Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Friends and Family

For those of you who did not receive our Christmas card, here is a summary of 2011 for our family.  If you did not receive a card, I likely do not have your address or was unsure if you have moved or not, so I didn't send one.  You can inbox me your address and I will be happy to send one to you.

I am aware of all the typing errors and redundant words.   However, I wrote this letter in about 20 minutes as it needed to go out in the mail before the madness began and we traveled for the holidays.  In my defense, Tim and Katie (may or may not have) read this letter before I mailed it and they both said it "looked good." My apologies. By the way, we had these portraits taken by a good friend (thank you, Michelle Barnett) in Pinehurst back in November. 

December 2011
Dear Friends and Family,                                                                                                            

What an exciting year this has been!  It was full of ups and downs and so many blessings!  We are pleased to announce we welcomed our precious Brandon Sergey into our family forever on May 5, 2011!  What a wonderful child God has blessed us with.  He is a handsome, blond-haired 11-year-old boy who is happy, loving, kind and very athletic.  Those of you who do not follow my Facebook are probably surprised that we do not have 2 boys, Maxim and Roman, who we announced we would be adopting last Christmas.  The condensed version of the story is we met the boys at the end of March and both boys did not want to be adopted.  They felt they were better off at the orphanage. So, brokenhearted, we traveled back to the capital of Ukraine where God led us to Brandon from the numerous other available boys in Ukraine.  Though it was heartbreaking to experience a failed adoption, looking back we can clearly see God’s hand in the whole situation. 

Tim is still working as a Senior Network Engineer at L-3 Communications.  He very much enjoys what he does.  He travels several times a year all over the world and within the States and enjoys that.  He very much enjoys having another man in the house to play sports with and video games.  It is so much fun to see the 2 of them wrestling and teasing back and forth about who is stronger or manlier.

I stay busy working at the church and academy as the Business Manager.  I oversee the finances of the church and academy and more recently I’ve begun to oversee the church’s Cafè & Bookstore.  I enjoy this job a lot.  It has stretched me, but I very much enjoy learning and growing while serving in the capacities that I’m needed in the ministry.  I am beginning my 3rd year of instructing Personal Finance online at the University of Phoenix which I absolutely love and feel privileged to have such an opportunity.

Brandon is 11 this year.  He came home from Ukraine on May 14th and has grown 2 ½ inches already. His English is coming along quite well. I would say he can speak as well as a 5-year-old American child in only 7 months!  He played soccer this fall and did an excellent job.  In fact, he scored all of the goals for his team for the year except 3 goals.  This winter he’s involved with basketball clinics and loves every minute of this new sport.  Since he’s been home he’s learned to ride a bike, hit a baseball, throw a football, swim, rollerblade, play basketball and play Frisbee golf.  He thoroughly loves being part of a family and is adjusting very well.

Katie is 10 and began her 5th year of piano after taking an 8 month hiatus from it.  The break was the best thing for her because she came back to it enthusiastic and loves to practice and attend her lessons.  She made the A Honor roll her first semester of 5th grade.  She’s joined the Art Club at school and is doing very well. Katie and Brandon are very close to one another and both enjoy building forts, designing new “inventions” and drawing together.   Katie was baptized this past March.  She is really growing to love the Lord more every day and we can see evidence of this growth in her life. 

 Kylie is 8 and in 3rd grade.  She is really coming out of her shell.  She’s made several new friends, especially a new girl she plays with daily in our neighborhood.  She’s our gifted little diver and a very strong swimmer.  Last month she began her orthodontist journey.  She has a whole mouth full of metal gear on now in preparation for the braces she will receive in a few years.  She is a sport through it all as I’m sure it is very uncomfortable for her.  She fills her time with playing with Haley and her special neighborhood friend. 

Haley is 6 and in 1st grade.  She made the A Honor roll her first semester.  She continues to be our little social butterfly.  She’s generally a friend to everyone, but her best friend is Kylie. She’s our naturally poised and ladylike little daughter.  This Christmas she is missing her 1st little bottom tooth and is very proud to finally have her gap in her mouth like all the other 1st graders.  This little gap certainly doesn’t get in the way of her whistling or her singing at all! 

We trust all of you are doing well.   We have heard from some of you and are anxious to hear from all of you this Christmas.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year as well.

 Love, Tim, Carinda, Brandon, Katie, Kylie and Haley

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Elementary Christmas Program

This year we almost missed out on a blessing.  Earlier in the year we pulled Brandon from his music elective so he could be tutored in the core subjects he’s struggling in.  About a month ago Brandon would come home each week and something was clearly bothering him.  When I asked him what was wrong he said, “Why can I not go to music? I want to go sing.”  Well, who said only girls change their mind anyway???????  Earlier this year he said he did not like music or singing and would rather be tutored. 

Lookin' sharp, my son!
Anyway, I told him I would talk with his teacher.  It turns out he joined music class in just enough time to participate in the Elementary Christmas Program and it was absolutely beautiful.  I was beaming with pride and gratitude for those 4 beautiful children!  They all sang their hearts out songs about the true meaning of Christmas.  

