Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas!

                     Wishing each of you a very Merry Christmas!  We took the pictures and made the card, but it doesn't look like they're getting sent out, so here it is :)  (And some of my other favorites).

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:6-7

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Everything We Need


    It never ceases to amaze me how God gives us exactly what we need...exactly when we need it.                                                                      And so much more.

   Basically I wrote half this post a couple months ago....a few more words here and there so I wouldn't forget this or that, and then it sat unfinished again....  But the passing time has only served to reinforce the point.
     A few months back I just had this unsettled feeling.  Our home just didn't feel like it should....lacking harmony.  We found ourselves facing unexpected, surprising behaviors and seemed to be making up consequences and how to parent these behaviors on a whim.  Bad Idea.  I was pretty overwhelmed with most things, feeling like I just couldn't keep up with everyone's needs, never mind spend the time to figure out what to do about it.  I pleaded for wisdom...guidance....and I decided to move a book from my amazon wish list to my cart.  It had sat there for about a year (or two) and I figured it was a good time to read it.  "Loving Your Kids on Purpose".....I love my kids more than I can express so I'd been hesitant to buy it, but it'd been recommended and my interest was piqued.  What I didn't realize was that it would so accurately address exactly what we were struggling with.
    There is nothing like holding a newborn close....studies even show that skin to skin contact between a mom and her newborn can make the transition from fetal to newborn life easier.  Not to mention keep baby warmer, regulate breathing, enhance bonding etc. etc.  It's such a special way to bond with your child.  And though before we know it that stage has passed, I'm being reminded that the strong heart to heart connection is so important.....crucial matter how old they get.  I read "Loving Your Kids on Purpose" in two days....instead of the little bursts of sleep I would get between Kyleigh's cat naps all night....I couldn't put it down...didn't want to put it down.  I felt so hopeful and excited as I read.  It wasn't anything revolutionary...some of it I'd heard before...some of it I already knew....but it was coming at just the time we needed to hear it.  It reminded me that our ultimate goal with our children is love...relationship...connection.  The connection I'm living out with my newborn daughter is also one that each of my children NEED.  Sure we want obedience and respect.....but if that's our ultimate goal, we're in trouble.  As our heavenly father, God sets the example.....He loves us unconditionally, set the example, teaches us what is best for us, and then leaves the choice up to us.  The natural consequences that follow are a result of our own choices and we have to live with them, but not without God's love and continued grace and support along the way.  He doesn't withhold His love from us because we've disobeyed or messed up.....He doesn't dish out random punishments because we've fallen short.....He forgives, loves and remains true to who He is.  It was easier to understand how to put the concepts into practical use with the examples given in the book, and we started right away.  We felt so free!  I hadn't realized how much we were letting behaviors affect us....but the difference was amazing.  Don't get me wrong, we still have hard days(sss)....we still mess up (in fact both of us had to apologize to kids just this week for our own mess ups)....but I'm thankful for the reminders in this book, and for the timing, AND for the example our heavenly father has set for us to emulate.

     James 1:5 " If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all...."    

      Parenting is a roller coaster.  Sometimes I feel like we teach and teach and teach and teach....and there's little evidence of all the effort we're putting forth.  Or we make one mistake after another and I feel like I should get the worst parent award.  It's easy to feel discouraged, but then we have these moments that blow all of those feelings away.  And there's God, encouraging us in a way that only He can orchestrate.  In the midst of a chain of difficult days, this child and I would come to sit down at the end of the day and read our devotions, and day after day for that entire week, the topics jumped off the page at us.  Our eyes wide, mouths dropping open....and the much needed smiles would come....God knew, we'd say, and we'd really stop and open to what He wanted us to hear.  Be fair...tell the truth...forgiveness.....train up a child.....growing up right....honesty is the best policy....good in peace.....I mean really, this was not a coincidence people.  And when it seemed like everything we'd taught was in vain, a little one would come running to share his victory...."He pushed me and said he didn't want to be my friend....but I was nice to him anyway."  Wow....and we'd celebrate and thank God for teaching us these hard, but so rewarding, ways to live.  And another would come home to share an essay written for school.  One that was to be shared in front of the class, and signify what is the ultimate, most important thing in their life.  And it began..."God is important in my life...." There's nothing I want more than for my kids to love God with all their heart.  And I could not have been more encouraged.  I remember the next day being so hard, followed by more just like it....but the light in the midst of the darkness was just what we needed.

