It was a spooktacular Halloween!

Well, our Halloween was a huge hit!
Here’s the thing…this time last year, everything was “next year, when Ashby is with us…”.  Even though we knew about Ashby long before last fall, last fall was the homestretch and our hearts broke every time we did something fun (which in the fall is pretty much every weekend) without her.  We knew our girl was alone in an orphanage and we desperately wanted her home.  Every single thing we did was fun but had a void.  This year however, the void has been filled, our family has been united and Ashby has exceeded all expectations. 
Ashby’s Halloween was just as you might have suspected…spooktacular!  We took her to our church’s trunk or treat the night before and it took her all of 4 seconds to figure out that if she said “trick or treat” someone would give her candy.  #shesnofool 
Having Ashby plus having a 7 and almost 6 year old who totally dig Halloween made our day quite special!  Here you go, Shull party of five Halloween… 
 Andrew made the kids pancakes with Nutella on them for breakfast.  We have Halloween pancake molds so everyone (including Andrew and me) had pancakes shaped like a jack-o-lantern, ghost or cat.  Smith was up first, so he ate his pancakes with Andrew and me.
 The girls slept in, so they ate their pancakes a little later.  Happy girls!

Later in the day, I had three recipes to make, so my littlest assistant helped me out.  She knows that I have my recipes in these notebooks (different notebooks for different types of recipes), so she checks it periodically like I do as we’re cooking :).

She’s such a good helper!
At 4:30, we had our annual Halloween supper with some of our very favorite guests!  My parents, Sean, Catherine and Erika and her kids always come over for an early dinner before trick or treating.

The Shull five on Halloween!

Catherine and Sean always dress up :).  This year, Catherine was Sean and Sean was Catherine.  Those two are so funny!

 They were so excited to trick or treat!!  I mean…look at Smith’s face!

My neighborhood has a big block party, so we always trick or treat early before everyone leaves their houses and heads to the party.  These six kids were running fast from house to house!

A lot of my neighbors dress in costume which makes trick or treating fun!

King size bar for the win!

My mom took this picture!  Those kids got spooked by the mechanical guys next to the door :).

Just Smith standing next to a werewolf eating a leg.

 Our tradition continues as we always meet up with other friends at Andrea’s house and trick or treat in her neighborhood as a group.  Andrew and I lived in this neighborhood for eight years, so it’s always extra fun to go back and see our neighbors.  This year my family, Andrea’s, Erika’s, Meagan’s, Narci’s and Sarah’s families all trick or treated together (including several sets of grandparents).
There’s a really old cemetery inside the neighborhood and every year Andrew tells a spooky story to the kids in front of the entrance…and this year, my dad jumped out and scared everyone.  It’s so fun having kids :).
And you know it’s been a good night when by the end, your wings are crooked :).
So, that was our Halloween!  Food, family, friends, fun to celebrate!
Right before I went to sleep, my friend Ashley put this on Instagram…
…Amen :).
One last thing before Meal Planning Monday
…on Wednesday, I’m going to blog about having Ashby for 10 months now and I thought this might be a good time to answer some questions.  If you have any questions about our adoption process or our experience over these last 10 months, I’d be happy to answer them on Wednesday’s post.  All you need to do is leave a comment here with your question.  I get a lot of questions each month, so I thought one post would be a good place to answer them all.
…five simple suppers, one bar, one pie and one breakfast.
Your week made simple!  See Meal Planning Monday here.
Happy November friends!
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  • Lou Mcm November 2, 2015 at 11:02 am

    Looks like the Shull clan had a fantastic weekend! In regards to adoption questions. I am wondering what called you and Andrew to begin the adoption process? I have always been passionate about pursuing adoption and love hearing about your beautiful story to complete your family. xx

  • Carey Ranken November 2, 2015 at 11:09 am

    Where did you get your pumpkin shirt? It's adorable!

  • Erika Slaughter November 2, 2015 at 11:09 am

    Halloween 2015 was a blast!!! Next year I say adults dress up too. I'm already brainstorming ideas over here!!!

    • kelly November 2, 2015 at 12:35 pm

      Great idea! I'd love to see y'all dressed up!

  • Narci November 2, 2015 at 11:49 am

    What a fun weekend! We loved spending Halloween with your family! 🙂

  • This Is Not Nutcrackin' November 2, 2015 at 11:53 am

    Your Halloween looked perfect! Love the group picture with the big sign!

  • Kelly November 2, 2015 at 11:55 am

    I love trick or treating with a big group! My 4 yr old son was watching me read this post and asked if Kensington was Claire (his twin sister). I said no, she lives in Texas. He said, "awe, she is beautiful!"

