Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Choo Choo Train

"Jonny, why don't you get off the computer now? You have been on long enough. Go do something else."

"Okay Mom, but I just have to finish this first because the levels are hecka, hecka, hecka long."

I gave him the look.

"Okay. I mean they are just hecka long."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I was driving Alex to his renal ultrasound appointment when we saw a train. Alex was excited, of course.

"Mom can I make train noise?"

"Yea sure Alex. Choo- choo!"

The next thing I knew Alex opened the door wide open as I was driving down the highway at freeway speeds.

"What?!!! Close that door-- now!" I screamed as I slowed down to pull over.

It took Alex a few seconds to process my command. He didn't even realize the danger he was in. I honestly don't know what was going through his head. I think I was more shaken (or is it shook) up than him at the end of it. As I drove to the appointment, I was thanking God that he was okay. I also thanked Him for answering my prayer. With Alex, I have never been quite sure about his actual ability to understand things. Every once in a while I expect him to "really" get it and find myself disappointed when he doesn't... and sometimes mad that he is "pretending" not to get it. I am sure you can imagine the frustration this brings upon the both of us-- especially me. So I prayed that God would show me in some way what are reasonable expectations of my son. I think He just did.

And for some reason this brings a big sigh of relief to me. He wasn't pretending. He is just being himself. The best little self he can be!

Oh... and great news! The tech did not see any sign of kidney reflux! I know that she isn't the final say, but to hear her say that his kidneys looked perfectly fine to her was music to my ears!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

We Can Do This!

We leave for Ukraine on July 13th! I can't believe it is right around the corner. We will have plenty of stops on the way over as that seemed to be the cheapest way to go-- but I am faithful that He will get us there safely. Our friend David over at River of Joy has bought our train tickets too-- another friend told me that ride may be 24 hours! Yikes... but an adventure it will be!

So many awesome things are happening at River of Joy right now-- the major thing being an orphan camp through The Least of These. The camp started off with a camping stove fire and a few stolen tents-- but now a few days into it and the kids are having a wonderful and memorable time. I am thrilled to share that Sasha (Rachel's Sasha) is going down to ROJ in a few days to meet up with David, the founder of ROJ. This is such an answer to prayer all in itself because John, Rachel, and I have thought about Sasha ever since we said goodbye to him in July of 2010 and the lack of a spiritual, encouraging adult friend to take him under his wing. I am not sure if Sasha will still be around by the time we get over to Crimea, but one can hope!

There are so many things that I am hoping to accomplish in this last fundraising attempt so I am raffling off a little of everything. I also had to start a new Chip In because I didn't know how to extend the date on the old one. In addition to offsetting the cost of our plane tickets, and covering shipping on all of these items, I am putting together a care package of sorts to uplift the spirits of the wonderful people who serve the Lord day in and day out at ROJ. It is not neccessary but I think it will be much appreciated. The girls are knitting and crocheting dishcloths so we bought some cotton yarn on clearance at Michaels. I would also like to take lots of mosquito repellent, sunscreen, spices, comfort foods, clothing, and whatever else comes to mind. Above all of this, the Lord is leading me to take up a love offering to go towards the first family children's home on ROJ. I know this is a lot to ask, but hopefully you will partner with our family to make this all possible. My goal is at least $700 for the love offering first and foremost-- if nothing else.

Will you please join me in accomplishing this goal? I know that together we can do great things to further His kingdom. As before, this fundraiser will be a raffle. For every $5 donated your name is entered once in a drawing to win one of the items listed below. I can only ship within the US-- sorry. The raffle will end July 6th so please don't wait to enter. If you want your name to be entered for a particular thing please make note of it. Blessings to all of you and please help spread the word!

#1 (Six handmade purse invitations-- cute for any girly birthday party!)



