My Heart Will Sing No Other Name

We left Nashville yesterday evening and arrived in Ann Arbor around 9:30 last night.  Before we left everyone’s morale had dropped quite a bit.  Amon was having a hard time…just really sad.  Everyone was definitely feeling the weightiness of the whole situation.  Harper disappeared into her room and emerged in a banana costume and announced, “Who wants a hug from the banana?”  Have a mentioned I love her?!?!?!  She’s just the best.

We said all our goodbyes and Big Daddy, Josh Kelley’s dad, took us to the airport.  It was pretty sad leaving and I had about a 5 second break down in Josh’s sister Jen’s arms.  I sucked it up and recovered.  Hahahaha.  Everett is smitten with this stuffed rainbow donkey piñata and out of all his little animals it was the one he insisted he take with him.  After checking our bag Andy, Becky, Meiya and Nia showed to to hug our necks and send us off.  It made us feel crazy loved for sure.  I wanted to sob…they are just too good to us.

The flight was super easy.  Everett did amazing.  He did however poop his pull-up right before we took off and I accidentally checked all his pull-ups in my suitcase so he was the stinky kid on the plane.  As we exited the plane one of the ladies gave him a set of wings and he has worn them non stop since.  It’s the cutest.

Our friends Andrea and Kyle met us at the airport in Detroit.  Right when we landed we were greeted by the most insane sunset I’ve ever seen.  This photo is doctored ZERO.  It was outstanding and I felt like God was all, “Hey, I show up wherever you go.”  Andrea and Kyle are so graciously letting us use their car while we’re in town.  When we loaded up in the car there was a stuffed bear wearing a Michigan shirt in Everett’s car seat, bottled waters in the cup holders, homemade peanut butter and snickerdoodle cookies sitting on the console and a giant bag of treats and goodies for Everett and us.  I started crying before we even made it out of the parking garage.  We are insanely blessed to know people like this.  I cannot say that enough.

We drove only about 30 minutes to our hotel and when we checked in the guy gave us another giant basket my new friend Aimee and some of her friends put together for us.  There we’re fresh strawberries, more homemade cookies and the cutest basket bursting with snacks, treats and more goodies.  Cue more tears.  We have walked this path and watched as God continues to show up in so many different people and ways.  He simply has blown us away.

We all crashed late, but slept hard and then had to be at Mott Children’s Hospital at 8:45am this morning so we snagged breakfast and hit the road.  The hospital is close to our hotel and we were really impressed with the facility and all the staff members. Everything is very easy to find and make your way through and there are staff members everywhere to help you get where you need to be.

 We spent about 5 hours there doing lots and lots of pre-op testing.  We waited hardly any which was so nice.  Our time was so full, but everything moved really quickly and efficiently.  Everett did have an echo that lasted 2 hours.  The kid watched an entire movie and got into a second one, but we we’re so thankful for the thoroughness of the doctors and techs.  Everyone was so friendly.

Our surgeon Dr. Bove did find on Everett’s chest x-ray that his diaphragm is compressing his right lung.  He is going to try and suture the diaphragm down during surgery as well, but if he cannot get to his diaphragm easily he will do this in a separate surgery as to not make Everett’s surgery more complicated.  It’s crazy they keep finding more things about his sweet little body.

We loved finally meeting Dr. Bove in person.  It was so comforting and nice.  He is calm and professional and kind and so knowledgable. Bonus…he had blood on his socks and dried blood caked on his shoes.  Josh Kelley said they must be his lucky surgery shoes 🙂  We both genuinely felt better after actually meeting him in person and are so thankful he saw something in Everett he felt like he could do to help move him forward.  So so thankful.

Everett did absolutely amazing.  He went the whole day on only breakfast, a sucker, 5 sticks of gum and some handfuls of goldfish.  And no nap.  He cried zero until the very end when they took his blood and then it was pitiful.  Afterwards we snagged a late lunch at Panera and went back to our hotel where all three of us crashed for a nap.

Josh found a really delicious authenticate Chinese restaurant for dinner that was down the road.  If you’re ever in Ann Arbor you need to check out Evergreen Restaurant.  We dined on potstickers and rice noodles with veggies and General Tsou’s chicken.  Unfortunately Everett’s fortune was not, “You will recover nicely from heart surgery.” 🙂  But Josh pointed out you must be alive to inherit money and land.  Hahahaha.

