I'm a married mother of "3 1/2" ;) and the loves of my life are my faith and my family. I've grown in my faith over the last two years since my daughter's adoption, she is the reason why I started this blog in the first place, and I'm so looking forward to watching God move in my heart, and the hearts of others who follow along on our journey towards bringing home one of "the least of these". Special needs adoption is my mission field, whether I'm adopting a child myself, or helping other families get funded, or shouting for waiting children who need families to find them, and I hope you'll come along for the ride and watch what God can accomplish when we say yes to His command to care for the orphan, and go out into the world to be His hands and feet.

Apparent Project Fundraiser

Apparent Project Fundraiser

Hello :)

Hello :)

My Better Half

My Better Half

The Crew

The Crew

The New Guy

The New Guy

Before Adoption

Before Adoption

Two Years After Adoption

Two Years After Adoption

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

our 2nd visit with Kenzi!

This is a bit delayed but it was saved in my Kindle and I wanted to post it...better late than never right?! our second visit with kenzi was incredible! she was so spunky and really started to show us her personality. we tried playing with toys inside and she was only interested in a doll and smart phone....and those didn't really keep her entertained that long! she was much more interested in playing with us. she loves affection, craves it actually. yesterday she was content to snuggle but today she wanted to stand, bounce, and be tickled! we got lots of smile's, and even a few laughs! !! she is such a doll. <3 after about 45 minutes of playing inside, I bundled her up and moved the party outside. she played in the swing again, she made up with the plastic duck she got into a spat with yesterday, and she was a teeny bit interested in some mega blocks. she started to tire out after another 45 minutes of outdoor play so I sat on a bench and rocked / sang her to sleep. she absolutely LOVES when you sing to her. she snoozed for about 10 minutes then girlfriend got a second wind in a BIG way! she decided my hair was pretty interesting so she played with it...then tugged at it....then completely pulled it down, chucked my hairtie, then set to work ensuring than my head looked like a rats nest. once that mission was accomplished, she decided my sunglasses would look WAY better on her...and she was right. :) when she was done with my sunglasses (at least I took her chucking them in the same direction as my hair tie as a sign that she was done) she set to work on pulling my shirt off...and while she didn't get it off, the construction workers definitely got a good show. :/ and...her grand finale : she ripped my earring out. she had a BLAST!!! When it was time to go inside she fussed a little bit but got over that quickly when i dipped her backwards....girlfriend SERIOUSLY loves that game and was SQUEALING with delight! it was lunch time and when she say her caregivers she KNEW it was time to eat...which is her absolute favorite thing to do (clearly shes joining the right family!). we said our goodbyes, and we'll be visiting 2 more times before we head home. I miss my boys so much, but at the same time I dread leaving Russia. A piece of my heart will always be here...and not just until Kenzi comes home. I truly love this city, and all the wonderful people ive met here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Puzzle Fundraiser!!!

I've seen these on a few other blogs and I've always loved the idea, so here goes my attempt at holding a puzzle fundraiser!!!

We are still $7000-$9000 away from being fully funded (depending on airline tickets and other variables) so this fundraiser should get us $1500 closer to our goal!!! Every penny counts and now that I've held my beautiful little girl on my arms, seen her flash that 1,000 watt smile, and heard her infectious little giggle...I NEED to get this adoption fully funded and KNOW without a doubt that NOTHING is standing in the way of bringing Kenzi home!!

Her bedroom theme is Owls, so I thought it would be appropriate to use an owl puzzle so it would look great hanging on her wall!

Here is how it works:

For every $5 donation, your name will be written on one of the 300 puzzle pieces.

Once all 300 pieces are sold, my husband David will put the puzzle together and have it framed in double glass so we can hang it on Kenzi's wall and when she's older, we can show her the other side, and all the names of people who helped bring her home!

Please comment on this post with the name you want written on your puzzle piece! You can make tax deductible donations through our FSP on the right.