For unto us is born this day in the city of David a SAVIOR which is CHRIST our LORD!

 It was surreal seeing Brandon sing.  My heart fluttered as he was looking down at us and was not ashamed or embarrassed to smile at his Pops and Mama.   I kept thinking that his Babushka would have eyes full of tears if she could see him shining now!  I am definitely sending her these pictures real soon.  When I asked him if he thought we should send a gift to her he said “Yes, we (should )send her a picture book.”  He evidently had already thought about this before I even asked him about sending a gift.  He wants to send her an album to put in all the pictures we have been sending her these last 7 months. I think that was a thoughtful idea.  We will go out tomorrow to buy her this gift to mail!

They don't come much cuter than these! 

Getting the line up photo before the program

The Elementary Choir

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Nutcracker

Our normal family tradition is to set up the Christmas tree in the evening, listen to Christmas music, sip hot cocoa, eat popcorn and bake (burn) Christmas cookies.   This year was an extra special time of decorating our tree because it is Brandon’s first Christmas. 

He was so interested in being right in the middle of everything.   He enthusiastically hauled all the boxes downstairs from the attic with Daddy.  He helped assemble the tree.  I do not think that Brandon has ever decorated a tree or even seen an artificial Christmas tree.  He took the time to examine every last ornament that was placed on the tree.  His favorite ornament of the night was a nutcracker that Tim has had since he was a boy.  The wooden nutcracker’s back was broken and it really bothered Brandon.  He wanted it fixed and he wanted the nutcracker’s arms and legs to move like they are supposed to.  He wanted to put the back on it so it could hang on the tree with the other worthy ornaments.  He dug through the box of many other old ornaments that were broken as well.  He eventually found the missing, broken piece to the nutcracker and he and I glued it back together.  When all of its limbs could properly move again, the look of satisfaction on his face was priceless!  The laughter that came from his lips was priceless!!

These little things are the things that you and I take for granted, I’m afraid.  I have not once looked in detail at the lights on our tree, or taken the time to look at all of Tim’s ornaments he’s had since he was a baby.  I honestly, in 14 years of pulling out many of these ornaments, never even noticed the nutcracker.  Since I didn’t even know it existed, that broken ornament has definitely never actually made it on to the tree.  Every year we kind of just throw everything together, enjoy our family time, (burn some cookies), eat some treats, snap some photos and call it a day.

I mentioned in previous posts that I really have learned so much from Brandon about being content, about enjoying the moments together as a family, about being joyful with everything (even hauling boxes and cleaning up Christmas junk), but this Christmas I’ve learned more about seeing everything through a new set of eyes.  To him, that broken, wooden piece of junk was beautiful.  It was worthy of finding and caring for and hanging on the tree.   If you could see the way he looked at it and held it, the nutcracker was SO precious to him.

This nutcracker makes me think of my boy.  Last Christmas he was just some broken, dirty child sitting with all the other broken, dirty children in an orphanage that no one ever really noticed.  He’s a child that was broken, but PRAISE THE LORD we found him and are caring for him and we’re working on putting back all the broken pieces of his life.  He’s thriving and growing and he’s together with us AT LAST hanging ornaments on our tree THIS YEAR.  And he’s SO precious to us.  Do you think God has a look of satisfaction on His face?  Does laughter come from His lips when He sees Brandon complete?
Ecclesiastes 3:11 “And God has made everything beautiful in His time.”

Oh, how I wish ALL of the precious, broken, dirty  orphaned children would find a home.  They are so worthy of a family. What joy they would bring to a family!  I know because I met 20 or more and played with them for 2 weeks. Please pray for the little orphaned children.  Pray for more willing families to open up their homes.  If more people could just see these children and hold them, I know they would be SO precious to them as well!
Brandon discovering the nutcracker

Carrying the boxes down from the attic

Papa's wingman, helping set up the tree

Brandon and "Bee" showing off some ornaments

Putting his first ornament up on his first Christmas

I love this boy's thick head of blond hair that was shaved off for years in the orphanage!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Season

It’s easy this time of year to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas.   Actually, it’s easy to get wrapped up in life in general outside every day of the year.  It’s easy to set goals for ourselves and for our children.  We set goals financially, and academically and behaviorally.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting your life to look a certain way and nothing at all wrong with having ambition.  But sometimes I think our hoping and planning and dreaming gets in the way of what our focus should be.  We are guilty of being upside-down in our priorities.  Our focus should be on Christ first and on loving others second (Matthew 22:37-40).  My challenge this year is to think outside of ourselves and our own families and think of others.  All throughout the Gospels (ie. Matthew 9:36, Matthew 20:34 and Mark 1:41), we read that Jesus Christ was “moved to compassion.”  Christ was moved to compassion when he saw lost people.  He was moved to compassion when he saw sick people.   So I’d like to ask, what moves you personally to compassion?

