Monday, November 19, 2012

It's Official!

It's OFFICIAL!!!  We went to the courthouse today and appeared before the (very nice!) judge and promised to be Zachary's family forever.  His name is now officially changed to Zachary Dale Vandewater!  I LOVE how it is stated in the is now the same as if he was our "natural born" son.  It is the same, buddy.  You are our baby, sweet boy.
Joah having a little fun in the "hot seat"
Here we are with the judge and our social worker (Joah was having a "moment").
Kids outside the courthouse
We got them out of school so they could be with us - they were so excited and eagerly told the judge they loved having Zachary as their little brother.
Milkshakes to celebrate!!
He's officially a "Vandewater" and we LOVE it!!!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


October was birthday month at our house!  First up was Asher who turned 4!
Birthday pizza with Nana and Uncle Gabe
Next was Zac who turned 3!  It was so special to celebrate his birthday for the first time WITH him!!  He was most excited about his "choo choo" cake!
Zac LOVES cars, trucks, trains and tractors and Asher was more than happy to help him open us his birthday presents!
Cute sweatshirt from grandma!

Zac showing Nana the very special little photo books he got from his little sister for his birthday.  They are such a treasure because they have many pictures of he and his sister together when they were at the orphanage.  He is so proud of his "Mei Mei" ("little sister") and prays for her every day. 
Zac and I snuggling with the cute monkey Zac's sister sent with a hug for his birthday.  Thank you Mei Mei!  I love you!!
Last but not least it was daddy's birthday!

Now that Zac is an expert at birthdays, of course he had to help blow out the candle!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Daddy's Arms


If you have followed Zac's story, you know that daddy was his favorite from day one.  I can proudly say that our little cutie loves his momma now too but daddy still has an extra special place in his heart.  I don't even know how to begin to share how much Justin adores Zachary.  It's beautiful and miraculous and it makes my heart tighten with emotion to think about Justin's personal adoption journey.  I often hear similar stories from wants to adopt, dad is not so sure, mom prays, dad gives the green light and falls head over heels in love, becoming an even bigger supporter of adoption than his wife!  He finds out that God provides, there is great blessing in taking a risk, and YES he can love an adopted child just as much as a biological one (I've heard that one a lot)!  These are all concerns I have heard specifically from dads and I love love love seeing how God gently leads and moves on behalf of his children.

The reason this is on my heart tonight is because of a story Justin just told me.  He said around 3am last night Zachary came to our bed and didn't just crawl in but wedged his way under Justin's arm so he could be as close as possible to his daddy.  I never even knew he was there because he was snuggled up so tight to Justin.  Justin said he became overwhelmed with the thought that there are so many little ones who don't have a daddy or mommy's arm to snuggle up under.  Our son has a family now and the thought of him not having someone (us!) to adore him it too much to take in.  Zachary was one of millions of amazing children who need families.  (Seriously, the child is amazing. =)

Justin's story really brought me back to the place where God wrecked me a few years ago...the reason I longed to adopt.  There are close to 147 MILLION orphans and we can love one.  That's it.  That's where it began for me.  I have shared before that I did not feel like I "needed" another child.  I was perfectly content with our family just the way it was. But when I found myself weeping over the mere thought of a child without a mommy I knew my comfortable, content existence was not where I was supposed to stay.  I feel so strongly that our own comfort is our worst enemy if we allow it to take precedence over what Jesus clearly calls his followers to do...LOVE others.  Maybe we won't have the picture perfect life (some dreams will be let go and replaced with others).  Maybe my biological children will struggle with adding a new family member (in our case his name may or may not start with an "A" =).  Maybe it will cost me something I didn't think I wanted to give (to find out more every day that it was worth it all).  But we have arms that a sweet little boy from Taiwan whose picture we saw on a "waiting child" listing can crawl under and find a safe place where he will always be loved.  I pray we will always use our arms to hold and love children.  They are so precious to their Father.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Marking the Time

