Thursday, November 6, 2014

Here I Am!


I’ve had several people get on my case about not writing in this blog for an unreasonable amount of time. So here I am!  Where have I been?  I’ve been off thinking (always dangerous) and making some changes (scary) in our lives and now we are finally getting into the swing of things.

A few months ago I read a book called The World Book of Happiness by Leo Bormans.  There is no shortage of books or blogs out there on the topic of happiness as most people are constantly trying to seek happiness.  Most authors conclude the same things and give a lot of the same advice. As turbulent as my life has been the last 3 years, I figured it was fine time I research bringing more happiness back into my life.  Obviously I look at things from a biblical worldview and alter concepts to fit into my biblical worldview, but here are a few things that stood out from Bormans’ book.

  1.  Accept what you have if you can’t change it.
  2. Change what you don’t like if you can.
  3. Cherish the ones you love and cut out the ones who drag you down.
  4. Don’t compare.
  5. Stop worrying what other people think.
  6. Always be positive.
  7. Live like there is no tomorrow.

I began to look at these ideas one by one and there are certainly areas I need to work harder.  Some things in my life needed change and over the course of several months I changed several things that just were a constant burden on my heart. 

I’ve written months ago about our move from the hectic world of the dreaded commute to homeschooling.  Homeschooling worked for a season of time and now our kids all attend public school.  For the most part, public school is going well.  It has really opened our eyes regarding having our children in the same Christian bubble all their lives.  They have grown so much in the last few months.  I must say I am SO proud of them!  God has truly blessed us with amazing children!

We also have chosen to attend a different church.  There was no one thing about our former church that made us leave and we harbor no ill will.  There are just times in life when it’s best to pack up and move to further His Kingdom in other places.  If you think about the early churches in the New Testament, moving around and ministering in different areas expanded the gospel so much better than if, say, the Apostle Paul had driven down roots in just one church for his entire adult life.  In my opinion the church is not a building any way.  The church is the body of Christ and those relationships never go away.  My brothers and sisters in Christ are always going to be my friends and brothers and sisters in Christ.  Attending a church in a new location doesn’t change that.  We continue to be sensitive to God’s leading and where He wants us to serve and be served.

I’ve found that it’s in silence most times that we hear from the Lord the most.  In silence rest occurs.  When we hear from the Lord and are rested, healing can begin.  Happiness is the Lord.

I’ll talk more about these things in the future, I’m sure.  But for now, I better make this post so it doesn’t get too long.  And I’ll ask you to consider if any of these points stand out to you in your own life?  What is sucking the happiness out of your life?

Friday, September 19, 2014

It Takes A Village


It takes a whole village to raise kids.  It truly does.  I believe it takes even more than that when you are raising an adopted older child.  I think most adoptive parents could agree with that.  I am thankful for my village.  My village includes neighbors, friends, teachers, family, doctors, and so many others.

A few days ago, I contacted our friends who adopted the same time as us from the same orphanage and their child is the same age as Matthew.  They expressed that their child also struggles with basic math such as 5+5 and 2x4.  They expressed that their child also cannot read well in English even after 7 months of daily tutoring.  They also have an older child that they adopted from Ukraine many years ago who said this new child can’t even read or write well in Ukrainian.  So it looks like both children did not get much of ANY education EVER.  I’m still trying to grasp this concept.  We are starting with a 12-year-old from ABSOLUTE scratch.

This week while working on 2x4=8 for the 7th month in a row, I finally asked Matthew, “What did you ever learn in Ukraine in school?”  His answer was a defensive, “Nothing!  I learned nothing.  My mama and pop had no money and they say I know nothing and they not spend money on a boy (who knows) nothing. They say I stupid.”  I held back my saddened emotions and continued, “Well, if you learned nothing, then what did you do all day long, every single day?”  He answered, “My mama and pop, they leave early when it still dark, they lock me the door, I stay home alone, one piece of bread and some water. They come home after dark, maybe 12 hours.”  So if I understood him correctly, he was left alone from the ages of 4-7 all day, every day while both his parents worked. I recall the apartments in Ukraine had these old-fashioned shaped keys that you had to turn to open the door and turn to lock the door.  They don’t have latches like there are here in America.  You have to have a key to open and close the doors.

 Keeping in mind that these people are actually his adoptive father, and a step mother, I continued.  “When did you go to school?”  He said, “I went to school maybe 7 (years old), then mama said (that) I know nothing and (that) she did not want me. I too stupid.  She want (her) own babies, not me. I go to (orphanage) and they teach me, (but) I still know nothing.” 

I really had to choke back the tears.  Someone called MY little boy STUPID and it’s hurtful!  He was crying at this point in our talk.  I am actually the THIRD MOM in his life.  His bio-mom is elsewhere.  According to him and the director his step mom didn’t want him because she wanted babies of her own, not an older boy.  So this really makes sense why he is so guarded with me while very open with Tim. 

I assured him that he is NOT stupid and he DOES know things and that I LOVE HIM and I WANT HIM.  Then I asked him, “Well, do you want ME to teach you to read and me to teach you math?” 

He nodded. 

“Will you promise to try to learn?” 

He nodded. 

“I honestly don’t know HOW to teach you, but I promise to TRY to teach you if you TRY to learn, okay?”

He nodded and more tears flowed.  He wiped them away like a tough guy and we got busy with more times tables and reading.  When we finished he gave me a GIANT hug and said, “Mom, thanks for teaching me to read and math.”  It was such a great feeling!

I’m excited that it’s been a great couple of days as he gets home from school and grabs his book and ASKS ME to read.  It’s not like it’s been the last 7 months where I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall, and he feels like learning is some kind of punishment.  He’s open and he’s actually REALLY improving quickly. And it’s neat because reading time together every day is kind of our “thing” now.  It’s our special time of laughing, snuggling on his bed and reading together.

I’m thankful for our adoptive friends who gave us that encouragement that this is NORMAL.  These kids are not taught anything in some of the orphanages in Ukraine. 

