Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Our Disneyland Vacation Video

We went to Disneyland for two days. It was so much fun!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Annalyn's Video

Here is a video I made of Annalyn. I wanted to be able to show her that I made something special just for her.

May God bless you with a special, unexpected hug today!

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Meeting Annalyn

It didn't take long for Friday, August 11 to come. It should have seemed like forever (like every pregnancy or adoption), but remember I only knew about Annalyn for a short time (not nine months). Not much time to sit and long for her to come, but rather just enough time to "nest" like crazy. That is one thing I will never figure out, a woman's need to nest. Well maybe we can discuss it some other time, but let's not forget that our new daughter was going to arrive around noon today! I think I even dreamed about her last night and what it would be like to gently caress her head as I kissed her goodnight for the very first time.

The girls were especially excited about their new sister and passed the time by making Annalyn a welcome sign that they hung up in their bedroom. Julia and Anna even wrote her a letter. Around 10:45 am. Annalyn's parents called to tell us they were about 10 minutes out.

The whole situation seemed so surreal, as I never expected for this to actually be happening. Things were too perfect. We liked each other (by what we knew from phone conversations), we both lived in Ca, we matched the type of family that Annalyn wanted and needed, and there were no disagreements about finances, paperwork, or whether or not they would keep in touch.
So, what if she didn't like us? What if she did, but the parents didn't? What would she call us? Who would she treat as her parents? "How long would the parents be staying? Should I invite them to dinner? What if they wanted to keep Annalyn one more night? Instead of driving myself crazy thinking about these things, I reminded myself that everything was going so smooth, because it was part of God's perfect plan for Annalyn to join our family. That was that and before I knew it, I heard John and the kids screaming, "They're here!"

We all went out to greet Annalyn and her parents. Annalyn looked at both John and me, said "Hi," then quickly ran off with the girls to see her new house. I had but only a moment to see her, but I knew she was beautiful and I knew we would spend more time together later. We invited the parents in and offered to show them around our house. They were pleasant enough, but the moment was awkward to say the least. We told them about our house, how it was run, and what each of Annalyn's new siblings were like. All the while I looked for some sign from them that they approved of us and it finally came when they asked if we wanted to go over the paperwork.

We sat and discussed everything, but I really can't remember the details. I wanted to go up and spend time with Annalyn and the kids but wasn't sure how to convey my feelings. So instead, I asked about Annalyn's likes and dislikes and took mental notes of all the little details they gave about her. After about ten minutes, the parents finally said they had to go to the lawyer's office to get some documents signed. Given the whole situation, and the feelings of all of us, I was kind of relieved when they said it was time for them to go. Not that I didn't find them nice and pleasant, but just because them going was the best thing for Annalyn at the moment and we all knew it.

Later they would be coming back to drop off the documents and say their final goodbye to Annalyn.

I joined Annalyn and the girls upstairs to see what they were doing. Julia, Anna, and Sveta were showing Annalyn the new swimsuit I had bought her. I sat down next to Annalyn and reached over to give her a big hug. "Welcome to the family." I didn't want to overload her too much, so I decided to keep things pretty light. "Do you have any questions?" I asked her. She asked where her bed was, and I showed her the new bunk bed I had just bought. John was in the garage gathering the tools needed to put it together. Annalyn was very excited but like any new situation, she seemed a little unsure.

I sat down on one of the beds in the room and proceeded to ask Annalyn a little about herself. I also offered some tidbits of info about myself. "Annalyn, I want you to know that you are home now. This is where you are going to grow up, and whether you like it or not, this is your family forever. I know you don't love us yet, and you may never love us, but still your stuck with us. You got that?" I got her to nod her head. After laying this simple foundation which I believe is in simple enough English for a child to understand, I finally asked all of the kids if they wanted to go swimming over at Grandma and Grandpa's house. All I heard was screaming after that, so I went downstairs to put on my own swimsuit.

