Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

  This Christmas I feel incredibly blessed to be celebrating as a family of four!  It's been so exciting to watch Levi experience Christmas here for the first time.....seeing the wonder in his eyes and the excitement at each new thing.  He literally comes downstairs each day and ooohs and ahhhss over the tree as if he is seeing it for the first time. 
    I think my favorite ornament this year is the one below.  First because I love the sweet girl that gave it to us.....whose love for this little guy is so evident, and who did so much to help him come home.  And second because I so wanted Levi to have a 1st Christmas ornament hanging on the tree like his big brother, but it just didn't fit.  He's already had two Christmas', they just weren't here...with his family.  I love that this ornament acknowledges that, and that it celebrates this being his first Christmas home.  


Some of our 2013 Christmas memories........

  Going to see all the lights at Lasalette.....lots more oohhhs and ahhhs from Levi! '
           

            Making lots of Christmas cards and art projects for friends and family!  Caleb helped to come up with a list of gifts we could give to Jesus.....things like giving to and serving others......several things on the list included making cards for people, like the mailman (Caleb wanted to give him mail since he always brings us mail : ) ) and neighbors.  We also made cookies, are returning a borrowed item, and are supposed to give the neighbors dog a dinosaur.  Hey, he's three so I just went with it!


Cousins getting to enjoy one another!


                                        Singing happy birthday to Jesus and celebrating with cupcakes!


                                                      Pure joy and excitement over dinosaurs!                                


Levi opening his very first Christmas present this year.  He was pretty excited about being allowed to rip paper!


  Getting dressed up and taking lots of pictures.....I'm fairly certain this was not a highlight for either of them, but they humored us pretty well!



                                          Reading about the most amazing gift given to us!


And acting it out as we read......



         
        Some more gifts for Jesus on Christmas morning.....Caleb picked out some bunnies for people in Asia.  "They're furry. They're cute. And they can change someone's life. A pair of rabbits will quickly multiply, providing a steady diet of healthy meat, and plenty of bunnies to sell. Rabbits are easy to feed and can be raised in a small space—an important consideration in the crowded areas of Asia."


          And Levi picked out some chickens!! For the people of Asia, a pair of chickens can create a steady income. Chicken eggs provide food for the family and the extras can be sold at market. Through this simple gift, you may help a malnourished child become stronger every day because of the tasty eggs.


                                                         Love my boys!!!!


                                 Our first year with the three gifts....this was their "myrrh" gift : )


And their "gold" gift.....microphones and a stage built by daddy! 


video


              And as if all of this wasn't enough......I received an email from our facilitator this morning......within the message were these words...... "One of your dreams was to be able to adopt from Ukraine. We would like to give you a small present. If you felt that the cost might have been an issue, several items from the cost breakdown list will be on us."  I think God is offering yet another confirmation that this was the direction we were supposed to take....the person we were to work with.  And again I am blown away....by how He truly does make it clear.  I'll elaborate in another post soon.  This advent season I have learned so much and have experienced Christmas in a whole new way.  I'm so thankful for the opportunity to be purposeful this season and to learn alongside my family how we can celebrate the greatest gift......without Him, the rest of this wouldn't exist or hold any true meaning.  Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Thank You!

        I don't care what anyone says, you can never say THANK YOU enough! While we may feel that it doesn't scratch the surface of how much we appreciate all of the support, prayers, and encouragement, it will have to do!  Just wanting to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been supporting us in purchasing bracelets, through the auction, with donations etc.  The donations just keep coming in steadily and it's truly amazing.  I feel like I am updating our little thermometer daily, and it is truly blowing me away.

       SO many of you have handed us an envelope, a folded check....a folded PILE of cash....and mentioned it was just a little, you wished it could be more.  Please please please do not think that any amount is insignificant, or not enough.  You have no idea how much every penny means.....I wish you could see, as I do, the numbers increase...increase...increase.....with each "little" donation.  It's the collective efforts, the sacrifices of MANY that are making this possible.

       And even more than anything else.....the prayers.  It is so humbling and so amazing to really step back and think that people are praying for our family, for our future children, for this entire process.  God is in control, this was His idea.....so praying on our behalf is invaluable.  Thank You!!!!  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Little Reminiscing....

