Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Last week, a friend whose son was in the same orphanage that  Hai-Leigh is in texted me.  She asked if I was sure of the orphanage she was in and explained that it was a poor orphanage and that she did not feel like they would have had the resources to care for her when she was first born.  Hai-Leigh was born premature weighing only 2.86 lbs.  My friend suggested that she may be in another home there that was better prepared to care for her at this size.  So I looked up this place and it turned out they had a Facebook page.  I scrolled through every one of their pictures until there she was...weighing only 3 lbs and wearing a tiny St. Patrick's day onesie.  I knew it was her because of the description and the tiny mole above her right eyebrow.  I immediately messaged them to see if she was still there.  Unfortunately, she is not, but they were able to share some new information with me.  And this morning, I woke up to the most beautiful blessing...487 pictures of her from the time that she was with them.  I scrolled through each of them this morning with tears pouring down my face.

I mean, look at her in this crown...

And this bow...

Look how tiny...

It was obvious that she was constantly being loved on. I think those were the pictures that got to me the most. 

And just look at how much bigger and healthier she grows...

All of these moments that I felt like I missed out on, in a way now I haven't.  You have no idea how grateful I am for this!  One day I will be able to look back at these with her and show her how much she was already loved even before she came into our lives, and there will be fewer gaps to fill in.  Gosh, I'm crying again as I type this! God is so good!

In addition to this wonderful email, I opened up another email last night that read these words, "Hi Dustin & Andrea. Surprise! We were absolutely shocked to have just received your original, hard-copy "Letter Seeking Confirmation of Adopter (LOA)!" This is a big step in adoption and means that Chin@ has officially accepted our request to adopt Hai-Leigh.  We now move towards travel.  This makes me very excited and nervous all at the same time.  Once our next set of paperwork we send off is filed, we are given a timeline of 9-12 weeks for travel, which means it is very likely we will have her here by her first birthday.  However, it also means that we don't have much time to raise the remaining $17,000 plus + that it will cost to finalize the adoption.

Thank you so much to those of you who have already supported us and have helped us to bring her home.  We sold over 100 necklaces and received $1125 in donations on our Pure Charity site over the past week and a half.  This has given us the $3,510 that is needed at this time. It is so awesome to watch how The Lord provides what we need when we need it.  We trust that he will do the same for the remaining balance, and we will work hard to do our part in raising these funds.

This morning, I read today's Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and (as usual)  it was too good not to share with you.  It talked about giving thanks in times of adversity...

"Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity.  That is why I have instructed you to give thanks for everything.  There is an element of mystery in this transaction: You give Me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances).  This is a spiritual act of obedience-at times, blind obedience.  To people who don't know Me intimately, it can seem irrational and even impossible to thank Me for heartrending hardships.  Nonetheless, those who obey Me in this way are invariably blessed, even though difficulties remain.
    Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts.  You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstance, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from My perspective.  It is this Light of My Presence that removes the sting from adversity."

The scriptures that went along with it could not have been more fitting for this day...

Ephesians 5:20 "always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Psalm 118:1  "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever."

I'm thankful for the challenges that this adoption has brought and will bring.  These obstacles allow God to reveal himself to us in ways we never could have imagined and in turn, we are able to give Him the glory for all that He does.  

My cup runneth over this morning, and I am so grateful for the many blessings in our lives!  What about you? What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?  I hope you all have a wonderful week, and a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

For This Child I Have Prayed

Last Wednesday afternoon I was getting ready for church when I got a call from our adoption agency.  Seeing their number made my heart nearly jump out of my chest, because I knew what it meant.  It was the call that we have been waiting for over a year now.  They had a file of a little girl that they wanted us to review.  After several days of prayer, consultation, and paperwork, we made a decision, and I am elated to introduce you to our daugther...

Hai-Leigh Joy Tharpe!!!

She is eight months old, and we are praying that we can have her here before her first birthday on March 14th.  She has an incredible, but heartbreaking story that I am sure I will share with you one day, but right now I just want to share our excitement.  Please be in prayer with us throughout the rest of this process.  Our specific requests are for her to be well taken care of and know that she has a family that loves her and is anxiously waiting for her.  Also, a big prayer request is for us to have the remaining funds (An estimated $20,000) needed to bring her home by the time Chin@ is ready for us to come so that neither of us have to wait a second longer than necessary to be together.  We have friends who have traveled in as early as 10 weeks from the time they were matched.  Of course each situation is different, but I've heard that things are moving kind of quickly right now in Chin@ and that doesn't leave us a lot of time to raise the rest of the money.  We want to be prepared when the time comes to go get her.

