Monday, December 14, 2009

Jesus loves you!

Last week was quite crazy and stressful, and I had been sending up many prayers for peace and patience.  As I was heading off to grocery shopping a little harried I hear Eli say from the backseat..."meshmush muves wu".  So I say, "what was that honey, could you say it louder"?  This time I hear..."JESUS LOVES YOU MOMMY"!  Melt my heart.  Just what I needed to hear and something I have never heard come out of his mouth before so I know it was a message sent special delivery.

*update*  He has continued to tell me this everyday, and even brought me his bible and turned to the page with Jesus in the manger and said "see mommy, I'll show you" and he points to Jesus with a stubby finger..."Jesus loves you"!

Friday, October 16, 2009


Sometimes living in the city can just make you feel so boxed in with all the roads, buildings, cars, and concrete.  At those times I find it difficult to see God's creation in my surroundings.  

Today is a beautiful day here in TX.  The sun is shining, the air has a fall chill, and there is a slight breeze.  I decided to take the boys up to have lunch with Daddy.  As I was sitting at the same stoplight for a couple of turns due to a stalled car in front of me, I turned my head and looked out at the slope down to my left and was just stricken by the beauty of God's creation.  There next to me was some 2 foot tall grasses waving in the breeze and for a moment I totally forgot where I was and just saw God's hand brushing the tips of those grasses.  Such a feeling of peace.

What a simple reminder that God's creations are all around us if we just slow down long enough to see them...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Prayer Request

All summer I had plans for great blog posts. Fun pictures, little stories, prayer request, and answers to prayer. And before I knew it September was here!

I have to confess that I was going through a kind of rebellion...I know that sounds crazy since this is my own blog, but I am so ANNOYED that I can't post any pictures of our Max and Ellyana! How can I put up vacation pictures or summer fun and leave them out? This is our family blog and they are part of our family!

Their adoption should have been final by August, but unfortunately we have not been blessed this time around with an adoption caseworker who is at all motivated. Legally we could finalize anytime after June 30th, yet here we sit without a court date. I have emailed and called several times with no response from her personally. She did call our attorney and ask her if we would be interested in a phone finalization?! These kids have been through SO much and they are so excited to go to court and have the judge make their names officially Maximus Louis Johnston, and Ellyana Victoria Irene Johnston. If the dang caseworker would have done her part in July like she said she was going to we would already have our finalization done. Grrrrr...a phone finalization is not enough, they need their fresh start with a day at the courthouse and a celebration after.

The kids ask every week when they get to go see the judge and be adopted forever, and Max still sleeps with a little stuffed friend that the judge at Luke's finalization gave him...every night.

So this family is asking all of your families to be praying for our judges, caseworkers, support staff, and attorneys. We pray that if it is God's will, that mountains would move and we would be able to finalize on November 17th here at National Adoption Day. We pray that this case would not sit on the back of anyone's desk any longer, and that hearts would become motivated! We also pray for peace for Max and Elly...and a little more patience for Mom and Dad.

Thanks for the prayers and lack-of-posts patience...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Girly Stuff!

For all my girls...head to this website and have fun!

This mineral makeup company is from here in Austin, and while I am not a big makeup person this stuff is fun, cheap, natural (no yucky chemical additives) and works amazing!  I have been using the FREE samples they sent me for 2 months now and still have more than half left.  All you have to do is go to their website and click on the "Free Samples Get 'em Now" link, then add the samples you want to your cart.  I did purchase a long handled Kabuki brush to go with my samples but have continued to use my old blush brush, and and eyeshadow brush for the concealer.  You just tap a little powder in the lid of the container and brush it on!

I have never actually enjoyed choosing makeup before...maybe it's sitting at home, lack of squirmy kids in carts, no husband asking "how long can choosing a color possibly take?", but this rocks!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lowe's Mascot

This is a picture of Eli showing off his 1st Lowe's building project!  All the boys went to Lowe's on a Saturday morning and made birdhouses together.  Eli was even more proud of his goggles and apron than the finished birdhouse.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Ben has a great friend here who shares his tickets to UT basketball games when he can't make it.  Thanks Lane!  Those tickets are a BIG deal in the Johnston household and Ben rotates kids each game so that all will have a chance to go.  When it was Christian's turn to go they arrived a little early to the game and were checking things out when they were approached by someone from UT and asked if Christian would like to be part of the half-time show.  Christian was really excited and the pictures below are from the game and show.