We we’re able to facetime with all the kids back at home.  The first time we facetimed with Amon it did not go so well.  He broke down into tears and Everett is really empathetic so when he sees someone else really crying he almost always cries too, so then Everett broke down into tears as well.  They both recovered, but then proceeded to do the same thing 2 more times.  It was adorable/sad/funny.  We opted to try again later when Amon was in better spirits and the second time was way better.  Everyone is missing each other and Everett has asked to go home lots.

He had his pre-surgery bath tonight.  He’s been cut off from food and drinks and we’ll scrub him down in the morning with special wipes the hospital gave us.  We have to be at the hospital at 6:15am and he is their first case.  The nerves have really set in this evening.  I do feel a sense of peace and it was really really good to meet our surgeon in person, but I still have these nervous feelings that make your stomach churn and make it hard to go to sleep.  Josh is up working and I’m here typing away.  Everett fell asleep in between the both of us which was a far cry from last night when I tried to sleep with him because I wanted this sweet, snuggly, sleeping moment with him.  After the lights we’re out he tossed and turned for a few minutes and then said, “Mommy, you go sleep with Daddy.”  The kid booted me from his bed and fell asleep once I was gone.  Haha.  He sleeps by himself at home so I guess I really threw a kink is his routine.  He is such a trip.

Now I’m just trying to remember to breath and my mind keeps running this line:

My heart will sing no other name…Jesus

I simply know this, God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  He will not change based on the outcome of Everett’s surgery.  If we came away with anything today it’s that this is really Everett’s shot.  I know, that I know, that I know our God is good and no matter what I want my heart to only sing His name.  May God always receive the glory He so rightly deserves.  Sunday I sat in on my FIL’s class at church.  They are reading a book called The Good and Beautiful God.  I loved what he pressed the class to really learn and tuck away in their hearts…that God is present, pure & powerful.  He provides, pardons and protects.  I keep reminding myself of those truths.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for praying for him and our family.  Thank you for believing and hoping with us.  I will try and update everyone as soon as we can tomorrow.

Away We Go

So today is our day.  We’re flying out of Nashville and into Ann Arbor this evening.  I’m feeling pretty not like I want to vomit and I feel like that is a solid win.  Our weekend was crazy lovely.  We had so many visitors stopping in to meet Shuai and drop off goodies and travel packages and gift cards and cold hard cash.  Hahaha.  We really have felt so seen and loved on by God though His people.  It’s been humbling and absolutely incredible to say the least.

Ashley had to go home early this morning so that was sad.  I walked her out to her car and we both just sobbed and embraced as some our neighbors looked on in horror and confusion.  We had quite the chuckle about it.  Ashley is always such a gift and I was so thankful she came in and loved on our family the way she did.  Honored to be her friend.

Our weekend was very similar to our week in that we wanted to keep enjoying each other and doing special things with Everett.  One of our kids’ favorite things to do is to set Big Daddy’s projector and screen up in our backyard and watch a movie so we declared Friday movie night.  Luckily we had quite the few takers to join us.

There was candy and popcorn and fun drinks.  The weather cleared up just in time and it was perfection. We watched Lego Batman which is hilarious and sweet and I cried at the end.  I loved watching everyone sitting out in our backyard enjoying the movie and each other.  I loved watching Shuai move person to person and people snagging hugs and snuggles from him when they could.

Saturday we had more visitors and family stopping in.  It was great and the kids loved it.  Then Saturday afternoon we went to a pool party to celebrate Everett’s best friend from China and his parents.  The Carman’s are officially logged-in in China so we partied and showered them with gift cards to help them prepare.  Before we left the house Josh mentioned we were going to his buddies party and Shuai totally thought that meant his friend was going to be there…he was sorely disappointed.

He has finally started coming around to cold things 🙂

My favorite part of the party was watching these three together.  They love our boy so well and I simply cannot cannot cannot wait to see them with their son.  It’s just the sweetest.

Sunday Josh Kelley had to work so we did church solo without him and I’m pretty sure I cried 79% of the time I was in the building.  We are just surrounded by the most amazing, generous, kind and praying people.  I keep saying this over and over again, but when we say the prayers mean far more than anything else…we genuinely mean that!!!

Then Sunday evening the Carman’s came over for dinner and their appointment to WeChat with their son.  The boys’ home agreed to let Shuai and his buddy chat as well since his surgery was in just a few days.  It was absolutely the perfect last night before leaving for Ann Arbor.  I cried approximately 83% of the time.

