We Are Family, We Love.

[Our most recent professional photography session produced more outtakes than good photos. These pictures actually are better depictions of our daily lives than the perfectly posed shots!]

We are real.


We make mistakes.




We say, “I’m sorry.”


We give second chances.


We have fun!


We give hugs.



We forgive.




We are really loud.


We are FAMILY.


We love.

[A friend of ours is raising money for a missions trip this spring. She is making vinyl wall art to help off-set her travel expenses. She recently made us a piece for our wall that used the words from this post. If these words also describe your family, check out her Facebook page for more info.]



The proper amount of time after our most recent court date has passed, so, without further ado…

World, meet Edward Ray Newingham.


Edward has been adopted from Latvia and is now a member of our family. He is our middle son, but has been with us for the shortest amount of time.


His biological mother named him Eduards, so we chose to legally change it to the American version of Edward. His middle name is a middle name that has been shared by multiple people in Chance’s family, including Edward’s maternal great-grandfather, Ned.


Edward is a spit-fire who is full of personality and spunk, and we are so blessed to call him our son.

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You’d better watch out. This one here is a world-changer!



Welcome to our family, Edward Ray!

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 [Photos taken and memories captured by Denney Photography]

Long Hair

As a kid, I mostly sported short hair.

My mom has had the same hair style since shortly after getting married, so she’s never been one to make much of a fuss over her hair or my hair.

I, on the other hand, have always fussed over my hair – no matter the length.

I never wore my bangs where they were “supposed to be” as a preschooler. In grade school, I absolutely refused to wear the same hair-do two days in a row. My mother’s happiest day of my fourth grade year, was when I learned to french braid and curl my own hair. In high school, I would bring pictures of Jennifer Aniston to our family friend on a monthly basis, and ask her to replicate the hair style on my cowlick-ridden, thick hair.

Because of my “need” to always mix things up, I have never had the patience to grow my hair very long.


My bangs were ALWAYS brushed to the side. L to R: My brother Brian, me, Dad, Grandpa


Sportin’ hair that isn’t much longer than my brother’s.


Starting to wear some curls.


Keeping the curls and letting the back grow long. Kids, we call this a “mullet.” L to R: me, my dad, Brian, my mother and her 40-year-old hairstyle. God bless her.


Shoulder-length hair with a perm.

I can remember, as a little girl, my brother and I would play imaginary games. No matter what we were playing (house, G.I. Joes, Power Rangers, X-men, etc.) I always asked Brian if 1.) I could change my name, and 2.) we could pretend that my hair was longer – down to the middle of my back.

Brian hated it when I would want to change my name. He could never remember what my new name was, and he’d get frustrated by my choices (“Petunia Rose” comes to mind). As it goes with big brothers, he was the self-appointed boss of our games, so he came up with a rule that I had to choose one; I could either change my name OR I could have pretend, long hair.

He knew me well, and I always chose long hair. Obviously, imaginary flowing locks were more important than a new name (which might have actually had SOME impact on the game). It no longer mattered if my name remained the same, I had long, beautiful hair. My hair cascaded down over my shoulders and to the middle of my back.

I distinctly remember doing imaginary hair flips and running my fingers through the invisible strands while Brian (obviously THE GI Joe) would single-handedly save our country from some national catastrophe.


Brian and I with my “new” car just a month before I went to college.

Chance has always liked long hair, so when I met him (the first day of college) I vowed not to cut my hair for a long while.


One month after meeting Chance.



Because the growing-out process is tedious, I used to have college friends perm my hair for me. L to R: me, Amariah, Joanna (my college roommates)

I stayed true to my word, and didn’t cut my hair until after we were married.


At the time of our wedding, my hair was down to my shoulder blades.


Then, I knew I had secured the man I wanted forever, so I cut my hair off just a few weeks after our honeymoon.



Our first Christmas as a married couple.

My hair seemed to get shorter and shorter until we met Nasko in 2011.



Following that visit, I decided it would be easiest to have hair that was long enough for a ponytail, especially as a new mom of such a crazy kid.


My hair was not quite long enough for that ponytail when Nasko came home.


Staying true to my need to mix it up, I was able to pull it into tiny pigtails and throw on a hat though.

