Fall 2013

Fall 2013

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Happy Days (or not)

Mark left the kids unsupervised for a few minutes yesterday and Maia found a nice red permanent marker. She proceeded to decorate several appliances, one of my figurines, quite a few walls, furniture, sheets, etc.

Here's the "happy" girl attempting to cleaning up the mess. :-)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Beauty from Ashes

I am proof that God can create beauty from ashes. Eight years ago today, life as I knew it changed forever. I got on the bus to ride to work that morning and talked with my husband along the way. He was driving home from his night shift job. He never made it. Another driver was going to fast for road conditions and lost control of her vehicle. Bob died almost immediately.
I remember sitting at my kitchen table later that day and saying through tears, "I am not going to let this destroy me." But, it nearly did. For the first couple months, I did all right. I went back to work after a couple of weeks. I continued my college courses. I went through the motions.
As time passed, things got worse instead of better. The emotional pain became unbearable and I did not want to go on any longer. I would drive home from school at night and think about driving my car off the bridge that I crossed. The darkness just did not end. I could truly understand the scripture in Romans 8:26 which states "the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." I no longer had words to express my grief and pain. All I could do was cry. Thankfully, I was surrounded by people who cared for me, loved me, and were praying for me. Without them, I would not be here today.
I realized that the only way things were going to get better was if I got some help. I talked with my health care provider and got medication both to help me sleep and relieve the depression.  I found a counselor, I prayed (and prayed and prayed). And slowly, the pain began to ease. I started to feel like there was a glimmer of hope, I began to smile again, I began to laugh, and I began to live again. I traveled, I did things that I never would have considered before.
A year after Bob's death, I went out on a date. I wasn't too sure about meeting this guy (he lived way too close to me if he proved to be a "weirdo"), but God reassured me that it was going to be ok. And by the end of that first evening, I knew that He was right. I didn't know if the relationship would amount to anything, but I decided that I liked this person enough to see him again (and again).
Ten months later, that guy (yes, Mark) and I got married. Over the past seven years, I have been blessed with love, laughter, and a beautiful relationship. My life has been blessed in ways that I never would have imagined eight years ago.
I have finished my master's degree and am working in the job God called me to as a young girl. I have two beautiful children, two adorable kitties, a comfortable home. Stability, love, and laughter have become the norm. I have a beautiful life. Only God! He has turned my weeping into joy and created beauty from a life that was truly ashes. I am blessed beyond compare.
For those of you who are struggling, who are discouraged, who feel that you can't go on, know that our Father cares. Even when you can't feel it, He is with you each step of the way, loving you, wanting to bless you. He is the one who can create beauty from ashes - even in circumstances that one can't imagine improving. I am proof!!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

It's Not About Me (or is it?)

These days, Mark and I remind ourselves that life is no longer about us. It's about the two precious kiddos who now call us "momma" and "daddy." We put their needs ahead of our own (yes, their needs - not necessarily their wants - much to their disappointment - lol). It's about making sure that their needs are met, that they are loved and cared for. It's no longer about me, right?
But, the truth of the matter is that the changes that adopting our kids have brought about IS about me. Why? Because, this is about God working in my life. He's stretching me, forcing me to be a little less self-centered, a little more patient, a lot more flexible. God's asking me to rethink my priorities - not just related to our kids, but about my life in general. I want to share more about that in the future, but I'm still sorting some of that out. Maybe it's what every parent goes through, I'm not sure. You'll have to let me know when I make those posts. But, let's just say that the prayer "Lord, break my heart with the things that break yours" is becoming more personal to me.

In the meantime, God is reminding me that my focus should always be on Him - in good times and not so good times. He's reminding me that this was HIS plan from the beginning of time, that HE knew I would be Matthew and Maia's mother. He's reminding me that HE is in control, that His plan is perfect. And that He sustains me. He's changing me day by day, bit by bit. So although life is really no longer about me, in a way it is.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Quick thanks!!

I LOVED seeing the comments I received yesterday and hearing what you are thankful for!! This is the first time I've had any response when I asked so it absolutely made my day!!

Hansina - Yes, He is an amazing God! And from what I know of your family, they are pretty amazing, too!!

Foley family - We were thrilled to meet you last week! It was fun to visit and we can't wait to hear more about your journey! I love the way God has brought people into our lives that we probably wouldn't have met if it wasn't for our two sweet kiddos.

Carolyn - I am praying for your family and the study that your boys are in. So glad that you are seeing benefits from it!!