  • kimm atwood November 2, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    What a great Halloween weekend !

  • NoPermanentAddy November 2, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Is there any concern about Ashby flying & blood clots in her arm?

  • marianiel avila November 2, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    All the kids were so darn cute on their halloween costume! Glad y'all had a blast 🙂

  • SarahN November 2, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    I have several friends who have adopted overseas and their children seem to really struggle with grief-attachment-issues. It's a blessing for then but its not easy. Every situation is different but it seems so easy for you. Have there been many difficulties you could share and how you overcame them to help others through this?

    • Unknown November 2, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      I was about to ask the same thing.

  • Andrea Towne November 2, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Did you read any books about adoption? What other research did you do?

  • Love on the Lake November 2, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Great pictures!!! Especially the one of Kensington in profile and the kids scared at the doorway! I also love the stone pumpkins on your porch. YAY HALLOWEEN! For your adoption post, I'd love to know more about how you and Andrew both decided adoption was for you. I remember you mentioning you were 100% before he was. Also – this is not meant to be rude or invasive but I've been curious, since Ashby's medical condition is a bit more challenging than they originally disclosed, does the agency or orphanage then help with the additional medical costs/procedures? I'm assuming not but was just wondering. Again – I hope that's not "too much." Xoxo LOTL

  • Julie November 2, 2015 at 12:48 pm

    Looks like everyone had a great Halloween! Now, an Ashby question: Although it seems like she's adjusted to life very well, do there ever seem to be moments of PTSD (for lack of a better, more appropriate term)?

  • Paul, Lauren, Witt, and Nash November 2, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    What a fun Halloween! Our kids (4,6,8) stayed up until @ 10:00, and were up at 6:00 asking to eat candy. Oy vey! 🙂

  • kelly November 2, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    This post is AWESOME! I have too much to say that I know I'm repeating myself but I can't help it! Lol . Number one I LOVE your house! I wish I could study pictures of it and make it my own. Does your mom do her interior decorating business over the Internet? I'd gladly pay for some advice.
    That picture of your beautiful Princess Kensington – oh my! Do you realize just how pretty she is?!
    And I've got so many questions. Did you do all those activities in one night or was the block party a separate night from Halloween? How do you manage to have a dinner party with guests when Halloween falls on a school night? Or does your area push the Trick or Treating portion of Halloween to a Saturday? How did Ashby (and your other 2) do with the scarey stories? Do they want to all sleep together that night? Haha! Can you post more pics of your parents with you guys too? We all love and want to embrace your whole dang family! Can't get enough! You guys are awesome! I want to live near y'all! Haha!
    FYI – I know it's insane but I am decorating for Christmas today! Thanks for the inspiration! Saves such last minute hassle in December! !

    • Mix and Match Mama November 2, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      Hi Kelly! Okay, first of all, you're so sweet :). Second of all, my mom retired about three years ago…so, nope, no internet services. My dinner party started at 4:30! That's how we fit it all in! We ate dinner at 4:45! Yes, it was all one night! We ate dinner and then left my house to trick or treat our neighborhood at 5:30. After that, we met at Andrea's house at 6:30. We fit it in one night every year! As for the scary stories, they think they're funny! Don't worry, Andrew doesn't tell stories that are too scary. The kids probably all forget about it five minutes after it happens. I try and post as many pics as I can of the whole family…we live an hour a part, so we don't see each other as much as you might think. Enjoy your Christmas decorating!! I started listening to Christmas music today!!

  • Sheaffer {Pinterest Told Me To} November 2, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Laughing soooo hard at the pic of them all scattering from the front porch! Hysterical! Next year, RED BARON at the end of the night friend! 🙂

  • Erinn Mosher November 2, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    I would love to know how long the whole process took from start to finish and how much of an investment it was? I have heard adopting a child is about $25,000. Is this true? Thank you for sharing such much of your lives you inspire mine every day from dinners to treats to fashion to family to Faith, I love it all!

  • Allison Ezell November 2, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    Hey Shay! As an adoptive mom-to-be, I was also wondering about Ashby's grieving/loss and how you encouraged her attachment. Those are the two parts of all this that make me so anxious, and she's just so darn happy! I also read and loved "Forever Mom," so I would love any additional book suggestions. And thanks again for chatting with me about travel last month at MOPS! It was so fun and encouraging to meet you!

    -Allison 🙂

  • Tara Smith November 2, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    Once you got matched with Ashby, were you able to send specific care packages to her? Or are there rules about contact?

