From left: Grace, Nate, Abigail, Isaac, and Sidge with JB and myself.
Yesterday, JB wanted to go and check our perimeter fence for downed trees. He filled his backpack with tools and decided that it would be fun if we made an adventure of it and took all the kiddos currently at the house.
Hiking to the top of our property is no small feat. It is very steep in spots and without stopping, it will take you a good solid half hour just to get to the top. I have actually only hiked to the top one time before -- shortly after we purchased the property. Sidge did it one time with our friend Shane. But Isaac and Abigail had never been.
Believe it or not, my brother-in-law, Grant, hiked it with his twin two-year-olds in tow two days earlier. Seriously! That guy is amazing when it comes to the outdoors. He inspired me, and I decided it was time to get my other kids to the top. I wasn't ready to bring Hannah yet, but we did convince Abigail and Isaac to join us as well as cousins Grace and Nate. (You never have to convince Sidge -- he is game for anything with the word "adventure" in the title.)
The good news is, we all made it with no injuries. (Scrubs too! He always joins us on hikes!) The bad news is .... there are a LOT of trees that need to be taken care of. JB managed to get one taken care of, but we are going to need a lot more time to remove some of the other ones that have fallen. In addition, there is one section that has a huge compilation of trees down that have obviously been there for much longer than we have owned the property.
The perimeter fence is a very huge benefit of our property simply because it allows us to have animals on our land without intense fear of predators. We are so fortunate that we have not lost any animals to coyotes or raccoons, and we'd like to keep it that way. We are also hoping to use the perimeter fence to keep our animals in as we begin giving our sheep and pigs more of the run of the property. That will mean maintaining the fence. There is a lot of wind in the area we live in, and there will be a lot of downed trees.
We had such a great time! I am so proud of all the kids for hiking with minimal complaining. I still cannot believe, when walking our land, that we own this property and these are our woods to hike!
I have a great appreciation for people who try to explain adoption to children. Which is exactly what the book Love's Complete by Teresa Travous Hullwas intended to do. This children's e-book has 32 pages which targets preschool or elementary school readers. There is no violence or scary scenes and the message is pretty accurate. But overall I felt like it was sort of "thrown together." The images were just so-so, and the rhyming and wording truly felt like something that I might pull off just sitting in my house one afternoon. I think the author did a good job sharing the overall message of how adoptions through Russia work. In December of 1991, the USSR dissolved into fifteen states, and when Russia became independent in 1992, Americans were able to begin adopting from this country. Since then, 60,000 children have joined American families. This book was designed to show what this journey looks like for families, and as I mentioned previously, it did this accurately. But I just found the rhyming a bit off and the pictures a bit average. Everything about the book felt average to me, and I truly think there might be better options for parents of children adopted from Russia. Booklookbloggers.com provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest and fair review.
As a mom of boys who love the movie Star Wars, I thought this devotional book was a neat addition to our home library. I especially loved the play on the movie both on how the cover was laid out and the parallels to the movie within the pages.
Each of the 180 devotions includes a:
"Master Moment" which includes a tip or something important that you need to know
"Ways of Wisdom" section which discusses the scripture in further detail
"Use the Force" section which encourages young Jedi's in training to call upon the name of the Lord in their lives!
Playing on the idea that the Christian life isn't one for just sitting in a pew but instead taking risks and pursuing wisdom, this book is working to help young children let the awesome power of God work through them to do things they never thought possible.
I think this is a great book for young men between the ages of 7-12. They need to be able to read well (or have a parent ready to do the devotions with them.) Either way, I'm very excited about getting a free copy of this book from booklookbloggers.com in exchange for my free review. We can't wait to start reading them daily in our home!
JB has five brothers and sisters. There are currently eight children among the six of them -- until March when Matt & Danielle make it nine. We have four. JB's brother Ray has two (Grace and Nate), and his sister Elizabeth has twin boys who are about six months older than Hannah.
This will be the last year capturing a picture of all eight cousins as by this time next year there will be a new face in the mix! Here was the first one we got back in 2013.
