Live Forever

So Little Bit, I’m sitting here at 1:04 am typing this, when I should be sleeping (or at the very least, laying in bed thinking about sheep or something relaxing).  But instead, I’m listening to Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors and thinking about you.  They’re a band that I’ve just happened upon, and your daddy has fallen in love with one of the songs.  It’s called Live Forever.  I want you to know what the words are, so I’m going to put them for you below ok?

Laughter is the only thing that’ll keep you sane
In this world that’s dying more and more everyday
Don’t let evil get you down
In this madness spinning round and round

I want you to live forever
Underneath the sky so blue

Some people say faith is a childish game
Play on, children, like it’s Christmas day
Sing me a song, sing me a melody
Sing out loud, you’re a symphony

I want you to live forever
Underneath the sky so blue
I want you to live forever
Underneath the sky so blue

Take courage when the road is long
Don’t ever forget you’re never alone

I want you to live forever
Underneath the sky so blue
I want you to live forever
Underneath the sky so blue

Oh yeah, I want you to live forever
Underneath the sky so blue
Oh yeah, I want you to live forever
Underneath the sky so blue

I gotta tell you TE, this is one of the many songs that speaks to me about how I feel for you and your life.  I know you can’t live forever physically, but I know spiritually you can.  I also know that as long as you’re alive I want all blue skies for you.  I’ll always do whatever I can to make sure the sun forever shines and the sky stays true to its color.

I especially love the line that says, “Take courage when the road is long, don’t ever forget you’re never alone.”  As long as this aging, fat body of mine moves, you’ll never, ever be alone Baby Girl.  And when you reach a point in your life when it seems you can’t go on, just keep going on.  You can do it, and you will do it!  You are marked for greatness; destined for a life of purpose.

Someday soon you’ll be able to read some of what I’ve written for you.  Later in your life it will make sense.  In the meantime, I’m going to remind you with hugs, kisses and I love you’s how much I truly do love you.  I still am amazed, in awe and thankful that I get the honor to be daddy to you.  You make this crazy life worth living Tinsley.

I love you more than I can ever know.

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Happy Father’s Day Dad

Well, it’s here again, just like every June.  It’s Father’s Day!  And unlike Mother’s Day, I actually can relate to this holiday, since I’m a dad and all.  There are a few people out there (other than my mom and dad) who say I’m a good daddy.  Well, if that’s true, then I owe a great deal of that to my dad.

Dad, I know that I do tell you this, but I don’t know if you really believe me or not.  So I’m going to put it out there in black and white for everyone to see and read.  You are a remarkable man and I have a great deal of respect and admiration for you.  I count you as the wisest man I know, and I am thankful that when I ask you for advice, I know I’m going to receive incredible counsel.  Your words carry a lot of weight with me, and I always listen carefully to what you have to say.  I appreciate all that you have done for me and our family through the years.  Even when times have been tough, you have always provided.  You’ve never ducked out, or tried to cut corners.  You have always been there for me, mom and Jason, and I am so thankful for that.  We have never had to go without what we needed, because you were always willing to do whatever you had to do to provide for us.

I hope that you honestly know how much I look up to you.  When I look at Tinsley, I think to myself, “I hope I am half as good a dad to her as Dad has been to me.”  If so, I will be a success.  There is not another man in this world that I think more of, love more, and want to be more like.  I am not sure what made God bless me with such an incredible Daddy, but He did, and I could never express how grateful I am.  Not just on Father’s Day, but every day, I love you and bless you.

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Happy 2nd Birthday Tinsley Ellison

     Ok, so today is your birthday.  You’re the big 2!  I know you can’t read this, but one day you’ll be able to.  I hope it means as much to you when you read it as it does to me to be able to write it.

     It’s hard to believe you’re already 2 Tinsley!  Time has flown by so quickly, and I am amazed and awestruck at how blessed I am because of you.  In my whole life I would have never imagined that I could love someone as much as I love you.  Sometimes I just sit and cry when I think about you.  This kind of love is truly overwhelming.  I hope and pray you get to experience it one day.

     I wanted to write down some stuff that I love about you and about us.  I know if I don’t I’ll forget it.  I also wanted to let you know a little about what life was like when you were 2.

