A trip is not complete without Chuck E. Cheese, right? Ugh, as much as I hate this place, our kids love it. Our friends knew that too and they surprised us with a gift-card to Chuck E. Cheese. Our kids were in HEAVEN and it's always worth it when we see their smiles. Are there any other parents out there that feel the same way? Seriously, we couldn't complain though because it was free food and HOURS of entertainment. Kedren had to experience everything with Daeston and take him on every little ride that he could. Danny was lucky and got to join in too, can you see his excitement? 😉
This was just another example of the love we were shown through this adoption process. We had countless friends and family bless us with financial assistance, gift cards, gifts, prayers, notes, and help when we returned home. God provided in the BIG and SMALL ways and our hearts were filled with gratitude. We always say that "Adoption is for everyone!" There is always something you can do to bless others going through the process even if you're not adopting yourself!
One of the things our kids loved about North Carolina, was all the different parks. We asked our host family to recommend different locations to us, and had fun checking out the different areas. The great thing about our kids being so young was that they were easily entertained and the free parks were perfect!
After spending a week at our host family's house we decided to give them a small break from our family. They weren't used to having a house full of kids, so we booked a room at a local hotel. We also wanted to surprise our kids by letting them go swimming. We knew that swimming would allow them to burn lots of energy and we would all sleep good! Seriously, how cute are they all in their swimming suits?! I just couldn't wait to get Daeston in some tiny trunks like his big brothers. While Danny went swimming with the older three kiddos, Daeston and I snuggled and took lots of pictures.
I wanted to capture every moment of happiness that I could and I'm so glad I did. We still look at all these pictures and recall all the fun memories we had. It's so fun to be able to show Daeston these pictures too and for him to learn about his story through his siblings! If I can recommend ANYTHING to families adopting it would be, DOCUMENT IT ALL. Pictures are a wonderful tool to share the adoption journey not only for our adopted children but also family and friends.
We had been told about the "Lazy 5 Ranch" from our social worker and she said that we HAD to take our kids. OH MY GOODNESS, BEST DECISION EVER! To this day, I don't think we ever laughed so hard or had so much fun as a family. Our kids LOVED it! Who am I kidding, WE loved it!
We drove through the park going 5mph feeding ostriches, donkeys, zebras, and giraffes from the window of our vehicle. We thought they would gently eat from the buckets of food, but we were wrong! Honestly, we would go back in a heart beat. Our hope is to travel back there in a few years and re-live our fun memories all over again with our family!
After feeding the animals we walked through a garden area, had a picnic, and saw some wild birds. We decided because we had so much fun, we would drive through the animal park one more time just to hear the giggles of our kids. If you are EVER near Charlotte, NC, you HAVE to go!
This was the exact reason why we wanted to take our kids durning this adoption process. They are still talking about our time there and it makes us SO thankful that God provided for our whole family to be able to go. Because of the love of our family and friends, we were able to raise enough money to go as a family and no "thank you" will ever be enough. God is SO good and His presence was with us every step of the way. The JOY we had as a family on this day was the perfect medicine for my mama heart.
The weather was finally warm enough for us to get outside and venture around the surrounding towns. Of course, with a newborn I was dying to do a little shopping. We all know, shopping for teeny tiny babies is the BEST! So we went to an adorable town 15 minutes away from our host home for some shopping, lunch, and ice cream. This was the town we were driving to when we got "the call" about Jerik so I was excited to actually visit it and have it be a place of fun memories.
I'm not going to lie, there was numerous times while we were in North Carolina that I wondered why we lived in South Dakota, and the beautiful weather in the middle of winter was not helping those thoughts! It was so fun to get out with our kids and make memories in new places. If you know me, that is one thing I love. I'm a memory maker. I love adventures, traveling, and experiencing it ALL with our kids. It had been 6 days since we arrived in NC, and because of the snow we hadn't experienced enough adventures for my liking. So the rest of our time spent there was going to be PACKED with fun.
Danny was already getting anxious to head home, but I was the complete opposite. I would have stayed for months if I could have! At this point we were just waiting for clearance to leave the state and then we could book our flights and fly home. Tomorrow, we had an exciting surprise for the kids and so no call was going to change our plans!