(testing out the WeChat…hahahahahaha.)

The Carman’s chatted first with their son and then he asked about Shuai and we all jumped into action like we we’re bringing in a celebrity or a limb on ice.  Josh had Shuai in our bedroom to keep him quiet, but Josh said when he heard his friend’s voice he perked up and started wanting out.  Josh kept distracting him with a game on his phone, but then it was go time.

Everett came running in as fast as he could and we all just gathered around and could not quit smiling and laughing and crying.  His buddy was so chatty and Shuai just laughed so hard at things he said and things his nannies said to him.  Everett told him he loved him and missed him and that he can’t wait to see him.  The pictures below are the moment when his buddy told him he missed him in Chinese.  Ev turned around to me with the biggest, most excited grin and said in English, “He misses me!”  We all died.

His friend kept telling him he wanted to see him tomorrow.  And when the talk was over, Everett hopped down out of Brooke’s lap, propped his elbows on our window, peered down the street and said very disappointedly, “His friend’s name isn’t coming.”  And when I tucked him into bed that night he gave me kisses and told me he misses his bestie.

We were totally unsure how they would do, but they clearly love each other deeply and we’re so excited to see each other again.  These boys are just so insanely sweet and larger than life.  I sat on the back of the couch with Brooke, Josh and Josh Kelley and we just talked about how on earth we got here…how did we ever get this lucky…how is God this good?!?!  Only He would orchestrate something like this for these boys and especially on Shuai’s last night home before heading out for surgery.  Only God.  As their parent’s we are currently feeling all the feelings for the both of them.  We are so grateful for one another and the bond we have forged.  Brooke says all the time, “God has big plans for these boys.”  We went to bed with smiling faces and tear stained cheeks.  How could we not?!?!

Today we’ve been getting all our last minute things wrapped up.  The big kids started Gym and Swim camp so I took the littles for donuts.  A must.  Everett loved his donuts.  Amon and our littlest showed him all the ropes and they all downed regular and chocolate milk.  It was a really sweet little time with just the three of them.

Now we’re just a few hours from departure.  I think everyone is feeling the weightiness and I keep reminding all the kids that they can share their feelings and talk about them anytime.  I don’t want them to bottle these big feelings up.  We’ll land later tonight and drive on into Ann Arbor.  Tomorrow we have to be at the hospital bright and early for a full day of pre-op appointments and tests.  And then Everett is first case on Wednesday morning.  I will try and update here as soon as I can, but if it’s anything like Amon’s first 48 hours things we’re pretty crazy.  I know so many of you are praying crazy hard so I will do my best.  Thank you again and again for joining us in prayer for our boy.  We are hoping, believing and crying out to a God who does wondrous things.

The Sweetest Week

Our week has been quite fun and also emotionally taxing.  We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the sweetness of Jesus and the way He has used so many of you to build us up, encourage us and come right along side us.  I have sobbed no less than 5 million times this week from pure thankfulness.  Every day it’s somebody new or some group of people reaching out to us in the kindest of ways.  We have received donations for Everett’s medical bills, gift cards, dinners, sweet gifts, people sharing his story and asking other’s to pray with us and even the young lady working at an arcade gave Everett a stuffed rainbow donkey piñata he was toting around.  Every night I sit on the couch in exhaustion and thankfulness.  I hope I never ever get over the wonder and goodness of God.

We have lived it quite up this week.  My best friend Ashley flew in from Florida to meet Everett and when Ashley comes to town it’s like a party for the kids.  Right before she arrived Hudson said, “I like Ms. Ashley.  She’s the one who first introduced me to an arcade.”  And that about sums fun Ms. Ashley up.  Hahahaha.  At the wave pool she bought a round of icees for everyone.  She went to Target and bought all the fun snacks, drinks and treats to have at the house for the kids.  She took them to Dave & Buster’s to play games and cash in on prizes.  She even did yoga with them in the morning and activities while I ran errands.

She has cleaned our house…even our bathroom…gasp…washed dishes, help feed kids, given kisses & hugs, curled Harper’s hair, swept the floor and cried right along side me every time I break down.  Maybe my favorite moment was when the young lady at Dave & Buster’s so kindly gave Shuai the rainbow stuffed donkey piñata…which BTW was like 800 tickets…Ashley cried.  And then I cried too.  We told the lady thank you about 20 times and cried.  She grabbed my hand and said she was thrilled to do it.  Ashley was just as amazed as me.

