Saturday, July 29, 2017

Happy 14th Birthday Keira!

      I really cannot believe this little girl is now 14 and not so little anymore!  It was only three years ago this month that we met her for the first time.....

   She was so little....not just in size, but in so many ways.  I'll always treasure that we were able to experience some of her "littleness" and give her the opportunity to just be a kid.  It was really a small window, and I see it as such a gift.  We made a lot of great memories during that time.  Today I couldn't help but think of what we should be's a beautiful day, we could be having a birthday party in the yard with all her friends!....and doing our annual photo shoot...and....but what struck me as Luke and I visited with her today, was how many times she said "remember when we ____.....remember when you.....____."  However small it may be in comparison to her former life, we still have developed a history with her....and it means a lot.  I'm thankful for that.

We set up a little mini birthday party when we arrived today....

But before we started, I braided her hair.  I used to do so almost every felt so nice to be able to, I was glad she still wanted me to!  

I could tell she was excited, though she tried to be a little bit reserved at first.  Oh teenagers!  As the minutes passed, she let go a little and became her silly self :)

I had found another copy of a children's book Levi has that refers to adoption.  I hesitated because it's really for younger children, but I really felt that she would enjoy it.  When she opened it, I was shocked that she sat and read each page....with presents still left to be opened...pointing out phrases like "always and forever, no matter what" that we've used countless times these past few years.  <3 

She was eager to open everything and try them on/use them.  Soon we had a lava lamp plugged in and a girl in goggles and shin guards :) 

And then we sang "Happy Birthday" and enjoyed her favorite cake!

We had a good visit together...I think it was really good for all of us....

I'm not sure what's next for our girl, but my prayer will always be that she can heal and lead a happy, healthy life.....that she will know how loved she is, how valuable and precious her life is, and most of all that she will see herself as God sees her...because really that would change everything.

We love you Кирочка matter what..... навсегда!
С днем ​​рождения
Happy 14th Birthday!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Life These Days: Us Edition

      It seems that most of my posts never actually make it from my mind to this blog these days. A few mentioned the absence of an update on what was going on with us.  Of course the happenings of the kids are intertwined with ours, but I suppose we do exist outside of being their parents, ha!  I guess it's sometimes easier to talk about share the fun and exciting things that we experience as their parents.  And honestly, ours just feels so messy these days.  To share feels like complaining or trying to elicit sympathy...and the way in which ones life is so connected with others makes it even more complex.  So for the sake of being sensitive to others....we'll keep it vague....but for the sake of honesty and being real....this has been the hardest year of our lives.  And yet, even in admitting that, I feel blown away that we are not defeated.....the hardships of life have not consumed us.  For one reason and one reason only - God's constant, unending love for us...."Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23.

    There were times this year when I felt like we were in the middle of the ocean...drowning...calling out for help....and ship after ship would pass by with the same message....we can't help, but we'll be sure to get someone who can....and as soon as they were out of sight, we were out of mind.  Yet while I may have felt that way in the moment, I knew that was not the case....because beneath my flailing feet was the One who kept us from sinking.  He did not forget about us for a moment.  Our circumstances came as no surprise to Him, and He was Always....Always....ALWAYS...there.  He was there in the friends and family who lent an ear.....those who offered a meal.....the ones who offered to watch our the answers to prayer....He was there as He put just the right person in our path to share what we needed to hear in the moment, whether encouragement or a new lead to help us.....He reminded us constantly of His love, mercy and provision.

     It's hard to put into words the things that I have learned....the way I feel God refining us.  I have felt my own reluctance to accept some drastic changes in our life.  This wasn't the way we saw will this bring God glory?......Why?....How?  But it's so painful.  And as has often been the case for takes drastic measures to remind me that I'm not in control....that I can't see the big picture, and even more..I don't NEED to.  I simply have to trust.  And rest on His promises.  I am reminded time and again in these trials that I answer to One.  And how much simpler that makes everything.  It's a constant process of bringing my focus back to Him.

    There's an old hymn that comes into my mind often....the chorus says "Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."  I have found time and again that if I just turn my eyes to Him....take my focus off of my circumstances and set them on Him...everything can change in an instant.  The problems may remain, but they no longer control me.....and in light of Christ, His love, His power, His promises....they look "strangely dim."  It's pretty incredible.