    One of the amazing things about teaching an older child about God is the way that they understand, ask questions, and allow you to see things from a new perspective.  It's incredible to me the way that Keira soaks in the word of God.  She constantly has questions for us.....thought provoking questions....and questions that bear witness to her own spiritual growth.  She is always so excited about Wednesdays because it's Awana night.  She's equally in love with soccer and her last soccer game of the season was unfortunately set for a Wednesday night.  She told me later that all day in school she kept feeling like God was talking to her....for the first time, she really felt like he kept telling her to go to Awana.  She couldn't stop thinking about it, and even prayed that somehow, someway, her soccer game would be cancelled or it would rain.  If you know Keira and her love of soccer, this is quite shocking.  Unknown to her, I received an email during the day that this would actually not be her last game because they would be in the playoffs the following week.  I figured I would tell her she could choose Awana or the game, but was still pretty certain she'd choose the latter.  I'll never forget her excitement and the look of awe on her face when I told her.  She couldn't believe that God had really answered her prayers and she knew he really was telling her to go to Awana and made a way for her to do so.  The icing on the cake was when she went to Awana that night, there was a boy there for his first time.  And he spoke Russian.  Do you know that one of the things this girl always longs for is other kids who speak Russian?  God is SO good!  This wasn't necessary, it wasn't any major deal if she had to miss Awana just once.....and yet He provided an opportunity for her to be in tune to what He wanted, confirmed it through the circumstances, and then blessed her with a desire of her heart.  I know it was an enormous breakthrough for her....and such a huge encouragement for us....she's getting it!

      We went on a little trip to Vermont this past weekend last month to visit friends of ours....about a four hour drive plus all the stopping that comes with kids :)  On Monday morning after we returned, I took Caleb to gymnastics, went grocery shopping, and was driving home when it sounded like something fell off of the van and I ran it over.  It happened a couple more times and by the time we arrived home I knew something was up.  It turns out part of my transmission burst!  We've had one problem after another ever since we purchased this van so I guess it wasn't so surprising....just not the news we wanted to hear.  I've always been a worrier, it's just who I am.  But I've also been working on this for years, and by God's grace, I've come a long way.  I've seen time after time, the way God has provided for us, and always been faithful.....and for maybe the first time ever, I stopped and realized.....I had peace.  I wasn't nervous.  I didn't have the normal pit in my stomach.  I wasn't having to remind myself of all the times God provides, or all the verses where He reminds us how much he cares for us.  And with that peace, I almost felt giddy....because there is SO much freedom in that!  I wasn't controlled by my worry and anxiety.  It may sound silly, but for me, it was incredible.  And in the midst of the mess, I didn't have to miss the excitement over Levi's great report on the bus ride home that day or hearing him count his cheese squares so clear and accurately.  And I realized how many good things I've probably missed while I'm consumed with worry.....

       And so when Luke pulled up the next morning to tell me his brakes were gone, and we were now car-less....I was ready.....ready to witness how God was going to figure this one out!  No answer at the first shop, too busy at the second.  But work that night and no car?  We prayed at lunch and I tried once more.  Sure, he said, have it towed now and I'll get it done today, no problem.  But how are we going to pay for all of this?  Oh hey, remember two years ago when you closed on your home and they told you that in two years you could get rid of your PMI?  Well it's been two years!  But it gets may as well just refinance since you have to pay for an appraisal anyway and the rates now are way lower.  Much lower payments, sign us up!  And since the closing is in November there's no December mortgage payment on top of a surprise check in the mail for an escrow rebate.  Which altogether covered the transmission.  My life is not one coincidence after another.  My life is constant evidence of God's grace and love and provision.  In perfect timing.

