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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Throw Back Thursday: Brandon Style

I love it when I stumble across pictures of Brandon that I haven't noticed before!!  I found these two random pictures from about 3 years ago when we were hiking in the mountains together.  

The first picture is when Brandon tasted S'mores for the first time.  He was not a fan.  He did not like super sweet things.  Still he smiled as he ate it!  

The second photo is a blurry picture that Haley took of Brandon and I.  She was only 6 when she snapped the photo.  I look hot and sweaty; my hair is pulled back in a pony tail, which I hate, but I still love it because it's a photo of the two of us together. 

I miss this beautiful blond boy who was always so kind and loving.  He did not ever harbor ill will towards anyone.  Even when someone was annoying him, he still was kind.  My heart just can't stand the pain of missing him sometimes!  The water just falls out of my eyes sometimes without any control. 

I'm so thankful for the glorious hope of seeing this sweet face again one day in Heaven!!  I'm so glad he gets to enjoy heaven and God.  I'm thankful for the gift of his life here on earth and the joy he brings even this long after his death.  I love you, son!  "See you in a little while!"

1 Peter 1:3-9  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Monday, July 21, 2014


This past Saturday night I was over at my parents' house working on a surprise for Katie's birthday.  Tim was home alone with the kids.

Haley found a sweet stray kitten and brought it into the house.  Tim was upstairs "working" on this computer.  Haley nonchalantly went upstairs and asked Tim, "Am I allowed to bring a cat into the house?"

I imagine it took Tim a few moments to realize  and process the question because he zones out when he's "working" on his computer. 

"NOO!!!!" he finally said and jumped out of his chair.

Haley: "Oh, cuz I kinda already did and now I can't catch it to put it back outside."

Apparently Reese (our cat) is VERY territorial and was aggressively chasing and attacking the sweet baby kitty.  Under the bed the cats went screaming and hissing.  Out of the bed.  Under the bed....RAARRRRRR!!!!!

Tim was finally able to catch the frightened cat only because Reese had cornered her in our walk-in closet. 

Usually Reese is a very friendly cat.  She thinks she is a human.  She is commonly found on someone's lap purring.  So it was definitely out of character to her to be hissing and it shocked Haley.  Reese made it very clear she is not open to making new friends. 

Most times stray cats stick around after someone is friendly and feeds them milk.  Not this poor kitten.  Reese effectively claimed HER territory and was not very hospitable to Haley's new furry friend.

OH, that Haley!!!!!

Who me? I didn't see any stray kitten.

Reese snuggling and purring on Haley's lap

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Update on Camp

The first day Matthew and Haley were at camp I was okay with them being gone (okay, the first 12 hours I was okay).  By Tuesday afternoon, I was really missing them.  I was basically stalking our church Facebook page searching for any posted pictures.  I wanted to see their little faces and if they were smiling or tired-looking.  Were they sitting alone?  I think the whole week I saw maybe 5 pictures of the kids, so all that stalking for basically nothing (lol...I realize that there is limited internet access at camp and it is not anyone's job to photograph my kid all week and there are other children attending camp where their parents prefer their child NOT be photographed/posted on the internet and I realize when I was growing up my parents did without ANY pictures of me.  I get all of that).  I was thankful that at least they were smiling in the few pictures I did see and it gave me some kind of peace that they were okay and having a good time.

It was Haley's first time away at camp and she's the baby of the family and she has that history of seizures when she gets dehydrated or overheated, so clearly I worried about her. I am proud of myself for only sending one text message to the chaperones all week because I seriously wanted to send several a day. Of all the kids, Haley did the best her first week of camp.  Go figure cause I worried the most about the one that is most independent. 

Matthew did say that she cried as the bus pulled away and she cried a little more that evening.  Haley has not admitted to that yet (haha...she's innocent until proven guilty).  She is a social butterfly and loves to be around her friends and she loves to make new friends.  She very much enjoyed her counselor and I'm sure she talked her ear off.  She had an absolute blast at camp and cannot wait to go back next year.

Haley says her favorite part about camp was, by far, getting saved.  We are thrilled with her decision to trust Christ.  Her counselor led her to the Lord one night after chapel.  Haley said she's wanted to become a Christian for a long time, but she didn't know how or even what questions to ask.  Haley also loved going on the water tube with her counselor and other friends. She said that her counselor squished her on the water tube, but she laughed because she was the only one still on the tube at the end of the boat ride. Haley said she dug her hands into the rope handle and held on with a death grip.  No one could have pried her loose (She's such a goof). She also liked the snack bar and climbing the rock wall.  She liked seeing the snake in the water as well (snake?).

