What to expect when our adopted children come home

Its been almost a year since I posted an adoption update here. Honestly, there aren’t enough words to describe how hard that 8 months of waiting for i-600 immigration approval was for our family. Nightmare seems like the most appropriate word to summarize it all.

Due to the sensitive nature of that process, we limited our updates to our personal social media profiles. You may have missed the play by play, but the important part is that in February we finally received our approval. (THANK GOD!)

The weeks since receiving that approval letter have been a whirlwind of applying for visas, talking with our foster family to help prepare the kids to come home and getting our house ready for all six of us to live here!

To make the wait easier on our bio kids, we had not set up brother and sister’s room or unpacked any of the hand-me-down clothes we had been given for them. Everything was waiting for this approval.

Now the room is ready.
The clothes are sorted.
The beds are made.

Now we wait for the message that says its time to come HOME!

While we wait, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about our plans for when they arrive.

I typed out a couple of texts to friends and then realized that this was better suited for a whole blog post.

Partly because it would make a crazy long text. Partly because I know we aren’t the only adoptive family in most folks lives.

So for readers who may not know us offline, what I share here might help you to better understand another adoptive family when they are in this same season.

So here we go – What to expect when our adopted children come home

For the first few weeks (and possibly longer) that our kids are home we will be entering a period called “cocooning.”

Cocooning is strongly recommended by adoption experts and backed by tons of research. Basically, we will keep brother and sister’s world very small. They will rarely leave our home and they will almost exclusively interact with their new parents and siblings.

The goal of this period is to help them establish a feeling of being safe, loved and secure in our family.

While this is not unusual for someone welcoming a new baby, it may seem weird that we’re keeping our big kids at home so much. But that precious bonding that takes place with a newborn is something they deserve with us too, even though we didn’t bring them home as babies.

We adore our extended families and friends and we know that brother and sister will grow to have special relationships with them too. But the best way to ensure that is to help them learn to love their immediate family first.

Family portrait by Lorelei, 2018

So what is this going to look like?

Limiting interactions:

Basically, we’ll be hermits. We’ll miss a few weeks at church or only some of us will attend. We will be limiting visitors into our home and being very strategic about who we establish relationships with first.

If you bring us food or a gift, I’ll likely meet you on the porch to get it. Not because Aaron and I don’t trust you around our kids or want to show off how adorable they are, but because you’re a complete stranger to brother and sister. And this is about them right now.

Limiting affection from others:

Y’all… our kids are adorable! I know you haven’t seen their whole faces yet but trust me on this! I know the urge to hug on them and give them pecks on the cheek will be real strong. But this is where you have to be the grown up and help us teach the kids what is healthy, appropriate affection.

Think about it… when you were in preschool did some friend of your mom’s that you’d maybe seen once or twice in your life just randomly walk up to you at the soccer field, pick you up and give you a big kiss?! No! Because that would be majorly weird!

And that’s exactly how it would be perceived by our kids!

Or worse, they will think that ANYONE should be allowed to show physical affection towards them and we all know that’s an unhealthy and dangerous thing for a child to think!

So what CAN you do when you see our kids? Wave, blow kisses, make silly faces, offer a high five or a fist bump.

Limiting help from others:

Again, we’re trying to help the kids learn that mommy and daddy provide for their needs. So please don’t give them snacks or refill their drinks or help them in the bathroom. If they do approach you and ask for help, please reinforce what they are learning by pointing to Aaron or I and saying “Mommy/Daddy can help you.”

How long?

Honestly, we don’t know. We are going to play this by ear and see what our kids need. Its not fair to any of our kids to set an arbitrary date for when we’ll resume “normal” life when we have no idea what this adjustment period is going to look like for any of us.

In fact, when I told my mom about this blog post she even suggested I wait until the kids had been home a few days to publish it, just because we truly have no idea how long our family will need this. (She’s definitely laughing at me for admitting that I didn’t take her advice).

We are hopeful that the experience our kids had of living in a loving foster home will help them adjust to family life quickly. But they are still going to be dealing with a major cultural change, the language barrier, new siblings, etc…

But my friend who adopted/fostered never did this… why are you?

Every family is different. Every kid is different. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all sort of thing. This is the best approach for our family, but that doesn’t mean that your friend did it “wrong.”

The most important thing to remember is to support and encourage the adoptive family in whatever their plans may be.

Don’t cast doubt on the decisions they’ve made or criticize the choices they are making for their family. Saying things like “I’m sure that will be really good for all of you” or “I know this is really hard right now but you’re doing a great job” go a LONG way!

So what CAN you do?


Pray for Aaron and I as this season will be a very difficult one as parents. Worth it? Absolutely. But also very hard.

Pray for all the kids as they adjust emotionally.

Pray for physical health and healing for brother and sister as we begin medical appointments and vaccinations.

And don’t worry, you won’t have to wait until the cocooning period is over to meet brother and sister online. Stay tuned to my facebook and instagram. :)

The next big step…

Its been a long time since I’ve posted an adoption update on the blog.

If you follow me on IG, you’ve probably kept up with how things are going but taking the time to truly write out a whole blog post has been more than I really had the emotional capacity to do.

Since we “passed court” in February, we’ve been waiting on all of the kids’ documents to be translated into English so that we could file them with their i600 form from the US government. 

Receiving i600 approval means that the U.S. will classify the kids as our family members and allow us to bring them into the country.

This is our biggest step on the U.S. immigration side of things and the one we expect to take the longest.

Its no secret that immigration is a hot button issue these days so we have been eager (impatient… freaking out… whatever you want to call it) to get this filed as soon as possible!

On Tuesday, almost 4 months after passing court, we finally received our translations!

