Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year 2015 Recap

Do I start this post every year with "Wow, what a year it has been!"? Because, really, what a year it has been... :)

(Years 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)

Did anyone catch a line in the January part of 2014 Recap post? I wasn't ready to blog about it, but it did reveal something very big already... Sometimes all you can do is hint about things to come... ;-)

And then I ended the 2014 Recap with these words: "What a year. Full of adventures, full of changes. Full of God's grace, full of many stories of His provision and protection. We look forward to 2015 to see what God has in store for our family!"

I loved what God had for us in 2015! Thank You, Jesus, for a wonderful, full year of many blessings!



We started our year at our camp in Maine. First we celebrated the New Year with friends from our local church, who came over to our camp for the evening. Then Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt C, Uncle P and cousins H, M and M came over for a fun visit. We also had friends from New Hampshire visit us.

We watched the lake freeze over (again - it had frozen over in December once already), and while we did enjoy the snow somewhat, we mainly played a lot of games indoors. No winter sports, yet.

Then it was time to pack up and head south. We stopped at Grandma and Grandpa's house, then in Virginia at my sister's. We had a short visit there, then the Captain continued in the Mothership to Florida with Missy, Mr D and Mr A. I stayed at my sister's for a couple of weeks with Mr T and Little Miss, helping as we all waited for Baby #5 to arrive. And she did! On the Captain's birthday:)


Little Miss and I got to enjoy Baby L for about a week, then it was time for us to drive south, too. Mr T wanted to stay in Virginia for a couple of months, and so we left him behind at my sister's (sniff).

We first drove to Daytona, where the Captain and three kids were hanging out at our friends, taking flight lessons, and passing their various exams. From there we all continued to our next Florida stop, staying at a campground for a couple of weeks.

We quickly decided we LOVE traveling in the Mothership, but not so much staying stationary in it. Even without Mr T, it was so tight. And cold! February was cold in Florida!! So, at the end of February we parked the Mothership and were in a house again:)


Too busy to blog much (this post has most pics). My nephew A from Finland arrived. Little Miss turned nine, and Grandma and Grandpa were with us to celebrate it! Missy got braces. Mama was taking a new photography class, and learning photoshop. Homeschooling, too, of course! The boys and the Captain were busy with their own special project, and learning all kinds of new skills.


In April we got to see more friends and family. My blog and real life friend Ina came over for Easter Sunday with her family. We had such a fun day! Then after Easter my sister's family drove down from Virginia for a few days, and brought Mr T back to us! Yay:)

Also, while we couldn't announce it on the blog yet, we saw Mei Mei's sweet little face for the first time, and got the paperwork started to bring her home!


In May we were able to make our Big Announcement about Mei Mei!

Mama was also busy with photography, which usually meant fun trips to the beach, or library, or sailing, or baking at home.

We reluctantly said goodbyes to my nephew, who flew back to Finland.

We also took a trip to the FPEA Homeschool Convention at Gaylord Palms, and met up with some favorite people. And then, at the end of the month it was time to get back into the Mothership, and back on the road.


Mr D got his for-real-driver's-license, and did most of the driving in our Yukon, following the Mothership.

The first part of June we were on the road. My sister and her family moved to California, and we had hoped to meet them on the road, but missed them by a day. We had something going on with the tires or wheels of the Mothership, and stayed at Sebastian Inlet Park for a couple of days. What a beautiful place! (We got eaten by no-see-ums, however.)

Since we didn't have a pitstop in Virginia anymore, we stopped in Pennsylvania at the M family's place. We had not seen our dear friends for two years. We also stopped for coffee at friends in Massachusetts and stayed a night at Grandma and Grandpa's, and worked the next day there. (Except Mr D and Mr T had taken a different route to Maine from Pennsylvania, and visited friends in Vermont. We have almost adult big kids, peeps!)

And finally made it to our camp. For about two weeks of deep cleaning, before renters arrive. Always such fun:) So glad to have our team helping!

When our work weeks were done, we packed up the Mothership again, and headed south. Maine was so beautiful it hurt to leave, but at least we got some beautiful photos before our departure. Two boys left to go to a camp in Virginia, and Mr A flew to Florida to go on a mission's trip to Guatemala with our church youth group. The Captain, the girls and I headed to Nantucket island.


Such big things were in store for July. Oh my.

Celebrating the fourth (for the first time as a US citizen!) on Nantucket Island with Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt C, Uncle P and cousins. Then packing and moving out of the dear old island house. A lot of goodbyes, very bittersweet. The boys had come back from their travels, and had had a great time at camp, and at the mission's trip.

