Wednesday, May 29, 2013


I love you too....

It's the little things that make my heart smile....

like waiting on Daddy to come home from work
and playing in the rain....

Painted Lady's

For the end of the school year science project we decided to get a butterfly habitat and some catipillars and watch God do His thing. All I can say is Wow! I was just as blown away if not more than my kiddos.  I always marvel at how God creates but this was really breathtaking to witness.  We will definitely do it again.

One thing we didn't consider...the cats

We had some stalking....
Another thing I didn't consider
a little birds and bees with the butterflies.... I had to explain that!
But it was all worth it...

She did it...

Ever since Izzy had her ears pierced this little one has wanted to do it, but was a wee bit nervous about it. Well, almost two years later she was ready...

She definitely does things in her own time
and most definitely marches to the beat of her own this girl!

Monday, May 20, 2013

School's Out For Summer

I can actually hear Alice Cooper screaming in my head....Ah ! I never thought I'd be happy about that, but I am : )

This year was not the easiest and I'm guessing it won't be the hardest considering I taught 1st and 2nd grade. Things are bound to get harder.  I guess what made it tough was new child, moving, new job, new life....etc!  Adding Josiah to the mix was interesting, but by the end we finally got in to a groove. Yes, it took all school year to get there!

For Izzy..multiplication was not fun, nor was spelling : ( but she rocked everything else. She just blows my mind some days. She's reading like crazy and a huge unsuspected blessing this year: Creative Writing. Wow! Let's just say she might be doing more than just illustrating books one day.

For was all fun to her. She just loves school. Nothing really bums her out...yet!  One major accomplishment...cursive handwriting. For a girl with half of a hand she writes better than most kiddos her age. It was a goal from the beginning. She didn't say it to me ever, but I knew she was going to conquer that this year and she did. AMAZING that girl. And also reading like crazy right along with Izzy.

I couldn't be prouder of these girls. So blessed to be their Momma and their teacher.

We are starting our summer reading program called "Girls Who Rocked the World"

It all started with this book...

and I decided there are so many amazing women that made such a significant difference in this world that I had better start telling my girls about these ladies might take a few summers : )
So we are beginning this week with some juvenile fiction just to get our feet wet:
Katie Woo
Fancy Nancy
Cora Cooks
Grace for President
Then we are going to alternate between real life amazing women like:
Clara Barton
Corrie ten Boom
Helen Keller
Mother Teresa
I'm so excited to do this with them. They are at such a great age to really embrace it.
Izzy has flip flops that say "Girls Rule" and it always makes me smile when I see them.  Not because I think girls rule anything, but because she was born of a country that is so contrary to that thought and her reality is that she is an incredible little girl that feels pretty special to be a girl....and that I absolutely love!
So here's to a summer of amazing ladies! Both fiction and non fiction.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I miss my kiddos : (

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Uniting with my Boy

Uniting with my Boy - 1 year Gotcha Day (through Daddy's eyes)....

I knew I was on a mission...on a holy mission from God. I was in China alone, as the ambassador for our family on the journey to be united with Josiah...

As I walked through the streets of Wuhan, in the Hubei Province in China, on the day before I was to officially and tangibly become his Dad, I experienced a peace that surpasses all understanding! I knew our lives were about to change again with this addition to our family, but the calm was there...God all way!

The ride to the official meeting place was surreal. It was our driver, my translator and myself. It was exciting but rather quiet. As we got in the elevator I could not have realized what would be waiting for me as the doors opened...

As the doors opened (I was expecting to go from the elevators perhaps down a hall and into some room or lobby) I saw a small boy leading a man around in circles...he had wild hair (for a Chinese kid) and was kind of being goofy in a playful way. I heard my guide/interpreter ask the man something in Mandarin and she looked at me and said this was Jian Guo, my son. See, I didn't even recognize him right then and there.

It was all so surreal that it took me a few seconds to let that sink in...I think I was in shock. When I called his name he came to me...and then it happened, that moment when the absurdity of that kind of union (two seemingly strangers meeting) intersects with this crazy outpouring of God's grace! And in an instant Jian Guo, held my hand and led me around the floor of this government building. He got in my arms and became one with me...

I'm not saying that we didn't have a few rough patches those first few hours, days, etc...because in fact we did...and still do. What I am saying is that the ground that we walked on for the rest of the days of the trip became holy ground. The bonding process began and the sweet connection of a father and his son was cemented. I learned to love feeding him, dressing him and caring for him. It was the hardest thing I have ever done but I know it was also one of the most holy of times for me...

I love my little boy...I love him so much. I don't understand his needs perfectly. I don't understand how to meet his needs always. I know I am his Dad. I know he is my son. I know he loves me...and he knows I love him. That's all we need...


And he will know that all of this is possible because, God first loved us!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Five Years home....Happy Gotcha Day

My dearest Bella,
You are a light that shines deeply into my soul every day. Your love tells me that I am a great Momma even when I know that’s not true. You remind me daily that God is at work always in our lives and that He heals the broken hearts of this world. You are proof that He is what makes a family and nothing else does. Your smile makes my heart leap and your joy is my joy. I will never forget Mother’s Day 2008 when the Lord ushered you into my arms.  It will always be the beginning of a wonderful journey my sweet girl. I cherish every moment I have with you….one of the greatest blessings of my life.
Your Momma by God’s grace
I don't know how the time has gone by so fast....from this sweet face that I first glimpsed in June 2007

to this precious girl that changed our lives on Mother's Day 2008

to this beautiful young girl that is not only changing my life but changing the world

I love being your Momma sweet girl...can't wait to see what God has in store for you.