I borrowed a folding table from my in-laws and set it up in my office to sort through all the papers.

After some extremely thorough proofreading (thank you journalism degree!) and very late night of printing, sorting and paper clipping 100 pages of paperwork for each child- we were ready to file our i-600!

Today our forms arrived at the immigration office and will soon be assigned to an “officer.”

Please pray over our case and the officer that will be working it. Pray for wisdom, empathy, efficiency and timeliness.

Pray that the documents we submitted provide all the information that they need to approve us.

Pray for our hearts as we wait for news. We will not be provided with updates at all along the way and there is no definite timeline for how long it takes them to decide on a case.

Most importantly, please pray for the kids that they will continue to thrive in their foster home. We know they are eager to come home but we are so thankful they are healthy and happy with our foster family.

Thank you for all of your support and prayers, we are so blessed by y’all!

Then there were SIX… legally!

Today we received the documents to solidify what God told us 11 months ago.
On February 26, we “passed court” in DRC and the beautiful children we have been in love with for so long legally became our son and daughter!

We still have some big hurdles to jump before they come home.
Their court documents must be translated into English and then we must apply for their approval to enter the U.S. through Homeland Security (a process that is increasingly complex).

But tonight we celebrate that in God’s eyes, a judge’s ruling and forevermore – we are a family of SIX!!!!

This post was originally posted on my instagram. I realized in June that I had never posted an update about passing court on my blog so this post is backdated to reflect the date that I originally posted on IG and wrote these words.

Guest post: Our 4th annual #RareActsOfKindness for Rare Disease Day

My sister Anna was born with a very rare genetic disorder called Alagille Syndrome (ALGS). There are only about 8,000 cases of ALGS in the United States and only a couple of hospitals that treat it.

For the past four years, Anna has challenged her friends to perform Rare Acts of Kindness in honor of Rare Disease Day.

I am honored to once again let her take over my blog to spread the word about this event and celebrate rare people everywhere!

Rare Disease Day 2018 is fast approaching!

This year’s theme is “Show your rare. Show you care.” and focuses on recognizing the role patients play in rare disease research.

Medical research became a normal part of my life at a young age, as it does for many with a rare disease. It was a basic concept to me in the beginning…

“If I get an extra stick and give more blood I could help other kids like me.”

“This could show them why people with ALGS have a chronic itch.”

“We’ll see if this drug improves my liver function.”

“There could be a cure.”

Even as a child, I was able to see that research was the only way to try to make the journey easier for future ALGS warriors.

There is more hope for us if there is more research.

But if you know anything about research, you know that it is not a straightforward, easy path.

There is often heartbreak and frustration.

Sometimes it means going through painful tests and procedures only to realize it isn’t beneficial. Sometimes it means experiencing amazing results but once the trial ends that relief is gone.

While we celebrate Rare Disease Day this year, we want to recognize the true bravery of those with rare diseases who have participated in research.

We want to recognize the parents and caretakers who have become well-versed in complex medical and research jargon to decide if a particular study is right for their little warrior.

Help us celebrate the bravery of rare people like me by performing Rare Acts of Kindness in your community on Rare Disease Day.


From February 23 – 28, 2018, perform an act of kindness in your community.

Make sure you snap a photo and share it online with the hashtags #RareActsOfKindness and #ShowYourRare so that we can see how everyone is participating!

#rareactsofkindness for Rare Disease Day idea 1

Last year we treated some of our favorite folks around town with donuts to say thank you for always brightening our day.

To make things even easier, we’ve designed printable cards to share with your #RareActsOfKindness recipients. Click here to print your #RareActsOfKindness cards.

For ideas of ways to celebrate and to connect with other rare people and the folks who love them, make sure you join our facebook event!

I can’t answer your food questions right now.

I can’t do it. I can’t hold your hand and pretend that I empathize with your concerns about high fructose corn syrup or if you should give your 1 year old cows’ milk or soy milk.

I used to care. I really, truly did. I cared so much.

My first time mom days. When my biggest problems were trying to lose the baby weight and getting my baby to keep her headbands on.

I used to be able to flip through my Rolodex of memories and reconnect with my 22 year old self in the baby food aisle. Fussy 6 month old on my hip as I tried to make sense of the “stages” of baby food and determine if homemade baby food was the best fit for our family and budget.

But right now, that woman seems so foreign to me.

She seems more like an old college friend than a former version of myself. Someone who was once so close but time and adulthood have caused to fade into the background.

That woman had one perfectly healthy child with perfectly safe, plentiful food.

That woman thought she was so poor because she had to wait for a Black Friday sale to buy her favorite jeans, yet she never once worried about how she would feed her baby.

I’m not that woman anymore.

Today I realize just how privileged and blessed I was that at my “poorest” moment, I never had to worry about my daughter going hungry.

Today two of my children have all the healthy food they could ever want. And two of my children live in a country that has been devastated by civil war. A country struggling with hunger and in desperate need of the many social services we take for granted in the U.S.

Every month I wire money to our foster family in Congo so that they can buy my children bottled water, good food and disposable diapers.

I don’t know what half my kids are eating for supper.

I don’t even know what “good food” means in their country.

I don’t get to worry about what the labels on their food says. Instead, I’m eternally grateful that they have enough food to eat and heartbroken for their peers who do not.

These are things that 9 months ago I took for granted. Things that a 9 months ago, I never worried about.

I don’t tell you this to make you feel bad about your food choices. I just want to add a little perspective to this very “first-world problem.”

The world will not end if you’re the only mom at school who doesn’t buy the organic juice boxes.

Life will go on if your kid eats fruit loops for supper.

It really doesn’t matter if you choose to drink almond milk or cows milk or soy milk or no milk at all!

These are not life and death decisions!

