It’s been awhile since I have posted an update on “The Fam”!



Jim has QUITE the duck dynasty beard these days.  I really need to take a picture (because his sister is waiting on me and I just can’t quite get my act together to get that done).   He told me had a teenager in awe of it this week wondering how long it took him to grow it.  LOL.  I laughed when I noticed Tori sitting on her daddy’s lap with a comb gently making it look pretty.  When she jumped off the couch and said she was going to get scissors, I knew how she really felt.  🙂

I am so grateful for so many things about Jim but this week I have delighted in his IT skills.  When I have an IT issue, I never panic because I know Jim can fix it.  BIG. SIGH. OF. RELIEF.  How awesome is that?  He and Tanner are at Man of Steel right now and I wish I was with them.  Tomorrow, Ty and I will have our date.  We couldn’t quite pull off all of us going together and the whole sitter thing tonight so that was the compromise.



Did you even know that my full name is Donielle?  No one ever calls me anything but Doni.  All is well.  No, I am not still eating gluten free but we are still making that effort when we eat at home a lot.  After 3 months of being pretty hard core about it last year, I did not have any benefit in my arthritic inflammation as I had hoped so that demotivated me.  I do lose weight better and have more energy though so I still think it is a good habit but I am too much of a “foodie” to want to be a stickler about it.  I have really loved almond flour wraps and pie crusts and pancakes though so rarely eat bread at home.  Made pancakes with bananna, almond butter, eggs, and cinnamon last week and those were yummy!  Added my frittada baked in my cast iron skillet and yummy GF meal.

And my favorite quote from my mother today…

Setting:  We are talking on the phone and Troy brings a bag of popcorn to me and says “EAT!”

Sweetie:  I just love people who love to eat.

You see…I come by it naturally.


Can you believe he will be in SEVENTH GRADE come September?   I will still be homeschooling him (my eighth year no less!).   He is anxious to start soccer back again in the fall.  He played soccer this spring and loved it.  He is the type of kid who is very committed to whatever interests him.  He would start getting ready for practice by about 3:00 (for a 7:00 practice) and made a point to tell me how excited he was about going (which is so unusual for Tanner to express).   I was worried about fitting practices and games into our busy life but (a) I could not deny Tanner something he loves this much and (b) turns out Daddy really liked being a soccer Dad and he took on the largest portion of the burden and has no problem doing it all again this fall so yay.

I intend to start him in an IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) Co-op with some friends this fall.  That should be interesting.  Wishing my friend Elise a bunch of luck.  Hee hee.

My favorite thing to watch lately is Tanner playing with Troy each night right about 9:30 P.M.   Not sure why that time ends up being their playtime but it seems pretty consistent.  Troy loves to ride on Tanner’s back and to wrestle.  Sometimes Tanner runs through the house with Tori on his back and Troy on his front and both kids screaming.   One night I heard Tori yelling (from riding on his back) “RUN SUPERHERO RUN!”  At 10:00 P.M, Tanner begs me not to put Troy to bed and is often with me during tuck in time.   They have such a precious relationship.