#2 (Handmade purple flower journal)



#3 (Sing Like A Bird handmade journal)


#4 (Two Fishies handmade journal)



#5 (Joy denim handmade journal)



#6 (Quilted Throw pillow donated by Sarah)


#7 (Red Bow Hand sewn make-up case, eyeglass case, or wallet-- you pick! Donated by Sarah)



#8 (Flower hand sewn case donated by Sarah)



#9 (Yellow case donated by Sarah)



All of the following books I have read once-- but they are in great condition. Rather than let them sit around and gather dust, I thought this would be a wonderful way to recycle them.

#10 (In an Age of Hunger by Ronald Sider)



#11 (Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul)


#12 (Red Letters by Tom Davis-- this book will get you!)



#13 (One Million Arrows by Julie Ferwerda-- good too!)



#14 (When Helping Hurts)



#15 (Making Poverty Personal by Ash Barker)


#16 (Choosing to See by MaryBeth Chapman-- You'll cry with her!)



#17 (One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp)


#18 (Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley)


P.S. If you made a care package for one of the kids, go ahead and send it! I am beginnning to pack and would like to see how much space I will have, how much things weigh, and if I need to put together any additional packages. My goal is 40 and so far I have received 4!


Also, if you have any greeting cards that you are getting rid of that have beautiful designs on the front-- I'll take them. I use them to glue onto the writing journals. Thank you!

Home Sweet Home

We are back home. Arrived sometime before midnight. The trip was nice, but too short. We got to visit with three other families at a barbecue before beginning the long drive-- the kids had a blast! They swam and played so much, the van was actually full of peace and quiet because they were sleeping! Imagine that!

First thing this morning as I attacked the pile of laundry I found a Pull-up that had made it into the washing machine. What a gelatinous mess! Good thing Adam was in the laundry room or I would have probably said some not very nice things-- instead I just thought them. Ugh! Why couldn't I have just checked the inside of Dennis' pajama bottoms? Or better yet, why couldn't he have separated the diaper from the shorts?

Dennis had a occupational therapist evaluate him at noon today since his previous report was lost. It sounds like he will qualify because of his fine motor skills-- or lack of them. I have seen the progress with my other kids who got OT so I am excited for Dennis!

Thank you to all of you who have been a part of making our mission trip to Ukraine possible! Don't think for a minute that all of you aren't going with me in spirit! Thank you to you know who for covering shipping costs of the raffle items-- thank you to those who have sent care packages for the kids-- thank you to those who have donated items for another raffle coming up. A very encouraging friend who I had dinner with last week donated six brand new canvas bags so I can get started on the owl designs.

In just two weeks we are leaving. I am putting together a care package for the adults-- mosquito repellent, spices, a first aid kit, washcloths, and whatever else comes to mind. If you have any suggestions that would be great!

Please check back this evening-- a new raffle will be starting.

P.S. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Sara Wendt who bought the cupcakes. You made Rachel's day more than you know. :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Our Old Stomping Ground

I just finished making buttermilk blueberry muffins with my father-in-law. He is quite the assistant. Every time I put a dish in the sink, it was washed before I put in the next one. As the day is winding down, I look forward to one more day before heading back home.

See... we have been here at our old stomping ground for the whole weekend. We attended our long time friend's son's wedding reception on Saturday. After moving away over three years ago, it is nice to see familiar friends again, picking up where we last left off. Two of the most wonderful and amazing women that we refer to as Grandma Marge and Grandma Kathleen were there at the reception too. Our family is so blessed to have these ladies in our lives-- the example they have been to me over the years is such a gift. We visited with other friends, went to our old church this weekend, saw Matt and Jenn, and had dinner with my Mom and her Dad, my Grandpa. That was nice since Galina had not met him yet so I made sure to get lots of pictures since he is turning 90 next month and we don't know how much longer he will be with us. Bless his heart, he is getting so fragile. He surprised me when he wolfed down a whole burger though-- go Grandpa!

Friday night, William got stung in the hand by a bee. We all agree-- he deserved it! He had been splashing the bees in the pool, and swiping them out with his hands. A couple of times he had grabbed a bee, shook it like a pair of dice in his cupped hand and then threw it-- boasting all the while, "It didn't sting me!" Well, you can only do that so many times before you lose. And he did.