Thank you for being a part of bringing our daughter home!

Some cuteness, and a fundraiser!

Our coin drive is OFFICIALLY over!! It ended a month ago technically but as of yesterday it's done. It didn't do well...but that's ok!! I appreciate everyone who took part!!! You guys rock!!!

As you know my hubby and I are currently in Russia spending the week with Kenzi. This little girl is INCREDIBLE!!! she everything I could have possibly wanted and so much more! I could write a novel just gushing about her so I'll stop now! I'm updating from my phone so I'll post the fundraiser info immediately after I post pics of the princess!!! Sweet dreams all!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

our first visit with kenzi. I cant even begin to describe how this precious angel stole my heart! she is so sweet and cuddly and in desperate need of a mama ....but she has one now. :) she is healthier than we thought but still needs heart surgery...its just not as dire of a situation as we were led to believe. her eye's are healthy and she is a good eater! shes gained 4 pounds and has grown 2 inches. she loves to eat!!! she can sit unassisted, pull up to a standing position but she isn't walking. she is physically the size of a 12 month old. cognitively she is 8-10 months but she is developing and learning everyday and we're confident that shes going to blossom once shes home! she warmed up to us immediately. she was woken up from her nap to come meet us and once she was handed to me she snuggled right in for another snooze. she was so content to be held and loved on! we spoke with her speech therapist who said shes learning quickly, going from being totally non verbal to saying mama, papa, da, paka, and other short words. we went out to play where sister promptly befriended a duck on wheels. somewhere along the way the duck must have given my princess the stink eye because she gave it a look then chucked it. girlfriend has a future playing softball! after the duck altercation we moved on to the swing and she loved it...until she hated it and tried to escape Lol!! we moved on to a power wheels car and she was ALL about driving! she was so content in that car but after about 15 minutes she was getting tired so we snuggled until it was time to take her back in for lunch. after we handed her off to the orphanage director for lunch, the doctor came in and told us all about Kenzis medical history as well as her parents history. her mom is now 25 and her dad is only 21. the orphanage director actually spoke with Kenzis mother and she gave her blessing for the adoption. she was thrilled that someone wanted to take her home and love her. she said she hoped we would love her as our own. I couldn't imagine being so young and having a child with health problems while living in a country with no resources to turn to for help. this young mother did what she thought was the right thing for her little girl and as much as I will do everything I can to never let Kenzi down, I never want to let her mother down either. the baby house was nothing like I pictured. everyone seemed to genuinely love the kids, they were decently dressed, they had lots of toys and an awesome outdoor play area! (side note: everything these kids have has been donated so PLEASE keep donating!! we have 2 trips left! lets fill up another suitcase full of goods for these babies!!) it really helped calm my mama's heart to see how loved and cared for my sweetheart is. more later. :)
its 3 am in Vladivostok and I cant sleep. we will meet kenzi in 6 hours and I cant even describe how excited I am! I guess since I'm awake I'll detail our trip so far. first and foremost I want to reassure all the families who are waiting for travel dates or who are considering international adoption but are intimidated by the travel requirements....this trip has been incredible so far. I know everyone wont feel the same as I do but I want to at least give people some hope that they might actually ENJOY their time in Russia! our journey started out at home in Tennessee. we left Thursday afternoon on may 18th, with our boys and headed up to Chicago to leave them with their nana and aunt and uncle while we were gone. we stopped about halfway between Jackson and Chicago in tuscola Illinois. the motel room we stayed in was so seedy, and smoky, and nasty....I opted to sleep in the car! that motel room was by far the worst part of the trip so far. :) Friday afternoon we get to Chicago. we spend friday-monday with friends and family...soaking up time with our boys and getting them settled in. so finally Tuesday gets here, may 22nd....its time to head to the airport!! we get to O'Hare around 11 am and find out our flight has been delayed 1 hour. ok no big deal we were hungry anyway so we headed to the food court that was conveniently located next door to C-18, our gate. we get a couple Italian beef sammies and return to our gate and wait, and wait....and wait. finally our plane starts to board...3 hours late! we were unphased though since we had such a long layover for our connecting flight. the seats we had on the plane sucked. we were in the center aisle, in the center seats. I thought I hit the jackpot when a girl in our row boarded after us and offered me her aisle seat, about 7 hours into the flight, and after being bumped into a million times, and being climbed over a million times ...I realized the little switcharoo she offered was waaaaay more beneficial to her! lol our flight from Chicago to hong Kong was exactly the way you want your flight to be...uneventful. :) they showed 4 movies and a few episodes of friends and frasier .... Dave watched