  • Annette November 2, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    You recently wrote about friends doing foster to adopt, did you consider any other forms of adoption when you were initially deciding? Were you considering other countries besides China? Why did you choose China? Thanks!!!!!

  • Leigh Clark November 2, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    What a FUN weekend!! Love all of the time with friends and family!!!

  • Tiffany Lanae November 2, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    When paying for the adoption, are the funds due in intervals or do you have to have the full amount at the start of the adoption process?

  • Scott Prentice November 2, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Would love to know how you encouraged attachment. She seems happy and shows that she knows she is loved, etc. in each photo. Also, what has been the hardest part about it since she came home? Thank you! Heather

  • Paula November 2, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    I love all these pictures! What I love is the joy & happiness! Your family embraces & appreciates it all! That is living life! Love, laughter, family & Jesus!

    My adoption question is, does Ashby have any memory of life before? She seems so well loved & secure at this point, the past would be like a misty dream.

  • Kim November 2, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Great post!! Looks like your Halloween was a blast!!
    Is it important to you that Ashby learn/remember her native language?

  • Johannah November 2, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    You all look like you had a great Halloween! And the kiddos looked adorable in their costumes =)
    My question for you about Ashby is, Do you plan to tell her as much as you know about her life in China before you adopted her? Another question, do you have any baby photos of her to show her when she is older? I've enjoyed following along on all of your Ashby updates =)

  • Morethananumber November 2, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    I feel very passionate about adoption and love it so much! I was wondering if you found her attachment to be better than expected and what things you do to help the attachment process

  • Megan November 2, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    My favorite is the pic of them running away that your mom captured. Haha!! So funny

  • Heather Nelsen November 2, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Did you ever consider adopting a newborn or adopting domestically? Or did knowing you wanted to adopt internationally help to make the decision about age? I'd also love to know what pulled you to China- was that on your heart from the beginning, or did your agency help lead you in that direction? Thanks Shay!

  • Astleigh H. November 2, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    The action shots are the best! Looks like you all had a fabulous Halloween! Now bring on the Christmas festivities!

  • Chelsea November 2, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    I love those Erin Condren notebooks. I'm always checking out the website, but haven't actually purchased anything yet. Do you use the calendar on your phone and the life planner? I'm trying to decide if I can justify the life planner!

    • Laura Youker November 2, 2015 at 9:42 pm

      I have the same question!

  • Jodi November 2, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Is it true that the upfront costs to adopt overseas could be as high as $30,000?

  • Judy Alex November 2, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    I have to ask, where is Ashby's personalized pumpkin bag from?! So so adorable! My toddler will totally love it…for next year. 🙂

  • maureen November 2, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    I love all your fun pictures and the account of how you spent your Halloween! Such a fun weekend!

    I do have a question, though it is not adoption related. How do you manage the candy? I have 6 kiddos and over the years I have tried different things, doling it out a couple of pieces at a time, (Hate this because it seems to last FOREVER!) Sneaking into their bags and thinning it out over a week or so. (This worked when they were younger, but they seem to have caught on to me!) This year I let them eat out of it all weekend long, then this morning I made them each pick 10 pieces and throw the rest away! Oh the hysterics!! My 13 year old was the worst and she is still glaring at me and refuses to sit with us to do her schoolwork! I was hoping maybe you had a good idea or maybe one of your readers has a good idea! (My oldest is 30 and my youngest are 3, so I have been dealing with this dilemma for a really long time!!)

    • Sarah November 3, 2015 at 3:44 am

      I told my kids (10 and 8) I would buy them each a Beanie Boo ($5.00 each) if they let me get rid of all but 7 pieces of there candy. They totally went for it. Then I took all the candy to our local dentist that bought the candy for 1.00 a pound. I got 5.00. So out of pocket for me was only 5.00 but so worth it not having to deal with all the candy, cavities, craziness, you name it. Plus in one week all the candy is gone!!!

  • K November 2, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Hi Shay! I plan to officially begin the adoption process this upcoming summer and in the meantime I'm doing tons of research and trying to gets all my ducks in a row. I REALLY appreciate your willingness to share Ashby's journey. I could ask you a million questions but I'll stick with one – What is one thing you wish you would have known prior to the adoption process that no one tells you?

  • Unknown November 2, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    How did you know Ashby was the right child or the right fir for you family?

  • Mikaela N November 2, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    As someone who has only considered adoption and never actually gone through with it, how do you know that adoption is the right thing for a person? How do we know if its something for us?

  • Kayla November 2, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Hi Shay- As always, I love seeing your family traditions and see the fun photos. I read this blog everyday with my breakfast (and as a reward for working out- haha), and it is always a bright spot in my day. The posts about Ashby's adoption are always my favorite!