Abigail, Isaac (holding Ethan), Grace (holding newly born Hannah), Nate (holding Ethan's twin brother Eli), and Sidge
Grampa and Grama holding Ethan and Hannah
Front row from left: Sidge, Nate, Isaac (holding Eli), Abigail and Grace
Ethan, Sidge, Nate, Isaac, Hannah, Grace, Eli, and Abigail
And here are some more fun fotos we managed to get yesterday. It's been a crazy Christmas week with 16 people here -- eight of which are kids -- but we've had a great time!
A huge congrats to my brother and his wife, Adrienne "AD", who welcomed Riddick William Huisman to their family just a few days before Christmas. He joins big sisters Charleigh (who is about the same age as my boys) and Baylee (who is a little older than Abigail.) Riddick gives my parents 7 grandchildren -- quite a perfect number I would say. This gives them four girls and three boys, and while I can't speak on behalf of AD, I think both of us feel our families are pretty complete so 7 may be the final answer -- at least until I have the energy to adopt again ... which I definitely hope to do.
I'm going to making a trip to Florida in January -- a big part of which is to get to meet Riddick. Oh, and yes -- he was one big baby. I thought Hannah was big at 10.2, but Riddick beat her at 10.10 -- coming close to his Dad's record of 11.1.
Me: "Mr. Billy is your friend." Hannah: "He's not my friend." Me: "Yes he is." Hannah: "He's not a friend." Me: "He is. He's nice." Hannah: "No. He's a man."
Sidge: "Is magic real?" Me: "No. It's an optical illusion." Sidge: "Then how can Santa travel the whole world in one night and give everyone presents?" Me: "Well ... what do you think?" Sidge: "I think his reindeer are really fast?" Me: "Okay." Abigail: "But Mommy one day Daddy gave me a tiny little bear, and I put it in my jacket pocket." Me: "Okay." Abigail: "And then the bear disappeared." Me: "Yes?" Abigail: "And that was real. That was magic and it was real."
Isaac: "Daddy I was in your closet and I saw presents, and I thought to myself ... if they are here now, and it isn't Christmas Eve, then maybe Santa isn't the one who does it."
Isaac: "I told my speech teacher that most of the things I say, I say in my head."
Me: "Did you have a good Christmas Abigail?" Abigail: "Yes." Me: "You liked it?" Abigail: "I'm not sure who wouldn't like Christmas. Except maybe the grinch."
Me: "Are you ready for Santa to come, Hannah?" Hannah: "I don't want he to come." Me: "But he has to come and give you gifts." Hannah: "Santa isn't coming here. He's coming to town."
There has been so much rain here, that there were tons of streams to play in. Here we are in front of our big pond at the end of a long adventure on the farm with all the cousins. You can see that the overflow drain is working out great! JB's older sister and her twin boys are here for Christmas. In addition, his younger brother Ray and his family are in town as well. The picture above is all the cousins except for Ethan who was running errands with his Dad!
Our Christmas card. As always, my heart is with those of you grieving during the holidays. Whether it be an empty seat at your table, or a seat that has never been filled, may you feel the Lord this year.Here is a song to those of you grieving.
It took 7.5 years for us to suffer our first broken window as parents.
P.S. This is actually our second broken window since we got married in 1998. JB once shot an arrow through 4 panes of glass when practicing with his bow out our townhouse window during our first year of marriage. But I'll let him tell that whole story another time.)
P.S.S. This one was a chair that tipped backward and hit the window just right. I'll leave the guilty party's name off of this. He/she knows who they are! And he/she felt really bad.
P.S.S.S. No one was hurt. Something I didn't even ask until people started asking me. Great mom move there!
I always tell people to expect a bit of homesickness around the six month mark of their new life.
We are right around the six month mark of moving to the farm.
And I'm homesick.
The only thing is ... I have no idea what I am homesick for.
I was carrying food to the ducks in one hand, the pig and sheep in the other, and I had a moment of intense sadness. I love this farm, and I know it is where I belong forever. But for the first time in my life, I am not preparing to go somewhere else. There will most likely not be a next stop for us. This is a final stop for us.
A part of that feels so amazingly wonderful. And another part of this feels incredibly scary. I've spent the last 20 years of my life knowing that each of the stops I am making will only last 2-4 years. And now I am making a stop that will last forever.