Happy Friday everyone! I can't wait until next week to see what you're thankful for!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Although I am making a conscious choice to be thankful every day, today is my day to make note of the things that I am thankful for. So here's my picks for this Thursday.
  • Oliver - my new kitty is fitting in well to our household. He spent the last two days at the vet (getting declawed) and came home yesterday. Even though he is uncomfortable, his personality remains sweet and loving. He continues to be tolerant of the kids (who are trying to be very careful of the "owies") and crawled up to cuddle with me as I was having my devotional time this morning.
  • My wonderful hubby who tolerates my love for cats and allows me to have them in the house - in spite of having allergies to them. There are so many reasons I love Mark, but today that's at the top of my list!
  • Oh... that reminds me of another reason I love my hubby and am thankful for him. We were discussing a political candidate the other day and I asked Mark what he thought of this person. He told me that he was not in favor of this individual because of the candidate's lack of respect for the sanctity of marriage. God has truly blessed me with this husband who takes his commitment to our vows seriously!
  • A job that I enjoy and where I can make a difference in the lives of the elderly. This has been my dream since I was a young girl. I didn't know how I was going to work with our aging population, but I knew that was where God was calling me.
  • I serve a heavenly Father who is constant, unchanging, ever-faithful, forgiving, and loving. When life seems chaotic and out of control, I can count on the fact that He is steadfast.

What are you thankful for today? I would love to hear!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Adding to the family

Got your attention, didn't I??  Well, it's not nearly as exciting as it sounds. But, we are trying to add a kitty again.  I'm optimistic that this cute guy may be a better fit. He's an adorable 8 month old Maine Coon. Meet Oliver Sheldon Kittycat (I know... poor guy). And yep - the Sheldon is for Sheldon Co*per of one of my favorite shows B*g Bang Theory. For any of you die-hard fans out there, he does look a little like "Zazzles" - one of Sheldon's cats, but somehow, Oliver seems to fit a whole lot better. He just isn't that "zazzly" - lol! However, he IS a love bug and is very tolerant of the kiddos' joy in having him home.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Yep  - be impressed! Two thankful Thursdays in a row. God has blessed us with so much and I really want to more thoughtful about maintaining an attitude of gratitide.
  • "Date" night - last night, Mark and I were able to attend a dinner/presentation sponsored by one of the local churches. The topic was how men and women communicate differently and gave some tips for how we can improve our relationships by honoring those differences. Mark says it wasn't really a date, but since we were out of the house without the kids - I think it counts!
  • My friend Del - she was kind enough to watch the kids for us last night. They were excited to see her and loved spending time together.
  • Meeting new friends - a couple came up to us after dinner last night and introduced themselves. The Foleys had seen our blog and recognized us. They are just beginning the process to bring home a sweetie from Ethiopia. Although we didn't get to visit as long as I would have liked, it was fun to meet them. I love how God is connecting us with other adoptive families.
  • Provision - God is slowly changing my attitude. I am seeing that provision doesn't necessarily mean I will get everything I want. But, God definitely provides me with everything I need. His provision is more than enough!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Thank you and clarification

First, let me say thanks to everyone who has written such kind comments in response to my recent post. It helps to know that there are people out there who understand where I'm coming from. Which brings me to my clarification.

Children all need love, nurturing, discipline, boundaries, etc. Doesn't matter whether they were born in a parent's heart or birthed by that parent. What is different for us (and other families who have adopted children from foster care, orphanages, institutions) is that some of those traditional parenting techniques don't work. Children who are raised in a healthy, nurturing environment develop those bonds of love and trust with their parents from day 1. "Typical" parenting methods are more likely to be successful with them. While our kids are doing amazing, we do see some behaviors which can be attributed to their pre-adoption lives. And this is where Mark and I are trying to learn how to parent them effectively - giving them the attention, affection, love, nurturing, etc. that they need while not allowing them to control the household. It is exhausting at times. At this point, I'm still trying to decide how much of this part of our journey to share publicly. If there are others out there who can benefit from what we're learning, that would be wonderful! On the other hand, I also want to respect the privacy of my children.

Anyway to clarify - I don't love my children any less because I didn't give birth to them, but I do have to parent them based on their past experiences and needs. And I will continue to give my all to help them be their very best!!

