I wasn’t spending time with Him, praising Him or searching His Word to help me or sustain me.  I was burying myself in TV and in any other mindless activity to try to ease my burden.  But you know, that really never works. You come up empty every time when you seek answers away from the One who can give them.  The Lord eventually opened my eyes to the rut I had gotten myself into and started pulling me out.  He used a fun, silly movie of all things to start breaking my self imposed chains.  But I’ll need to write a separate blog about that!!  The other reason is a very understandable one – I was all of a sudden the mother of two VERY sassy preteen daughters, who wanted everything their own way, who obviously thought that life here would be like a constant Disney land and who have a whole decade of hurt built up inside of them.  Within a couple of weeks of being home, everything I said to them they would just automatically tell me “No”.  “Good morning girls” … “No”.  “How are you”…”No”. Etc. etc.  I thought I would go bananas.  I was constantly sitting down with them to ask them why they were upset, were they remembering their past, did they miss Ch*na, how could I help them…  I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere.  Rob gave me excellent advice as well as did another adoptive mom – just to let go of the idea of using all these moments to “bond” with them.  I was being hypervigilant about the mother and child bond we were creating.  Rob felt I needed to not focus or worry so much about their emotional state.  To just parent them and then to let the other unfold more naturally.  It was very good advice and it worked.  Rob had noticed that they loved getting money.  So, they started getting an allowance and they would have a certain amount taken away whenever they were, well, obnoxious.  If they told me no or rolled their eyes, etc.  (Louisa May is quite possibly the world’s best eye roller!)  They responded immediately.  The change was very noticeable and our whole family began to recover.  We began to recover remarkably quickly.  They did not understand the person in charge of them being so consumed with how they were feeling.  They’ve never really been asked those kinds of questions by an adult I don’t think.  I didn’t earn their respect with that kind of leadership and respect is so important when trying to parent a child from an institutional background.  Most people I talked to told me to give it at least a year, I would say after about 4 months we noticed a big change.  I am INCREDIBLY thankful for that!!! We have had so many wonderful, heartfelt conversations now.  Louisa especially has really poured her heart out at times and has shared a lot with me.  But I had to earn the right to hear it first.  She had to trust that I wasn’t going to fall apart emotionally with her.  Figuring this out and trying to come up with strategies was absolutely exhausting.  I will be very blunt and say that I’m not sure if we would have made it out of that time so quickly if it hadn’t been for all of… YOU!  ALL OF YOU who supported us, prayed for us, encouraged us and financially backed us in bringing home our daughters!!!  Whenever I would think, “I’m done, I can’t do this.  I don’t even want to do this anymore”, I would immediately remember all of you who stood behind us and it would steady me.  I felt and will always feel accountable to you.  And that is a miracle in our lives!!!  You thought praying for us to get to Ch*na and giving financially was how you supported us, you did so much more and didn’t even know it.  As I would think about each one of you I would feel what the Bible describes as “a great cloud of witnesses”.  I knew I had to do this.  I had to stay the course.  I had to love them well and do what He had called us to because I was accountable to all of you dear ones.  And for that I thank you with all my heart!!!  We have constantly praised God for you and thanked Him for hemming us in with this debt of gratitude we owe.  We often hear about peer pressure in the negative sense, but peer pressure can be a very good thing too.  Remembering that we do not live life on an island.  That our decisions and actions affect so many around us is such a wonderful thing when we are struggling with a difficult situation.  When I look at my girls I will always think of you.  I will think about the amazing couple who gave to us so graciously with their anonymous matching donation.  I was at my lowest ebb in the whole process when I received the call from them.  Only moments after I had finished begging the Lord for the huge chunk of money that I had no idea how we would come up with, they called with that exact amount.  They felt led to bless us with the EXACT amount we needed.  I cried that day.  I’ve cried every time I’ve talked of it since.  It was miraculous and was a beautiful gift to our family.  I remember every time I checked my email and saw that someone had given to us, whether it was $5.00 or $100.00, it was so amazing and so special.  I remember all the people who came together for the fundraisers we did.  The wonderful friends the Lord brought when we had our massive garage sale.  We had so much given that we were able to do 3 separate sales!  The friends and models who helped me put together what I consider to be the most fun fundraiser ever, our Vintage Fashion Show.  So many helped us put that on and came to watch.  That’s one of my favorite memories now!  The friends who came out as we served a very special woman at her home, just to be a blessing to her as well.  I am so grateful for all those times of joining together with those we love for the purpose of our daughters and serving our King. So many gave to us and helped us.  It was and is a blessing.  So, this 10 month post is really to say THANK YOU!!!  You will always be a part of our girls’ lives and a very important part of our family.  We are grateful, we are humbled!!!

