Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween 2013

 Our ladybug, Superman, Cupcake and of course Princess Pixie! 

It is the first year in many years that we have not ALL dressed up! It was a rainy night, but the girls still had fun, especially knowing the next day we were driving to Orlando! 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

IT"S A BOY!!!!

After many, many months of paperwork & prayer along with much waiting we are THRILLED to announce that we have a new SON! 

Not just any boy. But a little boy that I already know and love. 

Our new son is waiting at the Chenzhou Orphange, in China. The orphanage that I have visited 4 times in the last 3 years. Where Sage lived for 9 months. My other home...

I have met him 3 of those trips. He was not paper ready the first 2 times we met, but in July they said he would be soon. And something just clicked. But to get to that point, I need to go back...

When we started the process to adopt this time, we of course were all over the board on what age of child we were looking for, what needs, and even a boy or girl. BUT in my heart I kept thinking baby, and was really thinking girl.

Everyone told me we needed a brother for Sawyer. But for years, and I do mean YEARS, I have just felt there was another baby girl. So in my head when we started I assumed it would end up being a very young girl we would add to our family.

We had the homestudy approved for 2 children, not really knowing what that might mean, but to be on the safe side. And in my head again I thought, well we will lock a baby girl first, and then maybe a little bit older child, but not much older.

I went to Chenzhou in July and God just tugged on me to look at those older kids a little closer. To think of their future and what it would mean to stay there. To imagine that one of them might be MY child that was stuck there. Here are my thoughts on that trip. 

That changed everything. I had met this cutie in 2012 and his toothless grin stole all our hearts. The girls named him Taylor because they thought he looked like Taylor Lautner. :-) He had such a sweet spirit about him, and we found out he had not been there long.

I returned in March and he welcomed me back with open arms. I worried over him because I knew his best friend was going to be adopted and knew that would be hard on him.

I returned in July and was so happy to see he had not lost his sweet spirit. Watching him there, I knew he could not stay. And I called Mark telling him we need to start praying. It seemed perfect. A baby girl AND this amazing boy who I knew would fit right in to our family.

At this point Mark was not sold on the 2 kids idea. He was humoring me getting our homestudy approved, but the approval to him did not mean anything. He knew my heart was longing for a baby girl, and he was fine with that. But a baby girl AND an 8 year old boy? Umm, no..

But God.... And a husband who loves God... After praying through it Mark agreed we could see what happened. So we waited. AND waited.

Our agency watched the lists and on Monday evening there he was! Our new son. They locked him for us Monday night, sending over his file.

On Tuesday I scanned in our letter of intent saying we wanted to adopt him and on Wednesday we already had Pre-approval from China saying we could move forward!

He is 8 years old, exactly 6 months older than Mavery and Sage. He will turn 9 in May and we really hope he is home before his birthday.

So what of that baby girl I was so sure was waiting? We just don't know. Maybe God's plan is simply for our son to come come home and complete our family. Maybe I simply had a desire for a baby, so we would start the process again.

Of all places God spoke to me clearly on this very issue during our time in Kansas getting our service dog for Mavery. I had really hoped that we might get a "non-shedding" dog. I am so over this dog hair we have going on here. A hairy golden was not what I had in mind.

But Pixie is perfect for Mavery! Watching the magic that happened in those dogs being matched God reminded me of this. "Your ways are NOT my ways".

Isn't that the truth??

I felt very strongly last week God speaking that truth to me about our adoption. My ways, my plans, MY anything are not always His.

So I don't know if there is another who will come home with us, but I do know this.

We have a son! He is amazing and I can't believe out of all the mommies in the world it is ME who gets to be his!!!

He knows his ABC's in English, and he caught on quickly to my name.

He is a tease and when Makenna would try to get him to say her name, he would grin at her and say Shannon. :-)

He is a huge help there and they ask him to do so much with the little ones.

His favorite color is green and his favorite animal is an elephant.

His reports described him exactly as I described him to Mark. He is gentle and kind and does not get angry or upset easily. He is happy and smiles at others.

The best part? He is no longer an orphan. He is mine. God has written him on our hearts and he already bears our name in our minds. He is a Laxton, our son, a brother a grandson, a nephew and a cousin.

He is loved already and not a minute goes by that we aren't picturing him here with us.