them all, and I watched none Lol... I opted to bogart all of his leg space, and his shoulder, and sleep for 10 of the 16 hours we were in the air. the other 6 hours I spent reading, eating (since they fed us 3 times!), pacing the aisles, or standing in the back of the plane. I tried to minimize the amount of swellling in my feet to no avail, when we landed in Hong Kong I had some pretty wicked cankles! !! let me pause there for a second. we were the first family in our little group of Russian adoptive moms and dads to "go west" to get to Russia. most people, even those who live on the west coast of the US, fly east through NYC, then Moscow, etc...we somehow ended up getting cheaper fares going west so we took them and we are now the guinea pigs for western bound Russian travel Lol :) back to our layover in hong Kong. we landed at 9pm local time, with 2 hours until our next flight. the delay at ohare really ate up our snooping time at the Hong Kong airport but we were sent on a goose chase around the airport to find our boarding passes so we saw every square inch, of every level, of the Hong Kong international airport. :) we took a train, a shuttle bus, you name it... but we got to our gate with enough time to spare for a pitstop at starbucks! we get on our plane, Vladivostok air, and Dave and I were both searching for Panam logos....the plane, and the stewardess uniforms, were straight out of the 1970's!! The flight wasn't full so we could spread out, and it was much smoother than the flight to Hong Kong...which had soooo much turbulence. they fed us a delicious meal....and not delicious for being plane food either ....it was really good! we had beef with couscous, a cucumber and tomato salad with smoked salmon, a roll, and a pastry. way better than the food on United. :) so, 4 hours later we land in Vladivostok. the sun was just coming up, and the mountains as we were coming in were just beautiful! so lush and green! the airport was like NOTHING I've ever seen before. we didn't pull up to a gate, we just stopped on the tarmac and got off using a portable staircase!!! it was so cool!!! we took a shuttle bus to the "airport" (that totally looked like a government building) and waited to go through customs. we stood and a lady behind glass looked at our passport, customs form, visa etc etc then off we went to get our luggage. we get our bag then we go wait for our ride. there was a little coffee shop, and a souvenir shop, and we browsed through that ...our ride was late and the boy working security seemed SO concerned for us. he asked if we were American and we said yes, when our ride was still not there 30 minutes later this sweet boy, who was maybe 20 years old, let me use his phone to send an email (we had no wifi), then he tracks down someone who speaks English and asks them to call our ride!!! he was so kind, and I gave him a big American thank you hug. :) so our ride shows up and takes us to our hotel. the ride was about 20 minutes long and to be honest the highway and scenery could have been any highway and any open field back home in Tennessee, then as we got into the city the roads, traffic and buildings were like something out of Chicago's southside at rush hour. so far there are 2 things different here: the driver of the car is on the right, and the language....and for someone who grew up near Ukrainian village in Chicago and who went to high school with all Ukrainian /Russian kids....even the language isn't all that new to me. we get to the hotel and we're given an hour to rest, unpack, etc...then its off to see the MOE (minister of education) . shes nice enough, she asks questions about our motivation to adopt an "unhealthy" kid, do we have other adopted kid's, our income, our kids opinion about the adoption, etc...it takes all of 5 minutes, she was more smiley than I would have imagined and she loooooved the coffee and chocolate we brought her. so we get our permission slip to go to the orphanage and head back to the hotel. small side note: our translator and facilitator are amazing. they are so sweet and helpful and FUN! we're driving and I'm taking 900,000 pictures out the window like the tourist I am...we pass a GORGEOUS bridge that's still under construction and I'm so bummed I didn't get a picture!! I'm sure we'll pass it again though. before going back to our hotel we stop at the market and get some cheese, bread, trout, salami, crackers, water, and diet coke (coca cola light!) and our sweet translator Dasha shows David a little restaurant within walking distance where he can get bbq because he told her it was popular where we live. :) so we get back to our room and change our clothes. its around noon and we hadn't eaten so we put our market purchases away and head to the dining room/restaurant. I had pancakes, Dave had some huge omelet....altogether it was rubles with tip ....a little less than $20. kind of pricey for what we got so we'll eat more market food, less hotel food :) we were going to walk down to the sea but we ended up hanging out in our room, watching Tv and resting up. we ate some salami and trout for dinner, I unpacked and made our room more "homey", we called our boys to check in, and that's about it so far! we love it here and feel very content with our surroundings. we feel very safe, and havent had the least bit of homesickness. we miss our boys but know they're in good hands being spoiled! we're blessed to have one child old enough to know why we're gone, and one too little to really care that we're gone! :) we meet our princess shortly! I'll update with those details soon!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