BTW - Jes, we saw Mad*gascar. :-)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Another first

Matthew's pre-school is taking a field trip to the movies this week. We decided that we should probably make the trip with him first so that he would know what to expect. So yesterday, the four of us went to the movies. One of the local movie theaters has a free Saturday morning matinee which is usually a movie which came out several years ago. I figured that if we had to leave for any reason, then we wouldn't be out the cost of the show - which if you've been to the movies lately you know isn't cheap.
Matthew loved the show and loved the candy which daddy shared with him. Maia loved the popcorn that she and I shared. And she really did pretty well - not getting bored until about 15 minutes before the end. I guess it's safe to say that I worried for nothing. But since I have to work on the day of Matthew's field trip, I'm glad that I got to be there for his first movie!!

And a little funny from him... we went to one of our favorite restaurants for lunch after the movie. I was praising Matthew for how well he had eaten (we are finallly starting to see a little progress in this area) and he looked at me with this big self-assured grin and said "I know!" The couple sitting at the table next to us almost fell off their chairs laughing and so did I.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

"You asked for this"

That's a comment I have heard a couple of times since we have been home. It's been made after people have asked me how things are going and I reply truthfully, "Well, I don't go anyplace quickly anymore and grocery shopping with two kids is a challenge" or "It's wild times at our house" or something along those lines. My response is not meant to elicit sympathy from the other person. It IS an acknowledgement of how much our life has changed in the past 13 months.

Some of the change is no different than any new parent experiences. Sleep deprivation, redefining our relationship as husband and wife to now include momma and daddy, wishing we had more time for each other (our friends, our hobbies, etc.), trying to juggle work and other comitments with family time. All of those adjustments come with the territory.

Yes, we managed to bypass the every two hour feedings, colic, all the newborn stuff. And there are definitely moments when I am every so grateful for that. In exchange, we parent one child who had never known life outside of an orphange (so had no concept of what a family even was) and another child who spent the first half of life in a "family" environment that no child should ever have to experience before spending the second half of pre-adoption life in the orphanage.

Consider how important those first few years of life are for a child - the nurturing, love, bonding that takes place with their parents, the stimulation and normal developmental tasks that go along with what we consider "typical" childhood. Orphanage and institution childhood is not typical.

Our kids came home without those essential pieces of the puzzle. That may seem surprising because things appear so "normal." Our parenting methods may seem contradictory to how one would parent the child they gave birth to. It is because we are not parenting children we gave birth to. Our methods need to be a little different. And yes, we are still learning and we are FAR from perfect (well, I guess I should say I am and not speak for Mark - lol!). But are kids are also learning...what it means to be part of a family, how to give and receive love, to treat others with kindness, to just be kids!! 

So when I am asked how things are going and I don't say, "PERFECT!" or I seem exhausted or overwhelmed, I'm not trying to play the martyr or make anyone feel sorry for me. I just hope for a little understanding and empathy as I figure out this parenthood stuff.  For those who say "You asked for this" - you are absolutely correct! Mark and I did ask for "this" and we would ask for "this" again without hesitation. God chose us to be Matthew and Maia's parents and we are blessed by these gifts from Him!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thankful Thursday

It's been a while since I have written a thankful Thursday post. Part of me doesn't really feel like it. My heart is heavy tonight, heavy with losses - not ones that affect me personally per se. One of my co-workers' father passed away unexpectedly early this morning. One of my father-in-law's close friends died unexpectedly of a heart attack today. One of Mark's former co-workers lost his 13 year old daughter to a brain tumor this past week. A couple of my favorite patients have died in the last two weeks. My heart aches for all who are affected by the loss of loved ones.
And yet in spite of this heaviness, I am reminded that God asks us to thank Him "in all things." That doesn't mean to thank Him for only the good things in our lives, only the happy moments. It doesn't mean to thank Him when we feel like it. It means we should thank Him at all times, even when we are in the midst of grief. God is present even in life's toughest moments. And we can be thankful that He never leaves us. His promises are perfect! And His plan is perfect!! Someday, we will be able to see the bigger picture and say, "Ok... I get it now, God." But in the meantime, we have to trust that He knows what He is doing - a whole lot better than we do.
So, I am making a conscious choice to be thankful. What am I thankful for??
  • Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that I am thankful for all of the families who are in the process of adopting. Especially those that are bringing home their kiddos from Ukraine (only because a piece of my heart is there).
  • I am thankful for safety. Winter finally decided to show it's face and the roads coming home from work yesterday as well as going to/from work today were not pleasant. Thanks to God for keeping me safe as I drive.
  • Health... Our household has pretty much had every variation of the respiratory bug possible this season. Over the past couple months, I don't think we have went more than a few days without at least one of us being sick. Maia has got conjunctivitis right now (poor girl). And yet in the scheme of things, we are all generally healthy. Colds are pretty minor issues compared to what some people endure.
  • God - I am thankful that He wants a relationship with me (and each one of you). That the more I seek Him out, the more closely He draws me to Him. I am so imperfect and I fail miserably in many areas of my life. Yet I have a God who forgives my shortcomings and who claims me as His child! A God who willingly gave His son so that I might have eternal life. A God whose love is unconditional and unfailing. I am blessed beyond measure!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Down Syndrome Awareness

Check out this video - I hope it touches your heart like it touched mine!!