By Saturday he was running a fever, felt tired, and had a hand twice the size of his other. We gave him more Benadryl, and pain reliever and kept an eye on him. QAnd then last night, Jonny stepped on a bee. First thing William asked was, "Did he do it on purpose like me?" Jonny's allergic reaction paled in comparison until this afternoon when it swelled up and began hurting him. He too is running a low fever so I gave him medicine to bring it down and Grandpa iced his foot. Now both Jonny and William are doing much better.

Today John headed back home with a few of the kids who have school and basketball. Tomorrow after a wonderful get together with some very good friends and their families, I will be heading back home with the kids too. Hopefully I won't run into the same problem I had driving up. Where is a bathroom when you need it?
Seriously either that or a plastic seat cover!

Three exits and eleven miles later...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Another Real Glimpse Into Our Family

This was how John's birthday cake was when he blew out his candles. William cannot stand chocolate frosting and could not even tolerate to have his piece of cake remain in the dish for fear of it accidentally touching the frosting on the rest of the cake. So he took it out to save for later when we all had cake.

Still, John had a happy birthday. He is the best father, the best husband, and we love him so!


To be honest, this afternoon was a bit overwhelming for me. The ribs that I got out to make for dinner turned out to be spoiled-- but I did not find out until I cut open the package to cook them. Ewwe! Plan B was to either take out something else to thaw and cook or serve cold cereal. I figured that cooking up tacos was more appropriate for a birthday dinner. On top of that, one of my daughters (while on a 1 hour phone call) didn't click over to one of Caleb's 10 calls to be picked up from basketball practice so Adam left to pick him up and then stop by the store. A few minutes later Caleb is dropped off by his coach and I am left to wonder how long until Adam figures this out. While cooking dinner, I run down to the school where I find Adam parked out in front of the gym waiting for Caleb. After straightening things out, I run back home to get dinner on the table so the kids can get to our church's youth group kick off night. Of course I am not sharing all the other little things that contributed to my feeling overwhelmed-- but I ended up having a good cry with John during couch time-- on his birthday. Happy birthday honey-- from your crazy, over emotional wife! Bless his heart-- he told me that if something like this happens on his birthday next year he would love cold cereal.


I went around with the camera taking random pictures of the kids-- here are some of them.


Isn't Sveta growing more beautiful each day? I can't believe she is fourteen years old already. It seems like just yesterday that she was eight years old.


Miss Anna is growing up too! Literally-- she has grown so much this year!


And look at Mr.William. Doesn't he have the dreamiest eyes?


Paul and Jonny can be such goofy boys! They asked if they could eat the left over tortillas-- and I said sure! And in their eyes that makes me the best Mom ever! Pretty Cool! What makes you the best Mom ever?


This is Dennis. He just doesn't get a break. Looks like he is allergic to the adhesive tape. So I tried bandaging up his eye using less tape in a different area so that the raw areas of skin could heal. On a brighter note-- his eczema is doing great and he is still the happiest, busiest little boy on this planet!
After I took this first picture of Dennis, he insisted that I take more pictures of him and Alex. So here they are!


I don't know about you, but I think this picture is the cutest ever!


For summer vacation, each of the older kids has one full day of kitchen duty and the four middle boys share one day. After all the kids have had a turn, the rotation starts over. Kitchen duty includes loading, unloading, wiping down counters, putting away leftovers, cleaning off the table, shaking out rugs, and sweeping. Today was William, Paul, Andrew, and Jonny's day. That means it was my day too since teaching the boys keeps me in the kitchen with them. William had a hard time being a team player so he actually has kitchen duty by himself tomorrow which suits us both just fine. Paul, Andrew, and Jonny did a pretty good job working together. Paul unloaded the dishes and shook out rugs. He tried to sweep too, but it was painful for me to watch him try and maneuver our big industrial size broom-- so I caved in and did it myself. Andrew loaded the dishwasher and washed the big pans by hand. Jonny helped wipe off the counter and put away condiments at lunch.



