Summer chores?

No.  Is our house a complete mess?  No.  Do I pay them?  No.  Do I beg them to help?  No.  Do I discuss or negotiate chores?  No.   Do I do them all myself?  No, no, no.   So how do I do it?  First, I know I am not an expert at all.  However, because people do ask both the kids and me,  I think it is OK to comment on the subject. 


None of this for me.   I don't have the energy, the time or the desire. 


Oh and honestly Mike does not have to do chores around here.   He has too many jobs-that actually make money.   He does cut the grass, but mostly for exercise and because it clears his mind.  Plus, I'm kind of funny about the kids mowing the lawn.  It makes me nervous.  My Aunt cut off her toes off from cutting the grass. 


Oh what do I do to get them to work?  I threaten, and follow through. 


Shepard caulked and painted all day, and loved every minute of it.  Shepard is a real handyman.  I mean, how many kids his age know how to caulk.  And he did a great job!  The best part, he actually likes doing these kind of chores, so it is not a chore for me to get him to do handyman work around the house.  Mike, that is a different story.  At dinner Shepard prayed before he ate--I noticed he even thanked God for the great day.  LOL 




Bret worked 3 hours that morning at her real job before she came home and helped us-or I should say them.











This is a chore too-go read with Pryor and Boone.


Why is it the bigger the brain they have  (Lyric is in all the advanced classes), the less manual labor they want to do?  Here, Lyric is in time out, because she kept running off.  And she is really good at it too!  She can sneak off REALLY quiet and it is usually an hour before I notice.  Actually,  I usually never notice and the other kids have to tell me.   


Dinner time when Shepard thanks God for the great day.  : - ))


Lyric says, "The food in the advertisement never looks as good in real life." 


BTW,  if American kids got off their butts a little more often Michelle Obama wouldn't /couldn't have such a cow over a kid eating a Big Mac!  Not that it is any of her business to regulate my kids' meals in the first place, but that is another blog.


This was the funniest part of the day-Boone's melt down.


He was mad, and we couldn't stop laughing. 


Every time one kid got up, another one would steal their seat!  Lyric had quickly stole Stafan's.  Stafan was a little ticked, but was getting over it.


Lyric and everyone else laughing at Boone.


Yes, Jeeves is the one that stole Boone's seat! 


Thank you Delta Alpha Gamma



These nice ladies from the local Delta Alpha Gamma sorority awarded Arden a scholarship.  Ironically, one of the ladies told us that the local Delta Alpha Gamma chapter formed in the 1920s and originally raised money to buy children milk and lunch for school.  I say ironic because one of Arden's few memories from the orphanage is crying when she was hungry from not getting enough or any milk (which was most of the time).  Even though she was very young, she has those memories because some of the orphanage workers would make fun of the way she cried and even mock her. 

I don't mind saying that I think Delta Alpha Gamma picked a very deserving student.  Arden graduated with academic honors, was a member of National Honor Society and played varsity tennis.  I know God has big plans for her and pray that she follows His path.

A little celebrating.



Downright strange...

or was it?

Some miracles are more bizarre than others. A miracle can mean more than just a vision or recovery from a serious illness – sometimes events are just flat out weird.   Last June, our family went to the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee, and something happened once again letting me know God was right there.  

Just  a couple days before we were to leave, I decided to get in touch with a friend named Lisa.  Lisa is not your typical friend.  Lisa is from Tennessee, but lives most of her life in China.  She is also a Jesus freak.  She doesn't just say she is living it-she really is.  

There is another VERY important reason why Lisa and her husband Tom are special to us.  When Arden lived in the orphanage in China, one of her very special best friends was Li Mei.  Li Mei was much older than Arden and used to protect Arden.  They lived in an orphanage with 1,000 kids, and Arden needed protection! 

Arden had been with us for about 2 years.  I knew the timing wasn't right for us to adopt again, but for 3 months I had strongly been praying God would still use me to help orphans.  Well, here goes another "mailbox" story.  One day I came home and in the box was another hand written letter--from the UK this time.  It was from a Chinese woman named Red Chan who was living in the UK, but sometimes volunteered at the Guangzhou orphanage.  Li Mei had enlisted Red Chan into helping her find out where Arden had gone.  The letter was full of tears and sorrow about how Li Mei loved and missed Arden.  Arden was her family in the orphanage.  So Red Chan conneted Li Mei and me, and we became very close.  By this time Li Mei was about 18 y.o.  She had no family and no money.  She was poor and desperate like most aged out orphans are.   

