Friday, July 27, 2012

Bedroom Deep Cleaning

It’s been just about 6 months since our special guy left us.  It’s taken this long for me to muster up the energy and will to go through his bedroom.  I’m not typically a procrastinator.  I’m usually highly motivated and driven.  I have been dreading this day of having to clean out his bedroom every day since he’s been gone.  I had to get it done because our new little guy is coming home very soon.  What I’ve been dreading for 6 months really turned out to be a lot of fun.

 I’ve been flipping through a Pottery Barn Teen magazine for the last few months trying to find ideas on how to re-decorate the bedroom.  I wanted it to be unique and different than it was.  I wanted to prepare it special for our new little guy just like we prepared the bedroom before Brandon came.  Then, since PB Teen is not in our budget, we went to Hobby Lobby to purchase similar items.  I found new matching quilts for the 2 twin beds online.  The girls were so enthusiastic and excited about decorating.  How could I not get excited as well?  They absolutely loved hanging the new things up and helping organize drawers.  We enjoyed reminiscing through different funny things Brandon did and said.  I finished going through his desk and toys.  When I got to his closet, I found his shoes that were only 2 months old.  They were worn straight through to his socks.  He was always so hard on his shoes.  ”Aww, his shoes,” I said. (Insert sad face).  I pictured him kicking around his soccer ball, doing jumps with his Ripstick and skateboard, thumping down the stairs and coming home from school. He would ask me to drop him off at the end of our street and he would run like the wind down the side walk trying to beat the Pilot home.  “I wonder if I should save these?” I asked.  KT says, “Why. In the world. Would you SAVE his smelly, old shoes?” Umm…..Nevermind.   We both laughed.  And I didn’t save them. 

He was a bit of a pack rat.  Three garbage bags full of stuff left the house.  Every McDonalds toy he ever got, he kept.  He had oodles of drawings, some finished, some half-finished.  Often if it wasn’t “perfect” by his standards he would quit drawing and start a new drawing.  There were tons of parts to things from broken cars and electronic equipment.  He had random pieces of wood that he’d begun carving with his pocket knives.  In only 8 months he had 5 pair of worn out, smelly shoes. 
So anyway, I'm thankful that job is complete.  We all look forward very much to filling the empty little room with a new life that God has blessed our family with.  There will be laughter and joy yet again, along many new special memories built in this bedroom.
Bedroom BEFORE
Bedroom AFTER the girlies & I decorated
Another view of the bedroom AFTER

One of my favorite drawings.  I recall sitting beside him in the back row
of our church on a Sunday night in December when he drew this.

I had Brandon's back pack out for the first time.  Bella sniffed it for a while, then layed down beside it.
It's really quite pitiful to have a depressed doggy.  She misses Brandon just like the rest of us! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I’m working my way through a book called The Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel.   It has been a real eye opener for me.  I’ve gone around recommending the book to pretty much everyone because it is helpful to anyone in any possible situation they are in right now.  When I talk about how great this book is, people just act like “yeah, whatever.” I know most people won’t bother to read it.

As you all know we travel very soon to adopt our 2nd son from Ukraine.  I have been in absolute turmoil as I have worked through every possible scenario in my head that can and will go wrong while we are overseas.  First, Scenario #1, we will travel to adopt Nestor and they won’t be able to find him.  It will take 17 weeks to find him only to meet him and discover he does not want to be adopted.  Scenario #2, we meet him and he begs us to adopt him, but he is really creepy and there is no way we want to bring him home.  Scenario #3, they do not even refer us to Nestor, because he is not available for adoption.  Scenario #4, we adopt Nestor and he is an absolute terror and we wish we’d never adopted him to begin with.  Scenario #5, we miss our flights and lose all our luggage and never make it to our appointment to get our referral to adopt.  Scenario #6, we come home empty-handed.  Scenarios #7-Scenario #5,000 are a bit similar from getting stuck in Ukraine because we lose our passports, getting thrown into prison, getting food poisoning , running out of money and having to sell our home and live in a cardboard box with all 4 children for the rest of our lives.