Sidenote:  He’s currently sleeping with the rainbow piñata donkey.

We’ve had dinner with Andy & Becky this week.  They have been such an amazingly sweet source of encouragement to us and Shuai.  He is so comfortable with them and my heart swoons as they speak mandarin to him.  I know hearing his first language is such a comfort.  There was pizza and salad and watermelon and rice krispy treats and fun drinks.  At the end of the night I just breathed easier.

PS:  Hudson prepared “delicious play-doh turds” for our dinner.  We are a classy bunch indeed.

The wave pool was a must for us…as always.  My other friend Ashley is in management there and we love getting to see her every time we go.  I watched as she scooped Everett up in her arms and carried him all the way out to our car when we left.  It was the sweetest.  Jen & Campbell also joined us and then we found our friend Brea and her kiddos there as well and instantly it was a party.  Everyone has just lifted our spirits straight upward this week.

We hit up our dentist office again.  I actually did not cry in the dentist office this time, but had a full blown sob in our car.  You guys, it was scary looking.  I know it was because I caught a glimpse of my face in the visor mirror.  Alas.  Harper and Hudson both got stick on mustaches from the dentist and I laugh every time I look at these pictures.  Hudson totally looks like a cleaned up Hulk Hogan.

We took a trip to Joanns with a gift card to purchase fidget spinners, but they we’re out.  Instead we bought candy, a butterfly wind chime craft and a stuffed dog.  Our purchases did not extend past the checkout line goodies which lured us in.  We are why that area is stocked full of treats and tchotchkes…we are totally their target audience…and we fully bought in this time.

Ashley took all the kids to Dave & Busters.  I went to keep eyes on Amon and Everett…our littlest had a visit.  They walked in and just oohed and awed.  They played games galore.  They ran here and there and then there and here.  Ashley showed them all the ropes and handed out game cards like she was the boss.  Then they cashed in on all those wondrous prizes with their tickets.

And our oh so talented and sweet photographer Cheyenne captured our family yet again.  We were suppose to have photos with Cheyenne in July, but it’s likely Everett and I will still be in Ann Arbor plus I honestly don’t want to look back with regret if something does, God forbid, go wrong.  Cheyenne is crazy busy and works so hard and has the sweetest family of her own, but she willingly obliged to come photograph us asap and I could not be more thankful.

After taking our pictures we hugged and cried.  She is so much more than a photographer and she has been taking our pictures since Harper was 4!  She sent me some pictures the same night and tag lined them “Be prepared to cry your eyes out!!!!”  And she could not have been more right.

Extra bonus for our week:  Our coneflowers are in full bloom and they are my favorite.  And we found out Shuai and his best friend’s home are going to let the boys facetime with each other before Shuai’s surgery.  Brooke and me have sobbed over this.  I stood in our laundry room as I listened to Brooke’s message and just cried my ever loving eyes out.  It’s too too much.  Only God does this kind of thing and handles these details.

When I sit down and actually think about boarding that plane Monday I want to vomit.  It makes my stomach just churn, but then I think through these past few days and remember Who holds us all.  He is such a good Father.  He has blown us away over and over again.  He has reminded us ever so tenderly and sweetly and lovingly of His grand care.

Now for the weekend.  Movie night and celebrating Everett’s bestie and watching them see each other for the first time in 3 months.  I can’t think of a better weekend to kick this next week off with. Thank you again and again for praying for Everett.  I hope so much you know how genuine those words are.

3 Things

1. My blog is beyond wonkified at this point.  It needs a major overhaul, but until then I wanted to let you guys know it was brought to my attention that the contact button is not working and there’s honestly no telling how long it hasn’t been working.  I promise I do not ignore emails, so if you sent me a message using the contact page and did not hear back from me, well, it’s because I never received it.  So sorry.  Please feel free to contact me via email.  pitterpatterart at gmail dot com

2. A friend recently reached out and said one of her friends was hosting a Matilda Jane giveback show and wanted out family to be the recipients of the show.  It’s all online and everything is shipped to you.  10% of all sales will go towards Everett’s medical bills.  I promise we will not buy pinwheels or Chickfila or ice-cream.  Open heart surgery is, as you probably imagined, kind of pricey 🙂 so we will absolutely put the money towards his ever growing medical bills.