I think of people around the world.  I think of the millions of people in the Third World countries who are hungry, poor or sick.  I think of the people who live every day of their lives in fear because of war.  I think of battered women and children in America and all over the world.  I think of the lonely—those who lost a loved one to death,  those who lost a loved one to divorce or those who desire to be married and have not found a spouse yet.  Ithink of the military families where one or more parents are far away from the family at Christmas.  I think of the orphans who have no family and no home to call their own.  These children go to bed night after night wondering, “Does anyone care? Does anyone love me?” I think of those who are hurting—often times these people hurt for years and do not ever tell a soul they are hurting.     I think of the lost people—those who know there is more to this life, but can’t find their way to Christ.  I pray this year they will find their peace and comfort in Him because outside of Christ there is no hope.  I pray that the few “bad apples” in Christianity who have hurt them, disappointed them or betrayed them have not caused their hearts to become so bitter that they can never see Truth. 

Some of us need to open our eyes and wake up.  We need to allow our hearts to get stirred and move and shed some tears on behalf of others.  The Bible says that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh,  a time to embrace one another and a time to not embrace (Ecclesiastes 3).  There is also a time to pray for others (Romans 14:5, Galatians 6:2 and James 5:16).  Let’s look outside our privileged lives more and think of others more and pray for others more.  We need to turn our backs on the needy LESS and give to others MORE.  We need Christ’s compassion inside of us—especially during the Christmas Season.  God bless. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Recap on the November Thankful Challenge

November Facebook Thankful Challenge:

Day 1: I'm thankful that God sent His Son!

Day 2: I am thankful for my godly husband. We were so young when we got married and we've had so much fun together "growing up." He's a great husband, father and son. I'm so blessed to have my handsome man!  I love you dearly, Tim.

Day 3: I'm thankful I was born in America. Traveling to other countries like Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Ukraine has really opened my eyes to how the rest of the world lives. It has given me a whole new outlook on being wise stewards of what God has blessed us with.  It has made me grateful for the modern conveniences we enjoy.

Day 4: I'm thankful for my son Brandon. I'm thankful for the awesome calling from God to raise him. Brandon has been through a lot more in his 11 yrs than most adults and yet he is always smiling and happy. He's helpful, handsome, sweet, affectionate, funny, smart, content and loyal. I love you, Brandon!!

Day 5: I am thankful for my Katie Bug. She's a beautiful, smart, funny, enthusiastic, determined and talented girl. She's not afraid to do right when everyone else around her is doing wrong. She always tells the truth. She's very much my helper. She has wonderful leadership qualities for only being 10. I love you, Katie!!!

Day 6: Today I am thankful for my Kylie girl. She is beautiful, loving and kind. Her greatest quality is her gift of compassion. She has the wonderful ability to see a need and meet the need without even being told there is a need. The world needs more selfless Kylie's!! I love you sweet, girl!!

Day 7: Today I am thankful for my little Haley "Bee.". She is my beautiful, smart, giggly, fun, affectionate, go-with-the-flow, lady-like girlie girl!! She is also compassionate and is by your side if you are hurting. As the youngest, she holds her own and watch out because she's full of tease! I love you, Haley Alissa!!

Day 8: I am thankful for the opportunity to be a University instructor. I get to meet a lot of neat people and learn along with my students.

Day 9: Today I am thankful for good health. I'm thankful all 6 of us are healthy and strong. I never thought much about it before Facebook. Now I read about daily struggles of children and friends and I do not take for granted good health. Thank you, Lord for my healthy family.

Day 10: Today I am thankful for the Academy our 4 children attend. We have the top educators in the country! I'm so thankful they reinforce what we are teaching our children from our home regarding God, the Bible and absolute right and wrong.

Day 11: Today I am thankful for all of our Veterans. All 3 of my brothers (in laws) and 1 sister (in law) are currently serving in the Air Force. Tim also served in the Air Force 8 years. I'm thankful for the sacrifices they and their families make to serve our nation.

Day 12: I'm thankful for my church. We love the smaller atmosphere and warmth of the 8:30 service. We love the unwavering preaching and teaching of God's Word. We love our friends there. We love to serve where we can. And we love the music.

Day 13: I am thankful Tim has his "dream job." I love that he loves what he does and at the same time he loves providing for his family. He takes great care of us all!!

Day 14: Today I am thankful for my parents. I'm sure during my teen years I caused them to pray often. ;) However, they never once wavered from their standards and therefore I lived up to them. Love you guys!

Day 15: Today I am thankful Brandon has been home for 6 months. I'm thankful for all he has learned and how well he has adjusted to his new life. I'm thankful for everyone who has worked with him since he's been home.

Day 16: Today I am thankful for Tim’s side of the family.  I get an extra set of godly parents who I’ve learned so much from over the last 14 years. I get to have 2 brothers and 2 sisters, 3 nieces and a nephew.  I get aunts and uncles and cousins. I get 1 Fadie and 2 Grammie’s. And many friends of the Kerr side that are very much like family.  You know who you are! I love all of you! 

