Monday, December 30, 2013


Brief glimpses of 25 years of marriage

"I do" in front of hundreds
Sunrise over the mountain in Hawaii
Finding our first dog on the way home from TCU on an icy day
Buying our second dog for our first anniversary, a little "bagel puppy"
John making partner and Jill going to grad school
John elected to school board
The first dog dying and the third dog brought home
Long days of infertility
Longer nights of infertility
Many tears 
Intrusive medical procedures
We move next door to Jill's parents
Success! Luke! John is completely enthralled
More infertility
Adoption agencies researched and chosen
Country chosen
Settling in for the long wait to get to our girl in China
Plans changed in one painful heartbeat when we saw Alex's face
Trip to Russia during the coldest November ever
Thanksgiving in Russia--listing every possible thing we could for which to give thanks
A fabulous 10th anniversary party with friends
"By the way, China has a daughter for you. Do you still want to go?"
By the way, I'm pregnant
Song of joy in our heart turns into a Song of joy in our arms
Anna joins the family
By the way, I'm pregnant again
God clearly tells John our family is to move to Canada
Calgary withstands the emigration of the Spicer Six
Emma is born and my second educational arc begins
We move back to Texas
Emma says her first word other first birthday--Mama
We build our dream house
We start homeschooling
Vera is found 
Vera is adopted and things get even more fun!
We buy a 12 passenger van
Ella is found and within 4 months is adopted
Dean is found and over a year later is adopted, days after our 20th anniversary
Ten Spicers is declared the number of completion
Family camp in Colorado is attended for three straight years

We've traveled the world, watched dreams come true, seen dreams shatter and then found newer and better dreams, and experienced things we never would have dreamed about 25 years ago.

What a ride!

"Meeting you was fate,
Becoming your friend was a choice,
but falling in love with you I had no control over." ~~ Anonymous

Happy 25th Anniversary, John

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Dirty Dozen


I started teaching my boys at home when they were first graders, making this school year my twelfth year of homeschooling. You might expect that, after 11 years of experience, I would be quite the confident homeschool mom. 


Actually, most homeschool moms reading this post would likely agree that each year can suck a little more confidence out of you because the stakes just keep getting higher. My situation might be even a bit more precarious simply due to the fact that we don't do yearly standardized testing. I know, I know. That's crazy talk! 

All that to say, when SATs and college application time rolled around for Luke...I was a bit nervous. More like, waking-up-at-4-am-and-praying-like-crazy-nervous. I knew he was capable and smart. I still worried that somewhere along the way I had dropped the ball. Forgotten an entire subject. Emphasized the wrong things. Let him watch too many Seinfeld episodes.

So imagine my delight when I--I mean he--received his first acceptance letter in the mail! I ran in to give it to him, practically squealing! He wasn't exceptionally thrilled; it was from a university near the bottom of his list. Two days later, however, he received the email from Texas Tech (most likely his first choice) which he screenshot and texted to his thrilled parents! 

Of course, a few college acceptance letters do not mean I am a great homeschool teacher...Luke is a smart kid and an excellent autodidact. Nonetheless, I must confess to wanting a big party thrown in my honor to make up for the years of teacher gifts I never received...but I'll take a screenshot of acceptance from Texas Tech any day.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Seventh Heaven

Seven years ago, I was in Colombia finishing the adoption of the world's most beautiful Colombian girl--Mariella Camila Spicer. 
Ella wasn't what I expected. Vera and Emma weren't especially similar, so naturally I assumed they represented the two poles of the Down syndrome spectrum. I quickly figured out there was no linear spectrum (and even if there were, Vera wouldn't be on it. She's her own spectrum!); more like a constellation. 

I expected, due to her young age of 2.5 years, that Ella would slowly but surely learn to speak and walk and feed herself and even put on pants without help. Instead, developmental goals took much longer to achieve than they did with her sisters. We are still working on many things. 

One main issue for Ella is expressive speech. I never expected to have a child who couldn't speak very many words. Yet, we almost always know what she means. We've also learned to trust her when we can't understand. I learned this lesson again just a few weeks ago.