If you’d like to order, just CLICK HERE and at check out make sure you choose Kelley Family Medical Fund.  And feel free to share with all your friends.

(These we’re some of my faves and clearly I’ve got a thing for yellow right now.)

And 3.  I still have my Bible journaling class and stationary sets available in MY SHOP.  If you’d like to make a purchase head over HERE and I will ship these out before we head to Michigan.  Again, the funds will go towards Everett’s medical bills.

Thank you again so much for all the sweet comments and messages and encouraging words.  We do not for one moment take them lightly.  Nor do we your prayers.  We are insanely grateful.

One Week

So the original plan was to stay at the beach until tomorrow and yet here we are at home.  Turns out our group is currently a bunch of homebodies and everyone was missing home and ready to go.  We even talked to the kids about at least hitting up the beach and pool until lunch, eating lunch in our place and then heading home, but they all unainimously agreed they just wanted to go home.  There you have it.

We had the best time for sure.  We all smell like the ocean still and we tore through two big bottles of sunscreen.  On my grocery list is more sunscreen.  I’ve started 3 loads of laundry already…one being entirely made up of 8 wet beach towels.  We swam our hearts out, looked for sea shells like it was our job,  cooked each night, had dessert after every meal and enjoyed movies and popcorn every evening.  This was just what we needed, but home was calling our names.

And lest you be fooled into thinking our beach time was flawless and without any angst or drama, kids had to take time outs at the pool and beach.  Kids lost their dessert privileges and some even went to bed early before our nightly movie & popcorn vacation ritual.  Josh Kelley and I issued a “safe word” for when the other went into a blind rage and needed to be brought back…that entire sentence made me laugh out loud…we’re a mess you guys.  To summarize…kids still lost their minds and Josh & I did too despite being in sunny Florida and on vacation.  I mean, we have 6 perfect angel children and Josh & myself never snap or yell at them.  Ever.  The end.

Truth be totally told, emotions are crazy high right now in our house in the best and worst kind of way.  Everything feels pressing.  Everything feels extra important.  And yet, regular life still needs to happen and there’s still work & parenting to be done.  Life is still marching on while our family’s emotions run wild.  We’ve noticed the big kids pouring extra attention into Everett…they each wanted to sleep with him while we were away…and Josh & I are really trying to say yes to the small things and breath more easier.  It’s a tricky balance for sure.

Today as we drove away from our condo Josh looked over and said, “You okay?”  and I started to cry.  We we’re driving home and the next big thing on our calendar was officially 6 days away.  One week from today we will board a flight headed to Michigan with one way tickets and it just still feels very sad and heavy.  Time feels like it’s ticking away and I still feel like I want to vomit every time my mind walks through what is actually going to happen.

Three fun things about our driving time: 1.  Percy Jackson audio books keeping our minds busy and making us laugh.  Josh Kelley snagged these from our local library before we left and they are so good.  We all laughed out loud regularly and found ourselves completely enthralled with the stories.  2.  Eating out twice together.  As you can imagine, even fast-food for 8 is not cheap, so Everett experienced Chickfila & Burger King for the first time.  Several friends and family we’re appalled this was his first time to eat Chickfila.  I mean, we love Jesus and Everett’s been home over 3 months and still had not experienced the Christian chicken.  They all we’re questioning our salvation.  3.  When we stopped for gas one time I got a phone call from one of the dental hygienists at our kid’s dental office.  She said she told her church about Everett and they had collected some money for his medical bills.  I sobbed.  That’s not something I’ve talked about yet because well, we just asked people to help us raise money for his actual adoption through so many different ways, so this was the sweetest little wink from God.  Another friend reached out to us while on the trip and said she wanted to help us through another way…I’ll share more tomorrow.  The world is still so kind you guys…it really is.

We got home and set to work unpacking and starting laundry.  We talked about how coming home feels similar to leaving just the same excitement spun in different directions.  We we’re all so glad to be home.  I cried a little more as I unpacked my suitcase because instead of putting it away, I just added some different things I’d picked up for Everett to have in the hospital and left it sitting in our bedroom floor.  Josh said he’s going to at least put it in the closet 🙂

 Tonight we sat down at our own kitchen table with a dinner Josh whipped together and it all felt right.  After dinner we looked at calendars and made plans for our remaining 6 days.  Things like dinner with some of our favorite people, the wave pool, a movie night outside, snow cones, family photos and seeing peeps we love.