     I don’t know if you will remember or not, but every night before I lay you down we hug and I hold you in my arms.  You wrap those little arms around me and I usually tell you to hug me tighter, make me grunt.  You do and I do.  There’s no greater feeling in the world sweet girl than you holding onto me like I’m the most important thing in your life.  As you’re hugging me I pray for you.  I thank God for you, for the blessing that you are.  I pray that you’ll not live a day outside of His will for you.  I pray for your destiny and your purpose, and that you would always walk in those things.  I always pray for your protection.  I always tell God to put His angels all around you, your crib, and the house.  I ask Holy Spirit to let you know Him at an early age, for you to hear His voice while you are still young.  I pray these things every night for you.  They are so very important.  Then I put you in your crib and tell you that I love you and bless you.  On most nights you’re asleep in less than 5 minutes.

     I bet you didn’t know that some nights I’ll sneak in on you, just to watch you sleep.  I may  pray for you, I may rub your back, or I may just stand at  your crib and watch you.  I never knew watching someone sleep could be such an emotional experience, but it is.  I always get choked up just watching you in your crib.  You know why?  Because you are so amazing and I still can’t figure out why God loved me so much that He let me be your daddy.  What an awesome privilege He gave me!

     One of my favorite things to do with you is roughhouse.  You do pretty good holding your own girl.  I love it when we headbutt each other, like two tigers playing in the wild.  Or when I’m laying on the floor and you come jump on me, then roll over me about a million times.  I love throwing you into the pillows, and you always come back for more don’t you?

     I also love that you’re a daredevil.  I love to hold my arms out and you jump into them when you’re standing on the side of the bed.  Or when you walk all over the furniture (even though you’re not supposed to) and climb to the top.  It’s still fun to watch you do that.  That’s exactly how I want you to live your life-without abandon, fearless.

    It’s so much fun watching you outside.  Now I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I am not much of an outdoors guy.  You, though, are changing that.  If I want to be with you I have to go outside, because you LOVE being outside.  So I go.  And you always make me laugh.  Whether it’s sliding, climbing, throwing the Kong for Macey, mowing the grass, riding in a toy, drawing on the sidewalk, throwing the ball, or hitting the ball off the tee, you never fail to make me smile.  Oh wait, I almost forgot!  One of the greatest things you do is to water the plants and fill up the water dishes.  It’s so funny to watch you do those, because you’re just so darn cute when you do it.

     There are about a million other things that I love watching you do and doing with you.  Like when you just sit by yourself and read out loud.  You know exactly what you’re saying, even if you don’t know those words yet.  Or when you’re cooking up something in your little kitchen.  How about when you give the doggies a cookie?  Poor doggies, half of the time you hit them in the head with the bones!  

     Tinsley Ellison, I could sit here all night and write about what I love about you.  You are so beautiful, so sweet, so joyful, so wonderful, so incredible.  But the main reason I love you is because you’re mine.  You’re my daughter, and in all of this world, I could not have been more blessed by anyone or anything.  I love, Love, LOVE you sooooooooo much.  You know, sometimes I ask you that.  I’ll say, “Tinsley, do you know how much Daddy loves you?”  You’ll always shake your head yes.  Then I say, “You can’t know how much I love you because I don’t even have a clue how much I love you.”  My love for you truly grows more and more every day.

     On today, June 3rd, your day of birth, I bless you.  I bless you to be all that God created you to be.  I bless you to walk in His ways, to love Him with all of your heart.  I bless you to love others, to always be a light in the darkness, to always have a smile that melts everyone.  I bless you to be physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy.  I bless you to grow in size and knowledge, in love and in happiness.  You are the apple of my eye, my sunshine, and I still can’t believe you’re mine!  I love you baby girl!  Happy Birthday!

Love,
Daddy

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Happy Mother’s Day Mom

“Behind every great man is a great woman.”  Or something like that, as the saying goes.  I  believe that you can be a great man without a woman, but I truly believe that a great woman lays the foundation for you to become that great man.  In my case, the foundation was laid, built upon, and developed into what I have become, and am becoming, today.  Now I don’t want to become full of myself or toot my own horn.  That’s not the purpose or point of this. I just want to toot my mama’s horn and tell her, and the rest of the world, how incredible I think she is!