I had taken Ella and Dean shopping with me in a big box store. Dean wanted to look at the Legos, which happened to be across the aisle from the Toy Story figurines. Ella picked up both Woody and Buzz Lightyear figurines. I asked her to choose one. She emphatically shook her head and hugged them all the more tightly. I finally remembered that she had some birthday money from her grandmother, so I let her get them both because I could see she realllllly wanted both of them.

Ella carried both of them during the car ride home. When we unloaded, she marched inside and made a bee line to Vera. Without a word, she handed Buzz over to Vera, as she had evidently been planning all along. 

What an example! As so often happens with my girls, I am reminded of God, of my relationship with Him. So many times in my life, He seems strangely quiet. I see my circumstances and I feel Him leading me along, but I'm not sure why...I'm only sure I should follow along even when I don't understand. One day, quite unexpectedly, He shows me the blessing He had planned all along.

Like Ella...the blessing I had no idea I needed, the blessing who was nothing like I expected, the blessing who fills my heart every day with her hugs and kisses and smiles. Seven years with her as my youngest daughter has truly been nothing but the richest of blessings...the kind you always know come straight from God. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Guest post--Daddy

We adopted my daughter Vera from the Far East of Russia. She was five at the time. She is now 14. Vera has Down syndrome. Yesterday, she put on a sweatshirt. The sleeves were too long, going well past her hands. It bothered her. She came to me and told me that it was too small. I started rolling up the sleeves and told her the shirt was too big, not too small. She told me again that it was too small. We had multiple too small / too big exchanges but she wouldn't budge. I don't win arguments with Vera. 

I now actually think that she meant that she was too small, rather than the shirt being too small. It made me consider how Vera may think. For instance, she often has trouble communicating, either by not being able to quite enunciate the word she is using or by not being able to phrase the thought correctly. She will keep trying until you repeat back to her what she is intending. She is frustrated if we don't get it. I think this makes her feel small and makes her consider the world as we know it to be very big. That is, we take for granted the small things (like being able to be readily understood) and she celebrates the small things moment by moment.

Vera is the most unique human being I have met, including my other two children with Down syndrome. There is no smile in the world like the Vera smile of personal worth and achievement. She loves to feel big in her somewhat small and limited world. Yet, in many ways Vera is far bigger than I will ever be or can imagine becoming. She has expanded my big world by making me appreciate all things small, inch by inch and day by day.

(posted in Facebook yesterday, and posted here with permission from Daddy John)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

My real kids

Certain narratives and expectations exist in the adoptive world, including the one that has families giving birth to their children first, then adopting children later as the bio kids are growing up and the parents find they missed having little ones around. As a mom of mostly teenagers now, I can certainly understand! I have friends who have done exactly that, as a matter of fact, and their new children reap the benefits of having experienced parents. 

In our family, and many others I know, the order is rather more mixed. We are bio, adopt, adopt, bio, bio, adopt, adopt, adopt. In our particular case, I believe it happened that way because neither method of bringing children into our family was our "Plan B." Both were "Plan A."

Still, expectations hold sway. A few months ago I was asked about adoption by a new friend who was unfamiliar with the order of our family ("order" being a word rarely used to reference the Spicer family!). 

"Do your biological kids ever resent that you've adopted all the other kids?" 

I've been asked versions of that question many times so it is clearly a concern of pre-adoptive parents. I have friends whose older children have been resentful so it is a valid consideration. 

In yesterday's blog post, I mentioned that  "I never remember my children are adopted, but I never forget, either."

And so it happened that after I read the question on my iPad, I turned to Song (our 3rd child) to ask her if she ever resented all the children we had adopted. No kidding. Just in time, I remembered that she was adopted! 

I started laughing and told her what I had started to do. If I remember correctly her excited response was something like, "are we getting more?!?!"

I doubt I will continue to write daily during November about adoption awareness (or my lack of awareness!), but I do love sharing glimpses into the ways adoption is woven into our lives. 

I love that 14 years on, I can look at Song, who clearly was not born to me, and first and foremost see my lovely daughter. 