I continued to grow my hair through Louis’ pregnancy…


My hair was shoulder-length again at thirteen weeks pregnant with Louis.

…and, over the past year and a half.


Despite all these months of growing out my hair and the lack of haircuts I’ve had in the past three years, I was very surprised at my hair’s length about a month ago when Chance took this picture:


I think I can now safely proclaim that I have reached the status of having “long hair”.

So Brian, I’d like to be called “Henrietta Josephine.” Thank you very much.


Failing a College Course

As you may have noticed, I recently updated the appearance of the blog and chose a new “theme” for my homepage. While I was messing around on the WordPress site, I noticed that they were offering a free, 30-day 101 course on blogging.

I’ve been blogging for almost four years now, but I knew there would be some suggestions or techniques that would be helpful, so I went ahead and signed up for the “introductory-level class”. Everyday for a month, an email came to my inbox labeled “Blogging 101″. Everyday, there were new ideas of what to write, ways to increase my views, and new techniques for becoming a better blogger.

One of the main suggestions this course had to offer was that every blogger should determine how often he or she would write every week. I was to pick a schedule and STICK TO IT. About a month ago, I determined it would be awesome to write three blog posts every week and publish them on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

And then one of my children peed on the carpet (true story) and reminded me of my reality.

So, during the 30-day course of Blogging 101, I wrote and published ONE blog post. (Please. Hold your applause.)

I do believe I failed “Blogging 101″; I have officially failed my first college course.

As a former high school valedictorian who graduated with a 4.0, this fact is hard to swallow. I have failed.

But, I must take into consideration the purpose of this blog, Moments Defined:

I didn’t start sharing moments of my life to become famous. I don’t write because I have deadlines. I started writing because I realized that even the boring and mundane times are defining moments. They are the moments that come together to become my life. If I don’t recall, remember, and reflect with these moments in mind, I’ll miss some of the most important and life-changing things that have happened. Even if a moment doesn’t seem defining at the time that it takes place, there is often some element of that moment that will change drastically just a few months down the road (for example: E’s speech, Nasko’s cognitive abilities, Louis’ height).

I write to reflect and remember.

On days when Nasko moves like molasses to complete his school work or his chores, I re-read the posts from his first week at home. I remember how far we have come, and how different he is now.

When I think about the fact that Louis is almost 18 months old, I gaze at the pictures that were posted with his birth story. I wonder if the new mama in those pictures had any idea what a sweet soul he was going to be.

Sometimes I even find myself going waaaay back and remembering more of who I was before I had so many little ones depending on me.

While I may have failed my blogging course and I will never (ever) be able to stick to a three-posts-per-week schedule, I think I have succeeded (and will continue to succeed) at forever capturing the defining moments in my life.

It just so happens that those defining moments look like a toddler removing his diaper and peeing on my bedroom carpet these days…

Louis’ Personality and Shenanigans

I may not take the time to write about Louis as often as I write about my Europeans, but that does not mean he has any less personality!

Louis is a full-blown toddler, so that, combined with his ornery but EXTREMELY laid-back demeanor get him into many comical situations. And as the mother of such a toddler, I have no shortage of photos of Louis in these moments. I didn’t want to keep all the fun to myself, so I thought I’d share them, and his personality, with you!

IMG_4853Louis spends about half of his life upside down.


IMG_5039His go-with-the-flow nature proved helpful when we spent a month in [EEC]. For example, that one time when he soaked through all his clothes right before the Fourth of July party at the US Embassy. We pieced together a hoodie, a disposable diaper, and some baby leggings and called it an outfit. As you can see, it didn’t bother him too much!


IMG_5051Louis loves to participate in anything we are doing, or especially what his brothers are doing! He legitimately thinks he is being helpful (mostly, he is not). He is offended if you point out his lack of helpfulness.


IMG_5183We’re so thankful that he adapts well to new situations (like sleeping in the back of a taxi in Europe).


IMG_5332 He is a typical kid though – he loves chocolate!


IMGP6553Again, half of his life is upside down…


IMG_5427…and at least a quarter of it is spent in this position. He’s not sleeping, he’s just feeling the carpet. He regularly stops (mostly in public) to feel the floor in this way!


IMG_2526Louis is such a happy guy (as long as I’m around… he’s a bit of a mama’s boy).