I thank my God every time I remember you.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,

being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:3-6


{If you gave to us and/or prayed for us I would love to send you a personal “thank you” note. Please message me your address either here in the comment section or on my Facebook message. No one else will see the address.}

Highlights from the First 10 Months

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My favorite picture from the day we got the girls! With Mami!



Their first Christmas tree!


Louisa May goes to her first birthday party.


The boys did a USO show.


The girls got their ears pierced.  Quite possibly the most exciting thing to happen in their lives next to being adopted!



Louisa May turns 12.




Celebrating with the friends who were with us in Ch*na.


The girls go to the beach for the first time! Oh my goodness. LOVED it!





Clara Anne started out this summer trembling and crying in the water and had to wear baby floaties. She ended the summer by swimming like a fish!


Mobile, Alabama


The girls go to camp!! Absolutely a blessing and a gift from the Lord.  They had an amazing time!




Betty Jane!


Calloway Gardens butterfly house.



Clara “Kitty” as we have nicknamed her.  She meows…literally…all the time…even at school.  She’s quite the comedian!


Fourth of July with some of our newest citizens!! They love being Americans!



Louisa May got to lead the Fourth of July parade around our town square with the boys and their Scout troop.  That was an AMAZING moment for us!!


With fellow new citizen James!


With their much adored Mima!  She takes them to school every morning, BEST grandmother ever!!





Fridays With Father

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a married man in possession of a goodly number of children (not to mention lamentable fortune) must be in want of additional Chinese daughters. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be, this truth is so well fixed in the mind of his bride, that he is considered as the rightful property of said daughters before his befuddled brain can evoke so much as a peep of agreement or protest.

Guest blogger, Rob, here. Kate has been after me for a long time to write a blog post, so here goes (I told her she may regret encouraging me)…

A lot has happened since our return home with the girls in December, so I’ll focus on the high points (i.e., a smorgasbord of random memories that rush upon my nonlinear thought process).  Louisa is making fine progress in her English reading skills and was practicing for me one evening recently.  It was a little humorous to have Andrew, our second-born who has struggled the most with reading, correcting her pronunciation. She is very bright, proud of each new accomplishment, and eager to demonstrate her skills to an interested father.  Louisa and Claire are in fifth grade at Burruss Elementary School.  Louisa was a little uncertain about school at first, but has since warmed up to her prospects of one day ruling the world through the knowledge gained at Burruss. Claire, alternatively, has been quite happy about the arrangement at Burruss from the get-go.  They both like PE class the best, which I find amusing for some reason.  Let’s just say I’d like to be a fly on the wall to see how it all goes down. We hear that Claire is an endless source of humor for her teachers and classmates.  Their very sweet teacher has remarked that teaching them has been one of the highlights of her career.

I often wonder, with each new thing the girls experience, what they would have been doing within the gated confines of the orphanage in Hefei had we not adopted them.  Getting pressure sores bandaged at the orphanage clinic versus getting an MRI at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta with daddy.  Watching the television in the common area at the orphanage versus watching their brothers race pinewood derby cars.  Weekend garment washing with friends in Hefei versus spreading pinestraw with daddy and siblings in Marietta.  I’m not making a value judgment (i.e., everything is better here); I’m just fascinated by the dramatic difference in their daily experience. Perhaps it’s the context of family that makes all of these new activities more meaningful.