Ty was baptized on June 3rd, 2013!   Earlier in the year, Ty and I were at the local park and I overheard a conversation he was having with a little girl on the swings.  She asked him if he was a “Christian”.  He told her that he wasn’t.  I inserted myself into the conversation (like any good mom) and asked if he knew what a “Christian” was.  He didn’t.  Jim and I don’t really speak in those terms with the kids so I wasn’t surprised.  We are more apt to say that we have a “relationship” with Jesus.  So I asked him, “Ty do you know and love Jesus and have a relationship with Him?”.   I already knew that he did and Ty did say “Yes”.  (The little girl at the park made me giggle when she replied with “AWESOME!”).  Anyhow, Ty, out of the blue, started talking to her about baptism.  I was surprised that he initiated that conversation because I couldn’t recall in recent memory talking to him about that.  It opened up the doors of conversation and Ty told me that he really wanted to be baptized and that he wanted it to be in the ocean.  Just so happened that we had a trip with the whole family scheduled for June for my cousin Kelly’s wedding so I told him to give Papa a call and arrange it.  He was really proactive about the whole thing and called Papa right away.  Next thing I know, some of the other cousins jumped in to.   So at the beach, with all the family gathered, Ty, Graham, Zandi, Zane, and Karsyn were all baptized by Papa (or their Daddies which was also cool).  When you are the parent of a child with disabilities you find yourself asking a lot of faith based questions.  How will my child understand an intimate relationship with his Creator when understanding the intricacies of relationships and how to maintain them are already so difficult for him?  Lots of prayers over that over the past many years.  And go figure…Ty ends up being the kid that references his relationship with Jesus the most.  His faith is so simple and straight forward.  Just another of the many ways in which I wish to be just like him.

Speaking of disabilities, an incident stood out to me a few months back…

I was at the County Fair with the kids and there was a vendor there doing games for kids.  Ty and Tori both wanted to participate.  They were playing this game where they had to stack red solo cups into a very large pyramid.  Tori took one look at the example and took off, perfected her pyramid in short order.  Ty’s was…well a mess.  When Tori finished, she walked over to Ty and said “Let me help you” and then he stood back and smiled as she finished his.  The MC commented to the crowd over her microphone and said something to the effect of “Well folks, if this isn’t a miracle!  A little sister helping a big brother and her big brother is letting her!”

I wasn’t sure whether to smile or cry.  On the one hand, I was thinking “if only you knew the full scope of what you just witnessed!”.  On the other hand, I was moved by my children.  My son did accept help with a happy heart.  I am so grateful for that. My daughter, by always finding opportunities to be Ty’s hands, will grow into a compassionate and nurturing woman.  It is shaping who she is becoming and I believe she will only benefit by this story God is writing.

I was watching Joni Erickson Tada on Larry King many years ago and I loved something she said.  Joni is a quadriplegic who writes beautifully and is a professional speaker (to name a few things…the woman is amazing).  Larry asked her if it was difficult for her to have to be dependent upon care givers and everyone else in her life.  She told Larry that it was not difficult for her because she had learned that God had shown her that He was putting people in her life to give care because that is what THEY needed.   It was so cool to me that while she viewed the help as a gift, she also had no self pity about it because she recognized that her care givers were fulfilling the role that God had given to them (and that God obviously thought was necessary for them for their character building) just as God was working in unique ways with what he asked of her.   Beautiful.



When interrogating Ty, you must be very detailed with your questions.  Because he is unpretentious and generally lacks an agenda, he doesn’t see your agenda coming like the other kids do so he answers only literally.

Setting:  Tori was playing with my Kindle Fire HD  WITH MY PERMISSION until her time expired and then I asked her to bring it to me.  I hear screaming.  Ty now has the Kindle Fire.

Me:  TORI!  Why are you screaming??!!!


Me:  Ty, did you take the kindle?

Ty:  Yes.

Me:  Ty were you playing with the Kindle?

Ty:  No.

What everyone in that conversation (sans Ty) knew, was that the issue at hand was not really whether he had taken it from Tori or not when I asked for it but whether or not he had taken it from Tori and been PLAYING with it (because they all know they have to have permission first).  Had I had this conversation with any of the other kids it would have played out like this:

Me:  Did you take my kindle?

Tanner/Tori:  Yes but I was NOT playing with your kindle.  I was just bringing it to you because you asked for it.

See, the other little monkies are always keeping an ear out for my agenda (and theirs) so they carefully word their rebuttals to avoid potential consequences.  Ty doesn’t see it coming.  He simply answers your exact question, usually without much elaboration.  Often, he even has a guilty look on his face which is deceiving because I think the look of guilt is more like deer in the headlight wondering what the entrapment strategy is and not knowing how to avoid it.

