No, Adoption is Not Second Best

Adoption is a distinguished road not for the faint-of-heart but for the faithful one.I remember it as if it happened yesterday.  After our adoption of our daughter in 2010, family and friends gathered a local Starbucks to celebrate.  It was obvious that we were a happy bunch by the joy and laughter going on.

The barista behind the counter asked, “Are you celebrating something?”  I said, “Yes.  We just adopted our second child.”  He then said, “That’s great.  Are you going to have children of your own, too?”

Hit the brakes.  Inner Mama Bear rising up (Ladies, you know what I’m talking about).  Deep breath.  Tender smile.

Pause…bless his twenty-something, hipster little heart…

I responded with, “Our children are our own.”  “Oh,” he said.  “Well, congratulations.”

I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to questions about foster care, adoption, and infertility.  I really do.  I’ve heard some doozies over the course of my lifetime of barrenness; ones that just ripped right into my heart.  Yet, I try my best to respond in a manner that is both respectful and educational.  After all, if we (foster/adoptive parents) want respect, we need to show it.  Plus, knowledge really is a powerful tool in helping to expand someone’s worldview.

Children who enter our lives, often through the tragedy of brokenness, are not replacements or an after-thought.  These precious souls are each born with their unique talents, challenges, and personalities.  Their histories are sometimes scarred but their futures are limitless.  The tapestries of their lives are weaved with love, loss and that incredibly soul-inspiring notion that there is always hope.

Adoption is beautiful and heart-breaking.  It is humbling and faith-building.  It is joy and laughter and tears all wrapped up in one.  It is a whole lot of things but it will never be second-best.  It is the path to parenthood that many families facing infertility choose to walk down.  It is a choice.  It is not easy and can be wrought with many unknowns.  Yet, each step is padded with the firm belief that adoption is a distinguished road not for the faint-of-heart but for the faithful one.

When following the command to care for orphans and the least-of-these, we should also look in the mirror and know that we, too, were orphans.  The Lord said, “I chose you”.  Not only are we chosen, we are cherished and known to our Father in Heaven.  I believe that Jesus had you and me on His mind when He carried that burdensome cross up the hill towards our salvation.  If I thought for one minute that adoption is second-best, I fear the glory and humbling essence of belonging to our Heavenly Father would be trivialized.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  -Galatians 4:4-5

Each child in need of adoption is a treasure to the Lord; worth more than gold or the greatest riches on Earth.  To Him, they are not second-best.  When I look into the eyes of my children, I do not see a secondary option.  No.  I see a longing fulfilled, redemption and the scripting of life without the borders that humans like to establish.  I see children who are worth it.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. -Luke 12:7

Is adoption second best to having a biological child?  I don’t think so.  Instead, I believe that adoption is a predestination lovingly anointed with the mystery and power of the Lord.   When I hear people comment about adoption being less than giving birth to a child or just a fallback plan, I cringe.  Friends, these thoughts are the whispers of the enemy trying to sabotage what our Father holds so dear.  The Enemy wants to destroy families.  He wants to bind children.  He wants to remind us of our own loss.  He wants to complicate the calling on our lives to care for orphans.

However, the voice of the Lord is stronger and more powerful.  He calls us upon the seas.  He asks us to tread where others fear to go.  He seeks the willing.  He equips the courageous.  He does this in the name of love.  If we believe in this, then how can we ever accept adoption as second best?

To the hipster dude at Starbucks, it’s okay.  I’ve long forgiven you for questioning whether I would have my “own” children.  Just know that my children – the ones who the Lord declared and prepared for my life – are mine.  They are not second-best.  They never have been.  They never will be.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. -Psalm 139:13-16

Note:  This was written as a guest post featured on the blog, Mess Into a Message Blog and can be viewed there along with other thought-provoking posts by the author of “Mess Into a Message”.  

