slide show

Monday, October 16, 2017

No, serioulsy, when?


They are 10.
They are 10 years old! And I think what kills me the most is I looked at these photos and they look like they've matured. Like they are grown up. Like suddenly they are every part of 10 years old.

And I cannot believe they are freaking 10 year old!
 Cliche cliche... When did that happen? I blinked! Someone make it stop!  ...Cliche Cliche
Wasn't it just yesterday that she was Fire Dog and he had a goose egg on his forehead almost all the time! But I think I honest to goodness blinked and almost a decade passed and they grew up to the amazing 10 year olds that they are! So different. So independent. So not my babies any more. 
And seriously, When did that happen?!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Wrapped in her imagination


The Hermès scarf first made it's blog appearance back in 2014. I'm not sure what it is about this scarf (well is is Hermès after all so maybe I shouldn't be so surprised.) that has stood the test of time, but it has been around a long time. Even Sunny and Liv played with it when they were little. Along with the cat ears and Anna dress, it's often seen on Mimi these days, used as a cape this time. 
And really... snags, tears and stains and all, it has never looked so amazing with all its fluttery, soft, flowy and colorful goodness, wrapping a girl up in her imagination, taking her wherever she wants to fly, over rainbows, or through fields of flowers. Or maybe to a land where princesses with cat ears live in sparkly palaces with unicorns.  
Fly, baby girl, fly!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Photogallery {Snow White}


Coincidentally, or not, Tess's Viet middle name, the one given to her when she was born by someone we'll never know, literally translates to Snow, and westerners morphed it into Snow White long ago. I made this photo before I made that connection, and now it seems even more appropriate, more her, more Tess (maybe even unknowingly divinely inspired?) especially in yellow since Tess makes her own wonderful and unique impression on everything she does.
And it's quite a contrast from the last post!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

It's official! I'm finally a soccer mom!


8 children and 112 cumulative years of parenting, I am now officially a literal soccer mom!
Up until now, none of our kiddos have had much of an interest in soccer. Gotta love Tess for being one of our out-of-the box children and breaking with the baseball/soft ball tradition!
Despite the fact that it was 97 degrees in the shade and I was in the sun sweating like a pig that knows he's for dinner, we loved cheering her on! My amazing girl in her shorts that were way too big and untied shoe laces, kept looking over at me just to see if I was watching her. Yes, my sweet girl, I'm watching and you are ROCKIN' it! 
And you gotta give it up for a girl that's not only on a co-ed team, but is playing with kids that are much bigger than she is. What she lacks in size she more than makes up with enthusiasm and what Papa calls a motor that loves to go!
And she even knows how to pose for a picture for her mama as she runs by in the middle of the game! 
It was hot and sweaty, we didn't have enough water, nobody thought to bring an umbrella, and despite it all is was just so wonderful to see Tess spread her wings and learn something new, something just for her, which can be a treasure of a thing to find when you live in a large family. I don't know how long she'll have this enthusiasm for soccer, but for right now she was smiling the whole way through it. And I can't help but smile back!
And it should cool off in the next few weeks, so that'll help... eventually.

Monday, October 2, 2017

An update


In 2007 I started blogging. That was over a decade and 1,438 posts ago. 

In 2008 I stepped foot in my first orphanage, and I was blessed to enter many more orphanages via adoption, photography and service in the years to come. Now we find ourselves a decade alter in 2017, and the number of children our family has doubled. So many many things have changed. I though a little update might be in order. 
Our parenting journey started way back in 1993 with the birth of our first child, Sunny... complete with big 90's hair and matching chambray shirts. I had wanted to be a mama for as long as I could remember ,and I had wanted to adopt children for as long as I could remember too. 