IMG_5718And, he’s a very good eater.




IMG_6052Louis has THE BEST sense of humor. Seriously, the slightest things crack him up. Once he starts laughing, it’s tough to get him to stop!


IMG_6272He always has to have SOMETHING in his left hand. He’s been this way since shortly after he could hold toys independently. His favorite things to carry are pencils, toothbrushes, and spoons. In this picture, you’ll notice that he even sleeps with his favorite objects!



IMG_6594Even for a baby, this kid is totally self-absorbed. During this particular meal, he realized he could see his own reflection in a spoon. This caused for 10+ minutes of him talking to the baby in the spoon and not eating ANY of his dinner.

IMG_5886Louis’ most recent shenanigans include climbing to places he should not be. Like on top of my desk. (He is saying, “Wh-uht?” in this picture. Like it is a totally ordinary thing for him to be touching my computer screen.)

IMG_5890Sometimes I kid myself and think I can outsmart him (by moving the chair away from the desk), but he still manages to find himself in predicaments. He was throwing a fit that he could no longer climb onto the desk. His fits are pathetic and match his laid-back demeanor, thankfully.

IMG_5895This is his favorite way to say, “All-done!” He just quietly stands up in his highchair and waits to be noticed. Again, like, “What’s the big deal?”





IMG_6158 Sometimes he just assumes that Taty needs help with work. Taty really doesn’t…

IMG_6178Louis was the last one to finish lunch one day when Chance had turned on Sesame Street. Louis, apparently, couldn’t see his beloved Elmo from his high chair (bottom left of photo) so he climbed onto the table to quietly finish his lunch!




IMG_6454This picture may not look like one of Louis’ shenanigans, but considering I did not put him in that high chair, it technically is…



Last, but certainly not least, is Louis’ latest shenanigan. On Saturday, Nasko wanted to take a bath “all by myself”, meaning no baby brothers allowed. This was obviously not a plan that Louis agreed with, so he helped himself into the tub – fully-clothed. He apparently saw nothing wrong with this behavior, and stayed in the tub for 20 minutes after this picture was taken.


Hopefully these pictures showcase some of Louis’ personality for you all! He is truly the sweetest, funniest, and most laid-back toddler that I’ve ever met!


My Three Sons

Chance text messaged me a bit ago with this word from our attorney:


The concerned social worker spoke to Chance and our attorney when they arrived at court, but apparently they calmed her fears, as she did not bring up a single concern during court. In fact, Chance mentioned that the session only lasted a total of 16 minutes!

Now, we wait for a 21-day appeal period to pass. Then, in about six weeks, Chance and E will travel back to [EEC] to pick up final documentation before everything is completely finalized!

But as of this morning, I have three sons!

Infant Loss and Failed Adoptions

Yesterday (and all this week) are designated times when mothers who have miscarried, delivered stillborns, or experienced the death of an infant, pause to remember those children.

Many women lit candles last night in honor of their babies who have passed. We don’t light candles in our home for obvious reasons (one of those reasons rhymes with “Rasco”), but I often remember the three unnamed babies we lost to miscarriages in 2010.

Another loss that isn’t shared by a large number of people, is the loss we experienced through failed adoption. We regularly talk about “Baby I”, the sweet little man we were set to adopt in April of 2011. Almost weekly, we drive past his house.

Yesterday, as I was taking Nasko to a therapy appointment, we turned onto the street where Baby I’s family still lives. As we rounded the corner, Nasko said, “Baby I’s house. Pray. Dear God. Baby I. Love Jesus. Amen.”

A sob caught in my throat as I realized what had just taken place. Nasko, my adopted son, was praying for the child I would never get to parent; a child he would never meet. In Nasko’s limited vocabulary and understanding, he was echoing the prayer I always pray as we drive past Baby I’s house — a prayer that Baby I might come to have a relationship with The Lord.

You see, despite the heartache and the tears on that rainy day in April of 2011, I handed Baby I over to God when I handed him to his birth mother for the last time.

I knew that she was wavering in her decision to have us parent him. I knew she was being pulled by her family to sever the adoption plan. And despite the fact that it wouldn’t be my job to kiss Baby I’s bruises, or to change his diapers, or to rock him to sleep, I promised God that I would continue to fulfill the most important role as his parent, despite what any legal documents said about my status — I would pray for his salvation. I specifically asked God to place Baby I in the home where he would have the best opportunity for a relationship with Christ.