      A few weeks ago Luke and Keira were acting weird.  It didn't click that they were up to something, I just impatiently noted their odd behavior.  A short time later they came inside.  Keira was beaming as she handed me a beautiful bouquet of flowers, card and my favorite candy.  She bought them with her own money (mostly :) )  Just to say thank you.  For what?!!  For helping with Karina's adoption and for everything we do for her.  She had shared with Luke that she felt like thank you wasn't enough.....we'd had some really hard days in the midst of a lot of fun family outings, and she felt an overwhelming need to show her appreciation in a tangible way.  I felt an overwhelming desire to sob.  The flowers were a beautiful combination, something they put together themselves....all in my favorite color.  The card was also in purple with a message that I will treasure forever.  And my favorite candy.  This girl has taught each of us to be more aware of one another.  She's always thoughtfully incorporated the things that we love into everything she does.  And I see the boys starting to follow suit....."this one is you, see the purple? oh Keira would love this, it's her favorite color!....can we pleaseeeee buy this for daddy, it's his favorite?!"  She beamed every time I smelled the flowers and noted their beauty....every time I shared with someone what she did for me, or told her how much I enjoyed the sweet candy that day.  I waited until she went outside to let the tears many many emotions.....

                   My God is so good.  He gives us everything we need and His timing is perfect.

      His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
                                   Matthew 6:25-34

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Friends Forever

      When we originally went to Ukraine, we were approved to adopt two girls, and fully expected to do so.  We were so caught off guard when it wasn't working out that way and wondered why God had allowed us to adopt just one.  We can see so many reasons now, and love the way God blessed us with two girls anyway!  But when Keira first came home and talked so frequently about her best friend Karina, we wondered why we hadn't known about her, and wished we could have adopted her as well.  And yet, God in his infinite wisdom and perfect timing knew why...and watching this story unfold is yet another beautiful picture of his plans and our limited understanding.  I think it was one of the hardest parts of leaving Ukraine for her....because really, Keira and Karina were family.  They took care of one another from the time they were little...looked out for one another, defended one another, comforted one another...loved each other.

Keira and her best friends from Ukraine (Karina on the right - Photo shopped by Luke)

     We have prayed every day since she came home that a family would step forward to adopt Karina.  We were able to have her listed on some adoption websites, doing anything we could to advocate for her.  Keira wrote her letters and sent her packages, and one day she finally received a letter in return.  That letter is priceless...but how she longed to talk to her make sure she's okay and knows that she has not forgotten her best friend.  Last Saturday they finally were able to speak.  I had a lump in my throat as I videoed a portion of their conversation - the first in over a year - and my heart broke at the sadness in her voice.  Keira's often mentioned that anytime she told someone she loved them people would make a huge deal out of it, as if it was the craziest thing to say.  Why would you say I love you to your auntie?? You said you loved your friend? That's crazy!  For a child with so much love in her heart and who so desired love and affection in return, this did not make sense to her.  And oh how she's reveled in the love given so freely here.  I think it was one of the most surprising things to her about America and relationships here.  And so, as they spoke last week, Keira told Karina that she didn't care how it sounded or what people thought, she loved her.  And after a brief pause, Karina told Keira she loved her too.  These girls have such a special bond.

     Here and there a family would contact me asking questions about Karina, but it never amounted to much.  And then a local family started asking questions and I thought it was too good to be true.  I'd never even considered it possible.  One of the families had been from California....couldn't have really gotten much farther away than that.....but we were just glad she would have a family.  We'd skype....write letters....and hope someday to meet in person.  But as always, God had a better idea....and has blessed us with infinitely more than we could have ever asked or imagined.  And these two girls will be reunited.....loved, protected, treasured......

    It struck me that many of you may not have known why we were doing this auction fundraiser, as you have been invited by friends or family, or fellow adoptive families.  And so, this is the reason.  To see yet another precious child come home to a loving family where she belongs.  And to be reunited with the only family she's ever known, her best friend.  Keira is so very excited and I think, still processing.  She asked me to pray with her so that we could thank God for answering her prayers, and so willingly offered all of her money, that she's labored for and saved for several months.  And as I closed her door after talking and saying goodnight, I was overcome with that my reaction to an answered prayer?  To stop and thank God...recognizing it was He who answered and made it possible......and to then offer everything I have to give?