We didn't start our adoption journey in 2006, when Sunny, was just 13 years old and already had 3 siblings. Sunny is a woman now, on her own and living independently in New Mexico, going to school full time and working saving lives and all. Actually we have 3 bonafide adult children now. 7 of our 8 kiddos (all except Sunny) still live at home. Livy, now 21, is following in Sunny's footsteps in nursing school, a job she was born to do, and The Man Child is 18 year old, graduated from high school last spring and is attending community college. He really seems to be doing so well there. As the kiddos get older you do see less of them on the blog. Their privacy becomes paramount, because after all this blog was never their idea. I gotta say, this season when your children turn from child to adult, both legally and more importantly the gradual change that happens in their souls, is amazing. And frustrating too. And heart breaking. And the most rewarding thing ever. Even as kids grow older, some things in parenting never change. The stakes just get higher. I've loved the celebrations that we shared with our big kids even more because of the challenges we've gone through. Life is sweet that way, the flowers from the ashes. 
Boo, the youngest of our bio kids, just turned 15 year old and really isn't a big kid quite yet but certainly not a little one either. He was just a baby when we started our adoption journey, and he started high school this year. He's the consummate middle child. I often wonder what he would have been like had we never adopted, and he had remain the youngest child. I know he's seen a lot over the last decade. He is definitely a product of his environment, and I know it has molded him into the man he's growing in to. He's quiet. He doesn't like to rock the boat, and he's rockin' life. He's a great student and couldn't wait to turn 15 so he could get his first job. Needless to say, I kinda like him a little big bit. On a side note, when Ru found out about this, he quickly decided he was getting a job to to earn his own money. He was a little shocked he needed to be older to do so. 

One thing I can say for sure is that in addition to Boo, adoption has affected us all including our bio kiddos who were 14, 11, 9 and 5 when our first adopted kiddos came home. I naively wondered if adoption would change the our bio kids. And it did, in very big ways. For the better! Yes there's more chaos and problems to solve. Many more challenges all the way around. But I really think our kids are just more compassionate and more able to see the big picture compared to their peers. Some of our kids want to adopt when they have their own families, and some definitely do not. However they do it, I know they will all make their own impact on the world in the ways they are led, and I can't help but think that adoption is a part of the reason for this. 
Did you know we started our adoption journey via foster care? In 2006 a friend of a friend of a relative (whose hair dresser's, dermatologist, met a guy at her high school reunion, whose sister-in-law's, best friend...) needed some help, a place for her son to stay while she tried to get on her feet, all the while trying to avoid Child Protective Services. We prayed and decide God was calling us to do more than parent our already-busy brood of 4 children. We started down the foster road path in 2006, but sadly the taste the episode left us bitter and frankly jaded. Enter international adoption. 
The first photo we saw of Jude and Tess together
Tess and Jude, who have been home 9 years now, came to us in 2008 from Saigon and were the reason for starting this crazy blog. They were crib mates in Vietnam, and back in the day where there was no special needs adoption program from Vietnam, both were special need's adoptions, Jude with bilateral club foot and Tess a preemie, low-birth-weight baby. I was the queen of research and eyes wide open, but in hindsight I was far from prepared for what happened. They came to us at 12 and 13 months old and so did the surprises. And the trauma. 
But they were babies! How can that be? They were so young!
But no. 
Still. 
The trauma. It's real. Even for babies.
Counselors. Mine and theirs. 
Grief. 
It took about 3 years and almost incessant conversations, prayers and negotiations between me and God for me to find a way out of a very dark place. Eventually we did find our new normal, and I realized that I had been changed in the process and molded into a new and a very different me. My view of the world changed. My priorities changed. My friends changed. I could see my faults, wounds and shortcomings more clearly. I learned how to forgive myself and others more easily. I counted my blessings more often. I let of a lot stuff go that I used to think was important. I feel like I've learned what's really important in this last decade, and maybe even more importantly what's not. I feel like my priorities shifted from vacations, home remodels and new cars to date nights with my husband, reading a book with my children, holding a little hand in my own, passing it all on our children, and learning how to do it better, to be a better me and help those I love and the world around me. Sometimes I morn the loss of old me, the one that had free time to gossip and agonized over 10 un-lost pounds and which vacation to go on next. And yet I am so ridiculously grateful to not be her anymore. Tess and Jude, the precipitous for the change, just turned 10 years old, and I'm still flabbergasted (not really) how God knitted them together into our not-twins and then grafted them to us. They are exact opposites and simultaneously each other's best friend. 

