Monday, April 28, 2014

Crisis Situations: Be Kind. Always.

I’ve recently read a quote that goes something like this: Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, so ALWAYS BE KIND.

I know personally at least 50 people who are in a crisis situation in their lives right now.  Crisis situations can range from health issues to tragic relational issues to financial issues.  What I am discovering and what I am particularly sensitive to (and a bit frustrated about) is how people are treating the people in the crisis situations.

When Pastor Rick Warren’s son committed suicide, his newsfeeds were blasted with unhelpful comments about what he could have done to help his son, that his son is in hell and perhaps what his son needed was to read the books he’d written.  They suggested that Pastor Warren would use this as an opportunity to write a book with the motivation of making money off his son’s death.

An Arizona mother left her two small children unattended in a hot car while she attended a job interview.  She was arrested.  The hate mail that poured in at her was crazy.  I’m sure this young mother realized after the fact that this was poor judgment on her part, but my heart went out to her because where were her friends?  Where was her family?  Where is the father of the two  children?  Something tells me that this woman was in crisis and needed help yet not a soul stepped out to help this young mom with her small children.

Right now I have several friends battling depression or mental illnesses.  I know some parents that have terminally ill children, or children who struggle with their health continually.  Some of my friends are battling serious, ongoing health problems of their own.  I know lonely people who are lonesome for varying reasons.  I know families who are hurting because a family member is far away from them, most commonly in our area are military families.  I know people who have lost loved ones.  I know people struggling in their marriages and people struggling with their finances.  I’m burdened today because people, as far as the eye can see, are hurting.

One thing that makes me disappointed is when people feel the need to kick the hurting when they are down.  People need to keep ignorant and unhelpful thoughts to themselves.  The truth is some situations are out of our hands, but others are brought on by mistakes.  It doesn't matter which case is true of the crisis.  No one needs to hear, “You woulda, shoulda, coulda” when they are in a crisis situation.  No one needs to say to those people, “You just like attention and drama.”  If you have never experienced something, don’t suggest that they need more faith to be healed.  If you have never endured the death of a loved one, do not assume that you know how they feel.  If someone has a dying child or if someone has miscarried, don’t say, “Well at least you have 3 other healthy kids.”

For goodness sake, do not gossip or talk about people in crisis situations.  If someone wants you to know something, they will tell you themselves.  If they do not talk to you personally about it, there is a good chance it is none of your business or you have proven in the past untrustworthy.

Do not ignore the hurting.  If you pretend the hurt doesn't exist, the hurting hurts worse.  Being deserted or feeling ignored sometimes hurts worse than the actual crisis. 

Think about how you might feel if you were in a crisis situation.  Would you want harsh words or judgment from people who have no idea what they are talking about?  Would you want people jumping to conclusions, or talking about you behind your back?  Would you want to be left alone to deal with a crisis unassisted?

What you can do for the hurting is tell them you care.  Tell them you are praying for them.  Ask them how you can help.  If you know they are hurting financially, send them a gift card.  Send them a friendly email.  Send them a small gift to brighten their day.  If you have no idea what to say, still send them a card telling them, “I have no idea what to say, but I want you to know you’re loved and I care.”  Do something, do ANYTHING kind.  Do not leave the hurting to hurt alone!  The Bible says, “Dear children, let us not love only with words or speech, but with actions and in truth” (I John 3:18).

Sometimes our sin nature causes us to form opinions or conclusions about people when we have no idea what we are talking about.  This comes off as judgmental behavior and it is hurtful.  Always remember that things are not as they seem and that if we truly love someone we will show them love, not condemn them or kick them when they are down.  Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Be kind.  Always.  And when you know about a battle, also be kind.  Always.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (I John 3:16).


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How's Homeschooling Going?

Now that the school year is wrapping up and we’ve been homeschooling now since December, I have a lot of people who have asked, “How’s homeschooling going?” 

Well, I love it and sometimes I hate it as well.

Thankfully, I hate it less than the times that I love it.  The lack of personal time and personal space sometimes get to me.  The kids get on each other nerves because they are always in each other’s personal space as well.  Funny story…One of the children had a doctor’s appointment and I showed up with all the children.  The receptionist shot me a very annoyed look and said, “We usually prefer for parents to find alternate care for children who are not being seen.”  I replied, “Ohhhhh, I usually prefer that as well.” Seriously?  Did she honestly think that I wanted to stuff all of the children in an 8’ X 8’ exam room?  I can’t exactly leave the others at home, or out in the hot car (like one mother recently did for a job interview out West where she was arrested for it).  There are not often sitters available at the drop of a hat in the middle of the day when the kids need to go to the doctor’s office.  We do what we do out of necessity and we make it work.

