At the Field

We’ve spent much of our summer at the ball field with Trent and Reid.  They both had an amazing season and we are so proud of them.

This was Reid’s first year playing ball and he enjoyed every minute of it.  He was right smack dab in the middle of his element.  While he is good at so many things, athletics is where he shines… not just shines… it’s where he can be him 100%.  I absolutely loved seeing it.  He gives it his all and his all is pretty darn good. I find him tossing anything and everything to himself and making up pretend baseball games with Cora and even his new pup.  I can’t wait to see more from him on the field.  After his last game, he said, “Mom, I wish I could play baseball every day of my life.”  I sure love his all in spirit.

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Reid Jun-Su Matthias, I am so proud of your hustle and drive.  Keep giving it your all.

If my math is right, Trent has been playing for 6 years.  He has no interest in any other sport and while he may not be as all in as his little bro, he enjoys it immensely.  When he’s in the dugout, he’s focused and all business.

This season was one of huge improvements.  He started the season getting hit pretty hard with 2 pitches at practice, and had some fear to overcome when batting after that.  However, he most certainly overcame!  He had some pretty big hits this year and in his last game hit a solid double which resulted in a RBI.  He was one excited kid.  I found myself way too preoccupied with the game, and have zero pics of him playing.

He was blessed with 3 experienced coaches this year who did a crazy amount of encouraging and just enough challenging to help move him along.

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It was most certainly his best season yet, and I loved watching him and his team improve so much!

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Our Cora Hope

coraadoption20170329_0019 copyAnnnndddd, it’s finally official. While she’s been Cora Hope Mahoney to us for quite some time, the judge made it legal today.  Sitting in that chair under oath was a bigger deal than I thought it might be. Ryan and I got to proudly testify today that we love her as our own and will provide and care for her as if she was of our own blood.  We testified that we understand her medical needs and while she’s thriving right now, we know that things could change at any time and we will always provide for any of her needs.
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We held her as the judge approved our request to finalize her adoption in the state of Missouri, and as he said that her name would no longer be Wen Hua Dang and that she would now legally be Cora Hope Mahoney.  At that moment, I kind of wanted to whoop and holler as my Uncle Robert would have but I restrained myself.  You see, her Chinese name was almost as generic as if the orphanage had called her by a #. Dang is the name that many orphans are given across China. Her name basically meant “ward of the state” or “orphan”, and she has not been an orphan for almost 16 months. Every time the doctor’s office or hospital calls for Wen Dang, I almost cringe. I know they don’t know any better but I hated it and her brothers and sisters did too. She has not ever for even one day been Wen Hua Dang to us, so having that judge say that her name is now officially Cora Hope Mahoney was huge to this mama who loves her more than life. coraadoption20170329_0021 copy 
 
Her name was chosen with intention and purpose. She is our Cora HOPE… my girl whose Heart (Cora) is filled with much HOPE because she was created and is loved by her Heavenly Father who formed her in her birth mamas womb with a very specific plan for her life. I believe that her beautiful birth mama placed her at the orphanage gate with HOPE of a greater life than she could give… HOPE that she would receive what she needed to live.  With HOPE He made it ever so clear that she was ours from the moment I saw her beautiful face.  He brought her to us to be loved and cared for as our child and because she is His child.  We stepped out with great HOPE in His plan as we said yes to her 2 years ago, not knowing if she would live a full life in our home or just months.  One year ago, we were clinging to that same HOPE as we pursued medical answers across the country for her beautiful heart.  And, we cling to this  same HOPE as we watch His plan unfold in her life.  Our Hope is not just in some random good happening in this great unknown.  Our Hope is that God has something greater than we could ever imagine planned out for her and for us.  Sometimes that plan involves incredibly hard stuff in this broken world, but we have Hope in our Savior that he will one day return and bring us to our heavenly home.  We pray that she will some day come to know Him as her Savior and Redeemer.  
Today, we celebrate in the fact that a judge made legal what we have known for quite some time. This girl is no longer an orphan, she is loved beyond measure, and she is named Cora Hope Mahoney.
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Cora Update

It’s been way too long since I’ve blogged and I’ve missed it. I think I can easily blame fb for my lack of effort and I’m going to regret not having this “journal” to look back at some day.  So, here’s to updating a little bit more.