I had a the mother of all temper tantrums in 2011. It wasn't pretty. Papa and I laugh (kinda) about it now. I was certain God was calling us to adopt again, and Papa... well... not so much. The turn in the economy wasn't kind to us. That's an understatement. What if I could find a way to fund the adoption myself? And Ordinary Miracles Photography was born. If you took a photography class from me anytime prior to May 2017, you helped pay almost fully for our last 2 adoptions, and for that I thank you so so very much! This forever family couldn't have paid for these children to come home to us without you! 
The first photo we saw of Mimi
Mimi the epilogue. Mimi, who we all thought would be a boy, came home in 2012 right before her 2nd birthday. Mimi is currently in 2nd grade and is a beautiful, girly, joyous, piggie-tail-wearing, sparkly and twirly ray of sunshine that was just what we had been missing even though we didn't know it. Mimi's special need was labeled "physical developmental delay" by China which isn't a diagnosis at all, but rather a symptom of something bigger. We knowingly jumped into the unknown with Mimi's adoption, and in accordance with the doctor's that reviewed her file we prepared for cerebral palsy and/or brain damage among other things. 5 years later Mimi is 100% healthy and a "typical" child. She always has been. We're not sure why her file was obviously mislabeled, and I've called out a couple key people about it, (like the orphanage director and our agency) who never gave us a straight answer. We have our own theories. I think the answers to this will matter to Mimi someday. And maybe not. All that to say that Mimi's adoption was very unusual in regards to special needs. It does happen very rarely that a child is adopted via the special need's program and found to not have any special needs at all, but it is incredibly rare and not something that potential adoptive parents in the special need's adoption program should aim for. 
Around 2014 we all started to talk about a boy missing from our crazy family, an older boy. We jumped back into foster care, and despite how it ended, part of my heart still remains with the broken foster care system and the children in its care. I still can't fully accept how we couldn't make adoption through foster care work for our family. We told anyone and everyone in the system that we were looking for our next child, a boy, and not a baby. We had several amazing children come and go through our doors, and I cried the big huge ugly cry as each one of them left. Ultimately we gave it 2 years and unhappily closed our foster license, again bitter due to the complete ineptness and dysfunction of the system. I commend and weep for the wonderful families that give their all to be foster parents, especially in Arizona. I wish I had it in me. I don't. We looked all over Arizona for our son for so so long, but he just wasn't there. 

So in 2016 our hearts went back to China, knowing full well that there were so so many older boys that desperately needed a family to give them their forever. And we needed him even more! 
The first photo we saw of Ru
We first saw Ru's photo in the fall of 2016, and last April he finally came home to his very own forever with us. Again this was a special need's adoption, (Ru has a life-long vascular disorder) and again it wasn't easy. I say now with a better understanding, that older child adoption really ain't for sissies! Until you're in the throws of tantrums and unwrapping 7 years of institutionalization, you don't know what you're missing! With 6 months behind us, I think l can say now that we totally lucked out with beloved Ru. He is simply amazing. He wants this family, and he wants to be obedient and fit it. He works so hard for it all, and his resiliency, the same resiliency that helped him get through surgery after surgery in China until his forever family could come for him, is strong and abundant! And not all older-child adoptions are like this. We're currently working with a team of doctor's to figure out a plan for Ru's medical needs. In hind sight I wish I could tell 10-year-ago me how little the medical needs of all our children (both our bio and adopted kiddos, because the bio kiddos have have thrown some doozies at us too!) affect us so little, especially when compared to the needs and stress of trauma and attachment. 
For the most part, if you've been reading about what goes on here, you know I'm a pretty open book. I believe that honesty and truth make both of us better. But I will tell you that there were failed adoptions in the in-between times that I was (am still) just too devastated to tell you about. There were times that I was certain that I broke my family, and we'd never recover. There were times (are times) that I was positive I had completely failed as a parent, and my child would never reach their potential because of it. All of us are far from perfect and have made both small and big mistakes, sometimes really big mistakes. Marriage and parenting is hard under "normal" circumstances, and recently I've personally learned what a panic attack feels like. It's easy to put the good and happy stuff on a Christmas card, or Facebook... or a blog. But the hard stuff is hard, and not everything can or should be shared with on the www. For that I'm sorry, that you get an incomplete picture of the crazy, wonderful mess that I have shared with you over the years, the one that's slanted to the good and the beautiful. Thankfully we've also had more than our fair share of good and beautiful moments too, and funny joyous, successful and the oh-dear-God-we-finally-made-it-though-that moments too! Those are the cherished times that I remember and savor when the rubber meets the road. 

