plan interrupted

plan interrupted

When I was 15 I had a plan.

  1. Graduate college
  2. Find a man
  3. Get married
  4. Adopt a dog
  5. Be adopted by a cat
  6. Have kids
  7. Live happily ever after

My life soooooo didn’t go according to plan.

I didn’t graduate college till I was almost 30.   I had two failed marriages.  The dogs and cat didn’t come till after I turned 30. And children of my own body will never happen.  Some of the reasons my life didn’t go according to plan are my fault, some were things that were never in my control to begin with.

Like many couples, we struggled for years to have children.  Eventually we made the life altering decision to open our hearts to adoption.  (Let me just say here that this was not a decision we made lightly, nor was it an attempt to replace childbearing.  Adoption is an entirely different emotional adjustment and needs to be approached with prayer and care)

That said, we went through the process and were eventually selected by a young couple to raise their baby that was due in approximately 5 more moths.  We really bonded with them.  They said it was very important to them for their child to be raised in a Christian home.   They let us pray with them.

Just a month later we got a call from another agent.  An Emergency Situation – a baby had been born in a local hospital and the mother had just walked out.  Classic abandonment.  Did we want the baby?  Martin and I looked at each other…we were tempted.  Oh so tempted.  We could honor our agreement with the first couple and wait for their baby, or go right now and come home with a baby today.  Oh we were tempted.  That’s when grief unresolved rears its ugly head.  My arms ached to hold a baby, any baby. But we prayed, and felt a sense of peace about honoring our agreement with the first couple.  We felt good about that decision.

Then it happened again, the very next week. Similar situation.  This time it was twins.  Oh my word!  But again we decided to wait and go with the couple we had already committed to.

We were now just a month or two away from her due date.  It looked like our happily ever after was just around the corner.

But …(why is there always a but?)

A week later this couple, that had been so open and sweet turned out to be dishonest.  They chose to disappear with a large chunk of money and a huge piece of our hearts.

We were devastated.

We were in shock.

Why had God allowed us to connect so well with this couple? Why did He allow them to defraud us? Why had He given us such peace about continuing with a couple that HE knew was going to wrong us?  A couple that he knew was lying to us and their own extended family?

Some good things came out of the situation.

We watched our agent display integrity and compassion.

We were able to be a witness to the couple through our opportunity to show them mercy and not press charges. As well as the various kindnesses along the way.

Maybe God’s purpose was the timing?  For those of you who have met Ginny,  you know the story turns out well.  But did you know that she is a miracle of timing?

The very same weekend that we had been invited out to meet our first couple.  The very same weekend that we were supposed to go to an ultrasound appointment with them

Is the same weekend, even the same HOUR that Ginny’s birth parents  were having an ultrasound that showed them Ginny.  That was when they were making their decision that would lead to us adopting Ginny.

We didn’t know it at the time of course.  All we knew was that we had been hurt by one couple and we didn’t know what to do next.  Weeks later when I eventually saw the ultrasound for Ginny, the time and date stamp just leaped right off the page at me.  I got chills.

Was that the purpose of the whole mess with the first couple?  Was God just trying to keep us on hold with them so that we wouldn’t jump at those two abandonment situations?  Was he trying to make sure we would be ready and waiting when Ginny’s birth parents were ready to make their decision?

Maybe.  It is certainly one pattern that I can see. But was that God’s purpose?

I don’t know.

I may never know.

But here is the key to the whole thing

I don’t need to know.

It is enough for me to know that God is good.  I can trust that God did have a purpose in everything that lead us to Ginny.  NOT because I finally have my fairy tale, but because all things are in God’s control and he works all things together for HIS GLORY

HE interrupted my plans (multiple times, but who’s counting?) so that He could give me something far greater than anything that was on my pristine plan.

Yes Ginny is nearly eight now, but I still marvel at how beautifully God orchestrated events so that Ginny would be part of our family and we would be forever part of hers.




be still my thankful heart

Okay.  Time for an update on our adorable three year old girl.  Virginia Altie Aspen Gerard Russell……

This was the summer of new things for Ginny.  She rode a horse for the first time, flew on a plane and was aware of it (she has flown 15 times already, but she was under two at the time so she wasn’t aware of flying as such), went from diapers to potty trained in under two months, and swam away from her papa’s arms  (okay, she was using floating thingies on her arms, but she swam away from him instead of clinging.)   She sleeps in a big bed now and she is taking ice skating lessons. She can climb into a swing all by herself and does NOT want a starting push.

the horse's name was Pancho

Ginny used the speakerphone to call her birth-mommy Mel on Mel’s birthday and is showing more awareness of the idea of having two mommies and two daddies.  She knows these two people are important, but doesn’t really grasp why yet.