Mom, for as long as I can remember (and that’s pretty long, because I can almost remember that day on January 20 when i came  out of the womb kicking and screaming), you’ve been there for me.  Whether I needed a hug, an encouraging word, or someone in my corner to fight for me, you’ve been there.  I’ve always known that you were a room away, or a phone call away, and now in this crazy tech-world that we live in, a text or Facebook message away.  Our family has had its share of ups and downs, but through it all we’ve always been on the upside.  You’re a huge reason for that.  You keep the family together, you keep us strong.  You’re so passionate about those that you care for and you’ll do anything for them.  We all know that too.  You can say what you want about us, but nobody else better say anything.  I know we joke about it, but it’s true, because I have seen you get fighting mad when someone says something about me!  I have to restrain you sometimes.

On this day that we’ve commercially approved as “Mother’s Day”, I want to bless you, honor you, lift you up to God as a special vessel.  But I sincerely hope that I do that every other day of the year as well, not just on this one that we designate as Mother’s Day.  You mean the world to me, and I’m not sure what I ever did to deserve a mom as awesome and special as you.  The Lord must’ve taken a liking to me in the womb!  In all seriousness, thank you for loving me, praying for me, standing with me, and being my biggest supporter in the whole world.  I love you more than you or I could ever know!

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Almost…

It’s hard to believe, but Miss Tinsley Ellison Osborne is rapidly approaching her first birthday.   June 3rd is right around the corner.  I know people say time flies when you have children, and boy are they right!  Time has certainly flown right by, and with it the emotions that go into parenthood.  I never knew I could feel this way about anything. 

In my ignorance I used to ask my parents, “Give me five good reasons to have a child.”  My dad, in his usual way, responded, “There are none!”  My mom, the emotional one of the family, responded with “I can’t give you five good reasons.  You just can’t understand until you have kids of your own.” 

She often throws that question back at me.  “Todd, give me five good reasons to have a child.”  I always look at her and give the same answer.  “I can’t give you five Mom, but I can give you one.  Tinsley is reason enough.” 

I often sit and look at Tinsley and just marvel at how awesome she is, how faithful Yahweh (God) is, how incredible being a dad is.  Sometimes, my emotions overcome me and my words come out in tears.  If you’re a parent, you know what I’m talking about.  If you’ve experienced trials before having your child(ren) then you really know what I’m talking about.  I don’t love her anymore because I waited so long for her, but I certainly appreciate the process and having her much, much more.

As we approach her birthday and the following month after, I hope to blog more and reminisce on her first three weeks in this world.  As most people who know us know, we spent those first three weeks in Baltimore, Maryland, learning a lot on the fly.  We’re still learning on the fly.  My desire though is to chronicle how amazing the journey has been with this precious baby and where we’ve come from.  There’s a lot of story that’s been written, but there’s so much more left, and I’m thankful that Yahweh lets me write some of it, or at the very least influence the words that will be penned into Tinsley’s heart and life. 

I know the best is yet to come.

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Years Ago…

April 3rd was the official anniversary date, but this weekend marks the second year of life without my brother Jason.  It was on Saturday, April 3rd, Easter weekend, that he finally was able to quit fighting for his life and go home to Heaven.

Of course the last two years have been full of ups and downs for me and my family.  My parents have experienced pain that I cannot imagine, and hope to never have to.  I’ve become an only child for the first time since I was four.  A day doesn’t pass that I don’t think about him, and I usually don’t dwell too much on the fact that he’s not with us anymore.  It hurts to think about him not here.

Having him not here though means he is in a better place.  I certainly believe in life after death, and I know that he is in Heaven.  He struggled for over 13 years after a surgery went terribly wrong, and none of us will ever know just how much pain and suffering he went through each day.  To know that all of the pain is now over is a great relief for me, and as much as I wish he were still here, I wouldn’t want him to have to come back in his old body with the same conditions.  That would be terribly selfish of me.  I find peace and comfort knowing that he is finally healed.

I questioned why I really wanted to post something about the anniversary of his death.  Was it selfish?  Was it to generate a few hits on my site?  Was it for sympathy?  No to all of those.  The real reason?  I don’t want to ever forget Jason, and I don’t want others to forget him either.  This is one way that I can keep his memory and legacy alive.  I believe it also helps others who miss him to think back on all the incredible memories of him by reading this.