It’s been a crazy year filled with more doctor appointments than I can count… appointments with 7 different specialists just for one kiddo plus all of the other routine stuff.  As you all pretty much know, Ryan, Cora, and I traveled to Boston with hopes that a bi-ventricular repair would be successful.  After a cardiac catheterization, Dr. Marx and Dr. Emani were confident that she was an excellent candidate for such repair.  So, on Sept. 2 we handed her over to someone we had only met once and prayed that God would hold her and give her back to us.  We waited at the end of this LONG hallway for our hourly updates.  We have done this surgery wait game too many times before but we always had friends and family to help pass the time.  This was extremely different.14192653_10154378958824376_3823669404296298539_n

After 8 long hours, we met with Dr. Emani and Dr. Marx who reassured us that the repair was successful and then we waited to see our beautiful girl.

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She was in the ICU for 6 nights with many ups and downs.  Our scariest day was when they pulled her PA line.  We knew that her blood was thinner than they like to see for this step but it was the one thing holding her back from progressing.  So, they had blood products in the corner of her room “just in case”.

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I remember assuming that they were being cautious and didn’t think we would actually need them.  The Dr. pulled the line, tied the stitch, cleaned up his tools, and then started to walk out of the room.  I looked at my beautiful girl and watched her face and hands go sheet white.  Her lips were gray and all color was gone from her face… in a split second.  The nurse looked at the monitor and told the dr. he wasn’t going anywhere.  She was indeed bleeding from her PA.  Within seconds, her room was filled with doctors, nurses, RT’s., and our prayers.  We sat back on our bench as we watched them working on her.  That cooler was opened and the contents saved her life.  We sat there and fearfully prayed. After several scary minutes, she was stabilized and then the next few hours were spent getting her blood volumes back where they needed to be.   We were blessed with the most amazing nurse that day and we are so incredibly thankful for her.

That evening, they let her rest and then in the middle of the night, they decided it was time to get her off of the ventilator.  Let me just say that it couldn’t have been worse timing as far as we were concerned.  We were emotionally and physically spent from the events of the day and if we had known that it wasn’t going to be smooth sailing, we probably would have asked for them to wait.  But, we didn’t know and they didn’t ask.  So, 3 days post op, she was extubated.  She wasn’t quite ready to fly solo so she quickly ended up on the bi-pap machine which she hated.  14264878_10154393500054376_2190262649073857893_n

That awful mask was basically clamped to her head so she couldn’t yank it off and we spent the next 24 hours in a battle of getting her strong enough and ready to be off of it.  I watched my sweet girl go from fighting it to surrendering to it.  That surrender was the worst part.  I prayed for her fight to come back because I knew we were stuck until it did.

We had an amazing nurse who did chest PT and suction on the hour which Cora hated but it kept that awful mask off so we soldiered through.

After 6 nights in the ICU, this girl made her way to the step down unit and we continued to see little glimpses of our sweet Cora return each day.  We were able to go on walks around the hospital and even out in the garden.  She loved getting out of her room and we knew that her discharge was coming soon.

My favorite and most frustrating thing about my girl?  Her stubborn, independent self.  There was absolute no bribing this girl to do something she didn’t want to do.  We were able to bribe Maggie along in her recovery to help her get stronger, but not Cora.  If she didn’t want to eat, walk, go to the bathroom, or even show the dr. her incision, she wasn’t going to.  Period.  However, it’s this fierce determination that has brought her to where she is now and this determination is pretty darn adorable too.

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So, after 10 days in Boston Children’s, we said goodbye to the two men who had given our girl a whole new chance at life.  God used these two to give her a quality of life that we never thought possible.  We are forever indebted to Dr. Marx and Dr. Emani and they will always hold a very special place in the hearts of our family.