How blessed are we to even worry about things like this?!

How lucky are we to have turned our overabundance of food into a “problem” we bicker about?

So why can’t I help you right now? Why can’t I answer your questions and fill this blog with post after post explaining all of those food labels and empathizing with your parental worries?

Because I can’t turn off how brokenhearted I am for the moms in my children’s home country.

For the dads right here in my own community who are skipping supper just to make sure their kids have a little to eat.

For the kids in my daughter’s school who depend on their free breakfast and lunch every day.

My heart is so broken for theirs that I just can’t make it to connect with yours right now.

With a little research and a chat with your pediatrician, I’m sure you’ll be able to make the best food buying decisions for your family.

But please, most importantly, don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re so blessed to get to make those decisions at all.

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about how to help with hunger in your own community, please check out Feeding America

If you’d like to learn more about our adoption journey, check out the Adoption page

Mailing kisses to Congo and letting God take control

If you asked about our adoption in the past 2 months, I guarantee you got this answer:

“We’ve done everything we can. We’re just waiting on the agencies to finish their paperwork so we can send our big packet of papers to Congo.” 

If I said that once, I said it a hundred times.

For months I had spent every spare moment working on adoption paperwork. I had color coded lists, sub-lists, stacks of manila folders and files upon files of scanned documents on a backup drive and in the cloud, just in case something happened to the originals.

Then we hit the point where it was out of our hands. 

Our home study social worker had completed her interviews with us and was writing her report. Our adoption agency had to review the report. The home study social worker had to print the report and sign it, ship it the head office for more signatures and notarizing, then they had to ship it to us.

So for weeks we waited while each party finished their job. For weeks I checked my email constantly, waiting for news that the final packet was headed our way.

As October drew nearer, the wait started to wear on me.

October 7 would be exactly 6 months from when we first saw the faces of our beautiful children. From the start, I told myself we could submit that big packet of papers (called a dossier) in 6 months.

That seems totally attainable, right? 6 months is plenty of time to get a few papers in the mail.

But if you break down just what we were trying to accomplish, 6 months is no time at all.

In 6 months I wanted us to buy a house, move into it, compile all the necessary documents for our home study, pass the home study, get all of the agencies involved to approve, print and ship the home study report, compile all the documents for the dossier and then ship the dossier to Congo.

Oh… and pay $1,000 per month for foster care and all the adoption agency fees along the way.

Yeah… when you spell it all out it seems completely impossible. 

But God, y’all. 

The closing date on our home didn’t get pushed back, even though our realtor told us that regularly happens. Our painters finished early. A small army of friends and family helped us move everything in one afternoon. Some of our documents came in earlier than expected. The home study social worker was able to work us into her schedule much earlier than she originally anticipated.

I could write a post about each of those events, sharing the crazy and unexpected ways God worked in our favor.

It really looked like we were going to hit the 6 month mark. But as we got further and further into September, I started to lose hope.

We had done everything right. We had hurried and dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s. We had jumped through the hoops. Why were we not getting this report back? Why was it taking so long?!

If God had opened all those other doors, why wasn’t He doing the same thing now?!

The last weekend of September, it all became too much.

I had a total breakdown from all the stress of not being in control. From the uncertainty, from the overwhelming expenses, from trying to parent via email and across a language barrier.

And at the end of an especially long, ugly cry, I gave it all over to God. 

That’s when I let go of my deadline.

That’s when I told Him that I could accept it if the 6 month mark wasn’t a part of His plan.

That’s when I reminded myself that these were His children long before He made them mine and He would not forsake them.

That’s when I poured myself into scripture and favorite hymns from my childhood, instead of venting via text to my friends.

That’s when it was no longer about me or Aaron or agencies.

That’s when we truly trusted that God was for us and that His control was more perfect than ours could ever be.

And that was when the report arrived. 

On Tuesday, October 3, our mail carrier came unusually early. Aaron and Landon casually walked out to the mailbox but on the way back I noticed a quickness to Aaron’s step.

As soon as he was within earshot he called out, “Its here! What time does FedEx close?!”

I hurried to scan every page of the home study report and dossier documents for our records.

I gently slid all 40 pages into a big yellow envelope and triple checked the address the agency gave us.

We crammed photo albums, little toys and candy into a gallon ziplock bag for our foster family to give the kids.

Lorelei and Landon gave slobbery kisses and giant hugs to two little teddy bears to bring to their brother and sister.

In the FedEx parking lot, Aaron led our family in praying over it all, from the documents to the dum dum suckers, that God would use it all to fulfill His will.

Then with butterflies in our stomachs and tears in my eyes, we put it all in a box and shipped it off to the DRC… 4 days before my 6 month deadline.


P.S. Here’s our latest update photos of brother and sister. They are growing and thriving in their foster home! Such a blessing knowing they are safe and well cared for during this wait! 

If you would like to learn more about our adoption journey or how you can help us bring our kids home, visit the Adoption page.

Mailing Kisses to Congo and Letting God Take Control 3

I see you stock show mom, when no one else is looking.

I see you stock show mom, when no one else is looking. For the past few weeks, my feeds have been full of posts from exhausted and overwhelmed stock show moms in the midst of their county and state fairs.

They’re sharing the good, the bad and the messy from their weeks.

The late nights, the blue ribbons, the barn meals, the laundry piles and the adventure that is parenting an exhausted kid who ate a funnel cake for supper.

With each post I read, this strange feeling is building up in my chest. Its a mix of excited anticipation and downright fear.

I just joined their ranks.

I’m now a stock show mom.

My daughter participated in her first novice showmanship classes this summer and loved every second of them. She and her uncle are already planning the Durocs he’s going to raise for her as soon as she’s old enough to tag in her own pigs.