Thank you for reading, thank you for caring, and for those of you that knew Jason, thank you for loving him.  May he be remembered until we see him again!

Be well.

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Just Give the Baby Back!

So I have an interesting parallel I’ve been thinking about lately, and I wanted to share it with everyone.  It involves babies, specifically fussy babies, people, and God.  Here goes.

It’s happened to most everyone that has ever held a baby.  At some point in the holding adventure, the baby cries.  He whines.  She fusses.  He wails.  She hollers bloody murder.  Have you been there?  Can you relate?  Yes, I thought so.  Me too!  Nothing is more frustrating than holding a beautiful, miraculous little bundle of joy and they turn into a turbo-charged sultan of scream.  If it’s not your child, and the cries don’t settle down in a reasonable amount of time, like 5 seconds, then the scanning begins.  Most people are looking hard to find Mom or Dad.  Usually Mom if she’s available.  Dad will do in a pinch.  But just somebody that the baby belongs to.  Please, take this child and get to them hush is the message their eyes and face relay.

But occasionally there is an exception to this rule.  There’s always someone that no matter how persistent Ms. Fussbucket is, they are more persistent.  She does everything in her power to calm the crier.  Baby talk, funny faces, soothing noises, re-swaddling, holding her differently, bouncing him, taking a walk.  No matter how loud Mr. Yellsalot gets, this person is determined to keep holding him and quiet him.  In those moments, there’s really only one thing to do.  Give the baby back to her parents!  Don’t hesitate, don’t think about it, just give her back so the comforting, peace and quiet can return to the house.

It’s obviously apparent to everyone around that there’s a problem, and the person holding the baby is not the solution.  It doesn’t mean that person, whether they’re a friend, a relative, or sometimes even the Mom or Dad, is not a good person, or good with babies and children.  It doesn’t mean that this person sometimes isn’t the solution to the problem.  Just not now.

As I’ve thought about this with my daughter, I’ve wondered how God must think sometimes.  Imagine that He is the parent (He is anyway, so you really don’t have to imagine it.  But He’s the parent in this parallel).  We are the person that is holding on to the baby.  In this case the baby might be a multitude of issues.  It could be problems that we’re experiencing, it could be a relationship that is not healthy, it could be an addiction we’re going through, it could be a dream that God has given us that we want to carry out on our own, it could be _________________.  Whatever “it” is, we continue to hold on to “it” as if we can fix “it”.  Guess what?  Just like Aunt Jane that thinks she can quiet the great screamer, you’re wrong.  Our problems and issues and worries are not ours to fret and stress over.  They belong to God.  He wants to bear our burdens.  He wants to carry our weaknesses.  The truth is, He already did when He became flesh and died on the cross.  Why in the world would we want to keep holding on to something, when there is Someone there that is perfectly willing and able to fix “it”?  I know, it doesn’t make any sense to me either.

The next time you’re holding a baby and he or she is unleashing a shrill to shake the house, give him or her to the person that can fix the problem.  And the next time you’re holding a problem that has shaken you to the core, or struck fear in your heart, or has caused you undue anxiousness, give it to the One that can fix the problem.  Don’t be a hero, don’t try to fix something that you can’t.  Just give the baby back.

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Adventures in Parenthood

Ok, so I’m a newbie at parenthood, and so is Stephanie.  Along the way, I know there will be a million humorous stories that come up, some showcasing our stupidity and some showcasing just kid stuff.  This one was one of the first of the former category and I think it’s blogworthy, so here goes.

A few days ago we were at Target with Tinsley, showing her off like the two proud parents we are.  Well, we underestimated how long we would be out.  That was our first mistake.  Our second mistake?  Not packing an extra bottle.  At this point we were batting 0-2, and things were getting ugly and out of control in a hurry.  Tinsley was letting out those bloodcurdling screams that every parent knows as “I’m hungry, I want food, and I want it now.  I don’t care where I am, if you don’t feed me I won’t be quiet!”