        It's hard to believe it's been one year since we heard the words, "Congratulations you are parents!" (again!).  One year ago today Luke and I sat waiting in a courthouse for what seemed like hours.  We weren't in a room being questioned the entire time like many families, but rather sat in the waiting area for someone to show up.  We were finally called in, one at a time, to a small room where we each answered about three questions.  All I wanted to do when we left was to go get our son and head home!  While I knew it was going to be hard to wait the thirty days, I never could have imagined just how agonizing it would be.  It was also on this day one year ago that the news shared the possible ban on adoptions by Americans.  Initially we thought we would be unaffected, but soon found that there was a possibility that we would not be able to return to bring our son home.  I couldn't imagine what we would do if this became a reality.....and now one year later I really cannot imagine.  But I do know that many families are still grieving the loss of their adoptions....families and children who met one another...promised to return....and are left unable to be reunited.  Please continue to pray with me that mountains will be moved and these children will be able to come home!

             A little reminiscing.....and being thankful that one little boy made it home......
     

Look at that hair! Such a cutie!




Watching me walk away as we left to head back home.....that was one of the hardest moments.....


Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas Anew: Expectant Waiting, Preparation, and Celebration!

         Ever since I found out I was pregnant with Caleb, I began to question everything.  Many of the things that I experienced as a child and never thought twice about were suddenly questionable....simple seemingly obvious decisions were agonized over and conclusions were reached only after hours of research, discussion and prayer.  There's something about being fully responsible for a precious-beyond-comprehension little life that can make you crazy!  But....while part of it may have been me being a "crazy" overly cautious mom, I know with great certainty that a great deal of my stepping back and examining everything has come by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. 

        I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has called us to change our plans time and again and to follow His lead.  Homeschooling is one prime example.....the thing we said we'd never do......that suddenly when our son was just a year old we were already talking about.  We made lists of pros and cons, I did hours upon hours of research online, examined every curriculum out there.....talked to every homeschooled teenager I know.  I even had a period of inward grieving for all that I felt my children were going to miss out on.  And now? I could go on for hours about how wonderful this change is and how grateful I am that God put this on our hearts!  I would have just done the normal, expected, obvious thing and sent my kids to school....it would never have occurred to me to question this, even as a potentially crazy overprotective mom : )  (Please do NOT read into this what is not written.....I have nothing against sending kids to public school, this is just what we feel God has put on our hearts for our family).  

      All of that to say that in much the same way, God has been working on my heart for the past year about something else......how we celebrate Christmas.  Growing up, my parents never did the whole santa thing with us, so it wasn't difficult for us to follow suit.  So I guess in some ways, our Christmas already seems radical to many in that sense.  But I've felt, since last Christmas, that so much was missing....and I was determined to take the time to figure this out before my kids were old enough to see a difference in how we celebrated Christmas from one year to the next.

      Advent.  Okay, I'm going to be painfully honest.....when I hear the word advent, I picture the wreath looking decoration with candles at church, and lighting one candle each week before Christmas.  That's it? So I started at square one.  Advent, what is it?  Turns out advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Jesus' birth at Christmas.  And so began a time of figuring out what that will look like for not only myself...but for my family.  Purposeful planning for a time that should be understood and celebrated.

       I've started this year with a devotional specifically for advent.  Interestingly, I found a family one that my mom had bought for us last Christmas, in my own collection of books.  I think the kids are a bit young for it this year, but it got me thinking.  We will use it, or one like it, each year during Advent to prepare our hearts and to truly celebrate the coming of Jesus.  I love it especially because it has practical applications you can do as a family.  This also got me thinking......what about 25 days of gifts for Jesus?  What about counting down the days to his birth in true celebration.  But what would that look like?  I think it's sometimes easy to automatically want to do for others what we would want done for us. But I had to step back and think....what would Jesus want? And I found this.....seek and you shall find! "And the Birthday Child tells us what He wants: Give to the least of these and you give to Me." And so that is what we will do......together come up with a list. Not a "getting" list of things we want for ourselves, but a giving list. A list of ways we can give to the least of these and in doing so, give to Jesus. Some of these things may require money, others just time or efforts....but all will be done to celebrate Jesus, to sacrifice and give to Him.