Grandpa arrived shortly before we left and offered to take the kids over now (they live four minutes away) so I could put a roast in the oven for dinner that night. I was hesitant to say yes, since I wasn't sure about Annalyn's ability to swim (she said she can, but I hadn't witnessed it yet) but he told me he could handle it. So he left with the four girls and William while I quickly put the roast on. John, Adam, and Caleb were staying behind to put together the bunk bed and take the roast out when it was done.

I hurried as quickly as I could, being I was so excited to get over to my in-laws to swim with the kids....especially Annalyn. To be able to hold, touch, and play with her in the water would be like the first time I held each of my children when they were born. Sure I would have liked to have more of a one on one moment with just her, but things do not always work out as we plan, and at this point I was just happy to be with her. When I finally arrived about 15 minutes later, I was greeted with the news that Annalyn could not swim.

Now let me clarify that she is all right, but that when Grandpa asked her if she could swim or not, Annalyn said that yes she could. Still he stood right next to the pool (like any good grandpa would) when she got in - just in case. Just in case he had to jump in to save her, clothes, keys, wallet and all. But why would he have to do that because after all she did say she could swim, right?

Well, no sooner than when her foot left the last step, did she go under the water, and Grandpa found himself jumping in after her, clothes, keys, wallet and all! He pulled her up instantly, and Annalyn was fine (in fact she did not seem phased at all), but I'm pretty sure Grandpa was a little perturbed. Yet my wonderful, awesome father-in-law (from this point on referred to as Dad) chalked it up to a difference in definition for the word swim. After all, what does one do in one of those small baby pools you buy at Walmart for $4.44? Wade, splash, sit, or swim? I think we'd all agree the word is definitely SWIM.

But all in all, we all felt that this "little mishap" bonded Grandpa and Annalyn instantly. For her to know that Grandpa was right there to save her and he did, I believe showed her how much she could already depend on him and her whole (new) family for that matter.

After things settled down, and the excitement of retelling the story wore off, I changed into my bathing suit to swim with the kids. "Are you going to swim too?" Annalyn asked as I stepped into the pool. "Of course, silly girl," I answered as I pulled her towards me to bounce around in the water. All the kids started to hang on me, and Annalyn was too busy playing with her siblings, so even my fantasy of twirling her around in the water while we hugged would have to wait. I instead settled for pulling her and Jonny all around the pool as they held on to the back of my bathing suit strap.

After swimming for about 2 hours, I announced that we had to go home. Out in the front of the house as we were getting into the van I asked Annalyn if she wanted to sit in the front seat. She quickly answered yes and played with the window button on the way home until I asked her to stop. She then told me, just as we were driving up to our house and saw her previous parents getting out of their car, that she had never sat in the front seat before. Talk about my feelings of awkwardness as they watched their, I mean our daughter get out of the car. Thankfully, nothing was mentioned as we all went into the house.

The kids disappeared upstairs as John and I sat down with the previous parents to discuss things one last time. After we reassured each other once again that this is what each of us wanted, they got up to leave and to say goodbye to Annalyn, one last time. It was hard for all of us not to cry at the moment, but my instinct was to comfort Annalyn. John walked her previous parents out as I gently rubbed Annalyn's back and told her it was okay to be sad.
And so life with Annalyn Christine Reed has begun.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Annalyn's Story

I believe that Annalyn was meant to be with us. Yes, it is true that I feel that way about each of our children, but with Annalyn I couldn't imagine feeling God's hand guiding her straight to us more than I did with any other child.

John and I were so open to adopting another child, that we began throwing the idea around with our family, as a way to sort of prepare them. Little by little, I began exploring our options, and praying for God to lead us to the right child if there was even a child out there that he wanted us to have. With our family size, I was already running into obstacles just trying to find a local agency that would work with us. We also did not want to take a lot of time away from our family by attending (adoption) classes or traveling. And if that wasn't enough stipulations, John told me that our next child would have to be from right here in the US. So basically if God's plan was for us to have another child, he would have to literally drop one in our lap.

