Black Hills Adventure Continued.

I know we have been home for about 2 weeks now but I am probably going to stretch my pictures out for 1 more post after this one because I just can’t decide what pictures to include.

So after we left the badlands, we headed off to the Black Hills.  Luke has been wanting to go to Mount Rushmore for about 2 years now, ever since he learned about it in kindergarten.  As we were going through Rapid City on the way to the Black Hills we saw a sign for Storybook Island (or something like that).   Ted remembered going there when he was Luke’s age.  Well, he didn’t remember really much about it just that he picked the spot out, Ted’s dad said they could go because it was free and Kenton (Ted’s brother) refusing to enjoy anything there at the park.  It’s basically a playground area with everything decorated as if from a story book.  The Pooh tree house was really cool.  I got a picture of the girls in Cinderella’s carriage but really my kids didn’t stay still in 1 place long enough for a picture.IMG_0646After the park we finally made it to Mount Rushmore, the long-awaited spot for our vacation.  I don’t know if the kids were impressed or not but we had fun walking around.  IMG_0661We spent 3 days touring the Black Hills area.  We managed to visit Wind Cave.  Luke loves touring caves so we always try to stop at one.  We usually pick a cave that has a 1 hour walking tour.  Before we started the tour, we quickly ate lunch.  I was a little worried because last cave tour we had to leave early because of a bathroom emergency.  We didn’t let the kids drink much during lunch even when Ryan started with the hiccups.  We got to our tour and started the steep descent down.  We were all enjoying ourselves when we got to the point were I think in every cave tour they talk about how dark it really is in the cave.  They have all of us stand still, they turn off the lights and we are all suppose to be amazed.  Well, this tour guide talked a little about the darkness and then asked us all to be very quite to totally experience the cave.  It was dark…..It was quite and guess what happened…..Ryan let go of a really loud hiccup.  An hour after he started the hiccups, he still had them.  Everyone started laughing.  Seriously only Ryan can get a tour group of 40 people to laugh uncontrollably.    IMG_0686 After we left the cave we headed through Custer State Park.  It was really a great park to drive around.  We saw tons of animals and the scenic drive was beautiful.  We got out to pet some of the ‘wild’ donkeys.  Luke didn’t want to stand by them because he just got nipped in the belly by one of them but apparently Ryan was not scared.  IMG_0690 I know it was probably illegal but we let the kids walk around in the van while we were driving so they could see all of the animals along the way.  We weren’t going that fast because there were animals crossing the road and sometimes sitting on the road too.  My kids thought they were getting away with sometime because they were not in their seats.  We only let them do it here and in one other park which I will get to next post.   IMG_0705

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The Badlands in Pictures

A storm was rolling in so the sky was changing a lot but here is the badlands in pictures.  IMG_0548







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Our new purchase

About  2 weeks ago Ted and I decided to make a new purchase.  We bought a pop-up.  I grew up camping in a tent and wanted to do that with our kids but I didn’t think I really wanted to do the tent thing.  I don’t sleep well to begin with and all of the repacking just did not appeal to my over-organized self.  I thought a pop-up would be a great solution especially sense we were planning on going on vacation through South Dakota in a week.   We were both a little scared how our mini-van would handle pulling that much weight but we decided to head off. We spent 8 nights and 9 days on the road.  The trip went great with a few minor problems but nothing we could not handle.  The kids had a blast.  Our first night we pulled in a bit late to our camp site but we had to wait until Ted was off work on Friday.  We got ready in the dark which wasn’t all bad because with a pop-up or glorified tent, we had lights just not water.  IMG_0475The next day we headed off to see the corn palace.  I remember being impressed with it when I was little so we decided to stop and look at the corn art and eat a bit of pop-corn too.  IMG_0500I think I enjoyed the drive just as much as all of the different activities we did along the way.  There were storms rolling through which made the sky deep blue.  The rain would only last 30 minutes and then the sun would come up. It was like this the whole trip.  IMG_0508It made for beautiful pictures in the badlands too but those will have to wait for another post.  Anyways, we also stopped at a prairie sod-house exhibit.  I have been to a lot of these type of exhibits but never one that allowed you to play and touch everything…and I mean everything.  They even provided dress-up clothes in case you wanted to view everything in the correct time-period clothing.  Our kids only wanted to wear the hats.  I was ok with that because I did not feel like putting on a dress, apron and bonnet either.  IMG_0519Our first couple of days were a bit rocky with the pop-up but we started to figure out what things worked the best for us including letting everyone have  a turn at dishes (because I am against disposable dishes even when camping).  I’ll fill you in how the rest of the trip went later.  IMG_0481