And so I feel homesick for home. This just doesn't feel like home to me yet. And as I walked I realized that home is not a place. It's a feeling. It's a people. It's a culture. It's just comfortable.
I feel a bit homesick for ...
South Florida ... the familiarity of the city I grew up in.
Kentucky ... the thrill of the college town I played basketball in.
Minnesota ... the easy downtown living and friends dropping in regularly.
Eglin AFB, Florida ... living right on the bay and the white sands of Destin.
Turkey ... and the friends and culture and cul-de-sac I so quickly fell in love with.
Azores ... living right on the water and walking around the corner for dinner or a snack.
Spring Hill, TN ... and a house and neighborhood that fit me so well.
"This was a precious moment. We bought this ornament years ago to help keep our hope that one day we would have our child's photo in it. It hung, empty on our tree until this year as Tenley helps me hang it as our first tree ornament!"
A moment from my childhood friend, Lauren, who saw her eight year journey with infertility come to an end six months ago.
Being eight months younger than your big brother can be a challenging spot. Isaac often is "better" at things and quicker to pick things up simply because they are doing things at the same time but Isaac is a little bit older.
So JB and I make a point to point out the things that Sidge does do better. The other day we had this conversation:
JB: "You know what Sidge, you are the best kid farmer we have. That is the thing you do the best." Sidge: "Yeah? You think so?" JB: "Yep. Isaac does some things better than you but you do farming better than him." Isaac: "Well, that's because I don't like farming. So I'm fine with that."
Anyways, Sidge has already taken over feeding the guinea fowl by himself, but we've been working on him taking over the geese and ducks. Yesterday he decided to try the whole thing by himself. So proud of him. He's totally got it!
The kid loves farming.
Here are some videos I took of his adventures:
The first thing he has to do is return any ducks or geese that got out of their pen overnight. First up? One duck ... which Sidge caught (with some help from Abigail) and put back in.
Next up? Shooing the entire flock of geese back in. He did it flawlessly.
And then, the biggest thing, is getting over the fence with the food by himself. He did it so well.
JB's Facebook status: "I shall take my children to see Star Wars in the theater... like my father before me."
I'm not sure who was more excited: JB to take his kids to see this or his kids, to have their Daddy take them to see it.
I myself am not a huge Star Wars fan .... but this one was by far my favorite. It was SO good. JB and I had deep discussions over whether the kids were ready to see Star Wars. With the boys, we were very deliberate about them being ready. But what we didn't factor in was that little sister would automatically catch the fever just by having two older brothers.
When the movie started, she put her hands up in the air like she was on a roller coaster ride! So much fun.
(And a huge thank you to Grampa and Grama for babysitting the "Hurricane" so we could enjoy the movie!)
P.S. It's really fun having your kids grow up -- and not so fun at the same time. But things like this? Priceless!
To read this article as it was originally published, please click here.
by Jillian Burden
I’m one of those people who will absolutely gush if you ask me about adoption. My husband, John, and I adopted our son, Arie, from Moscow three years ago. He was two and a half when we brought him home, and having him in our family has been absolutely amazing. We love our little boy! He makes us laugh with his adorable quips, he melts our hearts with his tenderness, and he fascinates us with his creative mind. It’s been three years since we brought him home, and we have no regrets.
John and I started talking about adoption before we were even married. We wanted to have a few biological children first and then adopt a third and maybe a fourth. When we started trying to conceive, however, we were battered with the surprising pain of infertility. That first year of infertility was devastating. At the end of that year, we both began seeing a fertility specialist and researching adoption. Through much prayer and council, we decided to pursue adoption first.
For us, pursuing adoption wasn’t saying “no” to fertility treatments; it was saying “not yet.” Because we already knew we wanted to pursue adoption, it was fairly easy to turn our plan on its head and adopt before having biological children.
The relationship between infertility and adoption is often complicated. For some adoptive families, there is no connection; adopting was just something they wanted to pursue, regardless of fertility. For others, adoption and infertility are closely linked as the experience of infertility serves as the catalyst to adopt.
I find common ground with both groups, but I write to the second group now. I often get questions from couples—women in particular—who have experienced infertility and are considering adoption. Most of the questions are about the emotional side of adopting after infertility.
How did you know it was time to adopt?
What has it been like?
Did adoption heal your infertility?