I’m thankful for our neighbors….A few weeks ago the boys were getting a little wild with their air soft guns.  I’m doing the best that I can to balance not being the hover-helicopter-mom trying to protect my baby boy because of what happened to Brandon, while letting “boys be boys” while being realistically SAFE.  

One of the boys got hit in the inside of the nose, right by the eye.  Since Matthew didn’t do it, we gave him a verbal warning to ONLY SHOOT at the designated targets that we bought from Dick’s Sporting Goods.  A few days after the eye incident, Matthew came inside sheepishly.  I’m finally picking up on his facial expressions.  I guess one of the neighborhood girls was struck in the ear by a bee bee that had ricochet off of a light post.  The father of this girl disarmed ALL THE BOYS in the neighborhood.  Again, Matthew was NOT to blame for that misfire, but I was OH SO GLAD this dad stepped up and took away all their guns and said, “Have your mom or dad come get your guns from me.”  This held these boys accountable to either tell their parents what happened or not get their expensive guns back.  I appreciate their wisdom when our backs are turned.

Wednesday Matthew came home from school looking highly stressed out and frankly a little sheepish.  He wasn’t open to talking when I asked him what was up.  A half hour later the doorbell rang.  Outside there stood an upset AA mother with her son in an orange shirt.  She explained that “orange shirt” had been bullied by our Matthew and that there were several boys bullied by Matthew and they are all afraid of him.  She mentioned on Monday there was an incident that had happened where Matthew knocked down “orange shirt.” He then looked me in the eye and said to me, “I just want peace.  I just want to go to school and come home in peace.  I don’t want none of dat.”  I quickly apologized for the incident, thanked her and “orange shirt” for letting me know of the incident and assured her that we’d try to resolve the situation.  We exchanged phone numbers.  My heart sank.  I really did not want to hear that MY son is being a bully. 

After she left I went into Matthew’s room and asked him what happened because I wanted his side of the story.  He said that orange shirt pushed HIM first and so he retaliated.  Of course that’s what happened.  That’s what any boy would say that didn’t want to be in trouble. At this point, I wasn’t sure what story to believe because it’s one boy’s word against the other.   I called Tim and he got off work immediately to “handle things.” 

Tim ended up spending the next 2 hours walking with Matthew down to 5 different boys’ homes around our neighborhood and speaking with both the boys and the parents of the boys.  As it turns out, Matthew was telling the truth.  This group of boys was goofing around knocking back packs, pushing and shoving in a playful way at first and then things escalated.  “Orange shirt” pushed Matthew down first.  Matthew lost his balance because he wasn’t expecting the push, and the backpack was quite heavy.  “Orange shirt’s” friends started laughing at Matthew, so Matthew gave him a solid push back knocking “orange shirt” down and walked away.  At the end of this investigation the boys apologized and the mother apologized for blaming Matthew and it all worked out.

We were proud of Matthew for telling the truth and I was thankful Tim was able to get to the bottom of things before it got any worse.  I was SO relieved that Matthew is not a bully.  He does have a history of fighting in our neighborhood, but thankfully his fighting is generally more self-defense than instigation.  If someone throws a punch he has no problem defending himself so kids don’t usually mess with him a whole lot.  I will admit Matthew can be obnoxious with his “talking smack” around peers, especially if girls his age are around.  Oh, yes, we are at that wonderful age in a boy’s life.  God help us and the world!!!

Anyway, Matthew seemed happy to know that Dad had his back.  It was fun to look out the window and see Matthew happily skipping alongside of Tim yapping a mile a minute as they walked home after things had been resolved.  He came home from school the following day all smiles and said, “(Orange shirt) said he (is) sorry and he like(s) me. We (are) friends.”

Again, I am so thankful for “the Village.” It is NOT easy being parents in the 21st Century.  It is not always a walk in the park for raising older adoptive kids with language barriers either.   I was glad Orange Shirt’s mom came to let us know that something had been happening.  I’m thankful for the boys that are Matthew’s friends and walking buddies.  I’m thankful for the neighbors. Any and all help we can get from others is greatly appreciated. It definitely takes a village! 


My village will definitely be extra useful as these kids inch closer toward adulthood with driving right around the corner.  What about you?  What do you like about your "village?" Comment below or send me a message at followingclosely@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

7 Months Home!


Today marks the time when seven months ago we set foot on American soil together!  This boy has grown 3 inches in such a short time! He's looking pretty tall these days!  I wonder what his director would think of all his long HAIR!  She only ever saw him with all his hair shaved off.

This has been a transitional month for Matthew.  Prior to this month he was at home and basically playing all day.  This is the first month where he has had to get up every morning and spend 7 hours at school each day.  He actually seems to thoroughly enjoy school.  He doesn't come home exhausted like Brandon used to back when he attended private school.  I swear Matthew has an eternal dose of energy and is rarely tired out.

I'm not sure what all the school is working on as far as ESL.  We try to ask Matthew, but he jabbers on and on about anything and everything except what he's learning at school.  I have yet to receive an email from any of the teachers of his latest team working with him in 6th grade.  I assume if there was a problem, someone would be contacting us.

When he gets home every afternoon, I have him listen to some phonics pronunciation cds and then I have him read to me for about an hour.  He can read maybe 3 pages in a full hour in a 1st grade reader.  He's being tested now at school to see if he has a learning disability or if it's more behavioral, but he's not improving with his reading much at all.  He still struggles with what sounds each letter makes.  His orphanage director told us over and over how smart he was so maybe the public school is correct that it is behavioral.  Maybe it is a different cultural opinion of what "smart" is.  I know a lot of the work in the orphanage was just copying word for word what was written on the black board.  There wasn't a whole lot of memorization.  I've read a lengthy thread in an adoption forum that said, "Until you can convince an older Ukrainian boy that an education will benefit HIM, you will be hard pressed to get him to do anything."  Probably 20 or 30 families agreed with that statement and elaborated that culturally Ukraine boys do not see a value in education.