Kate and I took all the kids along with my brother, Shane, and his family to Six Flags on a recent Saturday.  Rollercoasters have a unique way of erasing the physical differences among all types of people (well…at least for those who are allowed to actually ride).  Big, small, strong, weak…get on, and you’re at the mercy of the engineers who designed the thing.  When Louisa was riding the Batman rollercoaster along with brother Joshua and cousin Evan, I couldn’t help but think that her paralyzed little legs were no disadvantage on the twisting, spinning, looping giant.

I am discovering, as the father of a daughter with a physical handicap (Louisa has spina bifida), that I am very thankful when she is able to fully participate in activities. There have been a few episodes when it was suggested to me that she might not be able fully participate in something. I confess that in these types of situations, I start to feel my inner John Locke (from Lost) coming out: “Don’t tell me what she can and can’t do!”  But mostly, everyone has been accommodating. For example, we don’t have an elevator in our church building, so the children’s minister started walking all the kids outside the building on the sidewalk to the lower level instead of simply going down the stairs inside. She noticed that Louisa had to go around outside while the other kids went down the steps when transitioning from the worship service to the youth program.  Thank you, Donna, and everyone else who has gone out of the way to make Louisa feel like a “normal” eleven year old girl.

Louisa shared with me a page out of her diary (translated by my Chinese coworker):

“August 5th, 2013, Monday, Sunny

My Dream

My dream is to be a nurse when I grow up.  Since I was very weak when I was born, I was very easy to get a cold or a fever. So I want to be a nurse when I grow up, to be there and help others when they get sick.

I know it requires very hard work to be a nurse. I know they have to stay up all night to take care of patients until the next morning. But I’m not afraid, and that’s what I want.

I hope my dream can become true, I know I have to get a medical degree in order to be a nurse, and I will work very hard to make it happen.”

I’m so glad that she lives in a country where achieving her dream is a possibility for her.

While I’m not sure about Claire’s dream, it may have something to do with sparkling jewelry and/or noodles.  We knew going into the adoption that Claire has hydrocephalus and we now suspect that she has mosaic down syndrome.  Even if she doesn’t (we’re currently waiting on results from a chromosome analysis), it’s a helpful lens through which to view her mental disability. Moreover, she has very poor eyesight and depth perception.  When I took her prescription to the Costco vision center, they said that they had never seen a prescription so powerful and that their lab couldn’t cut lenses that thick! According to the girls, Claire didn’t even get glasses until the spring of last year.  I suspect it was because the orphanage found out that this “unadoptable” girl actually had a family, so they decided it was time for her to see.

As a result, she holds everything about one inch from her face and is utterly mesmerized by sparkling jewelry.  At church one Sunday, while everyone else was singing, Kate and I noticed that Claire was staring at the bracelets we gave her. Looking…looking…twisting the wrist drawn closely to her face and looking some more.  It’s quite hilarious to us, but pure delight to her.

As for noodles, even from our time in China it was evident that the girls had a love for Chinese cuisine, and that we would have to accommodate their tastes. However, Louisa was slightly more adventurous and wanted to try pizza, burgers, Mexican food, sandwiches, etc. Claire wanted noodles. After we arrived home, the girls had an opportunity to share important thoughts with Kate via an interpreter, and the thing they wanted to communicate the most was that Claire didn’t like pizza.

Fast forward three months and now Claire begs for, you got it, pizza.  She still wants noodles with everything—cereal and noodles, fruit and noodles, ice cream and noodles.  Apparently, noodles are the perfect way to top off any meal.  But, it’s much easier now that we don’t have to make a Chinese option and an “American” option for every meal.

Needless to say, everything was more difficult at first. The girls may have thought that they were getting wish-granting genies, not parents; we may have thought that we were getting two grateful, well-adjusted angels, not emotionally and socially underdeveloped, hormonal preteens. It probably didn’t help matters to arrive home at Christmas. After opening presents on Christmas morning, the girls were wondering why they “got so little.” If we could speak Chinese, we would have asked, “In comparison to the haul you raked in every year at the annual orphanage Christmas party?” I’m sure that the experience was confusing and overwhelming to them; nevertheless, complaints are a difficult thing for a parent to hear on Christmas morning.  I think that everyone’s expectations have since normalized tremendously. The girls seem much happier and we are much saner.