A few days ago leaving the beach she said something that was beyond her years and in response to that I said to her “ Izzy you are so smart” and she said to me “ only because you’ve taught me Momma” and I said “awe…Izzy that’s so sweet” and she said “ no, really Momma. I’m serious. I wouldn’t know anything if it weren’t for you”
Uh!!! I could barely keep driving. Rob looked and me and put his hand on my hand and said “it’s true! She is an amazing girl because you’ve taught her to be one”.
Ok, so all of this settled into my brain tonight.  I just recently watched Somewhere in Between which is a documentary about teenage girls adopted from China.  It’s basically about their journey and their struggles. It completely wrecked me watching it. One of the girls gets to go back and basically by a miracle stumbles upon her birth family and gets to meet all of them and forge a relationship with them. It was heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time.
At the same time we’re approaching Izzy being home with us for five years.  I can hardly believe that she’s been home five years already and at the same time it’s like she was never anywhere else. EXCEPT THAT SHE WAS!
And that’s where I am today. How is it that it can be “I’m only so smart Momma because you’ve taught me” and yet she is also a child of another mother and father.  This dichotomy is overwhelming sometimes. She is so American in so many ways.  Just like any other almost 8 year old here in the states. Yet, look at her she is absolutely beautifully Chinese. I know that to me I feel like we live in two worlds. How must she feel? It seems like it’s not a big deal right now. And maybe these feelings of “somewhere in between” won’t surface till she’s older or maybe they won’t surface at all. I feel them though. I feel them for her. I have deep roots in my family. I love the knowing the names of my great great great grandparents.  It makes me feel connected to something bigger than me. Something that runs deeply and connects all of us together. Will my youngest three kiddos feel that?  Will they feel this family connection? Or will they constantly long for that which is unknown?  
I look at Izzy sometimes and it shocks me how much she is like me. She says things like I do. She even talks with her hands like I do.  Every now and then though she does something or says something that seems so foreign to me and I know deep in my heart that it’s a trait from her birth family. I love it. It’s not a bad thing in anyway but I wonder if she notices those things too. Does she feel different when she does that or says that because she knows she didn’t see it or learn it from us.

I wonder. I hope. I pray.

My greatest wish for Isabella Ting Braniff this Gotcha Day of five years home with her family is that she is rooted in the family of Jesus Christ. That she comes to really understand her value in His eyes. Truly knowing that she is first and foremost a child of God. Before she is mine and Rob’s daughter. Before she is a daughter of birth parents in China. Before she is Chinese or American. Before all of that I want her to know what she means to our heavenly father!

I absolutely believe that if she understands that then the rest will be much easier.  That is my greatest priority in raising her.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Missing the beach....

It's been over a week... : (

Everything is possible....

from the very beginning Mari's Mama and Baba in China told us she was a Mark 9:23 girl...

 "Everything is possible to the one who believes"
so this week Marianna got her new "leggie" to match her new foot
Isn't it pretty?  She loves it, but it's taking some getting used to.
In addition to her new "leggie" she and her sister were invited to a skating party for their friend Genevieve's birthday.
Even me her Momma that knows better than anyone that she can do anything that she puts her mind to wondered....Can she skate?
So....we went for a practice run..before the party.
and I gotta say this Momma was a little worried. Not just about Marianna. About me...I hadn't skated in I don't know how long. And then in sad rental skates that clearly had seen better days. Add to that Izzy had never skated.  What in the world was I thinking. Me alone with two girls that had never skated and one is wearing a prosthetic leg. Oh my....
So how'd we do? ....GREAT!
I took me a few minutes and a little 80's jam and it all came back to me. I had a blast. Izzy hung close to the wall but in general didn't pretty well for the first go round.
And Marianna....well, let's just say she was on the ground more than she was upright for the first few laps. Then it got better and better and better. Not good yet, but getting there.
Not one time in the two hours that we skated did she get discouraged. Not one time did she want to quit. Well maybe she did "want" to quit because one time she looked at me and said "Braniffs aren't quitters Mom" : ) So maybe she wanted to, but she never did. She just kept getting back up and moving on. By the end we walked out of the skating rink and she said "that was so much fun" ! 
I should've known....Everything is possible for the one that believes. And this girl...she believes!
They had a great time celebrating with Genevieve at her birthday party and a blast skating. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

gotta love this boy...

Passing time while Izzy is in art class with our new feathered friends....


This crazy brood....

oh they make me so tired, but oh they make my heart sing....this crazy brood

It's been a very sleepless week for us

Except for dinnertime...Josiah usually crashes around that time. Prayers are appreciated for him to sleep at this Momma can sleep at night too : )

Weighing in at 30lbs....

A fighter in the making...oh my! Don't know if this Momma is ready for that.

Locks of Love

Yes they did!

I know we have been working towards this for a couple of years, but the reality of cutting 10 inches of their beautiful hair was so hard. Much harder for me then them. In fact they were plain giddy about it. So excited to do it. We had gone online earlier that day and watched a you tube video about alopecia. Izzy had heard about it through someone at church and wanted to know more about it. In one of the videos was a beautiful little Asian girl with alopecia and they both looked at me and said "we're ready to do it" gasp....!  I wanted to wait and bring them to my friend Rachel's to get it cut professionally, but they wouldn't wait. They wanted to do it right then.


I cut their beautiful hair and we sent it off to Locks of Love and I couldn't be prouder of my girls.  What beautiful girls with such beautiful hearts to love others.
Then we had my friend Rachel "fix" their hair...because this Momma has no idea how to cut hair : )