So we’re officially almost there.  I simply cannot even believe in just one week another part of this amazing little boy’s story will start to unfold.  I feel all the emotions all the time and that’s okay.  Josh Kelley changed our letter board to, “Dawn is coming.  Open your eyes.”  And that’s what we shall do.  We’re keeping our eyes open…watching expectantly for what He has in store.  Whatever it may be we will praise Him.  Thank you again for praying with us for Everett and for us.  It means everything.

Soaking Up The Son

Josh Kelley has had it on his brain to take Shuai to the beach since the warm weather hit Tennessee.  We received the news from our cardiologist that things did not look hopeful just one day after landing  in the US with Shuai in tow so of course the urge to take his boy to the beach just increased the warmer the weather grew.  I mentioned before how we sat in limbo for a few weeks as specialists in the pediatric cardiology field reviewed his case trying to see what they could come up with.  Once we knew we we’re headed to Ann Arbor and the exact date Josh’s mind was made up.  He booked us a trip to the beach just days later and here we are.  I do not typically do spontaneous well, but that Josh Kelley…well he’s a gem.

We had about 6 days between when he booked the trip and when we left.  When we get back we’ll have just a few days before we leave for Ann Arbor.  We knew we needed to talk to the kids about Everett and his surgery, but didn’t want to while at the beach and didn’t want to right before we left for Michigan, so just a few days ago we sat them down and had the tough conversation.  They already knew his little heart was not functioning well.  They see him take all his meds three times a day.  They see him sweat so easily and so often.  They see his heavy breathing and how he rarely runs or exerts himself.  They see his sweet purple lips, fingers and toes.  They knew he needed surgery and soon.  We sat them down and we’re very honest with them about all the possible outcomes of this initial surgery for Everett.  We owed it to them…not to worry them…but to not blindside them if something does goes wrong.

It was not an easy conversation at all and they all just cried their eyes out.  We talked about all the possible outcomes and how thankful we were to have such an amazing surgeon working on Everett.  We talked about how so many people are praying for Everett and our family.  We talked about having hope in Jesus and knowing that He loves Everett more than we ever could.  We talked about how even if something does go wrong, that does not change who God is…that does not change His love for us and Everett or His goodness.  We talked about how sometimes really sad things just happen because we live in a fallen world.  We made sure they could ask questions and share their thoughts any time they felt like it.

Harper immediately asked if Everett’s best friend was going to be here before surgery and the answer was no he isn’t.  She shared how she just wished they would wait for surgery until they could see each other again and until Everett’s birthday…he’s a July baby.  Hudson’s first comment was “But what will we do if he does die?”  To which we just said we didn’t know, but we knew we’d still love each other and be here for each other and stressed that God would still be His mighty, good self…that God would not change based on the outcome of Everett’s surgery.  Solomon is our kid who typically keeps his emotions to himself so to see him cry was pretty sad.  Everett really likes minions and Solomon stammered while saying, “Maybe we…can take him…to…the new Minion movie.”  Poor boy choked up and burst into tears in my chest by the end of his sentence.  Then Harper through more tears said, “It doesn’t come out until the 30th.” (Ev’s surgery is on the 28th)  They we’re both crying, but Josh and I wanted to die with laughter.  They we’re the sweetest.

Two days later we loaded up in the car and headed to the beach.  It’s what we all needed.  I might not have the words to really say to God right now, other than my tiny prayers of few words, but I know He’s here.  I still see His goodness everywhere and I feel Him warm like the sun.  I look at Josh Kelley…his love, his intentionality, his tears & grief over our sick child…and I see Jesus.  I look at our kids…their unique qualities, their fierce love for one another, their resilience…and I see Jesus.  I hear from so many people who are praying over Everett…his heart and body…and our family and I see Jesus.

Josh booked the Airbnb place we’re staying on such a whim.  It was shockingly inexpensive and a crazy short walk down the cutest lush green path to the beach and pool.  We got here and we haven’t stopped laughing about the questionable facilities we’re staying in.  It’s, ummmm, how should we put this…well, kind of run down and gross 🙂  You guys, the laughter has been so hard and so real and I see Jesus right there in that as well.  Josh is the most easy going, non picky person and last night he mentioned us changing places.  Hahahahaha.  We’re not though and today Josh said the place was growing on him.  Laughter ensued again.

