Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So Many Sweet Faces

Oh my, my, my.  Look at all these little babies. Aren't they adorable?  I don't know about you, but I'm in heaven looking at all of their precious, innocent faces.  I know what I want for Christmas. Why?  Because all of these children are in need of a Mama.
None of them have a loving family to surround them with smiles and giggles.
No snuggles.
No coziness.
Instead, they spend their time self soothing themselves to pass the time.
Rocking back and forth.
Because no one rocks them.
They often bang their heads just to feel something because it is better than nothing.
It reaches into my soul and screams out to me--
Do something Christine!
So I blog.  I ask that you take a moment and stare back at their picture.
Tell me that you don't feel anything.  Tell me that your heart is not stirred.  Tell me that you can't afford to give five dollars to increase their chances of being adopted while us Americans will find billions of dollars this Christmas to spend on presents. 
I don't think you can.  I think you all have a soft spot for children in need-- even if you have never thought about it before.
God first adopted us.
He is our example. 
Meet Colton!
And Tamara!
Aren't they all just beautiful?  Wonderfully made in God's image.  They are waiting for their Mama and Daddy.  Their brothers and sisters. 
I know that adoption is a big thing.  But I also know that it is a huge blessing.
You can be a part of caring for orphans in other ways besides adoption if you are not able to adopt at this time.  You can pray for them by name.  God hears our prayers.  You can make a tax deductible donation to their adoption grant fund to help out with their adoption costs.  This is a huge blessing for these kids whose chances of being adopted are greater if there is a grant to help with their adoption expenses.
You can go to Reece's Rainbow to read all about these children and to make a donation.
Thank you!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Digest 24

Susan Hight said...
How's Dennis's eye? The skin seems really red around it in these pictures. Regardless, he's cute as a button as always. I just hope it isn't bothering him. :)
November 8, 2011 9:29 AM

Thanks for asking.  The skin around the eye will be red for about a year after surgery.  Thankfully it does fade over time.  We use Mederma when I remember and he does not have eczema on his face.

You really need to get your kids to the dentist more often, every 6 months is recommended. There's no excuse for such yellow teeth. Also, do you want them all to have mouths full of cavities

By Anonymous on The Solution on 11/11/11

I feel sorry for you.  I really do.  I hope you can let go of the anger, bitterness, and downright nastiness that your comment exudes.  Maybe you'd like to join me with three of my kids to the dentist tomorrow and pick up the bill too since you are so concerned about their teeth.  I would really appreciate it.

Cody Lee said...
Happy Birthday, Galina. And good luck, Christine, with having another teenager in the house. ;-)
(I keep submitting my homestudy on 12yr old girls here in the States, and my mom thinks I'm crazy.)
Does River of Joy have a website? I've been reading your blog over the past week or so and now can't find where you posted the link if it has one.
November 14, 2011 6:04 PM

I think teenagers are awesome-- so what's another one? :)  Yes, River of Joy has a website.  You can check it out here.

Joy said...
I hope you all have fun at Disneyland!
I've been enjoying your blog for several months now, since earlier this summer. You have such a lovely family. I was wondering if Julia and Rachel ever post on their blogs? I know I checked a while back and there was nothing there.
~Joy Caroline
November 15, 2011 2:34 PM

Rachel and Julia will read this and maybe it will encourage them to post more to their blogs.  We'll see. :)

Anonymous said...
I have not been at your blog for quite sometime. In just scrolling down I noticed how Galina has changed a LOT since we here in the blogosphere first met her. Her face is so pretty, much softer (and of course grown up).
Love does amazing things for the human body.
November 16, 2011 1:01 P

You noticed it too?  Galina has changed so much.  Can you believe we are already approaching the one year mark?  She has surprised us so much with how easy her transition has been.  For the longest time I was waiting for the honeymoon period to end... and it has in a way... but nothing big.  She has really made an amazing transformation with us.  It just confirms to us that she was meant to be here.

