As another Christmas draws to a close and I put our big boys to bed and answered their calls for their nightly “hug, a tickle and a kiss” I find myself reflecting on this last year. Shooo 2015 has been a dozy of a year with countless ups and downs. I don’t even know how to express my thoughts on everything that has happened, so I think a list is the best way to get a full picture of what this year has brought; the good, the bad, the crazy and all that was in between.

In January of 2015 we were still in the middle of an often crazy case with three of our miracles and we had no idea if we would be able to adopt them or not. At the end of the month there was the last dramatic twist in the case and we knew we would officially be able to adopt them. The hearing that made this news legally official would occur in May. Allowing us to officially adopt Damien, Perry and Alize in August!! These children are such beautiful blessings in our lives and we are so thankful for chance to love them and watch them grow and shine.

In February I began to meet with Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (You can read about how and why I was meeting with them here). I am still in awe of the amazing blessings that came directly related to us welcoming those young men into our home. We had a few different Elders in and out but Elder Tengberg and Elder Woodbury have made an indelible mark on our family and our lives. I cannot now imagine life without the gospel, the church, or our “guys” as the kids call them. There are no words to express how amazing it is to have the fullness of the gospel. There are also no words I could use to appropriately convey the peace and happiness I have found since I was baptized into the church in April.

During this time we also met a young woman named Sarah (Sarsha) Irvin. Sarah changed our lives. The Elders brought Sarah to our home to join them in teaching me a lesson and I had no idea the influence she would end up having in our lives. We just adore our dear Sarsha. The Elders taught us the doctrines of the church and were such a huge influence but Sarsha walked in with her sass and her heart bursting with love and showed us a great example of what living in the gospel looked like. Sarsha will forever be a part of our family and our hearts. She was right by our sides for most of this year’s adventures until she left to serve her own mission with the church in Arizona.

March brought in many changes as well. In early March we had a miscarriage, this was our sixth miscarriage since we began trying to build our family in 2010. I wish I could say that it gets easier to lose a baby to miscarriage but every loss is heart wrenching. During this time we also had many medical scares with our youngest son, Baby Otter and we spent a lot of time racing to the hospital. In odd timing we would welcome our fifth son, Baby Otter, in a matter of two weeks from the loss of our pregnancy. I was so blessed to be present at his birth and witness the miracle of life being born. I am very grateful for that opportunity and we are so thrilled to have this bundle of joy as an addition to our family. We have since moved to the point in his case that we know we will be able to complete his adoption in the first half of 2016.

As a general note about this time, we were also doing multiple therapies a week for a few of the kiddos to include PT, OT, DT and Speech. The kids were all working so hard to overcome some challenges they were facing and these therapies and the work we did with them outside of their sessions consumed a lot of our time. We also found and hired our current Nanny, Kaitlyn, during this time and that made a huge difference in the insanity of the week. Kaitlyn does a great job with our children and she loves our children so deeply. It is beautiful.

One week after we hired Kaitlyn my Uncle passed away in Michigan and Kaitlyn agreed to make the trip with the kids and I so we could attend the funeral. This was our first long trip with all five children and it was quite an adventure. I am so glad we were able to get there for the funeral though and spend time with family.

This summer we also lost my Aunt in Tennessee and I made the trip down there for her funeral and to spend time remembering her with family and loved ones. During this visit I got the chance to see family that is near and dear to my heart, including my dear cousin Abby. You can read about my special bond with Abby here. This quick turn around trip to Tennessee was wonderful and hard in equal measures.

This summer also brought a big scare to our family. I was having some strange things occurring with my body and ended up consulting with my OBGYN. My symptoms concerned my doctor and she told me that she was worried I had developed endometrial cancer. Obviously, this was very scary news for our family, we have five young children and I was so worried about the possibilities we were facing. My doctor ordered a number of tests and we had a two week period of time while I underwent the tests and awaited news of the results. Thankfully those results all came back with no signs of cancer and with some medication my symptoms were managed. Hearing the word “cancer” come our of your doctors mouth when you are a young mother to many young children is incredibly terrifying and it took me a while to shake that feeling.

This fall brought about the adoptions of three kiddos and the celebration of the four adoptions we have completed in the last year. We also had one kiddo, Perry, graduate from all three of his therapies. He made TREMENDOUS strides this year and I am amazed by the progress he and his siblings have made every day. At the same time we went from one to four therapies for Caleb. As Caleb has aged he has encountered some new challenges and he is working so hard to overcome them all. He makes strides every day, some days they are huge achievements such as saying a new word and some days it is as small as maintaining prolonged eye contact. Damien started attending preschool at Head Start and it was a complete fiasco. The program he attended was not at all willing to meet his needs and made it very clear that they did not understand the effect of trauma on young children. We returned Damien to his small and specialized preschool and he has been thriving ever since. We also field a complaint at a state and federal level concerning the location Damien attended and that sparked an investigation. During this time we attempted to put Perry, Caleb and Alize in a developmental playgroup. Caleb really struggled with the playgroup and despite being a group that was supposed to be geared for children like Caleb, the group was unable to help Caleb. Additionally, the play group had policies in place that I felt were detrimental to our children and we decided after trying to work the issue out with the staff to pull the children from the program. The children have since thrived in the ways we were hoping the playgroup would help them with and we think we made the right decision.

Winter arrived with new adventures for our family as well. I injured my knee to the point that the doctor was concerned I would need knee surgery, I was on crutches for a week and I am still in recovery. I had an MRI and it turns out I did not need surgery but that my knee would take approximately six weeks to heal on it’s own. Our poor kiddos have been in a phase of life where they are strengthening their little immune systems and have been catching every bug that passes them by, I have lost count of how may times they have all been sick in the last two months alone. This combination of events has resulted in weeks of time where we are missing functions, appointments and, most importantly to me, church. This is hard for a variety of reasons. We miss the time with our ward family worshiping. Caleb really struggles with going church and because he does not have the ability to tell me what is upsetting him, his only means of communicating that is to have a melt down. So, missing church for several weeks makes returning all the harder on him. We spend the majority of our time in the hallways while he has a melt down of sometimes epic proportions. It is something we work on every week and I pray daily that it gets easier for Caleb or that I am able to figure out why this particular part of our week is so hard for him so I can help come up with a solution.

Earlier this week we had to make the heart breaking decision to put our dog, Lolli, to sleep. Lolli was eleven years old and I had her that entire time. She was a great dog and this was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make, but I know as sick as she was and as much pain as she was in that it was the right decision. Losing her the day before Christmas Eve was extra hard and we are still trying to come to terms with that fact. A day hasn’t gone by that I have not cried over her loss and been thankful for the time I had with her. Snuggling into her dark fur helped me through every cloud in life I have faced in the last 11 years and now I have to learn to cope without her there.

Like I said, 2015 has been one heck of a year. We have not had a chance to catch our breath in quite a while. There has been so much joy and much change this year. We are looking forward to 2016 and we are hoping for another year of joy and love and we would not mind if it was just a tad calmer. This year has also brought about great shifts in important relationships, some shifts were to better and closer relationships and some shifts were unfortunately in another direction. All of the adventures of this year have also lead to more self discovery than I have ever experienced in a years time before and I hope I can use that self awareness for good in the coming year.

Merry Christmas to you all and Happy New Year!!