Day 17: Today I am thankful for my sister, her husband and my nephew and niece.  I love you guys!

Day 18: Today I am thankful for payday!  In an economy where jobs are unstable, it is a blessing to faithfully get paid and to be able to pay all our bills on time.

Day 19: Today I am thankful beyond words for my friend Anya.  She spent almost 3 hours today translating Brandon’s Russian/Ukrainian documents for me.  It is neat because I was able to get a lot of answers to some of the various questions I’ve had.  She was able to communiate with Brandon when he first arrived in the US and she's also translated several letters from Brandon's "babushka."

Day 20: Today I am thankful for the pastors at Berean.  Pastor Sean, Dr. Wilson, Pastor Dwayne, Pastor Dave, Pastor Bill, Pastor Jonathan and Pastor Cliff do so much behind the scenes with prayer and service to their “flock” which most people are not even aware of.  They love what they do and they give 100% every day.  Thanks guys!

Day 21: Today I am thankful for hugs.  It’s early in the morning and already I have been hugged 9 times: 6 times by Brandon and 1 time each by Katie, Kylie and Haley.  I’m sure I will get many more hugs as the day goes by.  I am so blessed!

Day 22: Today I am thankful Tim is finally home.  He travels often and I am thankful for God’s provision over the many places he’s been.  I’m thankful he enjoys traveling.  I’m thankful for my children who keep me company and (for the most part) are such great helpers while he’s gone.

Day 23: Today I am thankful for the next 5 days off work. I am very much looking forward with the time spent with family and friends.

Day 24: Today I am thankful for Thanksgiving food and am thankful Tim’s parents could be here for Thanksgiving.  I’m thankful for the abundance of food we have in America.  Mostly I am thankful my Mother-in-law cooked most of it!  I'm thankful for our friends that came to spend it with us as well.

Day 25: I am thankful to NOT be out shopping today! Online shopping with free shipping works for me!

Day 26: I'm thankful I get to go on a hot date with my hubby! :-) (Thanks for watching the crazies, Mom and Dad K).

Day 27: Today I am thankful for my home.  It meets all of our needs perfectly and we have so many wonderful memories here already.  We’ve housed family and friends and precious missionaries in the 5 years that we’ve lived here.  It’s kept us safe during tornadoes and warm/dry during storms.  I feel so blessed with our precious grey house.

Day 28:  Today I am thankful for my job(s) at Berean.  I hardly can call what I do “work” because I love it so much.  I enjoy working in a Christian atmosphere and I love that I work right across the street from my 4 children.  I have been able to be there countless times with forgotten lunches, special classroom parties or when they get sick or injured during the day.  My job helps provide the means to send all of our children to one of the best Bible believing schools in America!

Day 29: Today I am thankful for Facebook. Even though it drives me crazy with the format changing all the time and some of the drama that goes on, I am thankful I get to keep in touch with friends all over the world through it. It brightens my day to see recent photos of my friends and their children!

Day 30: On this final day of November I am thankful for the November Thankful Challenge. It helped me see all the many things God has blessed me with and remember to give thanks for them all month. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Is Adoption God's "Plan B?"

I love to read pretty much anything.  I like to read books, articles, online journals, the news and blogs.  I especially like to read adoption blogs.  I find it very encouraging to read about other experiences of those who are basically in the same boat as we are.  I recently stumbled across a specific blog that I’ve posted below. I usually agree with what this author says and usually laugh hysterically while I read as well.  The author is a very descriptive and gifted writer.  In one particular post the author was giving “do’s and don’ts” for those who interact with those who have just adopted.  The author was very candid about what bothers us who have adopted that people say or do to us or our children and also gave tips about what we do need after we’ve recently adopted.  This last post I read recently, though, caught my attention and I thought I’d post a bit of what was said.  I’d love to know what you guys think about this and if you agree or disagree with what was said.  Anyway, here’s part of what was written:

***If we’ve adopted older kids, please do not ask them if they “love America so much” or are “so happy to live in Texas.” It’s this simple: adoption is born from horrible loss. In an ideal world, there would be no adoption, because our children would be with their birth families, the way God intended. I’ll not win any points here, but I bristle when people say, “Our adopted child was chosen for us by God before the beginning of time.” No he wasn’t. He was destined for his birth family. God did not create these kids to belong to us. He didn’t decide that they should be born into poverty or disease or abandonment or abuse and despair all so they could finally make it into our homes, where God intended them to be. No. We are a very distant Plan B. Children are meant for their birth families, same as my biological kids were meant for mine. Adoption is one possible answer to a very real tragedy… after it has already happened, not before as the impetus for abandonment. There is genuine grief and sorrow when your biological family is disrupted by death and poverty, and our kids have endured all this and more. So when you ask my 8-year-old if he is thrilled to be in Texas, please understand that he is not. He misses his country, his language, his food, his family. Our kids came to us in the throes of grief, as well they should. Please don’t make them smile and lie to you about how happy they are to be here.*** (

In response to this post my initial thoughts were that Tim and I are NOT a “very distant Plan B” for Brandon’s life.  I believe God is Sovereign.  Brandon was created by God and for God.  God was not surprised at all that Brandon was born into poverty, disease or abandonment.  He was born in those conditions because his parents (and the family lineage) were sinners, like all of humankind is. 