She loves her school and enjoys her teachers and she sings all the time.  If you ask her to play high notes on the piano she goes to the right end of the instrument, low notes, she goes to the left.   If left alone for more than two seconds she can pick a video, open it, put it in the VCR and play it.  She has lost her fear of cameras and turns into a total ham during family photo shoots.

Russells, Weltons and one Merrell in Boulder

But the accomplishment we are proudest of doesn’t show physically.  It can’t be measured on a growth chart.  Something has clicked within just the last week for Ginny.  She is showing a greater awareness of others. Their hurts, their needs and their impact on her world.   In short she is grasping the edges of the concept of compassion (a topic fairly dear to my heart)

One example of this can be seen in her prayers.  We pray with Ginny every night. Most nights Martin and I go through a list of her closest people and some far away relatives and just pray for God to bless each one and keep them safe.  Three weeks ago when her skating coach, Deena, was going in for elbow surgery we added her to the list and Ginny made an interesting connection.  She interrupted the prayer to say “pray for my elbow too”  “what?”  I asked.  Ginny repeated it “Pray for my elbow too.  It hurts like Deena’s does”  I found out later that Ginny had fallen in nursery that morning and bruised her right elbow.  To me it is interesting that Ginny had enough empathy to connect the two unrelated items.

Ginny's skating coach Deena

Then about two weeks ago, Ginny added “pray for Granddaddy.  He hurts.  He hurts all the time.  Pray for him.”  Which makes perfect sense when you know what my dad is facing these days.  But the thing is that none of us had discussed it with Ginny yet.  Clearly she is picking up on the conversations around her and we are going to have to discuss the particulars with her soon.  Again the level of concern for another human being surprised me.  She is only three after all.

Taking turns.  This is a tough concept to grasp….even for some adults.  We have started really making it plain that other people have rights too.  So in the car we each get one song at a time.  Ginny’s turn to pick will usually result in ‘Bob the Tomato’ singing “This is the Day that the Lord has made”  or something from SEEDS family worship, mama’s turn normally involves Travis Cottrell, Josh Groban or the Indigo Girls, and Papa’s turn defaults to Amy Grant alot.  Sunday morning we got in the car and I asked Ginny what song she wanted for her turn…she said “Mama’s song first.  Let’s do mama’s turn first.”  to say I was stunned would be grossly understating the case.  (however it took me scant seconds to recover from shock and cue up Travis Cottrells’ new CD, song #2 )

Another way Ginny is relating better to those around her is in what most people consider to be “polite behavior.”  The normal “Please and Thank You” routine.

What Martin and I are aiming for here is more than just parroting of please and thank you though.  We have tried everything we know to instill the idea of real gratitude into Ginny.  She’s had the outward trappings for quite a while now.  Mostly when prompted, she will say “thank you”    But recently she stepped it up a notch…..she gives a full description of what she is saying “thanks” for.   And she uses (mostly) full, grammatically correct sentences.

  • After breakfast Sunday morning – “Thank you for breakfast Grammy!  For the waffles, and fruit and milk!”
  • After her ice skating lesson- “Thank you Miss Deena for skate with me!”
  • When her friend Annabelle helped Ginny up after Ginny fell down – “Thank you Annabelle.  Look Mama, Annabelle helped me up!”  And she helps her friend Annabelle up when Annabelle falls.  They fell alot that day because they were running races across the grass and jumping into leaf piles.
  • When any guest leaves our house Ginny knows to go to the porch and wait for the person to drive away so she can wave and say “thank you for coming!”
  • After a ride on the carousel – “Thank you for the ride horse!”
  • And to the operator of the carousel – “Thank you!  Bye bye!”
  • She stunned a waitress the other day, Ginny was out of rice and she asked “May I have some more rice please?”  and when the rice arrived at our table she said “Thank you for the rice!”…oh and Ginny eats with chopsticks too, but that really should be saved for another brag session on some other day.

Now all this may be because Martin and I have drilled it into her to say “thank you”  and we try to model what we ask of her by thanking Ginny for things and actions.  But we never specified that she had to give detailed descriptions of what exactly she was thanking the person for.  She added that all on her own.

All of which may give the impression that we are raising either an angel in disguise or some kind of repressed child with rigid controls set all around her.  Thank goodness Ginny is NOT an angel.  She can still be selfish and rude and demanding and throw fits like any self respecting toddler.  She even was rude Saturday to one of her favorite people on the planet – her coach.  Yes, we know we can’t control her.  She is one long lesson in self control to both mama and papa actually.

But clearly, at least in this one area, something has just clicked into place with the whole ‘thankful heart’ concept.