Jamey and Catherine said...
I love this post! Somehow she seems like the quiet/ shy type but Im wrong arent I. :)
November 16, 2011 9:27 PM

You are so wrong. ;)  She is actually my loudest daughter!  I do wonder what it would be like if she was shy?  Hmmm--- Anna shy??  LOL-- Nope, can't picture it!

gen2revztruth said...
This is completely unrelated to your girl Anna, sorry, but I really need your help!
You have teenage boys, boys who have gone through all the hormonal changes, please, please contact me about how to deal with them, what they were like age 8 onwards, what to expect, and how to survive this nonsense from them! If you have twitter my username is the same as this one, or can you reply on here and I'll give you my email or something in priv msg.
Thankyou, hope you have time to respond! I'm getting a little desperate with my eldest!
November 18, 2011 1:14 AM

Take a deep breath.  You'll get through it.  Teenage boys aren't that bad. By eight they usually smell all boy in every sense but mine have outgrown it by the time they are teenagers-- except for maybe the feet. :)  Their voices will change, they will sleep more, but I honestly have not noticed that big of a change.  Yes they are spreading their wings more and voicing their opinion but if you take the time to invest in your relationship with them rather than give them more space, you'll stay close.  I talk to my boys, I still give them hugs and kisses on the cheek, and I try not to forget birthday spankings. :)  None of my kids have FaceBook, cell phones, or tvs or computers in their rooms.  They are allowed to Skype with friends but not when we are asleep.  I give my kids an inch, they ask for a mile-- but what kid doesn't?  I wish I could give you concrete answers-- all I know is that early on my husband and I were taught in a parenting class that our kids should be blessings to others including us.  We don't ask them to do things that we don't do ourselves and I think they respect us for that-- at least I hope they do.   Despite my very best effort, I blow it with my kids every. single. day.  Knowing that, and seeing their forgiveness helps me to be graceful too.  The best way to do this is to try and not keep a record of wrong.  Sure that may come back and bite you now and then when they test you with, "When?  When did I do that?"  and all you can answer back is, "I don't know when, but I know you did!"  LOL-- we would be an even bigger mess of a family if we kept track of every wrong we had done to us.

Melissa said...

This little girl has been on my mind often since you posted. I've been praying for her.
November 27, 2011 8:52 PM

Please keep her in your prayers.  She is still available for adoption.  Besides for one donation, her grant has
not moved up one penny.  Tamara is at a wonderful baby home right now, but I don't know for how much longer.   I think of her often.  I'm certain she would be a cuddlebug. :) I have a sweet, adorable picture of her feet that comes to mind throughout the day.   Ever since we first saw Sveta and Anna's pure white feet back in 2005 because they were never allowed to be outside without socks and shoes-- feet have represented to me a child's freedom.  Freedom to run around barefoot and squish mud between their toes and get all wrinkly from a long bubblebath!  I don't think Tamara has experienced any of that.  Imagine what a delight it would be to experience all those firsts with such a sweetheart of a girl.  The thought makes me smile.

Hevel said...

I really apreciate your honest blogging. There are so many entries I want to write, and there's one I'll eventually post (wrote it a while back) about raising sexually active teenagers and all that it involves... But I'm chicken to post it now.
November 28, 2011 12:28 PM

Hevel, thank you.  Hopefully one day you will post what you have written so that others may learn from you.

Anonymous said...

I love your readers, they are so kind and helpful and positive, What a blessing! You would not get all these suggestions and experiences if you did not blog so honestly. My little sister liked the silky material on her blanket and used to go to sleep stroking it, my granddaughter rubs the edge of her pillow against her cheek, my nephew needed to have a clean cloth diaper near his face.
November 28, 2011 5:51 PM

I never thought of the underwear touching as a tactile issue.  They are normal cotton-- nothing special.  Still, it could be.  Either way, he is back to just sleeping with his stuffed doggy. 

Anonymous said...

Maybe he wants to be a girl. Let him dress that way if he wants too, or are you one of those Christians who thinks it is wrong for a guy to be transgender or gay? >.>
November 29, 2011 1:49 PM

Pa---leeze!  I'm not even going there.

A Few Things

Good morning.  God is good all the time... amen? :)

A few things.

If you see any movies this year make sure you include The Grace Card, and The Ultimate Gift.  Both are awesome... powerful... meaningful... with great lessons too.  Don't miss out-- you'll be glad you didn't!