We arrived yesterday afternoon and immediately headed to the beach.  It was dinnertime, but we didn’t care.  We needed to see that vast beautiful ocean and remember exactly Who holds us so tightly.  As we walked up the boarded walk way and first saw the ocean I cried.  I was holding Shuai’s hand and was totally having a moment.  Then he yelled out, “Hey, the wave pool.”  We laughed so hard.  I see Jesus in this boy.  Only an insanely good Father would give us the gift of this child.  Only an insanely good Father would create such wonders to behold in a child.  Only an insanely good Father would think Josh Kelley and myself good enough to parent such precious kiddos.  Gah.  We are surely the luckiest.

So if you need us we’ll be covered in sand, taking in the amazing little humans who call us Mom & Dad, seeing God’s goodness everywhere and soaking up the Son!

Thank you again and again for praying with us and for us.

In The Mean Time

Thank you so much to each of you!!!!  You guys are ridiculously kind and encouraging and nice and thoughtful.  Thank you for praying for Everett and our family.  Thank you for sharing this piece of his story and asking your people to pray along with us.  It absolutely means the world to our family.  It is so humbling and such an honor to have people praying along side us.  I have already connected with several of you who live in Ann Harbor or the area and what sweet encouragement you have given us.  We are GRATEFUL to each of you!!!

So in the mean time…between now and his surgery date…we are trying to soak up each day.  We have things we really want to do with Everett before we leave and we have things that just must be done…like doctors appointments, etc.  It’s this desire to do all our regular day in and day out things with him mixed with some really rare and special things.  We’ve done pizza movie nights (Ev loves pizza), wave pool trips, all the counter sitting Everett’s heart desires, playing as hard as he can 🙂 and more swimming.

(Josh pep talking his boys for the day…gah…I love him.)

Yesterday we took Everett on one of our regular lunch dates with Josh Kelley to the Nashville Farmer’s Market and then walked around outside in the Bicentennial Mall.  We let the kids pick their lunch so there was Chinese food, hamburgers & fries, pizza, icees, wishing pennies and Jenni’s ice-cream.  We have so many other things we want to do with him and just keep taking each day in.

Today Everett had to get his teeth cleaned in preparation for his heart surgery.  This was crazy short notice and when I tried explaining to him what was going to happen I just didn’t think he was picking it up.  My SIL & BIL, Andy and Becky, have been such a gift to us and Everett with their love and Chinese.  Becky facetimed with me and explained to Everett in Chinese all about the dentist.  He showed off his teeth and nodded his head.  Neither of us we’re really sure he got it, but at the dentist he did AWESOME and kept asking where Becky was 🙂  Success.

We had to schedule the appointment super short notice, but our amazing dentist office, Kid City Smiles, got us in immediately, caught that he needed pre-meds, we’re beyond the sweetest, cried with me, marked their calendar with Everett’s surgery date and hooked him up with goodies galore.  He cried not once and grinned so much.  I could have plopped myself down in the middle of that floor and cried my ever loving eyes out.  They are far more than a dental office!

I’m really going to try and keep everyone updated on how he’s doing, but we’ve also got lots of fun time scheduled with this boy between now and the 26th.  We are tying to soak each day up to the absolute fullest while holding on to hope.

We believe in a God who heals.  We believe in a God who redeems.  We believe in a God who restores.  We believe in a God who works miracles.  We believe in a God who created Everett and his special heart.  And we believe in a God who loves Everett far more than we ever could.  We are hoping in Him.  Thank you sincerely and deeply for hoping with us.

Ann Arbor Bound

I fully intended to stop in and peck out some words on these keys last week and then last Tuesday morning rolled around.

I started Tuesday off in our DCS office at 8am sharp and then spent almost the next two hours in a meeting which left me absolutely emotionally all over the place.  I sat for as long as I could, but my anxiety soon started spilling over so I got up from the conference table and paced the floor in a pattern.  In our team meetings I always remain quiet unless someone speaks to me or we get near the end of the meeting and my concerns for our littlest have not been discussed…those are the moments I  choose to speak.  When the meeting ended I felt so bad for so many different people involved…my heart was so broken for them.  I was also really pissed.  I was talking to a friend who is also a foster parent and we just continue to talk about how we can be so brokenhearted on behalf of others and so compassionate and simultaneously so pissed off.  This world is just a mess…I’m just a mess…God will always be the goodness in this world.