Ginny achieved new heights in politeness this past Saturday.  We had been shopping at Fry’s Electronics store and stopped for lunch at their cafe.  They didn’t really carry any children’s sandwiches, so I got a ham and cheese on rye for us to split  (yes, my child eats real adult sandwiches.  She’s a foodie).  FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER we were done with lunch, paid out, and had gotten almost to the car when, unprompted,  this clear little voice pipes up from the stroller

“Thank you for coming and for sharing your lunch with me mama”

Be still my thankful heart!

ginny’s second birthday party

Hey folks.  Long time, no blog.  I know I know.

I’m gonna try to get back in the groove of posting more soon.

But until then, here is a slide show of SOME of the 1000 photos that Doug Mulford took at Ginny’s Second Birthday Party.

the party was at The Little Gym in Snellville.  I had always sworn I was NEVER going to pay to have a party at some venue outside my home for a childrens party.  yeh, I know never say never….

At the beginning of the summer we enrolled Ginny in a weekly class at the Little Gym and she loved it so much that we decided “oh what the heck, let’s have her party here too” and boy are we ever glad we did!

First of all two year olds have WAY too much energy to have a party at our house.  Our home can barely contain Ginny in an energetic mood, never mind 10 or 15 guest kids.  oi!  The Little Gym staff was amazing.  They did everything we paid for and then some.  When we arrived they made a point of asking what Ginny’s favorite games are.  Hide-n-seek? Peek-a-boo? Tag? So that they could tailor the group activities to HER tastes!  Maybe other places do this too, but I am naive enough that I was impressed.

Anyway, her favorite thing in the whole world to do these days is (in her own words) Bouncy! Bouncy! Bouncy!  so they extended the time the kids get to play on the bounce…thingy.

I will post an update on her words and current doings soon, but for now I’ll just say that Ginny is 34 inches tall, weighs 26 pounds and has the sweetest personality in the world.  I am daily amazed at this wonderful, complicated, cheerful, creative, energetic little girl that God has blessed us with.  “Thank you” doesn’t even begin to convey the feelings I have for Ginny’s birthparents, Mel & Steve.

The adventure that officially started in a hospital room in Kansas on the night of August 29th, 2008 continues.  I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Happy 2nd Birthday to my lovely

Virginia Altie Aspen Gerard Russell

19 months

Ginny is 19 months old now and I need to do a post chronicling her achievements.

  • walks,
  • runs (well sort of trots really),
  • climbs up anything,
  • knows how to turn on the TV/VCR at my mom’s house,
  • can find keys even when the adults are looking everywhere and can’t find them,
  • enjoyed finding Easter eggs,
  • knows how to pitch a very loud tantrum when she doesn’t get her way,
  • has developed sinus allergies/reactions to Georgia pollens so that we have to do a nasal spray ( I had kinda hoped she wouldn’t have that particular torture till later in life),
  • gives kisses on request,
  • blows kisses to almost everyone whether they ask for them or not,
  • insists on taste testing everything on mommy and daddy’s plates to make sure we are not withholding a treat of some kind,
  • eats (or at least tries) everything we put in front of her,
  • loves to pet and hug our dogs,
  • stacks blocks,
  • dances,
  • tries to jump (but only gets about a millimeter off the ground)
  • spins in place
  • throws a ball with some control over where she wants it to go
  • kicks a ball with no real control
  • waves arms like she is directing the chorus when we sing the blessing at our meals.

New Words that Ginny says (that I can recall off the top of my head)

cheese, toast, sausage, shoes, puppy, scarf (though it sounded more like scaaf when she said it, cookie (means anything cracker-like), no (this is actually only being applied as a real response to things instead of the normal toddler repetition), please, more, yes please (sounds like esspeees), Jesus ( she said this when I was singing Jesus Loves Me to her.  It sounded like “Eezus” but it was close enough to make my heart go all warm and fuzzy), byebye, jump, spin, horse, thank you (only it sounds kind of like “ankoo”, moose, on, off, kitty cat, ball, teeth, meow, hat, car, frog, turtle, eat and side (means outside, but all she says is side).

She understands WAY more than this of course, these are just the words that she speaks to us that qualify as understandable English.

I’ll post the entire file of these over on facebook, but here are a few photos from her 19 month/Grandma Altie came for a visit photo shoot.  Enjoy!

Ginny & Grandma Altie laughing at the photographer

two sweet girls

Ginny & MAK (the bear that used to be twice her size.....)

giving MAK a hug

thank you again Mel & Stevie for this incredible gift.

ginny’s first year in pictures

Enjoy this slide show.  I had fun putting it together.  This year has been an amazing journey.

Adoption match, meeting and loving Ginny’s birth parents, birth by C-section, trip home from Kansas, overwhelming baby shower from our church, constant care from friends and family, the month of RSV treatments, first tooth, first solid foods, first words, trips to Texas, Colorado and Mississippi, first time in a pool, first wedding, first birthday cake and many many more things I can’t even think of right now.

thank you Lord for your guidance and care. and Thank you Mel & Steve for trusting us with this precious gift.


really first day of school

okay.  Thursday should have been titled “School orientation” not first day of school.

