Monday, December 31, 2012

Year End Reflections

Dec. 31, 2012
So, today ends another year.  It is a year I will look back on with very mixed emotions.  There are definitely two halves to this year with the dividing line being 5:30 pm on June 8th. 
2012 began with the anticipation of Brooke’s arrival.  We had completed most of the paperwork and were hoping to get a travel approval before the Chinese government shut down for Chinese New Year but we missed it by just a few days.  Every day counts in this long drawn out process and some count more than others.  Thankfully we can trust the loving hand of our heavenly ather to have details worked out that are never too early and never too late.  Our travel approval arrived and we were able to plan our trip to finally bring Brooke home.  Wow, it seems like yesterday and at the same time, it seems like a lifetime ago.  We boarded a plane for China on February 29th.  After a brief stop in Beijing, we finally arrived in Shanghai.  In a room at an orphanage, Brooke walked into our lives.  Although we planned for her arrival, we could never have imagined what an incredible gift from God she would be in our lives. 
We were as ready for her arrival as any new parents can be.  We had completed several days of intense training on the needs of older adopted children, we had read books, we had talked with other parents… All of these resources were great, but frankly, Brooke is one of those rare exceptions to older child adoption.  She bonded with us quickly, adapted to her new life in our family and in general has made this whole process seem incredibly simple.   
Those first couple of months flew by.  Brooke learned English rapidly, loved her school, loved our dogs, made friends both at church and school…life as a family of three was just starting to settle into a new normal until -----
June 8th at about 5:30pm
I had just gotten home from work and the phone rang.  It was our family doctor.  Almost immediately my heart broke.  The MRI Dennis had earlier in the day showed a mass in his brain.  Every speck of normal was shattered.  We were being told to head to the ER of a large hospital in our area.  They would be expecting us.  Pack a bag and head there as soon as possible.  I remember calling a friend to see if we could drop Brooke off for the night.  I had to tell her three times that Dennis had something in his brain before she could grasp what I was saying.  I think we all felt that way.  I’m still thankful for these wonderful friends who helped us through that night and helped Brooke be ok too.  Since you all know the “rest of the story”, we were plunged into the world of cancer that night.  Brain surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and trial drug programs became our new normal.  We went from the joy of a new child to the fear, stress, anxiety of a very serious health situation with one phone call.
Our “normal” had shifted and will never be the same again.  We no longer take time for granted.  Each and every day is precious.  We don’t put off for tomorrow anything that we can possibly do today.  We cherish the big and small things that make life precious.  We grab a camera to record a moment far more frequently.  We live far more conscious of just how quickly life can change. 
We have grown this year.  Not just from a family of two to a family of three, but in far more important ways.  I’ve seen Dennis grow as his intense desire he had before his illness to live out his faith in day-to-day, has taken deeper meaning and focus.  God has been teaching me to wait on Him and trust Him.  We have seen God at work in our lives through the hands of those around us who have helped us in too many ways to even count. We have watched Brooke gasp that Jesus loves her and has always been watching over her even before she ever heard His name.  Overall, we can say, “God is faithful.”  He is faithful in the joyful and good times and He is faithful in the hard times. 
2012 was not what we expected.  Our plans would have looked much different but even though it has at times been extremely painful it has been good.  What is ahead for us in 2013 is yet to be seen but we know we can trust in the One who knows the future.    

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

First Christmas

This was Brooke's first Christmas.  Christmas is not celebrated in most Chinese homes so this was all new to her.  We wanted her to understand that Christmas is not about what you get but rather it is about the birth of Jesus.  She really seemed to understand the concept.

Recently in school, she had learned the definition for J-O-Y.
Jesus - Others - You
She has really taken this definition to heart.  So often over the last few days she has acted in accordance with the principle of putting Christ first, then others and last herself.  It is exciting to see the reality of Scripture growing in her heart.  Even when it was time to open presents, she did not want to keep opening her things.  She was always saying someone else should open a package.

We spent Christmas Eve Day with Ellen's family, Christmas morning at home and Christmas Day with the Dennis' family.

Christmas Morning at home.

Happy Birthday Jesus cake.