     I cannot wait to see this family together with their daughter....and to see my daughter's delight in being reunited with her best friend.  And I cannot wait to hug and thank this sweet girl who in many ways cared for her in a way that I wish I could have all those years.  God is so good!


Monday, November 2, 2015

Adoption Auction Update

    Okay, the auction is officially up!  It won't start until November 14th, but please help us to make the most of this by inviting others into the group and sharing it!  We'll continue taking donations (as in things that can be auctioned off) until the 14th as well.  And for those who may be donating services or handmade items, I am more than happy to promote your etsy stores, contact information etc. so please let me know if you're interested!

                                 Here's the link.... Adoption Auction for Karina

Thursday, October 29, 2015

An Answered Prayer & A Life Changing Opportunity

      One of the things we promised Keira, since she first came home, was that we would do whatever we could to help find her best friend Karina a family.  We have prayed daily for her, sent her packages, and now finally have a phone number to reach her at, though we have yet to talk to her.  I have had a couple of families contact me over the past year, asking questions about her, and we would get so hopeful....but nothing came of it.  We know that God has a plan for this little girl, and cannot wait for the day when she is embraced by her family....and knows how precious and loved she is.

       So I basically have the best news ever....Yup, a family is taking steps towards adopting her!!  It's very early in the process and we are not sharing this with Keira yet until things are moving along, so please do not mention this to her.  But, we wanted to share this amazing answer to prayer with all those who have been praying, and we wanted to ask for your continued prayers for this sweet girl and for this family.  She just celebrated her 12th birthday and my hope is that she will be home, surrounded by friends and family for her next birthday!  And so...we'd like to ask you....would you join us in helping this girl come home?

It was incredible to see how many people God used to help bring our two kiddos home....humbling and mind-blowing.  I'll never forget my initial attitude towards the thousands of dollars, that we didn't have, that was required each step of the way.  I had finally submitted....and I basically said "Okayy...we'll do this....but when we don't have the money to move on to the next step, there'll be nothing we can do.  Not if, no I was convinced this would happen.  So little faith.  And then I watched as each little bit came together....and each bill was covered exactly when it needed to be.  And I could never thank everyone enough...everyone who said "yes!" alongside of us....generously giving of their time, talents, and resources.  And so, I plan to do all that I can to help this family.  It's not easy to focus on fundraising with all of the training and paperwork required, in addition to the daily demands of life.  I have started the first fundraiser and would love any help!  We have an online auction that will begin in about two weeks.  I have quite a few items already, but the more, the better!  If you would like to donate anything to be auctioned, please let me know so it can be added in the next couple of weeks.  Here are some ideas:

1.  Any new products/items...really anything!  
2.  A handmade item...some of you are super talented!
3.  A car detailing (done by you) or a few hours of free cleaning, leaf raking, snow get the idea :)
4.  A gift basket of anything

If you are not local and you'd like to donate something, feel free to just send me a picture and let me know much it'd cost to ship the item to the winner (approximately since we obviously don't know who the winner is at thus point.)

        I have more ideas to come but really wanted to get this up and running in time for some holiday shopping!  There's nothing more exciting than being part of what God is doing and having the opportunity to play a role in changing a life!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Future

     I'm taking a post to deviate from my normal update of the happenings of life around here.  I started one of those a while ago and have yet to finish it.  Which makes this post even more ironic in a sense, since the thought of even considering the following may seem crazy when I can't seem to keep up with most things at the present time.  But that's my has been for a while now....and truthfully, I wouldn't have it any other way.  Because God's time is not our time...God's ways are not our ways....and, surprise surprise, His time and ways far exceed ours! 

     I was pretty adamant that Kyleigh would be our last child.....aside from the potential future fostering we've often talked about.  And yet from the moment she arrived, I have felt this surprising desire for more.  Maybe because it's just such a miracle....or because I'm just enjoying it in such a more relaxed way this time....or because this baby is such an angel!  Or, perhaps there's more to it.  I've made countless pros and cons lists in my mind about having more.... I've been reminded I don't have to figure this out today, and it made me wonder why I felt the pressure to decide one way or the other.  And then it started to click....both the reminder that I'm a slow learner, and what that may mean.  Because this is all too familiar.  I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.  It's the same experience I had with adoption, both times.  That was never my idea....God was the one who kept bringing it in front of my face so that I couldn't ignore it.  And I've felt that He's reminding me, yet again, that this is His decision....and my role is simply to remain open...and willing.