Unfortunately the reality is we do live in a fallen world, and I believe the Bible teaches that God's eye is on every circumstance, even the unpleasant or tragic ones. Does the author of this blog truly believe that God’s purpose is to constantly struggle to come up with Plan B’s to humanity’s “mess ups?”  That sounds like a very weak god to me.  I want no part in a god that is caught off guard or a god who simply lives to meet the needs of humankind.  That is quite backwards.  We were created to serve Him.  His name should be glorified by our lives. 

This may be shocking to some readers, but consider that it was God’s perfect will—Dare I say, consider it was God’s Plan A for us to adopt Brandon so that God’s name might be glorified through an unfortunate circumstance? I think of the strength and character that Brandon  has as a result of his past.  I think of the compassion he has for others as a result of his past.  I think of the wisdom beyond his 11 years of age as a result of his past.  Most importantly, I’m praying it was God’s means to bring Brandon to America so that he might hear the Gospel, one day repent of his sins and serve the One, True God all the rest of his life.   

Who are we to say that God’s Plan A should have been this or that?  I could argue that it was God’s Plan A for my first born child (who is Katie) to have been a boy.  God messed up and gave me Plan B, a girl.  Or God’s Plan A should have been that Brandon’s parents in Ukraine would have had a lot of money and could have cared for him.  But I guess God was not powerful enough to ensure adequate finances for his parents in Ukraine, so Plan B was that we swept in from America and rescued the poor, orphan boy.   

The Bible states that His ways are way higher than our ways, that no human can know the mind of God perfectly, that what man sees as evil, God intends to work that of good.....So while I can't even adequately begin to explain why God would use terrible circumstances to accomplish His purposes, He does and he will accomplish His purpose in our son's life!  

The Bible has examples of this all through the Old Testament.  Look at Job, Joseph, Moses, Abraham, David and many other examples.  In the New Testament there are the lepers, the blind, the deaf, the dumb that Jesus Christ healed. Paul alone is a great example of God using circumstances to accomplish His purpose. God’s power, grace and love are proven in each of these examples. If we truly know God’s word, it will begin to affect our worldview and it should help us to see God's sovereignty and power more completely.

In short, I believe God absolutely chose Brandon to be part of our family before the foundation of the world.  Brandon was fearfully and wonderfully made.  Nothing about his existence or his past circumstances caught God off guard or caused Him to need to come up with a "backup plan." I can’t wait to see how God is going to work out His perfect “Plan A” in Brandon’s life or in our lives because of Brandon.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Baby's First Christmas

(Sniffling).  Oh, how I wish I could have held this sweet, baby boy on his first Christmas.  Oh, how I wish I could have held him AT ALL as a baby!  I wish I could have rocked him and kissed him and fed him his bottle.  I wish I could have cared from him since birth. (sigh). However, I am SO thankful that his grandmother blessed me with this picture of him as a baby.  I'm not sure how old he is in this photo, but it's safe to say he is less than a year. I recognize that it's so rare for families who adopt older children to be able to have any photos of their child before the day they met them.  So you can imagine how precious this is to me.

Yesterday I was looking all over the mall and at Hallmark for a baby boy's first Christmas ornament for his little box of ornaments I'm working on, but all of them said "Baby's 1st Christmas 2011."  Well, his first Christmas wasn't in 2011.  It was in 2000.  So, thankfully I found a vendor in a booth in the middle of the mall that had this adorable, baby boy ornament and I could put anything I wanted on it.  It's now one of my favorite treasures!

Oh, and I'm thankful to have my boy NOW.  I love him so dearly! And forever he'll always be my sweet, baby boy!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

6 Months Home

It’s hard to believe how quickly the last 6 months that Brandon has been home have flown by.  We are all doing really well.  It is amazing to me how a year ago we had no idea what God was going to do in our lives and Brandon had no idea either.  A year ago, every day I looked at the empty seat at our table, and the empty bedroom upstairs and continuously prayed about our adoption from Ukraine.  Little did we know during that time God was already preparing our hearts and Brandon’s heart to merge together as one family.  Honestly, I believe only God could merge us so beautifully and it is evidence of answered prayer.

We have really seen Brandon’s dramatic personality come out over the last month.  I have read and heard that Russians and Ukrainians are very passionate people and are very expressive with their language and waving their arms to get their point across. Brandon definitely meets this stereotype.  We call Brandon our little drama queen.  Here are a few examples of conversations so you can see what I mean.