Looks like I may have missed a few months of updates!  Six months ago today, we saw Zachary's face for the first time.  It genuinely feels like he's always been with us.  I look at pictures the orphanage sent us of his life before becoming a Vandewater and I have a hard time believing it's true...that he had another life for almost 2 1/2 years.  This week I have been thinking a lot about how we mark the time.  Six months since I touched my baby for the first time...yesterday my dad would have had his 59th birthday...on Monday Justin and I will celebrate 13 years of marriage...Joah is starting kindergarten...five years since we started going to our church, The Crossing, and God turned my heart to Him in a deeper way.  All these things are big markers in my life.  There is one marking of time that has been the most pressing on my heart lately.  Next week, on the 21st of August, it will be one month since some very special people in our lives suddenly lost their 4-month-old baby girl, Quinn Noel.  Quinn's story is not mine to tell, but even writing her name makes my heart tighten into knots and my eyes fill with tears.  I have been unable to keep her and her sweet parents out of my mind.  They are the kind of people who you first because they are outwardly beautiful.  They shine.  Ali lights up every room she enters and Tim is so good at loving people.  A moment after you notice their outward beauty, their inner beauty outshines it.  We call them both family and friends.  Every time they have been to our house Ali blesses me by tackling the dishes and Tim sneaks away from the adult conversation to love on my kids.  They adore Tim and Ali just as much as we do.  Quinn is a miracle we all prayed for.  I believe that when you pray for someone for a long time, your heart is tied to them in a beautiful way.  I was excited to get special time with her when her mom started teaching again and I would babysit her.  I would watch Asher and Zachary when they were around babies, curious how they would treat Baby Quinn at our house each day.  I had decided the girls' room was the best place for her to take her naps and I wondered how she would do at library storytime each week with the boys.  I selfishly hoped we would have a special bond and I also looked forward to getting to see her mom or dad every morning and afternoon when one of them dropped her off and picked her up.  Losing all these things I "planned" and even "dreamed" about for my upcoming schoolyear with Asher, Zac, and Quinn are just the slightest brushstroke of heartache when compared to what Tim and Ali are feeling and experiencing each moment of every day.  Everyone who hasn't experienced this kind of loss says, "I can't imagine."  I can't imagine.  This is the thing I love most about Tim and Ali, though.  You know when I talked about how Ali lights up every room she enters and Tim is so good at loving people?  That Light comes from the Light of the World and that Love comes from the One who IS Love.  Even through their pain and mourning, weeping and brokeness I still see that Light in Ali's eyes and that Love in Tim's.  It is something that does not change because the Holy Spirit is inside them and He does not change.  It is that Spirit that gave Ali the peace that passes all understanding...the peace I could actually feel when I held her one week after she endured the most horrible night of her life.  I could feel it.  I believe Jesus is real...He is Love...He is Light...He is Peace.  I love you Tim, Ali, and Quinn.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Three Months

I recently told someone it's like Zachary has gone through his entire baby phase in three months.  He is such a "big boy" now whereas when he came home he was very much a baby.  Zac is now done with bottles and has much less time for cuddling because he has to keep up with his brothers!  He is saying a lot of phrases in English, sneaking out of his bed at night to jump in with Joah, and joining in the wrestling matches.  He loves to swing high on the swingset and zip around on Asher's little powerwheels jeep.  He laughs uncontrollably when we tickle him - it is the best sound in the world! 

I will say this month has been harder for me.  I finally noticed that even though Zachary was doing so beautifully, I was starting to unravel.  I was very overwhelmed with the "dailyness" (mountains of laundry, never ever finishing a task, and still making sure I got a chance to really connect with each child each day) and was starting to doubt that I could be the mother I wanted to be to all five of my kiddos.  I heard that little lie..."You could be a really great mom to two children.  Think of all the time you'd have to help them with homework, make sure they always used their manners...maybe even their clothes would match because you could dress them instead of them dressing themselves!"  At one point after Asher had completely trashed our basement and had a few deliberate "poop" incidents I cried on the phone to Justin, unsure that I could do it and do it well.  I also asked some precious friends to pray for me and I firmly believe they carried me yet again and God gave me a renewed mind.  I started to recognize when the lies were creeping in and choose to battle against the enemy who placed them there.  I know I am a good mother and I have no doubt this is what I'm called to...raising up our little arrows and sending them out.  I loved what my friend Erica told me..."Asher's arrow has fire on the tip."  Indeed it does.  He is a little warrior.  All of our kids are very strong, some of them often defiant.  But they are also fiercely compassionate and wildly fun.  It's not an easy calling to be a mom but it's what I love.  I am so in love with these five little fiery arrows.

 three amigos

 Daddy took the girls to their first father/daughter dance

 Joah's preschool graduation

 A common sight when you have 2 and 3 year old boys!

