Wind in our hair and screams of delight but also unpredictable turns and unknown outcomes. We are a family of six; Dave, Susie, Nate, Jake, Sam, and Bella.
God has been faithful in our marriage and through the birth and blessings of our boys.
God has been faithful during our adoption journey and united Bella with us in May of 2008. We were privileged to visit with Bella's birth mother; therefore, Bella's family in Guatemala will always be dear to our hearts.
On October 16, 2008, Bella was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia. We are now battling the disease with 2 years and 3 months of treatment. We believe God will continue to be faithful!
Our family is committed to living life to the fullest...even on the hard days. Thank you for checking in and journeying with us!
I love these head bands from Maisy Daisy, but Bella is starting to figure out that they are on her head. This was her first attempt at getting one off, and I'd say she was pretty successful.
Were off to Bella's "Welcome Home Open House" today! For us, it marks the end of our homecoming journey while celebrating the gift of her life. We look forward to seeing all the wonderful faces that have supported and loved us the last 2 years of our adoption process. And we praise you Lord that we move on in our lives with Bella physically in it.
Grandpa has a long time tradition of the "treat bag" at the cottage. And the kids know it! Every year at the beginning of the season I think he cleans out Sam's Club by purchasing every fun type of candy he can find and then loads up his bag (he refills it often as he as 12 grandchildren!). Once a day, the grandchildren are allowed to choose one treat from "the treat bag". One of the kids favorites is still the old school "ring pop". This was Bella's first experience with anything sweet other than fruit....and she was quit taken with it.
Memorial Weekend has always been the long time tradition of "Opening the Cottage"! When my boys were little, the use to chant the entire 45 min drive "the cottage, the cottage, the cottage". So cute, hopefully they teach Bella. What a wonderful time spent with my parents, sibblings, nieces and nephews. This is our life for the summer...thank you God for this amazing blessing, thanks to my parents as well. :)
The weather was wonderful, for the most part, it was sunny. We had 2 warms days and 2 cooler days, and the boys all managed to get a nice sunburn because their Mom forgot all about sunscreen. Ugh....I have never done that. Little Ms. Ladybug is already sporting an awesome tan. We enjoyed time at the beach, laughs, even managed to get the docks in and the shore stations which is always entertaining to us girls who sit on the beach directing the boys. Bella did so amazingly well, she just seems to adapt where ever we go, as long as we are with her. She loves her cousins...and Grandpa, oh he is the King Kahuna! He has Ring Pops. I will post those pictures later this week. I so love my family, I am blessed beyond compare to have most of my siblings in town as well as my parents. We sincerely enjoy each other and spend most of our time together laughing.
Bella was not too sure about the sand, but eventually decided it was pretty fun to eat! She really liked the hammock as does her Mom.
4 Weeks ago today, we picked you up at Hannah's Hope to take you home forever. It was the first time we had seen you in 7 months and 1 week. And yet, now that you are home, its as if you have always been with us... in Him, we were never apart.
Today, as we drove home from "the cottage", I looked in my rear view mirror to see Bella laughing as the wind blew her hair. I still cant stop looking at her and thinking "your here, you are physically here". She is an absolute joy, and I thank God for answering the prayer "may she be beautiful to our eye's".
A day for tough news, but the toughest for me is to hear the loss of a child for Steven Curtis Chapman. He has been such an inspiration to me through his music as well as his heart for adoption. I just heard on the news that his 5 year old adopted daughter from China was accidentally hit by a car today, their 15 year old was backing out of the drive way and did not see her. So many things in life are hard to make sense of, this is one of them. This is a man of unshakable faith. Please lift him up this evening as well as his family. I know my God and He will see them through this and provide them with "peace that is beyond understanding", but for this moment, I am hurting for this family, yet rejoicing that his little one was immediately scooped up in to the arms of her heavenly Father. Lord, "I will lean not on my own understanding".
