Saturday, April 22, 2017

Expectations Vs. Reality

Can you picture a Chinese jumprope? It’s a large, connected elastic band (picture a giant rubber band). At a pre-field training, we had an extensive lesson with these. Someone stood in the middle of multiple of Chinese jump ropes, stretched taut around their legs. Though the lesson had many facets, the one I am focusing on today is about expectations vs. reality. The further apart our expectations are from our reality, when life happens and the band gets snapped, it is really going to hurt. Anything we can do to get the two closer makes the pang “twangs” lessen.

I’m really off track for my original purpose of this post, but I’ve gone this far, so I’ll continue. 

This can make me a pessimist as I keep my expectations low so as not to have to painful of twangs. As I try to manage expectations, I can also stop dreaming, just function and many times, I am surprised by my reality as I had a different picture painted in my mind. Does that make any sense?  If it doesn’t , no problem, my initial intent was to write about Jon’s trip. 

About 1 1/2 years ago, Jon was asked to attend an SIM Int’l Consultation in Turkey. At that point, we knew nothing of Tiger and Little Miss and our whole family planned to go. Because of a coup in Turkey, it was moved to Montenegro. A country I had to google to know its location. And because of two new babies (yay!), the whole family going was not a good option as sitting in a hotel room with four cranky, jet-lagged kids isn’t really my thing. ;)

We blessed Jon and sent him, though it was sad to see him go and I was a bit panicky how everything would play out.

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And, (here’s the part where expectations and reality being close together is helpful). We are making it and beyond expectations!

Thanks to all who are praying.

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I asked him to send my pictures and his view is incredible. 

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But so is mine. 

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Yes, I now want to go to Montenegro someday.

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But for the stage we are in, I am good here. Both babies were immunized on the day after Jon left. #nanasavestheday.

My mom and Jon’s mom have been so helpful. Others have been amazing too and my expectations are far exceeded this minute as the girls are at a friends and BOTH babies are sleeping. Woohoo! 

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Someday, I want to see this place

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For now, this view is great.

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My reality is exceeding my expectations. It’s Saturday morning and he gets back Monday night. The homestretch and we are all still alive, healthy and happy. I know some of you have husbands, traveling all the time. My respect for you has gone up even more. 

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And for some of you reading who recognize at least two in this picture, Jon and Brett are rooming together. Liv, if you are reading, someday, when our 8 children are older, let’s join them, okay? ;)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

FAQ: What's Harder, Twins or Two Babies 7 Months Apart?

Before Little Miss T was born, I answered this question with a “we’ll see” and in my head I thought it wouldn’t be as hard as going from 0-2 kids.  It’s funny as other things seem glaringly obvious now. 

I hadn’t factored in the different stage of life I am in. When we brought home J and A, they came into our home and settled routines. I was a stay-at-home mom and they were my only kids. This past 8 months, we have stayed in many different beds, traveled by car and plane, moved “home base” multiple times, I am trying to manage a few things with our overseas life and J and A are homeschooled first graders. 

What is harder, twins or two babies 7 months apart?

Two babies 7 months apart is a hands down winner.

Would I change it?

Never.

I am laughing at myself and how seeing how fast times flies with the girls and the hormones, everything is so PRECIOUS. I can hardly handle Little Miss’ squishy cheeks and her little eyes looking deeply into mine and I get all melty listening to Theo babble and being on the receiving end of his kisses. I look at our oldest and have panicky thoughts of, “Oh no, they are almost grown! Where did the time go? How did they lose their teeth already?!” Each stage my kiddos are in is amazing. Sometimes problematic when they all have needs at the same time, but this is probably the definition of moms of multiple kids struggle. 

To our delight, Tiger loves his baby sis, which is incredible but also challenging as he wants to touch her, kiss her, grab her every chance afforded to him, which means a whole lot of funny and sweet but also 100% supervision. 

After looking at pictures for this post, it's tempting not to post. It’s a little too real life, sweatpants, mess everywhere, hair out of control, kids dressed in whatever is most easily accessible, but it’s the hormone thing again as even the mess is feeling precious. 