Of course, I had hoped that home would be mine; we are raising our boys to know and love God, but that does not mean they will have a relationship with Him. A child can receive the best biblical instruction, and still not KNOW their savior.

When the decision was made that Baby I’s birth mother would parent him, I trusted that God had His hand in the decision, and I believe that He will faithfully draw I to Himself. And I have not stopped praying.

Obviously, my children are now echoing this prayer. They are praying for their brother, not a sibling, but a future brother in Christ. I maintain faith that these boys will some day be united in heaven as brothers who share a father — our Heavenly Father.

This week, please remember all of those affected by infant loss. Those of us who have experienced the loss remember each of our children; it is healing to talk about them. Also, please pray for those children who have been affected by failed adoptions. And please pray for Baby I to come to a relationship with his Heavenly Father.

When I say I’m ready to adopt again…

When I say I’m ready to adopt again, remind me of this day:

I woke up early this morning because there is one final document that must be filled out before our adoption of E can be finalized. Chance leaves for [Eastern European Country] on Saturday, and this paperwork must be filed before he leaves. This morning, I planned to sit at my computer without interruption, and complete the paperwork.

When I began reading the instructions on how to complete the form, I discovered that the preview for the document shows it as being SEVENTY-FOUR PAGES LONG.

Needless to say, I tried to hurry and open the actual document so I could get as much done as possible before my children blessed me with their sweet presence.

At that point I learned that in order to access this necessary form, you must have some top-secret identification number assigned to you by the National Visa Center.

I did not have such a number, of course.

In fact, without contacting them directly, I might not be assigned this number for at least ten more days.

So, I composed a few emails to try to gain access to this number. Wondering if I needed to speed up the process, I also tried calling the National Visa Center’s phone number.

Remarkably, it was busy. I didn’t know anyone in the world still lived without call-waiting (except for my parents). I especially cannot figure out why a government agency wouldn’t at least have a voicemail service!

So, my morning plans were spoiled.

I sent emails to a few more accounts that might be able to help, and I zipped one to our adoption agency as well.

Later, while I was entertaining the two littles during a session of Nasko’s trauma therapy (because the effects of the orphanage don’t stop when your paperwork is final, can I get an “AMEN”?), I received a phone call. It was our adoption worker. I began by apologizing that I wasn’t successful in filling out the paperwork this morning, but she interrupted me; she had more pressing information.

Our attorney in [EEC] had run into the social worker who was assigned E’s adoption case. This social worker had many complaints. She had been reading our monthly reports and seeing the pictures we sent of E, and she could not believe our negligence. Not one photo contained E wearing his back brace or his glasses that were sent home with us. She mentioned to our attorney that this fact would be brought up in court when Chance was there this weekend. She did not think we understood the harm we were causing E by not having him wear his adaptive equipment.

So, our adoption agency now believes it should be our mission to provide as much proof as possible demonstrating that the doctors we have met with have said that his glasses and brace are no longer necessary. (His eye sight was tested as being slightly far-sighted, but not enough for glasses and he does not actually have astigmatism. The back brace was said to not actually be doing anything, but surgery would be scheduled in the future because of his two hemi-vertebrae. Also, the brace was potentially causing his muscles to develop incorrectly.)

So, the rest of my morning was spent making phone calls to all the doctors we’ve been seeing.

If/when I ever say I’m ready to adopt again, please remind me of this day.

It is very scary to be told by a social worker that she is planning to present a case stating medical negligence for a child that we have been trying SO hard to treat and assist through a medical condition that is much more involved than anything with which he was diagnosed in his home country.

Join us in praying that all our paperwork is completed in time. Please pray for our family and our upcoming court date, as I know that all parties have E’s best interests in mind, but [EEC]’s medical care is around 50 years behind ours. Please pray that the documentation from our doctors is enough for the court to see how much we love E and how much of a priority his medical care has been in these three months he has been in our care. (Maybe I should show them the stack of medical bills we’ve been paying…) Pray for truth to be proclaimed, heard, and accepted within the walls of the courtroom in [EEC].