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As Dr. Marx walked out of Cora’s room, we just kept saying thank you and he just kept giggling with that contagious smile.  He turned and look at us and said, “if only you could know… if you just knew.”  This is a man who truly cares for each of his patients and he was overjoyed to see such an amazing outcome.

Then, there’s this man.  He looked too young to know what he was talking about but he’s a genius.  He reworked her wonky heart to an even better wonky heart.  Seriously, her heart is still wonky but it’s a good wonky.  He’s quiet and humble and so precious to us.

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So, we left that place… “Cora’s hospital” with hearts over flowing in gratitude.  Somehow, she still has fond memories of it and even asks to go back.  I don’t know how that’s possible after all that she endured but I think somehow she knows.  She knows that’s where she started feeling better… feeling as a child should feel.

We kept her discharge a total surprise.  It killed me to not shout it from the rooftops but we didn’t want anyone spoiling the surprise for our kids.  After arranging the surprise with my parents and the kids’ teachers, we stayed the night near the Boston airport and flew home bright and early in the morning.  We surprised the kiddos at school and that was THE BEST.  They had no idea we had even left the hospital yet.  So, seeing their faces was indescribable.  We walked out of Crosspoint with ALL 5 kids better than ever and so incredibly thankful to the Giver of all Good Gifts.

Since then, Cora had some struggles with her heart and lungs catching up to the huge changes.  She had pretty significant pleural effusions for the first 3-4 weeks after coming home.  As of December, she is off all medications except one aspirin a day and doesn’t see cardiology for a whole year. She is happier than ever and thriving.

 

Let me introduce you to…

The Liggett Family

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I’ve known Sue for a few years through our MOPS group but it wasn’t until a few months after we adopted Reid that I really started to get to know Sue.  She is a friend who I respect and admire greatly, and I always know that when I ask for her input or advice that she will not give it without great thought.

Bruce and Sue are Mom and Dad to 6 and soon to be 7 amazing children.  Molly is 19, Mark is 17, Jamie is 15, John is 14, Julie is 7, and Jesse is 4.

After a very lengthy process, Bruce and Sue finally brought Julie home in November 2010 and they worked on settling in and doing the whole adoption transition thing.  In September 2014, the Liggett family of 6 traveled to China to become the Liggett family of 8 as they welcomed Jamie and Jesse with open arms.

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Their transition from 6 to 8 has had many bumps and I’ve watched as Sue and Bruce have taken each twist and turn with grace and strength.

Watching them walk this journey with quiet obedience was a tremendous encouragement to Ryan and I in our journey to Cora, and Sue has been one of my greatest cheer leaders the last 1 1/2 years.
This summer, Molly (19) spent an entire summer interning for Show Hope at Maria’s Big House of Hope in China and Mark (17) spent 2 weeks there.  I watched Sue send her two oldest children across the world knowing there was no way they would return unchanged.  While I know she was excited to see how God used them in the lives of “the least of these”, that excitement was also filled with a bit of trepidation as that changing can often mean big things for everyone dear to them.
However, once again, I watched her obey with quietness and grace. It is because of this continued quiet obedience that I was not surprised one bit when I received a text from Sue when we were in Boston telling me about a sweet little guy who had won Molly’s and Mark’s hearts this summer.  After all, Sue is the one who has told me more than once with a smile on her face, “never say you’re done because your plans are not always His”.  Bruce and Sue sought the Lord’s will as they made the decision to add this smiley boy to their family and they wait with great anticipation to bring him home.  Five year old, Sam was born with a rare birth defect where his bladder and intestines were outside his body.  He also has kidney issues and will require surgery for each of these once he is home.
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The Liggett’s hope that Sam Zhuang Russell Liggett will join their family in fall 2017.  Please join me in praying for the Liggett’s as they work towards bringing Sam home.  Pray that the Lord removes any obstacles so that he can join his family sooner than expected. Also, please pray for Sam’s health to remain stable as he waits in China.

