Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Stranger Than Fiction

Do things ever happen in your life that defy logic or human understanding? They do occasionally in mine. We have had one such experience lately, and I'd like to share.
About a month and a half ago, we were looking at pictures of children waiting for Angel Tree Warriors through Reece's Rainbow Angel Tree Program. We had decided as a family that we were going to become warriors this year for a child in China with Down syndrome. The goal is to raise $1,000 through the holiday season for a child who doesn't have a committed family yet with the hope that the advocacy and funds will help them find a family. We were excited about the project and were brainstorming ways we could raise the money. We looked through the faces of the waiting children, and our kids all agreed they wanted to advocate for one child specifically. He is the exact same age as our 7 year old son and looks SO much like Milo! The kids immediately started saying they wanted to adopt him. Our kids don't typically say things like that, so it kind of took me off guard. My 7 year old was particularly insistent. He has a bunk bed in his room and seriously can't wait to share his room with a brother. I always assumed this would be Milo when he got old enough, but their strange attachment to this boy made me think. Not only are money and time a barrier to us adopting again, but space in our home as well! We are out of bedrooms. Truly the one place in the home we could squeeze another person is in my son's room. It's a good size room, has a bunk bed already, and has a spacious closet. Hmmmm...
I requested this boy's file. Although he is absolutely darling and will bless a family some day, for some reason I knew he wasn't ours. I was relieved! I was also slightly disappointed, but mostly I was relieved! Oh, to not have to start another adoption, come up with the finances, mix our lives all up again; yes, I was relieved!
A day or so after knowing this first little boy wasn't ours, I was quickly scrolling through my blog trying to find some information for an article being written about Dasha in Russia. I went past this article that I wrote in early September and got the chills. I saw this face and had the thought, "Oh, THERE is my son!"
I quickly dismissed the thought. Nope, not happening. He's amazing, but our lives are full. Over the next weeks, I began to be consumed with thoughts of "Todd". I read his profile on the Defend website several times. I knew he would be a huge blessing to any family, and I panicked at the thought that he would never have one! He has three things going against him: 1) He's a boy. It's so, so sad to say, but being a boy is one of the biggest obstacles to being adopted. 75% of kids on the waiting child list in China are boys. 2) He is almost 7. It's always harder for older kids to find homes. 3) He has Down syndrome. I know a LOT of people adopting kids with Down syndrome, but the adoptive families numbers pale in comparison to the numbers of children with Ds needing homes. I mentioned to Quin that I couldn't get this boy's face out of my mind, and he kind of laughed it off. Yeah, he's great, but no. I agreed and tried to get on with my life. For WEEKS I agonized! I couldn't decide why he was haunting me so! Was it because I simply felt compassion for him and wish I could be his mom, or was Heavenly Father trying to tell me to go get him?? I seriously felt a knot in my stomach all the time trying to decipher what we were supposed to do. 

We went to Florida on vacation, and I thought for sure this would calm my mind. Vacations are tricky with kids, and I knew a vacation with 6 days of constant on the go would result in very grumpy kids. This would erase from my mind any desire to add another child into our already nutty group! So we went...and our kids were perfect. They were all incredibly well behaved the whole trip! And, I thought A LOT about Todd. The entire trip. Every activity we did I would think about how it would be to have him with us. I strangely, well, missed someone I'd never even met. I would even count to make sure we had everyone and get a surge of panic that someone was missing. 
After we got home and went about our lives, I continued to feel this way. I finally mentioned it to Quin again, and he was curious where my feelings were coming from. Was this just something I personally wanted to do, or was it divinely inspired? We started to pray and ponder and start to talk about the idea. Honestly, it felt in so many ways like the absolute craziest decision we could ever make. Money was the biggest concern. How.in.the.world. would we come up with $30,000 AGAIN? There is just no way. And what about our time? We already have four kids, and our lives are constantly jam packed. Why would we add an additional child into the mix, and a child with special needs at that? My brain continued to tell me the answer had to be "no", while my heart pressed that the answer was indeed "yes".
After some intense prayer, Quin and I both came to the conclusion that it was our decision to make, but that if we decided to do it, none of our concerns would materialize. Everything would be okay. We would, of course, continue to be insanely, crazy busy, but everything would work out.
video

Even with that reassurance, we just weren't certain. We knew "Todd" would be an incredible blessing to any family, and we also knew that he would thrive with the love of a family. We've witnessed this firsthand with Milo. But did it need to be us? The next morning (October 26) was the Primary Program in church. This is when the kids ages 3-12 perform the songs they've learned through the year as well as do little speaking parts. It's the best Sunday of the year! SO cute! I was sitting there minding my own business when the kids started to sing "The Family is of God". 