Not photographed much (because I am continually out of space on my phone. Grr) but a rockstar dad is Jon, helping with everything, in any spare minute he has.

There are countless other unsung heroes who have come alongside and we are so grateful.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

FAQ: Who Does She Look Like?

Getting our crew out the door is hilarious or panic inducing, depends on how I look at it. I have barely been out but Little Miss and I did get out (just the two of us) for her two-week check up. Afterwards, I decided to run by a quick portrait studio, thinking we could be in and out. 

Little Miss T joins her siblings in a legacy of being amazing kids but not great or deep sleepers and this day was no exception. The photographer was bored as there was no one else and she spent 1.5 hours trying to get me to put her to sleep, but there was absolutely no way Little Miss T was going to participate in that silly activity. Ha! The photographer would say, “Maybe try nursing her one more time?” and so we tried on four separate occasions, which really only made her spit up on the props. People who get their babies on a schedule astound me.

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Because it was a studio, she also was continually annoyed by the flash. 

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This sweet little bundle seems to favor her daddy’s side. We have heard multiple times that she reminds people of Jon’s dad, even from people who have only seen him in pictures. :)

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When we heard at her 18 week ultrasound it was a girl, I was shocked as I was really hoping for a boy to keep things even, now I can’t imagine anything but a bit of girlie sweetness!

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We love the little dear so much! She loves to be held and has started to stare deeply into our eyes, studying our faces for chunks of time, so glad for this gift of God.

Monday, March 27, 2017

FAQ: What Do Your First Three Think of the New Addition?

What do your first three kiddos think of the new addition?

Five days after Little Miss T’s birth, as we ate dinner, my arms full of baby and Jon’s arms full as well, A lamented, “Do you remember our family before? We used to do so many things we can’t do right now.” as A talked, I clarified, “Do you mean before Tiger joined our family, just the four of us?” “No,” she replied, “I can’t remember life without Tiger.” A few minutes after this, she commented “I can’t remember life without Little Miss T either. Ha! It had been a rough five days apparently.

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Tiger is a lover. True to his nature, he loves his baby sis. He is empathetic about getting to her and any chance he gets, he rolls/inches himself towards her to give her pats or open mouth kisses on her head. (this is all heavily supervised). Teaching a seven-month-old full contact child the concept of “gentle” proves difficult. Ha!    

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Our second set of “twins”

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Trying to keep them separate on the couch. 

The “bigs” are definitely feeling transition with another new baby but also loving on her . They are amazing kids and we have seen them adapt, adapt, adapt to so many things and they are adjusting to being a family of six. A mentioned she prefers babies, not “first born” which is her way of saying newborn and they can’t wait for her to be interactive and have a stronger neck so they can move her around a bit more.   They are so happy for a sister and say the best part is “holding her and we have two babies so we can each have one.” 

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Our first (and so far only) family of six photo. :)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

FAQ 1: How Does Adoption Compare to Biological Birth?

On the way to the hospital for the delivery of Little Miss T, Jon and I were laughing how, though our fourth child, we were totally new to the labor and delivery game. We haven’t had the same process for our kids and we did discuss how it would be nice to do a process and then feel competent in it and do it again. 

Many times, the way the above question is phrased is something like this, “How does it feel to have your own?” I smile as I can answer this question, “This is my fourth.” or “I already have three of my own.” My response isn’t meant to be snarky but in complete thankfulness of how God grows families. Just as Jon and I are not blood relatives but God has knit us together as family, the same applies to our kids. I know growing up as an adopted child, I was never made to feel less a part of any family because we didn’t share bloodlines. 

Regardless, we rejoice how God has grown our family through international adoption, domestic US adoption and, most recently, biological childbirth. Here’s my disclaimer before I go further, this is only from my experience and we haven’t had “difficult” adoption experiences in that our wait times have not been long, we have not had placements that were changed, birthmothers who changed their mind, court dates that continually bump back, etc.

All the processes are beautiful and hard and each one, God ordained. 

Adoption is worth it. It is a challenge. Adoption can feel like fighting the universe to have a child who is not birthed from your body to join your family. But how God can use that time, when, through stacks of paperwork, training, interviews, background checks, home studies and continually trying to prove you will be a competent parent, it sometimes feels like two steps forward, three steps back. Your marriage, childrearing, finances and upbringing are all under scrutiny.