In drawing to a close, allow me to brag on my excellent wife, who is still standing after bringing four wild and wonderful biological children into the world (as Janet King says, at least they’re not wild and hideously ugly!) and emotionally birthing two more right into our midst. In many ways, the emotional ups and downs of pregnancy, infant care, and reorganizing a family’s world to accommodate a newborn biological child are mirrored in the adoption process.  While I think it’s safe to say that we’re still smoothing out the kinks, we can also say that we are glad that the Lord has brought us to this place with four more squinty, smiling eyes looking at us in wonder and bewilderment.  But, how about the vision, perseverance, and sacrifice of a mother who sensed the Lord calling her and her family to abandonment of (relative) normalcy to bring two orphan girls into a loving family?

In the words of Martin Luther, “Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend–it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own comprehension, and I will help you to comprehend even as I do. Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge. My comprehension transcends yours. Thus Abraham went forth from his father and not knowing whither he went. He trusted himself to my knowledge, and cared not for his own, and thus he took the right road and came to his journey’s end. Behold, that is the way of the cross. You cannot find it yourself, so you must let me lead you as though you were a blind man. Wherefore it is not you, no man, no living creature, but I myself, who instruct you by my word and Spirit in the way you should go. Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is clean contrary to all that you choose or contrive or desire–that is the road you must take. To that I call you and in that you must be my disciple.”


Happy on a swing with a friend!



Hello Again

Hey there friends and family!! It’s been a long time since we updated here but we’re going to give it a go again! This has been a wonderful and miraculous and extremely difficult transition for our family. If you have seen me out and about town I have probably shared with you some of our difficulties. I’m not an overly private person, so it hasn’t been trying to hide information that has kept me from blogging here. I’ve simply been crazy exhausted. But things are starting to feel much, much more manageable and we really want to keep updating and documenting our journey for all the people who’ve loved and supported us through this. Kind of like having a newborn, you hit the 3 or 4 month mark and start to feel like you actually are alive again! I also realized that I documented and blogged so much in China because I had no access to movies or TV!!! Sooo, we’ve recognized we are media-oholics in this family and we’ve begun the journey of taking media out of our house as much as possible – that’s another blog for another day. Father Rob has written a great blog on his perspective of the past few months and I’m going to publish that one tomorrow. But I wanted to give a quick update about the girls’ names. Seeing friends out in town, I’ve been confusing people constantly because we are calling Lili Claire the name Clara Anne now. I just wanted to clear that up so that when we blog in the future everybody knows what kids we are actually talking about!! When we picked the girls names, Louisa’s was really easy. Her name was Louisa on the waiting child list we saw and I thought it fit her perfectly. It means “renowned warrior” and it is an awesome name for her. She is a really strong and determined person! Of course Louisa has to go with May, that was a no-brainer. Plus she was born in May. Perfect! She adores her name. She has loved it and has claimed it from the first. She won’t even acknowledge her Chinese name anymore. That is something we will want to address in the future because her Chinese name is truly beautiful and has a wonderful meaning as well – “wise brightness”. For now we’re letting her embrace her new American self. Hanli’s name was a little more difficult for us to come up with. She had no American name already. For a long time we didn’t know what her chinese name meant. We went through a bunch of options. Finally we really felt good about the name Clara Anne. Clara means “clear” and Anne means “grace”. I just think that is the most beautiful name for her. God truly has shown such grace in her little life. It is also the name of the little girl in the Nutcracker. Most of the videos we had of her, she was dancing. Very sweet. But at the last minute I got cold feet actually calling her Clara and changed her name to be Hanli Claire Anne or “Li Li Claire”. However when we got to China she was confused by us calling her Hanli Claire. She didn’t understand why we kept her chinese name but not Louisa’s. She didn’t seem as excited about it. We also don’t pronounce her Chinese name correctly either and that still bothers her. When we got home I really started wanting to call her Clara Anne again. So I did the best thing I think we could have done, we just asked her what she wanted to be called. She chose Clara Anne. And she loves it!! She seemed thrilled to have a Victorian sounding double name like Louisa May. In fact, whenever I call her Hanli now she gets frustrated and shakes her finger at me and says no mommy – “my(ah) name(ah) is Clara Anne(ah). So we have Louisa May and Clara Anne. Both have little nicknames in our family. To Rob they are Louisa and Claire, as he has always despised double names…! To Elizabeth they are May and Anne. But to all the rest of the world and myself they are Louisa May and Clara Anne.
They are sweet and lovely and funny and endearing and difficult and stubborn and sassy and ill tempered and easily offended, etc. and sometimes all these things on the same day. Some days I look at them and see my daughters and some days I look at them and see strangers. That has been very hard. But I have had excellent counsel from several adoptive moms who have helped me walk the very bizarre road of older child bonding. And we have absolutely felt the prayers lifted up for us!!! I feel we have almost been carried through these months. We are learning to take things one day at a time and to try to show love no matter what that day brings. That’s not easy but through Christ, we really can do hard things!