This is just one of those things that a lot of adoptive parents struggle with regarding their older adopted children.  We don't know how hard to push him, but he needs to be pushed.  Matthew has high hopes of being a sniper in the US Air Force when he turns 18.  The problem is, he HAS to graduate high school in order to enlist in the Air Force.  They no longer accept the GED for the US Air Force.  However, if he is 12 now and not even able to read, he is really going to have to work hard in the next 5.5 years to fit everything he needs to in order to graduate.  So, dear friends and family, if you could pray that a light bulb goes off soon that would be wonderful!

In the meantime, we are enjoying this spark of energy!  This past weekend I went on a date with just him to go see a movie.  It was the first time I got to go out with just him so it was special.  He was dying to see the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie.  He absolutely loved that movie.  I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed the movie as well. We had popcorn and slushies.  Afterward we went to a restaurant to have delicious sub sandwhiches, which was what he requested.  It was so much fun and a great time of bonding.

If any of my fellow adoptive parents have an creative ideas for us to help him learn his phonics or any parents of boys who have ideas on how to motivate a 12-year-old boy to learn, we are open to suggestions.  Feel free to comment below or email me at followingclosely@gmail.com.






Thursday, September 4, 2014

These Kids!

 Things are going really well so far this year with homeschooling the girls.  The girls do their video courses for 4 of their online classes and then I teach them individually English, Literature/Reading, Spelling and Poetry.  They all have said they enjoy the one-on-one time I give them as a teacher.  So far we have straight A's and wonderful attitudes!  The above picture is Haley reading with wonderful expression and clarity POOLSIDE!!! 
 The other day Haley was sitting in her bedroom "listening to her video lecture" while gazing outside and somehow she spotted a lizard swimming in the pool.  She is SO easily distracted from school and I swear she has freekishly good vision to be able to see from her bedroom window such a small critter in the pool!
 Oh, how this child loves her critters!
 The poor lizard died later that day because I don't think the pool chemicals were good for it.  Matthew thought he'd be funny and throw a lizard at me and I screamed and jumped so high I almost landed in the pool fully dressed....Thankfully the lizard he threw was a rubber one, but he got a good laugh out of scaring the absolute daylights out of me.

 I've been teaching the girls a little each day how to cook in kind of a hands-on cooking class.  One day for lunch Kylie chose to make Velveeta Mac and Cheese.  I had her read the instructions herself to make her meal.  She accidentally mis-read the instructions and added the packet of liquid cheese to the boiling water along with the noodles.  She somehow missed the steps that said to boil the noodles first for 10 minutes, then drain them, THEN add the packet of liquid cheese.  She was so unbelievably and uncharacteristically angry that she screamed, "Ohhhh!!  I HATE HATE HATE cooking!  I hate it! AHHHHH!!!!" She wasn't screaming AT me.  She was just screaming into thin air. I went in my bedroom and closed the door to answer a phone call.  I guess she assumed I was upset at her outburst, so she slid the following note under the door:

"Dear Mom, Sorry I yelled @ you.  It's just that cooking frosterates me.  Remind me not 2 cook again.  Sorry if I spelt wrong.  I love you. Love Kylie."

I love her tender heart to apologize over becoming "frosterated."  She is always so quick to apologize.  She's a precious girlie!  She has since successfully cooked Velveeta Mac and Cheese!!!  If at first you don't succeed, try, try again! 
 Bella, in her old age, has discovered how to jump over the baby gate to get out of the kitchen.  I came out one morning and she was not in her kitchen, but comfy sleeping on the couch.  Thankfully she didn't go through all the garbage cans and shred everything like she normally does! 

 Kylie is in the midst of her very first volleyball season.  She is improving every day.  She has made new friends and I'm so thankful she is dedicated to practice.  Tim usually works with her a little each day on how to hit or serve the ball correctly.  Volleyball is one game I never learned well.  I just play sand volleyball whenever for fun, but I'm sure I don't hit the thing correctly.  I'm just glad when I get the ball over the net! Anyway, it seems all Kylie does is practice, practice, practice!!  She's amazingly disciplined in that way!



Fall is always such a busy time of year.  We love it though! We are anxious for the weather to cool off a bit!  This week has been in the 90's every day.  Every weekend in September is full of something.  We have Tim's birthday coming up.  Next weekend is Kylie first volleyball tournament and Katie's first all-day craft fair of the season.  The following week Katie has a youth group trip out of town to a theme park and Christian music concert.  It's a good thing iPhone has a calendar so I can keep everything straight for these kids!  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Church @ the Lake

Yesterday our family had a blast at the lake!  All of our kids are truly water babies and LOVE the lake.  Our girlies have been in water since a week after they were born.  Kylie even started swimming when she was 2!! Katie and Haley swam well by 3.  Matthew just learned to swim since he came to America, but he's just about keeping up with the girls.

We enjoyed the tubing, kayaking, swimming, dinner, brownies & ice cream, rock climbing, roller blading, arcade games and so much more.  The kids played HARD the whole time.  It was nice just getting away from town and relaxing at the lake with our friends.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous, though it was a little nicer later on because it was cooler once the sun went down.

We all came home with bruises, scraped elbows, sore muscles and exhaustion, but we could not have asked for a better time!

The guys at the lake



Sweet teen girlies

My best friend and I

The gorgeous lake...my friend took this pic and she was kind enough to let me use it

One tired boy!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Money and Priorities

The other day I read a quote by Dave Ramsey that reads, "How a family spends money represents its value system.  What you do with money shows who you really are."  That really jumped out at me because it's Scriptural.  The Bible teaches "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  (Matthew 6:20, 21).


I was curious what our value system is in our home so I took a photo of my checkbook to evaluate. As an accountant I love looking at this type of stuff! 