     And so, as I adjust my focus to being ready and willing for whatever God may call us to, we've talked about the possibility of fostering infants sooner...maybe it's not so far off in the future - our timelines are never very accurate we've found :)  Of course, with this new idea swimming around, I've started to second on earth will I be able to let go when it's time.....I know myself, I know I'll fall in love with these babies.  I also know the lasting impact that a lack of care and love can have on a child.....I see it daily.  And as I process this, this article sat before me this morning.  I can't help but marvel at how God He prepares HE cares.  I don't know what will happen in the future, but I know the one who does, and I'm excited to find out when the time comes.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Life These Days

        There's not much time to post here these days....I often tell myself I need to remember this or that so I can write it down and savor as many memories as possible, but most often it does not happen.  That's just the season of life we're in, and as crazy as it is, it's also wonderful!  People ask how it is with four.....really it's great!  I'm incredibly blessed and enjoying this wild ride.  It's also crazy and overwhelming.  I hardly know what day it is, probably have missed 99% of any calls, texts and emails sent to me, and sometimes am not sure where a child is only to find out I am holding them.  Yes really.  But there is a lot of love, tons of giggles, constant learning and memories being made.

        This summer was full of fun and new experiences.  I miss having everyone together as we all head in different directions each day now, but I'm also glad to be back in a routine.  But of course with the changes and transition comes some setbacks and struggles to adjust.  Sometimes I need to be reminded that transitions that seem easy to me are not so easy for others.  It's easy to become impatient with behaviors that we thought we'd moved past, and it's an ongoing lesson for me to remain compassionate in the midst of it.

      Levi is now going to school each afternoon so he's suddenly without his 2-3 hour nap.  I braced myself for the worst, but he's actually handled it really well.  Overall he seems to be loving school again, always eager to get on the bus and do his thing :)  I'm grateful for the sweet people that pour into this little guys life in all areas.  The bus aides that come out with high fives and cheers for him, drivers that tell me how sweet he is and make great adaptations for him to have a good ride....teachers and therapists that are getting to know him, making calls home to communicate....people at church who patiently teach and love on him....teenagers who eagerly give him love and attention at youth group.....friends of ours who come over to spend time with who always make him feel loved and special.  He is truly blessed, as are we, and it reminds me that it really does take a village....we have so much help and support.

He's such a big boy now, keeping up with the big kids...I couldn't believe he really rode this scooter alongside them.  It was hard work for him, but he was determined, and he did it on his own!
(ps. the shirt Caleb is wearing was Keira's back in Ukraine.  It fit her a year ago!)

      Caleb is my last student standing....they sort of dropped like flies around here :)  Hey, whatever they need....and really I do think that each of them are exactly where they need to be.  We tried kindergarten last year even though he was four and it went really well, so that left us with the option of doing kindergarten again or just going ahead with first grade.  We jumped in and it's been going really well.  He is so excited this year!  He's my Dr. Doolittle, nature/animal and experiment I'm trying to go with it as much as possible.  He certainly offers many opportunities!!

Here he is with four baby mice.....apparently they made a nest in our lawn chair which had been in the shed.  We opened it up to use at Keira's soccer game and four baby mice fell out.  They learned a lot about taking care of baby animals, feeding them milk with a paintbrush every few hours, and then learned a difficult lesson in having to say goodbye rather than allowing them to suffer.  They did so well at first, but then took a sudden turn.  Funny how kids change your lives.  Usually we're doing all we can to keep mice out of our home, and here we were welcoming them in and caring for them. 

Hundreds of snails by the shore to enjoy.....

And the next game a couple days later, it was a toad.  He's so sweet, he cares so much for every creature!  And even more so, he is completely in love with his baby sister.  He still asks often if he can hold her, and stops constantly throughout the day to lay beside her, and hug and kiss her.  He talks to her in the sweetest little voice, unfazed if she is screaming or hitting him in protest.    