And then... first driving back to Grandma and Grandpa's in southern Maine, then Mr A, Little Miss and I flew to Beijing! (See Summer Palace and Great Wall, also.) And then Wuhan, Hubei, where we met Mei Mei. We were able to visit Mei Mei's orphanage, and see where she was found. (Also pictures from Wuhan here and here.) From there we traveled to Guangzhou, where we spent the rest of the month.

A huge thank you to all who filled a suitcase with me for the New Day Beijing foster home for children! We were privileged to hand deliver our gifts, but couldn't post any photos of the children from there online.

Meanwhile, back in the States, the Captain, and our three other children had traveled back to Florida to look for a new rental home for us. Our three teens took college entrance tests, and passed, and Mr A had passed his before returning to New England earlier in the month.


We were getting to know Mei Mei in Guangzhou, and she was getting to know Mr A, Little Miss and Sennie. Her funny, spunky personality started to show as she got more comfortable with us, and we couldn't wait for the rest of the family to meet her.

Before leaving the Guangdong Province, we saw the Chen Clan Academy and explored a park nearby, and even rented a paddle boat. We started to have some tummy trouble at the end of our stay, but by God's grace we were fine to travel back. The Captain, Mr D, Mr T and Missy met us at the airport, and a photographer friend Julie, too, who gave us a priceless gift of fantastic homecoming photos.

Since our camp was still rented, and we knew how rough the jet lag/transition time is, we stayed at a cottage in New Hampshire for a week, which ended up being just what was needed. Mei Mei had to learn how to sleep in a portacrib, which meant no sleep (for anyone) for several nights. Yet, being all together was still so beautiful and imperfectly perfect as we were all figuring out our new family.

We had hoped to spend a good part of August at our camp, but realized soon that wasn't going to happen. We were there for about three days. The Captain had to go to Nantucket a day after arriving at the camp, and the rest of us packed up our gear and left the camp in a hurry, and met him at his parents house in Southern Maine. We packed up a trailer, and started driving to Florida, where a new rental home was waiting for us.

The day after our Florida arrival our quadruplets started a dual enrollment program at a local college. Little Miss and I were busy making our house a home, and also still waiting on her school curriculum.


In September we were learning new routines. We had a lot to do to make our new house a home.
We were a stationary (!) family of eight now, and our teenagers were attending a real school - a college, no less! Little Miss started homeschool too, once her school curriculum arrived. The dual enrollment program has been great for our teens, but it was not a smooth transition for all. We had some really, really rough months weeks days (and nights).

We finally took Mei Mei to the beach for the first time ever (her orphanage was not near the ocean), and she loved it! She wasn't so sure about the sand on her bare toes, but eventually she got used to it.


October was still very warm in Florida. We visited the beach and parks often, as well as walked to the library often. We went on a little homeschool field trip to a pumpkin patch, and attended a harvest party, too.

Some days we'd meet up with our Maine friends, who came to live in our area for a little while (we loved it!!!). Little Miss was busy with various science projects, and school, too. We learned we had to have a very flexible school schedule, as mama needed to give Mr T rides to and from college at various times.

Missy attended her second Rubik's Cubing Competition, in Orlando. She loved every second of it!

The Captain took a quick trip to New England, and brought back the Mothership!

We finally had our first cleft clinic with Mei Mei, and started getting ready for her cleft palate surgery. Missy had oral surgery to help bring down a stubborn tooth, and Little Miss got braces!

At the end of the month Mr T and Mr D were in Kentucky with a homeschool group, and the rest of us walked at our friends' neighborhood for a little while on October 31st. Mei Mei loved calling out "trick or treat" and getting candy:)


November was all about Mei Mei and her cleft palate surgery. We had various appointments before and after, and the Big Day was a week before Thanksgiving. We stayed in the Mothership (first time for Mei Mei!) before (and during) the surgery, and were very happy to go home. Thank you all so much for praying for Mei Mei and her recovery. We are amazed at well she did. Glory to God!

Before and after Mei Mei's surgery we pretty much kept her home. We didn't want her to catch any colds, and afterward it was important she wouldn't get hurt. The first Sunday we brought her to church (as she really missed her friends!) she took a tumble down stairs, and we were so glad her mouth had healed well enough by then there was no damage.


In the beginning of the month Mr T had a chance to go to a debate tournament with friends, and he loved it! He has been interested in it for a while, and looks like he is going to get serious about debating.

In the middle of the month we had serious crunch time as the college term was coming to an end. No one got a whole lot of sleep, but the teens had work paid off: everyone got fantastic grades. We are very proud of our quadruplets!

Mr A and Missy attended a Star Wars costume party at youth group, and both won best costume awards! What fun! We had a little half birthday celebration for Mei Mei, too. She loved it.