In response to these questions, I like to share my experience which may be surprising but it is honest:
Adoption did not heal my infertility. Adoption redeemed it.
I make a distinction between healing and redemption this way:
Healing restores a person to their previous, uninjured state. Healing “undoes” the damage.
Redemption doesn’t “undo” the damage, but it “turns” the damage and uses it in a way that brings life and light to the broken.
Adoption did not heal my longing to experience pregnancy and childbirth or my feelings of grief over my broken body. I believe it is possible to find peace after the pain of infertility, but I also recognize that it was never my son’s job to bring me that healing. The highs and the lows of his adoption have been their own distinct experience.
I believe it is okay and even healthy to acknowledge that adoption in itself might not heal the grief we experience in infertility. I can celebrate the joy I’ve experienced through adoption while still grieving the loss I’ve experienced through infertility.
While adoption did not heal my infertility, it did redeem so very much of it! Most obviously, adoption redeemed my unmet desire for motherhood. Adopting my son made me a mother; a title for which I had absolutely ached. I remember when I met my son for the first time—I could not stop touching him. He was 2 years old, and we met him in his Russian orphanage. As we played with toys together, I kept reaching out to rub his back, hold his hand, and caress his cheek. Not wanting to scare him, as I was still a stranger, I held back as much as I could, but I longed to scoop him up and hold him close, to look over every inch of him as a mother does with her newborn. I was enamored with this little boy who was—incredibly—my son! Adoption redeemed that mothering ache inside of me.
Adoption redeemed the time my husband and I lost to infertility. Every month we spent trying to conceive that first year felt like time being sucked into a vacuum; time we’d never get back. When we made the decision to adopt, that time we lost didn’t feel “wasted” anymore. It felt purposeful. It had been leading us to our son, even when we didn’t know he existed. In another way, as we walked through two years of infertility treatment after our son came home, parenting brought us joy and meaning even in our hardest times of grief and loss. I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I would say with tears, “I don’t know how we would get through this without our little boy!”
Finally, adoption redeemed the pain we felt with infertility. So much of infertility feels meaningless. Why can’t we get pregnant? Why do I have endometriosis? Why aren’t my eggs any good? Why did I have to miscarry? There are no easy answers. Adoption redeemed our pain not by taking it away, but by giving it meaning. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say that God gave me infertility so that I would adopt, but I will say that it was worth every moment of pain in infertility to bring my son home. I wish it didn’t have to happen that way, but it did. And the joy of watching my son thrive and grow in our family redeemed all the struggle we went through. Like the redemption of “wasted time,” adoption redeemed the pain I felt with infertility because it gave that pain meaning when it brought me to my son.
After bringing our son home, my husband and I endured two long years of infertility treatments including three cycles of donor embryo IVF. We are now excited to be expecting twins through embryo adoption. It’s been five years altogether since we started trying to conceive for the first time.
The experiences of infertility and adoption have changed me. There were times on our journey when I felt overcome by grief, but looking back through those five years I can say that my faith has matured, I’ve become more compassionate, and I’ve realized how much strength the Lord provides in our times of greatest need.
If I could be healed from the past five years and go back to the person I was before, I wouldn’t. I’d much rather claim my redemptive experience.
If you are considering adoption after infertility, your journey will be your own. Your experience will not be exactly the same as mine. Only you will know when you are ready to move forward. Here is my word to you: it’s okay to be sad about your infertility even as you experience the joy of adoption. Infertility is a big loss. As you move forward with adoption you won’t go back to the person you were before infertility, but you can experience a redemption of your loss. And maybe, just maybe, that’s the better thing.
Sidge: "What is this on my jeans?" Me: "A decoration." Sidge: "Why would people put decorations on jeans?" Me: "I'm not sure. Just because they think it looks good." Sidge: "Hmmm .... oh wait, I think I see the use of it. I could hang a hammer in it. Now it makes sense."
On the way to church this morning I told the kids they were going to have a punishment after church due to bad behavior. When Isaac reminded me of their punishment on the way home, I told him, "I am debating eliminating it due to your good behavior."
About five minutes later Sidge said, "What do you think about your debation?"
Hannah has decided she does NOT want Santa coming to our house. Here is her explanation as to why.