The half-time show was a race between Christian and the boy in the picture.  They were to put on a team member's jersey and HUGE basketball shoes and dribble a ball to the basketball hoop at the other end of the court, make a basket and then turn around and come back.  The boys did awesome running in those huge shoes and then Christian was the first to make a basket and head back.  Both boys were given a gift bag with a UT towel, can cooler, team pennant, and t-shirt.  Christian also received 4 tickets to the Harlem Globetrotters game that was coming up. We found out after that the other little boy was a special guest that night.  He had been given a short time to live diagnosis due to a brain tumor.  Christian was very touched by the boys courage and strength and immediately asked Ben if he could give him the tickets to the Globetrotters.  Ben was very proud of Christian and encouraged him to run over and give them to the family.  Christian said "he could go to game another time, but he wanted that boy to have a chance now".  It was a good game, with good life lessons too.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


I am THE mom.

Why, you ask?

Because I use Sprinkles on top of our cream cheese frosted carrot bars!  When the 2 newest arrivals walked in with everyone else on Tuesday after school they were greeted with a fresh after-school snack.  All the other kids smiled and said yum.  But these 2 were awestruck!  "Wow, mom you are AWESOME"!  Two sets of eyes just stood there staring at the bars.

People say it is too hard to adopt older children, ha!  They just don't use sprinkles.  It's the little things in life people that add up to the most impact!!!  Kids who have had so much negative in their lives appreciate all the "sprinkles" with a freshness that inspires the whole family.

Below is our Grandma Vona's yummy Carrot Bar recipe, because you all deserve some sprinkles!:

4 eggs beaten
2 C sugar
1 1/2 C oil
1 tsp vanilla

Mix, then add

2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 C grated carrots
1 C chopped walnuts

Mix and pour in a greased and floured jelly roll pan. (I actually use my Pampered Chef 10 x 15 baking stone with no grease or flour)  Bake @ 350 for 1/2 hour, cool completely then frost with cream cheese frosting.

1/2 C butter
6 oz cream cheese
4 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Mix, spread, and then add sprinkles!

Monday, May 4, 2009

More "Meet Luke" Photos

At this point in his little life, everything is about his siblings!  He loves it when the bigger kids pile in after school :-)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Today's little funny...

Okay.  At the risk of messing up my "I can't believe you handle having all those kids so well" image everyone says I have (ha, ha), I am going to share the funny of the day.  

So most of you who know me well, know that I am slow as a turtle.  I am a bit of a perfectionist and as my darling Ben put's it...I have one speed, "slooowww".  I call it relaxed... This does not always help me with being on time for things, but I do honestly try really hard to do my best and have really, really improved with age.

Now, one would ask why God would bless such a slow women with 7 children?  Who knows.  I am guessing He thought it would be amusing to watch me take an already ridiculous get ready routine to new longer length levels?

To get on with the I took Isabelle to preschool as usual.  We arrived "right on time", and I waited at the door while she went in for the wave of "goodbye, I see my teacher".  At the door she turned to me and said "my class isn't here".  I told her that was silly, and that she needed to get further than the door to determine that.  She waved me off then and I started home, at which point I looked at the clock and realized that it was off by an hour.  Hmmm?  I proceeded to RESET the clock (brilliant, eh?) and pull in the driveway with the boys.  I get in the house and realize that the clock in the living room is the wrong time too...hello!  Race back to my phone to double check the time and finally figure out that I actually dropped Isabelle off an hour early to school!  I don't believe in the history of my life I have ever been an hour early for anything, thus the clear questioning of all the clocks around me...imagine my shock when I realized I had an extra hour in my day!!!  

Luckily we live around the block from the school, and I was already pulling in the parking lot when the school secretary called to let me know that Isabelle was patiently waiting in the office for me.  Knowing her mother very well, she laughed and told me I was "silly" and asked what we were now going to do until school?  Well, we did A LOT in that hour.  It was clearly a gift from God Himself and I was certainly not going to waste it!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Luke's Blog Debut

Adoption Finalization Day!

March 31st, 2009 we finalized Luke's adoption.  This day was so incredible for us, after all we didn't ask for this incredible blessing, and yet he's ours! On May 19th, 2008 we got a call from Lutheran Social Services.  They asked us if we would consider taking a 2 week placement of a 48 hour old infant boy?  He was to go with birth family after child protective services contacted them.  Ben happened to be home early from school that day, so I turned and asked him what he thought.  "Two weeks?" he said..."why not?".  Probably some of the most memorable phrases uttered in this household.  Luke arrived 1 hour later in his little hospital t-shirt and bracelet.  That night I went in to find a verse on my dated bible study...Isaiah 9:6 says: For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders...