Bringing Cora Home: Day 16… Home

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IMG_1873My journey to Cora and back was 16 days…  At the beginning of the journey it didn’t seem that long.  I thought it would be no big deal, but it was a huge deal.  I have never been so homesick before, and I was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted before Cora and I even started the 28 hour trip home.

The 28 hour ultra marathon home requires a blog post all of its own because it was pretty much a nightmare.  Let’s just say that almost everything that could have gone wrong pretty much did short of missing our flight and Cora was not the most angelic traveler.  So, stepping off of that plan in St. Louis was as close to heaven as I might ever see on this side.

I could not wait to see the many faces that awaited us.  What a pleasant surprise it was to see all who came to welcome us home.

I could not wait to get my hands on the other 4 who I had missed more than I’ll ever be able to explain.

And they couldn’t wait to get their hands on Cora.  The girls could not stop loving on her.  Cora warmed up to Evie and Maggie pretty quickly when they started blowing raspberries on her belly.  The boys weren’t quite sure what to think of her for awhile.

Cora Hope handled all of the new faces like a champ.  She was just fine as long as she was attached to Mama.  It was amazing to see some of our dearest friends and family there to cheer us home.

Pretty soon it was time for Cora to warm up to her Daddy.  He was pretty happy to get his hands on her, and she didn’t mind too much either.

The Grandparents were all very patient and are letting Cora get used to all of the changes even though we know they’re dying to get their hands on her.

 

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Seven looks pretty good on us!

 

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On our way home to figure out this whole thing.

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Bringing Cora Home: Day 15… Longest Day Ever

This was the longest day of my life and probably the most stressful.  Seriously, we couldn’t have ever imagined the drama that would follow us through our trip.  We were traveling back to the U.S. with 2 other couples, and I am so thankful for them!

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We left our hotel bright and early, but not early enough.  Our travel guide assured us that we would have more than enough time to catch our flight.  Well, he was almost VERY wrong.  From the moment we arrived at the airport, anything and everything that could have gone wrong did.

It took us an hour just to check in at the ticket counter and check our luggage.  Then, we had to get through the airport security which proved to consistently be a nightmare in Chinese airports.  Let’s just say that running through airports would be a theme for the day… we only needed theme music.

After barely making our first flight to Shanghai, we settled in for a 3 hour flight.  Cora did not behave herself… at all.  She fussed almost the entire flight.  It was not a good foreshadowing of the rest of our day.

After landing, we had 2 hours to collect our luggage and get checked in for our flight to Detroit.  Seemed like plenty of time to all of us.  We waited for what seemed like an eternity for the luggage to come. When it did, everyone’s came except mine.  We waited about 30 more minutes for it to never come.  I headed to the office to report missing luggage.  At this point, I was almost in tears but as I stood there, I realized no one spoke any English.. NONE.  So, I was about to call it a HUGE loss and decided that making my flight was more important than anything in those suitcases.  As I turned around, Meredith was running towards me telling me that our luggage had come.  More running, gathering luggage, and sprinting towards the ticket counter.  We now had to just get our tickets, re-check our luggage and then make our flight… no problem, right?

Oh, so very wrong we were.  It then took a good 40+ minutes to get our tickets and we were the only people in the line.  Meredith and Tyler were amazing and made sure I had everything I needed.  Once we got our tickets, we had to make it through security.  We learned before our last flight that our kids were the magic ticket.  They got us through a faster line and this is the only thing that allowed us to make our flights.  Cora and I sprinted down the what seemed to be a mile long trek to our gate.  I had her stroller, diaper bag, rolling suitcase, and my purse PLUS her strapped to me… all 33 pounds of her.  Cora and I reached our gate as they began boarding… our travel companions were no where in sight.  I assumed they had already boarded, but I didn’t see them on the flight anywhere.  About 10 minutes after Cora and I boarded, they walked on… in tears.  Sheila and Kyle had a huge ticket mess to sort out.  The airline had seated their 2 yr old daughter separately from them… yep?  not good and wasn’t gonna work.  They got it worked out just in time and they were able to all sit together and got situated just in time for take off.  Now, time for our 13 hour flight.  While that was beyond overwhelming, we were so thankful to be sitting on that plane with our luggage.