Last night I stayed up way too late ordering supplemental homeschool curriculum. Kids Discover is probably one of my favorite teaching tools.  The kids love it!  I use it for themed units.  I usually read the magazine first and come up with about 40 questions, a few videos to watch, and often times a writing assignment followed by a test.  It works great.  This week we are learning about the Ice Age and the kids are doing reports on the Ice Mammal of their choice.  As I browsed through the topics, I realized that their are teacher guides and vocab power to go with the magazine.  Wooo-hooo!  Another great homeschool find is Balance Benders.  The puzzles are challenging even for Adam!

The following week after we get back from Disneyland Alex is having major surgery to untether his spinal cord.  He will be in the hospital up to four days.  Dennis will also have a new prosthetic eye designed since he will not undergo any more surgeries on his eye for awhile.  It looks like we will be staying close to home this Christmas which is fine with me. :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Here Goes

What is the point of blogging honestly and truthfully?  For me, I want to be an honest person even though that means I might look ugly to many people.  I sin.  I rarely get it right.  And if I share, I know I open myself up to tons of criticism.  Why not just keep everything to ourselves?  It keeps people wondering at the very least.  This is definitely a road I have contemplated going down-- just shutting down the blog or keeping it private-- or even worse-- painting this rosy perfect picture of our family-- it would certainly be easier.

But God didn't promise easy.  In fact, He has proven to me more times than not that my screwed up life enables Him to turn it around for His glory.  Just like other people have touched me in a powerful way when they have shared their hard times, I believe that God continues to use me in this way too. 

So I blog.

Here goes.

Last night Jonny came to our room in the middle of the night around 2 am. "Can I sleep in your room? I had a bad dream."  "Sure, go lay down on the other bed,"  I said half asleep.  Ten minutes later, "Can I come sleep with you?  I can't go to sleep by myself,"  Jonny whispered as he climbed into bed between John and I.  "Sure Jonny."  Ten minutes later, "Will you pray with me?  I had a bad dream, and I can't go to sleep."  Why hadn't I thought of this earlier?  Well actually I had, but I was too tired and figured that it would be okay to skip the praying.  But now Jonny was asking so I prayed with him.  He kept stirring so ten minutes later I prayed with him again.  And then again.  He just couldn't sleep.  By this time at least an hour had passed.  "Jonny what was your dream about?  Did you watch something scary?"  Jonny told me that Rumpelstiltskin in Shrek 4 had scared him.  This sounded fishy but I didn't think it was the time to investigate.  Finally after another hour or two he drifted off to sleep around 5am. 

6:30 a.m.  was here before we knew it, and I woke him up.  Over breakfast we talked about Jonny's bad dream and I found out it was from watching "The Mummy"  a few nights ago when John and I went to serve Thanksgiving dinner.  Andrew found it in an old stack of movies.  Rachel thought it was okay for them to watch.  I'm mad at myself for even having the movie in the house.  As I lectured the kids about knowing better than to watch a scary movie, Andrew shifted blame to Dad who I then shifted my anger towards.

It was quickly resolved, with new lessons learned.  I am sorry that Jonny had bad dreams as a result.   I am sorry that my kids were exposed to something they shouldn't have.  I'm sorry I was quick to deflect blame. 

This is a time that I wish there was a do over button.

Onto other things.

It is expected that things will come up with kids as they grow and change.  That's called life.  We all have ups and downs and no matter what, we will get through them, work through them, and learn from them.  I trust that each and every situation will be used for God's glory... if we let it.  I believe that no mater how unpleasant they may be or how great the challenge, something can be learned.  We can become more patient, practice self-control, learn to be content in the midst of a storm, or when you are stuck in a desert.

With that said, I share something quite personal.  The other day an adoptive parent and friend called me after I messaged her on Facebook.  She shared with me how she found her underwear in her son's room-- more than once.  She asked for advice which I had little, simply because I had not really experienced this in our home.... yet.  I encouraged, touched on puberty, assured her that masturbation was quite normal, and told her what I did know.  If kids have attachment issues they will hone in on what bothers you and do it more.   What I meant by bother is that-- I encouraged her not to make this issue a deal breaker.