I have a feeling that this is Paul's summer to blossom! He is so much more invested in our family than he was a few months ago-- it is a blessing to be a part of it!

Cooling Off!

It is plain ol' hot here. The kids go out to play for the first time around seven in the evening-- unless you count yesterday when they played four square in the garage because the van was backed out so Caleb could wash it. To break the monotony of our summer days, I took the kids swimming down at the clubhouse this afternoon. I was preoccupied with Dennis' eye and him not getting it wet in the water or exposing it to the sun too much, but other than that it was fun.

We ate Otterpops and apple slices-- and just hung out. A family next to us dropped their box of crackers and didn't bother to pick up the ones that spilled out on the ground-- but don't worry Dennis took care of it! When I wasn't looking he picked up all the crackers and was eating them.


Alex enjoyed putting his feet in the water. Hopefully one day, he will be a swimmer!


Caleb, Andrew, and Jonny


Anastasia, Sveta, and Anna



Tomorrow we are going swimming again! This time, some friends will be joining us.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Two Things To Celebrate

Dennis kept rubbing his eye till it finally bled-- I bandaged it once more thinking that his new skin graft was dying. How disappointing to think we had done this last surgery for nothing. I prayed and left it in God's hands since we wouldn't be seeing the surgeon until tomorrow afternoon. This morning the receptionist called to confirm his appointment and I explained what had happened. Thankfully we got in early this afternoon for his follow-up visit. Praise the Lord for the good news! Though the stitch that was taped to his forehead to stretch his eyelid only did its job for 2 days instead of five (because Dennis pulled it and then I trimmed it) it looks as though the skin graft is taking! The surgeon showed me how to change the dressing for the next week and told me not to worry.

So I won't! I mean I will try not too.

Tomorrow is the first day that we have absolutely nothing planned. No doctor appointments, no grocery trips-- oh but wait! A certain man that I know is turning 42. :)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN! I LOVE YOU! THE KIDS ADORE YOU!

Monday, June 20, 2011

He Doesn't Approve

Yea! The traps worked! After this little pest tore up our yard for the last month-- it was fun to call John at work and tell him the good news. Rest in piece little fellow.

Lunches are interesting around here. William thinks that he can tell people what to eat. If they eat something he doesn't "approve of"-- watch out because he won't let them ride his bike or play four square with him. Today at lunch he told Anastasia to throw away her Baklava because it was trash, and yesterday he wouldn't let Paul ride his bike because he was chewing gum. Tonight while we were over at the swimming pool William was disappointed that Jonny had eaten a plum off a tree. I sure hope he outgrows this one day.


Last week, I took these pictures of Adam being playful.


He loves to bug Rachel this way.


Aww, it messed up her hair.


Don't worry Rache-- we still think your beautiful!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Only One year

Today is the day we first met Anastasia and Paul last year. I almost forgot because it seems so much longer than a year. We love them so much! They have blessed our family more than words can say.

Here is the video I made of their adoption--our first meeting-- I still get goosebumps watching it.




They are such a testimony to God's love, redemption, and faithfulness. I love how much them being a part of our family has enriched our lives for the better.

Their transformations have been incredible to watch. A year ago, Anastasia was singing this but now you'll find her rocking out to this. A year ago she would barely smile, and now she is the happiest, loving girl in the world! She was scared of our dogs, scared to swim, and I even thought scared to eat. Fast forward a year and she is the exact opposite. And look at Paul. He too was scared and quiet and now he has turned into this outgoing boy well liked by everyone! He could hardly do simple addition facts and now he is learning multiplication.

Just think what they'll be doing a year from now!

Two Siblings Needing a New Home

My heart always goes out to the families and children when I hear of situations such as these. After you read, I am sure yours will too. No matter how you look at it, it is not easy when newly adopted children are not bonding with their new family and vice versa. As you will soon read, this is the situation for this family. The single adoptive mother is looking for a new family for her two new children home less than a year from Colombia. These two children have barely been able to get acquainted with their new culture so don't worry-- there are still many firsts that their second and hopefully forever family could have with them. If you are interested in growing your family to include these two amazing teenagers-- step out of the boat and inquire.

