Last night, I prayed for bonds to be forming even now between my three wild littles and their sister Sylvie.  They understand and get the orphan crisis in a way that many adults do not.  To them, the idea of not having a family just makes no sense.  They’ve been praying for an “orphan to come into our family” for as long as I can remember.  And every single night, Claire in particular asks Jesus to get “all the orphans in a  forever home soon.”


These three love each other fiercely, fight passionately and have elaborate inside jokes and games and language.  I am praying that God would build that in with Sylvie.

2506_Sylvia 14-2

I know that it won’t be easy.  I know that it won’t be all unicorns and rainbows…but I also know that God can do things that aren’t easy and that He can bring beauty from ashes.

And I guess that’s my prayer.

That Sylvie’s life would go from ashes to beauty.  That she would feel such a sense of belonging with all six of her siblings but especially with the three I call the “Littles”.

You can support our adoption by visiting our Etsy store at Cartesterson INK

Or by purchasing a t-shirt at

Or by donating directly to

5000 Miles

There’s a little girl called Sissy who lives about 5,000 miles away from me.

Right now, while I type these words and sip my coffee…she is halfway through her day in Bulgaria.  Is she taking a nap in daycare?  Is she playing? Is she coloring?

I think about her about a million times a day and I just find the whole thing so amazing.

We love her.

We have ever since we were told this could happen.  Since we were told that we could do this.  We could be a family for this very little girl who has no idea that she even needs us.


We know her name.

We’ve seen her face.

And we can not wait to hold her.

Being a part of this story has already been so filled with God and wonder that it defies description.

He has been in the details.

And certainly there are stressors and concerns.

For creative, flaky people like us, deadlines and paperwork that must be done at the right time and in the right way…whew.  That part is hard.

Fundraising creatively and in a (hopefully) non annoying way is equal parts fun and difficult!

I keep saying this:  “Adoption is a full time job!”

Several well meaning friends have said this, “But what if her special needs are more severe than you realized when you get her home?”

And I respectfully reply.  “What if they are?”  Please understand that I don’t mean to be a smarty pants, I don’t mean to be rude…but it is my answer.   If her needs are more than I expect…doesn’t she still have them?  Aren’t they part of her story, whether or not we bring her home to us or not?

She is who she is.  Just as she is.  And she can have her medical issues in Bulgaria where there are such limited resources and no real future for her…or she can have those issues here in America, close to us, with unlimited opportunity.

I think back to tiny little Nora, born crazy early and would we have just chosen not to parent her if she had residual issues?  (I don’t think coloring on EVERYTHING and throwing tantrums count.)

I think about a couple of my kids who struggle with anxiety, one with dyslexia…one with wheat intolerance…I think about other kids I love who have special needs and I just have to say…

“So what if her needs are more severe?”

I guess we’ll just have to figure that out.

Because it bottom lines to these two things.


“My friends, adoption is redemption.  It’s costly, exhausting, expensive and outrageous.  Buying back lives costs so much.  When God set out to redeem us, it killed him.”

We will pay the ransom (with a LOT of help from our village) and we will rescue our daughter.  Because we have been rescued and redeemed.  We didn’t have to meet any criteria to be redeemed.  And it cost our sweet Jesus.


“I always questioned if I was ready to adopt, and then I realized no child was ready to be an orphan.”

Oh this statement stops my heart.

Surely Sissy’s first mother, the one who gave her life and a name…surely her heart’s desire for this beautiful girl was not that she would be an orphan.  Surely the foster mom, Sissy’s second mother, who is with her every day and has been for most of her life, surely this sweet mother who has sustained her for all this time and who prepares herself to say good bye…surely her heart’s desire is not that Sissy would live her life as an orphan.  And we look at her picture and we watch her videos and we listen to our six live life fully…and we just know that our desire is not that Sissy would live out the rest of her life an orphan.

This child, fearfully and wonderfully made, she deserves a mom and a dad and host of sisters and even one brother.  She deserves all these grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.  She deserves to be welcomed in.

Weren’t we welcomed in to the courts of a King?

2506_Sylvia 16-2

Be a part of her story here:

To give:

Buy a t-shirt:

Commission art:

Buy a bracelet:

Apparent Project Bracelets $8
$4 goes to the moms and dads in Haiti that make them, $4 goes to our adoption fund.