Being the quick thinker I am, I wanted to finish up what we were doing and get out of the store.  Fortunately my wife is a much quicker, and more savvy, thinker, and she rescued the moment.  We already had Similac Sensitive ready to feed formula in the cart.  Steph scampered back to the baby section and grabbed a 3-pack of Dr. Brown’s bottles.  While she opened the bottles and got one out, I tried to open the formula.  The bottle was locked up like Fort Knox, and I couldn’t get it open for anything.  Finally, after cutting my hand on the METAL seal, I got the bottle opened and poured who knows how much into the bottle.  I might add that while we were in the process of opening everything I objected by saying “The bottles aren’t sterilized.” Steph replied with “God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt.”  My response back was that was true, but He didn’t make the chemicals in the bottle.  Needless to say I lost the battle, and room temperature milk was served in an unsterilized bottle to our firstborn.  She didn’t seem to care for a minute that everything was less than kosher by my standards.

When all was said and done, and it didn’t take long to be done, Tinsley was happy and content, and we were again proud, and not frantic, Mommy and Daddy.  It was somewhat funny when it occurred, but looking back on it now it’s even funnier.  I can’t wait to tell her the story one day.  I just hope she doesn’t reply with “I guess you had to be there Dad”…

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Honoring a Great Dad-My Big Daddy

Today my Big Daddy, Leon Wood, passed over from this life to the next.  I firmly know that he is in heaven, celebrating the presence of God and rejoicing and reuniting with those that went on before him.  In honor of him and the incredible life that he led I wanted to post what I wrote to go into the bulletin for his funeral service on Thursday.

A man is only as good as his word.  We’ve all heard that expression a thousand times.  But when it came to Leon Wood, you knew it was the truth.  He was going to do what he said he would do and when he said he would do it.  You could also guarantee that he would do it the right way, with honesty and integrity.  There are not a lot of men like Leon Wood left these days.

Leon Wood was born September 10, 1928, in Duplin County.  He was the oldest son of Leslie and Ruth Wood.  In 1947 he joined the Army.  He was stationed in Japan for approximately 12 months and then fought in the Korean War from June, 1950 until October, 1952.  Right before leaving for war he married Peggy Ann Bullard on June 4, 1950.  Upon leaving the Army he and his family resided in Clinton, NC, where he worked as an electrician.  In 1966 Leon, Peggy, and children Sandra and Jeffrey moved to Jacksonville, NC, where he worked at Weyerhauser and Southern Electric.  He later worked at Camp Lejeune for the Department of the Navy as an electrical inspector.  He retired after working there for 20 years.

Leon, also known affectionately as Daddy, Big Daddy, Granddaddy, and Coach, was a great man.  For over 30 years he dedicated himself to teaching young men (and a few women as well) the fundamentals of baseball along with sportsmanship, character, and the right way to play the game.  For 27 years he coached First Citizens Bank Little League team, which later became the Jaycees, in Jacksonville.  He later went on to help as varsity pitching coach at Jacksonville High School for several years.  He was extremely knowledgeable about all things sports, and even more knowledgeable when it came to life.  He had no hesitation about correcting a player that did something the incorrect way, and he had no hesitation about praising them when they did something the correct way.  The impact that he had on his players through the years cannot be measured.  Many a player aged 10-12 had dreams and aspirations of playing for coach Wood and the Jaycees, and many a player was disappointed when they didn’t get him for their coach.  He always said “If I can change the life of one boy it made all of my years of coaching worthwhile.”

It wasn’t just the youth of Jacksonville that Leon cared for.  He was a strong family man with very high morals.  He was always very proud of Sandra and Jeff, and his grandchildren Todd, Jason and Caitlyn.  He loved them very much and did whatever he could to help them.  It didn’t matter if it was fixing something around the house, working on a car, or building something, he was always assisting his children anyway he could.  When Jeff played sports growing up and in high school he always was there.  He has been known to travel several hours just to watch his grandchildren participate in various sports and activities, usually bringing his video camera to record the events.

But don’t let his love for his family fool you.  He could also be stern when he needed to be, and was a firm disciplinarian.  He was funny about his stuff, and as much as he loved his grandkids, they knew better than to touch his things (like the channel on the TV) without permission.  As he grew older he was less concerned with things, and more concerned with just spending time with his family.  He mellowed much in his old age, and showed even more love and compassion.  His family cherished him and loved being with him, as exhibited up until the point that he left this world, with his family right by his side, just like he had been for them all of his years.