Across The World Adoptions is assisting in identifying a permanent family for two biological siblings adopted from Colombia. The children are Hispanic and also have some African heritage. These siblings have been residing with their adoptive mother in N. California since November 19, 2010. However the family has not bonded well and a new adoptive family is being sought for these siblings. The children are "Hugo" and "Maria". Reports from their school and therapists indicate the children are well-behaved, attentive in school and personable.

Hugo L.:
Hugo was born on September 6, 1995 in Bogota, Colombia. Hugo is an avid soccer player and enjoys going to school. He loves to ride his bike in the neighborhood. Hugo prefers to speak Spanish but is adjusting to an English language household.

Leidy(known as Maria) L:
Leidy was born on October 22, 1997 in Bogota, Colombia. Leidy enjoys cooking and animals. She is doing well in school and has made friends in her community. Leidy has a warm smile and enjoys laughing and playing.

The preferred family for these children would include:

*Two parents in the household
*Strong male role-model
*Preferred experience parenting adolescent children.
*Preferred experience with adoption.

All interested families please email adopt@atwakids.org .

Friday, June 17, 2011

We are home. Dennis is doing well. Besides having a sore throat because of intubation during general anesthesia, Dennis did incredibly well. Initially he woke up agitated as usual, but the doctor immediately gave him pain medicine and he fell back asleep and later woke up in a rather pleasant mood. He didn't even throw up once because the doctor gave him anti-nausea medicine before he woke up. His nurse was very nice too. All in all I would have to say that this surgery was the best experience yet-- for a surgery!



The doctor ended up taking the skin graft from behind Dennis' ear-- but now that both have been done, they will have to take his next skin graft from another area.




The doctor says that his eye looks great-- we shall find out next week!


For now, my poor baby is in alot of pain. Tylenol with codeine has already become his best friend for tonight.
Today is the big day. Dennis is having surgery on his lower eye lid with a skin graft. The plan is for him to be home later this evening.

Thank you for your prayers.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

In Sickness and in Health

It might as well be an infirmary-- 1o kids have now gotten this nasty, little bug. The house has been pretty quiet except for the occasional, "BLEH, BLEH, BLEH!"

The social worker was late, which cut our time short since I had a phone conference IEP meeting. I was fine with that until I heard from the kids what she was saying. "Where are the smoke detectors? Why are you kids all in your parent's room? What medicine is your Mom giving you? Has she fed you? Are you hungry? Do you want to go to the hospital? Why does it smell in here? Open that window. Your Mom's room is a little messy. Why aren't you guys in your own room? How did you get your black eye Andrew? Are you sure it was your sister?"

Not only did I get upset when I heard this from the kids after she left, but my kids thought she was rude with her questioning. Never in my history of adopting with at least 8 different social workers have we encountered this kind of questioning.

When I heard all of this, I wanted to call her back and defend myself. "Isn't eight smoke detectors, and one carbon monoxide detector enough? Why can't I let me sick children be in our room where they feel most comfortable and I can quickly attend to them? Can you please share what medicine I can give my children to stop vomiting? Isn't it better to let it run its course while keeping them hydrated with fresh water? Would you want to eat in between violent vomiting, or would you wait till your tummy felt settled? Why go to a hospital when the kids are doing well with home treatment? Is waiting twelve hours to see if they get better too long? Do you think I should have taken Dennis and Julia to the hospital or was waiting a day to see if they got better on their own, a good call? How else would you expect a room where kids have been vomiting to smell? And who would open a window on a hot day when you have the air conditioner on? My room is messy because-- um-- we have been up all night taking care of sick kids. Wouldn't it be more concerning to you if my house was spotless while I had 10 sick kids? I won't even comment on the black eye because my son's answer is good enough."

On top of all this, our online translation of Galina's birth certificate was not good enough-- why couldn't we get the registered translators to send an embossed translation? And though my home schooled kids got great report cards and improved state test scores, she wanted to know if I was "holding any of them back" from going to school. What does that even mean? And what if I was? Is it not my decision whether or not I think the local school system is doing a good job and if they would do better with a chartered home school?