So, I sit down to read my book, The Christian Atheist (the very book that I am recommending to EVERYONE ELSE TO READ) and what does it say?

                Worry, in essence, is the sin of distrusting the promises and the power of God.  It’s choosing to dwell on, to think about, the worst-case scenario.  It’s faith in the bad things rather than faith in God.  Second Timothy 1:7 says, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline”(NLT).  In this verse, you could also easily translate “fear and timidity” as “anxiety, tension, and worry.” Fear doesn’t come from God.  It’s a tool the evil one uses to distract us from our true purpose here….. When we live by faith, we believe that God has everything in control.  But if we start to worry, how we live says the opposite….Can your worry change anything? No. Can God change anything?  Absolutely He can. (98).

I am doing exactly what the author says makes people a Christian Atheist—I am calling myself a Christian, yet I am living and acting like there is not a Sovereign God.  Shame on me! This cut me right to the quick of my heart. I have seen His mighty hand work in our International Adoption only ONE year ago!  How soon have I forgotten His goodness in that?  I have seen many miracles in my own life with leading me to my godly husband, and the healthy births of our 3 biological children.  God has provided for us financially for both adoptions.  He has led us on a very smooth path this second adoption journey.  He has answered many prayers regarding many different things.

What are the “promises” we are distrusting that the author is probably talking about?  One promise that jumps out at me is in Philippians 4:6-7.  Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  I also think about the verses in Matthew 10 regarding not one sparrow falling to the ground without our Heavenly Father knowing it.  Jesus Christ says, “Do not fear; you are more valuable even than a sparrow.”

Honestly, it is a lot easier said than done sometimes to cast down our worries and just trust that whatever happens is ordained by God.  Jeremiah 29 is another promise that God is not out to get us and cause calamity.  After promising a future and a hope it says, “If you seek me, and you find me, when you search for me with all your heart, I will be found by you, says the Lord.”

Our prayer has been and will continue to be as we move forward, that God would lead us to the right boy that He would have us to love, nurture, teach and call our own child.  We could use a lot of prayer in the next several months to trust in His power and might to work out every last detail. 

Oh, please go purchase and read the book The Christian Atheist. It’s a really, really good book.  I promise you will learn and you will grow in your walk with the Lord.

(PS, I hope it's obvious I was exaggerating with some of those worries.  It will not take 17 weeks and Ukraine does not randomly throw people in prison...just thought I'd throw in this disclaimer.  I don't want to discourage anyone from adopting from the wonderful country of Ukraine). 

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Our family absolutely loves to get out and hike together.  God's creation is amazing!!  Today was around 96 degrees, but it didn't feel too bad through the woods.  These pictures were taken at William B. Umstead State Park near Raleigh.  The trail we chose was a little over 5 miles and there was a lot to see do along the way!  What a perfect day! (other than the heat).

Ready to hike!

About a mile in, the shoes and socks came off!
Cooling off in the creek.

That would be my husband of 14 years...Monkey See....
Monkey do

Little Miss Sophistication
Climbing the rocks with Daddy

Neat rocks to climb
The slippery log that led to a little "island' area to explore

Another view down the creek

This was as far as I got on the slippery log before I turned around
Katie went over to the "island" a different way

Phew! That was a steap climb!

Critter #1
Taking a break on the bridge

Critter #2

Close up pictures of Critter #2

Critter #3 (EEEEEEKKK!!)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

KT's Growing Up!