Headed Up the Hill (Guest Post by blogger Lisa Robertson of “Mess Into a Message”)

Right outside the main gate of Ancient Ephesus, there was a hill that acted as a – for lack of a better word – “baby dump.” It was a pagan society and when an unwanted baby was born, it was dumped up on the hill and left to die. Archeologists have found that often times these babies had deformities – or what our current culture would label, “special needs.” And other times, the child was just unplanned or unwanted. Ephesus also operated with a mindset that required you to live up to a certain standard…to look and act a certain way…beauty = worth. Therefore, if you birthed a baby with special needs, there was a lot of pressure and judgment placed on you.

Sound at all familiar?

With this evil and utterly disgusting practice in Ephesus, ancient writings suggest that early Christians would head up that hill to rescue the babies who were left to die and to adopt them as their own.

Isn’t that a beautiful image amongst a gruesome scene?

Now, I am no Bible scholar and I don’t know much more than that about the background of Ephesus during that time…(a friend and pastor at our local church shared all of that with me) but can you imagine what the culture must have thought? If they witnessed these early Christians trekking up that hill to rescue these “unwanted” children? They must have thought they were crazy. Why would they choose a hard, “against-the-grain” life by seeking after these children and choosing to make them their own?

I often feel that way as a foster parent. Many people don’t “get it.” They don’t get WHY we became foster parents. WHY we choose hard. WHY we would choose to welcome a child that required over 40 medical appointments in his first 8 weeks of life… Or simply why we would choose to sacrifice our time, our resources, our family dynamic for the “mess” of another’s.

Our culture often doesn’t “get” why an expecting family chooses to carry out the pregnancy they’ve been told will result in a still-born baby. WHY the expecting family chooses to bring their baby, diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, into the world when they learned of the diagnosis with plenty of time to terminate. WHY the comfortable family pays $40,000 to head to China to adopt a special needs child. WHY the foster family adopts a sibling group of 5 with trauma backgrounds that will lead them into endless amounts of therapy.

Why?

Because we were once a needy, blemished child on that hill crying out to be rescued. Our Savior heard our cries, and He climbed that hill to come get us.

In Acts, after Pentecost, Peter and John – filled with the Holy Spirit – proclaim the gospel and teach about Jesus’ resurrection. They heal a crippled man proclaiming to have done it in the name of Jesus. The rulers, elders, and scribes were astonished…they recognized they had been with Jesus…but they wanted them gone because they were afraid of losing their power or influence. They talked with each other and said, “What shall we do with these men?” (Acts 4:16)

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They witnessed miracles in the name of Jesus but they didn’t like it. They didn’t want it to be true…it didn’t fit with their culture or nicely into their standard boxes. Peter and John’s boldness threatened their lifestyle. These “Jesus people” were proclaiming to do things in the name of Jesus? With his help and power? What!? Well, that’s just uncomfortable.

Our culture and society today are often uncomfortable with this same boldness. In a world that strives for comfort, the “American dream,” biological children FIRST, adoption as a last resort, “my body, my choice,” and any other comfort inducing mindset…the idea of choosing the hard, choosing to live “against-the-grain” of what is typically acceptable, choosing to love sacrificially like Jesus…is well, uncomfortable and not ideal.

Might we stand against this societal strive for comfort and be people that our society and our culture “doesn’t know what to do with.” Might we proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.

Might we make our local foster care agency not know what to do with us as we step into the muck of foster care and love birth families beyond what makes sense.

Might we make our world around us scratch their heads and not know what to do with us as we literally go to the ends of the earth to willingly adopt the “unwanted.”

Might we make doctors and nurses scratch their heads and not know what do with us as we turn down their offensive offer to terminate and instead lovingly and excitedly choose to carry our special needs child to term and deliver them into this world.

Might we be the people headed up the hill to rescue the blemished children in the name of Jesus and by the power of His Spirit…knowing ourselves what it feels like to be rescued and adopted as sons through Jesus Christ (Acts 1:5).

Might we do none of these things out of charity, but out of love for Jesus.