Something else I hate about homeschooling is being the bad-guy-disciplinarian.  I liked it so much better when the teacher or principal at the school was the “bad guy.”  I’d rather just play with the kids and love on them.  However, sometimes in homeschooling you have to step up and be tough or no work would be accomplished because the kids would be out of control. 

Other than no personal space and being the bad guy, there is so much I love about homeschooling!  I love having a shorter school day.  We generally work 9am-2pm and during that time I set the children free from 12pm-1pm for lunch/recess!!  They can eat, play or check their email during that time.  I love that the kids can play and be kids.  I love not piling in the car each day for a commute.  I love the money saved on gas! I love that their grades have gone up.  I love that all the children’s standardized testing scores went up this year as well.  Our ADHD child can do his/her homework upside down, on the floor, outside, in his/her bedroom, by the cat, or anywhere, as long as it gets done and as long as he/she circles his/her answers so I know what to grade.  The ADHD child is actually an A-student and quite brilliant and I had no idea until I homeschooled the child just how brilliant the child is! He/she just needs to do things in his/her own way.  We love the freedom of taking our vacation breaks whenever we want.  For example, we had scheduled our Spring Break on a certain week, but when we saw the weather forecast said rainy and 50 degrees we were able to reschedule it for the following week when it was in the 80’s and sunny.   It was nice because hardly anyone was at the beach because everyone else had Spring Break at a different time.  The kids report that they enjoy wearing whatever they want each day.  Most of the time they prefer to wear shorts, t-shirts and flip flops.  I like choosing their curriculum to meet their individual needs.  For example, I am using 3 different curriculums with Matthew right now and it’s working out perfectly for him.  I like spending one-on-one time with the kids because I feel like I know exactly what they’re learning and also exactly what their strengths and weaknesses are.  I like getting to know each one of my kids’ unique personalities.  I really am blessed to have the most delightful children on the planet!

Though there are smidgens of days that I don’t enjoy with homeschooling, overall it’s a rewarding and positive experience.  I’m doing my best to cherish these days with my babies.  All too soon they’ll all be grown and gone from the nest and then I can have all the personal space I want.  Besides, I’m hoping that they’ll remember all the good times we’ve had together and forget the times I had to be the “bad guy.”   

Monday, April 14, 2014

Opening Day!

Kylie had to be at the ball field at 8:30 for opening day ceremonies.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous--sunny and 80 degrees!!  After the opening ceremony she came home for a quick lunch and we were back out on the field for her 12:30 game.  Her game overlapped with Matthew's 2:00 game so Tim saw her bat once and left to take Matthew across town to his game.  We had all the kids come out to both games because it's important to us to teach the kids to cheer each other on as they play!  It meant a lot to both kids that their siblings were there.

Kylie's team won their first game 20-8.  She scored 2 of those runs.  She was nervous going into the game, but after as she was licking her snow cone she said she had a blast and she can't wait until Monday night's game.

I felt bad for the other team because the coaches were not very encouraging.  They were yelling at the girls and criticizing them.  The coaches would throw up their hands and shake their heads.  It just breaks their spirits.  That's no way to inspire the best out of these poor girls.  They are ages 9-11 and just learning for crying out loud!  Kylie is blessed to have a great set of coaches.  They are teaching them precise skills and form.  The coaches remind them what to do and encourage them all throughout the game.  At the end of the game they huddled for a snack and the coach told them how proud he was of them listening to the coaches and for using what they'd learned in practice.  They are just the coaches Kylie needed for her first organized sport.  She thrives on encouragement and precise skill learning. She calls her head coach "Coach Awesome" and he truly is.  He also happens to be our next-door-neighbor so we've known him and his family for 7 years.  Often he will work with her next door while he's out working with his own girls.  We love our neighbors!

Meanwhile Matthew's team didn't do so hot in indoor soccer.  The rec center was late getting a coach lined up for his team.  They only had 2 practices and his team got creamed!  I'm hoping the coach starts teaching some skills and rules of the game.  Right now the boys all run around after the ball like you see in pee wee soccer leagues.  This is 11-12 year old boys and it's time they learned to play correctly with positions, precise passing, bouncing the ball off the walls, keeping the ball out wide, then sending it in for the goals.  It's so frustrating to me and Tim as former soccer players to not have our son learning to do things the right way, especially at his age and level of the sport.  He has so much potential to be good at soccer because of his speed.  He just needs to learn some skills and he will be all set.  Anyway, Matthew had a blast running around playing "animal ball," so I guess that's all that matters.