The top entry was a purchase of tickets for Church @ the Lake for our family.  Every Labor Day our church has morning service at the church, then goes down to the lake for an afternoon and evening of fellowship together as a church family.  This photo also shows gas, a check reorder and some food purchases. We had Hungry Howies Pizza at the beach on our family getaway.  The Red Box movie was the "God's Not Dead" movie we watched on Friday night.  Our family really enjoyed that movie and the message it gave.  GNC, this was to purchase women's mufti-vitamins for me.  Tim and Matthew had Vanilla Frosties together at Wendy's.  We contributed to savings accounts, gave BBC and Score International charitable contributions and finally, we paid our car insurance.  

This is a decent usage of money.  Most of these purchases have to do with our family, church and simply paying our bills on time.  That is basically our life!

One thing I'd like to encourage others to do is give.  The Bible says to "Lay yourselves treasures in Heaven."  This is the idea of giving to others because it honors God and cheerfully donating makes people joyful. Material items may bring joy momentarily, but those that focus on eternal things will bring even greater joy in Heaven.  

Most of the time people do not give because with so many charities out there, they don't know which charities are authentic and which ones are shady with the resources they've collected.  One recent example is the ALS research.  Some of you may have done the ice bucket challenge to raise awareness of the disease.  I read a few articles online that said that ALS research money was not going to be used for as much research as you might think and also some of the research is done on unborn babies scientists have murdered.  I know there are several adoption charities that are more likely child trafficking businesses than legitimate orphan care organizations.

It's best to first give to your local church and then give to a well-researched organization in which you are passionate about.  I wanted to list 3 great charities that I love.

1.  Score International (www.scoreinternational.org).  We fell in love with this organization when we went on a short-term mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  We support and have kept in touch with our missionaries from that trip.  Score International specializes in sports mission outreach, short-term missions, orphanage ministries, and Spanish language studies.  They hold sports camps for sports such as soccer and baseball and spread the love of Christ to the children.  When we were in the Dominican we shopped for and donated cleaning supplies, diapers, food and clothing to the orphanages and the poor families in the outer villages through Score.  I love this ministry and they stretch every dollar given to meet the needs of the people and evangelize the lost!

2.  Show Hope (http://showhope.org/sponsor).  Show Hope is an organization founded by Steven Curtis Chapman and his family in honor their adoptive Chinese daughter.  This organization provides grants to adoptive families, provides funds for life-saving medical care and cares for older orphans with various special needs.  While our family never was awarded a grant from them for our adoptions, we have friends whose adopted daughter had a cleft lip repair paid for by this organization, and other friends who did receive an adoption grant.  This non-profit is close to my heart because they experienced a similar accident and death of a child as our family.  The book they wrote "Choosing to See" ministered to my grieving heart in the months following Brandon's unexpected death.  

3.  Little Flower Projects (info@chunmiaolittleflower.org).  This non-profit provides specialized care of abandoned infants, nurturing love to orphans and education for older, disabled orphans in Beijing, China.  I follow their work and the progress of several little ones online.  It is absolutely amazing to see the life-changing medical care and love this organization provides.

I could go on and on with legitimate organizations, but these three are the first ones that came to mind as I began to write this post.  Feel free to write to me at followingclosely@gmail.com or visit their website if you'd like more information on donating to these companies.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Post About Trolls


The very reliable, professor approved and endorsed website called Wikipedia (sarcasm--as a college professor myself, I say professors actually hate Wikipedia) defines “trolling” as “the practice of behaving in a deceptive, destructive, or disruptive manner in a social setting on the Internet with no apparent instrumental purpose.”  It would seem that I have a group of trolls who regularly visit my blog with no “apparent purpose” other than to mock and criticize me and my family.  This blog is not for trolls.  It is designed to keep family, friends and other adoptive families all over the globe abreast on the happenings of our family.  It is designed to give a clear picture of any difficulties of life after adoption and to show our family and friends how best to pray for us.  I am very candid on this blog while trying not to embarrass any of my children or publicly ridicule them.  It is so other parents going through similar situations know it’s normal to feel this way or that.  The behavior of adopted children and how we must respond to adoptive children is sometimes completely different than bio-children.  Ultimately I hope this blog challenges and encourages its readers.

These trolls and websites have somehow tagged our family as evil child abusers who do every, single thing wrong as parents.  After a little digging I found out that my trolls go by the fake online names like “Astrin” and “Amom” and "Christie M" and a few other names.  They have a reputation of criticizing not only me, but lots of people to include the Duggar Family and several other adoptive families.  I’m actually a bit flattered by the fact that I’m placed in the same category as the Duggar family.  Thank you for that.  I happen to think that the Duggars are an exceptional family with wonderful, respectful and beautiful children and an awesome marriage.  Rather than accusing of them of “breeding like rats,” perhaps we should thank them for raising their children in such a way that they love God and other human beings.  The Duggars and their children are generous and kind in every action.  They are wonderful contributors in society and I doubt you will find any of their children doing drugs, getting in trouble with police or murdering mankind.  Trolls, I’m humbled that not only do you trolls take the time to read every post of this blog, but also critique it when you could easily be doing other things with your time such as working a real job, or taking care of your own family because obviously you are the best father or mother in the whole wide world.  The fact that my blog is worthy of your scarce time is truly humbling. 

These particular trolls find it emotionally abusive if adoptive parents laugh or joke with their adopted children, even though they have no clue that these adoptive children thrive with laughter.  It’s amazing that these cowards think that with 2 master’s degrees under our belts and 13+ years of parental experience that we do not have enough common sense or “emotional maturity” to tell if a child is emotionally ready for teasing.  The idea of picking on a child with alleged no understanding of humor is ridiculous, but thank you for caring for our children’s emotions.  