Suddenly, all the little idiosyncrasies of the day, or things I fretted over or was thinking of for tomorrow seem mindless (and they were, worry or fret is never Christ like). And all I can seem to do is stand over my children as they sleep...tears streaming down my face and pleading His blood over their lives. I just cant fathom the pain. 4 dreaming children....this weekend takes on new meaning as I am quickly and abruptly reminded how precious and fragile life is, yet I will believe His Word and trust in Him. Bella is a constant reminder of the power in His alive and very active Word. Lord, I know you will make good of this tragedy, may you give all of us discernment and mercy as to how to pray for the Chapman's as well as all the waiting families in Guatemala.
My goodness, the last 2 years of "waiting for Bella" seemed to go at a turltes pace, now life seems to go at Lighting Speed!!! Oh dear Lord, may we enjoy every moment of every day to the fullest. It's hard to do anything but stare and hold this little lady bug...she is very engaging.
My brother Tom and his wife Sandra's kids came for a visit on Saturday. They had not seen Bella since her official appearnce at the airport. Oh this Chica is going to be so in love with all 8 of her cousins!!! As you can see from the photo, Tom had 3 girls ( I had 3 boys) shortly after we announced we were adopting a girl, Tom and Sandra announced they were having a 4th. I will never forget the day he called with news of their ultra sound that they were having a boy. Tom and I used to joke that we would have a 4th and do a trade...no big deal, they would be cousins, its all good. :) God had different plans, AMEN!
Our friends Rick and Pam also made a visit bringing Bella some of her very own toys. We ended the weekend for a night out at Chili's compliments of our friends the Culps whom we met in Guatemala while on our visit trips to Hannah's hope to meet our daughters last September. Their Sophie and our Bella were roommates. Please keep sweet Sophie in your prayers, she is still waiting to come home. We are believing God for great things today! Bella loves french fries, can she get any more American?
Lastly, our middle son Jacob had Country Project Night tonight. No, this did not involve line dancing, but rather, each child chose a country to report on and fittingly, Jacob chose Guatemala. Let me tell you, his sister was the hit of the night. I was totally exhausted after leaving the school from all the attention she received. I thought she would have a melt down, but no, she's a trooper. We are so proud of Jacob, he did such a beautiful job. While Bella took a "real" nap this afternoon (yes, we are in "Nap Boot Camp"), I made Guatemalan Corn Cake for Jake to give out. That too was a big hit. We spent some time in Antigua specifially shopping for Jake for his project. He had them proudly displayed. On a side note, my sister-in-law Lana sent the PINK sweater and hat Bella is wearing in the photo. We just got it today and I absolutely loved it! It's a little big on her, but she is so cute in it and she had compliments on it all night. Thanks Lana!
This weekend, we head to the cottage to "open the cottage". My boys are counting down the days. How blessed we are to spend the summers with cousins and siblings. Not sure how Bella will do with her new surroundings, but judging her adjustment everywhere else, I am so not worried, she just goes with the flo! She is definitely our "merge" baby.
In 2 weeks, my sister-in-laws are hosting a "Welcome Home" open house, so I am preparing for that by making a tri-fold and DVD or our journey.
Life has been so busy....but not a second goes by that I dont Praise my God for all He is and has done. Everyone who comments on Bella gets the same answer from me, "She is 150% God". This journey of adoption is and was, the journey to God's heart. I finally understand what it meant to our heavenly Father to adopt us as His children through Christ, I stand amazed by Him.
Our dear friend Cheri turned 40 today!!!! Girl, you look FABULOUS!!!! Bella and I made a very specific stop to Mc Donalds today just to get a 32 oz diet coke in honor of Cheri, I love you girl, and I am so very glad you were born! This one's for you friend! Susie p.s. I tried to take a photo of Bella and I together with the diet coke, but my arms were too short to shoot the photo.