My friend Ginger told me of a wealthy American who lived in China and helped orphans.  She lived about an hour out of Guangzhou.  I contacted this woman, whom I had never met or had any contact with, and boldly asked her if she would help Li Mei.  It turned out Ginger was right, this woman has a huge heart for orphans and happily agreed to help Li Mei.  Long story short, Lisa was good friends with this woman, and Li Mei began spending time at Lisa and her husband's home.  Lisa and her husband Tom eventually took Li Mei in, and she has been living with them for 5 years now.  She has become their family.   And that is how I became friends with Lisa--we have a connecton.  They love Li Mei, and we love Arden.  And we love Li Mei too. 

Back to the present.  I knew Lisa was going to be visiting the states and spending time with her family her for a couple months this summer.  Again, Lisa is from Tennessee, and I really wanted her to meet Arden!  I felt like it would bring our story full circle, since she has never gotten to meet Arden.  We got to spend the day with Lisa and Li Mei when were in China in 2010 adopting Remi and Shepard, and then again last September when we were adopting Pryor and Boone--but she had never met Arden.   

So before we took our trip to the Smokies,  I emailed Lisa and asked if we could meet somewhere on the way down to Gatlingburg.  I wasn't thinking about the fact that Tennessee is a lot wider than it is long. 

After I sent the email I pulled up a map of Tennessee on the computer and quickly I realized the town in Tennessee that Lisa is from is about 4 hours from Gatlinburg where we were going to stay.  It appeared my plans to have Lisa and Arden meet weren't going to work out.  Right after that, though, Lisa emailed back and said, "Let me get back with you in a day or so."  I thought Lisa's email was a little weird, since she surely knew how far apart we were going to be and how much trouble it would be for us to figure out a plan that didn't hijack our family vacation or her rare trip back to the states to spend time with her family.  Honestly, I had all but given up on the idea and didn't give it much thought other than thinking I would have to to email Lisa and tell he it wasn't going to work out.

OK, this is the important part of the story though:  

The big part of this story is that at the same time, Mike and I had been going through a family issue that had us all upset.  The kind of upset that makes you drop 5 pounds.  We had been worrying and praying and praying and worrying... add in a little bit of SCREAMING there too.  I won't tell you who this involved, other than to say Mike and I were not and are not having marital problems so don't go there and start trying to counsel me.  I will also say that with 12 kids you can only imagine we do have times we are worried about one or two.  : - )  Anyway, it had started escalating and had Mike very concerned, because I was not dealing with it well, and he did not like the direction I was thinking of taking. 

Anyway, about a day later Lisa emailed and wrote,  "We will be Gatlinburg the entire weekend!  Chelsea is getting married there this weekend!" 

OK, this is the flat out weird part--I had not been to the Smokies in almost 20 years!  Lisa lives in China most of the year- and her home town in Tennessee (which is where I thought she would be) is 4 hours away from Gatlinburg.  We had planned this family vacation and paid a deposit to reserve the cabin we would be staying in long before I knew Lisa was visiting the states.  Yet, our family, including Arden, and Lisa and her husband were all going to be staying in cabins within 20 minutes of each other in Gatlinburg, Tennessee the very same weekend.  And, the wedding was not just a fly by the night wedding either.  They had several hundred guests.  We knew absolutely nothing of Lisa's daughter getting married there that weekend.  If Lisa and I had only known we would have all been at the wedding.  : - )))  But, for us this was not about the wedding.
What are the odds?!

At the moment I read Lisa's email telling me she was going to be in Gatlinburg the very same weekend we would, I knew it was not a coincidence.   God was bringing us together for a reason, but I didn't know what the reason was.