That is where Annalyn comes into the picture. Out of the blue, on Tuesday, August 8, I posted a short introduction about our family on an adoption group that had asked for people who were interested in adopting to share a little about themselves. Never having done this before, and second guessing my post, I really didn't expect anything to come of it. But later that day I found an email from a mother who was responding to my post. In this email, she shared about a little girl that she and her husband had adopted from Russia almost two years ago and was desperately trying to find another home for. She shared of the heartache her, her husband, and this little girl had been through and asked if I would like to talk. Already emotionally involved, I noticed that this family was also in California. Well if any of you don't know, because of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC), if the child that you are adopting is in a different state it becomes much more complicated. So knowing that, I already felt that God was trying to get our attention.

I quickly called John to tell him about this mother's email, and he told me to get in touch with her. After hearing, "I don't think so Christine," the other couple of times I had shared with him about available children, I was pleasantly surprised to hear him say, "Get 'er done."

As you can imagine, my heart and mind was racing at the idea of being this little girl's mommy. When, and how, was this all going to pan out? What kind of problems could this little girl have? How far away did this family live, and how soon could we meet this little girl? All of these thoughts entered my mind as I emailed this woman to tell her about us, set up a time so that we can talk, and ask for a picture.

Well, have you ever heard that a picture says a thousand words? That is how it was with Annalyn's picture as if I instantly knew exactly what she wanted and especially what she needed. Sure questions were still unanswered, but I already knew in my heart that she was my daughter. How can I say that, I'm sure some of you are thinking, when I haven't even met her? I guess it's because I figured God would work out the details, just like he always does. Plus, that cute little face and those beautiful brown eyes tugged on my heartstrings, making it nearly impossible for me to say no.

I called that evening, and was told all about Annalyn and why she needed to find another family. After talking for a while, we both felt really good about each other and decided that we were going to make this work. They talked about coming down to meet us that Saturday. If things went well, (which we both knew and felt would) Annalyn would stay with us from that moment on.

John and I went to bed talking about our new (soon to be) daughter and couldn't wait to tell the kids in the morning. We also decided that it would be best if Annalyn could come Friday- one day earlier. We wanted as much time as possible with her before school started and hoped to get the paperwork started before the weekend. The other family agreed and so we began the scramble of preparing our home for another child. I went out and bought a bunk bed and comforter. I also found a pink back pack and cute little swim-suit just for her. And I began to pray for my whole family, as I knew that each of my nine children would have to go through their own adjustment.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

It's Flowbee Time

I know it has been a long time since my last entry, but hopefully once school starts I will find more time to post. The countdown has officially started and only eight more days till the kids go back to school.
Adam got his haircut last week and yesterday I did all of the girls and William. There is this amazing thing called the Flowbee and I cannot recommend it enough. It has saved us hundreds of dollars in the last seven years because I use it to cut all of the boys hair including my husbands. It hooks up to the vacuum cleaner so there is absolutely no hair mess. Oh how I remember (in the old days) the first time I cut my son Caleb's hair with scissors. He was so scared that the only way I could get him to stop crying was by handing him a lollipop. Well, for any of you that don't know, hair and candy do not mix. Wish I would have known that as I cleaned up the hair and lollipop mess all over his face. It did result in an adorable picture though.
Well anyways, yesterday was the first time I tried cutting the girls hair with it, and boy it's just not the same. Let's just say that from now on I will stick to cutting only the boys hair with it. Oh well, it will grow back.
Caleb is getting braces tomorrow. My first child to get them because he has a cross bite. He is excited but I keep telling him that they will probably hurt him for awhile until he gets used to them. "You better get used to puree," I tease him with the wink of an eye. His reply, "You better stock up on ice-cream."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Swimmer's Ear and Poison Oak