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And then, there's the wait. This is different depending on type of adoption and how God writes the story but as we waited, overdue with Little Miss T, the emotional agony was so much less as she was already with us, hanging out in the womb, and when she was born, she was, without question, ours in the eyes of every court, every social worker. When we waited in adoption, part of our hearts were alive across the ocean and we could do nothing in their care until we were invited and passed court. With domestic, we met Little Tiger, fell in love with his birthmother and walked deep roads of uncertainty as we spent days, rejoicing and grieving with her. Until those papers were signed, he wasn’t ours and though fully ours in heart, our agency reminded us that we still had many hoops to jump through until we could finalize, more proving ourselves. When Little Miss T was born, we filled out one paper and that was enough to get a birth certificate. Jon looked at me and said, “That’s it?” And it was, no lawyers, just check a box and she gets a social security number. No long lines at multiple offices, trying to prove we are parents through multiple documents, all needing to be certified. Then, they just sent the sweet little girl home with us. No questions, no triple checks on our abilities to parent, just a small wheelchair ride out to our van and she was allowed to go with us. 

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Now, let’s talk about the hormones that come with childbirth. This has been, hands down, the most difficult and unanticipated part for me. OH, THE HORMONES. Ahh! How did I miss this?!, I had heard from enough women that the hormones makes you a bit crazy, I couldn’t understand until I am walking it and fighting not to be held hostage by them. (Don’t worry about me, I am keeping close tabs on my emotional health. :)) I know there are many benefits to them as well and God’s plans are perfect, even in the hormones. While adoption is an emotional wearying process, once the child is in our arms, the next parts of the journey seem to be with less drama because my hormones were not a rollercoaster. There is also an incredible blessing in carrying a child and receiving her into our arms immediately.

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And each time we hold a new child in our arms, we feel the weight and magnitude of God entrusting us with another life and it’s a miracle.

Monday, March 20, 2017

And Then We Were Six

I’ve written many blog posts in my head while I nurse in the wee hours of the morning. Being a multitasked with four kids, nursing is a bit of a shock to the system in that it hasn’t been an easy process for me or Little Miss T to learn and we have to focus all our energy on making it work. She is two weeks old today and I would say the two of us are in a better swing with her eating, praise God. 

I have now worked out a small series of FAQs I can answer but will go in small chunks because, well, I am in a life stage where finding a window to shower feels like an accomplishment. I know many of you can relate. 

Here is a brief birth story, not too many details, but it is still a birth story. :) If you don’t want to know details, just look at the pics and move along. 

My due date came and went without so much as a contraction. Depressingly, even with all the birthing ball and natural gravity positions I would try to bring on labor, I started to feel better and better, less achy, more like my body had decided to hold off on getting this baby into the world. 

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Our doctor’s comfort level with overdue moms was that the baby needed to make a debut on day 12. On day 11, as my body was still showing no signs of labor, I was sent in to the hospital for an induction. I had never been admitted to a hospital and was kind of dreading the whole process. I checked in on Sunday evening and I was hooked up to monitors and given Ceravil which was supposed to help my cervix prepare. Jon and I got some sleep during the night as we knew it was a big day ahead.

About 6:00 am, I was started on Pitocin, a drug to bring on labor. Again, not my favorite idea and it really limited how much I could move but we agreed as we also wanted the baby to come into the world on day 12. Once I was in the hospital, it couldn’t go fast enough for me. Contractions started hard and fast, when they started, they came about 3 minutes apart. I don’t know why but I imagined a break where I could feel totally normal during contractions but because of severe back pain, I didn’t get much relief between contractions. Probably the funniest part of the morning happened when Jon got a phone call from WBCL to do an interview for a radio station about the BAM Symposium happening and he answered the call and I moaned/yelled, “Tell them your wife is in labor!” Needless to say, Jon didn’t do the interview. :)