      And what about the big day? What about the actual birthday....Christmas Day? For the month of December in addition to the daily gifts we've decided on, we will sacrifice.....whatever it may be.....maybe not buying treats at the grocery store that we usually enjoy, or not ordering out one week.....but reminding one another throughout the month of ways we could sacrifice and instead save for Jesus' gift. And on Christmas morning we will put together all that we have saved and sacrificed for. The plan for now is to divide this amongst the kids and have them spend time choosing gifts. I love the idea in the blog above, for the kids to look through various catalogs and choose things for those in need. It may look different from one year to the next, especially as the kids get older and have more input. But the focus will remain the same.

      So what about gifts for one another?  I know you're wondering......I was too.  I struggled here.  Again I had this fear of them somehow missing out.  But I know I'd rather they understand and appreciate the true meaning of Christmas far more than I want to hold onto my own traditions and fears.  And I know that the true joy and satisfaction comes in celebrating Jesus and becoming the gift!  We finally came to the conclusion that we will do minimal gifts.....three actually.  It was something I'd heard before, but wasn't really sold on until I read this post.  So after we've taken our time to give our gifts to Jesus, we will give to our children.  Not because they've done anything to deserve it, but because we simply want to show our love for them and bless them.  But our plan will be to do three gifts each as follows, and to talk about the significance of each as we give to them: (Most of this was taken from the above blog post, I take no credit here!)
  
Gift #1: The Wise men brought Jesus myrrh.  Myrrh was a valuable gift of practical use.  It was used medicinally for all sorts of ailments from coughs to open wounds.  Our children's first gift will be a practical one.  Something they need and can use often if not daily - clothing, shoes, a bike helmet.....it will depend on the child and the year I guess!

Gift #2: The wise men brought Jesus frankincense.  Frankincense is the purest form of incense and was primarily used in worship.  When burned, the white smoke and sweet smell it produced was a symbol of prayers going up to heaven and created a meaningful experience for everyone present.  It's also symbolic, pointing to Jesus being full God, Emmanuel, God with us, the only one worthy of our worship.  Our children's second gift will therefore be an experiential gift.  Something meaningful to them and us as a family - maybe tickets to a show or event, or a coupon for a night out.  

Gift #3: The wise men brought Jesus gold.  Gold was as valuable then as it is now.  It was a precious gift, but also very symbolic in that it was given to princes when they were born.  And that is what Jesus is - royalty, King of the world, King of the whole universe, King of our hearts.  Our children's last gift will be a gold gift - something they really really want or we think they want.  This may be a gift larger in size, or sightly more expensive, or it may be small an inexpensive.  It will be something that they will value and appreciate....maybe something they've waited and hoped for.

       So that's really our family plan for now....the traditions we'd like to start now while our children our young. Sometimes I make myself crazy analyzing things, but I think it's so important to question why we do the things we do. What we want our children to really learn, remember, and hold true. Because if they're watching and learning from my example, I can't honestly say I'd be content with what that has looked like thus far. But God is continually refining me....one thing at a time.....and I'm grateful for His patience and grace as I learn ever so slowly. I don't think this is how Christmas should look for anyone else....I think there are many ways to celebrate in a way that honors the One who's birth we celebrate. But I think for us....this is a good start. And as always, my fears and hesitations towards change and long held traditions have faded, and I'm excited for the new ways we'll experience Christ in the changes He's called us to make!



     “I’d rather only fill a child’s tummy than fill my house with anymore things.
Maybe that’s the choice our Christmas needs to make: feed our own wishes or feed the real hunger of Christ?” Ann Voskamp The Greatest Gift 




*********************************************************************************
    While I fully intend to make a list of ways we can serve throughout the month of December each year with my children....I have started to brainstorm some ideas and thought I'd share them here.  Our boys are still a bit young to come up with a huge list, but I do plan to do a shorter, simpler version for the week or so before Christmas.  It may be as simple as them making a card for someone, or helping me bake cookies to give to a new neighbor.  So it will definitely look different each year as they grow.....but if you're looking for ideas, here's a few:


Baking or making something for those who serve us:
               Mailman
               Police 
               Fire men
               Garbage workers
Chose an orphanage to help
Spend a day coming up with ideas of things to make inexpensively that others could use (pinterest!)
Make the ^ gifts
Check with how you can help the Artic Mission https://www.facebook.com/artic.mission?fref=ts
Chose a foster child to bless
Chose a widow to make something for and bring it to her/visit
Visit a nursing home
Pay for someone’s items at the store
Do something unexpected for someone
Providence Rescue Mission - serve a meal, or meet another need 



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Soaking It All In


           Around this time last year we were making preparations to take our second trip to Russia to make things official in court!  I had hoped and prayed that Levi would make it home for Christmas, but knew we were going to have to wait until this year to have our family together for the holidays.  And here we are.....boy does time fly.  Levi enjoyed his first Thanksgiving (although he slept through much of it with a 4 hour nap!) and certainly appreciated the large variety of food!  I am so thankful for this little guy......look at that face.......