When I was cooking dinner tonight, a fly kept buzzing around in the kitchen. Some of the kids were just hanging around while others were helping to set the table. One of the "do nothings" was my oldest son Adam so I asked him to get out our electric fly-swatter (my 29th birthday present from the kids) and kill the darn fly. He sarcastically replied, "I can't Mom. My swimmers ear is affecting my vision."
On another note, most of my family is getting over a bad case of poison oak that we got while we were on vacation. My husband got it the worst and finally had to have two shots (one in each cheek) yesterday. It is finally getting better for him, a full three weeks later. Too bad it just now surfaced for Anna. She has huge, water filled blisters on both of her hands. She is in so much pain, she asked me to pop them just to relieve the pressure.
Here is the order of people in which the rash has developed.
1. John - Dad / June 25 The very next day exposed.
2. Sveta / One week later
3. Caleb / 1 1/2 weeks later
4. Andrew and Jonny / July 7
5. William / July 8
6. Julia / July 11
7. Anna / July 12
Adam wanted to make sure I mentioned that as of today he and I are SYMPTOM free! I hope we stay that way.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Dillon Beach Vacation Video

Here are the lyrics to the video's background music. I have always loved her songs and now most of my children do too. Isn't it amazing how influential we as parents can be on our children and we don't even realize it? Just food for thought. Good night and sleep tight. And God Bless. And don't forget to show your true colors because they are beautiful like a rainbow.

True Colors Lyrics
by Cindy Lauper

You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged
Oh I realize
It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small
But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow
Show me a smile then,
Don't be unhappy, can't remember
When I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And you've taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I'll be there
And I'll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Did I Say I like Akroska?

Well as you can see I am not very consistent. My journaling comes only when I have a free moment. There are so many things to share but they often come after the thought and with much less enthusiasm. So here I am about to journal our Russian dinner three days later.
Let me begin with the Borscht. It really did turn out great and I had enough to share with our other neighbors too. During dinner Julia made the comment, "Mom, I actually like it." John quickly responded, "Julia, that wasn't very nice. Of course you would like it and actually implies that you are surprised that you do. You know Mom always makes good food so don't act like you are surprised that the borscht is good too." She smiled and quickly apologized and continued to eat the whole bowl.
Anna and Sveta ate two bowlfuls with broken up pieces of bread in it and the rest of the kids ate it without much fuss but when it came to the akroska whoa!- was that a different story. As I dished up a teeny-tiny spoonful (of the pukey looking soup as my older son described it) onto every one's plate I got comments like "We actually have to eat this?" and, "Your ruining my life." Since John likes to be the "good" example he asked that I serve him up a whole bowl. He also was the first one to try it. I could tell that he didn't like it, but bless his heart - he sure acted like he did. So I went on to try it too and I'm sure I liked it even less than he did but kept my comments to myself until everyone had tried it. Hoping it might get some rave reviews from at least Anna or Sveta, I had to keep myself from laughing as I watched their reactions.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

It Smells like Russia

Today I made Borscht. Four gallons of it to be exact. I thought it would be nice to freeze a couple of batches to give to our neighbors as a welcome home gift when they bring home their children from Kazakstan next week. To make the soup base I even boiled eight pounds of beef ribs and three pounds of chuck roast. It smells so good! When the girls got home from school, Anna and Sveta were very excited to see that I was making it. Anna asked if I would let her have some "Myasa" so I stuffed the tender beef in her mouth as she asked for more and more.
I also made "Akroska" which is cold cucumber soup. Since my neighbors like this soup so much I thought it would be nice to make them some as a way to thank them for all of the candy they brought back from Kaz. Personally, this soup is not my favorite, but it sure was fun making with Sveta. She grated all four cucumbers by herself and boy was she proud of herself! Plus, it might get them to bring more of the Kaz candy that Anna, Sveta, and I enjoyed so much. It was absolutely delicious with a nice cup of chi.
So for dinner tonight we are having tender beef, Borscht, Akroska, hard boiled eggs, and fresh, crusty bread. If I could, I would invite whoever would appreciate the tastes of Russia. Boy, does it bring back memories, except I left out the bologna in the Borscht.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Are Naps Worth It?