Around 11:30, I was offered an epidural or I needed to wait until mid-afternoon. Don’t hate me for all you strong natural woman but I happily received an epidural. :) I still wasn’t dilating much and was still feeling enough pain with the epidural that I couldn’t rest and was not dilating. A few hours later after very little progress, they gave me some kind of amazing booster and I was able to sleep for 30 minutes. I woke up from the nap and had gone from a 3 to an 8 dilated. As I was being considered a c-section risk, the nurses and doctor were so happy with this…And then I stalled and stayed between an 8-9 for a few hours. The epidural was wearing thin and no one wanted to give me more as the staff wanted me to feel pain to push against when it was time. It was what we wanted to and I kept Tiger in my mind as motivation as I knew the c-section recovery would bar me from holding an 18 pound wiggle bug. I finally moved to a 10 and the nurses were delighted; however, I also stayed at a 10 with no desire to push for several hours. Finally, it was concluded I should start pushing, regardless of how I was feeling. 

I pushed for about an hour before I asked for another bit of a booster to the epidural as I was bordering on despair. I know, so dramatic but I was having little progress. After about another 30 minutes, the doctor came in, announced, “We are doing this! She will come!” And praise to God, more pushing later, her little head of dark hair came into the world and the doctor wiggled the rest of her body out. I had my eyes shut and felt her come out but didn’t want to think I was done if I wasn’t when I felt her on my chest. 

Because we were doing skin-to-skin time, they didn’t take her away for over 2 hours. We didn’t know weights and measures and we also changed her mind about her name, so she was nameless but we didn’t care, we were overwhelmed with thankfulness.

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Poor little girl was so beat up from her entrance into the world but she seems like an overcomer. :)

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Thank you for all your prayers. We are overwhelmed by God’s goodness to our family. 

 

 Coming up: “How does this experience compare with adoption experiences?”  

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Other Mama

I’ve long lived in complete respect and gratefulness to the other two mamas who are intricately tied to my heart as I raise the children they have borne as mine. The three kiddos I get to hug and hold every day fill us with indescribable joy. As my due date has passed and the days stretch on and I mentally think about if every kick was possibly a contraction, my heart and mind think about the other mamas, the lives they have carried and the way our family has grown through them. Miraculously and abundant for us but twinged with so much loss for the other mama (and family) as well as for our kids.

At least on a daily basis now, the girls and I have a discussion about medical care and they voice their fears I will die in labor. We pray and move through that anxiety and I teach about the gift of lifesaving medical care I have access to in the US. They feel relieved but it brings so many questions for them of where this life-saving care was the day their birth mama gave birth and why she didn’t have access to it. We replay what the scene would have looked like, the hut birth, the awareness that she wasn’t okay and the teeny babies were early, way too early to make it. We talk about how she was carried on a litter down the dirt paths to a main road, where they finally got a ride to the hospital, but it was too late. I can imagine the scene, the quiet sighs of grief, not yet manifesting into wails as she was still alive, but with obvious signs she was nearing her last breath. The crowd would have swelled as it passed other villages before it reached the main road.

And then I think of Tiger’s birth mama. One of the bravest, most amazing women I have ever met. Our days together in Utah a mix of joy and grief. I am reminded of her in Tiger everyday and feel an acute awareness and pang of how great a gift she has given to us. 

Before we brought the girls home, I remember being at a social event and someone asking, “What if you never love these girls?” Attachment is no small issue and I don’t wish to simplify it, but as we prepare to deliver, I think back on that question because I think, “How can I ever love another the way I love the three God has given us already?” I know we will. 

This morning, as they still sleep and I am obviously sentimental, I reflect on all of this in gratitude and emotion too deep for words. God has been using my kids’ stories as reminders to me of His plans and provisions and I think of the beautiful women who carried them. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

She's Holding Strong

Today’s my due date and while the girls play and Tiger naps, I have come to terms with the fact that the next baby is quite happy inside there and nothing I can read on pinterest about natural labor induction methods can really change her mind. I guess I am also a bit lackluster in the more extreme ideas and I am pretty sure sitting on the couch eating anything with oozy frosting wasn’t on the list, which is all I really feel like doing. It’s probably okay, Jon and I talked late into the night last night, laughing about name combinations and we still haven’t settled on her name. 

