Jennifer Nails is inspiring for many reasons: her kids, their family’s adoption story, the generous way she views life, the wisdom she effortlessly imparts. Here’s a Q&A with Jennifer–LBD/LRW’s fitting “Give Back” cover model.
Resident: Acworth, GA
Husband: Jason Nails, account exec at Elanders USA
Kids: Cameron, 12; Emmy, 10; Mia, 7; Noah, 6
Job: Special Education High School Placement Counselor for K12, and an office administrator at CK DanceWorks
Family: Our family is fun, energetic and full of laughter. My kids and husband are silly. We always have something to laugh about!
LBD/LRW: So, you had two healthy young children, Cameron and Emmy, when you decided to adopt another baby. What inspired you to adopt Mia? What obstacles did you face?
Jennifer: God has changed our lives radically through adoption. He placed a desire in our hearts to adopt even before we had biological children, and after Cameron and Emmy were born we knew that our family was not complete. One thing was holding us back, money. It is quite expensive to adopt.
We went ahead and attended an adoption seminar. After a series of events, it became quite clear to us that we should adopt. We did not know exactly how we would pay for the adoption, but we knew that God would provide and He did.
LBD/LRW: What was it like to adopt Mia?
Jennifer: We moved forward cautiously with an adoption from China, only requesting to be matched with a “healthy” infant girl. Over time our hearts were changed and we changed our documents stating that we would be willing to adopt a child with special needs. We were soon matched with the most adorable 18-month-old, our Mia.
LBD/LRW: Have Mia’s initial health challenges been an issue?
Jennifer: It seems so silly to me that she was labeled special needs. She is indeed special but not what the term implies. She is blind in her right eye due to a detached retinea and congenital cataract. We did not know what to expect when we met her, she is beautiful, amazing and limitless. Mia is truly a gift and a daily reminder of what is important in life.
LBD/LRW: And then, once Mia was home, you realized pretty quick that your family still wasn’t complete.
Jennifer: Yes, we came home with Mia and soon realized that we were not yet through adding to our family. We saw a picture of the cutest Chinese boy who needed a family and soon after began the process to bring home our son. The process with Noah really took faith. He had many special needs. Noah had no right eye– it was removed because of a tumor, and we didn’t know whether or not the tumor was cancerous. He also had a facial cleft and congenital missing right nostril.
LBD/LRW: But this didn’t stop you from adopting him.
Jennifer: Not at all. Exactly one year after adopting Mia we returned to China to bring home our 19-month-old son, Noah. He was adorable, and our wild journey with him began! Since coming home, Noah has had many medical procedures, operations and hardships to overcome. A MRI revealed a mass on his brain, after many months of fearful moments he had surgery and the mass was removed. He has had 5 prosthetic shells to prepare his eye for the painted prosthetic that he currently has. He has had a nostril and nasal bridge formed using his rib and ear cartilage and skin grafts. The list could go on and on, but he lets none of it get him down. Noah is a fighter, he is full of life and he lights up every room that he enters. He is a miracle!
LBD/LRW: And, your adoption experience with Noah was…an adventure…right? We heard you guys ended up going straight from the airport to the hospital when you landed–but for your husband, not Noah!
Jennifer: Oh my, yes! Our plane ride home with Noah was adventurous to say the least. Just minutes into our 17 hour journey home from China, Noah ripped Jason’s cornea with his fingernail.
Cameron went to China with us to get Noah. So all the way home, on the incredibly LONG flight I had an 18-month-old wild baby I had just met and my first grader to take care of. It was crazy. Noah spilt my food and drinks all over the place, and I could not even go to the restroom alone because Jason was out of commission and in a great deal of pain with his eye. So I had to carry my [Chinese-speaking] 18-month-old into a tiny airplane bathroom with me. Fun!
After what seemed like eternity, we arrived at our connecting flight in Chicago. The airplane personal called for assistance for Jason, and they put him in a wheel chair. So off we go, I am carrying an 18-month-old and all of our carry on luggage. We still had more luggage to collect. We went to the baggage carousel and I began to pull off our bags, while holding Noah. A bag came by and ripped off my big toenail. There we were, Jason in a wheel chair and me with a throbbing toe that was gushing blood!