"For this child I have prayed, and the Lord has granted the desires of my heart." (1 Samuel 1:27)

We are so grateful for this answered prayer and are trusting that the Lord will see us through the rest of this process.  I know that he has great plans for Hai-Leigh and cannot wait to see her story unfold.  Thank you all for your support and prayers.  If you are interested in how you can help, please watch our Facebook for upcoming fundraisers. We have also created a Pure Charity fundraising page which is designed for raising money for adoption.  You can click here to make a donation.  (I have also added a link to this blog.)  Any donations made through this site are tax deductible and will go directly to our adoption agency.  We will keep you updated along the way.  God bless.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Fox and the Hound Part 3

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite books was The Fox and the Hound.  In our backyard stood an old brown shed we pretended was our schoolhouse.  We even had our own library which held a copy of this classic tale.  One of the biggest fights me and my best friend/next door neighbor got into was over who the book belonged to when the library closed down.  I have vivid memories of us standing in wet leaves, tugging on each end of the book, and exchanging choice words in our blue jean overalls.  It remains a mystery as to who the book belonged to, but I still believe it was me. ;)

My love for this book/movie lives on. (And so does our friendship.) So when I came across a $6.99 puppy costume at Ross, I had a vision of recreating my childhood favorite.  Thinking my days of themed costumes were long gone, I didn't give it too much hope.  BUT the Fox, loving all things artsy, was completely on board when she knew involved making costume. (She had a tiny issue with the fact that Todd is technically a boy, but was willing to dismiss it.)  The Hound was happy to play the part...walking around on all fours and giving us his best bark.  And the Hunter, well, even though he really wanted to be a Minecraft character, but because he is so awesome, he humored me and went with it.  (At least long enough for me to do a photo shoot.)

So I happily introduce you to The Fox and the Hound 3.


Have a safe and Happy Halloween!!
Love, Andrea

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Good Old Golden Rule

Deacon's teacher pointed this out to me in the breezeway as we exited his IEP meeting today.  I had to take a picture as I passed back by, because well...A. That face.  B. His artwork. and C.  Fall!!! All of the above make me feel all warm in fuzzy inside.

But you know what does not make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside? IEP meetings.  I've yet to have one go wrong, but going to them still makes me sick to my stomach.   It could stem back to some bad experiences I had when teaching in public school, or maybe it's just my anxiety that gets the best of me as I worry about what will be said or done.  I'm not sure, I just know they make me uneasy.  But today there was only one negative comment in the whole meeting.  I had to tell myself to consider the source, pretend that he meant well, and brush it off.  Especially because of what came next.

While entering the school we passed THE cutest little girl with Down Syndrome.  It was the first time I had seen her.  In fact, it was the first time I've seen another child with DS there at all.  I only saw her in passing, but every bit of me wished I could have gone back to talk with her and her mom.  Later on in the meeting, D's speech therapist said she had to tell me a little story.   She said that she walked into the speech room with Deacon and there was another little girl in there with "similar traits" doing speech with her teacher as well.  (My hypothesis is that it was that beautiful little girl.) Anyway, she said as soon as he walked into the room he started talking to her, and that she started trying to mimic what he was saying.  She proceeded to tell me that Deacon was getting her to say things that her speech teacher had tried to but never could. You can only imagine the big cheese face I was wearing as she told that story and the tears I was trying to hold back.

In addition, she told me that there was only one letter within his age level that she did not check off on his articulation test.  She said she knows he can pronounce it correctly but doesn't in some words and that it was probably because he learned those at an earlier age.  The sound is "d" and Lord knows he is hollering "DADDY!" the minute he walks through the door each day, and those "d" sounds are clear as a bell!  She told me they were moving on to the 5 year old sounds and for me not to be surprised if his articulation was right on target for his age.  I'm not surprised at all.  I know what my boy is capable of, and I also know what my God is capable of!  We have prayed from day one that he would be able to communicate well with us, and are so thankful that He has answered that prayer.  I feel very blessed by his abilities.  I know that like a lot of things, these verbal skills still do not always come easily for him, and many times can be even harder for other people with Down Syndrome.  However, I also know that each individual with DS has strengths of their own.  Deacon's cannots that I was also reminded of today, might be another person's cans.

But isn't that the same for all of us?  We're created differently and unique in our own way, each having our own strengths and weaknesses, and that doesn't make a single one of us better than the other.  We're ALL fearfully and wonderfully made.   People with Down Syndrome may be different, but they are sure as heck not less, and should not be treated that way either.  It's been said that differences make the world go round, and I believe that to be true.

(I mean seriously...does this face look anything less than perfect? Didn't think so)

If more people felt the same, it would make this special needs parent gig a lot easier.  Parenting in general is tough, but for us it can at times be even harder.  I'm starting to see Deacon being treated differently.  I have to try really hard to not let it strongly affect me, because I know that this is only the beginning.  And of course, everything in me just wants to protect him from the harsh reality of this world.

Just the other day, I left him by himself in a play place and came back to find two little boys repeatedly throwing balls directly at his face.  He didn't realize what was going on and just laughed, but it was evident when I called them out on it that they were intentionally trying to be mean to him.  This type of behavior doesn't have to be taught.  Even at their young age, it's in their human nature and just comes naturally.  What does have to be taught, however, is how to be kind to one another.  That does not always come as easily.  Cause, trust me, my natural instincts of what I wanted to say or do to those boys when I saw them trying to hurt my son were not good ones.  But I know that they are young, don't know any better, and need to be taught how to treat each other with respect.

A few days ago, Noah randomly asked me, "Mom, if somebody makes fun of Deacon, and I punch them in the face and then go to the Principal's office for it, would you be mad at me?"