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Frisbee Golf

Our kids have really enjoyed playing frisbee golf lately.  We make Luke and Ryan play ahead of us and then the girls, Ted and I play together.  Quinn loves to tee off.  She takes it very seriously.IMG_0337

Before Lucia left for home, we took her Frisbee golfing too.  I don’t totally understand how she throws or tees off but somehow she gets it to work while looking like a ballerina.  This picture just makes me laugh.IMG_0337-Edit

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A 365 Photo Project

I am getting behind on posting my 365 photo challenge pictures so I thought I would try and pick out a few to get sort of caught up.

RISING…stars under Daddy’s watchful eye.  (Ryan in white, Luke in navy)IMG_0197


IN THE MIDDLE…He has one smart older brother and 2 incredibly cute identical Chinese twin sisters.  My dear sweet Ryan is in the middle but he can hold his own.  He is his own person, smart, sweet, loving and hilarious.  Quick story about Ryan.  This past weekend we were at church.  Luke was picked to hold the kids offering bucket.  Ryan announces to the whole church in a very loud voice, “That’s my brother!”  Pastor Roy saids, “Yeah, you do kind of look alike.”  Ryan answers back, “Yeah that is because I am wearing my brothers socks.”   Yeah Ryan, it’s because of the socks….did I say in front of the whole congregation.  IMG_0042A PILE….of corn…love this time of year. IMG_0382

GRATEFUL FOR…Where we are with the girls.  It has been a rocky few years.  IMG_0043-2

PET PEEVE…..someone clipping their fingernails. I don’t mind if I am using the clipper but if someone else is and I hear the little snap…not good.  IMG_0404


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An American Wedding

A few weeks ago we took Lucia up north to one of Ted’s cousins wedding.  It was the first time she had been to an American wedding.  She said it was quite different from what she was used to for weddings.  Afterwards we took her up to the North shore and went hiking.  My kids were still dressed in there wedding cloths so I was hoping for some good pictures.   IMG_0063True to my kids personalities:  Jenna and Quinn are watching Ted to see if they are doing things correctly.  Luke is thinking in his head, “when can we be done.”  And Ryan, well, Ryan will always be Ryan.   IMG_0057They really just wanted to explore and not sit for pictures so I moved on to someone who might be more patient.  IMG_0072Ah…Finally someone who just sits and smiles at me.  Thanks Lucia.  (On a quick side note, as I am posting these pictures, Jenna came up to see what I was doing.  She screams, “Lucy!”  Then in a really sad voice, “I miss Lucy.”  Lucia has been gone for 5 days now and I think all of my kids are going through Lucy withdrawal.)

At the waterfall, Luke took every chance he could get to get off of the path.  Ryan tried really hard to follow his big brother.  It made an interesting hike but worth it.  Because half way around the loop we saw the view.  IMG_0115It was wonderful weather, not too hot and just enough rain to scare away all of the tourists to get good pictures with out people in them.  Usually there are people all over the rocks next to the water.  When we finally made it back to our hotel room, we went outside to play a round of mini-golf.  It came free with the hotel.  The kids had a blast.

IMG_0132The next day we headed back to Duluth where we did some more hiking.  Again whenever Luke thought he could get off of the path, he did but this time he had everyone following him including Grandpa Jason.  There was a lot of helping, hand holding, jumping, and tossing kids over big boulders going on.  Only Doris was smart enough to stay on the path above and watch from below.

IMG_0155It was a beautiful mini-vacation and our last weekend with Lucia.  IMG_0167

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God Answers Prayer

by Ted

We have had Jenna and Quinn now for just over two years.  They have been two very busy, fun & tear filled years.  However, I wouldn’t have traded a second of it, not even the bad parts.  Just over a year ago on July 22, 2013 Michele and I got a very strange call and received a very direct answer to prayer.  I just wanted to retell the story and give a little update about how things were going now.  In my retelling, I’m pulling excerpts from past posts so if you want to read more of the story you can click through to the original posts.