I discovered the difference today.

Thursday I got to go in with Ginny and play on the floor.

Thursday was only for an hour and I got to stay with Ginny.

Thursday we got to follow her around her classroom with a camera like paparazzi (or completely crazed first-time-parents)


Today we had to walk her to her door and barely got a chance to snap three quick photos before she was off to play….

Today she didn’t look back.

Today I had to walk away and not check back in on her.  There is no one-way viewing window here like there is in her nursery.  I had to go four hours without knowing if my Ginny was having a good day, or was having a meltdown or something in between.

Today Martin had to practically wrestle me to the car to get me to leave her.  I hadn’t thought it would be so hard to do.  I knew I was coming back very shortly.  I knew she was in good hands.  I’ve left her with my mom for 8 or more hours at a time, why was this so difficult?

then it hit me – I can’t call.  I can’t check.  I can’t call the director of the school and have her go poke her head into Ginny’s classroom whenever I feel like I need an update.

I guess I have to grow up now.  ick.

Anyway, here are photos from Ginny’s first actual day at the Early Learning Program

bye mommy......I'm going THIS way

bye mommy......I'm going THIS way

sweet baby girl....can't I have one more hug?

sweet baby girl....can't I have one more hug?

learning to share

learning to share

We got a great report when we came back to get Ginny.  She didn’t have any conflict issues, or separation issues.  She ate her snack and her lunch.  She was happy to see us.  There is at least one other adopted child in her class, which is very good news.  And…the teachers said that Ginny spent a fair amount of time trying to comfort the other kids who were upset.  She patted them on their backs and made cheerful sounding chatter at them.

Isn’t that sweet?

and best of all – Ginny was super tired and CUDDLY for the rest of the day.  So I got lots of huggses and ticklins in to make up for being deprived all morning.

Photos from the party

As promised -here are photos of Ginny’s Birthday Party.

And for those who don’t do the youtube thing.  Here are a few single pictures from the event.

We played this fun game where one person has to guard the treasure chest full of party favors and other people have to try to steal them…without getting caught.  The catch of course is that the guard is blindfolded and only has two pillows as ammunition to throw at the interlopers.

Stephen guarding the "treasure"

Stephen guarding the "treasure"

Ginny...approaching the treasure

Ginny...approaching the treasure

Everyone played.  If you tried to grab treasure and got caught, it became your turn to guard.  Loads of fun and works well even in a confined space.  What makes this game non-dangerous even for little kids is that the squishy pillows we used were thrown at the interlopers.  Never used to HIT.  so no one gets hurt.

Then we brought out the cake.  The full video of that is on my previous post, but there are also slides in the slide show (above) that weren’t in the video that you need to see.  I think this is my favorite.

sharing the cake

sharing the cake

Or maybe this one where she is offering cake to anyone else who might want some.

cake anyone?

cake anyone?

Ginny voluntarily fed me, my mom and Martin handfulls of her cake.  And then started offering cake to anyone end everyone.  Oddly enough there were no takers.  I just don’t understand why!

After cake, Ginny was taken away to be bathed.

Proud Papa & sugar-stuffed baby

Proud Papa & sugar-stuffed baby

While Ginny was being bathed, the rest of the party goers helped themselves to cake and we played pictionary.  then Ginny returned, cleaned and with a bow on.  Ready to demolish wrapping paper.

clean Ginny. complete with bow.

clean Ginny. complete with bow.

Before you see a photo of all the presents I have to say something.  Most of you know that my husband lost his job. Actually his entire department at our university was cut.  So we are currently on a very tight budget.  Knowing that, the following pictures may seem somewhat shocking in their…um…excess.  The truth of the matter is that we bought most of this stuff spread out over the last 12 months.  As we saw stuff on sale that would fit Ginny later in life…we bought it.  Then about a week ago I started pulling it all out of the various hiding places and wrapping it…and oh wow had it added up to a mound of  STUFF!  then you add the gifts that our guests brought and the whole pile just looks positively obscene.

Honestly, she is not as spoiled as this.  I promise.

Now swear to respect me in the morning and I’ll show you the photo.

are you ready?


here goes.

Ginny's pile of loot

Ginny's pile of loot

Like I said, obscene isn’t it?

She spent a long time opening presents (including stuff from her birth-family whom we love!!!!), playing with stuff, reading cards, and giving hugs.

Eventually the last guest was gone and it was time for the bedtime ritual with daddy…..

brush teeth and say "good night!"

brush teeth and say "good night!"

Good night my sweet baby girl.

May God bless you, all your days.