Play bride dress.
Brooke and Daddy
We also had a major snow storm just before Christmas.  We got over 15 inches of snow in 24 hours.  Brooke loves the snow and has enjoyed playing in it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I Believe There Should Be No Orphans

Since we started the process to adopt, many people have asked us why we chose to do this.  The simple answer is God called us to it.  As believers, He made it clear that we have a responsibility to care for orphans.  Never did we imagine the joy this would bring into our lives.  

I want to share with you an essay from a Civics homework assignment, recently written by a 14 year old girl who was adopted from China 3 years ago. I know prior to getting into the adoption process, we had no idea of what being an orphan meant, not only during the person's childhood, but also after they age out of orphanages.  

Could God be calling you to come to the aid of orphans around the world?

I Believe There Should Be No Orphans

By Agnes Tucker
Once upon a time, three years ago before I was adopted, I lived 11 y
ears as an orphan. That life wasn’t as pretty as the life I have now. Although I miss my country and the other children I grew up with, I prefer this life. I lived with 600 other orphans who are still hoping to have the life I have now. People here have more than they need I have noticed, but yet they still cry that they are poor. To be considered that they are poor, it should be that they don’t have water; they should be starving, have no clothes, no car or any means of communications.

In civics and economics, I learned about scarcity were people have unlimited wants and limited resources. Well this is the definitely the case when you are an orphan. But whether you believe it or not, none of you, not even the beggars on the street in America, have faced the real life of an orphan. Because you have parents and do not have any of the things mentioned in the first paragraph. Being an orphan means you don’t get to see the outside world. The only thing you do is look outside through the same window everyday expecting someone to come for you. And when they don’t, sometimes you break into tears or accept what just happened as if you are tough.

I had been looking through my window for 11 years. And finally my time came. But before it came, I wondered if it did come, what will happen to the other orphans who are my family, friends and everything to me? Tears rolled down on my cheeks anytime I thought about the time they will age out of the orphanage. They only have one year left now for them to age out. They will be thrown into those dark, dirty streets. What will happen to them out there? Many things can happen to them.

Those streets are scary, I have seen them before. They are dirty because diseases travel through that air like blood travels through our bodies. People are raped and hurt on those streets. They have to hunt for food and they will be lucky if they find a piece of bread. Children die out there because of the dirty environment they are in. Imagine being on the streets, you wear the same clothes until they tear apart but still you wear them. Imagine sleeping outside on concrete, no blanket and no showers and no shoes. All these things make me cry and the sad thing is it’s true, real and happening right now.

That’s why I believe that there should be no orphans, because we’ve all got what it takes to save the life of an orphan. We got more than what we need, and it won’t hurt us to share what we’ve got. If we do this all together, I promise they will be no orphans left."


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Nine Months

Just a quick stop here to mark the nine moth anniversary of Brooke becoming our daughter. Nine months ago today we signed the papers in China to legally make her our daughter but she had been our child in our hearts long before that day. These months have been a roller coaster for sure but we are so happy she is there with us.

Today we had the joy of celebrating her first St. Nick's Day with her.  It was a blast. She was so excited about the things in her stocking but also the things she had helped us shop for in our stockings.  If the weather man is right, she might get to see her first accumulating snow on Sunday.  So many first in nine months.  She is counting down the days to Christmas by taking a link out of a paper chain each day. 

School continues to go well.  We spend a lot of our commute time each day doing reading or math.  It is time well spent.  I think the car will be very quiet and my commute very lonely while she is on Christmas break and staying home with Daddy.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Date with Daddy

Dennis and Brooke had a date today.  Dennis came up with the idea to take her to the matinee at a local dinner theater.  Since he is unable to drive right now due to his health issues, this was a way for them to do a little shopping in the shops at the theater, have brunch and see a play.  The production was a musical version of A Christmas Carol.  I dropped them off, went Christmas shopping and then picked them up.  Dennis was tired when they were done but they really had a good time.  Brooke loved getting all dressed up for the occasion.

Brooke and Dennis in one of the shops.