Lisa told me to call when we got into Gatlingburg.  By the time we had stopped a few times on the way down we had been driving over 8 hours.  I called Lisa and she told us to come right over to their cabin.   I told her we were all grubby from the long trip, but she assured me they were too!  We did drop off our bags, but then went to their lovely cabin (our's wasn't)

Well, we all got to talking, and talking, and talking.  It wasn't long before I poured out the family problems we had been having to this lady of great faith.  The problem that had messed up the last couple months of our little lives.  Do you know she turned my thinking around in a matter of a couple of hours.    It was like she cleared it all up in my mind and calmed the situation down completely.  

On the way back to the our cabin I knew exactly why God had brought us together with Lisa.   Through her, God had calmed me down and at the same time gave me total peace.  

Later that night when we got back to our cabin I told Mike I had changed the way I was thinking-the plan I was planning was not going to happen-not that I had an actual plan, but my mind was going in the wrong direction.  Mike, who I noted above didn't like the direction my mind was going, was so relieved he broke out in hives.  OK, you have to understand the hives thing.  When Mike was in law school (and only in law school did this happen) he would break out in hives after his exams.  Keep in mind in law school you only have exams at the end of every semester, so your entire grade for a class is riding on how well you do on ONE final exam (not like other degrees where you have them periodically through out the semester).  Each final exam would last several hours, and he would have to take them all within a span of a few days.  Anyway, every semester, like clockwork, all the stress would release from Mike's body after the last final exam and his entire body would all of a sudden be covered with hives.  

Back to the real story here.

I don't think I had seen Mike break out in hives since his law school days, until this night in the Smokies when I told him Lisa had changed my thinking.  Was I overreacting with our problem?  I know I was. I was totally sincere though, and probably justified, but I was also angry, upset, hurt, you name it, but once again, it was not about me.  It was what God wanted for one of his children, and mine too.  

Psalm 34:17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.


Gatlingburg with Lisa and her husband Tom!  I'm holding her darling grandbaby. 



Lisa meeting Arden for the first time.  I feel like the story has come full circle now.  At the same time, I look forward to the day when Arden and Li Mei can have a reunion.


Lisa and Bret.  I'm thinking there is going to be more to this story. Bret has a birth sister living near Lisa in China... Another story for another day.

Li Mei

Arden and Li Mei saying good bye in 2006.  This was taken in November 2006  after we had only had Arden about 3 days.  They have not gotten to see one another since.  But thanks to God working through Red Chan, Ginger and the wonderful woman in China who put Li Mei in touch with Lisa, Le Mei and Arden have found each other and are able to keep in touch.

As you can see from the picture, Li  Mei was taking Arden's leaving China really hard.  Arden was probably just confused by the huge journey and direction she was about to take.  On this day, the orphanage allowed us to rent a van and take a large group of orphans and Arden's non-orphan best friend from school to McDonald's and have Arden a going away party.  It turned out really good for Arden--it gave her closure, and I think was a turning point for her.  She was ready to leave with us after that night.


Last September with Lisa, her son, and me at their home in China.


Last September--Mike and Li Mei at Lisa's home in China.


Lisa's last September.  She and her husband take in lots of orphans. They live with her months... and some even years.

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2010 This little girl was a doll! I so, so wish I could have had her. She was dropped off at the orphanage.   Lisa had her for months, but eventually her family wanted her back.  The little girl did not want to go back, and it was a sad sight as she cried for Lisa.  She is living in a poor little village now.

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In 2010 in Lisa's kitchen. These were her cooks, and let me tell you, it was the best Chinese food I had ever eaten!!!

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One of China's abortion clinics. They are bad enough here, but there women are forced into them.  No license-no baby.  

Abigail and Remi Adria

Bret is working for a photographer so I asked her to take pictures of Abigail and Remi Adria.  You know the two we found out were actual biological sisters?!



Both girls are very quiet, both are dependable, helpful and very smart. 


I asked Remi what they have in common.  She says, "We both laugh at weird things." 





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Since, Abigail isn't mine I can't exactly put her report card on here, but I would be happy to brag-I mean show you Remi's!  : - )))) And we didn't get them till 2010.  

God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

Hebrews 2:4 

If you don't believe in God's miracles-sorry for your "luck."  

Weep No More

We experienced a gigantic miracle.  It was a miracle that sent me to bed that night with goose bumps and looking all around the room realizing God was there, and He is enormous!  It was both amazing and scary.  Scary in the fact that I understood I had better behave myself and try not to tick God off, because he IS powerful.  