The trolls and gossips criticize adoptive parents with “child collection” for the sake of winning praise or favor from onlookers.  They feel adoptive parents get some kind of rush.  I can see how someone with a misconstrued worldview would draw that kind of conclusion of an ulterior motive of joy because children really are a blessing and a lot of fun.  However, most of the families being criticized are not caring for orphans in this world for a rush.  They are serving these children because they love the Lord and they love other human beings on the planet and they genuinely want to change the world, one life at a time.  Every orphaned child deserves a family.  Not only are these adoptive families doing the best they can, but the majority of the ones I’ve seen you trolls criticize are actually exceptionally elite families, gifted in love and compassion which is so rare in our world today.  They are precious and some of the most generous families in our entire country.  I appreciate being compared to these fine folks.  I have no doubt when they get to heaven if they are born-again believers, God will tell them, “Well done, you good and faithful servants.” Adoptive families, keep up the good work!  Trolls, what will God say to you about vicious hateful words online?  Don’t believe in God?  I will tell you what you’ll hear: “Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity.” 

My lovely trolls are convinced that we are going to disrupt or “re-home” Matthew.  I am absolutely 100% against disrupting and rehoming thriving adoptive kids, so thank you for that concern, but you can stop spreading that lie now: We will not be disrupting Matthew. 

I will say, though, there are many adoptive parents with very unique situations where the child is not thriving.  This idea of disruption in unique situations is NOT my own opinion or idea based on emotions or your perceived stupidity on my part.  It is a viewpoint based on many books I’ve read and it has been formed only after speaking with child counselors, therapists, case workers and other experts who deal with adopted kids and those children with any kind of trauma.  If a child is posing a DANGER to a family such as sexually abusing other bio or adopted children in the home, if a child is setting the house on fire or trying to kill others in the home, if a child is obsessed with knives and threatening to murder themselves or other individuals in the home, if the child has raped another member of the family, if a child is psychologically tormenting other children in the home or anything along these lines, and the child is not responding to professional help, the child needs to go—according to the expert advice of adoption therapists and case workers.  

It is about setting down pride and doing what is best and safest for ALL THE MEMBERS of the family.  Obviously it is NOT IDEAL for a family to rehome an adopted child.  It is definitely NOT a first choice the minute an adopted child has a bad day.  However, when a case worker says to a family, “Either this ONE dangerous child goes, or I am removing ALL of your children from the home because it is not safe due to this one child,” that advice MUST be heeded.  Along those lines, if a choice given by a case worker is “Either this child can go into foster care with complete strangers, he/she can go to a group home or you can try to find another family willing to adopt this child,” the obvious choice is to find another family willing and able to adopt and handle the child.  It is not best for the child to be passed around in foster care.  Stability is best.  It is best to screen out new families very well to see if they can meet that child’s needs.  Perhaps a child is sexually abusive to younger children.  That child needs to be placed in a home with NO SMALL children on which they can prey upon.  Finding a new home for a child like this is not “flippantly passing around a child like a pet.”  It is a decision bathed in prayer and it is genuinely seeking to care for a child with unique needs while not harming other children in the process.  A new environment with a fresh new slate in many cases will cause most children like this thrive. 

I personally know two children who did not do well in the first adoptive home for one reason or another and both of these had legitimate safety concerns as mentioned above.  Every single day was a battle in these families for protection and healing.  The entire families were headed off a cliff.  These two families finally came to the conclusion after professional counsel that they should set aside their pride of thinking they can fix this child, and rather try to find another family where the children could thrive.  Both children found another family and have absolutely thrived in the second home.  Love is not clinging to a child with a death grip thinking you are some sort of awesome savior who can just love a child enough.  Love is about doing what is best for that child, even when the decision is not one you would prefer. Trolls, what makes you think that you know better than professionals or those families actually living out the circumstances?  Trolls, what makes you think you know more than God?  You are out of line and exceptionally arrogant. 

As far as abuse, I cannot find any reason any troll would think we beat or otherwise abuse our children.  No child has ever been beaten in our home with rods.  I have not read any book called “To Train Up a Child” and certainly do not endorse any anger-based, barbaric behavior described on your troll sites.  We do not believe in beating children.  They are not cattle. They are little human beings with very tender feelings.  We have never bruised our children, ever.  We do not verbally abuse our children. We do not call our children names.  We do not tell our children they are stupid or otherwise ridicule their persons.  We do our best to model in our marriage respect for one another and do not call each other names.  We do not tell our children to “shut up.”  We do not neglect our kids.  We treat our children how we would like to be treated. We do not curse.  We do not drink or smoke.  We make these choices intentionally because we believe our home should be a haven from the outside world seeking to destroy them.  We are not perfect parents, but we do our best to love each of them individually and how they prefer to be loved.  We hug on them and praise them far more than we discipline them. By they way, in our home discipline does NOT equal barbaric beating.  We lead by example and direct with love. We meet them where they are emotionally and physically.  We help them in the areas they need help. We will stop at nothing to bend over backwards to place any and every resource we can in their hands if we feel it will help them.  We encourage them in the areas they are strong and we challenge them where they are weaker.  We pray for them every day.  We provide every basic need and even go above that to give them things they want as the budget allows.  These kids, who have been through a lot in their young lives, are happy and thriving and we owe that to the Lord.  Anyone that knows our family personally would agree.  We are doing the best we can with the children God has given us and I don't mean to brag, but our kids are pretty amazing people!  

So trolls, thank you for your time and concern, but really you can let it go now.  Anger, bitterness and destructive criticism is not good for your health, so maybe you could use your spare time more effectively dealing with your own emotional issues for your own sake.  Again, this blog is not for trolls, or usually written to trolls, but if you have a problem with me and would like to speak with me directly, followingclosely@gmail.com is where you can find me.  Blogspot does not have a way for me to answer Anonymous comments.  Fake screen names and deceptive gossip for the purpose of making our family look bad is really cowardly and disrespectful.  Good luck with giving up the gossip.  Bad habits are sometimes hard to break.  I'm sure deep down somewhere you legitimately care about orphans and mankind, but you're going about it all wrong.  Speaking positively and encouraging people will make you feel better about yourself.  Try it, you may just smile and find a sense of humor along the way.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

1st Day of School



Matthew had an awesome first and second day of school!  He had a great first and second day of try outs for soccer!   He says he's already made a lot of friends.  He made it through the first round of cuts for the soccer team and was pretty excited about that. 