Am I worried about an older child adoption? I really am not. Of course I know there will be adjustment. The whole language issue, how bad can it be? (that was a joke) Though I hear that really they catch on so quickly. I would think the fact that I have met him 3 times will help. I asked him in July if he wanted a family, and he said yes. I made sure he understood what it means, and of course he does. He has watched his friends leave.

But here is what I know after 2 adoptions. God is a God of mercy and grace. When it is good, He is there. And when it is hard, He is still there. When we are dealing with adjustment and it gets hard, we will lean into God harder. And when it is good, we will rejoice and be glad!

Pray for our sweet boy if you will. He has no idea his world is about to be rocked and won't know for awhile. I hope that they will video him finding out. For that matter I wish I could get a video of my friends at Chenzhou finding out!

Our hope is that we will travel in spring. We THINK we will be taking Malaine with us. Older 2 want to go on mission trips, younger 2 are...not going.  :-) Unless we bring Pixie too and I am just thinking that is a bit much! ha!

Right now we are waiting on our Approval from China. We had PRE approval but now they actually look through all of our paperwork and then give the ok. I am seeing this take anywhere from a month to MANY,many months. Of course we pray it is fast, but I rest in knowing... My ways are not HIS ways...

A boy, can you believe it??

Oh and we are still debating names. To many opinions in this house! It will be an S. We have 2 that we like, but are open to more if you have a unique idea!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Mavery and Pixie GRADUATE!!

Our day today was filled with talk of going home. What life will be like with our new service dogs. The opposition we will encounter as we try to take our friends in places. The frustration some are already encountering from their employers, their schools etc. It will be interesting to see how things go for us in our town.

After class we ran into Walmart, again. No matter where we go, we manage to visit Wal-Mart way more than I plan too.

Pixie was acting kind of funny in the car and as soon as we walked in Walmart she pooped. And it was disgusting. RIGHT by the food section. We were kind of dumb founded but they were super nice to us and praised CARES and all they do. This town is used to dogs, the employee told me this happens all the time, that I shouldn't worry. And everywhere we go everyone is so kind to us, but especially to Mavery. I know we will miss this welcome once we leave.

During class one of the trainers came in to see her dog and meet it's new owner. The little girl is the same age as Mavery and they have really enjoyed each other. The trainer got teary when she saw them, so you know I got teary! She had the new dogs mom and grandma with her! I LOVE being able to see all angles of this. ALL the people who pour into this program. I have been so encouraged by the new friends who have reached out to us who have either trained or received dogs through CARES. The saying has been, the CARES family. Or in Megan's words, the CARES CULT. And I get it now. It feels like our adoptions. Bringing home our girls opened up this whole new world to us. Friends from all over. People who love and support you through every step. And now we have this CARES family, who get the lengths you will go through to better the life for your loved one.

Graduation was held in the local college theatre. Since my emotions were already on edge I knew it was not going to be done with out tears. It was fun to see Sarah and Megan all dressed up, and Mavery was excited to dress up too!

As we came in trainers were there, and that of course made the tears fall.  What a job they have! To train these dogs, to love them and then to send them on. I can only imagine what it must be like for them on this day. To see their work pay off! To see their dog matched with the perfect person, and know they are going to be so loved. A lady spoke to us who works with the inmates where Pixie was trained. She promised to pass on to Pixies trainer how happy we are!

All of the new owners were on stage. The dogs were taken back stage and brought out one at a time as Sarah introduced them. If the trainer was there, they brought the dog out and handed it to their person. And again I cried. I wish Pixie's trainer had been there, I would have loved to meet them! I did get an email with some information so will be in touch with them soon.

Then the certificates began. First up was Lexie, the Great Dane and her owner. Who is a veteran from Canada. Sarah talked about how she loved being able to match veterans and how thankful she is for all they do in their service. You can tell Lexie was just perfectly matched. Her person started crying and I was pretty sure I was about to start the ugly cry. It was just beautiful. What I really want to see is photos of Lexie on the airplane back to Canada tomorrow! Can you even imagine where a Great Dane is going to fit on an airplane?? Wouldn't you love to be on that flight?

Pixie's sister Genie! 

On down the line the certificates were given. Each story just as beautiful as the first. Each face just as happy and relieved to know they have their dog. Each person forever changed by this week.

It was over to quickly and we said our goodbyes. Mavery gave her teachers a thank you card with a package of pixie sticks, of course! There are no words to say how thankful we are for the work they all do. One thing Sarah said is that she hopes we will share our stories, that we will tell others about CARES. And we will. How can we not? All week I have thought about the children I know who are adopted who could benefit from this program. We will be a voice for CARES. I am so thankful that my friend Kathy encouraged me to really look into it after it worked so well for her daughter from China.