And then I blinked, and 10 years flew by. 
New family photo that includes Ru coming next month!
Getting things done promptly is evidently one of the many things I've let go. 
I'm getting wrinkles and more grey hair than I want. My children are growing and several have already grown up. Our blog, which started with the Crazy 8, morphed into the the Crazy 9 and ultimately Ordinary Miracles & the Crazy 10. More children have been grafted into our family in the last decade, yet it all seems like yesterday. We've tied up the score with 4 girls and 4 boys so we're pretty sure that we're done growing our family. For all of you that have read over the years, I want to be very intentional with thanking you for being my online family and friends. I honest to goodness mean that. I've been honored to meet many of you in person, and even if I haven't, I've made so many friends from all over the world in those 1,438 posts... and counting. Thank you to those of you that reached out and commiserated with me when times were tough, and there have been many of those times. Thank you to the people that said You're not alone. Thank you for telling me that maybe I inspired you to try something new and amazing. Thank you to those that donated on my service trips to Chinese and Viet orphanages. Thank you to those of you that supported us financially by taking a photography class, or 2, or more. Thank you for your advice when I've asked for it on everything from slow cookers, to deodorant to surviving teenage drivers. Thank you for your prayers through it all. We needed them. There's still so much more to come, and at least for now I have no intention of stopping this crazy blog. I'm not sure where we'll be a decade from now in 2027, but I know He has some amazing things in store for us, likely with quite a few more bumps in the road along the way. 

PS - This post was written in conjunction with No Hands But Ours. Here are a few of my favorite NHBO posts that remind me of how far we've come in the last 10 years!
A tiny bit about me and my own battle with loss
When we took Mimi back to a visit at her orphanage
Another letter of reflection
What adoption feels like from a child's perspective
A note I wish I could give the strangers.


Friday, September 29, 2017

"The sad cat ran to the flag."


A couple weeks ago I figured out that Ru's 1st grade class was going to be having his first spelling test soon. We've had kiddos who needed to have spelling tests adapted to their abilities, and I assumed we'd do something like this to help Ru succeed. In addition to helping Ru continue developing the English language, our other main goal of school right now (and probably for a long while) is to help Ru feel successful. Above all we want him to happy where he's at, enjoy school and the process of learning. How much he's academically learning really isn't our current objective. There's a lifetime for Ru to learn stuff and a lifetime's full of stuff to learn. So we don't push school or homework or lessons, and we celebrate even the smallest of accomplishments.

I texted Ru's teacher.

Crazy Me - Trying to figure out what we should do about Ru and spelling tests. What should we do? Eliminate them? Reduce the list to just a few words? I didn't want to set him up for failure.

Teacher - He will be practicing in class a lot. It will be fine. If we need to modify it we can do that too. Let's do the first test as is and play it by ear.

Wha????? She sounded pretty confident with letting him give it go as is. I adore this teacher. She was Mimi's teacher last year, and I'm pretty sure we're on the same page with our goals. But still I wasn't so sure about this spelling test thing. I did study the spelling words him the week of the test, but not more than I studies with the other kiddos.
And look how he did!
Only one word wrong and even that sentence is pretty stinkin' fabulous if I don't say so myself! This is a guy that had only started to learn English 5 months ago! In order to spell the word correctly he needs to understand the word and how to properly pronounce it, figure out all the individual sounds in the word, then convert each sound to a letter name, and finally recall how to write the shape of each letters on the paper. That's a LOT of steps!
Look at that big ol' smile as he proudly showed off his hard work!
And you'd better believe that celebrated with him like crazy!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Lightroom 101... It's BACK!


I was an absolute beginner with Lightroom, and I feel like I have learned so much! The lessons are short and concise and the combination of written lessons and video lessons makes it very easy to learn. Nancy is excellent with offering constructive feedback and lots of encouragement of each photo. The entire class has been a very fun learning experience, and I have taken several photos that I liked and turned them into photos that I LOVE! Thanks for you wonderful, easy to follow teaching, Nancy!  ~Erin M.   


Combining photography with a busy family can often leave me short on time. But photography is precious to me so I had to find a way to make it work. That's where editing with Lightroom comes in! Lighroom is an editing program that allows me time to import and organize my pics and then edit them in the most efficient way possible. And I'm thrilled to share what I know and how I make editing happen given a busy schedule and little time!  My next Lightroom 101 class starts October 23, 2017.  