He is such a character, forever making us laugh.  He takes after his daddy :) 

Sound asleep......

   As of a couple days ago, Keira has officially been home with us for one year.  I can't believe this was only last year.....

Caleb and Keira running toward each other when they finally arrived at Logan!

                       Out of the car and HOME for the first time!  Look at that little face!

           The growth is unbelievable in every aspect.  Physically she grew 3 inches and gained 18 pounds since she came home!!!  We definitely went through clothes and shoes quickly, but thankfully her growing has slowed down a bit now that she's caught up to where she should have been and things are lasting more than a month :)

             She's matured a great deal, but I'm thankful that she still takes time to spend with her little brothers.  Here they were this morning, watching Russian cartoons in her room....something they haven't done since the first few months home.

         I think in many ways, the transition back to school has triggered some old feelings/issues.  Big changes tend to do that, and though it was a choice she made and wanted to go back, she had grown used to being home altogether on a daily basis.  She missed us, and we missed was an adjustment for all of us, but I think most difficult for her.  Not to mention that this years class is different, the teacher is new, some of her friends from last year have gone to new schools....change, change, change.  I was naive to think it would all be just fine, and found myself surprised at old behaviors that were showing up.  I'll be honest, I felt we'd moved past these things...but it's unfair to expect her to be able to handle change as we can, and I have to remind myself she's only been here one year.  Things are quickly improving as she feels more comfortable with this new version of school, but it's definitely been a challenge.  But there are always valuable lessons learned, on our part as parents and for her as well.  And I'd like to think that it only serves to strengthen the bond and further demonstrate how much we love her and that this family thing is forever, no matter what.

       She's also back to playing soccer, one of her biggest loves, so it's been fun and busy!  I think we all enjoy going to watch her games and practices...and she is always glad to have us there.  I love that she'll still wave or blow us a kiss....I'm savoring it now because I know it could be gone before we know it.

       Every first day of school and last day of school, I have the kids fill out a paper with some of their favorites, how tall they are, of the questions asks who their best friend is.  Keira has always, always listed her two best friends from Ukraine without hesitation whenever this questions comes up.  I think they will forever be her best friends....there is a closer bond there than most ever have with a friend...really they are family.  But this year, on the first day of school, for the first time of probably dozens that someone has asked her this question, she added the name of a friend here.  I didn't make a big deal of it, but inside I was jumping for joy.  Not that I do not want her to hold onto those friendships she had, but because she is realizing that she can have close relationships with friends here too.  I tried to convince her time and again that it would just take time, but it's hard to grasp that and hard to wait given her circumstances.  But now, in time, she's found that again...maybe not the same, but still so valuable.

    I showed her my gratitude journal yesterday....where I've listed all of the gifts...the things I'm thankful for, for the past couple of years.  I haven't been consistent with it this year, but in the midst of some challenges these past couple of days, I was reminded of it.  I prayed for compassion and wisdom, and God reminded me of all I have to be thankful for, amongst other things.  So she has started her own....and her list is so precious....such a reminder of how we take things for granted...just assume they are things everyone has and deserves...but no, everything is a gift, worthy of gratitude.  These kids, they're always teaching us :)


         And then there's the princess....I can't stop saying how fun it is to have an infant around again!  I wouldn't say I was a nervous mother with Caleb, but I was so much more crazy about everything...writing down times that he ate, for how long and on and on.  What?!!  This time around has been so much more relaxed (not that I didn't enjoy it before, it's just different!).  And this little girl just goes with the flow...not that she has much of a choice :)

Watching big sister play soccer!

                   Hanging out in the rocks and caves while Caleb and daddy explored....

       The nightly routine of stopping in each siblings room to say goodnight....this little girl gets a lot of love!!!