I met Josh afterwards at church to exchange the kiddos and to attend a mini service camp.  I stayed because Everett 🙂  We headed home afterwards.  I got a message from my friend Brooke…Everett’s best friend’s mom…that their dossier was officially logged in to China.  We rejoiced.  Their sweet boy…our sweet boy…is coming home soon and soon is just not quick enough.  At 1:59 pm my phone lit up with the words Ann Arbor, MI.  My stomach sank and I immediately knew what else our day would hold.  I stood in our laundry room and my mind raced back to a similar day back in 2012 when I stood in this same laundry room with this same pit in my stomach as I talked with Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and scheduled Amon’s open heart surgery date.  I hit accept on my phone and spent the next 11 minutes talking with a kind lady named Lindsay.  And just like that Everett was officially on the books with Mott Children’s Hospital for open heart surgery.

Since arriving home our sweet boy has been through so many tests and medicines and a slew of doctors and experts and specialists have looked as his case and his little body and they all just shake their heads.  Our cardiologist was very upfront with us from the first time she got to see his special little heart and body in person that she was unsure if or how Everett’s heart could be repaired.  She said she did not see a path…his heart is very broken and very complex.

We have the best doctors around.  Our pediatrician and cardiologist are insanely good and we absolutely trust them.  We have just continued to lean in to their wisdom and guidance.  An entire team at Vanderbilt sat with no ideas of how to fix Everett’s heart and no surgeons willing to make an attempt.  We appreciated their honesty.  Our pediatrician has been speaking into us from day one that we don’t want just anyone working on Everett’s heart and this may lead us out of Tennessee.  Our cardiologist continued to reach out to other experts in the pediatric cardiology field.  We waited to hear back from Boston and Ann Arbor.  We sat in limbo for a few weeks while leading experts reviewed his case and then we got word that a world renowned surgeon in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who only accepts very complicated and hard cases, thought he could do an initial surgery to move Everett forward.

For all you medical/CHD people…our surgeon is going to try and repair Everett’s severely leaking atrioventricular valve and also close off his pulmonary artery.  The goal is that if successful this will make him a candidate for a fontan procedure next.  Josh Kelley and I met with our cardiologist and had to have a conversation no parent wants to have and ask questions no parent wants to ask, but afterwards it was very clear this was Everett’s chance…this is his shot.  There are no other options if we want Everett to have a chance at life.

In 14 days Josh, Everett and I will board a plane with one way tickets headed to Ann Arbor.  And on the 28th we will hand our boy over to a team of the best-of-the-best for a risky open heart surgery.  It makes me want to vomit every time I think about it.  I have cried my eyes out this past week and we have been sitting with this reality and trying to process through it.  It’s a lot to take in and when someone asks how I’m really feeling all I can say is sad.  I simply feel so very sad.  I have a hard time reading my Bible…I have a hard time knowing what to say to God…I muster out tiny little prayers with very few words…and all of that is okay.

What I love about God is that He sent Jesus to walk this earth and to know so personally how broken and hard and sad and complicated this life is.  He can actually feel and relate to all our feelings because He experienced them Himself.  He knows and therefore, when I don’t have the words to say to Him, that’s okay with Him…He sees my heart true and deep.  Just because I’m sad doesn’t mean I don’t trust Him or love Him or think He’s any less good or in control.  Just because I’m sad doesn’t mean I don’t think He’ll work a miracle in Everett’s body or that He loves any of us any less.  Not at all.  It just means I’m a human being living in this fallen world and I know the reality of this world is sometimes shit things happen that are heartbreaking.

So please continue to pray with us for our sweet Shuai boy.  Tell all your family and friends and co-workers and neighbors and strangers and ask them to cover his little body in prayer.  We simply want pretty much everyone praying over him…that’s not too much to ask right!?!? 🙂 Thank you guys for always be so incredibly kind and loving and supportive.  You really are the nicest.

And last thing:  The Nothing Bundt Cake store in Hendersonville, Tn is donating 10% of their sales this month when you mention the Carman family.  We are so anxiously awaiting Shuai’s bestie…like that boy seriously cannot cannot cannot get here soon enough.  So let’s all head out and get some cakes, mention the Carman family and let’s support their adoption fund.

 No matter what…God will be praised and His goodness will remain oh so good and if you need us, we’ll be living it up with our Everett Louie Shuai and kissing his face off.  Ann Arbor, we’ll see you soon.