Yesterday we went out to move the pigs and sheep as a family.
It was a beautiful 70 degree December day. In the end, even Abigail took her shirt off and was walking around, long braid dangling down her bare back.
We put a blanket down and spread a bunch of quick lunch food and the kids alternated between eating and "helping" us move the animals.
Afterwards, JB got his truck out to move the sheep/pig house. Only the truck got stuck.
JB's Dad is out of town. So he couldn't pull us out.
And our neighbor Mr. Billy didn't get home until well after dark. Nice guy he is, he called at 9pm willing to come over with some lights to get us out. JB told him that definitely wasn't necessary.
But it did mean we were down to one vehicle. So instead, I took JB into work at 6am this morning with the kids all nestled in the car seats in their pajamas. I needed the van for errands and Abigail's ballet class later today so we had no choice.
When I got home, it was pouring rain. I am so blessed that a 13-year-old homeschooler has been coming over on Thursdays to play with Hannah and Abigail while I get some cleaning and homeschool work done with the boys.
So as soon as she got here, I headed out to do the animals. Imagine my delight when I saw five ducks in our driveway. Further investigation provided details that made me even more excited. Pouring rain and half the ducks (7) and all the geese (10) are out of their pen.
Mud. Rain. By myself. I'll admit -- I teared up for a second. And then I took a deep breath and got down to it.
There is something about farming that doesn't allow you to quit. I really had no choice. I couldn't just throw my hands up and leave all the animals wandering the entire farm without food. I had to do what had to be done.
I investigated the fencing, and as I assumed, it was intact. Instead, they must have caught a good gust of wind and flown over the fencing which happens once a week or so. But this was by far the largest number of escapees at one time. In addition, I usually have Sidge with me to help, but due to the rain, I had left him inside.
So I grabbed a stick (it helps me look bigger) and opened the fencing and slid and jumped and ran in the mud until I had all those little goobers back inside. I was exhausted and my zipper had gotten off track on my rain jacket so my hood wouldn't stay on so my head was soaked.
And I hadn't even fed the pigs and sheep and chickens yet.
As I have mentioned previously, there are many times during our farming adventures that I honestly can't believe this is my life. Yesterday, JB and I had a fun conversation. I told him how lucky he was that he married me. "What if you had marries some dame who hated dirt and bugs and was scared to death of snakes. Then what?" He just laughed and nodded and told me he was glad he picked me.
I'm glad he picked me too!
P.S. Here is a video of Wednesday morning. JB, me, Abigail, and Sidge had teamed up to move the ducks and geese to their new paddock. We were able to do it in about 30 minutes which is a record for us! Here is a video I took of our adventures:
It has been unseasonably warm this week in the foothills of Tennessee.
JB's parents are out of town. So our "little" family of six -- seven if you count the dog -- was outside yesterday, just enjoying the sunshine together. As JB drove off for a work meeting, I finished my driveway sprints and collapsed on the ground to do my push-ups and sit-ups so excited to be outside in my tank-top in December.
(I will always be a Florida girl at heart.)
The kids were with me for a bit -- trying to do jumping jacks and sitting on my back while I attempted a push-up. Giggling, wrestling, trying to mimic what I was doing. If you ever want a good laugh, just ask a two-year-old to try to do a push-up. Cracks me up every time.
(Wondering if people are laughing as hard at me when I attempt them.)
But suddenly, all four of my little people were gone, vanishing around the other side of the house, lead by Isaac on some sort of zombie adventure.
And it was just me, lying in the grass, basking in the December warmth. I closed my eyes and started praying -- just enjoying this precious alone time in gorgeous weather with my family and my God.
And suddenly I felt his presence. (And I don't mean God's presence.) I opened my eyes and there he was. My dog. Standing guard above me. Tail perched at alert. Ears back. Making sure I was safe there in my spot on the grass from the one or two vehicles that passed our house a day. Or the random guinea fowl that wandered my way.
I called my big pile of spots over to me, and it almost surprised him. There are so few times that just he and I have time to spend together anymore. I am so busy with his little brothers and sisters that he doesn't ever get the same attention that he received when he was the only little man in the house.