While at Olive Garden he popped a jalapeño pepper in his mouth.  His face turned red.  He started sweating as he drank several cups of ice tea.  He said, “Oh my goodness. I am on fire. Ouch. This is hurting me.” Huffing and puffing and red faced and hand gestures and pacing right in the middle of the restaurant. We were all, of course, laughing because we warned him the pepper was hot and he said puffing his manly chest out, “This is not hot.  I eat this in Ukraine all of the time.”  Apparently he did not remember how hot they were or they are not as hot in Ukraine. He still talks about how he was on fire.

A few weeks ago, when I was driving the kids to AWANA.  Our girls brought 2 girlfriends with them that night.  Of course the 5 girls did what girls do best—sang, giggled, squealed and talked.  Finally, Brandon says, "Oh my goodness…All this womens. They so loud. This womens so annoying. I need my Papa." He was rocking front to back and covering his ears and sighing and moaning and groaning pretty much the whole car ride about “all the womens.”  Poor boy was feeling out numbered.

The other day 3 of the 4 kids had this conversation/argument over the number of French Bread Sticks they were eating:

Brandon to Katie: Why you eat so many of these?

Katie: I only had 7.

Brandon: 1 plus 7 equals 8, not 7. You are not smart.

Haley: Yes, Katie is smarter than you are. I think. Wait. I did not mean that in a mean way.

Brandon to Haley, talking passionately with both of his hands in her face: Why are you even talking? You make my head hurt and you cannot read.

Haley: (Gasping in shock). That was mean for sure.

Katie (refusing to show emotion): I had 1, then 6 so it is 7.

Brandon (frustrated by his inability to stand up alone against the “womens”): You womens are crazy. You give me a headache.

Another thing that is hilarious is he has a major disdain for hair. If the girls sit too close and their hair touches him, he freaks out and gets grossed out and is like “Agh, oh watch-a de hair!! Get this hair off of me!!”  If (heaven forbid) he finds a hair at the dinner table or anywhere else he has to close his eyes while he removes the hair from a distance, never touching his skin.  He cannot stand to see hair on his shirt or clothes or on a pillow or in a hair brush.  He will not let me comb or cut his hair if I have just done Tim’s and there is hair left behind.  I have to wash it off and let him inspect it before it can touch his hair.

Another quirk he has is with people talking with their mouth full.  He is legitimately grossed out by people talking with their mouth full. He stops eating and looks like he might vomit.  We laugh at him (of course with our mouths wide open and full of food) and he still opens his eyes to see if our mouth is opened or closed and then gets grossed out all over again.

If Tim and he are wrestling or fooling around he always is like, “Ow, my eyeball.  You break it.  My arm.  You break it.  Ouch. Arrrrrrrrr!!!!  My feets.  You are killing me.  I don’t like this hurt.  It is so boring.” Of course, if Tim stops, Brandon comes back for more.  

Often Tim will flex his bicep and point at it.  When he does, Brandon looks at him and mocks, “This is no muscle.  This is a tomato.”  So last week they were playing and Brandon punched Tim’s shoulder and “broke his hand” and Tim’s like, “Do you still think this is a tomato? Huh? Huh?”  (Brandon’s rolling on the floor in fetal position holding his "broken" hand.)

One last story.  Today we went out to eat and he had his favorite food: shrimp, a salad, garlic/butter pasta, bread and 6 cups of iced tea.  We got in the car and he says, “Oh my goodness. I am so full.  I am going to die.  My head and my stomach hurt and I eat too much shrimps.  Maybe, yes, I will throw up or maybe, no, I will tootie (the word his uses for passing gas).”  (I start laughing).  “Mama??  Why you laughing at me?  I really will die.  I am so full and all of this food is making me hurt bad.  I really need a bathroom.  Ohhh, this food is going to kill me. I eat too much.  You laugh, but I am die. You see?  I am die.”  

Anyway, as you can see, Brandon is so much fun.  He causes me to laugh constantly.  It is a lot of fun to watch Tim and Brandon constantly picking at each other until the point where they are eventually rolling around on the floor together.  Our girls never (used to) behave this way.  It is so new to me, but I enjoy it so much.  I am so thankful for the last 6 months and the calling in our lives to raise Brandon!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Operation Christmas Child

Our church has contributed to Operation Christmas Child the last few years.  For those of you who are not familiar with Operation Christmas Child, it is where you fill a shoe box with toys, candy and other treats.  This organization mails the boxes to orphans all over the world.  They enclose a Gospel message in their language.  Sometimes you can even hear back from the child that you mailed the box to.  You can google Operation Christmas Child if you are interested in donating or even finding out more about it for your own church. 

What is neat about Operation Christmas Child is last year Brandon received a box.  All 150 children in his orphanage received one in fact.  He had the disappointment of receiving a mislabeled box that was actually for a girl, but still he enjoyed the candy and pencils anyway.  He received a Barbie doll and some other things as well.  I'm thankful to whoever sent a box to my little boy!