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Cora and I sat by a really nice and understanding young Dad flying home to his baby.  He was, I’m sure, thankful for his noise canceling headphones as Cora was pretty awful the entire flight.  She slept for MAYBE 2 hours of the entire flight… maybe.  Detroit was a welcome sight.  It felt so good to be on U.S. soil and as we made it through the immigration line, Cora Hope became a U.S. citizen!  We said goodbye to our new, amazing friends and made our way to our gate… quite smoothly.  Chinese airports have much to learn from U.S. airports.  I’ve kind of sworn I will never travel back but I doubt that to be true.

We settled in at our gate for dinner and a nap before our last flight to HOME.

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Bringing Cora Home: Day 14

Our last day, was laid back.  We worked on getting everything packed up.  We had tons of souvenirs to figure out how to fit in our suitcases, but we got it all in!

Then, we went to the nearby park for a walk and a few more pictures.  It was our last day in Cora’s country and I wanted to enjoy every minute.

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This park was so beautiful!  I could have spent the entire day there.  Beautiful landscape, stone pathways, and Banyan Trees.

After lunch at our favorite noodle place and a nap, it was time to pick up Cora’s visa and then head out for a night time dinner cruise complete with Papa John’s Pizza.  Yep, we go authentic!  At one point, we even saw Cora’s temper when she threw her pizza because I wouldn’t give her something she wanted.  Sorry, Sheila!  Thanks for being such a good sport.

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It was a magical last night in China with my sweet girl!

Bringing Cora Home: Day 13

Visa Interview Day!  Our entire travel group loaded up into 2 buses and went to the U.S. Embassy in Guangzhou.  This was the day our kiddos would have their visa interview which was basically just turning in all of our documents so that their visas could be processed.  However, it was our final thing we HAD to do before coming home.

 

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Wearing our Red, White, and Blue

After the visa interview, we went back to Shamain Island in hopes of getting the traditional pictures with the little statues.  Well, Cora wouldn’t have it. She wanted nothing to do with the cute little kid statues.

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So, a picture with mama is all we got.

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Bringing Cora Home: Day 12

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Our day started with tears as it was time for Mandy to head home.  I cannot tell you what it meant to Ryan and I for her to be there with me.  It was one of the most incredible things anyone has ever done for me.  She left her family during one of her busiest times of the year, helped me in every way possible all while she was 20+ weeks pregnant.  She sacrificed so much to make it happen, and I will always be so thankful.  I can’t imagine doing that trip by myself.

As you can see, Cora loved Aunt Mandy so much and while she didn’t really understand what was happening as Mandy walked out the hotel door, she cried and did not want her to go.  I hated for her to have one more goodbye in her short little life, but that was a “see ya later” not a “goodbye”.  Thankfully, we had a full day planned with a trip to the Chimelong Safari Park.  It was an incredible day with so many beautiful animals.

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feeding the giraffes was a highlight of my day!  So fun!!!

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This pic was for big sis, Evie and it was like Cora somehow knew that it was a special one.  

We were exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel after a full day out and about so McDonalds across the road was a welcome treat.  We ate and then snuggled in for the night.

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Bringing Cora Home: Day 11

 

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This might have been my favorite day of our trip.  We went to church in the morning which was amazing.  There’s nothing like worshipping with fellow believers around the world in different tongues.  It was a Chinese/English service so we sang some songs in both.  Being a world from home during Christmas time was really strange, and singing carols did my heart good.

After lunch and a nap, we headed to a nearby park for a photo shoot totally unsure of how it would go.  It was perfection.  Cora loved seeing all of the sights at the park and having some freedom to roam free.  Mandy captured all that I was feeling for my beautiful daughter who in just 6 short days had worked her way deep into my heart.

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