And then it was time to head to Maine. We wanted to spend Christmas at our camp, and drove up (a few very painful days). No snow at first, but we are ending the year with fresh snow, and a very thin layer of ice covering a part of the lake.

We celebrated birthdays, adoption day, and Christmas. So much fun experiencing all these firsts with Mei Mei. Grandma and Grandpa arrived right before Christmas, and more family is coming tomorrow, too.

Our year ended with a dip in the lake - on the 30th when the lake started freezing over.


Thank you for joining our family on this grand adventure! And Welcome 2016! Have a Happy New Year!

"The things that are impossible with people are possible with God." Luke 18:27

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December Swim/Joulukuun uinti

This morning as I gazed at the lake, I thought I saw something. If you look closely at the shoreline, you might see little bits of ice floating on the water, barely noticeable.

There was only one thing to do.


Mr A went first.

Then it was my turn.

Aah, what an amazing feeling!!! So exhilarating!! You should try it, too:) We'll have to see, but I'm pretty sure we can still go in tomorrow, and the Captain's aunt has promised to dip in with us!

That dash of red in the window? That's Mei Mei. I wonder what she was thinking...

A couple of hours after our dips, the lake started changing again.

By three in the afternoon, there was a sheer layer of ice covering most of what we could see. Mr A and I sure were glad we had listened to the call of the lake, and had our swim before the lake froze over!


Mr A ja minä kävimme pikaisella uinnilla järvessä, juuri ennen kuin pinta jäätyi. Kaikki kuvat ovat tältä päivältä - ehdimme juuri ja juuri:) Mahtava tunne!

Christmas 2015 Joulu

Christmas 2015. Mei Mei's first Christmas! What a privilege and honor to watch her wonder and joy. What a privilege and honor to be her family. To be parents to Mei Mei, Little Miss, Mr T, Mr A, Missy and Mr D. My heart is full.

We decorated our second day in Maine.

And did our cleaning and baking on Monday and Tuesday. Grandma and Grandpa arrived on Tuesday to celebrate with us, and brought enough food to feed an army (and amazingly it is all gone now, pretty much). On Wednesday we cooked some of the food, and prepped as much as we could.

There was no snow when we arrived in Maine, but it snowed a little on my birthday. Mei Mei loved snow! Until she got cold. But hot chocolate made everything better:)

Oh, and the bump on her head? She took a long dive down church steps head first. So thankful for guardian angels!

Our happy girlie! Five months with us on the 27th!

We really enjoyed having Grandma and Grandpa with us this Christmas. No playing in the snow with them, but we had some nice muddy walks:)

We celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. In the morning we have rice porridge with an almond, and our big meal early in the afternoon. Mr A read from Luke 2 this year. With Mei Mei in mind, we opened presents before church, and after the candlelight service she soon went to bed.

Despite catching her crying in the picture above, she really had a wonderful day. We all did.

Mei Mei loved her Duplo-legos, but her favorite toy was this wooden pounding toy. Grandma was so smart to stick it in a box (after the balls went everywhere).

And on Christmas morning there were little things to find in the stockings, too.

After Christmas our temperatures started dropping.

And as I type this, it has been snowing all day.

With the wind from the lake we have hunkered down inside, working, playing games, getting math done (Mr A!), reading and writing blog posts.

We hope your Christmas was full of joy. As we posted on our facebook page, the to-do list may never be completely accomplished, the stress levels often high, sleep sorely lacking, yet the main thing is remembering Jesus - the One who fills our empty places, the One who brings hope to a dark world. The One who loves. No matter what. The One who fills us with Joy. No matter what the circumstances are. Celebrate Him! Invite Him to come and fill your life.

We were created to be complete in Jesus.


Hyvää joulua ja joulunaikaa täältä Mainestä ihan jokaiselle lukijalle! Toivottavasti joulussasi on ollut iloa - olivat olosuhteesi mitkä tahansa. Jeesuksen syntymän ihme - Jumala ihmiseksi pelastaakseen sinut ja minut, täyttää ne kaikki tyhjät paikat sydämissämme, kunhan vaan otamme Hänet vastaan.

Me vietimme joulua Kapteenin vanhempien kanssa aattona, ja nautimme joulupäivän hiljaisuudesta. Kun tulimme Maineen, täällä ei ollut lunta, mutta sitä satoi ensin syntymäpäivänäni, ja uudestaan tällä viikolla. Tänäänkin koko päivän. Mei Mei rakasti lumessa leikkimistä, kunnes tuli kylmä, mutta kuuma kaakao teki kaiken paremmaksi taas:)

Oli hienoa kokea ensimmäinen joulu Mei Mein kanssa. Kaikki oli niin ihanaa ja ihmeellistä pienen silmissä:)