             He literally soaks everything in.  ALWAYS.  No matter what we're doing, he is interested.....trying to figure out how things work.....what is making a sound....why....how to get it to do what it's doing....watching what we do and imitating......So.Smart. I knew that he would be amazed and intrigued by the Christmas tree and whole decorating process.  The boys and daddy put the tree together while I was out, so when I arrived home Levi kept pointing to show me what they had done.  As we started to decorate, he caught on quickly....bringing one ornament after another over to the tree and resting it on.  It's so much fun seeing everything through a child's eyes.....their awe and excitement.....their delight!




          Last year I was able to make our Christmas cards with Levi's pictures from the baby home...but this year it was so fun to take pictures at the park and with both boys!




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          We can't go to the park without taking pony rides......and it was also a great incentive for getting some nice smiles during out little photo shoot!  Caleb went first, and this time Levi showed his anticipation for his turn.  He typically waits calmly and is very serious about the whole endeavor.  I love watching the changes in his responses.  He pointed, vocalized his desire for a turn in his own way, whined and pulled towards the pony.  We've seen a lot of this lately.....no more sitting back and watching, he's not missing out on anything!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Auction Results!

              So I'm sure we've probably said "thank you" about 7 million times in the process of adopting Levi and now this second adoption....and I often feel that it's incredibly inadequate.  But really, THANK YOU....I wish there was a better way to express our gratitude towards everyone and all that SO very many of you have done to help on these journeys.  But please know how much we appreciate all of the support you have shown us.

             In all honesty, I was hesitant to do an auction because it involved asking for people to make donations in order that we could ask people to buy stuff.  I've never been too keen on fundraising, and find it uncomfortable.....and yet it's been crucial to our following God's call and incredibly humbling to witness the willing generosity and support of so many friends, family and even many who have never met us.

           So again, thank you to all who donated and made this possible.....YOU have played a role in changing the lives of two children...no really, four children and our entire family....and ultimately countless others.  YOU have answered the call to care for orphans and defend the cause of the fatherless.  I can't stress that enough.

           The auction was really a lot of fun.....it's been a huge endeavor, but really a great way to actively fund-raise during the colder months when we can't be having our yard sales etc.  With all of the items on the auction that sold, including all soap orders (there were around 100!!), but not including bracelets the total we raised was $1,473.50!!!!  I did buy a few things here and there, and will be shipping some items, but this is beyond what I ever expected!!!

         
         When I looked back at the information we received from the facilitator we plan to work with, and looked at what God has already provided us with, I realized that we have enough to cover everything up until we would travel!  I have mixed feelings with these things.....at first I feel blown away, and at the same time it's really no surprise.  Sort of contradictory, but it's just amazing to see how God provides, and yet as we've seen it time and time again, it's not so surprising.....that God would equip us for what He's called us to do.  That He's doing what He promises He'll do...not really a surprise....just really amazing.

       I finally updated the Q & A page for the second adoption and we are eager to get started....but we know that it will all happen in God's perfect timing, and that anything can change along the way!  Have I mentioned that life is so much more exciting....crazy.....fun....fulfilling.....purposeful, since we've started letting God really be in control?  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Show Hope...and a familiar face

           I'm scrolling through my news feed on facebook and a familiar face catches my eye.  I stop.  Click.  What?  How on earth did a post just personalize itself with MY son's picture???  Seriously this is my thought process.....my brain is on overload so it took me a while to figure it out.  See what I mean?  So then I start to realize....we had sent in photos and our story after receiving the Show Hope grant and bringing Levi home.  It's something they request and we were so happy to share the story that they played a major role in!  I clicked and saw another photo and just sat in amazement......not that my son's picture is on their website....but that this is part of our story.  It still amazes me to really stop and think about all that God did in one year to bring that little boy home....and that He chose us to be a part of it.  Mind blowing really.