And when I say I’m ready to adopt again, remind me of this day. A day when I know we are providing the absolute best medical care to a child who has only survived this long because of the miraculous hand of God. Remind me of a three year old who signs “Thank you!” to us when we give him his daily life-sustaining medication.

Remind me of a little life changed and a physical body experiencing healing. Remind me of a wounded spirit being renewed and restored through Christ.

Remind me that it is all worth it.

When I say I’m ready to adopt again, remind me of this day.

Under The Hood

When you are driving your car, and there’s a clanking sound coming from the engine, panic strikes. You think through all the worst and most expensive possibilities. You fear the time that it will take to repair your car, and whether or not it will even be fixable.

When you finally force yourself to face your fears, you take the car to your favorite mechanic and hold your breath as you wait for diagnostics to come back.

This is just like waiting for a medical diagnosis for your child. Tests are run, professionals are consulted, and when a decision is reached, your next breath remains caught in your throat while you wait for the label.

I’ve now experienced this process twice in the three years that I’ve been a parent.

With Nasko, we were searching for a label. We had taken him to “mechanic” after “mechanic” to learn what might be causing his tics. The label of Tourette’s Syndrome was not surprising to us, as we had done much of our own research. We felt like someone was just telling us that we’d need to change our spark plugs twice as often as any other car owner – a fact we had wondered about and assumed to be true. This diagnosis appeared to have minimal impact and the car’s life expectancy didn’t change at all.

As I mentioned in the last blog post, we have now received a diagnosis for E and all his complications as well.

The diagnosis was given during our time at the International Adoption Clinic at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. I wasn’t expecting a diagnosis at all. We had just come to believe that E has some mixed up insides that were a result of random birth defects. I hardly had time for my breath to be caught in my throat, as the doctor nonchalantly mentioned having arrived at a conclusion for a medical label.

E’s Diagnosis: VACTERL Association.

The doctor then went on to describe how they came to this conclusion, but I wasn’t listening very well. Questions about the future maintenance of the car whirled through my head. Would he just require extra tune-ups? Does the engine need rebuilt? How long will the car last?

Since our appointment, I’ve had time to read more about VACTERL Association. I agree with the diagnosis, as E has most of the symptoms of this association. I’ve also spent time reading stories of people who have lived full and wonderful lives with this condition.

Here’s a little of what I’ve learned about VACTERL Association (see Wikipedia for more info):

An association (rather than a syndrome) is a number of symptoms that are commonly seen together, but are not always ALL present. In this association, VACTERL is an acronym for multiple symptoms commonly seen in these children.

V – Vertebrae defects

A – Anal defects

C – Cardiac defects

TE – Tracheo-Esophageal Fistula defects

R – Renal/Kidney defects

L – Limb defects

To be diagnosed with this syndrome, a child has to possess at least three of the defects.

Here’s how those shake out in E’s life:

V – Vertebrae defects (E has two hemi-vertebrae which have caused severe scoliosis.)

A – Anal defects (Information withheld to protect his privacy.)

C – Cardiac defects (E was found to have his main artery traveling down the wrong side of his body. He also has a heart murmur.)

TE – Tracheo-Esophageal Fistula defects (Nothing yet! Praise Jesus!)

R – Renal/Kidney defects (A sonogram recently showed that E has one large kidney shaped like a horseshoe instead of two separate kidneys.)

L – Limb defects (E had hip displasia at birth. His left leg is shorter and smaller than his right leg. His left foot has some parts that aren’t completely formed – like one toe, etc.)

I have also learned that kids with VACTERL Association are typically small and have difficulty gaining weight. (Uh, hello my kid! He eats like a horse and hasn’t gained a pound since coming home!) These kids are known to have normal development and typical cognitive skills though.

Now that we have a diagnosis and have learned more about what is under the hood, we know there’s a lot of maintenance to be done. The life expectancies of kids with VACTERL Association vary, depending on the severity of each child’s defects. The key to long lives for these kids, is monitoring their issues and having good specialists to determine when surgeries are necessary. We’re thankful to have a proactive team of doctors in St. Louis.

Most children who don’t survive this condition pass away at birth because certain conditions go unnoticed. By the grace of God, the major, life-altering issues were discovered when E was born. The minor, non life-threatening complications may have gone unnoticed until now, but God’s provision kept him alive.