Birth family was not a safe option for our little Luke, and after we met his birthmother in June she relinquished her rights with the understanding that we would adopt him.  God's plans for us are so amazing are they not?  We certainly did not know we were to have the honor of raising another son last May, but God has known all along!  Now that the adoption is final I can finally post some pictures of this adorable little man!

Blog world, meet Luke Nathan...
Born: May 17th
Weight: 7lbs 8oz
Length: 19 3/4 inches


Thursday, March 5, 2009

New Wheels

I just realized I never posted the photo of the new "beast" in the family!  We did end up getting a nine passenger Ford Excursion and will be putting in a "little seat" for extra seating.  At one point in our marriage we owned a Ford F-250 truck and that had seemed big, but nothing compares to parking this thing with all of us loaded in there, LOL!

We survived!

We did all survive the horrid flu bug that came through.  I really should have counted laundry loads due to sheets and bedding.  Luke had it the worst with 10 days of diarrhea and vomiting, not fun when they can't hold a bucket or warn you it's coming ;-).  Mr. Man was the ONLY one who did not get it!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

...on, and on, and on

Okay.  So for those of you who were laughing Ben's got it, Braeden, and we thought Eli was better until tonight at bedtime when he threw up again.  Six down, 3 to go.  I have completely disinfected the ENTIRE house, and took away hand towels in favor of paper towels (got some hilarious looks from the 3 who aren't sick)!  

Look out for this bug, it's nasty!


Just thought that I would add that this experience has given me an even greater appreciation for the family of Abby.  Abby has struggled with months of chemo with horrible side effects, my pitiful few days doesn't even compare!

But, it did feel better to vent and laugh at the absurdity of all of us being nursed by Ben at once.

I'm a grumpy old troll...

What. A. Week.  I intend to whine and complain, so feel free to leave at this point if necessary...

My mood tonight reminds me of that song from Dora that has a cute ring to it and talks about the grumpy old troll, who lives under the bridge.  Those who know me well, know that I cannot handle vomit.  Just the word makes me gag.  I inherited this dislike from my father, who also instantly gags at the sight, smell, or mention of it.  I will be taking up this issue with my heavenly father when I go home for good...why on earth did he feel the need to torture all of us with this yucky bodily function.  Honestly, I would rather have strep throat any day!

So we start out with Eli on Sunday night, me (Mom) at 1:30 am last night, Luke at 9:30 pm, and Isabelle at 10:30 pm.  This is the first time I can remember that we have ever had this many sick ones at once.  Usually one or two will get it and I manage to disinfect well enough that the rest escape.  The most unfortunate part of this viral bug is that only one of us so far has known to use the toilet.  Thankfully we have lots of wood floors and I had thought ahead to remove crib bumpers and extra bedding just in case.

Thanking the good Lord for Ben!  He doesn't do diarrhea (head to toe doesn't even phase me), but he rocks when it comes to kids and stomach contents.  He came home early from school today, and is going to stay home to help tomorrow.  Definitely wins the Daddy of the year award!

Ahhhh, thanks for letting me whine.  I'm off to me warm, flat, coca-cola...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Here is an update that was posted on the Riggs family blog this morning...please continue to pray!  It does not matter that we don't know them personally, our Lord will hear all the prayers for this sweet girl and her hurting family...:

"This morning, Abby is about the same. Her little tummy is so swollen, she looks like she is going to explode. The infection area on her stomach around her feeding tube covers about the area of a dollar bill... red, blistered, inflamed. Just touching Abby's feeding tube sends her into a tailspin. The sores have not begun to improve yet and she can barely tolerate even wearing a soft diaper or panties. Going to the bathroom is torture.

Michelle is really tired but patiently tends to every need Abby has... taking her to potty, changing her clothes and bedding, feeding her, putting medicine and cremes on her, monitoring her I.V.'s, getting her drinks, keeping her distracted... watching the same video over and over 50 fifty times because that is what Abby wants to watch. (when Abby is done with chemo, I'm burning "Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast")

Michelle is the epitome of a mother willing to give up every comfort, all her time and ignore her own needs... to take care of her child. For those who hold the opinion that "adopted" kids are "not as much your child" as biological kids... well, I don't have to make any comments about that. Everyone who has ever adopted knows how absurd that is."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Please help us pray for Abby!