I'm so proud of my kids.  It is a lot of fun following these kids all over town and watching them learn their game and grow as athletes.  Organized sports truly teaches discipline and hard work and I love that!

Ready for opening day!

Kylie played center out field

Up to bat for the first time in her "career"

On to first

Rounding 3rd

Second time batting

Good game, good game.....

Matthew after his first indoor soccer game.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Let the Madness Begin!

I had no idea we could be so busy as a homeschool family.  We quit traditional private school to homeschool with the intent of slowing down the world, but we are actually so busy!  It's a good kind of busy, though and we are all enjoying our Spring. 

It is nice having a calm morning of doing school work as our evenings are a bit rushed having dinner around 6pm, chores and then out the door for activities.  We've been thankful that so far we have been able to keep our priority of always eating dinner together as a family.  We feel it is so important to have dinner together if possible.

Tomorrow is opening day for Kylie and Matthew's Spring leagues!!  Kylie is nervous and Matthew is counting down the minutes practically.  He is so excited.

Here is a list of our Spring schedule that will run through the first week of June:

Monday: Haley flute lessons and Kylie softball practice or game

Tuesday: Matthew indoor soccer practice and Tim softball game

Wednesday: AWANA and softball practice or game

Thursday: Kylie horse riding lessons

Friday: Homeschool activities and Kylie softball practice or game

Saturday: Matthew indoor soccer game and Tim softball practice

I won't lie.  I admit that I rejoice in the rare occasion when something is rained out.  It's nice to have a break from time to time in the weekly schedule.  This is the first time any of our kids have had regular weekly sports since Brandon was living and it takes a little getting used to kids going in opposite directions and Tim & I each having to take someone somewhere. 

We've had a stretch of absolutely beautiful weather lately.  It's always awesome to see a week full of Sunshine and 70+ temperatures on my iPhone app!!!  Our lawn is turning green and our trees are getting fuller.  Everything is blooming and cheerful.  Spring is definitely my favorite season of the year!  We trust everyone is enjoying their Spring as well!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fair Warning

I just wanted to make an announcement that this blog is going to be moved to private here very shortly.  If you would like to keep reading our journey there will be a way to ask for permissions.  I am not blocking anyone in particular, so please do not take it personally.  If you ask to be added, I will add you.  We are living in a day and age where we cannot talk about our lives and especially our children where strangers, silent stalkers, and internet trolls can follow along without me knowing exactly who is following along.

I just wanted to give a fair warning and let you know in advance that this is moving to private.

Two Months Home

It's hard to believe 2 months ago Matthew & I were beginning our 33-hour commute home from Ukraine! I still thank God we made it safely home by His divine protection.  We have had a fabulous few months.

It is fun getting to know Matthew and picking up on all of his likes and dislikes.  It’s fun seeing the world through a new set of eyes.  It’s fun watching him learn new things. It is fun teaching him how to read and write in English.  It is fun watching him get involved in the community with various sports.

Matthew does not like chili.  He does not like spicy things.  He does like just about anything else food wise.  He does not like when people raise their voice.  There have been a few times where his playfulness was too rough either with the other 4 kids or with one of the pets and we’ve had to speak sternly to him.  He will go and hide or sulk for a while.  He does not like to sit still.  He loves to play, loves to be active, loves to help, loves to be a part of the family, loves to help cook, loves to eat, and clearly loves life!

He has been able to learn some new things.  He’s learned how to bat a baseball and catch with a glove.  He’s learned how to throw a football.  He’s learning about our culture.  He’s learning what it means to be a part of a family.  He’s an eager learner in most areas of his life. He was excited to get a phone call a few weeks ago from a dear friend of his that was adopted the same time he was from the same orphanage.  We had the privilege of having dinner with the parents of his friend and we agreed to have the kids talk with each other every so often to continue to use their Ukrainian language.

Homeschooling got off to a rocky start with him because it was chore getting this active, energetic boy to stay in his chair without me being able to speak in his language.  I basically had to sit next to him all day long or he was out of his seat fooling around and distracting the other kids from their school work.  Now he usually stays in his chair when he’s supposed to be doing school. He finally knows all of his English letters and their sounds.  Today we went through a stack of 100 3-letter word flashcards and he got most of them correct.  He still struggles with confusing the “d and b” sounds, the “w and v” sounds and some of his vowels like “u and i.”  He is working hard at it and reviewing one-on-one 5 days on a week is really helping him.