Louisa May taking a selfie!


Clara Anne at Six Flags!


Home and finally AWAKE!

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There and Back Again!

Hello again world!!!! We arrived home a week ago, Thursday the 12th to the most amazing welcoming committee and house decorated by the dearest friends and then promptly fell asleep for a week!  I have never in my life experienced jet lag this badly.  All of us, except Rob, have just been like zombies around here.  Even the little ones seemed to breath a sigh of relief and need to sleep to recover too.  I think for me, the sleep needed was from the jet lag but also the extreme emotional journey we’ve just been through.  I still feel complete amazement that just three weeks ago we were standing on the Great Wall of Ch*na and today we’re home with two more children and getting back into real life.  The trip is really too fast and yet being away from David and Lilibet that long just about did me in!  When we got to the airport on Thursday we had no idea we would have such a sweet and excited group waiting there for us!!!  Our agency Lifeline was there with a banner surrounded by family and wonderful friends. Rob’s brother and our sister in law drove all the way from Birmingham with their boys to be there for us and that meant the world to us!  My dear friend Laura was there with Lucy, the girls Ch*na sister and the look on Lucy’s face when she saw the girls was unforgettable.  My friend Ashley was there who I have gotten to know and love on this adoption journey, her adoption was not able to be completed through very frustrating and difficult circumstances but she was gracious and encouraging enough to come and be there for me as I hoped to be there for her.  That is real friendship.  Mom and Amy are my heroes and have just gone above and beyond the call of duty for us over this past month!!!  The highlight of coming into that welcoming home was all of the kids running break neck speed towards each other from both sides and crashing into each other in a monster bear hug/ wrestling match.  It was awesome.  And to see Lucy and Hanli run full speed towards each other was enough to make me burst into tears.  To think of that video we got over 9 months ago of the two of them dancing together in Hefei City, Ch*na and then to see them together once more in that airport in Atlanta, Georgia. In fact, that is when the tears really did start to come.  Tears I really never shed while we were in Ch*na, except when we were at the orphanage and then my heart broke… and you have to cry when your heart breaks.  Other than that I stuffed my emotions.  It was just too hard to let them out and look at them.  I had too much to get through everyday and really when you focus on others and what they need, it truly does help in not giving way to your own feelings.  But I finally let my emotions out on coming home.  The dam really burst forth though when we got to our house.  We went to eat with the cousins which was wonderful and then headed home.  As we started heading home this feeling of, well a little bit of fear of “what in the world do we do with them now” crept in but mostly just this feeling of loneliness.  Almost feeling like “okay now we’re here and it will be us alone in this endeavor”… I should have had better faith though.  As soon as we turned the curve to the house we saw HUGE beautiful banners on the side of the house and a fantastic balloon display on the mailbox and as we went inside…oh my word.  Dear precious friends were there to greet us!!  Our house had been decorated top to bottom, inside and out with the most beautiful greenery and Christmas decorations by some of our closest friends!  Our pantry was stocked, we had meals in the freezer and two other dear friends collaborated to bring us even more meals and extremely delicious treats the next day too.  When I saw my friends standing there and then started to take in all they had done, I just melted.  I cried and cried so much that I think Louisa thought I was a little bit nuts.  When they told me about all the people who had been coming in and out the day before to help make this home glow and who had worked so hard on all of the beautiful little decorations that now hung all over, including my absolute favorite~ a string of cut-out dancing ladies on the end of each girl’s bed complete with little fascinators on their heads.  There are no words to describe how encouraged, upheld and honored we felt and continue to feel to be surrounded by this group of people!!!  When you step out onto the water to follow Christ, it can feel very isolating.  But we were never meant to walk this journey alone.  He never meant us to follow His call alone.  I think we have seen a life changing picture of how we should live life with one another, stepping into God’s calling with each other, upholding each other and helping carry each other’s burdens. And maybe too a small glimpse of what the reception will look like for believers in Jesus Christ, who one day will be welcomed home for good. Happy tears, laughter, celebrations and utmost JOY!  Thank you to all of you who carried us over the past few weeks, with your words and prayers and messages while we were gone.  Each day I woke up in another part of the world and felt more connected to my people than I may ever have before.  You kept us going, you helped us face each new challenging day with faith instead of fear.  The Lord has used you, you are a blessing and we are SO overwhelmingly grateful!