Dennis and Brooke having brunch.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Letter to Brooke’s Birth Parents –

I doubt you will ever see this post but at the same time pray that you do.  I hope if you do, that it gives you a sense of peace.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like to make the decision to give your daughter a chance at life.  You carried her in your womb and then in your arms for months.  How soon did you realize she needed medical intervention to save her life?  I imagine you did everything you could to help her and to attempt to get the care she so desperately needed.  When all other options were exhausted, you chose to leave her where she would be quickly found and taken where she could get help.  Did you wait to see if someone found her?  How your heart must have ached for this beautiful daughter.  Do you still wonder about her?  Imagine what she must look like or what she is doing now?

She got the needed medical attention that your sacrifice provided.  She is now a healthy seven year old.  She spent the first year after you gave her up in the hospital and at an orphanage.  Then she went to live with a foster family.  From what she has told us and from our contact with them, they provided her with a good home.  Last spring she became our daughter.  We are so blessed to have her in our lives.  She is a wonderful little girl who loves her family and her dogs.  She is excelling in school and is a gifted artist. She lights up a room when she enters it.  Her smile is contagious.

So often when I look into her eyes that sparkle as she tells me about her day’s activities, I wonder about you.  I wonder if she has your eyes.  Are you also an artist?  Did your giggle as a child make others happy just hearing it like her giggle does?  Are you a story teller like she is?  

I imagine that you think about her every day.  I wish I could tell you personally that she is ok.  That she is loved.  I will tell her about you and what we know about the circumstances that led to her becoming our daughter.  I think of you often and pray for you too.  I often pray that you will have peace in your heart that the decision you made seven years ago, gave her a chance at life.  Mostly though, I pray that someone will share the love of Christ with you.   

The child we both call our daughter is a priceless gift from God.  We love her deeply and can’t imagine what our lives would be like without her.  Thank you.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Firemen and Free Pizza

I have been fighting a cold and was totally spent by the time I got home tonight so we decided to use a coupon we had and order a Dominos pizza.  About the time the pizza was to arrive a fire truck pulled up in front of our house.  Dennis was telling me, "Hey, there's a fire truck in our neighborhood.   They're stopping at our house!"  The fireman got out along with the pizza delivery guy.  Turns out it is Fire Prevention Week and if your smoke detectors were in working order the pizza was free!  We had a free pizza tonight!  Thanks guys.

Brooke checking out the fire truck.

Brooke with the firemen and pizza delivery people.

The delivery team and firemen.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pumpkin Patch

Today was field trip day for Brooke's class.  The trip was to a large garden center.  The kids had a hayride, pumpkin patch, story, craft, lunch and petting zoo.  They had a great time.  Dennis and I were both able to go along.  As you can see by the pictures, it was cool, fall day here.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

It is so worth the wait!

We have been a family of three for just over six months.  The wait to bring Brooke home seemed like it would never end as we waited on two governments to process through stacks of paper but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Just recently I have heard Brooke say with enthusiasm as I held her - "I have a Mommy!" or when Dennis was holding her "I have a Daddy!" Ah, the wait was so worth it.  Tonight she goes to bed knowing we are her family.

How many more kids go to bed tonight hoping someday to have a Mommy and Daddy?  How many of us could fill that longing in their heart?  Is it easy - not always.  Is it expensive - often it is.  Is the process overwhelming - yep it sure it.  Is it God's call to those of us who follow Him - it is indeed.  Are you called to adopt - maybe or maybe to help in other ways.  Here are some ways to do that:

  • Honestly ask God what your roll is in caring for the orphans around the world.
  • Adopt if you feel God is leading even if it seem overwhelming and scary.
  • Pray for people you know who are in the process of adopting.
  • Ask specifically how you can pray at any given time for adopting families.  Even after they have their child they still need prayers.  Sometimes settling in is the hardest time in an adoptive families  journey.
  • Give - adoption is expensive.  Can you help a family?  Even a small donation means a lot.
  • Throw an adoption shower.  Even if the new child is not a baby, your help in celebrating this addition to the family will be a blessing.
  • Adopting children who have been raised without the normal love of a family can be very hard and requires unique parenting skills.  Don't criticize how adoptive parents are parenting.  Most likely they have had a lot of experts help them with the skills they will need that are unique to these kids.
  • Bring a meal when the family gets home.  
  • Sponsor a child.  There are many great agencies who work with orphans providing love and medical care.  
Is there a role God has for you in the life of an orphan?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Appearing Before the Judge

Today Dennis and I went before a judge to re-adopt Brooke.  This is basically a formality that will make Brooke's life easier in the future as she is already legally our daughter but at this point, her birth certificate is in Chinese.  In order to prove who she is in the future she would have to have her Chinese birth certificate, the English translation and her US Certificate of Citizenship.  Today the judge reviewed these documents and she will now have a birth certificate from our state like every other child born here.  The really great part is that it is very inexpensive in our state to do this.  After all the expenses of the adoption, it was nice to have something that was not expensive.