Missing Ukraine?

When we left Ukraine with Maia, I said I would never go back. Travelling to a foreign country and staying in a city where no one except our wonderful Olga spoke English was extremely difficult. We met 2-3 individuals who knew a few words of English, but that was it. I remember how isolated and vulnerable I felt. I was so happy to be going home. Arriving back in the States, I seriously think I could have kissed people who spoke in my language.
Six months later, we were back in Ukraine and it was so much easier the second time around. We knew the routine, what to expect, where to go. Plus we had the added benefit of the Allens and Mikschls sharing our adoption journey. Seeing Vitaly, Alex, Olga and others we had met during Maia's adoption again was a little like coming home. Although the weather was warmer than I would choose, I actually enjoyed our second trip to Ukraine. And leaving Sevastopol after Matthew's adoption was bittersweet. Again, I was looking forward to being in familiar surroundings and seeing family/friends. But, saying good-bye to our dear friends was sad - knowing that the likelihood of us seeing them again here on earth is unlikely.
Over the past six months, there have been moments when I have truly longed for the Ukraine. Some of that is related to the different pace that we were able to lead there. Our life was a lot simpler. While there was stress, it was not the same stress we have here at home. I've longed to see the friends that we met during our trips. Right now, I am in contact with two families that are in the process of bringing home their little ones from Ukraine and I have to say that I am a bit envious. So since I can't go back (at least not any time soon), come with me on a walk down memory lane. I'll share some pictures you've seen before as well as some ones that are new to the blog. I can't wait to reminsce about a few of those wonderful days.

Our third night in Kyiv - having dinner with the Birschbaughs and Hannons. How cool is it that we all returned to Ukraine on a second trip to bring home more kiddos? I just love how God works!

The cathedral next door to the SDA

Shops outside the SDA

Our first official visit with Maia


Khersonnes - Greek ruins

The Khan's palace in Bakhchisarai

Russian Orthodox church on Christmas Eve day 2010

Olga looking out at the Black Sea - Christmas Eve Day 2010

Black Sea - Christmas Eve Day 2010

Detsky Dom Christmas Day 2010

Celebrating Gotcha Day with Olga and Vitaly

Farewell to Ukraine (well, that's what we thought at the time)

And back again, finally that sweet boy is in my arms!!

Lunch on the deck of our apartment in Sevastopol

The Allens, Mickschls, and us - enjoying dinner before the Allens head home with their Annie.

Maia, Matthew, Dasha (a cute little girl who was adopted by a Ukrainian couple about two years ago - they were adopting a little boy and visited him every day at about the same time we were there. She loved Matthew - can't say I blame her!)

Maia - NOT enjoying the ride at an indoor amusement park

Beautiful tree at Alupinsky castle and park

Vitaly and me at the Botanical Gardens

 Pool at the Botanical Gardens

Matthew's Gotcha Day!!

Absence does make the heart grow fonder. But yes, there are definitely things I don't miss about Ukraine. Crazy driving, lack of air conditioning, and most of all - toilet facilities (or lack thereof)!
Thanks for coming along for the ride.  

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy Birthday sweet girl!

Today is Maia's birthday! She's had two celebrations - yesterday with Grandmama and Grandpa Jerry.

I sure love my new baby doll!

Today, Matthew and I made Maia a birthday cake.

And we took that over to Nana and Papa's for the second celebration.

Blowing out the candles. I got one the first time and the rest on my second try. Pretty good, huh? I didn't even practice!

Lovin' my cake and ice cream!

 Happy birthday to our beautiful Maia! We are so blessed that God chose us to be your forever family! Can't wait to see what the next year has in store for you! You are a beautiful, cherised daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin. We love you so much!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Eve 2010 and 2011

New Year's Eve 2010 was our first day at home with Maia. Here is the difference a year makes.
She's the same and yet so different!!