We are keeping a record of every single person who has participated in this story. On the wall, by Sissy’s bed, when she comes home, there will be a great big painting.  A painting of a tree.  And on that tree will be leaves and each leaf will have a name.  The name of every single person who believed she was worth rescuing.  The name of every single person who fought and gave and sacrificed to pay her ransom.

The Vacation Code

I am often asked to explain how we survive on vacation with a jillion kids and not so many adults.

It’s simple.

Vacation Rules.

1. Honor the vacation code. Your happiness level on vacation should be 8 or higher. If you feel yourself slipping, you should immediately ask for help. Your peers will drop everything and try to get you back up to where you belong. If, for some reason, you slip to a 5 or lower, you just need to go to your room and get yourself together.


The above pictured is not an old maid, but they are definitely both below a 5.


I guess Philip just really loves turtles.  He’s well above an eight here.

This is critical.  With a ton of people on vacation, it does not do for someone to get a case of the crankies.  Also, we look forward to vacation all year long and for heavens’ sakes, we LOVE each other.  No one will blame you if you need a little time out.
2. Beware the day 4 meltdown. It’s a tried and true concept. On day 4, it will start with one and go downhill from there. Everyone eventually has a day 4 meltdown. (Your mileage may vary- for some it’s late on day 3, for others, it might be day 5.) There WILL be tears, tantrums, extreme exhaustion and general irritibility. All that needs to be said is this: “It’s the day 4 meltdown.” Expect it, be prepared to not be fazed by it and move on with vacation. It’s not a bad thing, really. The meltdown tends to be cleansing and provides a sort of reset.


I have been a mother for 23 years.  I have six kids and we are working on adopting a seventh.  I know a thing or two about vacationing with children.  They are going to flip out.  Everyone is tired.  We are on the go, swimming, walking, going to museums.  They are full of junk food and sand.  We eat stuff on vacation that we don’t typically go for at other times.  And our philosophy is basically this:  Whatever, man, get out of Mommy’s sun.  They have been doing nothing but fun stuff, including playing board games with the grown ups, eating all that candy that Meema brought whenever they want and staying up crazily late.  We are creating between 16 and 18 (it varies) little Veruca Salts and it’s bound to happen.

IMG_7641 IMG_5866

Let me point out, however, that this applies to adults as well as children.  See above- tired, junk food, sand, board games with our children, candy, staying up too late.


3. Just know that you will only be getting your way 1/26th to 1/28th of the time. You can’t go wrong if you keep this in mind. That said, we will honor exactly one vacation dream of each and every person. (Mine was good pictures this year.)

We are a team.  It’s about being together and having fun and in my son’s case, getting a sunburn every year.  It’s about looking for a child who shall remain nameless who decided to go spear fishing.  It’s about trying to believe one of the moms when she insists she saw dolphins off of the front porch.  It’s about removing the flying bird statues so they don’t give another mom a panic attack.  It is about togetherness, love and fun, people and don’t you forget it.

IMG_5837 IMG_5887 IMG_5890 IMG_5942 IMG_5968 IMG_7653 IMG_6071

You get your one dream.  One per customer.  Otherwise its all for one and one for all.  We will also see to it that EVERYONE respects, honors and at least pretends to enjoy your one dream.
Here are some examples:
1. A family picture by the ocean

2. Going to Forbes candy store

3. Flying a kite on the sand dunes
4. Playing putt-putt
5. Drinking margaritas out of a really large tervis. (That dream did not belong to a child.)
6. Going to the aquarium.

7. Having Scott’s cavatini for dinner.
8. Resting in a hammock while holding a baby


9. Going to Wings to buy hermit crabs (That one is off the table this year)
10. Chasing ghost crabs at dusk


The memories make it all worth it.

This post is dedicated to Bethany, Philip, Eden, Addy Lin, Ezra, Tae, Drew, Kristin, Michelle, Scott, Angelo, Mia, Miranda, Anthony, Luke, Sam, Caleb, John, Julia, Aubrey, Chase, Lila, Claire and Nora…and anyone else who has ever gone on vacation with us!

IMG_6196 IMG_7672 IMG_6108 IMG_5948

IMG_7761 IMG_7766 IMG_7811 IMG_7882 IMG_7918 IMG_8003 IMG_8079 IMG_8114 IMG_4260 935845_10201702818960640_268095091_n IMG_6026 IMG_6496