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.