Ever since we first adopted the girls back on July 9th 2012, Quinn and Jenna have had all sorts of trouble sleeping.  One or both of them would often wake up screaming in the middle of the night and neither Michele nor I would be able to console them.  This started on day one when we first met the girls in China.

July 17, 2012 (2 Weeks) – China

Quinn had a horrible night’s sleep.  She cried about every hour last night.  Jenna woke up early (5:55 am) which then woke up Quinn.  They were both pretty crabby this morning…IMG_5477 (640x427)

The girls improved some after we brought them home to MN compared to our first few nights in China.  However as the weeks dragged on, it became evident that some of the girls sleep problems were more than just adjusting to a new time zone.  In September, Michele posted this while I was traveling for work.

Sept 19, 2012 (1 Month)

They are still terrible sleepers.  They wake up Ryan in the middle of the night…  Tempers are short here by everyone and I seem to always lose my patience around 1 AM after about the 4th time I am up with the girls.  I am sure it would help if I could average more than 4 hrs a sleep a night …

As the weeks dragged on, Michele’s frustrations started to turn into desperation.  I can’t say I was much better.  I was frustrated and very sleep deprived too.

October 9, 2012 (3 Months)

Three months ago, we were very sleep deprived.  THEY DID NOT SLEEP!  I would be very excited to say they sleep now; however, that would be a very big lie.  … Luke said he went to bed with a pillow on his head so he couldn’t hear the girls scream… I am ready for them to move downstairs and sleep (someplace where I cannot hear them).  Hopefully when I give another update a few months down the road, I can change this one.  If anyone has any idea on what to do, please please send me a comment.  IMG_6587 (640x547)

We knew adoption and the initial adjustments would be hard.  We were prepared as best as we could be for that.  However, as the weeks turned into months, Michele and I transitioned from frustrated to desperate and finally descended into survival mode.  Survival mode involved some things that we are not proud of – like just letting the girls cry out their nights in the basement bedroom far from the rest of the family.  We had lost hope…

March 14, 2013 (8 Months)

Sadly to say but Quinn has gone back to screaming every night for 2 hours.  It has been going on for a little over a week.  The first few nights she would wake up and scream for 2 hours.  The next few nights she would scream for 1 hour when we put her to bed and 2 hours in the middle of the night.  …  When the girls cry in the middle of the night and we cannot keep them quiet, we move them downstairs so the rest of the kids can sleep… We don’t know how long she actually screamed last night because Ted gave up trying to comfort her and just left her downstairs in bed by herself.  We have tried everything that we know of and nothing seems to work.  I feel like we are never going to get out of these scream fest sessions.

Then Michele started this.

April, 23, 2013 (9 Months)

As a follow-up to some comments a few weeks ago, I had gotten to the point where I felt hopeless.  I felt like the girls were never going to end their 2-3 hour scream-fests that they had just about every night.  And it was destroying me.  In a way where I could no longer empathize with them… The girls have been sleeping downstairs screaming in the basement while I was upstairs, doors shut and a pillow over my head trying to sleep so that I would have the patience to make it through their daytime temper tantrums.

I was asking everyone I know what to do…

That evening as I was dreading going to bed because I knew someone would be up shortly screaming with no end in sight, I realized that I forgot one thing.  I forgot maybe the most important tool that I have.  A tool that sadly to say I don’t use to the level that I should.  I walked into their bedroom as I have done since each one of my kids have come home and instead of just looking at them, re-tucking them in for the night, I decided to say a prayer.  A prayer to God to help us through this night.  A prayer that if my girls wake up, to give Ted and I the words that they need to be comforted, to be at peace so that they could go back to sleep (and so we could go back to sleep too).

…I know a few times in the last 9 months I remembered to ask God for help but it was only a night here or there.  When our family needed prayer the most from me is when I fell apart.  But I have a plan again.  Why my plan did not include praying over my children the whole time in the first place, I don’t know…But with hope and faith in God anything can be accomplished.  IMG_8569

With the continued prayer we did have some periods of good sleep here and there, however it was still obvious that we were not out of the woods yet.