Being dragged on her first bike ride....I promise she enjoyed it, we just had to get moving :)

I can't believe she's already three months is flying by faster than ever, but again I am trying to savor every moment.  Middle of the night All night long feedings were mostly a joy, minus the exhaustion, as we got to spend time together just me and her.  And after the first few weeks, she wouldn't cry, she'd just wake up, fuss a little and when she saw my face, she'd smile.  Oh she melts my heart!  She's the first one to refuse a binky, but she's certainly found her fingers.  She's cooing and making sounds, reminding us of the exploding diaper stage, and smiles all the time.  She's certainly getting spoiled and likes to be held, but she is also happy and content to lay and play on her mat or watch her crazy brothers and sister play.  She just started sleeping through the night, which is sort of bitter sweet as I feel like this is the end of a chapter that we may not see least for a while.  

This is life these days.....
It often feels crazy most of the time....I loose my patience and am not always grateful for the many blessings in my life.  I make mistakes and my kids see that I too am not perfect.  I'm behind in most areas of life right now, and often focus on the things that aren't so important.  I'm forever learning the same lessons over again.  But God is gracious and is always teaching, stretching and growing me....He has blessed me with an amazing family, community and responsibility and never fails to give me the tools I need, with a whole lot of grace.     

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Gotcha Day!


Picking up our girl!!

        One year ago today Luke showed up at the orphanage to pick up our daughter...the start of a new life, a new forever.  She's told us often about that day....about hearing that she may have to wait until Tuesday instead of Monday.  It was the first day of school there and she was ready to go...not wanting to deal with all the grief she was being given...just wanting to be free.  She tells us about a friend telling her that he thought he saw her daddy and describing him to her as her excitement grew.  Good thing he came Monday...I'm so glad he was there Monday she'll tell us.  I smile and am equally as glad.  Because he almost wasn't.  Our facilitator mentioned that it was doubtful we'd get the paperwork necessary to take her on Monday....that we'd likely have to wait until Tuesday anyway so we could just stay in Kiev when we arrived Sunday and then drive up on Monday.  Luke asked what I thought.....we went back and forth....the rest would be nice, instead of getting in late and driving for several hours....but then we'd told her that he'd be there Monday.  And more than anything, we wanted her to know she could trust us...that we meant what we said...that we'd be there.  We agreed it was important...even if we couldn't take her until Tuesday, he could at least visit her and reassure her.  We were so glad he went since he was able to get the paperwork on Monday after all.....but then each time she tells us her perspective, we are even more thankful.  One day makes a world of difference sometimes.

     She's certainly not the little girl she was that day one year ago...but in many ways she's the same.  Her sweetness....desire to be loved and show affection....willingness to help and ability to just see a need and fill it.....the qualities that have amazed us and leave us wondering how on earth she is who she is with all that she's endured.  Those first weeks and months were overwhelming for all of us, but still such a gift in all that we were able to witness....the progress, the attachment, learning what it means to be family and soaking it in.  For a while now, we've just been dealing with normal kid stuff for the most part...we know how blessed we are!

    We wanted to make this first "Gotcha" day a little special so we surprised her and took a trip back to the Russian Market so she could pick out some things that she's missed.  The woman there remembered us, though it'd been almost a year since we went.  Keira was so cute, excitedly pointing things out.  The boys were equally as excited at the bins upon bins of candy at their fingertips.  It was a bit chaotic with all of them running around, bumping into things....but she insisted they were angels (HAHAHA).  It was fun listening to Keira speak to her in Russian...asking about different foods and getting to try a few things.  She picked out some favorites and has been thoroughly enjoying them!

    We had a little gift for her this morning....a photo book of this past year.  She loved looking through it and reminiscing....reliving all of the fun times we've had together.  I love that she's now been here a full year and has a memory from every holiday and special day that includes her.  It'll be fun to watch her anticipate things this year in a different way, now that she knows more what to expect, and feels more a part of things.

         So thankful for this sweet girl that God has blessed us with!  We have learned so much on this journey, and been so blessed beyond what we could have imagined - but that is really no surprise these days....God's ways always amaze us!

                           *                                               *                                          *

      Just a couple of updates.....Keira was recently able to reconnect with her Grandma and sister in Ukraine on the phone which has been a huge blessing!  So many tears of joy, i love you's, and words of gratitude expressed.  It's so nice to see her able to maintain relationships with more of her family there.  She's tutored twice a week in Russian so she's been able to maintain the language, which allows her to continue to communicate with them - definitely another blessing! (If anyone is looking for a Russian tutor via skype please feel free to ask me for information!).