Matthew is involved in sports inside our community.  We have a club at our church called AWANA.  He enjoys the game time especially because it’s relay racing and he enjoys running.  Last weekend they had a tournament with several surrounding churches and he was on the relay team.  He won first place for the 6-lap relay against other boys his own age.  I had no idea the boy could run so fast.  He also did tug of war with one other boy against 3 other teams.  They won first place in tug of war as well.  We gave him the choice between Spring baseball and indoor soccer at the local recreation center.  He decided to do indoor soccer.  The fast pace of the game suits him very well. 

When Matthew first came he was a little reserved and didn’t like a lot of affection from anyone.  Now he will go out of his way to hug me and he’s even tolerated hugging the girls good night at times, which they of course love.  He has lost several of his contact lenses.  His vision is so bad he will drop them putting them in or taking them out and then he can’t see where they are.  We are thankful we have his glasses as a backup that he wears most of the time and we save his contacts for church and sports.  His director told us when we were there that he loves to help out adults. She recommended that we have him help out a lot and she recommended we keep him in sports.  We now know that she was hinting that he is a very active boy and he needs to be kept busy or he will get himself into trouble.  We are heeding her wise advice.  He truly loves to help out.  He learned to mow the yard and operate the leave blower and weed eater.  The other day Tim had to fix the gate latch on the fence and Matthew was thrilled to be able to use Tim’s power tools.  He looked like a natural working with his hands.

Overall things are going really well.  We are so thankful God saw fit to bring Matthew into our family.  We can’t wait to watch him continue to learn and grow to his fullest potential.  We pray that he is like Jesus in the passage in Luke 2:52 that said he, “grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and with man.”  We truly want Matthew to be a man of great wisdom and godly character!!!
He styled his hair this way

The boy loves to dress up

Playing some baseball with Dad and Kylie

Watching Kylie hit
Talking to his Ukrainian friend who was adopted the same time as him

AWANA games

His first indoor soccer practice

God bless our patient dog who has put up with all kinds of torture the last 2 months. ;)

Enjoying mowing the lawn

He did a great job especially for his first time mowing

A rare moment where he is sitting still and reading.  He has his glasses on.

Friday night ritual is going to Kylie's softball practice, then watching movies.  Matthew was snuggling his teddy bear.  All our boys love their teddy bears.
Kylie and Matthew climbing like monkeys

Friday, April 4, 2014

Spring Break!!!

We were supposed to take Spring Break last week, but since it was only in the 50's and rainy all week, we postponed it until this week.  It's one of the many perks of homeschooling!!  It was neat because Tim could take a day off work to come with the 5 crazies and I to the beach!  It was an absolute blast.  We stayed at the beach about 3 hours, had a picnic there, and Tim got us all ice cream cones before coming back home.

It was a much needed break from home schooling and work.  We are still getting to know Matthew since he's been home under 2 months, so it was a great day of bonding with him as well.  He is so much fun to be around and is a lively addition to our family.  He worked over an hour to dig a hole and wanted us to bury him in it with just his head showing.  Kylie and Haley "decorated him" with sea shells.

The Atlantic water was VERY cold so only Kylie and Matthew went in the water.  The rest of us were big chickens.  Tim's excuse was that he's just getting over a cold and doesn't want to get sick again.  The actual temperature outside the water was about 88 degrees, so it was the perfect day for the beach.  We realize the trip to the beach was likely the calm before the storm.  Spring sports have started up for Matthew, Kylie and Tim and we will be running all over town from softball games, to indoor soccer games, to horse riding, to church activities, and back to the house to finish up our school year.  We are thankful for precious relaxation, family time, and glorious sunshiny weather!!!.

Our Katie Bug is growing up!

Kylie girl is not afraid of the cold

Matthew and Katie digging a hole

Tim's devious smile as he buries him..

