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.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dental Blessings

I have been putting off getting some work done on my teeth for a while now.  This is mostly because of the cost of the work that I needed and also because my teeth weren’t bothering me that bad so I hated to fix what didn’t seem broken.  With the tremendous cost of the adoption and the loans we ended up having to take out for the adoption, it just was not an option over the past year.

I finally had no choice but to get the work done because the pain began and it was really getting worse very quickly.  The first part of the surgery was on September 30th.  The day before Tim had taken all 4 children to their routine cleanings because I was out of town at a work related conference.  The doctor was commenting that he had received comments from other patients that day about our 4 children being both beautiful and well behaved.  The doctor said he thought it was important to tell parents when their children are behaving well because there are so many parents whose children are out of control.  When he told me that, it made me proud of the children especially because they were wearing their Academy uniforms which meant they were being great witnesses for Christ and “advertisements” for our school. 

He then asked about Brandon.  He knew we were adopting because I told him at my last cleaning 6 months ago.  But he was so impressed by Brandon’s English and the way he conducted himself--he said that he is a sharp young man (I have to agree with him there because I'm his Mama).  He said Brandon has no idea how much his life has changed and the limitless opportunities he will have now that he’s in the States.  Then he asked how we ended up with Brandon and not the original two boys we had set out to adopt. 

It was a perfect opportunity to brag on God for a while and I took it.  I personally believe God had Brandon in mind for us before any of us were even created.  I still cannot believe how well he fits our family and cannot imagine how different our lives would be if we had not adopted him.  We set out to obey God and be a blessing to a lost child and he has in turn been even more of a blessing to us.  He brings such joy into our lives and into our home. 

I hadn’t noticed but somewhere in the middle of my 5 minute recap of the adoption story, the doctor had begun tearing up.  He actually had been utilizing a box of tissues nearby.  He said that our family and Brandon really touched his heart.  He said he wishes families like ours were made up of a dozen kids.  What a compliment that was!  (Our kids must’ve been REALLY charming that day or something…haha). 

Anyway, advancing to today, I went in to have Phase 2 of the surgery done and to pay my several hundred dollar bill that was left after insurance had paid their part.  When I was getting ready to leave and set up my follow-up appointment the lady at the front desk handed me back the check.  I was thinking that she had run it through one of those check machines like they do at Wal-mart and Sam’s, but she said, “No.  The doctor says you can void the check.”  He was so touched by Brandon, our family and the whole adoption story that he wanted to help us out financially so he voided our very large bill!  I could not believe my ears!  What a tremendous answer to prayer that was! 

I wanted to share this story with you for a few reasons.  First, this whole incident is an answer to a very specific prayer I had.  It is my heart’s desire and very much a priority in my mind to get out of debt as quickly as possible.  These financial setbacks (such as this oral surgery) get in the way of the budget and long-term goals I have for our family.  Why am I always so surprised when I pray and God answers my prayer?  I guess I am just so humbled by His greatness.  I cannot believe that such a big and awesome God listens to me and answers me and blesses me!  Second, it was a reminder to me how close orphans are to His heart.  God’s Word is true!! Though throughout the entire adoption process and since Brandon’s been home we have had many struggles and hard times, God has revealed himself to us every step of the way.  I am so thankful for this reassurance and provision. Third, today made me realize that at least as long as Brandon has his thick, (adorable) Russian accent it is very noticeable that he is adopted.  Each and every time people notice him and fall in love with him it is a podium to proclaim God’s goodness and grace in our lives.  I couldn't hold a story like this inside.  I truly think I would burst!

Thanks to all of you that took the time out to read this blog today.  And thank you for your continuous prayer and support for our family.  Yet again my faith is strengthened because I know God truly hears and answers prayer.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Steve Jobs Changed The World: Adoption Changed His World

By Ryan Bomberger
The news hit me in the gut. I couldn’t believe I was seeing those few numbers, communicating his passing, beneath his photo: 1955-2011. Steve Jobs has, literally, changed the world. I’m typing this on my Mac, will check my emails and Twitter status on my iPad, and will stay in touch with everyone I love through my iPhone.
As a creative professional, his visionary work has helped my own visions become reality.
But his vision, his destiny and his ability to affect people, globally, may never have happened. Jobs was adopted as a baby and loved by his parents, Clara and Paul Jobs. The baby they took into their hearts and home had a purpose in life that would be unleashed by the powerful act of adoption.
He began today’s revolutionary Apple company and has departed this world with a professional legacy that is awe-inspiring. The partially bitten apple represents the temptation that millions of us have been unable to avoid…waiting in day long lines for shiny objects that proved to us science fiction could be made reality by a creative genius. Jobs’ minimalistic approach delivered a multitude of near-perfect electronic devices. From amber screens to full-color high definition, visually we’ve been changed by the adoption of Apple’s technology.
It’s amazing to me that, in 2011, especially among Christians, how foreign a concept adoption is. Adoption is the essence of salvation. There is no Christianity without adoption, in the spiritual sense. Yet, in the physical sense, it is rarely considered as an option. For those who are so passionately prolife, it is often the challenge thrown before us in our opposition to abortion, and rightfully so.
We have an opportunity to unleash purpose in a child waiting to be loved. I was one of those children back in 1971. Steve Jobs was back in 1955. The beauty of possibility is that we all can play a role in helping to foster and encourage it. Who knows what my children, both adopted and biological, will become? All I know is that loving them, unconditionally, will allow their God-given purpose to flourish.
The nation’s largest abortion chain, aborting 340 children for every 1 woman that is referred for adoption, is the antithesis to this purpose. Planned Parenthood celebrates their founder who believed that “we are paying for and even submitting to the dictates of an ever increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all.” Contrary to Margaret Sanger’s warped mentality that children are “marked when they’re born” as “diseased, delinquents, and felons”, none of us know the beautiful potential that every life possesses.
We celebrate human triumph over the seemingly insurmountable.
There are so many well-known adopted individuals that have impacted many of our lives in one way or another: Charles Dickens, George Washington Carver, Nat King Cole, Babe Ruth, Dave Thomas (Wendy’s), Bo Diddley (musician/performer), Dan O’Brien (Olympic Decathlon Gold Medalist) and Faith Hill, just to name a few. Steve Jobs is among this list of infinite possibility. No matter the perceived worldly success of an adoptee, adoption is a loving act that transforms, not only the life of the child, but the entire family. And, sometimes, the world.