    I've learned a lot about what I need to work on....and I've also learned more about how much I have to be thankful for.  A while back I spent so much time working on gratitude....being thankful...accepting everything as a gift.  I counted my one thousand gifts and beyond.....and it really changed me.  God knew I would need that foundation when the storms really hit.  But part of me feels like it all went out the window.....have I really been thankful in this?  Far from it, I'd say.  But it's never too late...and as we've begun to have a chance to breathe, I've started to reflect.  And I keep coming back to how thankful I am that God really does provide for us in every way, in every circumstance.  If I had known the events of this past year were coming, I would have wanted to crawl in a hole....I'm fairly certain I wouldn't have thought it possible to make it through.  But here we are.....we can sit and share how God protected our kids time and, hey, He prepared us for this particular situation in these, wow....He knew that this would happen just then....or how it seemed like things were turning around but even though they didn't, God gave us that much needed respite when we thought we would just crumble.....again and again, over and over....His love and mercy.  And those in our life that He has so blessed us with....thankful just doesn't cover it.  We are forever indebted to those who have dropped their lives in many ways alongside of us to be there.

    This year held a couple of big milestones for us....ten years of marriage and we've reached the tipping in we've officially been in each other's life longer than we have not.  It's been quite the journey!  And this man....I'm so very grateful that God chose him for me to do life with.  We are two very different people, yet our hearts are much the same.  Many have asked me how he in particular has held up over this past year especially.  He's really had it so much harder than any of us, in many ways....but he would never say so.  He's Mr. Steady.  I'm often this rollercoaster of emotions, and he brings me back to reality and reminds me of all the truths I need to hear.  He has his emotional moments too....when he's so passionate about something....when something matters so very much....but it's different.  My emotions lead me to extremes where one moment I have no idea what on earth we were thinking and the next I couldn't be more committed.  But he holds true to his convictions...both when the storms are raging and when things are as peaceful as can be.....and any emotion that emerges is simply the passion behind those convictions....and love.  I think what blows me away the most is that even with all of that being said....he's not too prideful to step back and admit when he may have been wrong.  I can recall one very difficult, frustrating (understatement) meeting at the hospital regarding our oldest....the doctor's words were appalling.....his suggestions just professional would bet their life on this theory and now a new one?....Luke kept pushing....he wanted to understand...wanted answers....and then there was a breakthrough...some understanding on both sides.  I would have just given up....left frustrated and in total disagreement with the doctor.  But he cared too much to just walk away.....he wasn't angry with the doctor for his views, but he pressed until he could understand and walk away feeling like we had some answers.  The answers were not perfect....but it was a valuable experience.   I watch as my husband continually checks himself....seeking godly advice from mentors in his life and prayerfully seeking God's will above all else.  I've never met anyone who loves others and is willing to fight for justice as much as matter the cost.

   I remember early on in our relationship when he'd mention that he called so and so.....I'd say "what? why? you never see them anymore."  I would think to myself....geesh, I can barely keep up with the relationships I have right here and now.....why is he calling all these people that haven't really ever kept in touch with him.  Because he cares.  Way more than most.  And he'd drop everything to be there for anyone if they needed it.  It's funny how some of the things that used to bother me are some of the things I admire most about him now.  There would be days when he'd come home a little bit late when I was expecting him for something....and still now, though I usually get a phone call letting me know :) because he'd stopped to give someone a ride.  He'll often point out people on the street as we drive that he's given a ride to....and share some of their story.....because it wasn't just about meeting a tangible need, it was about hearing their story and caring about who they are.  We started doing something called "Laundry Love" several months ago when he was working with the was a way for us to get together and serve those in the community.  To again meet a physical need of washing their laundry, but with the focus being to just serve them and love them.  I really only helped behind the scenes, but I was blessed to be able to take the kids and be a part of it this month.  It was incredible.  There's a reason why God tells us to serve look to the interests of care for love them.  There is just nothing like being a part of that.  I watched as my husband so naturally spent time with the people there.  He only sees them once a month, but you would have thought they were lifelong friends.  He joked with them, made them feel special....comfortable....cared for.  He has that way about him, but I was just blown away.  I felt so awkward....unqualified.....what would I say?  Thankfully I took some tips from him and it wasn't so hard after all.....and the kids?  They were amazing.  What an opportunity to serve together as a family.  To see my kids loving people they didn't know.....eager to help them....just because.  They are blessed with having a dad that is a great example of Christ's love.

    I guess this kind of turned into a build up my husband post....but really it's just's what I'm seeing as I reflect on life these days for us.....and while he's an amazing guy, these things are just evidence of Christ working in and through him.  If ever you see good in our lives, I can promise you we don't deserve the credit.  I'd rather not write a post about all of our shortcomings and the things I've said or done that are so not of God.....all of that comes from me.  How good is God that He allows us to be used by Him so that we can experience the joy and blessing that comes as a result?  My prayer, among many, for us these days, is that we will always say yes to those opportunities and that God will be given the glory He deserves. (Galatians 1:5)


Friday, June 16, 2017

The Princess Turns Two!