Caught off guard (and laughing in my head),  I replied with, "Well first of all, Son, you're home-schooled,  so I'm pretty sure your not going to a principal's office.  Secondly, if someone is mean to Deacon, you should not immediately resort to violence.  You should try to educate them.  Tell them about how awesome your brother is.  Inform them about how people with Down Syndrome are very much like them, and they should try to get to know them instead of making fun of them."

I challenge anyone reading this post to take that last piece of advice as well.  If you don't already, get to know someone not like you and learn to appreciate their differences instead of making fun of them.  Of course, I'm partial to Down Syndrome,  but it could also be anyone with some form of disability.   Or maybe just somebody that doesn't look or act like you do or think they should.   Talk to them.  Invest time in them.  Stand up for them.  I promise you will find much more pleasure in that than you will using someone else's imperfections as your source of entertainment.  And then share what you've learned with others.   

At the end of our discussion I added, "BUT if you are nice to them and do your best to tell them all of that and they refuse listen?  If they are STILL hateful and do or say mean things to Deacon? Well then, to answer your question...no, I would not be mad at you.  Not at all."

Parents especially, I urge you to lead by example for your children in a good way.  Be a model of the Golden Rule and teach them to treat others as they would want to be treated.  For the sake of my child's future and yours.  Cause I'd hate for my kid to have to punch your kid in the face.  I'm kidding! I'm kidding!  Sort of.

(Insert Deacon emoji)

I'm not casting any stones here, because Lord knows I have been guilty in the past.  And there are still times that I have to stop myself from passing judgement in other ways.  But that is why I thank God for giving me Deacon to teach me lessons that I may not have learned otherwise. 

Words cannot begin to express how proud I am of my son.  Especially after today.  As with my other kids, I love everything about him.  He's got a good sense of humor like his Daddy, a spunky personality like his Sister, a tender-heart like his Brother, and a stubborn streak like his Momma.  But he also brings qualities of his own to the table.  He's got a serious destructive side that can tear down a house in a matter a minutes, a smile that lights up a room, a belly laugh that is nothing short of contagious, and an enthusiasm for life like none other.  I know I've said a lot of this before, and I'm sure I will say it again, but when we look at him, we just see him as Deacon and not a diagnosis.  It is our hope and prayer that others will look at him the same, and that he will be treated with the respect and dignity that he deserves.  That we ALL deserve.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Our Newest Adventure

Typically as summer vacation comes to an end, I go into a state of depression.  It usually only lasts until the pumpkin spice candles come out and lift my spirits.  I embrace the freedom for a little bit, but eventually I find myself counting down the days til breaks and Saturdays and summer again.  Right now, I should be gathering uniforms, buying school supplies, writing school fee checks, prepping lunches, and attending open houses, but this year I am not.  This year will be different.  For a while now, I have had a very strong desire to homeschool.  After lots of prayer, discussion with the kids, and developing pros and cons lists, we have decided to go for it.  Some people will not understand this, especially since I have pulled them out of a magnet school to do so.  (The horror!)  However, we feel that this is what is best for our family and the season we are in, and that is all that matters.  The older I get, the more I see, and the more I learn, the less I care what people think.

Our new adventure will begin on Thursday.  I couldn't be more nervous, but I also couldn't be more excited.  I am not real sure what I am getting into, and have been slightly overwhelmed beginning the whole process, but I do have a degree in education, so I'm thinking I should be able to figure this thing out.  Besides, my kids are already above their grade level, so I'm hoping that even if I fall flat on my face and totally suck at it the first time around, they'll still be good. Our intention is to try it for a year, see how it goes, and then reassess the situation.

Now brother? He will go to school, because well, I just can't.  He needs the structure and therapies, and let's be honest...I need the break.  I love him with all of my heart, but the boy wears me out.  He goes 90 to nothing 100 percent of the time.  (I mean, have you seen my #DestructiveDeacon posts on IG?) Plus, you can ask him, "Are you excited about starting school?" and he says, "Yeah" with a huge grin on his face. "Cited!"

My kids insisted that they needed "class pets".  So, because we are suckers, allow me to introduce you to Buddy the bird and Rosie the hamster...

Our track record with pets has not been the best, so we will see how this goes.  So far, so good, but it has only been a day.  Hopefully neither of these will pee in my purse.  (Side note: The way Deacon says "Rosie" makes me want to keep her forever.)

Certain obligations and the adoption have kept us from taking a vacation this summer, so I have lived vicariously through all of your beach pictures.  Thanks for those.  Our time is coming though.  We are taking a Griswold family vacation to Florida in December, and I get to enjoy the ocean without having all the sand in all the places and worrying about sharks.  So, I'm pretty excited about that.  Our break may have been pretty low-key this year, but it's still been a good one.

Now I'm looking forward to our newest venture and the next season.  Literally.  Now, that I know my big kids aren't going back to school, I can officially say I am over summer.  I am not a fan of 103 degrees and would really like to have sweatshirt weather back asap.  Plus, I want to be able to enjoy being outside again.  I'll come back soon to let you know how this whole home school thing is going and to update you on the craziness of the adoption.  Til then, God Bless.