The last two days he has been pulled out of mainstream classes for 45 minutes each day for ESL testing.  I received a call yesterday afternoon from the school counselor that they are going to go ahead place him back in 6th grade because he cannot read or write in English or do any math.  I'm thinking that he's at "information overload" because he knows how to read at a 1st Grade level and knows his times tables up to the 4's.  He came to America knowing none of that so he's making strides of improvement.  Anyway, in 6th grade there is remedial help, so the one-on-one help from the ESL professionals will be exactly what he needs.  They said he could stay in 7th, but their recommendation was that he go back to 6th, so with went with their opinion.  They are the education experts and we trust their expertise.

Unfortunately the school rules are if a child is not in 7th grade they cannot try out for middle school sports so he was pretty bummed about that.  We are hoping to work with him a little bit with his soccer skills and then next year he will go back even stronger for the team.  He had absolutely no problems with the fitness and speed portion of the tryouts.  His areas to work on is the foot work and ball control since he has never been taught those elements to the game.  Since Tim and I both played soccer back in the day we have plenty of ideas and time to work with him.  The coach has a handout with drills and such we can work on.  We hope to send him to a few soccer camps in the area and definitely next summer and those will also really help build strength and skills. 

His first day when I drove him to the school I asked him if he'd rather I park and walk him in to his homeroom or if he wanted me to drop him off at the door like all the other kids.  He was quick to say that he wanted me to walk with him.  It was a good thing I did because they had changed his schedule again for the 4th time and he had a whole new homeroom and a whole new team of teachers.  I stood for a minute making sure he was headed in the right direction for his newest homeroom and held back the tears.  He turned and waved at me several times looking scared, but determined.  I waited until I got to the car before the tears spilled out.  He looked so small in that big school! 

Anyway, we are excited for him this year.  There are a great bunch of teachers and administrators that really seem to care about his success.  They have encouraged good communication between us and them so we know exactly what is going on.  We think he is going to do an amazing job and grow so much this year!   God is good!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ready or Not....

Last night we attended Matthew's new school's open house.  We went down his schedule and met each of his teachers one by one.  All of the teachers that we met were very friendly and very helpful as far as accommodating his English limitations.  We had to purchase his PE clothing, gym bag, his lock and a student planner.

He had the opportunity to meet and speak with the soccer coach, if he makes the team.  It will be difficult to make the team since he's never actually been trained in soccer or learned any disciplines. However, we figured it doesn't hurt to let him try out so he can see where he needs to be to make the team.  We think it will be a good learning experience for him.  If he does make the team, it will be great for him to finally have some soccer training and learn the actual skills and disciplines of the game. 

We needed to get his sports physical and shots before the first day of school.  His regular doctor's office is out of the shot he needed until October and the doctor was out of the office today so she couldn't fill out his Sports Physical paperwork, so we just went to the Urgent Care Walk-In Clinic because they do Sports Physicals.  It was fast and easy.  It just cost extra money since they don't take insurance for Walk-In Sports Physicals.

When we got home from open house Tim worked with him on how to open his lock with the combination inside the box.  He picked it up pretty quickly and he taught Kylie and Haley how to open his lock as well.  We went over his schedule and where the different classes are located.  We told him what to do if he gets confused or lost at school.  We went over what room number he needed to show up for his soccer briefing and practice and reviewed what the coach's name is.   We went over what different school supplies are called, "Notebook," "3-ringed binder," "Planner," etc. He has so many things to learn and understand.  It's all of these things you really don't think about until you have a child who has no clue what the English words are for these things.

Today we had to go shopping to get him a few smaller clothing items like socks and underwear.  He needed soccer cleats for his tryouts and PE sneakers.  He wanted me to teach him what outfits "matched" for school and what shoes look best with what outfits.  He is very particular about matching and looking nice.  He likes things ironed and neat.  He likes to wear cologne and smell good as well so that is a real blessing.  I love having a neat and clean boy because I know so many boys his age are NOT neat or clean and they definitely can't keep track of their belongings like he does!

Monday we have to go meet the ESL director at a different public school.  He wants to check Matthew's laptop for progress on his Rosetta Stone.  Then we will need to sign the laptop out for this entire school year.  The ESL director will give us another briefing on how the ESL program works.  It is my understanding that they will pull Matthew out of his regular classes for ESL tutoring every day for 30 minutes a day.  Somewhere in there they will do some testing on him to see exactly where he is and if he has any learning disabilities.


We have had a lot going on with getting him ready for school.  It is exciting to me that his school seems to be so helpful and motivated to help him succeed.  He looked a little nervous on Open House night, but he told me today he is really excited for school to start.  He prayed last night in family devotions that he would do really well in school and learn English really fast.  We think he will be stretched this year, but he is a very competitive boy and I believe he will work hard to catch up to the other "guys" in his class.  With his positive attitude and determination we really think we will see a lot of growth and maturity in him.  Ready or not.....2014-2015 School Year, here we come!  (Pray for him...and also for me.  I will probably cry for him like I cried for the girlies on their first day of Kindergarten!!)




Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summer's Almost Over---Myrtle Beach 2014

 What a hectic, crazy summer with my job searching, school touring, traveling, Tim's business trips, tutoring Matthew, camps, and so much more!  We received a 25% off coupon to use for a Myrtle Beach resort, so we decided to take the kids on one final vacation before the hectic school year begins.

We almost cancelled our trip because the Honda Pilot needed repairs and also the forecast was 70% chance of rain the whole time.  Boy, are we glad we didn't cancel because the weather was absolutely gorgeous!  The ocean was warm enough to swim and boogie board, yet the breeze coming off the ocean made the 93-degree temperatures bearable to just sit and sun bathe. 