  We’re in birthday season at our house!  And because of that, Kyleigh has caught on to this whole deal pretty quickly.  Of course we always celebrate their birthdays, but I hadn’t planned on a party.  Meme and Pops and our family planned to sing happy birthday with some cupcakes….but Kyleigh had other plans.  We started talking to her about her fast approaching day….and she talked back.

  “Kyleigh, happy, me?....Meme come?  Pops come?  Daddy come?  Mommy come?  Caleb come?  Levi come?”  Yes of course Kyleigh, we will all be there, we love you….I truly couldn’t believe she understood enough to ask!  But she wasn’t done…..”Jordan come?  Alex come?.....”  Umm….yeah!  Sure!  I hope....!

   So our little family celebration turned into a mini family/neighborhood party J  It was so sweet.  She is just so precious…..and I have to say it…..I really can’t believe she’s already two!  As was expected, it’s felt even faster with number four.  There are so many differences with her than the others…..and with all of these older siblings, she has wanted to grow up so fast!  She does all she can to keep up with them.

   This little girl is so full of ready to experience and enjoy everything.  She loves to laugh and be play and climb.....she loves animals, especially dogs.....she loves to sing, usually requesting Old MacDonald or The Wheels on the Bus......she loves Paw Patrol and demands that all of the little toys sleep with her which always sends us on a wild goose chase fun adventure each night......she is strongly opinionated and lets you know it.....she adores her siblings.....she is such a daddy's girl, asking where he is each morning as soon as she wakes up.....she has an amazing imagination.....she brings so much joy to all of our lives and she is LOVED so very much.  She is such a gift.   

   I knew this years photo shoot would be a challenge.  It's pretty rare for this little one to stop moving, and even more so for me to catch her looking and smiling.  But we had so much fun running around the park with her (and even had friends join us this time which made it even more fun!) and capturing her adorable little personality.  

I started taking pictures on the opposite side, thinking she wouldn't see the horses across the way until we had made our way around for a while.  She saw the horses immediately and made a bee line for sweet to see how fascinated she was with them. 

Our little impromptu party later in the day......

Sweet Meme and Pops always making their days special.  So excited to have her own bike!

Me!  My cake!  I loved watching her excitement....I also was incredibly amused by how many times she thanked me.  "Happy, me....thank you mama."  (picking up container of plastic spoons) "spoons..thank you mama."  "birthday, me, thank you mama."  Over and over and over....

She loved her cupcakes....or maybe just the frosting...or maybe just the fact that the had paw patrol on them?  I'm fairly certain she took one or two bites out of about eight different cupcakes throughout the course of the night...

She hasn't quite mastered the concept of things being's actually an ongoing challenge....every time we go to the grocery store she somehow manages to chew through the package of at least one thing in the cart.....

Thank goodness....her Jordan came!  She was SO excited!  

And then again when Bailey showed up....she squealed and yelled his name.....

It was a beautiful night....and a really fun day altogether.....I think our little princess felt pretty loved and special!  
We did most of our celebrating yesterday because we're off on a fun trip for the weekend....but before we left we had to have a little more fun on the actual day :) 

This girl loves her donuts!! She was thrilled with the surprise :) 

She kept insisting these gifts were from Meme and Pops.....hey, all good things come from grandparents, right? Too funny. 

SO excited about some more paw Levi may actually get a chance to play with his!

Look! (her favorite word these days)

Finally, we went for her first Build a Bear experience.....she was mesmerized....and knew just what she wanted...and didn't want!  

She didn't understand why she had to take the frumpy looking Skye. "No, that one!"  She wanted the one already kid!

She was a bit reserved with all the jumping with the heart, rubbing the heart etc....I'm fairly certain she thought the lady was crazy.

She did NOT want anything to do with Skye's clothes.....woohoo, she's learning how to save money already! :)  

Oh how we love this precious little girl.  She is such a blessing!
Happy 2nd Birthday Kyleigh!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Our School Star!

About 7 weeks ago, Levi transitioned to a new bus, new teachers, new classmates.  While he seemed unfazed, I really struggled with the decision of whether to make the move now or wait until next school year.  In the end, it seemed best to have him settle in to his new classroom sooner rather than later.  My heart broke for him, as transitions like this usually come with several weeks (sometimes months) of difficulty as he tests everyone and everything all over again.  I felt like I was setting him up to struggle.  

I waited for the feedback.....the notes or calls about the extreme behaviors.  Instead, Levi came home with smiley faces next to most categories of the day.  Maybe an intermittent sad face, but overall.....a LOT of happy faces.  And he'd come off of the bus telling me "happy!"  