While the clunks under the hood are concerning and a cause for alarm, it’s reassuring to remember that we know that Master Mechanic, the Ultimate Healer, and the Great Physician.

More Medical Tests/Results

We spent a couple days at Saint Louis Children’s Hospital this week. I thought I’d report what we know (and don’t know) at this point.

On Tuesday, we had a sedated MRI scheduled. We were hoping to get a better picture of what’s going on with E’s spine and pelvis. Once E was asleep, we knew that there’d be lots of sitting and waiting – something that Nasko and Louis aren’t so good at doing!

So, we divided our efforts and Chance dropped E and I off at the hospital while he took Nasko and Louis to the hotel room we had booked for the night.

E and I used FaceTime on my phone to tell everyone “night-night” before E’s sedation.


E, naturally, did not love having the IV placed in his arm, but he did love all the attention he received from the nurses. In fact, a couple nurses came in, “just because they’d heard how cute this patient was.” So other than the needles, most things from our morning made E smile.

He even enjoyed being wheeled down the hallway on his hospital bed.


The MRI went well. The nurses said it might be a little long if his spine was especially curved (we’ve got that) and if there were any complications keeping his airways opened (we’ve got that too because of his huge tonsils!). They ended up using a clip to keep his tongue from covering his throat, but otherwise everything was fine.

IMG_6299When E was coming off of the sedation, I’d describe him as “floppy”. He could not sit up at all. The nurse kept telling me to set him upright, and he’d scrunch back over instantly.

He was also full of attitude.

(Ok, this is actually true even when he hasn’t been sedated.)

The nurse really wanted him to eat and drink before she released him, but he absolutely refused. The sedation ended at 2:00 PM, and he hadn’t eaten since 8:00 the night before, but that did not seem to matter. No food and no drink were entering his mouth. Period.

The nurse finally discharged him because she could “tell by his attitude that he felt just fine.” From there, we hurried off to Orthopedics and Prosthetics.


I put floppy E and all our things into one of the hospital’s wagons.

Within two minutes of our journey across the hospital skywalk, E was eating some pretzels from a biohazard bag.

Of course he was.


While in the orthopedics office, E received his new leg brace! He is to wear it all the time on his left leg to keep his heel on the ground (rather than allowing him to continue walking on his toe). He also received a .5 inch lift that goes into the heel of his shoe. This helps to make his legs function at a more even level.


Following this appointment (and paying for the most expensive plastic ankle bracelet EVER), E and I took a taxi to meet up with Chance and the boys. My mother-in-law joined us after she got off of work, as we asked her to come spend the next day with Nasko.

That night, we swam in the hotel pool, ate dinner at Drury Inn’s supper buffet (Hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and chicken nuggets – my boys were in heaven.), and went to the Galleria in order to hold the new Apple iPhones and find shoes that E could wear with his brace.


E is in love with his new shoes and brace. He thinks he HAS to wear the brace in order to wear the new shoes. Some information is best kept to myself…

The next morning, Nasko and Grandma Missy stayed near the hotel (feeding the fish at Union Station was a highlight) while Chance and I took the littles back to the Children’s Hospital. We had an all-morning appointment with the International Adoption Clinic. During this appointment we met with Infectious Disease, Psychology, and Occupational Therapy. We were also supposed to have an audiology exam (hearing test), but opted not to since E’s hearing should change after he receives tubes.

Since we’d already seen Infectious Disease, we spent that hour getting caught up on test results and checking in on progress made. The most irritating news was that we have to re-do our stool samples because the local lab did not send them on to Mayo Clinic for further testing.

The most informative thing was that we have actually received a diagnosis for E and all his issues (more on that in a different post). Since getting his diagnosis, I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading and learning!

E, of course, shone like a star through the morning-long appointment. He wowed the OT with his block-stacking abilities (12 without assistance!) and he imitated the drawing of a flower when all she wanted was to see if he could draw a straight line. His cognitive and fine motor abilities are just fine!

Because the Infectious Disease doctors believe in torturing children and their parents, we ended the day with a blood draw to check E’s levels.

Chance picked up Nasko, some Five Guys, and gathered E and I before we all headed home. Both littles took great naps in the car, and the entire family was in bed by 8:30 that night.