 

Read more of Lisa’s beautifully honest posts on her blog:  Mess Into A Message Blog

If Your Son or Daughter is a Foster Parent

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I love this picture of my dad and my oldest son sharing a shake when he was just a little guy.  We fostered him for close to two years and we all underestimated how deeply we would fall in love.  We didn’t know how hard the road would be or how complex feelings are when you want biological parents to succeed; yet, you also want so desperately to hold on to the kiddo that captured your heart.  It was close to two years before we were declared his (legal) family and on that day, our entire family exhaled a collective sigh of relief, belief, and appreciation.

My parents absolutely 100% poured everything they could into our children while we were fostering them.  They did so with zero promise that they would be their “forever” grandparents.  Looking back, it seems a bit selfish to have asked them to do this.  Their instant adoration upon meeting our babies was apparent and a bit heartbreaking.  They understood that reunification was the goal but it didn’t make things easier.  They asked “when will you know anything” for months upon months.  Yet, we could not promise anything nor could we give a lot of details.  

With each step, our parents just went with the flow.  I saw the concern in their eyes.  I saw the worry covering their expressions.  Even so, our parents accepted, celebrated and cherished each child and each moment with them as if it would be their last.  

Foster care and adoption brought us closer as a family.  We were stretched in faith and in our worldview about what family means.

We know that FAMILY is more than blood. 

LOVE is not defined by DNA. 

Children are the best GIFTS anyone could ask for, regardless of how they come into your life.

Most people remarked about how hard it must have been for us to love our children without knowing what would happen or how long they would be in our lives.  To say it was hard is quite an understatement.  It was painful, full of worry and just plain exhausting.

Looking back, I recognize that no one really asked how our parents were holding up.  Sure, we were asked a lot.  We were offered prayer and assistance.  Our parents, however, were not.  At least, not to the level that we were.  Yet, fostering is hard for the entire family.

Grandparents (aka – the parents of foster parents) play an oh-so-important role in the life of a foster child.  They attend birthday parties, help out when one is sick, celebrate holidays, bake that special little goodie that the child devours, and nurtures the child just like most grandparents do.  They do all of this even while knowing how devastating it would be to lose the child they have grown to love.  They also do all of this with the knowledge that reunification is a part of foster care and absolutely does happen in a lot of situations.

If reunification occurs (and it should if the biological parents are healthy and able), not only do the foster parents grieve the child moving (even though they are aware this is a reality), grandparents also grieve, worry and wonder about the child’s future.  It’s a loss that is manageable but also life-changing.

Will the child remember them? 

Will they ever see that ornery little girl with dimples in her cheeks or that sweet little boy whose eyes could melt the world again? 

Will that spunky 6-yr-old think back fondly of baking cookies or playing catch with “grandma and grandpa”? 

Will that pre-teen still yearn to hear “grandpa’s” goofy jokes?

Will that teenager call when he needs some advice?

Will they know how deeply they were cherished and loved?

Foster parenting affects the parents of those who foster and anyone else who is a part of the child’s life.

If your son or daughter is a foster parent, you know how it has affected your life.  You have so many questions that have to go unanswered.  Your heart breaks with pain and leaps with joy all within a few days.  You did not sign up for this.  Sure, you were excited and worried all at the same time but you really had no idea what to expect.  You get frustrated, even angry, as you watch your child ride an incomparable wave of emotion.

Your support during the tough times and your willingness to listen is so important.  Of course, a few nights of babysitting always come in handy but at the end of the day, your unwavering commitment to be there during the bad days and the good ones is vital.

Even when you are anxious and angry, you put on a brave face.  Instead of showing your sorrow, you lie in bed at night thinking about the love that has entered your life.  You fear what could happen in everyone’s lives – yours, your child’s and the little one that you adore.

If your son or daughter is a foster parent, I hope you know how valuable you are.  Like our parents and the untold numbers of other out there, your input in a child’s life increases the output of love they will feel.  You matter.

Thank you for loving (foster) children without the promise of tomorrow. 

Just know that what you do for the life of a child can change the course of history for generations. 

This is something we should all be thankful for.