Jim and I talked about this the other night and we both realize we have to put a lot of effort into our approach with Ty because it is really easy to assume the wrong thing.  It’s easy to forget that his replies will lack typical human self preservation and be a literal retelling only.


Recently we were in Chipotle with my mom when Ty (loudly) says “Hey mom!  Why is that guy right there shaking his head back and forth?”

HEY KETTLE MEET POT!   I explained to Ty that the guy had tics (just like him).  Was very funny to me that he didn’t see it in someone else.


Ty was with his Grandma recently and they heard something on the radio that referred to a “normal expression” on someone’s face.  Ty asked his grandma what a “normal expression” is.  Funny.  I think it is awesome that he asks though.  In fact, he, of all my children, is MORE likely to ask how I am feeling because he asks what my expressions mean.  He may not say “why are you sad?” (for example) but he does ask “why does your face look like that?”.  Interesting isn’t it?


When we were in Cali earlier this month, I had to laugh at how often we used Ty as our personal navigation system.  He seemed to know where everything was located in a foreign city.  He may be quiet in the car but he is very aware.  My brother mentioned he was going to the movies and Ty says “Will you be going to Regal Cinemas?”  LOL.  We don’t have a Regal Cinemas in AZ but there was one in a shopping mall close to our hotel that had obviously captured his attention.  When I think back, he was so aware of his surroundings clear back to when he was 2.  I was always surprised at the places he recognized.


Ty Quote:  Mommy I am the happiest place on earth!



Setting:  I had just put on a ball cap to go to a soccer game and was questioning whether or not it looked okay.

Tori:  Uhhhhhhh…thaaaaaaaaat’s awkward.

Nope.  Didn’t wear it.


Setting:  Tanner climbs a tree while Tori stood by watching approvingly.

Tori:  That was sooooooooooooooooooooooo EPIC!


A few weeks ago, Tori left for church with a purse in hand.  When we were loading up in the car after church, I noticed she was wearing lipstick.  Uh oh.  I then noticed my niece Cozette was wearing it as well.  I emailed both Brooke and my girlfriend Kristi (because she shared with Beth too) and assured them that the Brinkman household would improve our pre-church security procedures and do a full pat down and purse check before allowing entry to the car.  My gal pals were relieved to hear it because turns out, Tori had taken my lip stain.  Brooke said that one glance at Cozy’s lips and she knew that was a “Doni” color.   Tip:  The best way to get lip stain off skin is WITH lip stain.  Heidi discovered that after one “epic” Tori fail.  🙂


Me:  Tori I am going to pick out jeans for you to wear tonight.  (She doesn’t like jeans – she much prefers leggings)

Tori:  Okay.  I’ll let you pick my jeans but on a lesser note…I think I could just wear thin pants!

I have no idea where she got that (hee hee!)


Setting:  Getting ready for church this week.

Me:  Here are the pants I want you to wear.

Tori:  I don’t like those!  People will laugh at me!

Me:  I hope you and I are the kind of girls that don’t worry about what people think AND I want you to know that I went to a specialty store and paid good money for those (Naartjie)!

Tori: Well you probably should not have spent all your money on that.


So…five is not the end of all Tori’s messes.  This week she spilled coconut oil all over my kitchen floor and then tracked it through most of the front room.  When I asked her what on earth she thought she was doing she threw me under the bus by saying that “someone” didn’t put the lid back on very well and she was only checking to see what it was.  Jim enjoyed that.  That was awesome to clean.


Bought her a new pretty, grey shirt and she inked it up with red DRY ERASE.  I thought Dry Erase would come off easily with washing.  Wipes right off a white board!  NOPE.  One of the most difficult things to get out.  I tried Oxi Clean first.  Nothing.  A friend suggested Murphy’s Oil Soap and that worked like a charm (believe it or not).  There actually isn’t any soap in Murphy’s Oil Soap.  Apparently, it works great for tough to treat stains.  Good to know huh?