My heart explodes each time his teacher sends a message about how sweet Levi has been, or how hard he is much he fits right in, and how SMART he is!  He's made soooo much progress they'll say....and I am blown away by what he has accomplished in seven weeks, all while adjusting to so much newness!  We had the sweetest moment a week or so ago.....he came home and I asked him about his day....he doesn't usually tell me much.  It's hard.  I often don't understand.  It was his first field day....he SO wanted to share with me.  His teacher had sent pictures and even some videos via a classroom app, so I knew all about it.  And as he tried to share with me, I new exactly what he was talking about!  I could tell he was excited....and at one point he stopped and asked "you?!"  He wondered if I was there....because how on earth did I understand everything he had done?!  It wasn't just the pictures....those helped to clarify and helped me to ask more purposeful questions....but he was really able to express to me all that he had done.  It seems so small....but I doubt I'll forget it.  It was priceless.  

Each week, a student is chosen in each grade to be the school star.  I received a message from his teacher letting me know that she chose Levi, and it would be in the newspaper the following day.  She went on to explain why she had chose him.  It's not that his behavior is perfect....he needs his time outs here and there as a little re-set....but despite all of that, he has shown "perseverance and a willingness to do his best."  She talked about how most kids don't face school changes so late in the year and how he has handled it so well.  I love that she really sees Levi....she gets him....she enjoys working with him and celebrating his achievements.   I could not be more thankful for this that seemed to scary, and possibly wrong.  God knew what this sweet boy needed...and He could not have put him in a better place.  

We are SO proud of our little star!!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Happy 7th Birthday Caleb!

         Today, the boy who first made me a mama, turned seven years old!  What a blessing it is to be his mom...he is such a joy!  It always amazes me how much growth happens in one year.....

We took our annual photos today, stopping frequently to play and enjoy the absolutely beautiful weather.  As always, he was a complete ham...I just love his easy going, silly personality.  

Skipping rocks.....or in Kyleigh's case, dumping as many as possible into the water :) 

How is he this grown up?!

Always adventurous, he climbed up on this tower all on his own this time around.....finding caterpillars and great treasures as he explored....I love the joy he finds in the little things...

       As I look back on this year, I feel so proud of this sweet boy.  In moments where he could have been angry and resentful, he extended such love and grace.  The boy who really loves his stuff, jumped at the opportunity to give so much of it away to another little boy in need.  When he found out it was our sponsor child's birthday he started bringing things in to send him....and when I had to break it to him that we couldn't send anything that couldn't fit into the little envelope, he ran and emptied his piggy bank.  It is such a gift to be a part of watching him love and care about others.  He is still such a people doesn't matter where we go, he always finds a friend.  And when we leave, he'll tell me all about this new friend that he made and all of the fun they had together.  He truly enjoys his time with others.  Speaking of which, he thoroughly enjoyed celebrating his birthday this past weekend with a few friends.......

     He's entered the Lego stage, so he decided on that for his party theme....although he wanted the Animal Experiences guy to come again for the entertainment :)  This was by far one of the easiest themes to go with (if you ever have a Lego party, let me know, I have a few things that will make it so easy!).  

I used Lego molds for these chocolate legos and lego men...and also used them to make little crayons!  Super easy!

           Caleb actually helped quite a bit with his party prep....he's into "art projects" and coloring etc. a lot more lately, so it was cute to see his little personal touches.  He decided my Lego Pinata was lacking, so he added the word "lego" to each circle like the "real ones." :)

            One of the easiest...cheapest...and most fun parts of this party prep was that a lot of our time was spent just building with Legos!  We made 7's, his name, napkin holders...filled jars with Legos...
So much fun!

But as always, the best part is watching them enjoy it!  He was SO excited!

       I loved this's so Caleb.  He wanted a pinata so badly....he had talked about it for months.  We've never done them at any of the kids parties, we just never thought about it!  So he was set on it.....and here he stands, watching everyone frantically fill their bags.  I saw his later....there were a few things inside, but not much.  He didn't really care so much about the treats was just the whole experience.  The excitement of having one, making it, telling his friends what was inside, hanging it up...hitting it as hard as possible in anticipation....and then watching the excitement.

And then there was Kyleigh....totally unimpressed.  With everything.  Who decided to make this party at her exact nap time?  Seriously!!

I'm pretty sure he was just as excited about the mini water bottles as he was his bag from the pinata....he had specifically requested these for his party because they're perfect for water bottle flipping!! 

I love that he still loves animals so much.....every creature really....

Such a joy to watch him enjoy this special day.

It was the perfect day....beautiful weather, great friends and family, and a lot of fun.  I'm so thankful for days like this where we can stop and enjoy one another, and celebrate life.  

   I think we were all exhausted by the end of the day....Kyleigh fell asleep sitting up around 6 :)
        We love you so much Caleby!  You are so precious to us and we are so proud of you.  We thank God for you every day and hope you know how special and loved you are!