 

 

 

Be Bold {let your light shine}

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I wish I could tell you that it is “easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy” (as my 5-yr-old likes to say) to parent children who have been adopted or to be a foster parent.  I’d love to say that once a child enters your home either for foster care or adoption, all problems go away and it’s just downhill and smooth-sailing from there.  It would be fantastic for me to declare that I never second-guess myself and that we are all about lollipops, rainbows, and laughter.  However, if I were to say any of these things, my words would be false.  They would not bear a truthful witness to what it is to be a parent through adoption.

A few months ago, I started praying/speaking these words to God, “What do you want me to do with my life?”  “What do you want from me?”  One morning while praying, I heard the words, “BE BOLD.”  A little startled at the immediate response, I asked, “What do you mean?”  

“BE BOLD.”  The words were clear, concise and not complicated.

Several months have passed and to be honest, I just kind of ignored this answer.  I know the Lord told me to be bold but it was just too simple of a declaration.  I am a detail-oriented person and the two-word response to my prayer just didn’t cut it.

With the dawning of a New Year, the Lord’s answer of “Be bold” has never strayed too far from my mind.  I wonder, friend, if His words are not only meant for my ears but also for yours.

For prospective foster and adoptive families, you need to know that being bold is imperative.  It’s more than just declaring an injustice in what you are witnessing.  It requires a stillness of faith AND a movement of courage.  

Being bold, in the sight of others who do not understand, is necessary.

When you are asked, “Why in the world would you want to do that?”, be bold.

When people say to you, “I would never subject my own kids to that”, be bold.

When you are quivering in fear over what is going to happen with a child you love, be bold.

When you have the opportunity to love on biological parents, please, by all means, be bold.

Foster parenting and adoption both have this funny way of knocking people to their knees.  We fall down time and again, but we get up.  We wonder what we are doing and why in the heck are we doing it, but we keep on.  In the face of many obstacles and trials, we stand up.  We are bold.

When parenting children who come from extremely difficult situations, we learn of our own blessings and our own stumbling blocks.  Their histories collide with ours and we realize how different life could have been for us if we were handed down the same hardships these children have been dealt.

I know the saying of “What would happen if you weren’t afraid?”  It’s fine and everything but I like this version better:  “What would happen if you were bold?” 

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold… -2nd Corinthians 3:12

How could your courage and boldness literally change the course of a child’s or adult’s life?

What would your boldness show to children who look up to you?

How could you make an eternal difference for someone?

What if you took that darned thing called infertility, grabbed it by the neck and said, “No. I’m not going down that way”?

What if you become a foster parent and take in kiddos that absolutely soak up your love and attention?

What if you step outside of your preconceived comfort zone and foster a large sibling group, older youth or ones with special needs?

What could happen if you decide tomorrow to wake up declaring that boldness is the only way to live?

We are well on our way into 2018.  We don’t know what we will have to face or overcome as the year unfolds but let’s live this year with a boldness that leaves an impression.

Shine your light, friends.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

 

If you are considering foster care or adoption, my wish is that fear would not stop you.  It isn’t easy, but it is so worth.

Goal for 2018:  Let others see that boldly living and courageously loving is a remarkable way to live.

Question:  How are you going to live boldly this year?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Could YOU adopt a teen?

The is a great need for families to foster and adopt older youth.  It is a constant challenge that those of us in child welfare deal with.  During various recruitment events and other types of meetings, we often speak about how long too many kiddos, age 12+, are lingering in the system.  The challenge is to get people to understand that older youth in the system are just as “adoptable” as young children.

I get it.  My husband and I fostered infants.  This was our desire.  There’s nothing wrong with it.  It still fulfills a need.  However, as we get older and as our children age, IF we were to ever foster again or adopt, we would absolutely consider older youth.

Could YOU adopt a teen?  Maybe so.  Here’s an article I wrote for Adoption.com regarding this very subject.  Click this link to read more:  Could YOU adopt a teen?

Blessings,

Caroline

A Letter to the Nurses Who Had a Hand in Saving My Life {and every single nurse out there}

It’s no surprise that doctors tend to get a lot of affirmation for their life-saving precision when it comes to surgery.  The doctor who performed my surgery reluctantly received plenty of attention for saving my life.  My case and the way he performed my hysterectomy have been studied both abroad and at home.  He chose to take on the surgery (first of its kind) knowing the risks at hand.  Even his wife knew of the concerns.  She called her friends and they gathered to hold a prayer vigil while he was performing the surgery.