Lately Troy has been calling for “Toe-wee” when he gets in trouble.  She is such a good mama.  She cuddles him and says things like “Troy what you did was not nice.  You were disobeying. You need to go tell Daddy you are sorry for what you did.  Okay?”  All in a sing songy soft little voice.

Then Troy will say “Sawwww-eeeee Toe-weee”.    Love it.


And one of my favorite quotes from the week:

Setting:  Boys were cleaning the front room and throwing her stuff into her room (which she had just cleaned).

Tori:  Mommy!  The boys are breaking my heart!



Yesterday, Troy turned two!  He is still a very tiny two.  He “technically” isn’t two until August 15th.  We took him to see Monster’s University at the theatre for his birthday.  He roared all the way home.  Too cute.  It was his second movie ever (first was The Croods).  We locked him into his infant seat to give him the impression he wasn’t allowed out and that worked like a charm (well that and the drink, candy, and pacifier…he was well fed).

He may not be growing much but he is finally starting to talk a little more.  He repeats a lot and says two word sentences some.  His speech is tough to understand though still.  A few words/phrases are:  “love you”, “pizza”, “donut”, seat (let’s eat), sit (see it), dank (drink), more, some, that, thing (he uses this as his go-to noun for everything), shoe, sock, all the kids names and many cousins….those are just a few.

What he loves:

His dragon pacy at nap time.

His blue ocean glow sea-horse.

His siblings.

Sweetie.  (He runs from a distance with his arms out screaming for her when he sees her).




To put things in my drinks at night (very annoying).

To put things in the toilet (this week it has been 4 different stuffed animals and an Old Navy gift card and a bottle of contact solution…)

To fill up the base speaker with all his toys (there is a hole there just the perfect size for his little hands).  This point goes on Daddy’s “NOT Like ” list.

Climbing up on top of the table (yes still)




Being outside

Wrestling with brothers

Watching tv with his siblings (he has an amazing attention span)

Curious George

Dancing (he dances so adorably)

Troy  does NOT love:

The word “no”.

The word “wait”.


Water (like pools and oceans).

Holes in his pajama feet.

When anyone gets upset.  (He is so sensitive and will cry or even cover my mouth if he thinks I am upset).

He hates to wait on his pancakes to be heated in the morning.  Utterly NO patience while waiting for meals.  NONE WHATSOEVER.

He hates it when people don’t listen so he has taken to yelling most all of his commands.  In a house of six, the baby finds the need to bellow his whims.  I don’t love that.


I took Troy to swim at Brooke’s and he took a little spill off the step and went under.  I was right there (of course) and pulled him up but he tends to hold a grudge.  He has hated the water ever since and clings tightly to mom or dad while in the water.  The best part was, he planted his little lips on mine and wouldn’t take his lips off my lips post the underwater adventure at Brooke’s.  I am curious as to what he was thinking.  Close as he could possibly imagine being maybe?   Then at the beach, I put his feet in the waves and he was pretty furious.  He wanted Daddy after that.  He was screaming “DAAAAAADDDDDDYYYYYY!” from my arms.  I am sure Jim loved that.  He would let Daddy hold him while DADDY stood in the water but if I approached he would shake his head no and give clear signals that I may not approach.   This is going to take awhile I am afraid.


Jim loves donuts so on Sundays, we sometimes have a pack of the mini donuts available at breakfast.  Troy thinks they are the best things on earth and particularly likes the powdered.  One Sunday morning I gave him 4 mini donuts and then went back to getting ready.  A little later, he asked for more.  I say “Baby you have already had 4 !”   Jim says “Uh oh.  I gave him 4 too”.   EIGHT DONUTS!!!!!  HOLY COW!!!!   I have no idea where he put them.


I love it when he calls me and says “Mommy Ommy Ommy Ommy”.  Funny.