"Hey Mom! Is this where the "Star Puffs" go?" "Ah...No sweet heart, little more to your left". Bella is getting better and better every day and eating solid foods. Sadly, were not getting the same great "gag" reflects as were, and she seems to have perfected her star puff eating. She is staring to get them in her mouth, but she keeps more on her cheeks than she does on her lips. She's also really good at pushing around her bananas. My boys loved nanners, she does not care for them mashed or fresh, but she loves to play with them. Just loving this little girl and enjoying every day with her. Thank you again and again Lord that she is home.
Today, we ventured out on a 40 min. drive to visit our friends Jenifer, Ana and Grace. I have spoken several times about my friend Jenifer, we met while on the wait list for our girls in November of 06'! Ana is 2 1/2 months older than Bella, they lived at Hannah's Hope together in the same house. They came home 3 weeks apart from each other. Bella took one look at her today and gave me a look like "Ah Mom, what is she doing here?" In a good way of course. It was such a great day...Jenifer and I went through every step of the process together and she is absolutely my sister in Christ. Thank you Jenifer for a great visit, a healthy and delicious lunch, but most of all, your friendship.
My goodness, we seem to have forgotten what life is like with a baby...its only been 8 years! Bella really is doing remarkably well, in fact, the busier we are the better she seems to do. You can tell she is used to a lot of activity and action at the orphanage, not to mention lots of different faces. I think she gets bored looking at me and Beagan (the dog) all day. She is now eating solid foods twice a day, as you can tell from the video below, she does not like veggies, but she's getting used to them. Napping is still something we are trying to figure out. I am not sure if she does not need a lot of sleep, if she's being stubborn, afraid or cutting teeth. So I am trying everything in stages to figure it out. I have taken her morning nap out for the last 2 days and she naps 2-2 1/2 hours compared to her hour nap before. I noticed today that it appears that she is cutting her second bottom tooth (so don't want those teeth, I just want to keep her little for ahwile) so I gave her some Motrin at nap time to see if that helps. She sleeps straight through the night now, does not even wake up and sleeps 11 hours, AMEN! The boys adore this little girl and she sometimes gets agitated with all the kissing that goes on and passing around of her. She is like a little football. Beagan thinks she taste delicious and licks her as much as he can. Bella never cries, just makes funny faces. She loves to grab his fur. They tell us she is full Latino, I dont think so.....this girl absolutely has some "fighting Irish" in her. Literally, she balls up her firsts and tightens up her arms and face like the Fighting Leprechaun of Notre Dame. In this family, if you are not born Irish, you end up being adopted Irish and she caught on to that right away. This little face is so funny, I have to catch it on video. She does it a lot. Bella makes us laugh all the time, she is such a joy. I can thankfully admit that I am not in any way shape or form missing the daily grind of the adoption process. I just look at her and praise God that she is home. Yes, we are experiencing transition, but most of that transition is us not having had a baby around in years. Bella acts as though she has always been here and with us. I struggle to sleep at night, I go in her room at least 20 times just to watch her sleep. Since November of last year, I walked in to that little lady bug room imagining what it would be like to see her in it, and here she is. I keep thinking the adrenaline will burn off, but I don't want to miss a second of her life....8 months are already gone. Yet we have had so many firsts with her and God has been so faithful in replacing the time taken.
As I look back on the journey of bringing Bella home, I see now that I was the closest to my God that I ever have been. And with all the business of her being home, I miss quiet time with God, but I know that He is there, smiling on me...and I hope his thoughts are "well done my good and faithful servant", for this journey was all for the glory of Him.
Ok, now I know I shouldn't laugh....but I have never had a child gag on their food. And not a choking gag, but a "throw up" gag. Oh this little chica makes me laugh. She is getting better at veggies, Mommy hides them in fruit, but for one spoonful a feeding, she gets the full dose...and this is what happens. Make sure you have your volume up, the sounds effects are the best part.