I still have him as my doctor and see him often.  I can call him anytime I need something – day or night.  He and his wife came to our adoption celebrations.  We’ve exchanged Christmas cards and shared food together.  Our families have stayed friends through the years and he knows that I hold no bitterness towards him or the Lord.  Even still, he gets a bit weepy when we talk about my surgery.  It absolutely impacted his life.

The reality is that it was not just his expertise and his hands that saved my life.  There were many nurses who walked through that terrible sadness of my illness; yet, they did not receive the same type of attention and they did not get to watch me grow up and eventually become a mother.

To the nurses who worked the pediatric floor at the formerly called St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Missouri and who had a hand in saving my life in 1983, thank you.

Thank you for carrying my family through a horrible ordeal.  Thank you for holding my mother up while she nearly collapsed from the news and for offering my dad extra blankets at night because he just couldn’t leave.  Thank you for wiping away tears, caressing my hands and speaking words of encouragement into my ears.

Thank you for holding my body down while the needles were sliding in and out of my veins.  I knew it needed to happen and you did, too.  Thank you for checking in on me all of the time and showing the utmost professionalism with the full measure of tenderness.  Thank you for sneaking a friend onto the floor (even though it was against hospital policy).

Thank you for seeking my parents out to offer assurance that I was receiving the best care and for being goofy, smiling a lot and cheering my recovery.  Thank you for putting up with my smarty-pants antics when you couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my IV machine but I could (and I told you how to fix it).  Thank you for holding each other accountable.

I’ve often thought about the nurses on the pediatric floor who tended to my needs.  Without them, I know my experience in the hospital could have gone a lot different.  Even though it was a traumatic time, the love received absolutely made an incredible impact on my healing.

Nurses deal with anger, confusion, grief, sickness, bodily fluids, weeping parents and screaming patients on any given day.  They are comforters, counselors, scientists, and mentors.  They are teachers, advice givers, and hand-holders.

They intentionally walk into the trenches of sickness and trauma, sometimes even at their own risk.  They put up with bureaucracy, policies, and politics and do so with their patients on their minds.  Nurses do not get enough credit for the life-affirming and hope-dealing job that they do.

To the nurses who had a hand in saving my life in 1983 and to all of the nurses out there, thank you.hosp1

 

 

 

“Kids Who Need Love the Most Often Ask for it in the Most Unloving Ways”

I’ve heard the quote, “Kids Who Need Love the Most Often Ask for it in the Most Unloving Ways” (Russel Barkley) more than once.  I never really understood it until I began my own parenting journey many years ago with a relative of mine.  Now, as a parent to three children who all have some special (yet not obvious) needs, I totally understand the essence of this quote.

Recently, I was asked to write about this subject for Adoption.com.  (By the way, if you haven’t visited the site (www.adoption.com), you should.  It is a fantastic site for pretty much all things related to adoption.)

For more on the subject, click this link:  Kids Who Need Love the Most

As 2017 comes to an end, I hope you all find yourself surrounded by love, encouragement, and hope.

Blessings,

Caroline

Momma-in-Waiting {at Christmas time}

pexels-photo-76931Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you.  Christmas is all around us, isn’t it?  You overhear your co-workers talk about the sweet surprises for their kiddos.  You are forced to look at picture after picture of your friend’s little one’s first Santa visit.  It’s not that you don’t think the images are cute or that you don’t want to see them.  It’s just that it hurts…really hurts.

Christmas morning in most houses is filled with chaos, giggling children, and mounds of bows and wrapping paper.  Weary parents get up at the crack of dawn to watch their children excitedly rip open that special gift from Santa.  Christmas morning at your home is a little different, though.  You get up whenever you desire and exchange presents with your spouse or anyone else staying the night.  It’s quiet and calm and in that stillness, your heart plunges to a depth a lot of people just don’t understand.  Your mind races with the same questions you’ve cried out for way too long…

Why is this happening?  When will it end?  What is wrong with me?  What if I never become a mother?  What if every Christmas is this quiet?

Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  My own house is now filled with chaos at Christmas.  I hear my giggling children and clean up mounds of bows and paper.  I watch as the kids rush to the tree to see what Santa brought.  I wish I could tell you that it’s not that big of a deal and you’re not missing much, but that would be a lie.  You know it and so do I.

It’s a little ironic, isn’t it?  We celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas; yet, you are wailing, wanting, and desperate to celebrate your own miracle; your own gift to the world.  You are waiting to celebrate the birth of your baby.  I don’t really know what to say except I was once where you are and I know that it is miserable.  I knew I could never birth a child but I did not know if I would ever be a parent.  It is so incredibly hard.  It’s one of the worst pains any human can experience on Earth.  I believe that.  I really do.

From Hannah and on, barrenness is noteworthy.  If it wasn’t, then I suspect it would not even be mentioned in Scripture.  People tell you, “God has a plan for you.”  They say, “If it’s God’s will, then it will happen.”  Do you want to know something?  I loathed those words.  I could not stand them.  I despised every single time they were said to me (and they were said more times than I can count).

Only now, after adoption and actually being a Momma-no-longer-in-Waiting, can I say that I “get it”.  I understand that the Lord did have a plan and adoption was His will for my life.  Yet, this knowledge does not erase the pain that I felt nor does it wipe my memory clean of my existence when I was a Momma-in-Waiting.

Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you.  Christmas is hard but so is just about every day when your steps are padded in confusion.  If there is one gift I can give to you this Christmas, it is this – your feelings are valid, your frustration is justifiable and your grief is not lost on those of us who have been there or who are there right now.

At this Christmas and every single day after, I want you to know that even though it feels like it, God has not forsaken you.  He never will.  Even though you do not feel His presence, He is there.  He is near you when test after test shows a negative, or when your doctor tells you news that you just don’t want to hear.  God is with you when you are lonely, tired and weeping the most sorrowful, thick tears ever imaginable.

Perhaps, Momma-in-Waiting, this is the best gift I can give you; the hope of the Lord.  

Be strong.  Be fierce.  Be courageous.  Don’t let anyone stifle your feelings or your voice.  Keep talking about infertility.  Keep asking questions and all of those other laborious things you need to do when you are meeting with doctors.  Don’t let others tell you how to navigate this journey for it is your own.

Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you.  At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a child who changed the world.  Today, Momma-in-Waiting, I’m thinking of you and I believe that the very baby born so long ago is thinking of you as well.

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. – Isaiah 41:13

Things That Happen to Kids Who Age out of Foster Care

Oh, friends.  Writing this article broke my heart.  Working in child welfare, I’ve always been aware of some of the struggles that older youth face both in the system and once they age out of foster care (U.S.), but I never really took a hard a look at the statistics.

In my home state, I have seen a change in the way cases are handled.  We are putting more of an effort in developing safety plans to keep families intact.  We are aiming for and making increased placements with relatives and others who know the children.  The number of kids entering care has dropped significantly in my county.  However, there is still older youth who are aging out – whether prepared or not.

They face homelessness, pregnancies, risk of exploitation, and lack of resources.  These are just a few of the risks they deal with.  If you’d like to learn more, read this What Happens to Kids Who Age out of Foster Care.

If you want to help, consider contacting your local child welfare agency or advocacy group.  Get involved.  Become a foster parent or a mentor.  There are a lot of ways that YOU can make a difference!

Blessings,

Caroline

Teens Need Families, No Matter What

Hi there!  November is almost over with and Christmas is on its way, but we still have a few days left for National Adoption Awareness Month.  This year’s theme is “Teens Need Families, No Matter What”.  It is such an important theme and speaks of the reality of older youth in the system who are waiting for their permanent families.

To learn more, click this link for an article I wrote about this subject:  Teens Need Families, No Matter What

Wishing you all well!

Blessings,

Caroline