As much as I’m looking forward to her experiencing all the wonderful things that come from showing livestock, I’m pretty nervous about being a full fledged show mom.

So while everyone else has been watching the livestock in the ring, I’ve been watching the veteran show moms standing ringside. I’ve seen what most people don’t take the time to notice.

I see you stock show mom, when no one else is looking. 

Me and my big girl after she showed a pig for the first time!

I see you making ham sandwiches on top of the tack box at 8 a.m. Then I see you making another round at noon. And if the show runs long enough you’ll be pulling another meal or two out of that cooler before its all said and done.

Like the loaves and the fish, you always have enough to feed your kids and all of their friends.

You’re the matriarch of the tack pen and throughout fair week you’ll make those folding chairs, coolers and feed sacks serve half a dozen different purposes.

Its the playroom for the toddlers and the hangout for the tweens.

A therapist’s office, as you counsel a teen through a breakup.

Its a study hall, while you explain long division to a 4-Her.

A coffee shop, where friendships forged in this same barn years ago are rekindled over rice krispie treats and cokes and the retelling of stories.

But your work extends far beyond the tack pen. 

I see you sitting on a gate, braiding sweaty hair while you give a pre-showmanship pep talk.

I see you quizzing your 9 year old on showmanship questions and reminding your teenager to relax and have fun.

I see you jumping in to help when your kids need it and standing back when you know they need to figure it out for themselves.

I see you pray for patience under your breath when the kids are bickering and the animals aren’t cooperating.

I see you mixing up feed and filling up water buckets.

I see you settling wash rack arguments before they turn into water fights.

I see you with your camera in one hand and a spray bottle in the other. With your pockets full of brushes, towels and granola bars.

I see you dry so many tears for so many reasons. I wonder how often you’re choking back tears of your own.

I see you watch your child lose and hide your heartbreak.

I hear you tell them that showing livestock isn’t all about winning on the way back to the pens, even when you and I both know that your kid probably should have won that class.

I see your joy when your child wins but as soon as they make it out of the ring I hear you remind them to be a humble winner.

I see the smile in your eye as you fight the urge to shout from the rooftops how proud you are that all of their hard work paid off.

But now that I’m part of your club, I’m realizing that when the champion is named and the show is over, your work is only half way done.

No one sees you washing the 15 pairs of dirty jeans that come home from the state fair.

No one sees you giving baths to the kids too young to bathe themselves.

No one knows that at the end of every show day you take a cold shower, because after making sure everyone else is clean there’s just no hot water left.

And after a week of eating from coolers and concession stands, when everyone is dying for a home cooked meal, its you who finds a way to make that happen.

I see you stock show mom. You’re exhausted, physically and emotionally. Your to-do list is a mile long and you’re running on fumes.

No one else may see you, but that doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time.

Your servant heart is changing lives and raising the best kids on earth, one ham sandwich, clean pair of jeans and tack pen pep talk at a time.


Adoption FAQ’s

When we started sharing the news of our adoption, we realized we were answering the same questions over and over again. I complied the most common questions into one post so that we can refer folks to one simple place to get all the scoop.

Are you unable to have more biological children? 

Adoption was never the “if we can’t have bio kids” option for us. Aaron has always felt called to adopt. For me, it was more of a “if God leads us to it” sort of thing. Now He has and we couldn’t be more excited to see our family grow in this way!

P.S. – This is an incredibly awkward question to ask an adoptive family for LOT of reasons. Please don’t go up to people and ask this!

How much does this cost? 

One thing we want to be very open about is the expense that comes with adoption. I used to think adoption fundraisers were crazy but that was because I had no idea just how incredibly expensive it is to adopt!

Our total estimate is: $60,000

Depending on how many months it takes to bring them home, this could change significantly because we are paying $500 per month per child for foster care.

Why did you choose to adopt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo?

Honestly, we didn’t. God did.

When we began this journey all I knew was that adopting from Congo was difficult. As soon as we realized that’s where our kids were, nothing was going to stop us from doing whatever we could to bring them home.

If you haven’t read the post where I share the entire story of finding our kids, you can read it here.

When will your kids come home? 

We are hoping that they will be home in 12 months.

There are a lot of factors in their home country that make adoption difficult. There are many factors in our country that make immigration difficult. We will be at the mercy of the two governments involved and praying that God will eliminate as much red tape as possible to get them home ASAP.

Do you have to go to Congo to get them? 

Due to the ever changing nature of immigration and adoption policies in both the U.S. and the DRC, the best answer we can give right now is that we don’t know yet.

We are currently budgeting and preparing for both possibilities so that we can make the best decision for our kids when the time comes.

Are their birth parents alive? Why are they in an orphanage?

At this time, we have very limited information about our children’s history. Three sentences total.

There are no happy orphan stories. The circumstances that lead a child to an orphanage and adoption are always heartbreaking. Out of respect for our children, we are keeping that part of their story private so that they can choose if and when they want to share it.

Do they speak English?

No, their native language is Lingala. They will begin English lessons in DRC before they come home. We’re also doing lots of research on how to best help them overcome the language barrier when they get here.

Are you changing their names? Why? 

Yes, we will be giving them new names when we adopt them. Every adoptive family handles this differently, so we have spent a lot of time thinking and praying about what is best for our family.

Our two bio kids have names that begin with the same letter, a tradition in my husband’s family. We obviously want to include our adopted children in that as well.

We plan to keep their birth names as a middle name. We would never want to erase the names that their birth parents gave them and we want to help them feel connected to their home country.

Why didn’t you pursue foster care/adoption? Or domestic adoption?

Honestly, because God called us to these two specific children long before we ever had the chance to research any other paths to adoption.