     And the second update is that her friend Karina is once again in the orphanage and available for adoption!!  We had continued to pray for a forever family for her, not knowing how things were in the foster family situation she was in and not knowing what God had in store.  And within such a short time things have changed so drastically.  Please pray for her family....God knows who they are....and for Karina, that God would prepare her heart...that she would be willing to take the courageous step to say yes when the time comes.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Levi's Turn...Four is Fun!

This little guy has watched each member of our family have a birthday this year..."Me!!" he'd say and we'd remind him that it wasn't his day yet.  This is the first year he's really understood what is going on when it comes to birthdays...and what he's missing out on :)  A day all about celebrating me?!  Sign me up!  Waiting to be the last person's birthday celebrated?  Not so fun.  Well Friday was HIS day, and it was so fun to watch him enjoy say "Yes, You!" when he patted his hand against his chest and exclaimed "Me! My!"

It was serious business opening his presents.....

LOVE the goggles...SO Levi....

His new, real he's really going to be helping daddy.....or destroying furniture...

And then more arrived....because my kids are beyond spoiled...

           We had a crazy day with a million appointments, but we eventually returned to celebration mode and picked up some dinner.  This little guy loves KFC, so he got his own box and was very proud.

And when you're a mom of four, you get creative because you probably don't have any cake mix or frosting in the house, nor time to make one.  This was yummier anyway!

"Mama, (insert blowing)" he said, patting me.  He was so happy we were going to sing to him so he could blow out his candles...okay candle. 

One more present from Meme and Pops.....

                         Signing thank you to them.....they know what their boy loves!

And he has enjoyed it thoroughly ever since!

(And here's what the princess did during the "party")

So we didn't do a big party for Levi like we did for the big kids this year....we're splitting it up because I just may go insane doing a party four months in a row, and I'm sure everyone would unfriend/family us for having so many parties.  We figure we'll pick special years and do a party, but otherwise we'll just do something special as a family.  So I found that they were doing "Touch A Truck" at a nearby town two days after his birthday....with diggers and dump trucks that he could actually sit on!  Almost too good to be true...the timing wasn't the best so we only had about an hour, but he enjoyed himself!  And a great bonus with great friends joining us!

He didn't want to take his eyes away from all the cool features long enough to look at the camera!

I wonder if I'll have a picture of him like this in 20 years....

Beeping the horn of course!

Telling the firefighter to close the door.....he's so bossy! 

The door closed and he said "BYE!"

Sweet friends!

How cute is he?!!

Train ride!  Levi's other newest love!

(and the princess slept...)

It's amazing how big he seems this year...maybe just because his new little sister makes him seem like a giant...but I think it's even more than that.  He's growing in so many ways and turning into quite the big boy.  It's a strange thing, your children growing....always somewhat bittersweet as you want to bottle up their little-ness, while at the same time encouraging and enjoying watching them grow and accomplish new things.  Levi works so hard for each milestone...and the process has been in many ways I feel like we get to savor his growth a little more, and for that I am thankful.  
And yet, it sometimes feels like we aren't making enough maybe we need to do something different or could do more...and I can only imagine the frustration this little one feels....but really when we stop and look back it brings me to tears to think of how much he just keeps pushing, all the while with a smile and so full of life and love.  Something I need to dwell on more often.  Something I could learn a lot from.  
We're hearing more and more of his voice...and often throughout the day, one or more of us will excitedly say "did you hear that?! Levi said __!"  It's precious to hear his siblings getting so excited as he copies something they've said, or says a new word clear as day.  
And he's opened our eyes to a whole new world.....a world of diggers and dump trucks and construction work.  It's exciting!  But ya know, every time I'm driving through construction (which is about every five seconds around here), I'm either thinking of Levi and how much he'd love it, or he's in the back seat pointing each one out with excitement.  Funny how kids teach you to look on the positive side of things :)

Happy 4th Birthday Levi!  We love you so have come so far and taught us so much....we hope you felt at least a fraction of how special you are. <3