Quite a few people have asked me over the years if it "feels different" with my adoptive children. If I have a "different love" for them than I do with my biological children. I always think these are slightly funny questions to ask someone who has adopted, but at the same time, I get it. It's hard to know what the relationship and love looks like when you've never adopted or experienced it yourself. How can someone love a child so much that they didn't carry for 9 months, right?
Well let me tell you, you can. I love my adopted sons JUST AS MUCH as my biological children. As much as I share my adoption stories with you to give you a good understanding of the process, NOTHING compares to going through it. As much as I try to put it into words, I never will fully be able to. It's changed me. It's made me a better mom. It's changed my relationship with the Lord for the better. It truly has been the best experience in my life.
Do I love my adopted kids more? No. Is my love for them different? Yes. Actually, I love each of my kids in a unique and different way regardless of if they are biological or adopted. Why? Because each of them are different and they bring a different type of JOY into my life.
I see it in my husband too. This picture says it all. The love he had for Daeston was evident from the second he laid eyes on him. HE WAS HIS SON. Trust me, if you've ever thought about adopting, I can promise you that you will receive a love you never imagined before. A love that fills your heart so much that you can't imagine life without it.
We spent a day at our host home just relaxing. After a busy day of pictures and celebrating Valentines day the night before, we just wanted to spend time bonding, playing games, doing puzzles, cooking supper, and snuggling!
We FINALLY were able to get out of the house and explore Charlotte, NC with the kids. But first things first, we needed haircuts, some fun outfits, and NEW family pictures taken ASAP. Remember the photographer, Heather Marie Photography, that took pictures with Jerik? She was one of the first to find out that we were losing him and then she was one of the first people I called when we found out about Daeston. I asked if she would be willing to take our pictures again but this time with the whole family! She was SO excited and I couldn't wait to hug her in person again! You know those people that God brings into your life at the most perfect time? It was her. God knew I needed her when we lost Jerik, and He knew I would need her all over again through this adoption. The most beautiful thing, she is STILL a part of my life. She has 4 blonde, blue eyed boys and a beautiful baby girl! I just only wished we lived closer so we could let our kids run around like crazy together while chat and take lots of pictures of our beautiful chaos! I love how God brought us together, and she will be a friend for life.
Want to know another really AWESOME thing? God brought SNOW to North Carolina, so it was only fitting to get some pictures outside since snow is pretty much our life back at home. To top it off, we went back to the same location where we took our pictures with Jerik. A place that held so many memories already. Although it just snowed days prior, it was a beautiful day in the 60's so it was perfect picture weather. Our kids had a blast running around in the snow and it made for a beautiful, pure white backdrop!
This picture is still one of my favorites and I only wish I could fly her here every year to capture our family and how it has grown. These pictures show what family and love are all about. I don't think I will ever forget that day and the JOY that filled my heart. I already plan to fly back to North Carolina and have her shoot our family pictures in that SAME spot again someday!
You know, I would be lying if I said I didn't worry at all about how my kids would respond to having a new baby brother. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know how they would react or treat him, but I was blown away. Honestly, I remember thinking, if only adults could be loving and accepting the same way kids are. Kids love without expecting or wanting anything in return and it's beautiful.
I was so excited to see how Coyer was with his new baby brother. I thought he would be the one wanting to hold him and care for him all the time, since he's the one that wanted a "brown" baby like him 😉 It was different than what I thought though. Coyer tended to care for Baylic and want to play with her and Kedren was the one always right next to Daeston. It was HIS turn to be a big brother and take care of someone that needed him. He was the one asking if he could feed him, help change him, and snuggle with him. He was too young to really be a help when Baylic was born, but this time he wanted to be the big brother.
There is nothing sweeter than sitting back as a mom and watching one of your children love on the other. I know that I would have regretted it BIG time if we would have left our kids at home. I would have missed all these sweet moments and memories. Moments that are SO important to have from day one. Daeston was not only bonding with Danny and I, but also his siblings and that was just as important.
We spent the day "locked up" in the house waiting for some snow to melt so we could venture out with the kids and let them burn energy. We ALL needed to get out, including mama. 😉
Day 2 in NC consisted of snuggling Daeston ALL DAY LONG. We all took turns, but Kedren BY FAR was the baby hog. It was so cute to see how much the kids adored their baby brother and wanted to be "helpers."