        And the post was there to share....so that the work and mission of Show Hope would be carried on and reach even more people.  So I thought I'd share it here as well.  What a blessing this organization has been to so so many families and more importantly to so many orphans.  If you're looking for a place to give, please consider Show Hope.  There are SO many ways to partner with them....not just in giving grants to families adopting, but also in providing food, medical care etc. to orphans overseas!  I am so thankful for the work that they do....and for their willingness to share their story as well.  Much of their adoption story is told in Mary Beth Chapman's book "Choosing To See."  It was through this book that the very first seeds of adopting at this point in my life were planted.  I had read it just before God started placing the topic of adoption in every aspect of our lives and know it was no coincidence.  Visit their site   http://showhope.org/ for more!

Monday, November 11, 2013

National Adoption Awareness 2013 Video

**Unfortunately this had to be taken down, hopefully it will be back up eventually!
        

          This video was put together by a fellow adoptive mom.  The number of thriving, SMILING children and FAMILIES in these photos is such a blessing.  Their smiles just really say it all.  Oh and you might recognize the precious boys at 12:40 : )

                                   National Adoption Awareness Video 2013


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Adoption Auction

               After months of planning and many generous friends and family donating items, our auction is about to officially begin!  As always we are so thankful to all those who helped make this possible and now to all those who are taking part in the auction itself.  God has already begun providing in huge ways and we have more than enough (isn't this always the case?!) to begin our first steps and more.  Our house in it's current state is holding us back a bit on updating our home study, but we hope it will soon be ready and are eager to start on this journey.

              Anyone and everyone is welcome to join the auction group...it is open, however I do believe that you need to request to join.  I will certainly add anyone who requests, so please feel free to share with your friends and family.  Although there are some bids already, the auction officially begins on Monday November 11th (update: as I've added people, the bidding has already taken off, so we're open early, but will end as scheduled!) and will end at 8pm on November 22nd.  There are details on the auction site about how it works.

                                                   To Go To The Auction Site Click Here

            I'd like to just say thank you to many of the donors and share with you some of their information in case you are interested in purchasing additional items from them in the future.  They have all so generously and willingly donated, so my hope is to help advertise for them a bit here as a thank you!

                                                 Thank you so very much to............
                             
                                    Sylvia Witt for the beautiful homemade Tea basket

         Julie Carnevale for the Ava Anderson Baby set - Www.avaandersonnontoxic.com/Juliecarnevale

           Erica Shea for the Photo Session - http://www.blessedbeginningsri.com/photography.php

East Greenwich Photo for the Photo Package - http://www.egphoto.com/ or visit them on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/East-Greenwich-Photo-and-Studio/162974410392192

 Christina Poulsen for the $50 Ava Anderson gift certificate - www.avaandersonnontoxic.com/ChristinaPoulsen

       Walter Ortiz for the free Martial Arts Package - http://www.higherpowermartialarts.org/

Amanda Towne for the Pampered Chef Set - http://new.pamperedchef.com/pws/amandatowne

Joyce Andrade for the Geneology Package Gift Certificate - www.GenealogyLighthouse.com

 Amy Ortiz for the free photo shoot and cd of images - Visit her website at www.TickledPink-Photography.com and her facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TickledPinkPhotographyRI for more!

            Morning Star for the two gift certificates - http://morningstarbookstore.com/

                                Maddie Towne for the beautiful handmade scarf

                                    Kristen Gengenbach for the girls bedroom set

                                    Diane Black for the huge box of assorted felt

       Becca Sherwood for the homemade soaps - http://www.beccashomemadesoaps.com/ AND thirty one products - www.mythirtyone.com/becc517




       This is all such a joint effort and we are so grateful for the many people that stand beside us!







Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Orphans answer the question, what is adoption?


A different perspective....