You'll read the miracle towards the end of the story, so hang in there.  I promise you it is CRAZY.  You'll have to say to yourself either she is a crazy liar, that is the biggest coincidence ever, or that was a miracle.  

When the reporter who wrote Cokie's story said, "the child has captured my heart. She has affected and involved me."  Well, I understood, because that happened to me too.  I believe God caused me to fall for Cokie before I ever even knew she was burned, because that is exactly what happened.  

For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.  

2:13  Philippians 

In other words it wasn't about me, but the plan did work.  I didn't see Cokie on a list, and I was not looking for a child to adopt while I was visiting the orphanage that day-well I always say I'm not looking, but I wasn't expecting to go ga-ga instantly.  I certainly would have never looked at a list of pictures though and said to myself, "Hey, this one looks like she may never walk, and needs tons and tons of surgeries, so I think I will pick her!"  

We had adopted Lyric from the same orphanage a couple days before.  The sole reason I picked out Lyric was because she was super cute and had a very easy correctable SN--that is what I wanted.  

Just a couple days after we adopted Lyric we had taken her back to the orphanage, the way many adopting parents do.  Lyric just so happened to be one of the very few babies spoiled in any orphanage.  As soon as our van drove up to the orphanage, Lyric's nanny, the orphanage director, and a large group of orphans ran out to greet her.  Even though there was another cute little orphan baby whose adoptive Mom was with us visiting the orphanage, the older orphans only chanted Lyric's name.  And I mean it was a chant.  The kids were all yelling "Ya Ni! Ya Ni!  Ya Ni!. . ." in unison, like you would hear at a sporting event when the crowd is repeatedly shouting out the home team hero's name.  Lyric was asleep from the long drive and was oblivious to it all.  But as soon as she woke up and spotted her nanny, she lunged for her.  The nanny quickly ran off with Lyric and the rest of us went on the scheduled tour--without Lyric.  Actually, it was fine by me, because I am always very interested in looking around at the orphanage.  

I did pass Lyric several times once inside, but unlike most orphans being taken back, she was totally content in doing whatever they were doing.  At one point I saw her grab a box of crackers out of the nanny's hand and she started passing out crackers to all the little babies--Lyric had just turned 2 y.o. herself. 

I walked in the toddler room and was surrounded by little babies everywhere.  Most were crawling around on a floor mat.  I looked around for just a second and then across the room I spotted a baby with big, big eyes.  I thought she was absolutely B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.  Being the shallow person I am sometimes, I passed all the other babies and went straight for what I thought was one of the most beautiful babies ever.  I was already hooked on this baby before I ever even saw her burned legs.   

OK, I always say Stafan is the only one I've ever committed to without asking Mike first, but I guess that isn't true, because I immediately made a promise to Kong Wei Xin that I WOULD BE BACK TO GET HER.  Of course, she didn't know English or even probably a lot of Chinese yet, but I made the commitment to myself and I was going for it.  The guide was there and translated to the people doing the tour with us, who also worked there.  I said, "She is in depression."  They seemed shocked I figured it out so fast and said,  "Yeah, yeah, yeah!"  The guide got me Cokie's name and birthday, and I had Mike look at her before we were both shooed along.  As we walked outside to leave,  I was a little relieved Lyric didn't cry or mind as she waved goodbye to all her fans.  I had her about 3 days and she had started bonding with me too.

The first week we got back to the states I started calling about adopting Kong Wei Xin.  We were never told yes, but we started working on our dossier.  For 5 months our agency tried to get the orphanage to submit Kong Wei Xin's paperwork.  They said, "We don't know why they don't care, but they don't, and they will not submit her papers." 

At that time most all the babies being adopted out of China were either non special need or very easy correctable special needs.  In the orphanage director's eyes, Kong Wei Xin was not considered worthy of being adopted.  That is how a lot of people in the orphanages felt.  Nowadays, things have done a 180.  China no longer gives their healthy children up for adoption internationally.  People waiting on a healthy infant are told it'll be years unless the child is a much, much older child.  I honestly don't hear of any healthy infants coming out of China anymore.  

