Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Big Boys~

Oh, yes!  We do have more children in our family than usually grace my blog posts.

Here's a photo my guys just emailed to me!

It does my mama heart good.

So good.

My older boys are FRIENDS!   They are choosing to spend time together.

And although they do not live close to each other, they made plans to spend a week of vacation together.  And let me just tell you~

I LOVE that!

Will, in the Baylor shirt, is 22.  He graduated last December~ a semester early, I might add. And he's now a grad student at Colorado State.  And he worked things out so that he's not paying a dime for his grad school.   Nor is he paying for his living expenses.  And let's just say, his dad is PLEASED!
 Will has an internship this summer w/ Noble Energy in Denver. His time on the job is flexible.  As you can see!
Will's an outdoorsy kind of guy, and he had all the equipment for  the boys' week long camping  adventure. Good thing.  Drew showed up in Denver with just himself.  And his clothes. So Will took him to REI. So he'd at least have a sleeping bag. :)

And Drew~ he's 25, and we're awfully proud of this boy, too!

He's living and working in Omaha, NE.  A bit too far from home for this mama's liking.  

Drew's a federal bank examiner.  He's on the road almost continuously working to make sure that the Nebraska banks are in compliance with all the gov. rules and regulations.  And that YOUR money is safe! 

 A large portion of his job also involves A LOT of writing. Writing up pages and pages of reports.  It's a good thing he scored a perfect score on the writing section of his SAT.  Oh, yes he did!

So, a bit of our National Park obsession fun must have rubbed off on the guys.  They've planned a whirlwind tour of Glacier, The Tetons (where the above photo was taken) and Yellowstone.  We've done a lot of traveling with our older children, but we didn't get out west much at all.  Ok, just once when we went to San Fran. (and we don't consider TX "out west" but of course we've been there, too) So I'm glad the boys are able to do this! To SEE and experience firsthand God's awesome creation. 

 But mostly, I'm glad they want to do this TOGETHER!

Thanks for sending the photo, guys!  I bet you didn't think you'd end up on the blog!  

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Destination Atlanta~

Last weekend we headed to Atlanta!  

Emily is interning at a church in the area this summer.

And we decided it was time for a visit! 

On Friday, we loaded up the van and set off~ 

Destination Atlanta!  

We stopped at the SC / Georgia border rest area for lunch.  But no photos of that.

We arrived at our hotel, and Emily was there to meet us.  We let the kids swim (and again, no photos of that) and settled in for a nice chat poolside with Emily.  SO miss that biggest girl of ours! 

She is doing great.  And although her internship has been a stretch for her in a few ways, she is seeing for herself the growth she has had.  And even she says that that's been a good thing!

After swimming, we headed over to Emily's host family's house for a cookout.  You would think I would have thought to have snapped a photo of Emily and the  precious family hosting her, but again, I did not.  Geesh.

I did get this of the kids.  The older girl in the photo is the oldest daughter of the "B" family.  She graduated from Auburn a year ago.  Her younger sister is Emily's friend at Auburn.  Emily's friend, Katherine, is doing an internship at a church in Austin, Tx and is being hosted by a family there.  And Katherine's parents are paying it forward and having Emily for the summer.  SO nice how that worked out!  AND we know that Emily is in very good hands while away from us.

They served a delicious meal to our crew and we had a nice evening of fellowship and fun!

  We left short 2 girls, as AC and Kate stayed for a sleepover with sissy!

Sissy gave them mani/ pedi's and let them catch some fireflies before heading to bed!

The next morning Emily met us at the hotel bright and early, and we headed off for a day on Lake Lanier!  

As you can see, the day was perfect!

We had a bit of a wait for our boat to be readied, but the kids had fun in a splash pad area.


And playing on the dock

Charlie strikes a pose while waiting patiently!

And finally....

We were on the boat!

And having some big fun!

We had some big fun OFF the boat as well!

We discovered our own island!


And swam...

And tubed!

It was a day of fun and togetherness~ just as we had planned!

Afterwards, we cleaned up and headed to 
Pappacitos for dinner!

This was a family favorite when we lived in Houston, so we had to give the Atlanta location a try.  And it did not disappoint.

Though the wait was LONG (as it always is) we snacked and sipped and took a few photos! 

After our tummies were filled, we headed back to our hotel with one less girl, as Grace had her turn for a sleepover with Emily!