The last thing we will need to do is apply for a US passport for her.  Currently she has a Chinese one in her Chinese name.  We have no plans to use it anytime soon but want to get this done too so all of the paperwork is done.


Sunday, September 9, 2012


We decided that while Dennis was between treatments we would take a family vacation.  We had a great time.  We went to Door County, Wisconsin.  Our trip started at the Packer Pro Shop.  We went to Washington Island, did ceramic painting on a rainy day, stayed in a cabin for three days and camped one night, went fishing...  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.  We took it easy and Dennis got to rest when he got tired.  It was a very special trip for all of us.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Six Months a Family

Six months ago today, Brooke entered our lives.  We can hardly even remember what life was like without her.  She has so fit into our family.  Here she is when we first met her at the orphanage.

A lot has happened in those six months and certainly not what we thought these months would hold.  We were well prepared by our agency for the difficulties that are often faced by families adopting older children but Brooke adjusted so easily.  She has gained language so quickly and is  doing very well in school.  Of course, we never would have thought that Dennis would be diagnosed with brain cancer just three months after we adopted Brooke.  She has been a bright spot in a very difficult time for us.

We decided to get away for a few days while Dennis is between treatments so we headed to Door County but decided we had to help Brooke become a true Wisconsin citizen so we stopped at Lambeau Field.  (For those of you who aren't from Wisconsin, that is the home of the Green Bay Packers.)  Brooke now has Packer socks and a Packer sweatshirt - just in time for the football season.

A Cheesehead is Born!

So we will spend a few days in a cabin by the lake celebrating and relaxing.  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

School starts tomorrow.  Wow, where did the summer go.  We had student and parent open house on Thursday.  Brooke was apprehensive about going to school until then but now she is ready to go.  Her backpack is packed, clothes are out and she is ready to go.

Brooke helped Maddie celebrate her ninth birthday in August.  It is hard to believe Maddie is nine already.

We are all doing well.  Dennis finished his radiation this week.  He is very glad to have that done. If you want to catch-up on how he is doing, there are more details on his blog

Friday, August 10, 2012

Five Months a Family

Brooke's daycare had a program this week.  The school age kids each picked an area of the world that they wanted to learn about.  Brooke choose her new home state.  Here is a picture of her in her outfit for the program.

I can't believe school starts in two weeks.  Brooke is ready for it to start. She will be glad to see her friends.  

She has been our daughter now for five months.  I can't believe how much she has changed.  She physically has grown several inches.  She understands English very well and is speaking very well also. She is starting to read also.  Most importantly, she is growing in her understanding of who Jesus is and what that means in her life.  

Last weekend we thought we might lose our older golden retriever.  She was very sad about this possibility and held her and cried.  Then she sat up, looked at us and said, "Pray for Abby."  She took Abby's paw in her hand and asked that Abby get better. Thankfully Abby is fine now.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Need a Toy Box

Brooke cleaned up her room today. She did a really nice job. Tonight when I went to pray with her before bed, I noticed a cleaning technique she used that could be very useful - every room needs a toy box. It makes cleaning up very easy. Simply take most items off of the floor or dresser and stuff in the toy box. The room looks great quickly. I think I might go buy a toy box for every room.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Making Family Memories

Making family memories is a priority for us these days.  When Dennis is feeling good, we try to do somethings as a family.  Last weekend we went to Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI.  We had a good time.  

Face Painting

Brooke with the clowns.
 We also had a chance to go mini golfing.

Daddy and Brooke

Mommy and Brooke
On the way home from visiting Dennis' Mom, we were reminded of God's faithfulness with a beautiful rainbow.  No matter the circumstances or even how we feel at a given moment, God is faithful.