We spent our days in the ocean, in the lazy river, in the pool or hot tub, watching free movies and shopping.  The girlies spent their money on a ukelele, sweatshirts, t-shirts, beach towels, beach bags and earrings.  Matthew saved most of his money, but found a pocket knife he wanted. It was funny because we spent the afternoon Monday shopping, and then Tuesday the girls had decided they wanted to exchange most of their things, so we spent Tuesday returning to all the stores we went to Monday.  Buyer's remorse much? (The guys rolled their eyes, but after all, it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind!)

 We enjoyed frozen yogurt, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, bagels, a breakfast buffet, the beach snack bar and pizza.  It was a treat for me not to have to cook or clean up.  It was so nice to get away from life for 3 days.  We didn't have to worry about school, work, the news reports on suicides, beheadings or politics.  We cut electronic and internet usage down to a bare minimum.  We just enjoyed our kids and lived in the moment.  It was a much needed break and we are so very thankful our Honda Pilot repairs did not cost too much so we didn't have to cancel our small vacation.  I'm so thankful for my precious family that God has given me, for good weather and for 25% discounts for family vacations!


Matthew and Haley caught a good wave!

Kylie and Matthew waiting for a good wave

He's grown so tall this summer!

Kylie playing volley ball with Dad

Matthew and Haley digging a giant hole

Man made beach chair

The lazy river wasn't so lazy with these two knocking each other off ;)

Katie Bug

Matthew and Haley enjoying the hot tub--it was Matthew's favorite

Our view from our hotel balcony

Matthew killing time while the girls shop, Tim in the background sleeping

Cooling off with some frozen yogurt

The girlies' favorite pass time!!
 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Matthew's Been Home 6 Months!





Look how much this boy has grown and changed in only 6 months!  He started out 6 months ago in size 8 boys' jeans and size 4 shoes and now he's in boys' 14 slim jeans and size 7 mens' shoes.  He's 5 foot tall already!  It won't be long before he is taller than me!  He hasn't gained any weight as he's grown in height most likely because he is never still so he burns off any weight he may have otherwise gained.  He eats ALL the time so perhaps when school begins and he has to sit still more often he will begin to gain weight.  I can't believe he's been here 6 months already.  Time flies when you're having fun and this boy is a blast to be around!



He has been enjoying the last month or so in Summer Day Camp with the local Recreation Center.  Day Camp has all kinds of neat activities throughout the day like dodge ball and field trips. He's been introduced to Zumba, bowling, bouncy houses, police representatives, soldiers and other heroes of our community. We take for granted that most boys his age in America would have already done all those things for years.  He is 12 and never has been exposed to any of this and he's had a blast each day.  We were hoping with the full immersion into English camp he would improve in his language skills and we think that our strategy worked out very well.  The idea of camp was to get him used to getting up every morning and heading outside the home. He has also met some kids who will attend his new school.

He is going to begin his Fall soccer league soon as well.  He will be a busy guy here shortly, but he thrives best by staying busy and staying out of trouble. 

Summer is coming to a close and he will begin 7th grade.  We are praying he does not go into culture shock from the American public school. (By "culture shock" I mean that he's been doing nothing but PLAY for 6 months, and all the sudden he's going to be around 2,000 kids his own age and he's going to have to sit still at a desk and adhere to a schedule. He will really struggle with that at first because there is no play time in middle school. His orphanage only had 101 kids in it and they did a lot of playing there as well.)  For the past 6 months we've been attempting to home school him and he hasn't learned all that quickly due to lack of motivation, so hopefully the "experts" in the school system can motivate him to want to learn.  We are optimistic that he will catch up to his grade level very soon because he is very smart! He just chooses to be lazy academically and would rather play. Still even after 6 months home, he's only about a 1st grade American level in math and reading. We are very thankful for the 6 months we had with him at home to get to know him and bond with him and now it's time for him to settle into real school and perhaps mature a bit.

We are praying this next month of changes in his life will run smoothly and that Matthew continues to grow and thrive here in America!  We pray God will send him solid, guy friends who have integrity and who will not lead him into foolishness.  We so much want to be able to trust him to obey the first time and to tell the truth.  We want to teach him to be a boy of good character.  We are praying he will see his need for a Savior.  We so are excited to see what God is going to do in his life and we are thankful for our friends and family who support us and pray for us daily.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Practical Jokes and Foolishness

One of the many things that 12-year-old boys need to learn is the difference between practical jokes versus foolishness.  According to Webster’s dictionary a joke is "something said or done to cause laughter.”  Foolishness is defined as “having or showing a lack of good sense or judgment.”


Many of you know that our firstborn son, Brandon, died after a bike accident.  When I found him on the ground (dead), the first thing I said to him was, “Brandon, stop fooling around.  You’re scaring me.” I hoped and prayed at the time he was joking around. Brandon had a history of teasing and pretending to be hurt or dead.  He once got in our Christmas tree box, crossed his arms over and closed his eyes, pretending to be dead in a casket.  At the time, it made me cringe to see him lying there in the box, and I quickly said, “Brandon, quit that.  Get out of the box.”  Surely he was just a boy and “boys will be boys,” but not even a month later, he truly was dead in a casket.  That memory is still burned in my mind.  While I have a good sense of humor and enjoy laughing at a good joke, that somehow wasn’t funny to me.




Last night I was inside watching a horse movie with the girls.  Matthew was outside playing with the neighborhood boys.  The door bell rang and outside was Matthew hunched over holding his stomach moaning and groaning.  Then he spewed what appeared to be vomit from his mouth and he continued with this behavior.  Panic set in my gut.  My arms tingled.  I reached for my phone to dial 911.  I panicked as I recalled I would not be able to reach Tim for several hours as he was in route flying home from a business trip. The day Brandon died, I could not reach Tim for several hours either.  To this day, any time I cannot reach Tim, I panic.  Last night my breathing picked up and I broke into a cold sweat. My heart palpitated. Thankfully the neighborhood boy started laughing and Matthew soon followed in rolling laughter.  He was fine.  It was a practical joke.  Only I wasn’t laughing. The girls were not laughing.  It took me a good hour to calm my nerves so I could call him inside and then speak coherently to him.