Registration is now open! 

Click HERE for more information and click HERE to register!

Limited number of seats available.


Lightroom 101: An Editing class for Beginners, will demonstrate how I edit photos efficiently via 14 lessons and over 20 videos! I'll keep it simple, use easy-to-understand language and give step-by-step instructions. No secretes. If I know it, I'm willing to share it!

Here's a look at some of what Lightroom 101 covers:
---How to download and organize your photos
---Step-by-step instructions for completing a quick, clean edit
---Using tools to selectively edit areas of your image, including brightening eyes,

    smoothing skin, and remove blemishes
---Converting your photos to black & white
---An introduction to the magic of Lightroom presets and how to install, use and 

    create your own
---How to save your newly-edited photographs on your computer
---The ease of taking your photo(s) from Lightroom to Photoshop and back in one 

    quick click
---Creating and using watermarks


The course is 7 weeks long and has 2-3 lessons per week. We all learn in different ways, so there will be both written lessons and video tutorials. And this class is going to be totally interactive! We're going to do this together!  Via a private forum just for our class, you can share your photos online {or not}, ask questions, and get feedback anytime throughout the class.  You will be able to see what the other students in the class are doing and asking too.  You choose when to check in online, view course material, and there's no pressure because you work at your own pace. You can participate during nap time, in the middle of the night, only on the weekend, or whenever you find an opportunity. Feel free to come to class in your jammies! I will be available the whole time for questions and to offer clarifications and information. 

What you'll need:  
---Lightroom downloaded and installed on your computer, (check Adobe for system requirements
---Photographs taken with your DSLR and downloaded on to your computer
---Access to high-speed internet

Registration cost is $349, and class size will be limited.  


Registration is now open! 

Click HERE for more information and click HERE to register!

Limited number of seats available.


Sound like something you'd like to participate in?
Give me a holler if you have any questions!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A (hot) day at the zoo


Right around September, those of us who live in the desert start to get a little cranky.
We get sick and tired of 3 digit temperatures, We get tired of our heads sweating and burning ourselves on the seatbelts in our car. We get restless keeping ourselves cooped up in our expensively air-conditioned homes and not being able to tell our children to go outside and get the wiggles out. But we realize full well that we still up to another 8 weeks of ridiculous heat, and it makes us somewhat snarky about everything. Please forgive us. We're just really tired of being hot.
So when the temperature took a drastic dip to the high 90's, we all kinda got a little giddy, wondering, hoping, praying that maybe the summer heat was leaving us prematurely. In hindsight it was only hopeful thinking, but at the time it felt so possible. So of course as a family we did something radical. Something that we may or may not have regretted after the fact. We went to the zoo.
Unlike the dead of summer when it's hot 24 hours a day, (even at 3am!) mornings are where it's at this time of year. When the temps cool off even a little bit you can get out in the morning, walk your dog, water the plants, and feel normal before the heat of the day reminds you that you still live in the desert. So we planned on leaving the house for the zoo at about 7:30am because we're all awake any way so why not. But because it's always a little bit crazy around here we didn't leave the house till 8. And because the zoo isn't the same without a box of Dunkin' Doughnut Munchkins we didn't get to the zoo till 8:30am. By the time we actually renewed our membership and got into the actual zoo it was 9, and the temperature was already starting to climb. And after that it's all really just a big game to see how long you can endure  the heat that just keeps getting hotter with every passing minute.
We saved the splash pad for last which is always a favorite of the littles. (bunny trail... How long can I call them the littles? They're getting big. I'm putting way too much mental energy into figuring this out.) We made it till about 12:30 when the temps were in the mid 90's, and during that time profanities may or may not have been spoken under one's breath somewhere between the orangutans and flamingos. Some people just don't cope well with head sweat, and if you don't know what that is consider yourself blessed. Let's just say that head sweat is the gift that keeps on giving long after your sought refuge in air conditioning. And when the decision was finally made to leave, a certain mama who shall remain nameless but has bad knees was the fastest walker to the car, abandoning all her children and husband, all in the name of leadership.
I think these are the memories that we'll look back on and laugh at. Who goes to the zoo in the desert in the summer and expects paradise?
Desert rats who have been cooped up far too long, that's who!
And my head is still sweating.

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