Because of the blizzard, the city shut down so we were stuck inside with the kiddos. We had the most amazing host family and while we stayed inside with the two littles during nap time, they bundled up the big boys and took them outside to play in the snow! They were in HEAVEN! We just couldn't believe that out of all the times we were in NC, that we had to deal with SNOW! I was looking forward to a warm getaway with the family, but that wasn't going to happen;)
I was able to give him his first bath (by me) that night and he was NOT a fan. Of course, once again Kedren had to be right next to him, even in the bath tub. It's these simple moments, even as an adoptive mom, that are so special. Every mom looks forward to the moment they get to bathe their child for the first time, feed them, swaddle them, and have them sleep on their chest. These moments are NO different than those we share with our biological children. I just loved that we were able to share all these "firsts" as a family. Watching how much Kedren adored Daeston made my mama heart melt.
Adoption is not always easy on every family. It's not always easy for every child. However, I'm so grateful that we got to share this journey as a family and grow together. I know that my kids are who they are because of it. They do not see color, they see love.
Our first stop as a family was Chick-fil-a. We don't have those back home, so it was a MUST for lunch! Plus, I couldn't wait to get Daeston out of his carseat and hold him! It maybe wasn't the best choice, considering we were in the middle of a blizzard, but the snow was not going to stop us South Dakotans. It was also REALLY nice to have the whole restaurant to ourselves!
We named our son Daeston Job Christian Fergen. Daeston was a name that Danny and I chose together. Danny loved Dalston (a street name) and that was a little to "normal" for me, so we made his name up and fell in love with it! Job was chosen as his middle name because our two other sons also had biblical "J" middle names. Job was extra special as it reminded us of the pain that Job endured, yet He still praised God through it all. Through all the pain in our adoption process, we continued to trust in God's plan and He brought us PURE joy with Daeston and we praised Him for that. Christian was his given name at birth and we always wanted that to be part of his name and story.
After grabbing lunch we went back to our host home for the night. We couldn't wait to start bonding with our little man and watch Coyer, Kedren, and Baylic interact with their new baby brother. They could not get enough of him and he was passed around the entire night. Honestly, I never could have dreamed up a more perfect night. It was an emotional night, a night where I remember crying tears of joy for how God displayed His unfailing love for our family through the gift of Daeston. I will be honest, the 3 weeks prior I wrestled with God. I questioned Him, I was angry with Him, and had a cold heart. God brought me through that time and brought me closer to Him. I HAD to trust Him and through the hurt and pain I ALWAYS knew deep down inside that His plan was always better. Now, here I sat holding my baby boy and I didn't deserve him. I was CHOSEN to be his mother and it was my prayer that very night, that God would receive all the glory in His story.
My prayer is still the same today. I pray that through Daeston's life, God will receive the glory in everything he does.
The door opened and the foster mom (who happened to be the same foster mom that took care of Jerik) walked into the room. She walked right up to me and laid our son in my arms. There were actually no tears, just HUGE smiles as I looked down at my precious baby boy and my three other kiddos surrounding him. It was a dream come true as we all stood there staring at him. This 6lb. baby boy was OUR SON.
Being able to share that moment as a family literally left me speechless. I don't remember much talking, I just remember us all being enthralled with him. It didn't take long before all the kids wanted to have their turn holding their baby brother. They passed him around, kissed him, touched his fingers, and put their cheeks against his. After a little bit I was able to give him a bottle before we had to leave.
We were not at the agency long because of the weather, but we were okay with that. We couldn't wait to take off as a family of 6 and head back to our host home for snuggles!
Before leaving we took a few pictures as a family, of our son with his foster mom, and then also some with just Danny and I. His foster mom went over a few things with us, explained his routine since he had left the hospital at 2 days old. We then put him in his car seat, bundled up all the kids, said our goodbyes, and took off! It all seemed like such a blur, and then there we were, driving with four kids in the back seat. Danny and I could not have been happier!
Hi, I'm Kansas! I wish we could be doing this face to face over coffee. Maybe someday, till then this will have to do!