Someone has been having tantrums lately. He throws himself flat on the ground crying with his little nose plastered to the floor.  If you are not paying attention, he will sometimes follow you and throw himself down again near where you are standing (Jim and I have tested this by walking around and laughing as he followed us).  When he has less energy, he first looks for a soft spot, like a couch, and then throws himself down.  That really diminishes the whole effect though and I think he realizes it.

He still does NOT come when I call him and most often runs away.  He has the cutest run in the whole world. It looks like he is trying to catch himself.  Probably because he is running with an eye patched and that throws off your depth perception.  Sometimes when running away from me, he will drop to a crawl if he thinks I am gaining on him.  Apparently, he has determined that if he can’t run fast enough he can lower himself from my reach.


He is now up to patching eight hours a day.  Ug.   I am getting really tired of hearing the same thing every time we go the eye dr.  Basically, he needs to be using his bad eye way more than he is before they will do surgery and at each appointment he still is not “quite” there yet.  Feels like I am the one running after something I can’t quite grasp yet.  The Dr. told us that even a couple of days of not patching could set him back weeks.  Wish he would have told us that a year ago!  We have been very disciplined about it so hoping that our Fall appointment will show a lot of improvement.  I want the surgery done while he is little so the brain will adapt better!


This week he started stripping naked every day.  In fact, must go diaper him again right now.  Pray that I don’t end up duct taping him for 1 year plus like I did Tori!  That was NOT fun!



Following are pictures taken at the end of April of the BIG BOYS (Tanner, Ty, and Seth too)













Seth and his beautiful mama.



It’s been a fun summer so far but not looking forward to the heat this week. predicts 119 for tomorrow.  For. Real.

Over and out good buddies.


The Gift of Open Adoption

Sometimes when I talk about “open” adoption, people start having anxiety attacks.  There is a long list of familiar questions that I field each time I bring up the topic.   I don’t believe open adoption is the right choice for every family and in every situation but I am very grateful that we have had the blessing of having relationships with several of our children’s genetic families.    From my perspective, my children are very much a product of environment AND heredity and I LOVE what both sides of that equation bring them as amazing little individuals.  When I get to spend time with my children’s birth families, I value the things I see in them that I know THEY contributed.  When my babies are little, I tend to see their birth families in them.  As they get older, I am more likey to see my children in their birth families.  It is a very cool thing.  I find myself loving their genetic siblings to pieces.  They have a piece of MY kid in them too and that makes them off the map special in my book.  With Amanda’s permission, I wanted to show you some pictures of Ty’s birth siblings (because I know my family will really enjoy seeing these!)


From left to right:  Arie age 5, Christian age 7, Ty age 9, Ryleigh age 4

This week Arie, Christian, and Ryleigh came over and spent the day playing with our kids.  Too fun!  Arie and Tori were born 3 weeks apart so I have long hoped they would be friends someday.







Christian and Ty had a lot of fun playing video games together all afternoon.  I know – you are totally shocked to hear that – hee hee.



Don’t you just want to squeeze these little cuties?  I sure wanted to.  So I did!!!



Arie asked if Tori could come home with her LOL.  The girls had a wonderful time playing and painting nails.  At one point, I had to laugh at how they both cautiously approached me to let me know they had spilled my bottle of nail polish remover all over the bathroom floor.   Again – you are so shocked to hear that – Tori was involved – of course disasters would occur.   I could tell they had planned out their little speech together before they came out and told on themselves.  It was quite adorable.



Troy wanted his picture taken too so he jumped into a shot with the girls.



Sometimes it’s confusing to kids when discussing genetic siblings.  The girls were asking if they were sisters too since they shared a brother.   Why not?  🙂   I have had very open talks with our kids about genetic siblings in this past year and my kids think it’s pretty cool.  Just more people in their life to love and to be loved by.    That’s just good for everybody.