Monday, October 3, 2011

One More Thought on Brandon's Behavior

A few posts ago I mentioned that Brandon was really irritable and downright miserable to be around at times.  He was complaining and whining about EVERYTHING, even things that he liked to do such as playing soccer and eating meals. After reading through the book Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child by Patty Cogen, I think I may understand a bit more about the attitudes he is exhibiting.  For those of you who follow my blog and are experiencing similar behavior from your adopted child, you may want to get this book. 

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Brandon came from an orphanage where he rarely left the acreage, if ever, in at least 4 years.  However, in the last 4 ½ months that he’s been home we’ve traveled all over the east coast to Maryland, the Blue Ridge Mountains and out to Carolina beach.  He has to get up every day for school and travel 30 minutes by car, sit through 7 hours of scheduled classes and then travel home again 30 minutes.  On Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays this trip happens twice a day for soccer or church.  So that is 2 hours in a car 3 days a week plus a few more hours each week of sitting through church. And even though soccer is playing, he is still following a schedule of his coach.

What the book suggests is that when the internationally adopted child is being “foul” (as I call it) the child is actually stressed out and is crying out to slow down the pace of life.  It is too much bombardment of activity in too short of a time span.  Our expectations on Brandon for achievement and activity are too high right now.  What really made this idea click for me was when the book asked the question, “Does your child have less than an hour of free time to relax or play as they choose each day?” 

As soon as I realized that the poor child is way too “scheduled” each day, we rearranged his day to allow him to have free time to play or relax as he chooses.  What a remarkable improvement in his attitude!!  Almost immediately he was the same old happy and thankful child he has always been.  I think we often forget that American children are used to being scheduled.  We Americans rush our kids to all kinds of extracurricular and church activities. Although Brandon loves to travel, see new places and he loves to play sports, we need to remember from now on to make sure that he has some down time to relax and have free time to play whatever he wants.  What Brandon and the girls love most is the free time we spend together as a family or the time when they can go out and play freely in the neighborhood. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

My 20th Birthday

Today was my 20th birthday!   (Yes, I’m 20 and that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).  What a special day!  All 4 kids gave me precious handmade cards.  Handmade cards are my absolute favorite!  It makes me feel incredibly special that they take the time to make a card, draw pictures and write their own little love notes on it.    

Tim made pancakes, bacon and the works for a late breakfast.  Then we piled in the Pilot to head to Brandon’s soccer game.  It was actually quite cold today.  Fall is definitely here!  Last weekend we were sweating to death and this week I could not get warm no matter how much I jumped up and down rubbing my arms.  Brandon scored 6 goals for his Mama’s birthday!  I can’t wait to see the boy play in a more competitive league.

My parents always come to his games and they offered to take the kids after his game so Tim and I could go on a date.  We had a little shopping to get done and then we ended up at Tripp’s to eat steaks.  Yummy!  After an early dinner, we went to see the new movie Courageous.  I really enjoyed the movie a lot.  It was so nice to sit and watch a movie with my husband and know that there would not be any nude or sensual scenes or cursing or any other garbage. 

I am not sure in our country how they got away with sharing the clear gospel message and talking about a relationship with Jesus Christ, but I’m sure glad they did!  It seems there is a concerted effort in America to forbid anything with the One, True God in it.  Plus, I am so happy there is a movie that calls men to step up and be responsible for their actions.  Our country and society in general, really need more solid, godly, male leaders like the ones portrayed in this film.

Anyway, I walked away from the movie with a new determination to cherish every moment with my children.  I know I often take for granted my children in the midst of our hectic lives. It’s easy to do so when most of the time I am so tired I feel like I am only running on fumes.  Every day that I get to spend with them is a gift and I don’t ever want to miss a moment with them.  Besides, I’m hoping if I give them my time when they’re young the day will never come when they are too cool to hang out with Mom and Dad.  Additionally I’m hope that whenever they get to the hard part of their lives, Tim and I will be the first ones they want to come to for help.  That’s the plan anyway.  I’m off…to spend time with my kids with the last few moments of my 20th birthday :).