sweet home chicago!

We are here in Chicago eagerly awaiting our flight to Hong Kong on Tuesday!!! We'll arrive in Kenzi's country Thursday morning and we will meet her the following day!! We heard that our spaghetti dinner and auction were quite successful bringing in over $2,000!! THANK YOU to everyone who came out and enjoyed the food, donated, or bid on items...your love and support means *everything* to us! A very special thank you to Amber for putting the whole thing together...you are wonder woman. I need to get back to my homework but I also want to wish a very happy belated First Birthday to a very special little girl. I hope you're feeling better and I hope your party was amazing. <3. More coming soon!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Just a little update to say Happy Mother's Day to all the Mama's, soon to be Mama's, and Dad's who have to double as Mama's...this is your day and I hope you're loving it!

We're getting ever closer to our travel date! It seems so surreal...I can't wait to get my hands on that cute little peanut!

So, lots going on around here...mostly boring stuff though. I have us 90% packed, and I'm working on getting my house deep cleaned. I seriously can't go out of town unless my house is spotless...and I have 2 little boys so you can imagine how difficult it is to achieve spotless...but I'm trying!

I spent last night making bows for an auction that benefits my friend Karly's little boy who she is in the process of adopting. Here is a link to the auction, I hope you'll check it out!


I'm sure I've only mentioned this 5,000 times but our spaghetti dinner is this Saturday. If you would like to support Kenzi, and donate a meal to a local family in need, please donate $5 per meal ticket to our FSP. If you are in the Jackson, TN area....then come out and enjoy a nice hot meal, and an auction that will help bring my princess home! Our FSP hasn't really been moving like we thought it would right now, but that's ok...all in God's time, right? :)

That's all I've got for now, I'll close with some cuteness...my precious children. I love them more than anything in the world.




Thursday, May 10, 2012

A plea for beautiful Oksana

I have had a lot of ups and downs during this adoption process. You definitely find out who you friends are, and that can be a bit heartbreaking but there is a huge upside too. The friends, no the sisters, you find along the way make everything so much easier to handle. I'm in the midst of developing lifelong friendships and sisterhoods with some of the most amazing women in this world! We're bonded together with one common goal: bringing forgotten children HOME.

One of these amazing women is my dear friend Jody. She is someone anyone would be lucky to know, and look up to. She's funny, smart, and has a faith in God that could rival that in ten preachers. Shes strong, brave and above all else, she's selfless.

Jody is adopting this gorgeous little peanut Oksana. Jody has $130 in her FSP and if she thought you needed it, she would give you every last dime of it because that's just the kind of person she is.