11 months old, scratch on her nose from climbing in a toy box

I can hardly believe our oldest daughter turns 11 tomorrow!  When she was born I was sure they handed me the wrong baby!  She had blond hair and blue eyes and fair skin!  Tim and I have dark hair and complexions!  As an infant she was both fussy and active. We later found out she was fussy because she was lactose intolerant.   I can't tell you the number of times she crawled out of her crib before she turned 9 months old.  She was my Houdini and climbed ANYTHING like a monkey.   As a toddler she kept me on my toes.  She once climbed and got a bottle of sunscreen and drank it all.  She's eaten play dough, soap, baby wipes and styrofoam. I recall having to push the grocery cart down the center of the aisle because if I got too close to the shelves, she would knock everything off as she reached for whatever interested her.   If you saw a streak of pink, that would be our KT Bug!  She did everything FAST and ran from thing to thing. She chattered a mile a minute and I was her own little personal translator because I was the only one who understood all her chatter due to her speech pronunciation issue.  At 3 she began preschool to get some of her energy out.  Teachers threw out the words "ADHD" and asked us to have her tested.  She was tested and they just said she was a just a smart, curious, little social butterfly and needed to learn self-control.  She was so full of personality and love for life and adventure! Once she started Kindergarten she could sit still and listen.  She was pink from head to toe until she turned 6 and she began saying she was a "tomboy"and has worn blue ever since!

Though she has settled down quite a bit physically, she still will talk your ear off and ask a million questions.  You better give her the correct answer and never make a promise you don't intend to keep because she remembers EVERYTHING and will quote you word-for-word years after the fact.  She has played piano for 4 years.  She likes to knit, crochet, read, play games on the computer and roller blade.  She likes to be indoors most of the time, except when the family goes out hiking.  She is very smart and has an active imagination.  She loves to perform science experiments and do any kind of craft there is.  Her favorite color is turquoise blue. She loves dolphins and would love to be a marine biologist one day.

What is neat about KT is she is eager to please and to do right.  She is very much my helper around the house and the leader of the pack, even when Brandon was home and he was the oldest chronologically.  I sometimes forget she is just a child because she will think and talk to you like an adult.  She has always been my "old soul" with wisdom beyond her years. I can trust that she will always tell the truth.  She consistently reads her devotions and Bible every night before she sleeps without being told.  She has really grown into a beautiful young lady!

Our KT Bug has always been and is such a joy and blessing!  I am honored to be her Mom!  I love her so much!
3 months old

Just turned 2 years old

3 Years old

4 years old

5 years old

6 years old

7 years old

9 years old

10 years old

Safely Home

Congratulations to our dear friends on the adoption of 9-year-old Lucas David!  It has been a long 2-year process with lots of ups and downs and bumps in the road.  God has finally blessed this family with a beautiful son from the Philippines.

Please pray for the adjustment of this new boy and their other 4 daughters.  They are going through a lot of changes right now with getting out of the military and moving along with little Lucas David. 

Oh, Bee Alissa!

Someone had stinky feet so I told her to go wash her feet. This is how I found the sink......I guess I should have been more specific and said to "Go wash your stinky feet in the tub"....What can I say? Her feet were nice and sudsy and clean and the sink worked out just fine for her!

I asked her why her feet stunk so bad and she thinks "maybe"it was because she wore her favorite pink socks every day since Monday.....Oh, "B" Alissa!  That would do it!

Silly girl!  I love her to pieces!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Strange Dilemmas

This is a posting for those of you who have suffered the loss of a loved one.  It is mostly just sharing my strange dilemmas with you.  These questions have been on my mind and heart for weeks now and I have to express them or they will not leave my mind.  Maybe some of you can even offer some advice or ideas on how to work through these questions.
First, what do I do with the question, “How many children do you have?” I start off by answering, “Four.” Then, almost always, follows the question, “Oh, what are their ages?” Well, this stumps me.  I stand there awkwardly thinking in my mind the following: Brandon died at age 11, but if he hadn’t he would have been 12.  So do I answer, “12, 10, 9 and 7?” Or do I answer, “11, 10, 9 and 7?” Maybe I might better answer “Three children and 10, 9 and 7” to the first question asked because I really don’t feel like getting into a pity party with a stranger about our recent loss.  Perhaps the most accurate answer is “Five” to include both Brandon and the boy waiting for us in Ukraine.  Somehow answering that I have 5 children makes me feel foolishly like a 6-year-old child with an imaginary friend, pretending and longing to have people that I do not in fact physically have right at the moment.  Most of the time, I answer, “Three” to avoid any further questions, but then I feel guilty like I’ve written off my 2 sons (one living in Heaven and one living in Ukraine). 