 Nana and the boys

 The red car is always a favorite at Nana's house

 The kids really wanted to swim in the lake Mother's Day weekend - I think that was a first!

 Zac stayed in his bed the first 2 months he was home - now he's venturing out...this is where I caught him after we tucked him in.  He wanted to put his shoes on to go out and play!

 Mommy said "no" so Zac wasn't happy with me and found a great place to pout

 first baby pool day!

 a trip to the zoo with our friends

 We had family pictures taken by a friend and I love how they turned out!

 my girls

 love this little guy

 What's in there Zac?  Joah cracks me up in this one too.

Someone likes to be Mr. Independant...I wonder who??

My mom gave me this for Mother's Day and it made me cry..."God is within her, she will not fall."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Two Months Home

It's been another fun month with the "Taiwan Tornado" (I stole that name by the way =).  Even looking back at this blog amazes me.  Zachary looks so sad and scared in those first pictures and now he is wrestling, running, giggling and eating right alongside everyone else.  He will not be left out of anything (I love it). 
I'm very excited to share that we have been in contact with Zachary's little sister's family!  I haven't asked permission from them to post any pictures of her yet but her mom sent me some pictures she took when they went to Taiwan this past December to bring her home.  They were able to spend some time with Zachary and take pictures and videos of he and his sister together!  They said he called her "Mei Mei" (little sister) and she called him "Ge Ge" (big brother).  This is the most amazing part...when I pulled up the pictures her mom took of them together I pointed to her and asked Zachary who it was and he looked for a couple of seconds and then said "Mei Mei!!"  He totally remembered her!!  It was a wonderful moment and a sad moment all at the same time.  I am so thankful Zac has a biological sister and that he had time to bond with her in the orphanage but I was surprised at how heartbroken I felt too because they are separated now.  He knows her, his eyes lit up when he saw her.  I am so thankful that "Mei Mei's" parents feel the same way we do and they want to stay in contact!  (On a sidenote, a lot of people have asked why Zac and his sister weren't placed together and it's because both of their adoptions were in process before they did the DNA test and found out they are siblings.)

We spent Easter weekend with Justin's side of the family and Zac got to meet his cousins!  There were 10 kids under the age of 10 running around!  I love this picture of of Benj, Zac, Asher and Sammy in the tub.

 Everyone's favorite thing is Grandpa's 4-wheeler and Zac would not be left behind!

 Exploring Grandma and Grandpa's yard

 Ok I'm a little proud of getting this shot of Joah and Max shooting a basket at the exact same time

He wasted no time

 Getting into Joah's stuff while he's at preschool (Zac adores Joah and copies everything he does)

Hottest March I can remember - we even got the sprinkler out!

Digging and collecting worms - the only thing they will all work together on without fighting!

Asher is very proud that it's his job to catch Zac at the end of the slide

A fun weekend with Sadler cousins!

I couldn't get a picture of Zac at the pool before this because he was a MANIAC and it took both Justin and I to make sure he didn't drown.  I quick snapped one when he needed a little breather with his blankie and pacifier (and daddy).  Then he was right back in there!

Joah and his sidekick

Everyone always asks how Zac is adjusting he is just doing amazing.  We prayed specifically for a seamless transition and for God to begin sewing him into our family even before we met and those prayers have been answered, all glory to God who loves this boy even more than we do.  I know those prayers came straight from the heart of the Father because other dear friends prayed for him and our family using those exact words we had been praying.  He knows us.  He knows you too.  Blessings...jaymi