As I sit here and type, every once in a while I hear this squeaking noise upstairs. It's Andrew and Jonny opening and closing the door ever so quietly, thinking I don't hear them. I have been up there twice to tuck them back in but eventually they make it back to the top of the stairs where I know they are sitting right now watching me as I type this. Normally, my husband and I run a tight ship evident by all of our children under nine already asleep since 8:15 pm. but it is hard to get mad at Andrew and Jonny when I know they took a 2 hour nap today.
Hold on, as I quickly march up the stairs and chase the boys back to their beds as I pretend to swat their little bottoms but actually clap my hands together for the sound, "Hurry up, hurry up, chop, chop, chop!"
Five minutes later, I am back again and still wondering what would be better. I think they still need naps, they are tired and cranky by 4 pm. if they haven't had a nap, they are cranky if I wake them up after only one hour of napping, and if I let them nap all they want then they don't go to sleep when it is bedtime. So my latest idea has been to take them swimming over at Grandma and Grandpa's house before bed to try and tire them out. Well so far the only one it is tiring out is me! Geesh! And I thought by the eighth child I would have it all figured out.
Speaking of swimming, Sveta learned to swim two days ago. Did you hear that? Sveta is swimming. Our dear little Sveta will let Daddy throw her in the pool without a noodle and then she will swim to the steps. It is really amazing for her and she is so proud of herself. Kind of like when she learned to ride a bike just a couple of months ago. It is so awesome to be a part of her life as she is making these huge steps in her life. Well actually, I am just a fan in the cheering section as I watch my wonderful husband teach her these things. He is also teaching her piano which she seems to really enjoy once she has learned a new song. Seeing her excitement each time she learns something new is such a rewarding experience. It just warms my heart to see her so proud of herself!
When it was Sveta who learned to swim first and not Anna, that made Anna decide later that night that she would just do it too, the very next chance she got! Well today we went swimming again and guess what. Anna let Daddy give her a quick refresher lesson and now she is a swimmer too! Yaaaaaaaaaa!
Tonight as I tucked in the girls, I let them know that I think they learned to swim faster than any of their siblings ever did including Julia. It made them feel really good to know that since Julia had been swimming since she was 4 1/2 years old. "By how fast you learned to swim, I bet you would have been swimming by that age too if you could," I whispered in Anna's ear as I gave them each a kiss. After all, swimming in less than two weeks after only being exposed to a swimming pool for the first time is really impressive in my book.
Adam and Caleb just kissed me goodnight so I guess I'm off to bed too. No more squeaking coming from upstairs, just like I said they are too now fast asleep.

Building a tent

Isn't it neat how kids can be entertained by the smallest things? My motto is "Give them a box and they will play." No need to constantly entertain them with expensive toys.
Sveta still has evidence of Hand-Foot-Mouth and so I am keeping her home again (long story about school nurse that I won't get into today) with Andrew and Jonny. She is enjoying being the oldest at home and I think these three days have been very good for the three of them not to mention her and my relationship.
Today, they are building tents with all of the blankets in the house. They have been playing for over an hour and it is allowing me to catch up on some of my journaling. I sneak a peak at them every once in a while and I smile as I see their wonderful imaginations at play. They have camped out in the starry night, played house, laughed at nothing and pretended the outside is hot and unsafe. How fun, for them!
What imaginative things do your children do? What types of family outings do you plan to do over the summer?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Saturdays are special

Saturdays are always special at our house. Mainly, because it is the only day that we are all home but also because we always try to do something fun and if at all possible "new". Though I had made cinnamon rolls with the kids before, and even went through my "cinnamon roll phase" where I was trying at least 2 different recipes a week, I had never made them with Anna, Sveta or Jonny. Since making them from scratch requires many steps like measuring, kneading, stirring, beating, rolling, sprinkling, cutting, etc. I had no problem making sure every child got to participate in some way. I do however, think that the kids favorite part was eating the rolls! Just in case you were wondering, they didn't last but one day.