Emily leads the middle school girls' Sunday school class, so it was perfect for her to take Grace along the next morning.  We met up with them later that morning for worship.  While there, we were able to meet the other interns and a lot of the staff, which was fun!  Everyone was so welcoming and so excited to meet Emily's siblings!

After church, we headed here

for a yummy lunch!

And then all too soon, it was time to say goodbye.

 It was great seeing you, Emily!
We sure had fun!  We love you.  And we miss you, too!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

3 Years!

Today we celebrate 3 years with Charlie and Grace!

Charlie's Family Day was on Monday the 17th, and Grace's is on Friday the 21st.  We've chosen to celebrate each year on June 19th, which is half way between the two dates.

 We discovered a new (to us) Chinese restaurant not far from our home that has become a family favorite, and we go there often to celebrate various occasions.  So tonight, once again, we headed for The Great Wall for our celebration.  Grace tells us that the food there is closest to how food tasted in China.

The owner, himself from China, is always very gracious to our family and makes a point each time we are in to come to our table and visit for a little bit.  He enjoys talking with Grace in Mandarin.  She's so-so on talking with him, but she goes along with it anyway.

Bringing home older children is not an easy thing.  And with Grace and Charlie, we've not been the exception.  We ARE exceptionally fortunate though, that they both REALLY wanted to be a part of a family.  They came to us easily, and with Charlie, he's never looked back.  Grace knew well what life within a family looked like, as she had lived for 9 1/2 of her 10 1/2 years in China with the same foster family, so that really helped with her transition. She jumped into life with her new family with both feet, eager to experience all that her new life had to offer. 
But still, there have been challenges.  Language has come slowly.  The "kids learn languages so quickly" thing has not held true in our experience.  And when language comes slowly, so does reading, writing and spelling....

Immaturity, poor impulse control, diagnosed speech delays, deceptiveness, unhealthy competitiveness w/ siblings, and learning challenges are some of the issues we are still navigating 3 years later.


We also see children who are thriving within our family.  They are loving, trusting, secure, outgoing and happy. They are learning and growing.  They are GLAD to be HERE with their family, and we couldn't be happier to call them OURS.  We had never set out to adopt a little boy or to adopt an older child.  But God spoke CLEARLY and we stepped out in faith.  

And the blessing has been ours.

 Charlie is a happy little guy with a good disposition. He wakes up early and is excited to start his day! He loves to play with his sisters, and his brother, Will, is extra special to him.  He's gentle and tries hard to please. He came to us at 4 1/2 speaking only one word phrases, and now he chatters all day long!  His favorite activities are reading/ being read to, building puzzles, playing board games, swimming and art.  Almost daily he tells us that "today is my best day ever!"

Grace also has a great disposition and is full of silliness and joy.   For a 13 year old girl, I am always amazed at how even keeled she is and that she never complains. She is very helpful and has great life skills.  She is thankful for everything.  Grace LOVES her family and loves doing things as a family. She prefers to do things with her siblings as opposed to her peers. She prefers "experiences" to "things."  She loves to travel, and is always the one most excited when we go on a road trip! She enjoys learning about her new country. She loves history.  She told me she's so glad to have come here so she can learn history.  She never learned history in China, "because they don't have a history." She sees the differences between the Chinese government and ours and comments often about the freedoms we enjoy here. She's also very interested in learning our family history.  LOVE that about her.  Grace can talk well with adults and is not shy to make conversation as she meets extended family or other adult friends. 

Grace asked Jesus into her heart and was baptized last spring.  She talks of wanting to go back to China to tell her China Grandma (Grace was particularly close to her and has a deep bond to her) about God and Jesus.  And I pray that she'll be able to do that one day. 

Gracie and Charlie, we are so thankful to be your mommy and daddy.  You are loved.  3 years home and a lifetime to go.  I cannot wait to see what God has planned for you both.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Father's Day~

 Saturday morning, after breakfast, I asked Bill what he'd like to do for Father's Day.  And he mentioned wanting to go back to Appomattox at some point down the road.

You may remember that our visit there back in Feb. was not to be, due to  inclement weather.

"Well, why not THIS weekend?" I asked.

And so, within the hour, we had the car packed, kids loaded, picnic lunch prepared and we were pulling out of our driveway and on our way to Virginia.  Because, that's the way we roll around here.  And sometimes it's just fun to be spur of the moment!