I am looking at this photo and thinking "Praise you Lord Jesus"! This is all Him....the 4 beautiful blessings are all Him. What a wonderful Mothers Day. We went to church for the first time as a family of 6. We came home so that Bella could cry for her nap...she does not want anything to do with napping, and then headed off to Applebees for dinner so that Mom could have her favorite "Oriental Chicken Wrap". My husband and boys purchased a "Pandora" charm bracelet for me for Mothers Day. Each one of the boys chose a charm, Nate chose the Shamrock, Jake the Mama Gorilla with her baby and Sam, the lady bug. All 3 boys helped Bella pick hers out which was a cross with blue jewels in it. I love this bracelet....because I love my kids! Thank you Jesus for choosing me to Mother and protect these 4 precious spirits. I know you love me every time I look in to their sweet faces....no matter what the day brings.
So many photos to update of our first week....working on that along with a video of Bella eating her veggies. It's very entertaining.
For two years, I played this day over and over in my head. I had an image of how this moment would go, I could feel the emotions of walking down that run way and seeing my boys and family waiting for us, but nothing could have prepared me for this moment. Honestly, it was more overwhelming than the moment we picked Bella after 8 months of not seeing her. I wish the pictures above depicted the number of people waiting ,the energy, the excitement, the love. When we walked down that runway and heard the loud cheers and seen all the people and the signs, it literally took my breath away and I almost fell to my knees. It was a powerful moment, completely designed by God.
Our plane lander in Grand Rapids around 4:55 pm, 20 minutes behind schedule. We were held on the plane a few minutes longer as they did not have enough crew to get us off. It was cloudy and raining, and I could see faces in the windows...but I could not tell who they were. Bella had cried for at least the first hour and a half on the plane (we realized Sunday morning she had cut her first tooth!) and finally fell asleep in my arms the last 45 minutes of the flight. When we landed, I had to go to the bathroom so bad....so when we got off the plane, I headed straight to the bathroom before making that final walk.
As Dave and I were heading down the runway with Bella back in my arms, and older couple walked by us and said "Is this the baby girl from Guatemala?" and I said "yes it is!" and he said "boy, you sure have a crowd waiting for you". He was not kidding. I looked and Dave and smiled and we kept walking. I knew we were getting close to the end, and then before I could even realize what I was seeing, I could hear it. A roaring thunder of screams and clapping. And in the front of this huge group was our 3 boys, beaming with joy and excitement. I was overcome with emotion and burst in to tears. (However, Dave would tell you I was crying the entire plane trip home...I just couldnt beleive that the journey to bring her home was actually over and the vision was now a reality). Bella immediatly lit up when she seen the boys and reached out for Jacob's face. She absolutely knew who they were.
With every face I seen and every hug I received I became more overwhelmed with joy. For 2 years, every one of these people were part of the journey...a very important part of the journey. 4 of my 5 siblings were there with their children and spouses...my sister and brother-in-law drove all the way from St Louis. My Aunt Susie came with my 90 year old Grandma (yes, my Grandma is holding the sign "PINK RULES") and gave my Dad a "play by play" low down as he was in the OHare airport returning from a mission trip in Haiti. My Mom who was my spiritual rock stood off to the side and I remember thinking....I just want to get to her...I want my Mom. She was at all 3 of my deliveries with the boys, and this was no different, I wanted her right there. My very close and dear friends Jenifer and Sue H and their families, and friends Sue M, Beth H and Pam S. Several people stood on the sidelines that we did not know watching the whole thing transpire, congratulating us. I could not have planned it any better. It was an awesome moment. And although we do not have photos to depict every thing, it is embedded in my mind and heart forever.
When we pulled up to our home, pink balloons were on the mail box, a welcome home sign in the front yard and an "its a girl" flag on the front of our house. We had balloon boquet on our dining room table and my sister-in-laws had sent us home with dinner. My boys kept saying "finally! We get the food!" (We always bring meals to families who have a new baby). I also heard them saying "Its a feast". Oh they make me laugh.