Second, what do I do with all these photos of Brandon on my walls?  I find myself, taking them down, then putting them back up, taking them down, then putting them back up.  I can’t decide if the reason I don’t like them up is seeing them all the time is a constant reminder that he is not here.  How will I ever heal if his picture greets me every single morning along with the emptiness of knowing he’s not going to be thumping down the stairs that morning? However, when I take them down, I forget what he looks like, what he sounds like and what he smells like and that scares me.  It makes me incredibly sad if I think about how much I miss him.  I resolved to take most of his pictures down at work a few weeks ago.  They were becoming a distraction.  I was unable to stop crying or thinking about him any time I looked in the direction of his pictures.  I wish I could brush off my hands and say, “There. The pictures are down, and have stayed down for 3 weeks now.  Problem Solved,” but taking the pictures down, somehow makes me feel guilty.  Another reason I like them down is because I do not want our newest son to see them all over the place.  I like my locket of Brandon.  I like his photos tucked in my wallet for a weak moment when I need to look at his little face, but I do not like them all over the place.  I’m not sure if it’s a part of my stages of grief or what.  It’s just how I feel. 

Third, what do I do with his things in his room?  In a little over a month, a new boy will be coming, and it will be his bedroom until he graduates or gets married.  He is not going to want all kinds of things with “Brandon” written all over it.  What about the clothing?  The clothing was barely worn.  Usually Brandon wore the same things all the time, which was his favorite navy warm up pants and a matching grey shirt.  Any time he wore the other clothing, it was either because I made him because I wanted to take pictures of the kids that day or I peeled the clothes off from him to wash them.   So I would say, the new boy could just wear that clothing, but all our pictures have Brandon with those particular clothes in it.  I go back and forth with the clothing decision.  Our girls all wear each other’s clothing if they can’t find something of their own that fits.  The two oldest girls are just slightly different in size.  So, should I give away Brandon’s perfectly good, quality clothing and spend money on new clothing? (My accountant mind says this is wasteful.) Or should I just make new memories with our newest son in the clothing?  One thing in his room that I was adamant about changing was the matching quilts on the twin beds in the room.  One of them was stained from what happened in Brandon’s final hours and the other one might as well be destroyed as well because the memory of what that stain looked like is forever burned in my mind.  I will likely get some different pictures to hang on the walls as well once I get a feel about the interests of our newest child.

I guess in my mind these strange dilemmas are just a part of finding a new “normal” in my life.  Change is always difficult.  I’m determined (and by God’s grace and help) not to let what happened with Brandon ruin the incredible joy we will feel with our newest child.  All our 5 of our children are such special gifts and always will be regardless of whether they live with me in this home or even on this earth.  I have and will have precious memories with each of them.  And I sure enough love them all 5 equally and so very deeply.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Puzzling Girlie Girls!

I’ve spent much time on this blog analyzing the Bible, myself, other people and mostly poor, sweet Brandon. One thing that dawned on me today while sitting by the side of the pool, watching my girls *play (actually a better word might be *FIGHT), was I had never analyzed my girls, publicly in this blog. Ha! They are such puzzling little creatures, I’m afraid there is not enough room on this blog to write everything about them that I do not understand. And guess what!! I AM a girl!!!! So if you’re a man and you are trying to figure out a girl or a woman, good luck with that. Tim threw in the towel a long time ago. He just goes with it. His favorite saying? “She’ll get over it.” So here it goes.

My (partial) list of things that puzzle me about my girls (and these are ALL just from TODAY):

1. How can they totally love each other one minute and a millisecond later want to tear out every last strand of their sister’s hair?

2. Why do they continuously have to scream? They scream when they are happy. They scream when they are excited. They scream at each other. They scream when they are scared. They scream when they are hurt. They scream really, really loudly when they are mad! Now Brandon, in all of his manliness, could definitely shatter glass. However, to be fair, it was usually to one-up the girls in volume or in high-pitchyness (I know that is not a word, but you know what I mean) or to flat out annoy his sisters.