Kylie and Haley put sea shells on him to decorate him

Sweet Haley Bee collecting shells

Katie and Tim relaxing....Matthew and Kylie in the background

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I'm Just Going to Say It

Matthew inadvertently keeps making me cry.  Tuesday night Matthew asked me on the way to his 1st soccer practice: "(Was) Brandon good (at) soccer?" I answered, "Yes. He was very good at soccer."  He asked earlier if Brandon ever scored goals.  I told him about the time Brandon scored 6 goals in one game.   I choked back the tears because I miss my blond boy so much, but how sweet of a Matthew to ask about Brandon.  Now Matthew just said today that he wishes that Brandon hadn't died because he knows they would have been great friends. It's funny because I have thought that myself MANY times over the last 2 months.  I’m just going to say it: Matthew reminds me SO much of Brandon.  They don’t look alike, but sometimes they sure do act alike.  I wasn’t going to compare the boys, because no one likes to be compared, but truly there are many good things about the boys that are a lot alike.  I hope no one gets offended by this comparison or jumps to any conclusion that I don't love my other children as much as Matthew or Brandon.  You'd be surprised by the hate mail I get.  At any rate, here is my list of similarities.
1.       They both have been protective over their sisters.  Brandon would never allow Haley to ride her bike far without chasing her down to get her because she went “too far” down the street and away from the safety of home.  A little while ago Kylie said she was going to a friend’s house.  Matthew was quick to find out which friend’s house she was going to and as she left the house he said in English, “Be careful.”  That is SO something Brandon would have done.

2.      They both have scratched their heads a certain way when they were thinking.  If they were trying to think of an English word or how to describe something in limited vocabulary they would scratch their head a specific way.
3.      Both boys have been mama’s boys.  They both have said over and over that I am beautiful and make sure to compliment me when I’m wearing something they think looks nice.  They won’t let me lift anything without dropping whatever they’re doing to lift it for me.  They’ve both wanted to know where I was if they weren’t at my side following me around like a shadow.  They’ve both been protective of me.  While in Ukraine, Brandon would throw his arm out in front of me if he thought I was going to walk out into the street while a moving vehicle was coming.  The other day I was vacuuming out the pool, apparently I was leaning too far over the pool for Matthew’s liking and he reached over and put his hand on my back and said, “Be careful, Mama.”  He didn’t want me to fall in to the cold pool.
4.      Both boys have liked to cook.  Both boys have found joy in helping in the kitchen cutting up vegetables, stirring, taking things in and out of the oven.  They both have enjoyed smelling what was cooking and said, “Mmmm….smells good.” 
5.      Both have been teases and enjoy practical jokes.
6.      Both can break dance.
7.      Both can run incredibly fast. Both all all-boy kind of boys.  Always active and in motion.
8.      Both love soccer.
9.      Both are over-the-top neat and take very good care of everything they own.  They both are annoyed if the other siblings are not neat or not taking care of something.
10.  Both like to wear cologne, to look nice with what they wear and like to smell good at all times.  Both boys chose the red AXE body spray scent out of all the scents available.
11.  Both hug the stuffings right out of me.  Brandon would squeeze me so hard, I was sure he would break my ribs.  Matthew does that too.
12.  Both skip off a certain way excitedly when they ask for something (such as an apple) and I say yes.
13.  Both love the smell of clean clothing and take a deep breath as they carry clothes that are freshly washed.  They both thank me for washing their clothing.
14.  Both are thirsty always and drink as much as a camel.  Brandon’s choice drink was iced tea.  He would drink 6 glasses in one sitting at a restaurant.  Matthew likes either lemonade or water and can drink just as much.  Throughout the day both boys required a lot more water than the average child.
15.  Both are fascinated with cars and want to know what all the buttons do inside a car.
16.  Both especially love monster trucks and motorcycles, though every automobile is fascinating to them including airplanes and helicopters.
17.  Both LOVE apples and bananas.
18.  Both hate to sit and do school work, but genuinely are hands-on-smart and hands-on workers.  They could fix or build anything. 
19.  Both pay attention to detail and then can remember that detail later on.  A month ago we bought a new sack of apples and I had Matthew take out the 4 remaining apples from the previous week and put the new apples on the bottom of the apple bowl and then put the 4 old apples on top.  Last week I bought a new sack of apples and there were 3 apples left.  Matthew took out those 3 older apples and made sure to put them on top.
20.  Both have wake up happy every day and are for the most part in happy moods all the time.  The only exception is when someone is raising their voice.  Neither boy has liked even when others are scolded. 
21.  They both have helpful and thankful spirits.  There is nothing that melts my heart like a thankful child. 
This list really could go on and on.  It’s quite eerie at times at how similar they are and they’re not even related biologically and never even met each other while in Ukraine.  I know the other 3 children probably have similarities to each other and Brandon, but for the most part they are all more different from one another than they are similar.  That is why it’s so unique that Matthew and Brandon are alike so much.  I love it (because it’s special) and I hate it (because it’s a reminder Brandon’s gone), but I’m just going to say it: Matthew reminds me some much of Brandon and I believe it's God's gift to us and Him pouring his love down on us every time Matthew makes us smile, as Brandon did.