I truly believe that there are people who God calls to foster parent and foster adopt and others who God calls to adopt domestically or internationally. I don’t know why or how He decides that, all I know is that ALL children deserve a safe, loving home. Any family that opens their hearts and homes to a child in need deserves our love and support.

Why do you put sunglasses on their photos? 

Until they are legally our children, we can not post identifying photos of them online. By adding clipart sunglasses, we’re able to share their sweet smiles with you while protecting their privacy.

Are you worried about raising black kids, especially with today’s racial tensions? 

Of course we are. It would be irresponsible for us to pretend that these are not valid concerns. In many ways, I feel completely unqualified to help my children through these issues. I obviously have no idea what its like to be black.

This is where the “it takes a village” mentality comes in. I’m relying on my friends of color, both locally and online, for advice and help. I’m praying that God will put the right people in our village to help mentor all four of our kids as they navigate a world that treats them differently than their siblings.

We have already had such an outpouring of support from our friends of color and fellow interracial adoptive parents, from their book and blog recommendations to their heartfelt prayers. (Thank you each so much!)

How are you going to care for their hair/skin?

I’m going to be honest, I despise this question. Just because my kids don’t have the same hair texture as me doesn’t mean its going to take an act of Congress to learn how to care for their hair.

I really don’t understand why this is such a common first or second question since the answer is pretty obvious: lots of googling, asking other moms for advice/lessons and watching a lot of YouTube videos.

Your son looks really tall, is this a Blindside thing?

While I’m sure my husband loves to imagine any of our kids playing basketball for Kentucky, I think 4 years old might be a little young for even Coach Cal to start recruiting him!

Though I have to admit, I do share Leigh Anne Tuohy’s disdain for that “gaudy orange.”

You hated being pregnant, is this a better experience than pregnancy?

I can’t speak to one being better than the other, but it is a VERY different experience.

No one wants to throw up for 5 months and then have major surgery but I did it twice without any regrets because my kids are worth it. Would I do it again in a heartbeat if that was all it took to bring my other two kids home? Absolutely.

The biggest surprise to me is that I’ve been so emotionally connected to these kids from the start, probably more so than I was to their siblings while pregnant. I don’t have to wait 9 more months to fall in love with their sweet faces, I already have.

But there’s a lot more worrying than I expected with being “paper pregnant.”

When you’re pregnant you have this sense of control because you feel like you can protect the baby you are carrying. With adoption, you can’t do anything to protect your kids until you get them home. That reality makes you feel overwhelmingly helpless.

My heart aches so much for them. My husband will be quick to tell you that I cry just as much now as I did when I was pregnant.

What do your other kids think? 

Lorelei is EXTREMELY excited! She is very excited to have a sister and to have a brother closer to her age. She talks about them constantly and they are always first in her prayers.

Landon didn’t understand at first but as the months have gone by, he has grown quite attached to them. He asks almost daily when they are coming to our house and often kisses their photos on the fridge.

How can I help you bring your kids home? 

First of all, we greatly appreciate your prayers. We serve a God who moves mountains and we know that His hands are all over this journey.

If you’d like to make a monetary donation, you can do so on our YouCaring page. YouCaring doesn’t take a cut of your donation, so every penny possible goes to our adoption fund.

We are adopting!

Yep, you read that right – we are adopting! We are so excited for our soon-to-be family of six and all the excitement that will come with a new brother and sister in our home!

Aaron and I have always been open to adopting but we had never really mentioned it to anyone. I’m not exaggerating at all, up until this spring we had only ever discussed it with four people!

Needless to say, when I started making phone calls to tell family they were completely blindsided.

I want to share the story of how we found our kids and how God brought our family to this point but that means that this post will differ from my usual posts in two major ways:

  • It is very religious. I know this is a farming and food blog but I’ve always shared a bit of my faith here as well. I can not tell this story without sharing the bold ways God has moved in our lives.
  • It is incredibly long. I really wish I could condense this story but as I’ve prayed over how to tell it God has reminded me over and over that someone out there needs to hear the entire story and all the little things He did that added up to such a big miracle. If that’s not you, I hope you’ll forgive me for being so wordy.

They say its best to start at the beginning, which for me was 2013.

I’d gotten in the habit of using a bible app on my phone that served up random bible passages for me. For a week or two, I kept getting passages about orphans. It seemed orphans/adoption kept popping up in my life, from random conversations with bank tellers to news segments to blog posts I’d run across on Pinterest.

As the days went on, my heart began to ache for an orphan and I was overwhelmed with the need to pray for him. We’re talking about crying myself to sleep, heartbroken prayers.

All day I’d feel this heaviness in my heart. It was a strong, relentless aching.

This is a screenshot from the email I sent my best friend in 2013. Reading these words today is surreal. God has been working for so long to prepare us for our children.

At first I thought it was hormones. I had just finished breastfeeding Lorelei and I knew my hormones were still out of whack. The idea that there was a baby out there like my own little girl without a family is absolutely heartbreaking so maybe I was just too hormonal to handle thinking about that?

One of my best friends was a missionary overseas at the time. I sent her an email, pouring my heart out and asking that she pray for me and this orphan, wherever he was. She assured me that if God calling us to adoption that she’d be praying for us every step of the way.

About a month later, my cousin Lauren mentioned that she and her husband felt called to adopt. I immediately assumed that God had been calling me to pray for their adoption journey and didn’t give it much more thought.

Fast forward to 2015, I was hit with another round of the overwhelming feeling that I needed to pray for an orphan.

The heaviness was back and for a week or so the aching was relentless. This time I knew I was praying for a girl, which I thought made sense because that was what Lauren was hoping to adopt.