I have added a "blog badge" to the top right of our blog for a little girl we have been praying for.  Her name is Abby and she was adopted from Guatemala. At three years old, she was diagnosed with a high-risk, aggressive form of Leukemia. Certain genetic complications have put her chance of surviving the treatment at about 20%.  Her family is journaling their faith walk on their blog site and you can get daily updates for Abby there.  Just click on the badge on our site to go to the Riggs family site.  Abby seems to have taken a turn for the worse today and needs all the prayer she can get!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Just a little sliver...

Last night "Mr. Man" had a sliver in his foot.  To most of us a sliver means 2 things...a needle and tweezers.  We pull it out and ahhhh, much better!  This little sliver is a great example of the emotional pain that is "leftover" for these little people surviving foster care/adoption.

MM shows me his little sliver while I'm tucking him to bed last night.  I say, "okay honey, let's go in the bathroom where the lighting is better and we'll pull it out".  He says, "okay Mom".  We headed into the bathroom and I try to remove the sliver with my fingernails since it is already part of the way out.  No such luck, so we ask Braeden to bring us some tweezers.  We try the tweezers and still can't seem to get a grip on the dang thing.  At this point we have much squirming, some yelling (even before we touch it) and moaning.  I finally sneak downstairs to get a pin.  When I get back we try a few more times with tweezers, but he is definitely getting more agitated despite our reassurance that "Mom" has much experience with tweezers and Braeden shares stories to try and distract and calm him.  

I start to explain that I think it will be easier to just slide a pin in next to the sliver and pull it out...TOTAL PANIC.  I am talking instant sweating, tears, agitation beyond anything I've seen before!  Out of his mouth pours a story of horror involving a previous sliver, a large knife, needle and an irrational birth father.  The poor baby was scared to death of that tiny pin.  Emotionally and physically his whole being reacted instantly just at the sight.  We did our best to calm him, and through his unreal sweating and shaking quickly removed the sliver without further incident.  The relief and letdown was immediate.

The amazing part of this, is that he did trust me (and Braeden) enough to let us continue, and actually said that "he knew we could fix it".  However, it just shows how powerful a child's past hurts can be and how that can affect their whole little body.  So many foster children are labeled with all kinds of different things.  Mr. Man himself was labeled with a few that are complete hogwash!  Things that truly would have made him seem "unadoptable" to some.  The truth for many of these kids, is that they can't always control their reactions to a situation because their brain is telling them that they are in extreme danger due to past circumstances.  I think it would do the world a whole lot of good if we would remember that when we are working with children, especially those that come from a broken past.  We don't always know the past of a child we meet...but are so quick to judge an unusual or extreme behavior.  Take the time to try and find out what is behind the strange actions with a kind word, caring look, or if appropriate soft touch and we just might be surprised how much healing and peace that could bring.  Understanding and acceptance can go a long way.  Once a person can process the pain and fear in a safe environment, I don't believe the next reaction to that type of situation will be so extreme.  

I carried MM back to bed and carefully tucked his still quivering body in.  He wrapped his arms around my neck, and said "I love you Mom" and explained again his "overreaction" to me.  The sweet boy wanted to make sure that I wasn't mad at him for being scared.  He healed another wound a little bit last night.  The scar will always be there, but his gentle relieved cry and soft sigh when he rolled over, assured me that there was healing.  God-willing, the next sliver will be a whole lot less scary.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Little Snippets....

I have been trying to put together an update all week and honestly could not find any spare energy at the end of my day. We have welcomed 5 different newborns to this family, but not one new baby can compare to adding a walkin', talkin', love-needin', insecure, tryin' to find their place in this scary world "big kid". We have discovered a new kind of exhaustion. It is an extremely blessed, happy exhaustion, but emotional exhaustion none the less.

Here are some fun, happy things we are seeing and hearing:

-Girls laughing, giggling, and chasing eachother around the house

-Boys clicking lego pieces together and sharing the awesome finished products with eachother

-Kids praying for eachother, and asking eachother for prayer

-The sharing of beloved stuffed friends from one brother to another to comfort a newcomer with his nightmares

-A hug from one little sister to comfort a new big sister at the end of her good cry

-Amazing noise and chaos outside on the green machines and bikes (I'm sure this used to be a quiet street ;-)

-"I did it!" after hours of homework practice for 2 kids so behind in school due to circumstances they couldn't control

-"Mom and Dad" screeched from all 7 of our children

-"Mom, will you wash my hair"

-"Dad, can I come too?"