(You can listen to the song The Family is of God by clicking on this video)
Tears started streaming down my face. This was my answer. There is nothing more important in the world than a family. Nothing. If we were on the fence about this, the answer needed to be yes. When the things you're weighing are "hmmm...we're going to be really busy and have no money" or "this child is raised in an orphanage and never knows the love of a family", the answer is simple. SO simple. You do it. You go get him and you figure out how to manage. It suddenly made sense in my mind that I was overwhelmed with one child, then I had another and figured it out. I was busy and felt crazy with two, then we had a third and we made it all work. I didn't know how we'd do a fourth, and here we are! I know it will be the same with a fifth. I know we'll just do it. Life goes by so quickly. Love is what lasts. This is a busy season in life, but this season will pass and family will be forever.
video
This video is of Todd showing off his sweet dance moves! He's the one on the left.
The very next morning (October 27th) I started calling agencies. By Tuesday we were $2,000 in. THIS IS HAPPENING!!! Holy cow! I can't even believe this is real life! We have pre approval from China, our home study is completed, our initial agency fees have been paid, our I-800A is in the mail, and I've nearly finished all the dossier paperwork. We anticipate a later summer/early fall travel date. It still feels like this is some strange out of body experience. It doesn't feel like real life yet. It feels, well, stranger than fiction! 
If you need to donate some money before the end of the year for tax purposes, we wouldn't say no if you chose to donate to our adoption ;) Here is a link to our Reece's Rainbow FSP. It's a tax deductible donation. Paypal does charge a fee (so we'd be getting less money than you give), so if you'd rather, you can mail your checks to:
Reece's Rainbow
PO Box 277
Monrovia, MD 21770
and put our names (Quin and Whitney Stephens) on the memo line.
Thank you!!


HERE WE GO AGAIN!



Sunday, December 14, 2014

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time!

These first pictures were taken a few days before Thanksgiving. They're old news, but they're cute so I'm posting them anyway ;)



Don't you just love this time of year!? I sure do! There's something even extra magical when you have a new "baby" to enjoy the holiday with as well! Seeing the twinkling lights and Christmas ornaments through his eyes as he sees them for the first time has brought absolute joy to our Christmas season!
In early November, we headed to get our pictures taken with Santa. This is something we do every year with the kids. The picture is displayed through the season, and we also put them in ornaments so we have an ornament with the kids and Santa from every year. I love it! Milo was intrigued by Santa. So fun to have him home!!
 We decorated the house the day after Thanksgiving, and Milo's excitement was beyond what I'd even anticipated! He loved every decoration, but especially the tree! Even now, weeks later, he gravitates towards it. He crawls and scoots over to it, lays underneath it, and just looks up. It's SO cute! 

We've had a holly jolly time the past few weeks and have kept busy as can be with fun activities! We had a pajama late over with some out of town cousins. So fun!


 



 We went to Temple Square to see the lights. I could never have anticipated how much Milo would enjoy this! It made me cry a few times because he loved it so very much!



 I mean, just look at his face! He was enthralled!!



 Here are some professional pictures of what he was looking at so intently:



There was so much to see and it was so crowded that I thought for sure he'd get overwhelmed. He really, truly loved it, though, and was all smiles and giggles! Warmed my heart up like I can't even describe!

We also had a blast at the Festival of Trees! It's an amazing local event where hundreds and hundreds of trees, wreaths, playhouses, a children's activity center, goodies, etc. are all donated to raise money for Primary Children's Hospital. I've been going with my mom for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was born, probably! It's a yearly tradition, and I'm happy to say Milo enjoyed it with us this year as well! We even saw every single tree; something we haven't been able to accomplish in YEARS!

 Milo got to meet Santa again at our church Christmas party. So cute!


 And yet again yesterday at the Stephens family Santa breakfast! Milo couldn't quite figure the beard thing out. Ha!


I hope everyone is having a wonderful season! I can't wait to continue to experience the magic with Milo for the first time! 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy first Thanksgiving home to my sweet Milo! We had such a great day with him! Thankful seems too light of a word to express how I feel about having him home this year. 
This boy is the sweetest little man that ever lived! I love him so very dearly!
 
 Today at dinner this smiley boy ate lots of mashed potatoes, fruit salad, and 1/3 of a piece of banana cream pie. Then he went on to eat 7 ounces of his homemade bottle stuff. I'd say he had a good, healthy dose of stuffing himself on his first Thanksgiving!
 I was playing peek-a-boo behind the camera in these shots. He's loving that game lately :)
 Milo's doing SO well at his treadmill training with Early Intervention! I take him 2-3 times a week and help him walk on the treadmill. I know he's going to be taking off on his own soon enough!
 Yesterday he stood up all by himself while holding on to the dog! We cheered and clapped! Then he licked the dog. Ew. The cheering quickly stopped.
 His smile lights up my world!
 And he loves his family SO much! Here he is asleep on Grandpa! Such a busy and fun day can really tucker a little guy out!
Sleep well, darling boy! Tomorrow we decorate for Christmas. I simply can't wait to see what you think of all the lights and trees!!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Birthday Boy!!

Today was Milo's second birthday, but first birthday at home! We had such a great day celebrating with him! About a year ago we saw the cutest picture from Little Flower of a tiny newborn Milo in a Very Hungry Caterpillar knit outfit.
I knew then that would be the theme of his first birthday at home! 




 




 Don't ask me why I took the picture before all the food was out ^ ?




 Remember Kelsey from this post in June? She for sure got an invite! Love that cute girl! She was very surprised at how heavy Milo was and how big he's grown since then!


 





Milo showing off his new tricks!


 He's recently fascinated by the dog, and the feeling is mutual. The dog won't leave him alone! They're so cute together!



All ready for bed! He turned into a very tired caterpillar after such a fun day!
We love you, Milo Yang! It has been one of the greatest pleasures of our lives to watch you go from a very hungry, tiny little caterpillar to a beautiful, thriving butterfly!!