20131222-042208.jpg On the plane getting all of her jewels organized!


1463599_10202196717135965_881178376_n The pile of excited kids on the floor in the ATL airport


1465155_10202196167122215_521919295_n Mima won the girls over with all of these huge balloons!!




1460106_10153621088275217_382523179_n One of my favorite pictures, they were so excited to see each other!


549596_10153621087770217_1524891544_n Raised by the same foster mom on the other side of the world.  I’m still amazed!

1461735_10153621085830217_741186262_n Lucy brought two books, the Bible and the Nutcracker to share with the girls.  That’s my kind of greeting!

20131222-042452.jpg I’ve never done anything more difficult in my life than to leave my baby for so long. SO glad to be home!




20131222-043001.jpg Crazy story, our friends Amanda and Beau on the right met this family, on the left, at Starbucks one day in Guangzhou. Turns out Kristi was Beau’s babysitter in Florida once upon a time.  Too funny and a God thing and we loved getting to know them and their sweet girls!


1465260_10153621083850217_641640142_n Adoptive moms share so many ups and downs together!

1467479_10202196162762106_1911267625_n Uncle Shane and the boys.  Our boys about passed out they were so excited to see them!

1476233_10153621083395217_2087435194_n This is one of the fire marshalls that was on duty.  He was so interested in our story, wanted to know all about it and then wanted a picture to be able to share the story of Lucy and Louisa with his friends!




575444_10153621083690217_1552326267_n This is one of the best things about the agency we adopted with.  The community of support that gets built around you. So happy to be welcomed home by this goup.  And in the back right is the only picture I have of my sister in law Mitzi for some reason.  But she deserves a spotlight all of her own!!!  Her support has been unwavering and she has done SO much to be a help, encourager and faithful friend to us in this endeavor.  Love you Mitzi!

China coming home-1 We had double banners to welcome us home!!!

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photo 2 (3) Absolutely beautiful.

20131223-072616.jpg Our tree with Lanier Ivester lights, the best tree lighting we’ve ever had!!!

photo 2 (4) Sweet cards and notes from friends to us and the girls.

20131223-072554.jpg The dancing ladies with fascinators!!  Ohhhhh, love them so much!


photo 1 (3) My dear, wonderful friend Elizabeth who brought us food and this cake that was devoured in two days… Her food is fabulous and you can get some too, here’s her FB site



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Faithful and true. Thank you sweet friends!!