    I think some others have asked, but- how did you choose between domestic and international adoption? What kind of research did you do to find a reputable agency/ social worker? Thanks!

  • Lindsay at Lindsay'sSweetWorld November 2, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Looks like another perfect Halloween! Having kids is just the very best thing… I don't know what I'm going to do when my grow up and leave me!

  • Mikaela N November 2, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    How did Kensington and Smith initially react to finding out that the family plans on adopting? If they had an extremely negative reaction, would you and Andrew still continue the process? Im sorry to the many questions, I am just very curious and I just love you and your family.

  • The Nelson Happenings November 2, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Looks like a great time ! I love the photo your mom took of the kids be scared of the guy on the porch !!

  • Kelly Heard November 2, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Hi! Your Halloween looked like a pretty great night. My kids are also close together in age (1st and 2nd grade) so your kids remind me of mine. It's so much fun!
    I was talking with a friend of a friend recently and she was telling us about how her parents adopted a little girl from China and she shared a room with 2 other little girls. And they were all adopted but the parents had each others information and so the girls still to this day get together. They grew up in different states but the parents kept in contact. I thought that was such a great story.
    Did you get any information about the other kiddos Ashby was close to?
    Thank you for sharing your adoption journey with us. You have a beautiful family.

  • Unknown November 2, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Tell us more about these recipe notebooks. I love the binding on them!

  • Kati Matthews November 2, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    I love that you are doing a Q&A about adoption sweet friend! Praying many families choose adoption or find a way to serve the orphan after your post!

  • Amanda Bacon November 2, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    I feel so passionate about adopting, and our family has been praying about it and seeing where God takes us. However the financial part of it gives me so much anxiety. Can you share how this was for your family, and if you have any insight on governmental assistance for adopting or tax breaks.
    Thanks! Love your sweet family!

  • Kristina November 2, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    Did you do any fundraisers before Ashby was adopted ? Will you adopt again ?

  • Briana Runde November 2, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    I LOVE the picture of the kids running and screaming from the mechanical monsters! 🙂

  • Tina Hugall November 2, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Hi Shay! I (like a few mentioned above) read your blog every morning, and I LOVE the posts about adoption. We have been trying for YEARS and now that I am about to hit 41we are (finally, I know) considering adoption. We are leaning more towards foster care adoption though. I was wondering what influenced your choice of adoption, what was the home study process like, and what do you wish you knew before you started that you know now? Thank you!!! And God bless your beautiful family!

  • Happy Green Home November 2, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    Loved today's post! I can't stop laughing at Sean and Catherine's costumes! Too funny!! Looks like y'all had a fun Halloween!! XO

  • sarah: November 2, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    We are feeling led to adopt… But we don't know where to begin! How did you choose international vs domestic? How did you pick an agency? Thank you for opening my eyes to what a beautiful blessing adoption can be! Your kids are all beautiful!

    • Julie November 2, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      This is the same question I have. My husband and I are wanting to adopt internationally but really don't know where to begin. Any advice would be great!

  • Cindi N. November 2, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    You often post about how Ashby was alone in an orphanage and sometimes you mention not being loved, etc.. Do you worry that one day Ashby will see this and how it may affect her?

  • Jeanie November 2, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    What a Halloween blast!

  • Errin Rybicki November 3, 2015 at 1:01 am

    No questions, but I love your blog and I've thought about adoption for years. I wanted to say that you and your husband have given Ashby such a beautiful life. Miracles are real, as is evidenced by the beautiful family that was made from across many miles. God bless.

  • Debbie November 3, 2015 at 2:31 am

    I started listening to Christmas music on November 1. Some people think it is crazy but one month is just not long enough!

  • Elaine Welte November 3, 2015 at 3:20 am

    Ashby's costume is adorable!

  • graywolff November 3, 2015 at 8:25 am

    Hi! Love your family and your blog.

    I'm curious….does Ashby know she's Chinese? How to you plan to incorporate part of her culture into her life?
    My sister is Korean and I remember the day she realized she did not look like us. As she got older it was critical to her that she knew something about the Asian culture.
    Thanks for being so open!

  • Aubrey November 3, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    I am so impressed that your kids can handle the scare-factor! Annie came in while I was on the photo of Smith with the werewolf and started yelling "I'm scared, Mom! I'm scared!" She comes by it honestly. I don't do spooky!

  • Melissa November 5, 2015 at 3:24 am

    Is the woman giving out candy in the picture of Smith with the werewolf in a costume?! Looks like she's in some revealing nightwear! Trick or treat!