I love that she looks at me and sees her mommy. 

I love that as my children look at each other they see the thing we all need so desperately: family, and every one of us included. 

Friday, November 1, 2013


The beginnings of my days have a comforting sameness to them. Vera (at least) and maybe Ella or Dean or Emma come in to snuggle with me in my comfy bed. Some days we fall back asleep together and sometimes we chat a bit. We say, "I love you" a whole lot. We talk about upcoming birthdays and holidays and adoption anniversaries--all the highlights of our life. I get and give loads of kisses and hugs and occasionally receive the unintentional elbow to the gut. 

I could hardly love it more.

Part of this morning's conversation was very simple yet brought up so much joy, so many thoughts, so much thankfulness. 

Mommy: Vera, are you happy?
Vera (smiling with her whole body): yes.

She IS happy. She's also grumpy and stubborn and kind and mischievous and sad and friendly and even maternal. But she is happy. And I am grateful to the bottom of my soul that she is able to experience that range of emotions, those family celebrations, those snugly mornings with mommy.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Funny thing, adoption: I never remember my children are adopted, but I never forget, either. So when I ask Vera if she is happy, I'm asking someone who is fully, completely, unreservedly my daughter. And when she says she is happy, I think of where she could be, what her life would be like, if she would already be living in a Russian mental institution, if she would even still be alive. 

So for the millionth time I squeeze her a little tighter, but she is still just as much my beloved daughter as she was before. And I thank God for the millionth time for giving her to me, and I feel more like His beloved daughter than ever before. And I am reminded again that His purpose in adoption is to present to us a picture of His adoption, of our secure place in His family, of the great Love He lavishes upon us. 

I am so happy He did.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

You Can Keep Your Scarlet Letter

My Facebook feed is all awash in the sharing of a blogpost-of-the-moment from the mother of teenage sons to teenage girls whose posts make their way to the sons' Facebook or Instagram or Twitter feed.

Please imagine the scene as she describes it: the family sits around a computer screen and looks at pictures of teenage girls then decides to hide them based on the way the young lady is dressed, or posed, or ??? Because they care about their sons. They also care about you, teenage girl, and don't want their boys to only think of you in sexual poses. They make sure the young ladies know that there are no second chances if they would post anything like that. Very nice of them, letting the girls know that up front. As she says, "men of integrity don't linger over pictures of scantily clad high-school girls." 

(Unless they are the dads of men of integrity, then I'm guessing there might be some lingering as they point out just what, exactly, is wrong with this pose...but let's not dwell on that awkward thought.)

I realize what I am about to say will ruffle some feathers, but this is what I really see happening around the dinner table in this scenario: the boys are being taught to identify the bad girls, the ones who are not going to be welcome as a future wife no matter how their maturity level may have changed because "there are no second chances". These sons are being taught how to spot a girl with self-esteem issues from twenty paces, but not how to treat them as image bearers of Christ.

"Every day I pray for the women my boys will love." 

I hope that is true. But...coming on the heels of a rather lengthy diatribe against (while pretending in the most surface way possible to be FOR) the girls who don't make the single-elimination rings hollow, sounds like she is praying for not just a woman, but the right kind of woman, one with no Scarlet A applied by a member of her own gender, for crying out loud.

Why do I even bother writing this? I was the type of girl she dreams of for her sons, after all. And come on, Jill, be honest...are you saying you want your sons to bring home one of THOSE girls?

The thing is, I have so many friends who were, in fact, THOSE girls. And now they are grown. And smarter. And able to give second and third and fourth chances. (It's called grace.) Some of them had babies awfully young and made fantastic mothers, often doing the work of two because those sons, the ones who were taught that some girls are for sex and some girls are for marrying, left them high and dry. 

I write it because my girls, modest to a fault, might still attract your son outside of social media, in real life. And as sometimes happens, even to the girls who aren't supposed to be THOSE girls, they might find themselves in a situation that would only be compounded by thinking our house wasn't one of second chances, of grace, of love. And I want to see my grandchildren...all of them. I've been dreaming of them for so long. 

Above all, love one another deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8