After 5 longs months of prayer, expense and working on all the red tape for adoption, our agency emailed me on a Friday afternoon.  The email said, "We can not get Kong Wei Xin.  You need to pick out another child or your dossier will just go to waste."

When Mike came home from work I told him what the agency had said.  I told Mike maybe we had to move on.  Mike said, "You just want to forget her and pick another child."  I told Mike, "No, but I believe if God wants us to get her we will!"  For the 2nd time God was giving me really strong faith about Cokie.  I told Mike that we should pray God would give us a sign that would clearly show us what he wanted us to do.  Mike resisted.  He said if we prayed that prayer and did not get a sign clearly directing us to continue to pursue Cokie, he still would not be willing to move on.  He finally relented and that night Mike and I got on our knees and asked God to help us get Kong Wei Xin and to clearly show us that it was his will for us to continue pursuing her.  For the first time we REALLY asked God for His help.  We knew He was all we had.   We could do nothing, because we had tried everything doing it ourselves and it wasn't working. 

The very next morning was Saturday and I was in the kitchen.  Mike came in with the mail and told me we had a letter from Nanjing.  Lyric was from Nanjing and Kong Wei Xin was in Nanjing.  I immediately freaked.  I knew no one in Nanjing and receiving a handwritten informal letter from China--much less from Nanjing was bizarre.  I knew it meant something!!

Keep in mind this was not even 24 afters after our agency (for the first time) had told us to forget it!  More incredibly, it was just a few hours after (for the first time) Mike and I had gotten on our knees and prayed together asking for God to show us it was His will for us to continue pursuing Kong Wei Xin.  

I opened the large envelope and about 12 baby pictures fell out.  At first I was asking, "Who is this baby?"  Then I realized they were baby pictures of Lyric. We got Lyric the day before she turned 2 y.o. and these were taken when she was about a year old. 

Inside was a note that said something like, "Hi, my name is Helene and I'm from Holland.  I am with Hopeful Hearts and we paid for Lyric's heart surgery."  There was also an email address on the note.  For the first time I learned Hopeful Hearts had paid for Lyric's heart surgery way before we had gotten her.  I had never even heard of Hopeful Hearts before that moment.

I was thinking so this is what God wants me to do!!!!!!!!  I went to my computer to send an email to the address on the note.  I wrote something like... "Since you go to the orphanage you must know Kong Wei Xin.  I want to adopt her."   

The next day I received a response.   It said, "Hi my name is Suzanne and I'm from Germany.  I am with Hopeful Hearts and I support Kong Wei Xin."  

Even though Hopeful Hearts only did hearts patients, Suzanne had spotted Cokie in the orphanage after I did.  Suzanne started fundraising and put Cokie right back in the hospital--a western style hospital.  

Our wonderful agency, and at that time they were one of the best,  tried for 5 months but could not get the orphanage to submit Kong Wei Xin's papers for adoption.  After God put the letter in our mail box, Suzanne had Kong Wei Xin's papers submitted in 2 weeks!

Later Suzanne told me she and other Hopeful Hearts women were literally praying Kong Wei Xin would be adopted by a Christian family.  This means even though they knew nothing of me, or me of them, a Christian family in the U.S. (Mike and I) was praying for Kong Wei Xin while at the same time Christian European women living in Communist China were praying for Kong Wei Xin!

Our agency said, "Well it was probably because Hopeful Hearts was doing fundraisers for the orphanage so they listened to them."  No.  This was God orchestrating an adoption.  Mike and I got on our knees and within hours a stranger's letter showed up in our snail mail box that led us to the woman who was supporting Kong Wei Xin.  I believe God made us wait for 5 months, because He wanted to make it clear it was Him making it happen, not us.  1 Peter 3:15 tells us to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." We will always be thankful for such a faith-building experience. 


Cokie Bettina and Suzanne Bettina in the western style hospital.

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 Cokie with her private nanny, paid for by Suzanne.  This was when we had already had Cokie a few days and we were able to meet the nanny.  Poor Cokie-it just confused her since she didn't really know us yet.  I think Cokie was mad at the nanny here for "leaving" her-another abandonment in her mind.

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Lael at the Great Wall.   She went with us to get Cokie.

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Bret and Lyric went too!