Mavery really enjoyed Kylah this week, they are the same age, same grade. 

After graduation we visited a place in town we really enjoyed, Gambino's. I hear it is a chain but not a chain we have at home. If you are coming for CARES training and need tips on places to eat, I think we hit them all!

Tomorrow morning we will head home. We are anxious to introduce Pixie to our family and to settle back into life. I hope Pixie is ready for the craziness that is going to be reality. This nice calm hotel is just a tease!

I think Mavery's prayer from every day this week sums it all up. "Thank you God for giving me Pixie!"


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thursday at CARES

Today was an earlier start as we had to drive over an hour to the  Correctional Facility. I knew it would be a moving experience but really was not quite sure what to expect...

We were brought in and taken through the metal detectors one at a time. Went through a few doors and were taken into the cafeteria. The men were already sitting there with dogs, about 9 in total. Mavery was ecstatic to see TWO baby goldens!

It took awhile to get us all in and settled, but we made it. The sweetest thing was when the Great Dane came in and she saw the men, and they saw her. They ALL knew Lexie, the Great Dane! You can tell she was loved. All of the dogs seemed a bit more "cheery", as if they recognized this place. Funny to think how much dogs can remember.

As we got started each of the men introduced themselves, how long they have been training dogs and the dog they are working with now.  Then the "head" guy spoke.

Picture this if you will. We are in prison. The guy is what you would probably picture to see. And then he starts talking.

He shared many things but what I heard was one word.


Because of what they have done in their past, there is a victim.

Through this program, they can try to redeem that through something good.

They can't look back at their past, they can only look forward.

They hope that through what they are giving by working with the dogs, someone will be blessed.

I was once again wiping away the tears.

The pride in their faces as they talked about being in the dog program was just so moving.

Here are guys that are just, well, not good to most people. In all honesty people that I would not think much of. In Jail? Obviously something happened.

But to hear them speak of these dogs? My heart was moved.

They give SO much to these dogs. They get puppies, they get older dogs, and they give them their all. From morning till night they work with the dogs.

They sleep with the dogs. They do not take a break from these dogs.

And they take that job so seriously. They LOVE these dogs.

And it is obvious the dogs love them.

Imagine it.. They don't get much contact with anyone. But they now get a friend. And this furry friend doesn't judge ANYTHING about their past, or their looks or their future.

Redemption can come in many forms.

To be in the program there are rules. You have to prove yourself to even get in. Staying out of trouble. You apply, you get chosen, you have to show that your dog is improving. This is the only job there that is NOT paid. So this is a volunteer thing.


We were able to spend some time talking to each of them. Unfortunately Pixie was at the other prison so we did not meet her trainer. But we did get some tips on working with her, and enjoyed the entire experience.

So weird to say. We really enjoyed our time in prison. ;-)

We left there and headed to Applebee's to eat as a group. A very busy Applebees, which was a good test. Pixie is not phased by anything so far.

From there we went to the mall for testing. Much of it they just wanted everyone walking/shopping with their dogs. Then they did some tests of leaving your dog, calling your dog, leaving your dog again while food was dropped in front of your dog.

I know I have said this before, but the magic of how these dogs were matched up with EXACTLY who they should be matched with, it is just a miracle, really.

Again, as I watched all of these exercises unfold I was moved. Thinking back to day 2 and now day 4, there is not even hesitation on ANYONE's part as they call their dog.

It is both sides who are saying, you are MINE. I am not letting go and I am not making a move with out your direction.

I wish you could all be here to see this happening. I wish you could hear the stories of mama's or wife's who haven't slept in 10 years because their loved one has diabetes and has to be checked in the night. They can now REST because their dogs are alerting them while they sleep!

The stories are enough to make me weep. And as I look at my own daughter today, calling her dog across that mall, I do weep.

We ARE seeing a change in Mavery. She is calmer, she is happy, she is confidant. She is taking ownership and she is in love with Pixie.

She says, Pixie is MINE. And I know Pixie is saying the same thing.

Tonight we went to the pool and Pixie wanted in terribly. While I know the hotel is used to CARES dogs, I was not so sure they would enjoy the dog hair in the pool. I took her back to the room and she whined. She has not done that.

Because she knows she is not mine, she is Mavery's and she was not here!