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We are soaking up the time we have. On Saturday, Jon thought of teaching the girls to ice skate, a perfectly reasonable idea when it is 60 degrees outside.

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Tiger and I just sidelined it as infants and very pregnant women aren’t supposed to ice skate. We walked around the rink, because, you know, this was back when I was more hopeful about bringing on labor. :)

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The girls said it was a dream come true. The near empty rink and gorgeous sunshine didn’t hurt anything. 

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And I am enjoying each moment with this Tiger, who couldn’t be happier about the great outdoors!

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Melt my heart, he loves to sleep like this, his hand grabbing me.

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One of my biggest sad emotions the past few weeks is feeling sad that Tiger will be displaced as baby when he is still a baby, so we do all the snuggling we can.

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And of course, there has had to be some of this as we unload sister’s clothes. :)

Thanks for reading along and praying us through!

 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Baby, Baby

In just a short time, child #4 enters our world. All looks good at the doctor and I am in the habit of asking really well-thought out questions, such as, “Umm, is it possible for the baby to explode out of my belly button?” My intelligence has wowed the OBGYN staff, I am sure. Jon and I attend our first birthing class on Saturday, cutting it a bit close to the due date but I am very thankful the baby seems to want to stay put for a bit as we move next week. It is from one furnished place to another, so not like a move. WHEW. Most of our stuff is packed up, just more sorting to do, so it’s manageable.

I am so thankful for each of you who read along and pray for us!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Finally!

 

To the dear, dear readers, still journeying along with us, even when this has been silent, thank you!

Thank you so much for your prayers on behalf of Jon’s trip. He, his dad, Wally, and a friend, Jim, had an incredible time in Ethiopia and it was all a bit surreal to only hear tiny pieces from this side of the world. The girls and I were so hungry for minute-by-minute news, something quite difficult when there was no internet. We were (a little) understanding about this. :) We all missed Jon. 

Pictures Jon took, in order of events I think. 

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Our dog!  She was doing well, in need of a haircut. 

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Jim used his lifetime expertise with sawmills to begin work on the Woodmizer sawmill as it has been out of commission since before we left!  There were more missing pieces than originally anticipated, but God provided and after much work, the machine was working before they left.

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Dad and Jim were able to immediately experience Awi hospitality.

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And then there is the weird feeling of toddlers who have transitioned into little boys while we have been away.

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When they got to our house, all was well…but there was a broken water pump and a pipe that had frozen and burst…which meant no water except what they hauled in buckets. Doing dishes with this predicament is not my favorite activity but from reports, all were good sports!

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Dad G taught a soil class. In Awi culture, important invitations aren’t extended much ahead of time, so the day before, no one had been invited but still 40 farmers were in attendance by the class time!

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A celebration parade of Timket, Jon took this from a hotel in town, trying to get wifi. :)

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a familiar scene, washing the green coffee beans.

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J and A had made some hot pads for friends. Which is funny because Imabet had no idea what to do with this, even after Jon described it. Women here have tough hands and even reach into hot fires to move coals around. :)

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Oh, faces we love. 

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To  market, to market. As we weren’t there, Jon filled the van with people and living things.

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Dad assessed oat trials (started by a summer intern, Andi) on Mark and Debbie’s land.

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Sweet little Yenewerk, looking so old with a picture of J, A and her together.

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When the girls heard Daddy was out eating in huts, J very seriously said to herself, “It’s okay, rejoice with those who rejoice.” As she could hardly stand to know all the food and experiences she was missing.

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On the way back to Addis, time with Yeshi. Can you see this kid?! When we left he couldn’t even crawl and now he is toddling!

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Aah!  He and Tiger are going to be quite the team. 

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So thankful for teammates

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Mark and Debbie saw Jon off at the airport. We are so thankful for them and miss them much!  Debbie took care of food prep for the whole time the men were in Injibara!

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Friends in Addis sent the girls and I three different Ethiopian stews with injera. J declared, “Best meal I have ever eaten!”

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Now, we are so glad to have daddy back and we continue to process. 

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And this little Tiger, oh how he missed his daddy!

Each prayer for our future, wisdom and clarity are much appreciated. Also, we are due with this next baby in three weeks! Aah!