We stopped along the way for lunch.

 And we arrived in Lynchburg about 4 hours later.

We checked in to our hotel and let the kids swim for a couple of hours, and then headed into the historic area of the town to find a dinner spot.

We came upon the Depot Grille, an old train depot turned into an eatery, and decided to give it a try. 

We sat outside to enjoy the beautiful weather and the good food, and the kids were delighted when a train came rumbling by!

Afterwards we took a walk along the tracks
and then along the James river, crossing over a bridge to a nature preserve area.  We watched the sun set and let the kids catch lightening bugs.  Such a fun evening!

Sunday morning, we headed to Appomattox.

 On our February visit


and at the same spot on our Father's Day visit!

  The kids enjoyed seeing a mobile printing press demonstration.

We listened to a Corporal tell about his time with the Union Army and his eye witness account of the events that occurred at Appomattox.

About mid way through our visit, we left the site and headed into town for some lunch.  A ranger recommended this spot for a homey, southern lunch.

  This was definitely the spot for the over 70, local, after church, Sunday dinner crowd.  And when we walked in, everyone stopped their eating and STARED.  It was rather awkward, I must say. And the food was, eh. You win some and lose some when trying to eat "local."

Back at the site, Daddy and kids at the McLean House, where General Robert E. Lee surrendered and the papers were signed. 

And we visited the county jail and locked up some unruly citizens. 

We visited the other buildings on the property, turned in completed booklets for Ranger Badges, and headed back home with a deeper understanding of the men who fought on both sides of the war. Often brother against brother. Each fighting for what they believed was right.

I still need to finish posting from our graduation trip, but I want to keep current, too, otherwise it seems like I'm never caught up.  Do y'all ever feel that way?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Flag Day~

  Well, being Flag Day, this is a good day to post some of the photos from our DC area site seeing while we were in town for my nephew's graduation last month.

Day 1

The rain we had experienced on graduation day had moved through, and our day was sunny, cool and very breezy.  Our hotel was not far from Ft. McHenry, so we began our day there!

And of course, this being a National Park, it goes without saying that the kids earned their Jr. Ranger badges!

 AnnaClaire and Grace had studied about the writing of the Star Spangled Banner in history this year, so it was very exciting to see the flag (replica of course) flying over Ft. McHenry, and having this part of the history they had learned  come alive.

 Of course the cannons were very exciting for everyone to see!

  And beautiful Kate!  Who takes after her biggest sister (hi, Emily) and isn't the least bit interested in "history!"

After several hours at Ft. McHenry, it was time to find a spot for lunch.  We ALWAYS opt for "local" when given the chance, and we happened upon Big Matty's Diner in the historic part of Baltimore not far from Ft. McHenry.

  We spoke with the owner, and the diner had been there for 50 years, though he'd owned it for just a few months.

   The inside was quite retro and included a cute soda bar and the food did not disappoint!

After lunch we decided to visit Arlington National Cemetery.  Being the Memorial Day Weekend, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity for our kids to have a first visit. We and EVERYONE else in the DC area had the same idea, evidently.  It took us forever to get in and parked.  But it was SO worth the effort.

Bill and I had last visited Arlington on our 8th grade class trip.  Notice I didn't say trips~ and that's because we were in the same 8th grade class in middle school in Houston.

Perhaps it was because we were just at a military graduation and most definitely because we are no longer middle schoolers, but this time our visit was so very meaningful and profound.

It was breathtaking to see all of the veterans' graves decorated with the flags for Memorial Day.  I'd seen photos of course, but it's hard to describe actually seeing it in person.  The magnitude of Arlington, and the sheer
number of graves really hit me on this trip. 

Although we arrived later in the day, we were able to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (in the background) and we happened to get there right at the changing of the guard. Grace, in particular, enjoyed that.

  We also visited Kennedy's grave and saw the Eternal Flame.  Pictured at the top of the hill is the Lee House, which sadly we did not have time to tour.

After our time at Arlington, we drove to our hotel in Mt. Vernon.  And now you know where our next day of touring was, and what you'll see in my next post!

I hope you all are not weary of all of our history road trip photos.  I do hope it serves as an encouragement to you to pack up your family and go and SEE the historic sites in our land.  It will make history come alive for your children and for YOU! I can almost guarantee it will give you new appreciation our great country and all we have been given. And it really is our job to pass this down to our children.