Then it happened.
Earlier in the week I found one of the boys wearing girls underwear over their diaper at nap time.  A few pairs of girls undies were stashed in his pillow case.  I didn't think much of it honestly.  I told him to stop goofing around and go to sleep.  I took the underwear.  A day later, I found some girls underwear stashed in a drawer.  I assumed that they were for Dennis' doll who he dresses up with diapers or underwear before putting on clothes.  I didn't make a big deal of it other than telling him that he better stop taking things that don't belong to him without permission.  Then at nap time a daughter caught him caressing girls underwear that were laid out on his pillow.  I found more underwear hidden in his pillowcase.  Within the course of a week, I figured it out.   For years nothing like this had happened, and then all of a sudden it does.

That's life.  It happens.  Yes, this made me uncomfortable.  Yes, I wish it was somebody else.   But it's us.  And we are working through it because it is not a deal breaker.  Kids are curious.  Kids like to explore.  Things that make them feel good, they will naturally gravitate towards.  Until they are taught, they don't really know right from wrong.  It is not like I sat down day one with my kids and explained how having possession of someone else's underwear is wrong  My being uncomfortable about this is more my problem than it is his.  He was hurting no one.   But we addressed it nonetheless because it is not okay to take someone else's underwear and we do not want things to escalate to a more serious offense. 

It has been three days now and it seems as if he has moved on.  I am more attentive.  That is my job.  I hope this is the end of this.  Realistically I know that it may not be.  But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it even if it is tomorrow.

This week is a crazy one.  As we prepare to go on vacation next week I go back and forth with feelings of excitement and guilt.  On one hand I think this is a wonderful opportunity to bless our kids and bond with our newest additions that have never been to Disneyland.  They are so ecstatic to be going- just hearing the details brings smiles from ear to ear.  The homeschoolers are working incredibly hard this week and through the weekend to cram two weeks worth of work into one.  John is taking off of work and this will be the first vacation as a family of 17-- which is really nice.  On the other hand, it is so much money.  Money that can be better spent I think.  I struggle with this.  I don't know the right answer.  So I try to find balance.  I got excellent group rates on tickets, and we will not be buying alot of food in the park or souvenirs.  This trip is also serving as an early Christmas present.  We will celebrate William's birthday too.  Besides, we probably won't go for another five years.  As the time comes closer to us leaving, I am growing more excited.  It is hard not to when I see the excitement in the kids' eyes.   I have come to accept that even though I try to justify us going, I don't have to.
I guess I have shared enough for now.  Now it's your turn.. :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

All About Paul

Paul is quite the character.
He is eleven years old.
Paul is quiet and shy.
But every once in a while he makes sure he is heard.
He can eat more than anyone in this family.
If I had to pick something that he doesn't like, it would have to be cheese.
Paul is pretty easy to get along with.
He goes with the flow easier than any other child of mine.
I've never heard him say, "I'm bored."
The littlest of things can make him happy.
A haircut, a new toothbrush, a bag of chips from the store, or a pad of paper.
It is refreshing to be around such a content child.
Paul doesn't talk much about his past. 
Probably because he doesn't talk much around others accept for his brothers.
Imagine my surprise when a sibling came and told me that he was talking about his birth parents.
"I don't know why they don't want me.  They throw me away like trash."
And he was serious.  This was saddening to hear, but at the same time I was glad that he was finally opening up.  I told him to never call himself trash as I explained that many times parents are unable to care for their children because they don't know how and they can't afford to buy food for them.  The best place for them to go is to an orphanage until their new family comes for them just like we did.
Our talk didn't last long as we parted with a hug and he went off to play.
Paul tries hard.
In the last six months he has become interested in video and computer games.
Little by little, I see him improving.
Baboonya (my Mom) got him started on Bejeweled. :)
Paul enjoys skateboarding and basketball.
He loves to draw.
When Julia bakes he loves to lick the beaters.
Paul is patient.
He is kind.
He knows how to be funny.
He is a great brother and son.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Meet Tamara