Today, there is a void left in this world.  In this day and age, there are not many Leon Woods left.  They are few and far between.  With Leon’s homecoming not only does he leave a hole in the hearts of his loved ones, but also in the hearts of everyone who knew him.  The world was a better place because of this beloved son, brother, husband, daddy, granddaddy, great-granddaddy and friend.

“Thank you Leon, Daddy, Big Daddy, Granddaddy and Great Big Daddy for always being there and supporting us.  We love you!”

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It’s a Girl…and they still want you!

“It’s a girl.”

“Yeah Stephanie, I know.”

“No, I mean she gave birth to a baby girl.  And they still want you to have her!”

This was the conversation between my Stephanie and Stephanie Money at Angel Adoption Inc.  on Friday, May 27 right before lunchtime.  The fact that made this astounding was that we had never spoken to her mother before.  She and the father had only seen our profile the agency had sent out to them.  They had chosen us based on the profile alone!

Around 12:45, my principal (and the third Stephanie of this story), came out to the playground and told me I needed to call my wife.  She said it was very important.  I thought it was one of two things:  Either something had happened to Big Daddy (Mama’s daddy) or it was something with the adoption we had been pursuing.  It obviously turned out to be the latter.

When I called, Stephanie relayed everything that was going on about the situation in warp speed.  I tried to wrap my mind around it all, but with little success.  All I could think about was how wonderful it would be if this really did happen.  You must always be cautiously optimistic when adopting, but this really showed a lot of promise.  We both laughed and cried, and she promised she would keep me informed of what was going on.

All of the legwork, or should I say speakwork, was handled by Steph.  When the day was said and done, we had lawyers arranged in both Baltimore and North Carolina that were already on the case.  It was decided that we would leave out Saturday morning on a 400 mile journey that would have us meeting our daughter!

I’ll spare you the details of the drive, and the conversations we had, and all of the other boring, monotonous musings.  What I won’t spare is this:  We arrived in Baltimore around 5:30 and checked into a hotel.  We then made our way to the University of Maryland-Baltimore hospital to meet the fifth member of our family (fifth if you count our 4-legged girls, which we do, or third if you don’t count the furry daughters).

Upon our arrival into the hospital, which by the way is a lot different than  New Hanover Regional Medical Center, we were given visitors’ bands and then went up to the 6th floor.  We were greeted by more security, and after handing off our id’s and gaining more clearance, we made our way to her room.

Her mother and father were both there, and we exchanged pleasantries.  And then came the moment we had so desperately waited for.  The culmination of 5 years of sweat and tears and thousands of prayers-our beautiful baby girl.  Her parents were very specific about wanting us to take her and bond with her and gave us time to do so by leaving the room.  They had even put the birth certificate lady off three previous times because they said they were leaving it up to us to name her!  We felt so honored and blessed to be able to do so.  Without hesitation Stephanie told the lady that her name was Tinsley Ellison, with the Osborne to be added later after the paperwork was completed.

I don’t think either Stephanie or myself ever saw a more beautiful thing in the world than that gorgeous little 5 pound, 14.9 ounce, 19 inch long bundle of joy.  We were so overcome with emotion that our dream of  becoming a family had finally been realized.

Today was Tinsley’s two week birthday.  I think I spotted a grey hair (just kidding, she barely has any hair).  It’s hard to put into words what the last 13 days of knowing her has meant.  It still feels weird, that I’m actually a dad.  I know it will be more real once our gold Honda Odyssey pulls out on 95 south to make our trek to the Port City.  I am so overwhelmed at what a blessing and miracle this little girl is for both of us.  I know that the road ahead will be paved with so many awesome things, and I can’t wait to experience it all!

There’s a quote that I absolutely love and use often.  “The harder you work for something the more it means to you once you get it.”  We waited so long for Tinsley Ellison Osborne to come into our lives, but I gotta be honest-every bit of pain and heartache has been worth the payoff.  Because of what we went through to get her, it has made us so much more thankful for her.  And when all is said and done, one day if she can look back and say that despite everything that may have happened in her life, she was thankful that we were her parents, we will have succeeded as Mommy and Daddy.

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