3. Why do they need to change their clothing SIXTY-FIVE times a day? Seriously. We’ve been home ALL DAY. And I make them re-fold & put away all of that clothing. What is the pay off in that? It wouldn’t matter if they only had 3 outfits to their name. They’d still change their clothing 65 times!

4. Why do they change their MINDS so frequently? “What color popsicle do you want?” I ask. They reply, "Red. No blue. No green. No red...." (One of the girls decides she wants blue). Now ALL 3 girls want blue. The problem lies when there are only TWO blue popsicles. (What do they all end up eating? ICE CREAM!)

5. Why do they put on nail polish just to pick it off 2 hours later?

6. Why do they care so much which bathing suit they wear and if the top matches the bottom IN OUR OWN BACK YARD with ZERO probability that anyone outside of our household will see them?

7. Along the same lines, why can’t they wear a WET bathing suit when in 3.2 seconds they are going to dive into the pool?

8. Why do they put so much time and effort into their clothing if they refuse to properly brush their hair without threats and bodily force?? (Just kidding. Bodily force never happens.) If they care so much about their appearance I would say neat, properly combed hair would be a perfect starting place.

9. Why can't we walk anywhere without picking every last weed….err, I mean flower…and then forgetting them ALL in my car?

10. Why do they cry so much? If they aren’t screaming, they are crying. In addition to the list of things they scream about on Question #2, they cry if they think someone may be mad at them, or think that someone looked at them the wrong way. I have often thought, “Cry again? Seriously? Let me give you something to cry about.”

11. Why do they “mother” every last thing. I understand mothering a baby doll, or Bella, our dog, or any animal for that matter. But they mother THINGS. Bugs get mothered. Stuffed animals have feelings in our house. Stuffed animals are not to be thrown or picked up by the ears. Flowers are mothered.

12. Why are they so unpredictable? If someone asks (and this happened for real yesterday), “Do your girls like carrots?” I honestly don’t know how to answer. It  seriously depends upon their mood, if it’s sunny or rainy, if their best friend’s goldfish smiled at them 6 hours ago and if they have the right shoes on.

13. Why can’t I get ONE picture where all THREE of them are looking at me, with all 6 of their eyes open AND all 3 mouths are smiling?

Here they are---the Puzzling Girlie Girls---the ones with the messy hair, that love each other (right now), that can't figure out their attire, that I cannot get to all look at me at one time and smile!  I love these 3!!!!!!!!
Okay, Okay. They are not really that bad (today). And having THREE of them isn’t that bad (my opinion may change 4 minutes from now). Seriously, though, I genuinely love having three girls. They are ALL affectionate, kind-hearted, generous, smart, beautiful and caring girls. How many children their age would open up their hearts and their home TWO times to adopt? How many children would be willing to share THEIR parents with someone else? All kidding aside, I would not trade my girls for all the boys in the whole, wide world! Besides, God molded each one of them inside of my body to be exactly the way He wanted them to be. (It doesn’t mean they are not puzzling from time to time!)

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


How are you doing? 

I still cringe when I am asked this question.  Don’t get me wrong.   I appreciate that anyone even cares enough to ask me how we are doing at this point.  But it still makes me cringe because  I'm forced to either lie and utter, "I'm good" or face reality by trying to define this mess of emotions.  I am better, but if I were honest I would tell you I’m not really all that well most of the time.

 I still hurt very badly.  I still struggle with food tasting good to me.  Most food tastes bitter or spoiled in my mouth.  Even foods that I used to love have lost their savor.  It’s hard to describe, but it’s like everything needs more salt, yet adding salt doesn’t bring back the flavor. I’d be curious to know if anyone who is grieving or has grieved has ever experienced this.  It’s bizarre.  

In addition to food being “off,” I still could burst into my ugly cry at any given moment.  I have no idea what brings on the tears.  The slightest thing can trigger tears.  Again, I never have been one to cry.  Prior to 1/30/12, I have actually gone months and years without even shedding one tear.  Really, to say such a thing shows the wonderful life with which I’ve been blessed. I still don’t understand the pain I am feeling.  I still worry that I will never feel “normal” again. 