Tamara is a sweet, intelligent little girl who needs a forever family. She was born September 21, 2007 with Crouzon Syndrome. She is very physically able and is a favorite in the orphanage. She is described as an affectionate and helpful girl. She is facing transfer to the institution soon.
I had the pleasure of first laying eyes on Tamara when she was just a little baby back in June 2008.  We were at her orphanage to adopt Dennis.  She was so sweet and adorable bouncing in her little exersaucer. At that time I was told that she had not been on the database long enough to be eligible for adoption-- but that has since changed.  Tamara looking cuter than ever, is able to be adopted.  Up until now she has been in a wonderful baby house-- but that is all about to change.
If she is not adopted soon, she will be transferred to the institution, the same place Alex and Dennis would have gone.  An orphanage is no place for a child to grow up, let alone the harsh conditions of an Eastern European Institution. 
I'm sure she would be a sweet and precious addition to any family-- might that family be yours?
Little by little her grant is growing making her adoption more affordable for her future adoptive family.
Might you be able to donate a few dollars towards her adoption fund during this Christmas season as a show of support for this little girl?
You can donate through Reece's Rainbow-- and guess what?  All contributions are tax deductible.
Imagine the Christmas blessing this little girl would have knowing that her future family is commited to bringing her home!


Getting ready for Thanksgiving.
Part of that meant not watching tv, playing video games, or using Internet for a few days so that the kids could appreciate each other more.
We all helped make Thanksgiving dinner.

Julia and John soaking each other while peeling potatoes.
The boys love skateboarding.
Aunt Tanya came along with my Mom and their other sister Hanya.
John and Mom
Annalyn and Rachel
Preparing Thanksgiving dinner.
Andrew and William loved helping me carve the turkey.  They helped by sampling the skin, the dark meat, and the white meat.  I agree with Andrew-- dark meat is the best!
At dinner John had us go around the room and share what we are most thankful for.
After dinner "goofing around."
Thanksgiving was very nice this year.
It was simple and laid back-- nothing fancy.
But it's family times like these that I love the most.

Hope all of you had your own special time with family.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lots To Be Thankful For

Today we had hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream.  Yum!
It was a nice treat.
I am thankful for family.
I am thankful for awesome kids.
Today John came home early from work because he had to return at night to serve Thanksgiving dinner to employees.  The middle schoolers and up went to church except for Rachel who was going to go with John to help serve.  At the last minute she suggested that I go instead while she watch the younger kids so Dad and I could have a "date night."  It was sweet of her to offer, so I went with John.  It was nice to meet some of the people he works with. 
When we got home, the other kids were back too and they were busy drawing these turkeys.
Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

If Only Love Could Make It All Better

From the very beginning Dennis has shown us just how smart he is.
He is very inquisitive and pays attention to every little detail.
Now that he is getting older, he is asking more and more questions.
He continues to ask as he makes his feelings quite clear.
I have enjoyed seeing Dennis blossom in this way,but lately it has brought me much pain. 
Despite our unconditional love and acceptance that we all show to him every single second of his life, he still sees a little boy that looks different when he looks in the mirror-- which is all the time now.
It began with questions like, "Why do I look like this?"  or "What happened to my eye?"
I try to answer the best that I can, but he moves onto new questions.
"Why does my eye have to be ugly?"
He has told me,
"I don't like my face."
"I want 2 eyes the same."
"Can my other eye see?"
"I don't want to look like this."

It is so hard for me to look back at him and answer because all I see is perfect.
All I feel is perfect love.
Where Dennis sees a flaw, I see absolute beauty.
The way he wraps his arms around my neck.
His gorgeous hair.
The way he smells.
His adorable, chunky feet.
The way he trusts me.
The fat pocket in the wing of his arm. (Shhh, I didn't say that.)
The way he laughs.
His sense of humor.
He zeal for life.
His outgoing personality.
His determination.
His ability to discern a not so nice person.
His happiness over the smallest things.
Today we spent 4 hours at the Cranio-Facial Clinic with an hour and a half lunch.
To say I am disappointed would be a huge understatement.
Yes I am thankful for the antibiotic prescription for his ear and the hydrocortisone cream for his eczema that is currently all over the right side of his face.
But the rest of the visit was one big disappointment.
The doctor's didn't tell me anything new.  In fact I almost feel as if I did Dennis wrong for allowing so many surgeries to happen before his big bone graft that they want to happen in a few years.  It's almost as if they would have preferred that he had no surgery until he was 7 or 8.  But Dennis is not their son.  I bet if he was their son, they would have had the surgeries to improve his appearance.  I have had years to see the huge improvement in Dennis' appearance and all they could tell me was that he still needed alot of work down the road. Dennis was not thrilled to hear that.  He is so done with doctors.  He has made it clear-- "No more surgery!"  Of course I can't let him decide this alone, but I do need to take his feelings into consideration-- especially since I think that he does want a more normal appearance when he looks in the mirror.
I did mention to them that his ears are not even and finding glasses that fit is a challenge.  They said they could do a little something to help,but then crtiticized the scar from a previous skin graft when they looked behind the ear.  They couldn't promise a whole lot on this surgery and would not have even noticed the uneveness unless I mentioned it. 
At this point, I am not sure what to do.
I guess that is good since the team doesn't want to do anything right now anyway (except maybe the cosmetic ear surgery that doesn't sound very promising.)
By the New Year we will be on a new insurance plan.  One of the options is Kaiser Permanente.  I know nothing about Kaiser.  Please share your experiences.  Might they be a better option?