Tomorrow is a bit more training, then graduation. I wish that our family could be here to see it all. But I am thankful for this time with Mavery. It would have been hard for her to have the distraction of everyone. And maybe hard on Pixie. Today at the mall were TONS of kids and you can tell she loves children. Thank goodness! Now the real question is, does she like really annoying yappy dogs?? That is going to be interesting as she meets Hershey.

As I meet all these families and listen to the stories, and share our story I am so thankful for this life I get to live. So thankful for an amazing God who has written our story, and who has redeemed me.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tuesday & Wednesday

Pixie and Mavery slept great last night! At home Mavery is typically the first one up, waking the whole house up. We never heard a peep from Mavery or Pixie. Many said their dogs were up in the night so we are thankful for a quiet night.

This morning was all about the dogs diets and more commands. Mavery is getting much more comfortable and is not wanting us to even stay near when they have them up doing exercises.

One thing they did today was to have the person put their dog into the down position and then walk away. After a few moments they would call, and the dog would respond.

Remember that scene in the movie Annie where she has found the stray dog she named Sandy? The dog pound comes along and wants to take the dog, she claims this is MY dog. And they say prove it….

That is what came to mind as I watched each person start to call his or her dog to them.  As they went down the line and each person would call their dog, and that dog would respond to their person, I started to cry. Just like Annie, this is now THEIR Sandy. Until yesterday each of these people have dreamed for a very long time about this dog. What this animal could do for their lives to make it better. And like Mavery, they met them yesterday and I am sure said “You are exactly what I have always wanted!”

I know they said, YOU are mine.  And I will prove it.

So as I watched these dogs come to this new person they just met yesterday, I was beyond moved. 

And crying in the middle of a dog class is a little embarrassing! J

I enjoy being in places with so many stories. Each such a unique background and yet all here for the same purpose. 

They taught us how to get the dog to “hug” today and so we practiced a bit of pressure therapy with Mavery once back at the hotel.

Many have asked what exactly we hope to see from the dog for Mavery. And that is hard to wrap up into a few simple words.  I am happy to talk to anyone through email in more detail. But our biggest thing is that we want to see the dog be calming for Mavery.  We pray that it gives her confidence and some self control. If she detects heart changes, that of course is wonderful too.

After lunch we visited a nursing home and from there we went to Walmart as a group.  I had to laugh at the nursing home. We were in speaking with one woman and she was telling us how many kids and grandkids she has. 9 kids, 30 grandkids. We told her we have 5 and are trying to bring home more from China. She said, I didn’t have to do that to get my kids. 

What do you do but laugh.

We started talking with Mavery about Thursday, when we will visit the “Correctional Facility”. Mavery understands what jail is, so we tried to talk through that. She asked if WE would get to go behind the bars, and if the men would be behind the bars while we talk to them. 

Have I mentioned that the dogs are trained in prison part of the time? It is quite the process they go through to find out if they will be in the program. They are in homes, at prisons a few times, in homes etc.. So part of this week involves taking them to the facility to let the trainers see the dogs.

After visiting we will visit a mall and have our testing done. Passing would be good! 

We tried to drive and find internet last night (Tuesday) so I could post this.  No luck and our hotel is out again through Thursday. This might be worse than China, I was able to get internet while there! Hoping to find somewhere tonight to post. But since I am already a day behind a quick review of Wednesday.

Today they showed how to put the dogs in submissive position. Pixie has no issues with this. Some, had a bit more trouble and while it sounds SOO mean to me when they yell at them, I know it is for their good. I am certain I could have a much better mutt at home if I had followed just a few of these tips.

We went to a pre-school where the kids could pet the dogs.

Mavery is handling everything amazingly. I am counting it a MIRACLE that she has survived sitting through THREE Days of classes with out meltdowns. The teachers asked if she is always so shy. Those of you who know Mavery know there is not a shy bone in her body, so maybe Pixie is bringing a bit of magic dust our way.

If you would like to check out CARES, the organization in charge of these dogs, please visit their website HERE.  Sarah and Megan are amazing! Sarah started CARES in 1994 and has trained 1100 dogs! I was thinking today how mixed this job has to be. You see SO many needs come through. HARD needs. But then to be able to give a dog to someone and know that it changes their life for good? What a blessing! 

I am now sitting in a BBQ place with WIFI! :-) Hopefully the pictures will go up. No prison photos tomorrow but hopefully I can get some mall photos! You know us girls like to shop and I think Pixie will fit right in that area!