Again, I assumed that God was calling me to pray for Lauren’s daughter so I dedicated myself to supporting them in any way I could. Every time I’d talk to her I kept waiting for the news that a birth mom has chosen them. I had no doubt that when I met their baby it would make the heaviness in my heart go away.

Life moved on.

Lauren’s book was shown to several birth mothers but never chosen. We tried to buy several farms but they all fell through for crazy reasons beyond our control. In 2016, we were blessed with Landon. Lauren found out she was miraculously pregnant with another baby boy.

Despite all the happiness of adding Landon to our family and Lauren’s surprise pregnancy, I still had this heaviness in my heart. I wondered if Lauren and her husband decided not to pursue adoption again if that feeling would ever go away.

Aaron brought up the idea of us adopting over and over but every time I blew him off. It wasn’t the right time. It was too hard. It was too expensive.

In March of 2017, Lauren told our whole family that she had found her daughter in an orphanage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A friend of hers was adopting from this orphanage and showed Lauren a video of her son dancing. Lauren saw a little girl in the background of the video and immediately knew that was her daughter.

(Their entire adoption story is AMAZING! You can read all about on Lauren’s blog).

While we were all completely shocked at the way this had happened, we were ecstatic for them. They’d been waiting for their little girl for years and now God had brought her to them at the most unexpected time!

Aaron came home talking about us pursing adoption too and yet again, I completely blew him off. After all, I was just supposed to be praying for Lauren’s kid and clearly this was the proof that I had been doing a fantastic job of it!

The first time I saw Lauren after she had announced her adoption, I was so excited to see the video. Here it was – the moment that this heaviness in my heart would go away and I would get to celebrate the miracle that God is working to bring this little girl home to her family!

She showed me the video and nothing happened.

Sure, I immediately loved her little girl. She is beautiful and I can not wait to hug her and watch our kids play together.

But that heaviness was still there… in fact, it got even heavier.

As I was driving home I asked God why He didn’t take this feeling away. Suddenly I realized that this heaviness wasn’t the “aunt love” I feel for Lauren’s kids… it was the same “mom love” I feel for my own.

My heart was heavy for MY orphan.

To say that I was overwhelmed would be an understatement!

For four days I stewed over this realization. How would we pay for this? What do we do to prepare our other kids? How do we pick a country or an agency? Where do we even begin?

I finally worked up the nerve to tell Aaron what I was feeling, only for him to smile at me and say, “I’ve been waiting for God to get you here. My only question is, how many?”

I laughed and said that I knew in my heart that we didn’t have three kids, so I guess that meant we were adopting two.

He said that he knew they were siblings and we both admitted we’d suspected for a while that Landon was our last newborn.

When we finished our conversation, we felt at peace with it all. We’d take notes while Lauren completed her adoption, buy our farm and when the time was right we’d pursue our own adoption.

You know what they say, “Man plans and God laughs.”

A few days later, Lauren and I took our kids for a play date at the park. She filled me in on a lot of the details of their adoption process and I asked a lot of questions.

Eventually, I admitted that I was so inquisitive because we were planning to adopt someday. I didn’t really know when or how, but all we knew was that they were siblings and neither of them was an infant.

Immediately Lauren teared up and said, “I think I know where your kids are.”

Of course, I thought she was crazy.

I could get on board with the idea that she immediately knew her daughter but Lauren often talked about how boldly God spoke to her. That has NEVER been His style with Aaron and I.

A few texts later, Lauren had two photos of a brother and sister at the same orphanage as her daughter. The photos had been taken by the same person who had taken the video in which she found her daughter.

This photo was our first glimpse of our beautiful son and daughter.

I looked at the photos and nothing happened.

Sure, they were cute kids but I didn’t have a magical “angels singing” moment or anything.

All I knew was that the heaviness I’d been feeling on and off for years was back and it was stronger than I had ever experienced before. I thought I was going to throw up, the weight on my chest was so heavy.

I told her to send me the photos, find out their names and ages and we’d pray about it.

As I drove home, I was completely freaking out.

This was too fast. It didn’t make sense. I had just realized that we were supposed to adopt, we hadn’t had any time to do research or save money or make a plan.

These kids are in Africa, what on earth did we know about Africa?! NOTHING!

How was I supposed to know if they were ours or not? How was I supposed to know what to do next? And if they were ours, how on earth were we going to do this right NOW?!

When I got home, Lauren texted me their names and ages. I immediately realized that they were born in 2013 and 2015, when I had been overwhelmed by the need to pray for an orphan.

When Aaron got home from work, I told him about the photos and he was obviously just as blindsided as I had been. We decided to take some time to pray that God would show us definitely if they were our kids and if so, clearly tell us what to do next.

After all, we still hadn’t bought a house after 3 years of serious farm shopping. Adopting before we found our forever farm just didn’t make any sense at all.

We spent five days agonizing over these kids. I cried myself to sleep every night. It was all we talked about, all we thought about, all we prayed about.

We kept finding ourselves staring at their photos. It was like an ultrasound photo, it doesn’t really tell you much about your child but when its all you have you can’t help but look at it over and over again.

On the sixth day, Lauren called and said that all week God had been telling her to call me and give me a message but she had been fighting Him on it. She said she felt like it wasn’t her place to tell us this because she knew that it was crazy and not at all what we’d want to hear.

“God wants you to pursue your children. If you pursue your children, He will provide.”

When Aaron got home, I told him what she’d said. He said that all week he’d been praying that God would speak clearly and tell him what to do next. No matter what it was, he would be obedient.

So that night, in our tiny two bedroom rental house, only one week after realizing that adoption was definitely in our future, we filled out an adoption application for our kids.

As the pages of the application slid through the scanner, I felt that heaviness lifting and being replaced with peace.