May 23, 2013 (10 Months)

…Our girls are back to screaming for hours on end in the middle of the night again.  We have had 5 nights in a row with a girl screaming for 2+ hours.  Ted has found a way to calm Quinn down so she does not cry that long anymore; however, she still wakes up quite a few times each night.  We have yet to find a way to comfort Jenna.  Once she gets started, it is just miserable.  I have started asking everyone we know to pray again for Jenna and Quinn’s sleep issues.  I wish I knew what was causing them…  I don’t know but I am really frustrated with the situation.

As the one year mark came and went, I reminisced about the things that had changed in the last year and the things that hadn’t.  In the middle of the list of unchanged things was still the sleep battles we experienced on a regular basis.

July 9, 2013 (1 Year)

But some things haven’t changed…

  • Jenna is definitely still a Daddy’s girl…
  • Our house is still very chaotic and noisy…
  • We are still dealing with sleep issues.
  • Quinn and Jenna are still adorable…just like they were the first day we met them.  IMG_9533

It was then, on July 22, that Michele received a very strange call from Pat Longanecker – the wife of the federal prison’s chaplain that attends our church.

July 22, 2013 (1 Year, 2 weeks)

Anyways, Pat calls Michele this morning and explains that one of the women at the prison came to talk to her yesterday.  She is a lady who has come to faith a few years ago.  She has the gift of prophecy and has said many things that have come true about people around her and in our church.  She told Pat, “There are two Chinese girls at your church who have been adopted.  They have some issues with their mouth that are being fixed.  They have problems sleeping.  One of the girls is named Quinn.  You need to go over to their house, anoint them with oil and pray over them. “

Wow!!  None of us has ever been over to the prison before, and this woman described our girls down to a T.  Anyways, this woman continued to tell Pat, “You also need to tell them and their parents this:  God is pleased with them for adopting these two girls and bringing them into their home.  Someday these girls will go back to share Jesus’ love with others.”

She then went on to give us some practical advice about our girls’ sleeping issues!! “To help them sleep better, tell their parents to hold them, swaddle them, and sing to them as much as possible.  Do this as much as possible, even when they aren’t frustrated.  Swaddle them with a blanket.  Eventually, they will come to them with their blankets when they need it.  The girls weren’t swaddled when they were infants and they have missed that.”  Then the woman started singing Jesus Loves Me, which is the very song I sing to the girls almost every night as I tuck them in.

Michele had the girls pick out blankets and starting that afternoon at naptime the girls were swaddled anytime they went down to sleep and occasionally throughout the day as well.  Now for those of you who don’t have kids, it is not normal to swaddle a 2 and half year old.  Especially, during the hot summer months of July and August. You swaddle newborns and infants – but not toddlers.

Jenna loved it however.  We never would have guessed.  She thought it was the best thing to be wrapped up tight in a blanket as she fell asleep.  Quinn tolerated it at first but was soon requesting to get swaddled as well.

Both Michele and I were amazed at the change we saw in the girls.  That first week we only woke up twice with Jenna and never with Quinn.  Both times we were up with Jenna, she was back asleep again within 10 minutes.  Within several weeks the girls were consistently sleeping better than Luke and Ryan – who were good sleepers already.

It wasn’t long before we started making comments like this in our blog.

August 10, 2013 (1 Year, 1 Month)

He didn’t give the girls a nap because they have been sleeping so well at night and they refused to take a nap the day before.IMG_9039

The change in how the girls slept was so remarkable and so abrupt that Michele and I can’t explain it any other way than that God reached down and touched them.  Michele and I were ecstatic but very nervous that it wasn’t going to last.  We had had short periods of good sleep in the past, but it never seemed to last for more than a week or so.

But this time, the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months and the girls continued to sleep well.  Sure there have been a few nights here and there when the girls wake up and need us to check on them.  Usually, this is when they are sick or have an ear ache.   But what kids don’t wake up from time to time?

Today (2 Years, 1 Month)

It has now been a year since Pat stopped by our house. The girls will usually still ask to be swaddled at night, although they will occasionally just choose to cuddle with their blanket instead.  We still sing Jesus Loves Me every night and the girls are still sleeping great.

I know we haven’t talked much about their sleeping on the blog for the last year, but after watching the dramatic change the girls went through and seeing how that change was permanent and not just temporary, I wanted to retell the story.  I also wanted to encourage those of you out there that are working through your own struggle.

God is real.  God knows who you are.  God hears your prayers.  God will answer.  Maybe not right away and maybe not on the timeline that we want – but he does and will answer at just the right time.  IMG_9643

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