And the practical update...we did sell our Grand Caravan this week quicker than we thought and are now crazily shopping for a 9 passenger (or bigger) vehicle. The Suburban only seats 7...brilliant planning eh? We have also discovered that an extra large front loading washer/dryer would be WONDERFUL!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Celebrating New Journey's

Today I sit here, finally able to find a sliver of a moment to write an adoption update. This is day 10 in our latest adoption journey, and while I have not been very faithful in updating through our blog in the past, I am hoping to do better in the future. It is so hard to keep track of who we email, and who we don't, so the blog was supposed to help with this problem...that way anyone can check for and update whenever there is time. With all the privacy issues surrounding our new additions we have to be very careful, and we can't post photos of their sweet faces until all is final. We can post fun things that are said and done, or things learned by all that day!

After 2 private domestic adoptions we thought we had seen and done it all. We were experienced. We understand bonding, respect and love our children's birth families, love the culture and heritage they originate from, and are so thankful for the blessings of Isabelle and Eli.

Starting the foster-to-adopt/straight adopt process seemed like an easy thing to do for us. Much of the paperwork was already in order, and the training classes were a breeze. What we were not prepared for we felt would be easy to learn as we went along, so we jumped in with eager hearts! We were licensed in January of 2008 and had our first placement of a sibling group of 2 in March. It was a sibling group of a 5 year old girl and a 2 month old boy. They were beautiful, precious children with very typical issues for first time foster children. There were some heavier circumstances that necessatated a move, but honestly that placement scared the pants off of us and made us think we were crazy for even considering this program. It felt as though all the fears that had stopped us in the past from pursuing this avenue had been thrown before us in a short 5 day period. We told our agency that we were only interested in a little girl younger than Isabelle and had several other ideas of what we could handle.

Insert Luke. Our two week placement! We call him our bonus baby, the little guy we TOTALLY didn't plan but fit right in. We knew he was meant to be here, but that still didn't answer the lingering feeling that we had another little girl waiting to be ours...

Then along came the "little sweatheart" we have mentioned before....the almost placement we had in August. We said goodbye to her in the beginning of December as she moved on to be with her family in Florida. It was a bittersweet goodbye with big hugs, hidden tears, and huge prayers. But God had known we needed that little girl for perspective. She had shown us how wonderful the right placement of an older child could be....and we had let the agency know we were again open to older children. The week after we said goodbye to her, we got the call that made us a family of 9!

For those who didn't get our email or that only read the blog, we just welcomed a sibling group a 2 into our family. Our new daughter is in 5th grade and our new son is in 1st grade. They are beautiful kids with amazing smiles and a twinkle in their eyes!

It was such a time of learning for us as we made it to this point. We got phone calls asking us to take babies after Luke, babies that our hearts wanted but we knew logically we couldn't handle. We found out that we made it to selection staffing (the meeting that the CPS staff has to select a family for a child) and were chosen for 2 different sibling groups of 2 the same week. That week also happened to be the same 5 days that we had the placement I mentioned above...the one that almost closed our doors forever. We submitted our information/homestudy for many children that "we knew for sure" were ours, but then never heard anything from the caseworker. Each time we put ourselves out there we would pray before we did it, and put a piece of our heart on the line. "No" actually became a welcome answer, because it was better than hearing nothing and wondering if a family had been chosen.

But, you see...that is the best part of a faith walk....the journey when you look back. You can see God right there, guiding your decisions and helping you to grow in Him. The amazing similarity between all 5 of our adoptions is simple to see. The exact moment that we gave up on trying to control the situation we were in, and just asked God to let us know when He needed us...asked Him to show us who our child was to be, that was when we got the call. Not once was it who, or what, we thought it would be. Each time better than what we could have asked or hoped for!

Now that the journey is officially on the blog I feel like I can move on and post things that happen in our day. I can use Luke's name because that is what we use now but it was not his given birth name. His adoption should be final this March. I will call our oldest female addition "little miss" on the blog and our oldest male addition "mr. man" for privacy sake :-)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Our 13th Wedding Anniversary!

Ben and I have so much to be thankful for over the last 13 years. God has richly blessed us with a best friend in eachother, many life experiences, wonderful children, a beautiful home, many years at home for Angie, a dream "job" for Ben, extraordinary friends, loving family, etc.... Thank you Lord, for the years you have given us and may there be many more!

Fun Holiday Stuff

This Christmas season we had a fun experience at the Polo club here in Austin. They hosted a party for foster/foster to adopt families that was so much fun for all! The highlight of the day was definitely the horses...and the cookies with all-you-can-pile-on frosting...and facepainting too.