It was a little surreal shopping with my son for these items this year.  His expression was unique.  It was as if it is still all too familiar to him since he was on the receiving end of a little box just months ago.  He seemed awkward as he was packing a box to give to another little child “without a Mama and Papa” as he says.  He still has that “awe” factor, like this is all too good to be true.

Anyway, if you’ve never packed a box before, I’d encourage you to check it out.  You have no idea how much a simple, little box can impact a child’s life.  If for nothing else, it lets a little child know that someone out there cares enough to send them something.  This may be the tool that points them to Jesus.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Orphan Sunday

I won’t lie.  I was a little disappointed that not many churches did anything for National Orphan Sunday this year. Looking around in our own town and on Sermon Audio there is hardly anything.  In my mind I know that churches' schedules are hectic this time of year and it seems there is a lot being thrown at the congregation financially speaking as well with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner.   I would still love to see more church families really gain a passion for orphans and impact the lives of many orphans around the world. I’m not really gifted with inspiring people to get behind a cause, but if ever there was a cause to rally around, I would think orphans would be at the top of the list over any building project or anything else on which anyone can spend money.  It is so hard to plead or convince anyone to see things this way and I'm slowly burning out from trying. 

Many of you know I am a Personal Finance professor at a University and I also help manage the finances at our church and academy as well.  Because both of my “careers” deal with finances and money, I often think of the passages in the Bible like Luke 12 where it says to sell your possessions and give to charity.  It says to store up treasures in heaven where moths and rust cannot corrupt.  In verse 34 it says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I would argue, where your heart is, that is where the majority of your money and time is spent.  It all boils down to priorities. 

Are orphans a priority or are they not?  If Christians and Bible believing churches are not consciously making an effort to care for orphans, who is going to do it?  One way to care for orphans is financially.  Support families who are adopting.  Why are there not more families coming forward to adopt?  I will answer that question based upon my experience on the subject.  Most people do not have the means to pay for an adoption.  Why do more families not have means to pay for adoptions?  The hearts of Christians are not being moved to compassion the way they should be toward adoption.  Those who do not feel called to adopt are not giving sacrificially to those who are called to adopt.   

Randy Alcorn recently gave this challenge on his Facebook page: Many who say, “I have nothing to give,” spend large amounts of discretionary income on cars, clothes, coffee, entertainment, phones, computers, and so on.  They have nothing to give when they’re done spending, precisely because they’re never done spending. 

God commanded over and over in Scripture for Christians to care for the orphans.  Sadly, most Christians ignore this commandment.  No one acknowledges that it is not God’s plan for orphans to waste away their lives in orphanages.  I also do not believe it is God’s plan for Christians to get deep in debt for adoption while other Christians spend their money on luxuries such as thousand dollar purses and designer clothing.  That purse and those designer clothes are going to get old, dirty and wear out.  Someone may even steal your purse from you while you shop at the mall for your designer clothes.  We don't get to take our possessions with us when we die! So is it really wise stewardship of God’s money to spend money like that? We all have this sense of entitlement.  “I deserve this.  I earned it.”  This is because of our sinful, superficial, selfish flesh.  If I am even tempted to waste large amounts of money, I remind myself of Christ’s example.  The Son of Man often slept on a rock in the wilderness and often went without even basic necessities such as food and water.  He busied Himself and spent any earthly resources He had on eternal things.  He knew life on earth was a vapor and there was an urgency to accomplish God’s perfect plan with His life.  We have all got to stop wasting our earthly resources and start directing those resources to the things of God—eternal things.   The needs of orphans are great around the world.   We are just caught up in living our entitled American dreams that we can't see the needs. 

(I just want to add that there some in our church that have a burden as well and are working hard on behalf of the orphans.  They probably feel weary as well about the lack of passion for adoption.  I don't know what the answer is.  We can't slap passive, superficial people across the face and say "Hey, wake up!!!!!"....Can we? Just kidding.  In all seriousness, we can only continue to pray hearts are moved.  Christians have got to respond to the Holy Spirit eventually.)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween 2011

This year we decided not to celebrate Halloween with $30 costumes and walking through the neighborhood.  We’ve done that in the past, but somehow Tim and I just decided we wanted something different this year for our kids.  Last night our church hosted a "Snactivity" with bouncy houses, snacks, candy and all kinds of things for the kids.  It was a nice, safe, clean, family atmosphere.  The girls socialized with their friends and Brandon played soccer and football with his guy friends.  It really was a lot of fun.  Monday night it was raining cats and dogs so we were especially glad to not be out walking door to door in the neighborhood.  Instead we had the dollar movie theater all to ourselves.  It was a great time together as a family and it was a whole lot cheaper.  We were pleased with our decision and will probably do the same next year.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Parent/Teacher Conferences

Tim and I attended our very first Parent/Teacher Conference today.  I’m not sure why we’ve never gone before.  We probably look like uninvolved, slacker parents since Katie’s in 5th grade and we’ve never gone to one parent/teacher meeting in our lives.  One reason we’ve never gone is time.  It’s hard for Tim to get out of work.  We were unsure what to do with the kids while we met.  Also, we’ve never really had any questions or issues—the girls are pretty well behaved and they all pretty much make straight A’s…I know. I know. We’re slacker parents and I’m just making excuses for not attending like all the other slacker parents…..