I called my husband. I bit my tongue-- hard. Instead, I left her a polite message that yes my fourth reference had sent in their letter but just in case, they will send it in again. I wonder what what would happen if I did give her a piece of my mind. My first instinct is to do just that, but the stakes are too high. I'll let her make her comments. After all, she is just doing her job-- right?

On a positive note, Anastasia, Galina, and Paul got to see what it feels like to have me there to care for them. This was a first. A good bonding moment. I learned a lot about them through this experience. Anastasia is still sweet natured even while vomiting. And Paul's body takes a beating when he is throwing up. Poor guy sounds like a hurt baby bird when he is heaving. And Galina-- she is a strong one. She tried to not be vulnerable at first, and then finally came to my bed and crawled in.

In sickness and in health. That goes for children too.

Hope Its Over Soon

I spoke way too soon. Julia and Dennis may be better, but we are battling a raging vomit river. Could not be worse. Having three kids vomit back and forth like frogs croaking leaves you feeling so helpless, at one point all I could do was laugh.

Right now seven kids are in my room taking turns being sick. I feel so bad for them.

Why do I even blog? I feel like our house is a three ring circus right now.

I am tired.

I am so appreciative of Rachel and Julia who are helping out with rinsing buckets.

Back to the bucket brigade.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Our Week

Julia and Dennis are better. Whatever they had seems to have passed. Praise the Lord. I took Dennis for his pre-op appointmet today, and they okayed him for his surgery this Friday morning. I'll have to bring my own coffee though-- this hospital doesn't sell caffeine. I thought that was interesting. Alex was casted for new braces this afternoon, and will also get some new shoes. The guy who did the casting also cut down his old braces so that they don't hit at the knee so that we can continue to use them as a back up pair. He also brought Alex a die cast car as a present. It was very nice of him.

Tomorrow the social worker is coming out for Galina's "home visit". I hope it only takes her an hour because after I am having a phone IEP meeting for Rachel. That is great news for her as it will be perfect for high school. In the short time that I have been working with Paul, his reading seems to already have improved. Alex is working on his site words. I am amazed how quick the kids pick up new things when they are taught at their level.

Other things that have happened the past few days:

*Us girls have had fun trying on outfits for a wedding reception we are going to next weekend.
*Annalyn swung around her Wii remote while playing a game and hit Andrew smack dab right under the eye.
*There has been two hot days in a row.
*I have taken advantage of Adam's driving by sending him to the store for milk.
*I have decided that Julia makes the best banana muffins I have ever had.

To those that won something in the raffle, please forgive me for not mailing out the items yet. My plan is to work on that this weekend. Again, I am sorry.

Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Nursing Them Back to Health

This weekend flew by. We were blessed with some old friends from up north. Paul and Tina and their three kids came over to spend the night. Their visit was much too short-- reminding me how much I miss not having them around. We went to church together Sunday morning and then they took us out to lunch.

They also brought another furry friend. Here I am holding a baby squirrel. One of their dogs had the baby squirrel in its mouth-- it was only half dead. They were able to nurse it back to health and plan to release it with its own little tree house when they get back home.


I had mentioned on Facebook that Dennis is scheduled to have his lower eyelid surgery this Friday. Now I am not so sure. Yesterday afternoon, Dennis and Julia began throwing up. Julia had it the worst ending around midnight last night-- Dennis is still occasionally throwing up. We were supposed to go in for a pre-op visit but rescheduled it for tomorrow. If he isn't better by this evening, the hospital and I are in agreement that the surgery should be rescheduled. We are praying that he has thrown up for the last time already-- poor little guy.


For the last few weeks I have been working on Anastasia and Paul's adoption book. As I revisited our journey to get them home, I fell in love with Ukraine all over again. Since we email with Sasha all the time, I am going to look into him getting in touch with some of the kids from the dietski dom. What was really cool was that as I ordered their book, I found a great coupon that was good for 15% off.