I managed to keep myself together and not cry because I knew that Noah might freak our being newly adopted. I cried one other time while we were in China and he got really upset, so I knew crying was not an option. Cameron and I gathered the huge amount of luggage–two weeks’ worth for four people–and we made our way through customs with all of our injuries. We then made it to our connecting flight to Atlanta.
One perk came out of all the drama: the airline took pity on us and put us on an earlier flight home. I still have no idea how I made it but I did. I guess that is just what a mom has to do!
LBD/LRW: I would imagine that this entire process has been no less than life-changing for you.
Jennifer: Our adoptions have taught us so many things. First, God is faithful. He blessed us with four amazing children, and we cannot imagine our lives without one of them. We have learned that God has better plans for us than we can begin to imagine.
LBD/LRW: Life with four kids cannot be calm, though. So, how do you stay grounded in the midst of the chaos?
Jennifer: Everyday is busy when you have this many kids, but some days I need an afternoon cup of coffee and a few minutes of quiet. Also, I like to know that I will have a few minutes when all the kiddos are tucked in bed to chill out and watch a favorite TV show. It’s important to remember that everyone needs a little “me” time. I also like to occasionally grab lunch/dinner with a friend or go to the movies. Of course, I always like to go shopping and get a pedicure!
LBD/LRW: And how do you keep your marriage strong and centered?
Jennifer: Our marriage is very important to us. Jason is my very best friend. We make sure that we talk daily about the things that our going on in our lives. Life can be extremely busy with four kids who are very involved in school, church and other extra curricular activities– but it’s very important that you don’t get too busy to communicate with each other. And, we also make sure that we have time alone without the kids. Jason and I try to have date night at least once a month. Sometimes grandparents will even keep all the kids for the night.
LBD/LRW: Time to brag! Tell us about these gorgeous kiddos.
Jennifer: Cameron is in 7th grade. Has always made A honor roll in school, and he’s currently in all advanced classes. He is a member of the Jr. Beta Club. He plays ice hockey at The Cooler in Alpharetta and Plays Roller Hockey for Lassiter Trojans. He loves to read any novel that is about war or the military and he enjoys playing airsoft. He is also very kind and compassionate. He hopes to return to Ecuador this December with his dad to work in an orphanage for a few days. Cameron wants to go to Georgia Tech and be a Mechanical Engineer or go to school to be a pastor. He has a little while to decide.
Emmy is 10. She has also always made all A’s and is again on the A honor roll. She is an active participant in school. She loves the opportunity to lead morning announcements at school. She is a member of the Safety Patrol and the Book Fair Crew at school. She recently was accepted into the Venture Program (gifted). Emmy is also a dancer. She has been a member of the dance company at CK DanceWorks for three years and is a “Sapphire” this year. Emmy also has a huge heart for kids and orphans. She also went to Ecuador with us this past summer to work in an orphanage. She hopes to have the opportunity to go back to Ecuador this summer. Emmy wants to be a missionary and work with orphans when she grows up.
Mia loves school and has done really well. She has the best sense of humor and is extremely quick witted. Mia is also a dancer and tumbler. She has been a member of the dance company at CK Danceworks for two years and is an “Emerald” this year. Mia is an accomplished tumbler at CK as well. She has mastered many things in tumbling. She loves doing aerials and this week she mastered her back handspring to back tuck.
Noah has also done really well in school. He loves to read and play educational games on the computer. He enjoys riding his bike, big wheel and roller blades throughout the cul-de-sac. He loves to play with his big sister Mia and is often her shadow. Noah takes Boys Hip Hop at CK Danceworks and he plays roller hockey.
LBD/LRW: What else should we know abou the Nails family?
Jennifer: We go to church at Four Points Church. Jason is an elder, and we are actively involved. We lead our first mission trip this summer to Ecuador. We worked in two orphanages and a ministry for street children–it was amazing and life changing. Jason and Cameron plan to return this December and take Christmas gifts to the kids and have a Christmas party at the orphanage. We also have a date scheduled to return to Ecuador with a team this summer to work in the orphanages and LOVE the kids there.
LBD/LRW: Thank you, Jennifer!! Your family is an inspiration, really and truly. We’re honored to be featuring you.
Photography by Captures by Summer. Jennifer’s wardrobe provided by Love Street at Cedarcrest.