We had spent a full week agonizing over what God was calling us to do because it seemed so crazy, so illogical. But in that moment, we both felt such confidence in answering His call.

I won’t lie and say we haven’t freaked out about the logistics of it all since then.

Its a LOT of money. We still haven’t moved into a larger house. The paperwork seems endless. There are days that I’m completely overwhelmed with worry about our kids’ health and safety.

But all of that worry and stress is NOTHING compared to the agony we were feeling as we tried to pursue our plan and instead of God’s.

Most of all, nothing compares to the love we have for those two precious faces we know only through photos and our dedication to do whatever it takes to bring them home.

So now what?

Now we throw ourselves into paperwork, moving into a bigger house and lots of waiting. 

Three weeks ago we were able to move our kids out of the orphanage and into a foster home in Congo. They are now living with a wonderful Christian family who can love on them and provide them with healthy living conditions, medical care (when needed) and bottled water. We are able to contact the foster family whenever we need and they will send us regular photos of the kids.

Most meaningful to me, they now know that we will be adopting them!

For a month we had been loving them so hard from the other side of the world but they had no idea. Now their foster family has started to explain everything to them and showing them photos of our family. Now they know that we are working as quickly as we can to bring them home!

One of our update photos from our sweet foster family!

Still have questions?

I’ve done my best to answer them in this FAQ post.

Want to read all of my adoption related posts? You can browse the Adoption category.

How can you help?

We will be doing a few fundraisers along the way. The best way to stay up-to-date on those is to give my facebook page a like and follow me on instagram.

We are currently selling t-shirts, featuring the lyrics to a song that God used to comfort us when we answered His call. Click here to order a t-shirt.

You can also donate via our YouCaring page. We’ll post updates there as well.

Most of all, we appreciate your prayers. 

Please pray for our kids’ health and safety. We know that we can’t do anything to protect them right now so we have to keep reminding ourselves that God has them in His hands.

Pray for our foster family, who has so lovingly opened their home to our kids.

Pray for our house situation. We are hoping to close on a house in the next few weeks but we know these things are often delayed. We have done everything we can on our end so now we just have to pray that nothing comes up between now and closing! (We have to move into our new house before we can make any more progress in the adoption process).

Pray for the government both here in the U.S. and in the Congo. That they will act in the best interest of these kids and the immigration process will go smoothly.

Pray for Aaron and I. That every decision we make is guided by God and not our personal worries and fears. That we do what is best for all four of our kids.

From all SIX Harned’s, thank you for your prayers and support. It means so much to us!


Farm Mom Favorites: Baby Carriers

If you follow me on instagram, you know I’m a bit obsessed with wearing my baby boy in our baby carriers. On the farm, at the grocery store, while cooking supper… pretty much all the time.

Baby wearing was something I knew nothing about when I was pregnant with my oldest. I’d see moms wearing their babies and automatically assume they were extreme “attachment parents.”

Then I actually became a mom and tried to work-at-home with a baby.

Suddenly, I understood!

Babies need to be held while you need to cook or vacuum or wash dishes.

They go through phases when they will only sleep on top of you.

They learn to walk one day and learn to run the next so you have no choice but to carry their 25 pounds of wiggling craziness everywhere you go.

Needless to say, investing in a really good baby carrier was on the top of my Baby #2 shopping list!

I spoke to lots of mom friends and researched different brands. I wasn’t interested in wraps, partially because I’m not very coordinated and partially because I make heavy babies. I specifically researched what’s called a “soft structured carrier” or as I called them “the kind with buckles.”

Eventually, I narrowed my search down to three brands: Tula, Kinderpack and Lillebaby.

After trying on a few, I felt like the Tula was the best fit for my lifestyle. To understand how I came to that conclusion, here’s my pros and cons of the other brands.

*** This post contains affiliate links. Your support is greatly appreciated! Opinions and experiences shared are 100% my own. ***


Pros: Has a plus sized strap option.

Had I realized that my husband would wear our baby as much as he does, I probably would have tried to order a Kinderpack with plus straps for him. The Tula straps fit him fine but because his shoulders are so broad (think offensive lineman) he would be a bit more comfortable on longer wears if he had the extra padding the KP’s plus straps provide. (As you can see below, it doesn’t stop him from baby wearing though!)

Cons: Less availability in patterns/prints, highest retail price

I spent about 4 months looking at different pattern and print releases before ordering a carrier. In that time, Kinderpack never released a print I liked. Sure there were some cutesy ones, but nothing gender neutral and timeless.

At a retail price of $179, Kinderpacks were the highest priced of the carriers I was considering. They are also the smallest company so the supply of KP carriers with plus straps was very limited. Even if I wanted to purchase one used (in order to get a discontinued print that I liked) it was almost impossible without paying even more than retail.


Pros: Lowest retail price

Lillebaby Complete carriers (the comparable model to my Tula) come in at $130.

Note: Some people prefer Lillebaby because it does allow the baby to forward face in a position that is safe for their hips. Personally, I would never forward face a child while baby wearing for several reasons. This post sums them up well

Cons: Mostly solid colors, lumbar support

I really wanted a patterned carrier so that it would help hide the dirt, drool, spit up and other nastiness my farming and mom life would inevitably get all over it.

The lumbar support is a feature that Lillebaby really promotes. Some people love them, some people hate them. Personally, I didn’t find that it made much of a difference in comfort while wearing, it just made my back sweaty. Once you figure out how to properly wear a carrier, there’s not a whole lot of strain on your lower back anyway.

Now… let’s talk Tulas!