So, as a favor to me personally, and as proof that there is still a reason for people in this world to show love to strangers, to care about the less fortunate, and to continue having the character and grace required to put others before themselves, I'm asking that everyone who reads this checks out Jody's blog, and puts a little bit into Oksana's FSP. I'll consider it a personal favor and I know who reads this...a bunch of you already owe me favors anyway! Lol :P

Here are ways you can help bring Oksana home:

Direct link to FSP - http://reecesrainbow.org/30039/sponsorjohnson-2

Jody's blog -

And here is a direct link to Jody's puzzle fundraiser! These are so cool, just $5 can earn you place in Oksana's adoption story. :)


So, in closing, I'd like to share some song lyrics that always make me think of our sweet kiddo's waiting for us on the other side of the world, and the potential their so capable of reaching once they're in the arms of their loving mothers. Please help Oksana come home.

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules
Of someone else's game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!
It's time to try
Defying gravity
I think I'll try
Defying gravity
And you can't pull me down!
I'm through accepting limits
''cause someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I'll never know!
Too long I've been afraid of
Losing love I guess I've lost
Well, if that's love
It comes at much too high a cost!
d sooner buy
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I'm defying gravity
And you can't pull me down!
So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately:
"Ev'ryone deserves the chance to fly!"
And if I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free
To those who'd ground me
Take a message back from me
Tell them how I am
Defying gravity
I'm flying high
Defying gravity

-Defying Gravity, Idina Menzel

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

An adoption, in pictures...

I've been accused of not putting enough pictures on my blog...which is true...I guess I'm lazy like that...so I'm going to attempt to tell our adoption story, up until now...in photos. Enjoy. :)

this is the picture that started it all <3

We inquired about Xenia in mid-December, we filled out commitment papers through Reece's Rainbow, found a homestudy agency and made an appointment, and drove all the way to Chicago to get birth certificates and copies of our marriage license all before Christmas.

While we were there...we applied for our passports!

Then a few weeks later...

One step closer!!

Finally our homestudy date came!

 It went off without a hitch, maybe because we fed the social worker...

Fast forward a few weeks, and we have a completed homestudy in hand! It's time to start paying some people! Here is a pic of our fee schedule.
You probably can't read that...but take my word for it, international adoption is pricey! We needed some money! So, we did some fundraisers! We had a Maggie Moo's scoop night that raised $360 including donations! 

We called the local paper and asked them to help promote our fundraiser, and we made the cover of the paper!

We sold candy bars, well...Dylan sold candy bars, and made $74!!!

We sold wrist bands that say "Love Conquers All" (our blog name) and made $750!!

While we were fundraising, people were also generously donating to our FSP/chip-in and also I was making and selling hairbows and other crafty stuff. We made over $1,000 at our local flea market over the course of 2 months thanks to the amazingly sweet manager donating a slot to us!

I also need to give a shout out to the lovely Adeye Salem for hosting a giveaway on her webpage www.nogreaterjoymom.com that featured our princess. We received around $400 in donations because of the exposure Adeye's page brought, PLUS my awesome cousin donated through the page and ended up winning one of the prizes! A $250 visa gift card which she donated to us!!! We used the card to buy all the supplies for the bows I make, so between the $1,000 I've made at the flea markets and the nearly $1000 I've made off of our facebook page and other sales...that $250 has put about $2000 into Kenzi's adoption fund! Whoo hoo!

So, back to the paperwork...while doing ALL these fundraisers, we were paper chasing something fierce as well!