As time goes on I do find that I have more good moments than bad ones.  I’m thankful for that.  I’ve noticed that most of the time the emotions are out of my control.  But there is a trend.  When I look around and think about my circumstances and all that I’ve lost in my son Brandon’s death, I have my very worst days.

Read Matthew 14:22-33 sometime if you have the chance.  This is the account of Jesus walking on water.  One thing that I noticed, that I had not noticed before I read this passage today, was that Peter ASKED Jesus to call him out of the boat.  It is important to note that Peter was the only disciple who asked God to call him out of the boat.  (The rest of the disciples were big chickens!!)  Peter says in verse 28, “Lord, if that is You, command me to come to you on the water.” Peter climbed out of the boat and also walked on water.   I believe by asking Jesus to call him out of the boat, Peter wanted Jesus to prove Himself to him.   I can relate to this because two years ago after reading the book Radical, I ASKED God to use me.  This is a scary prayer to pray and not many Christians will pray this prayer.  (Perhaps I lost my mind! Perhaps, the rest of you are big chickens!)  However, many times after that prayer, like Peter, I asked God to show Himself to me.  In His patience and mercy,  God did show Himself to us.  ONE example of MANY in our lives since then is the way in which God chose to give us Brandon through adoption and I believe through his adoption journey God used us like we never could have been used had we not adopted Brandon.  In His wisdom beyond my understanding, just 8 months later Brandon was gone. 

What is neat about this passage in Matthew is  that as long at Peter kept his eyes fixed on Jesus, he walked on water. He rose above the circumstance of the storm around him.  When Peter took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the wind and the storm, he would sink into the water.  What is even more amazing is that when Peter would call out for help, IMMEDIATELY Jesus reached out His hand and took hold of Peter. 

As I have said, I have found that my worst days are those days that I am looking around at my circumstances, and focusing on how much I have lost and wondering how I will even make it through the day.  However, I have also noticed that on those days, if I have called out to God, He has IMMEDIATELY rescued me from my sadness.  He has given me joy and peace in the midst of the storm.  How?  He has shown Himself to me through nature.  A bird singing. A perfect, sunny day.  A baby laughing. A beautiful sunset. A brilliant rainbow.  He has shown himself to me through His people.  A letter in the mail.  A gift of money towards the adoption.  An email.  A loving smile.  He has shown Himself through His holy Word, the Bible like today discovering new things I’d never noticed before with this passage in Matthew. 

At the end of that passage it says that when Jesus got into the boat with Peter, the storm ceased and the disciples worshipped Him.  It’s so reassuring that if we chose to follow Jesus closely and obey His will, that even the storms of life will be calmed and we can sit back in awe and just worship Him. Never forget that God is so good and He is faithful to His children.  I’m so thankful for His love, compassion and patience with me.

 How am I doing?  I can honestly say that by the grace of God,  I am very well.  How are you?   

I have this picture framed in my office at work.  This is my 2-year-old Haley reaching for help from her strong Daddy.  I see it as a picture of Christ.  When we call out to Him, IMMEDIATELY He rescues us!

2011 Ukraine Adoption Statistics

See below article taken from

According to Ruslan Maliuta, the President of the Alliance for Ukraine Without Orphans, the adoption statistics for Ukraine in 2011 were:

Total Adoptions: 3,078
National Adoptions: 2,109
Breakdown of national adoptions by age of child:
Under 1 year: 844
1-2 years: 645
3-5 years: 419
6-10 years 167
11-17 years: 34
International Adoptions: 969
Breakdown of international adoptions by age of child:
Under 1 year: 13
1-2 years: 103
3-5 years: 172
6-10 years: 412
11-17 years: 269
For as much waiting as we did for our Brandon Sergey, these totals seem really LOW to me. For the International adoptions in Brandon's category of 11-17 year olds there were only 269 children adopted....for the whole year! There were more than that number of children in Brandon's ONE orphanage. And there are thousands of orphanages in Ukraine. This makes me very sad. We can do better! Maybe we should adopt more than one child!?