Rylander {Phoenix Newborn Photographer}



This is little Rylander and his beautiful family.  He was a precious 8 days old on shoot day and was as sweet as could be.



His Dad played college football for CSU Cinncinatti State (I think…right?).  Wasn’t sure if I would get that above shot but he was quite the cooperative little subject.




Love his sweet, serene little face.







Aren’t these little overalls that Beezy Mama made just adorable?  Love them!
















Thank you B and L for bringing your little guy to me for his first portraits!


Loving Lucy



Hmmmm….color or black and white?  I always waffle.


Recently, we had our little Lucy over for the day and I couldn’t resist some quick shots of her.  She will be one year this month!

The kids offered to help with her and they were all so adorable.  Lucy particularly loved Tanner and Ty.  Ty made her laugh with everything he did but Tanner was her knight in shining armor.   Tanner was doing his schoolwork and Lucy was so content sitting on his lap as he did his math.  (Just another reason why I love homeschooling!)











At nap time, I laid her down in Troy’s crib and shut the door.  She threw a fit!  Hmmmm…  I went to text Jamie to ask her what the naptime ritual was and while I was doing that Troy, my child rating very high in MERCY, starts sobbing outside Lucy’s door.  He was very upset that I was letting her cry in there.  He kept coming to the kitchen crying and trying to get me to go back with him and get her out of the crib.  If it was anyone else, I would think that Troy just didn’t want her in his bed but Troy always cries when anyone else cries.  He hates for anyone to be upset.

Next thing I know, the kids are yelling at me that Troy got the door open (a first!) and was trying to climb into the bed to comfort her.  I rushed with my camera to “see” it.







As I suspected, Jamie let me know that Lucy gets rocked to sleep every afternoon.  I tried it but it didn’t work.  Tanner than offered to give it a try.



She loves her Tanner.



She also enjoyed watching cartoons with him.









Troy and Lucy are almost exactly 1 year apart.









Good times!

J+L+C+C {Phoenix Family Photographer}



Remember this couple?  They were married last October.  They invited me up to their neck of the woods to do family portraits this time.  I took Heidi with me and we had such a nice day!  They live in the Lake Montezuma area.  A spot I was unfamiliar with that had all kinds of little aesthetic treasures!  What a cool place to live!


Within just a couple miles from their home is a very picturesque little creek.



While we were there, L showed me her amazing back porch garden.  It was awesome and so inspiring.  If I didn’t have a black thumb, I would want to try it.  She had several galvanized large tubs set up with an assortment of all kinds of wonderful things.  From green beans to several types of mint.  Did you know you can grow chocolate mint?  She had a lemon basil plant too.  I didn’t know lemon basil existed.  So yummy!



Love these shots of mama with her boys.  Us mamas don’t get enough of those shots.  L is a good mom to boys.   She is an independent business owner in a field commonly dominated by men.   I enjoyed hearing about her challenges in the industry.  Her husband is such a good fit for her because his pride in what she can do is obvious.  I love to see couples that bring out the best in each other and I think these two really do.



These are the sweetest guys.  It was really fun to do a shoot with some older boys – especially with these two who are totally cooperative as well as gentlemen blazing my trail (this isn’t the first time they have helped me through a tangled thicket).





While scanning the area, I hoped to find a windy country road.  Found it.



After pictures, I inconveniently managed to lock my keys in my car.  Oops.  J and C managed to get them out for me so that Jim wouldn’t have to pack up four kids and head north 1.5 hours to rescue me.  Makes me giggle thinking of a note Jim gave my dad a few Father’s Days ago telling him that he was grateful for the combined rescuing effort because I require more than one man for the job.  Hee hee.

J and L took Heidi and I to dinner and at L’s recommendation, I had the most scrumptious Bacon and Blue Cheeseburger EVER.  I have been craving another one ever since.    Thanks Y Family for a beautiful day capturing your beautiful family.