               
                And a glimpse at more of these precious children....."they are just children".....who so need us to step up and teach them what adoption is.  Often times our own fears and hesitation towards change keeps us from taking the step.....and yet, these children....most of whom did not even know how to answer the         question, what is adoption?......when asked if they would like to be adopted, answered YES!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Leaps and Bounds


              This is from just about a month ago, but it's been so exciting to see Levi motivated enough to actually be doing this on his own!  He's been doing so well in so many areas.  Our early intervention visit last week went especially well.....Levi just kept surprising us and then proceeded to top it all off by saying buh-bye to our service coordinator.  He always waves, but getting him to actually say the words is often a challenge.  I've been trying to get him to make the l sound and last night int he car he was babbling away to himself saying la la la.....I know it all sounds minimal, but for us its leaps and bounds and so.very.exciting!  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Orphan Sunday

                                                 Orphan Sunday clip with David Platt

         November is National Adoption Awareness month.  It brings me back to that day, October 31st, two years ago (how has it been two years?!) when I was trying to tune out God's call for us to adopt.  I had decided it was just too much....too hard....too uncertain....too much change, too many unknowns and on and on went my excuses.  And then came November 1st and National Adoption Awareness month only amplified God's voice for me.  It was a huge confirmation and constant encouragement all month long.  I wonder how many others are being impacted and especially today.  Today is Orphan Sunday.  It gives me chills to think about how many people may have been given a push....an eye opener....a much needed encouragement or confirmation today.  

        As I looked up a little about Orphan Sunday, I found that this years video focuses on efforts in Ukraine and a program called You Will Be Found.  Of course, I thought....it should be no surprise that Ukraine would come up again.  When God wants you to do something....if you're listening, even just a little...He makes it clear!

       Tonight Caleb asked me....seemingly out of the blue.....if Levi was in my belly when he was a baby.  I'm not sure what triggered the question, but it caught me off guard.  I explained to him, as best I could and he seemed slightly bothered, but content for now with my answer.  Someday that will be Levi asking and the hard questions, answers and realities will come.  But again it brought me back.  This sweet, super smart, strong willed, curious boy who is our precious son was once an orphan.  And to think that I almost continued to stand with my arms crossed in defiance....almost missed the chance to have the privilege of being his mom.  Let this month, this day....the awareness of an orphan's reality move you.....physically move you to take action....don't miss out.  It's really not about us at all, and yet we are so incredibly blessed!

                                      *                                 *                              *

        On a side note, due to the large amount of clothing donations we receive, I've had to do some research on alternatives to the once a year Women's Sale.  I've decided to attempt two new options.  The first is to bring all acceptable clothing to a local consignment store where we will receive 50% of the profit, and the second is to send the rest to Thred Up.  So just before we moved, I washed, dried, and carefully folded all clothing for the consignment store I chose.  Their website said they accepted clothing the first week of each month, so when I didn't get through by phone or email, I decided to just take a drive over.  They were closed, and I was starting to get annoyed!  The boxes ended up having to make the move with us to our new house and have sat in a room until yesterday.  I still hadn't been able to get in touch with anyone and was wondering if I should find a new store.  Since we were already out, I decided to take one last drive by on Saturday.  Much to my relief the shop was open and the owner was extremely sweet.  She explained they had some personal things going on that had kept them from the store etc.  She then inquired as to why the coat on the top of my box was a size that couldn't have been mine.  I explained what I do with the clothes and that they are donated.  The sole customer in the store had stopped to listen and told me what a great idea it was etc.  I talked to the owner a bit about Levi and our story as she asked questions and when we finished the customer shared the following.  She sincerely thanked me for what we were doing, because she was adopted.  And she so appreciated our efforts.  I felt the "smack to my forehead" for lack of a better phrase right about then.  I had been so annoyed by not being able to get the clothes to the store so it would be one less thing I had to think about that I hadn't stopped to consider that even in these small things....even in dropping off some clothes to a consignment store....God may have a greater purpose.  I have no idea why, but I felt certain that God wanted me to be there at that moment, to have that encounter with the customer.  I hadn't planned to share what we were doing.....I just wanted to drop off the clothes and be on my way!  As I've mentioned....I'm a slow learner....but again I'm seeing that purpose in everything.....the gifts everywhere I look.

     

        

Friday, November 1, 2013

A New Chapter Begins!


         Six years ago I began subbing at the elementary level, with dreams of soon setting up my own classroom and making a difference in the lives of my students.  I had notebooks full of ideas, loads of resources I had accumulated through student teaching and practicums, but most of all I was motivated and eager to get started.  I had an interview that was shockingly well and was encouraged that I was definitely be among the next to be hired!  Unfortunately one year of subbing turned to two...and then three.....schools continued to close, teachers were laid off, and my chances of obtaining a full time position continued to diminish.  And then in my third year of subbing I found myself pregnant with our first child and facing a major life decision.  The fact that I hadn't been hired was disappointing, but really made the decision to stay home that much easier.  Once the kids were in school, I'd have the perfect job in teaching and hopefully by then the outlook would be more promising. 