But today, it was just Scrubs and me, lying next to each other in the warm grass. He pushed his head up against mine, smudged my glasses with his nose, and even rolled onto his back for a good scratch.
And suddenly there were tears rolling down my cheeks.
A "happy sad" as Sidge likes to call it.
It was actually the second time this week I found myself crying from joy. The first had been early one morning earlier that week, while feeding the chickens. JB and I looked up to see an amazingly vibrant double rainbow stretching from one side of our farm to the other. I found myself tearing up.
And here I was, lying in the grass, tearing up again.
I was immediately transported back in time to a very sad time in our lives. The year was 2007. We had just moved to Eglin Air Force Base. And we had just suffered our fourth failed IVF cycle. Twelve failed attempts at pregnancy altogether and still no children in our home.
JB and I had both agreed that we were done with biological children. That it was time to move on. That our hearts couldn't bear the pain that we had chosen to endure for five years as we begged and pleaded with God and my body for a child.
We went and bought new living room and dining room furniture and decided it was time to stop waiting for something that was never going to happen.
But we lived on this bustling Air Force Base, and if there is one thing I have learned about military life, it is this: put a bunch of 20 to 40 year olds together and give them free healthcare and a difficult time getting a job because they are moving so much and you will see a breeding ground erupt.
Everyone was pregnant. Or at least it felt that way. Everyone had a house full of children. Or at least it felt that way.
Everyone except me.
And then my wonderful husband did the very best thing he could have possibly done for me. He researched and bought and we went and picked up a ... puppy. The most high-energy puppy he could possibly get. A dog that would require me to take my mind off of babies and instead, take care of him.
Here is the very first video we ever shot of our little Scrubs:
As I relaxed in the grass, Scrubs head next to mine, I couldn't help but think that he was just another part of our journey. He would not have been here had we not gone through the years of pain that we had gone through. We wouldn't have ever adopted Isaac. And we would definitely have not frozen an embryo that would one day be Hannah. And who knows whether Sidge and Abigail would have ever existed if we had had children when we wanted them.
And we sure as heck wouldn't have gotten a dog -- especially not a hyper Dalmatian!
Scrubs was almost exactly one year old when we brought baby #1 home. He was two when baby #2 joined us. Over the next five years, he would patiently adjust each time yet another little pile of baby chub would find its way into our home.
He gradually outgrew his obsession with pacifiers and eating baby socks. (We called them "scrubby snacks.") And he accepted each of these little beings into his home without question.
He has loved the children perfectly -- never giving us a moment's concern that he would do anything other than protect them. As hyper as he was, he immediately understood when Isaac arrived that we needed him to be slower and more cautious. He immediately stood guard over his pack-n-play as if he understood this was his new job.
Scrubs is eight and a half now. I can't even fathom that we only have a few more years with him. He absolutely loves living on the farm and now, honesty, prefers Grampa to me on most occasions. Sidge is our animal lover and is therefore the child most likely to be found sitting next to Scrubs saying, "Good boy. Best dog ever." Scrubs likes all the kids well enough, but he still prefers a grown-ups feet when falling asleep at night.
He loves farm life. Like he was born to be farm dog. He runs around by the geese and ducks and guinea fowl with no attempt to harm them -- as if knowing that they belong here as much as he does. He runs back and forth between Grampa and Grama's house and our's with ears flying back and wind in his face. Only when the weather is bad or the sun goes down does he wander back through the house. The dog hair problem is much better here because all his dog hair is out there!
Scrubs will always hold an incredibly special place in my heart. I have said it before, and I actually am not exaggerating when I say that he saved my life during that year before we adopted Isaac.
When you go for walks by yourself, you don't meet people. When you have a child, conversations ensue. Scrubs was my "child." Take a walk with an adorable dalmatian puppy and see if you don't meet people and get to know people in your neighborhood. While a dog can never replace the pain of infertility, it padded my heart just enough and filled the quiet just enough to make it bearable.
And I will forever be grateful to Scrubby for that.
We probably only had about 15 minutes in the grass that afternoon before the kids made their way around the house and started jumping all over us again. Within a few minutes, he got up from my side and made his way to the front of our play area -- tail at attention, ears back, resuming his place of family protector.
I thanked my heavenly father for a precious moment with my precious dog, and a reminder of how precious life is.