All About ANdrew

Andrew is my fifth child in order of when the kids joined our family.
He was excited about life from the very beginning being my only child to be born early.
Two weeks early.  Thank you Andrew-- I owe you one. ;)
Anyway, he is an incredible boy.

For school he was asked to draw a Thanksgiving themed cartoon/comic.
This is what he came up with.
"Come on Andrew.  Help me rake these leaves."
"Fine, but I get to jump in them after."

If I had to describe Andrew in one sentence-- it would be easy.
Andrew is Caleb's mini-me.
Andrew is a cutie.
He is honest, hardworking, playful, and smart.
Shhhh-- he is also a cuddlebug.
He likes to buy hot Takis from the ice-cream man even though he knows I think it is a rip off.
Ahhh, the joys of childhood I guess.
"It's still a rip-off Andrew."  I say.

Andrew excels in school.
His teachers *usually* adore him. ;)
He loves to have fun.
He build forts.
He skateboards.
He draws.
Andrew is easy to get along with.
He has a heart of gold when it comes to doing what is right.
When we had a family meeting about adopting Galina, Andrew said he was on board 100 when the scale was only 1-10.

Andrew is all boy.
Often that means getting bumps and bruises.
Thankfully, he enjoys being loved on when that happens.

Don't ever change Andrew!
You are one of a kind!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mostly Smiles

This is a most unflattering picture of me, but Rachel was excited to take it.  I *splurged* last week and bought this big griddle so that we can fry 8-10eggs, or 8 grilled cheese sandwiches or pancakes all at one time.  She things I could be a cook at a restaurant!
 Homemade bread continues to be a staple in our home.
And it doesn't get old!
This picture was taken a few days back when we were working on Dennis' Soap Box Car.
Earlier this week, Jonny received an award at school.
Congrats!  Keep reading Jonny!
After church today, Rachel wanted to make smoothies.  I told her she would most likely have all the kids wanting smoothies before long.
Sure enough.  Strawberry smoothies.  Pineapple smoothies.  Banana smoothies.
Paul and Dennis really enjoyed them!
John braided Julia's hair.
He asked me what I would rate it.  I said about a 6. :)
Tonight is a concert.  That is where John is with most of the kids.  He also took four of the kids' friends from church including Caleb's girlfriend Taylor.  (Wow, did I just say that?)

I stayed home with a handful of the kids.
The evening is going well.  When some of the kids are gone, it changes the dynamics in the house.  It is kinda nice.

As a treat for the ones that stayed home, I ran out and picked up McDonalds-- in the pouring rain which was not fun.  I was bummed to find out they forgot Anna's McChicken. 
She happily ate an extra cheeseburger.  Which is good because I was not about to go back in the pouring rain. I did call though-- and they recorded our missing sandwich.
Tomorrow Dennis goes to the Cranio-Facial Clinic to see a team of doctors associated with treating cranio-facial abnormalities.  I'm interested to hear what they have to say.
Hopefully they will address the pus that started coming out of his ear yesterday so that I don't have to make an extra visit to our primary care physician too.  Dennis has no pain, no fever-- just pus which has me a little puzzled.  I bet it has something to do with the way he pulls and pokes his ear when he puts himself to sleep and the fact that he has tubes.  We'll see.