I sat him down and explained to him, that not even a week ago he did a similar joke about getting critically hurt and Daddy spoke to him then about jokes like that not being funny.  Tim explained then if he ever actually was hurt or sick we may not believe him.  He explained how Brandon did the same thing and it wasn’t funny back then either.  Tim explained he is not allowed to pretend to be sick or hurt again.




I asked Matthew if he thought it was funny that he scared me so bad and that I almost called the police and the ambulance.  He burst into tears, “No ma’am” he answered.  I emphasized that if it happens again, we are coming down on him hard. “Yes, ma’am. I understood this scared you (and it is) not funny,” he responded after he saw the tears in my eyes as well. 


This is the second time that he has pulled this “hurt” foolishness, but he’s played MANY other tasteless and foolish jokes on the girls.  He’s even lied about an intruder coming into the house which scared the girls so bad they slept in our room for almost a week.  


The Bible says in Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but correction shall drive it far from him.”  Our goal is to teach our son the difference between jokes where both parties think it’s funny and can laugh and what foolishness is.  We want to teach him to make good friend choices so he is influenced wisely and not influenced in foolishness.  Lying and faking illnesses/injuries is foolish.  Disobedience or deceit to make others laugh is foolish. It is a difficult job for us as his parents because we both love a sense of humor.  We joke and tease the kids as well.  Matthew is really a very funny boy and he contributes well to making our home fun and happy.  We don’t want to squash his spirit or ruin his sense of humor.  We just need to figure out how to direct him to have better taste in his humor.  We want to raise our son to have good self control and to be wise.  Pray for us and we navigate through this. 

Our big GOOF BALL!!!  Matthew "modeling" his pajama bottoms and Katie's Sperry's shoes

On a lighter note, Haley told Matthew last night he's "eye candy." (Seriously, where'd she learn that terminology? She’s only 9!! I don't particularly care for that language.) He answered, "Disgusting, I don't have candy in da eye! You're eye candy!" Haley, "Thanks!  In English 'eye candy' means you're CUTE." Matthew: "Oh, you're no candy in da eye." Haley shrugs. Never mind. Language barriers.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Changes in Border Control



Over the last ten years or so I have been changing.  My eyes have been opened a bit more as I’ve been exposed first-hand to more of the world outside my comfortable bubble than ever before.  Curiosity has made me an open-minded student.  No longer do I believe ideas or take sides to an argument based on what someone says.  I like to research things myself more thoroughly.  

Change can be very exciting.  It can be refreshing.  It can be an adventure.  Good choices can result in change that causes better quality of life and happiness.  The pursuit for change drives people to better themselves physically and to go the extra mile to succeed.

There is also an ugly side to change.  Change hurts.  It’s unfamiliar.  It sometimes causes doubt and easy discouragement.  A lot of change can be very bad. Many people seek to bring change into their lives believing “the grass is greener on the other side.” Every choice in life ushers in more change.  Not all change is even the result of a conscious choice. Life’s circumstances or superiors may decide upon change.  

Our nation voted for “change” when President Obama was running for election.  He has definitely brought about change.  I’d argue our nation has changed more under his leadership than any other president before him.  One great change was when he passed into tax law the Adoption Tax credit.  Our family has qualified for this tax credit for our International adoption and it’s definitely helped us out a lot with the expenses for our son.  I know many adopting families have utilized this tax credit and it has made adoption more attainable for them.

One change I’m not so sure about is with our border controls.  I am not on one side of the debate or the other.  I’ve read the debate of the Left and I’ve read the debate of the Right.  It’s a sensitive debate and I’m not even sure what the right answer is even with all the reading and research I’ve done.

On one hand I know I brought our son into the States legally.  We filed legal paperwork with USCIS.  We had to be fingerprinted.  We had to stand in long lines.  This legal process was very expensive and time consuming.  It was one of the many reasons it took our adoptions so long. It was why I was held up waiting in Ukraine on at least one occasion.  I know how much having our son home now costs us to feed, give health care to and he’s a very healthy boy with no diseases.  I know how much he costs the public school system to get him up to par with his English.  He is just ONE boy.  I read that more than 60,000 minors have already entered our country’s borders illegally since 2014 began and thousands are still flooding in every month.  Laws and the constitution are in place and have been in place for a very good reason: You have to draw the line somewhere.  Everyone cannot come to America.  Taking care of illegal immigrants is very expensive for a nation that is already in trillion dollar debt.  I won't even get into the discussion about the diseases coming in through illegal aliens.

On the other hand I’ve been to several third world countries.  I’ve seen the poverty.  I’ve walked among the raw sewage that runs down their streets.   I’ve read about the civil wars in their countries.  I’ve watched the videos and documentaries of young girls being gang raped and the young boys forced into violence and war at an age younger even than my own son.  I’ve seen the pain in the eyes of the parents who simply want to provide for their children and desire for their kids to be safe, just as you or I want our children to be safe.  I am moved to compassion to care for the poor and especially the children. I can’t imagine coldly rejecting sickly children who have spent months traveling to the borders.  I’ve looked into the delicate eyes of small children who long for a better life in America.  It’s heart breaking to not be able to help all the needy children of the world.

I’m perplexed and I’m puzzled and I can’t help but wonder these things:  Is the change in America that we are currently experiencing dragging us down the path to becoming exactly the kind of nation these children are running from?  Are we setting ourselves up financially and spiritually for an incredible fall?  I don’t know what it is, but after all the research I have completed I feel we are becoming increasingly vulnerable to destruction.  We definitely need change: Our nation needs a healthy fear of God.  The better question is HOW will our nation ever turn back to Him?

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”  I Corinthians 15:58
US Embassy in Ukraine where we finished legally getting our son citizenship