     I think Caleb was a year and a half when the idea of homeschooling started to permeate my life.  I thought it was odd since Luke and I had long since decided that it just wasn't for us and we would definitely put our kids in public school.  The more it surrounded me, however, the more I felt myself opening up to the idea.  I couldn't even believe I was considering it and just knew for sure Luke would be against it anyway.  I wasn't sure I wanted to give up teaching in my own classroom someday altogether anyway....and it would be a lot of work.....so I threw it out there just knowing he would squash the idea.  Of course God had other plans and Luke was suddenly not so against it after all.  What was happening? Who were we?  We had made all these decisions already!  This was truly the start of us realizing that up until now we had really been making most of our decisions on our own.  We asked for God to be with us in the decisions we made, but I guess we hadn't realized that we weren't asking for Him to show us what decision to make in the first place.  This was our turning point....and since...our lives have changed dramatically.  For.The.(Way.Way.)Better.  

So this past week I (finally) had the privilege to finally set up my own classroom (as best I can until the house is finished!).  It was not the way I had always imagined, and the class size was much smaller.....but now I couldn't imagine it any other way, and I could not be happier.  

My two students on their very first day of preschool!

          The boys have been excitedly checking out the room each day to see what has changed and explore everything I've put out.  We talked all week about starting school today on November 1st.  I was surprised at how much I felt like I was back in a classroom, and how much I loved it.  I have the best students....they were so eager to learn and do each activity.  Actually it only took us about an hour to do everything (I'm using this curriculum. Love It! And some extras that I added), but they wanted to keep going.  Caleb took out just about everything in the room and we continued to learn and play together.  He loves structured activities and sometimes I just can't think of anything on the spot to do.  I think this is going to be amazing for all of us!  Early Intervention thinks it will be great reinforcement for Levi too and his language development especially.  

                            Seriously, God's ideas and plans are so much better than ours!

Monday, October 21, 2013

It Overwhelms And Satisfies My Soul.....

          The past few weeks have made me feel like I needed to add a part two to the On and on and on and on it goes post.....so here it is.

           The season of gifts and hard eucharisteo continues, and I find myself overwhelmed by God's love and grace....and master plan with the most impeccable timing that I often disagree with initially.  We've since moved into our new home (which still seems like a dream) and it's still partially a construction zone with no kitchen sink or counter tops, unfinished floors, half finished bathrooms and the list goes on.  But it's a home we would never have imagined God would bless us with and it will all get done in time.  We officially moved in on the 5th, but the next couple of days were also full of last minute moving and getting our previous home ready for our new renters.  We often collapsed into bed after 2 or 3am that last week and I wasn't sure how much longer we could manage at that rate.  But.....

          Months before this season of gifts, we had been asked by my brother and sister in law to join them in Florida with our new nephew....so we could meet him, they could meet Levi and we could enjoy some time relaxing together!  It seemed like forever away, and we didn't have anything planned....after all life was pretty comfortable at that point : )  The plan was to fly, but we soon found that tickets for the four of us were outrageous so we figured we would attempt the drive....the 21 hour drive....with a 2 year old....and a 3 year old......yes!  So the day before we were to leave to drive to Florida....we found ourselves just in our new home, attempting to pack for a trip out of boxes stacked to the ceiling, both running on a few hours of sleep.  But we managed to find what we needed, for the most part, and were on our way.  Our longest trip to date, in the car, was about 5 hours...and it had not gone so well....so I was a bit nervous.

The boys sword fighting with their surprise dollar gifts : ) 

           We traveled nine hours that first day and had an AMAZING time.  I didn't need any of the 75 things I had brought to entertain and distract the boys, aside from a few movies and surprise dollar gifts.  They were happy, sweet and Caleb kept telling us that he loved going to Florida!  What?!  The time to just sit and do nothing but enjoy my family was wonderful.....really just exactly, completely, totally what we needed....hmmmm.  We arrived in VA to stay at a friends home and were welcomed into the ultimate example of hospitality at its finest.  It was truly humbling to experience such thoughtfulness and generosity.  As I lay in bed, I marveled at God's timing....at the planning of this trip and how it really could not have been any more perfect.