It's been 1 week now since that night. How quickly it has gone by and how desperately I do not want this sweet girl of mine to grow. We are totally in love with this little girl. Lord, I stand amazed by you. Your plan, your will, your ways....you have provided above and beyond our wildest dreams and imaginations. You were and are bigger and greater. May this journey continue to bring glory to you...All of you, none of me.
To my family and friends, we love you, there are no words to say how much you mean to us....we were strong because of Him, but we were sane because of you.
Blessings to all of you, and to my friends waiting to bring your children home, your day is coming, God already has it covered.
p.s. Still working on the slide show, waiting for a few more pics.
We have been so blessed with emails and calls of people who want to help us through this time of treatment for our daughter. Per suggestion of our social worker and friend, we are posting here what we feel will be most beneficial to our family at this time. Although the help is easy to give, its hard to receive, but we have been told by medical professionals an social workers that we will need it. Your love and support mean so very much to us, thank you.
1. Prayer, please see "Pray with Us" 2. Meals 3. Car Pooling from school 4. Continued emails and blog posts with encouraging words. (This means more to us than you can possibly know.) 5. Loving on our boys, this will be a time of sacrifice for them. 6. Child Care 7. GIVE BLOOD! Where ever you live, please give blood in honor of Bella. Save a life!
We want to personally recognize and thank all of you who have graciously helped us in one way or another. Whether its through meals, house cleaning, driving, errands, donations, gifts, etc. We so appreciate you and recognize the blessing from God in all of you. Every moment of every day we are privileged to see the face of Jesus in all of you. From our home to yours, thank you and "May God bless you and hold you in the palm of His hand." Please note, your emails and posts are greatly appreciated and needed just as much as any monetary blessing, please continue to do so as they lift us up daily.
The Stanley Family (Gretchen and Gillibean) Candy and Kya Blue Michelle and Abby Riggs Deb Vangorder All God's Children International http://www.allgodschildren.org/ Kentwood Community Church Kitty and Larry Jerard The VanderZwaag Family The Angerbauer Family The Infante Family Annie Bulthuis The Edwards Family The Ambrose Family The Claeys Family The Fabro Family The DeMarchis Family Peter Harmon Joe and Erin Harmon Mary and Dejan Vukic Keith and Daphne Edwards Susie Harmon Betty Harmon Courtney and Stella Sue Marvin Beth Hartlien Pam Sult Keller Williams Realty Grand Rapids KW Cares Grand Rapids Sue and Rob Harkema and Family Jenifer and Brian VanZanten and Family Action Chemical of Grand Rapids Celebration Entertainment-Brad Eley Trish Borgdorf-http://www.vangels.com/ John and Michelle Lawrence Larry and Kitty Girard Stacy and Bella Gail and Johanna Pam and Rick Foster Amy, Fred and Grace Nagel John and Tiffny Harmon Tom and Sandra Harmon Nancy and Don Harmon Ray and Linda Ferrick Helen Devos Childrens Hospital Dr. Deanna Mitchell Dr. Ron Hoffman Jenifer Gerwig and Family Jane and David Lautenbach Greg and Shannon Ferrick Karen and Chad Janney Cheri, Donnie and Malaena Harris
Our Home Address
Many of you have asked for our home address, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like this information. Again, we appreciate all the support and prayers. It has meant more to us than we are even able to put in to words.
Our Praise from Psalm 103
With all my heart, we Praise the Lord, And with all that we are, we Praise His Holy Name. With all our heart, we Praise the Lord, and we will never forget how kind he has been. His kindness and love are a crown on our heads. Each day that we live, He provides for our needs and gives us the strength of a young eagle. For all who are mistreated, the Lord brings justice. You oh Lord are merciful, kind and patient, your love never fails. How Great is our God! You are kind to all who worship you, You keep your promises to those who faithfully obey you All of you who serve and obey God, come and Praise your Lord! With all our hearts, We PRAISE the Lord!