Then alas!  Along came our beloved son, Brandon and voila, we attend our first Parent/Teacher Conference!!  Now we are hooked.  We will probably attend all Parent/Teacher Conferences there are from now on.  We learned a lot about our two 3rd graders and walked away with a to-do list to help both get their grades up and help them improve as students.  It’s nice to have a game plan and to be on the same page with their teachers.

I also walked away with a feeling of awe.  God is so good to us!!  What amazing teachers our children have!  I cannot believe we almost pulled our children out of the Academy and put them in another school.  What a blessing we would have missed out on in these top-notch educators.  You won’t find a group of teachers that love their students as much as these teachers do.  It’s not everywhere that a teacher will bend over backwards and work through their breaks each day to see our children succeed.  It is very evident that their teachers pray for the students and consider it a true ministry to teach our children.   I am so thankful for all that they do. 

So, I’m very pleased that Brandon (and his teachers) survived the first semester of the year.  What amazing growth and maturity we have seen in Brandon in such a short amount of time.  Really the sky is the limit in how far he is going to go! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Words by Kylie

Kylie is my little writer.  She has kept a detailed journal for over a year now and she is only 8.  I won't lie.  I've read it all.  (She actually lets me read it though).  Most of what she writes makes me cry because she is so sweet and loving.  Today her weekly school packet came home and her teacher wrote, "Look what Kylie wrote.  These are powerful words for a 3rd grader."  Evidently they had to write what they were thankful for in class and this is what she wrote:

I will tell you what I am thankful for.  I am thankful that I have a family that loves me very much.  I am thankful that I have food to eat.  And I am also thankful that my family adopted Brandon.  But the best thing what I’m thankful about is I have a powerful God.  And that I was born.  I’m also thankful that I have friends and that I have a fun teacher.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

5 Months Home!

Praise God, I am happy to say that this month went a whole lot better than last month!!  His whining and complaining is very minimal.  He is finally getting used to American school.  His amazing teachers have been working like MAD with him and we can see a remarkable improvement.  His stress level regarding studying has gone way down.  We rearranged his schedule so that he has more free time when he gets home from school to play outside with the neighborhood boys.  He is back to his normal, happy self which is SO nice!

He had his first dentist appointment and came home telling us that he likes American dentists a whole lot better than Ukrainian dentists.  He said he had to have 2 fillings in Ukraine and they gave him “no medicine” and it hurt really, really bad.  Poor boy!

We received a letter from his Babushka last week asking why he has not written her yet (I usually write to her with my limited Russian).  Now that he is not stressed over his American homework, we had him write to her.  He seriously could not remember his Russian though.  He had to use my iphone and the Russian translate app to help him.  I’d love for him to be able to retain his Russian.  If any of you have any ideas as to how to help him keep his Russian, please feel free to inbox me.  ( Thanks! 

Speaking of email…..It’s interesting this month I read an email from a Ukrainian friend that casually mentioned her dad liked tea with honey in it.  This topic of tea had absolutely nothing to do with the email.  However, those words jumped right out of my laptop at me!....In over 4 months, Brandon has never once asked for tea.  However, it dawned on me that he drank A LOT of tea when we were in Ukraine together.  He drank at least 10 cups while on the flights home from Ukraine.  Of course I immediately went and made Brandon hot tea with honey.  He was SO happy and so thankful for the tea. He savored every drop of the stuff.  I could tell it tasted so good to him.  He gave me the biggest hug possible!  Every day since then he has made himself some tea in the morning.

It’s exciting that Brandon is such a family boy.  He not only loves our immediate family, but also he loves his 2 sets of grandparents and his aunts, uncles and cousins that he has met as well.  He can’t wait to see his MeMe and BeBe (Tim’s parents) each time.  And he loves when my parents come to his soccer games.  He freely hugs them all.  No attachment issues there! 

Well, we’ve had a busy day with Brandon’s soccer game and our family hike this afternoon.  I am tired and ready to sleep well!  I want to close this blog by mentioning that I’m so thankful for all of you friends!  Each one of you that pray for us and comment on our photos and comment on the blogs mean the world to me!  Love and blessings to you all!

First Father/Son Retreat

Last weekend Tim and Brandon went to their very first Men and Boys Retreat at Camp Anchorage.  They had an absolute blast together.  Brandon had been counting down the days since July to "Camp with Papa."  They played sports, skated, went boating and tubing, shot some guns and bows & arrow and so much more.  I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to watch them interact together in their male bonding time.  Brandon came home all smiles and said "Camp was a lot fun."  He can't wait for next year.  Anyway, I've posted pictures below.