Petting zoo/Pumpkinville in VA
         We ended up stretching out the drive into three days as the boys wouldn't sleep in the car (where did they come from?!) so overnight wasn't an option.  It turned into another blessing as we took our time each day, stopping here and there and doing fun, unexpected things as a family.  And then an amazing several days on the beach, being fully present with one another and enjoying one gift after another.  Meeting my absolutely adorable nephew, getting to spend time with family and friends, watching cousins get to know and love one another, swimming, relaxing, building in the sand, boys giggling, finding sea creatures, beautiful weather...and on and on.



   

  We spent another three days driving home, stopping at a safari and back at our friends house amongst other smaller adventures.  What a blessing it was!  And to have the time to take it slow and enjoy the traveling was another blessing.  Had Luke not been out of work we likely wouldn't have been able to take so much time.  I can see it so much more clearly now.....all of the gifts and the grace in what seemed so opposite.



         We're back home to our little construction zone and Luke's back to light duty work....I see so much all around me that needs to be done and it can get overwhelming, but as I recognize God's never failing love, compassion and grace ever present in my life I feel overwhelmed in a new light.  Overwhelmed in a way that satisfies my soul....and I'm so very grateful!





          As for the adoption....Caleb keeps asking when his sisters are coming!  I promise we'll update soon.  But in the meantime, before we've even officially started anything, God has been busy providing financially.  It's just another confirmation of where He is leading and when it is time to move.  People have been continuing to pour in the donations of items for future yard sales and clothes for consigning, supporting our fundraisers of selling handmade bracelets and the upcoming online auction....and even advocating for our family by spreading the news of the bracelets and adoption in general.  It is really mind blowing to see people we don't even know that well supporting us in incredible ways.  Overwhelming!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

And the milestones continue....

         While I really can't remember life without him, it's also hard to believe it has been one year since the day we met our son! (original post here) One year ago today we eagerly said Yes, we want to meet him!, to the lady at the ministry of education.  We drove the hour long route to his baby home in Ust-Labinsk and arrived in front of a large building with a gate and a security guard.....it was surreal.  Finally seeing where our son had spent his whole short life thus far...finally about to meet him for the first time!
         
First photo I took of Levi just after we met him (just over 13 months old)

          Sometimes when I share this journey, or think back to out trips to Russia, I still can't believe that this is our story.  It has been one of life's greatest adventures and blessings, and I am so thankful that God had bigger things planned for us than we had for ourselves.  And here we are one year later.....the baby we brought home, now a busy, independent, opinionated, stubborn, still super sweet and lovable toddler!

    
Dr. Levi....serious business!

Pretending the table is a tent....sweet boys!
Loving nature....who needs the playground toys?

Strengthening those legs! What a difference a year makes!


First photo of me and my boy.....
One year later......so blessed!!!




Thursday, September 26, 2013

No more babies here! (at the present time.....)

I decided to take a picture when we went to the park the other day.  The boys were wearing their personalized hoodies Meme had made for them when Levi first came home and it reminded me of a photo I had taken then.  It's amazing to look at the two pictures side by side and see the difference just seven months makes....which really seems like 2 weeks since time has been flying!

Last February.....just about a month after Levi arrived home!
This September.....seven months later

          Such little men.....no more babies here!  It's funny, I've been noticing that a lot lately....more and more of the "baby things" have been put away.  Trips to babies r us are few and far between.  Toddler-hood is in full force in this house!  They want to do things for themselves....and they want to help me do everything.  I may has well have sat in the car today at Walmart and let them do the shopping.  Caleb pushes the cart on his own....Levi very swiftly puts everything into the cart (how he does it without me even noticing when he's sitting so close he's touching me, is a mystery)....and they both load onto the belt!  Caleb even knows how to scan the barcodes now and has mastered the self-checkout.  Oh and not to worry about putting things away because Levi also enjoys taking everything out of the bags and placing each item onto our lazy susan.  Who needs mom?!

       No, but seriously.....it's amazing how much they change, so quickly, at this age!  And also amazing how far one little boy has come in such a short time!  Last year, at this exact week, we were preparing, with much anticipation, for our first trip to meet our son.....more reminiscing to follow!