Balance of function and style

Tula Standard Baby Carriers come in a very wide range of patterns and prints, from solid colors to cartoon animals to geometric patterns to abstract designs. You name it, there’s probably a Tula that fits your style. Unlike a Lillebaby, Tulas are a simple carrier. Not a ton of snaps and flaps and buttons. Everything on my Tula adjusts by tightening or loosening straps, simple but very functional.

My first Tula was the Equilateral, a triangle pattern in different shades of green with dark grey straps. Its still my favorite!


Tulas are widely available. You can order them directly from Tula, on Amazon, purchase them at Target or at locally owned boutiques. I ordered my first one directly from Tula but many of my friends have purchased theirs with Amazon or Target gift cards they received as baby shower gifts.

There is also a huge market for used Tulas, especially in facebook groups. Certain prints are discontinued and highly sought after but the average standard canvas Tula is available for $20-$50 below retail, depending on the print and condition.

I actually purchased my second Tula used for $90. (Its a multicolored chevron called “Stitch”). I wanted something cheaper to use on the farm and at livestock shows. The previous owner had used it for all three of her kids and all that use made the canvas panel so soft and the straps extremely easy to adjust. I was fully expecting that I wouldn’t really like my used Tula but I loved having one that was already broken in!

High weight limit

The weight limit on a standard Tula is 45 lbs. (The toddler size Tula is significantly larger and goes up to 60 lbs). I knew that this meant my Tula would accommodate my baby from birth until he had outgrown the need to be worn. That was a major selling point for me.

My oldest was 4 when we got our first Tula and since she was still within the weight limit, we gave it a try. I was shocked at how well the Tula distributed her weight and how comfortable it was for me to wear her. I loved knowing that if the need arose, I could put her in the Tula too.

This came in extremely handy for a couple of doctors visits that required shots or blood draws for both kids. Because I had two Tulas, I was able to “tandem wear,” which means wearing both kids at the same time. (One on the front and one on the back).

For moms of twins or kiddos close in age, tandem wearing is a game changer!


Requires an infant insert. 

My least favorite thing about Tulas is the need for an infant insert until baby weighs 15 lbs. Since the infant insert is sold separately, you’re looking at an extra $40.

A lot of moms will tell you they just rolled up a receiving blanket under baby’s bottom until they were big enough to go without the insert. Obviously, Tula does not recommend doing that for safety reasons because it creates a lot of room for operator error. Being a baby wearing newbie, I bought the insert just to be on the safe side.

Personally, I much preferred using the insert to a rolled up blanket. It provides more stability for their back and I felt comfortable bending over and doing things with my older child while wearing my newborn. As the baby gets bigger, you can remove the back part of the insert and just use the pillow below their bottom until they’re big enough to go without it.

In the Spring of 2017, Tula came out with a new kind of carrier called the “Free to Grow” that does NOT require an infant insert. I’ve heard lots of good things about them from other moms online but since my kids are passed the newborn stage, I don’t have any personal experience with them.

Using the infant insert to ensure a proper, safe fit in the Tula. In the middle photo, Landon fell asleep and I was able to lay him down without waking him.

So right now you’re probably thinking, “Um… isn’t the price a con?”

With a retail price of $149 and an additional $40 for the infant insert, I can understand the sticker shock.

Or maybe you’ve heard from your cousin’s best friend’s hairdresser that she had “a $30 carrier and she swears it was just as good as the expensive ones.”

Let’s clear up a couple of things… I wear my baby 3-5 times a week. Sometimes 7 days a week. I almost always wear him for more than an hour.

When I invested in my carriers, I wanted to make sure I was investing in something that would be comfortable for both baby and I for hours of consecutive wearing, whether he weighed 10 lbs or 30 lbs.

When Landon weighed about 20 lbs I tried him in an Ergo carrier my friend had. The straps are significantly thinner than my Tula straps which made them cut into me, especially in the back of the waist strap.

The weight distribution was the biggest difference I noticed.

I can adjust my Tula in several different spots to ensure a comfortable fit for my baby and that his weight is distributed across my back instead of him just being dead weight pulling down on my shoulders.

No matter what I tightened and adjusted, I just couldn’t seem to get the Ergo to distribute his weight in a way that would be comfortable for wearing for an hour or more.

Yes, a Tula is a more expensive carrier but it is also more suited for the way I baby wear. I love them just as much now as I did when he was a newborn.

Baby wearing has allowed me to get so much more done as a work-at-home mom!

To sum it all up, baby wearing with our Tulas has been wonderful for our family!

It has allowed me to get more work done on my computer. It gives me two free hands to cook, craft and play with my oldest. It takes up MUCH less space in my vehicle than a stroller.

Being able to baby wear on the farm has allowed me to play a more active roll. It allows my son to safely be a part of nearly everything I do on the farm or at a livestock show.

Baby wearing has been a game changer for us at hog shows. 

My son is able to nap in the carrier and I can still take photos or help my siblings with their pigs. We don’t have to worry about bringing a stroller up and down the aisles of the barn and all the safety risks that come with it.

My arms aren’t sore at the end of a long show day from holding a 25+ lb baby!

Now that he’s walking (and by walking I really mean running) I know when he’s in the carrier he is safe and won’t be trying to run off and get himself hurt!

Baby wearing has made our farming and livestock showing life so much easier, whether I’m working or watching. Left photo by Rae Wagoner.

Trust me, if someone had told first-time-mom me that she would someday invest nearly $300 in baby carriers, she would have NEVER believed it. 

I promise, that our Tulas have been worth every penny! 

P.S. Tula has a ton of great resources on their YouTube channel if the actual act of baby wearing is overwhelming you. These are hugely helpful for learning how to wear your baby properly, in a way that is both safe for baby and comfortable for you.

*** This post contains affiliate links. Your support is greatly appreciated! Opinions and experiences shared are 100% my own. ***