USCIS application: $890 (including fingerprints)

Completed Adoption Training: $120

Then the real fun started: completing our preliminary dossier!! It was actually really easy to be honest, we had to send our home study, and some photos of our home, neighborhood, and family...so it gave us an excuse to FINALLY get some quality family photos! (Thanks Amber!)

along with the photos and homestudy, we had to fill out, sign, notarize, certify, and apostille a ton of stuff. Have you ever seen an apostilled document? I'm sure these, like my kids, are extremely over photographed...but these are the best shots. :) This is what 5 months of blood, sweat, tears, fears, and sleepless nights looks like:

And then you're forced to put what you feel like is your entire life into a little FedEx envelope and send it away. Without signature confirmation. You think that this is the scariest feeling in the world. But then weeks later you're forced to mail your passports to a stranger and all you can do is hope that they get there safely, then get back to you safely, with correct visas in them. Oy vey.

So, now we wait!!! Our FedEx package arrives safely at our agency (woot!), then it arrives safely in our kiddo's country (double woot!!), it's translated, it's submitted and then....we get travel dates!!!

Then everything is a blur...because it's so recent, and so fast, and so problematic...I'm just going to post a bunch of pictures that might get the point across! The reason why things are nuts is, in my opinion, the number of people involved! You have to contact this person to release your funds, that person to book your plane tickets, that other person to get your visas, your family who will watch your kids, your family who will keep an eye on your house, your agency, your social worker because she forgot to send you something, your bank so they don't think your debit card has been stolen when it's used in 3 countries in 10 days, your other bank to order foreign currency, yet ANOTHER bank to get new or like new bills, your phone provider so your phone will work in country, and the list goes on, and on...

And then there is packing. And list making. And chaos. 

 This is the notebook where the lists live

 This is the wallet where money used to live

 This is the checkbook that wrote around $10,000 in checks, so far. Yes I know I'm like a 12 year old with my Hello Kitty checks but I bet I'm also the only person who has paid for an international adoption with Hello Kitty checks which makes me awesome.

and this...this is the money that did not make the "like new" cut upon further inspection, and is currently on it's way back to the bank with my husband for a swap out. :)

Oh! and there is the matter of gifts and donations...these two things are the ONLY things in our checked bag. We want to hook the kiddos up as much as possible! Now, for a look inside the bag!

 The toys we're bringing for Kenzi to play with, we'll be leaving them at the orphanage for all the kids when we leave.

 The toy I bought specifically for Kenzi, because it's a Mama owl hugging her baby owl <3 She also has a blanket that is specifically for her and an owl taggy blankie that my dear friend Karly made for Kenzi-her first hand made gift. <3 The owl toy and the owl taggy are going to come home with us, we'll take them back when we have our court date, maybe Kenzi will remember them!

 We're making a gift basket for the orphanage workers. We were told that everyone loves Starbucks coffee, American chocolate, and they don't have peanut butter but they love it! They also really like tea, so we're putting a little bit of everything in the basket for them.

 For individual gifts, they're about the same, just on a smaller scale. One has chocolate and coffee...

 The other has chocolate and tea

 We're bringing lots of medicine and first aid stuff this trip

 I found mitten clips on clearance for $0.50 each so I bought them all...there are about 40 sets in this bag LOL...winter will be here before we know it! I'm going to look around for children's mittens to go with them too if I have time!

 Lots and lots of vitamins!

 This is the photo book we're bringing Kenzi. It is filled with pictures of our family, our house, our neighborhood, etc.

and last but not least...this is the photo book I had made for our MOE appointment. I want to leave this one with Kenzi because it's nicer, but I also want to make sure we get it back so she can keep it forever...so it probably isn't safe to leave it. :( I made sure all the same pictures are in her book though. :)

So there you have it! Our adoption in a photographic nutshell...so far! I don't know if I'll have time to blog again before we leave, but I will DEFINITELY post pictures of the princess while we're there!

Please pray for us to have safe travels. We are surprisingly calm about the trip, I'm not the least bit scared, which is weird for me because I'm scared of everything... :) I hate to fly but I'll deal with it...and our boys are beside themselves excited about getting away from us and spending time in Chicago with Nana so that helps a lot...knowing they don't care that we're leaving! LOL

Bye for now!!