Matthew had a blast with all the teen guy counselors.  He was a lot older than a lot of the boys that went from our church.  He didn't feel lonely though because he fit in well with the guy counselors.  He followed them around all week teasing them and they'd tease him back.  I guess a bunch of them threw him in the lake with his clothing on.   He didn't have a favorite part about camp, but he said he liked it all.  He liked the chapel time.  He liked the games in the gym.  He liked being out on the lake. He says he definitely wants to go back next year. 

The following Sunday after they came home was Camp Day at our church where all the counselors come for a visit.  Matthew and Haley were so excited to be able to introduce Tim and I to their counselors.  I asked Matthew's counselor if he understood Matthew at all. His reply?  "Dude, not really."  That made me laugh.  I do believe this teen-surfer-sounding-kid addressed me as "Dude."  I must admit I'd rather be called "Dude" than "Ma'am." Here in the South I get "Maam'ed" a lot more than I appreciate.  Anyway, it was awesome that this teen allowed Matthew to hang around him all week and goofed off with him.   It meant the world to Matthew and also us.

We told the kids that if they came home from camp with all their belongings that I packed for them, we'd celebrate by taking them to Sweet Frog (a frozen yogurt place) when they got home.  I didn't actually think there was any possible way Haley would come home with everything, but she did (minus a yellow sock).  They held me to that promise. 

I will note that Matthew not only came home with all his belongings, but he also had all his dirty clothing folded and put in the plastic bag.  I love my organized and neat boy!!! He's just awesome!  And I'm so proud of my scattered-Haley-Bee for turning a corner to maturity and keeping track of her belongings for a whole week all by herself.

It does this Mama's heart good to see her baby beaming with joy at camp

Playing in the gym at camp and it looks like a smile on his face

She left for camp my baby and came back this tall, lanky child!

The crazies getting some Sweet Frog....Good job Haley and Matthew for bringing home all your stuff!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mom Strikes Again!

Last year when Katie went away to summer camp, I did a complete remodel of her bedroom as a surprise to her.

This year it is Haley's first year to go away to summer camp.  Haley is the youngest child in this house and she generally puts up with the hand-me-down clothing, the left over furniture that no one else wants and she has the smallest bedroom in the house.  We really wanted to do something special for her this year, so we updated her bedroom a little.  She has no idea, so we are looking forward to seeing her reaction to this surprise. 

It was a lot of fun working with Katie and Kylie on this little project.  Daddy did most of the painting while I supervised ;). The girlies and I went all over town looking for discounts, using 50% off coupons and seeking other thrifty deals to get the best bang for our buck. Katie and Kylie are surprisingly gifted at coordinating decor!!! Haley used to have grey paint (left over from when it was Tim's office) and no wall art on the walls.  It definitely looks a lot more cheerful with the new paint color and it really suits our Haley-Bee's happy disposition.  Don't forget this is a SURPRISE.  So if you see her before I do, don't spill the beans!!!  Here are a few pictures of our little 2-day project.

BEFORE photo



This little mannequin has her 3 favorite necklaces on it--her "H" locket, her Brandon photo necklace and her trinket necklace 

5 Months Home!

This fifth month has been a month where we have left behind the honeymoon stage and really peeled back some layers in Matthew's life.   Right now we are in the midst of summer "vacation" where a lot of decisions are being made.  Matthew is a precious boy, and he has specific needs that we are doing our best to meet.  There are a few areas about him where we are having to adjust some things and work on with him especially over the coming weeks.

The first area is his personality.  Back in January, I turned in my resignation so that I could homeschool him.  I wanted to make sure to slow his world so that he bonded well with the family before pushing him into the American lifestyle of running from the early morning until late at night.  The first few months of Matthew being in America, this calmer lifestyle worked out really well. He had a chance to learn about American culture and also how our family works together to function as a unit.  He has bonded really well with our family and definitely takes an active part in being a family member.  However, as time goes by we realize that he very much needs to stay busy.  He takes teasing to a whole new level.  He takes "active, all-boy" beyond any other boy I've ever met.  He cannot be idle at all or he will get himself into trouble.  He completely exhausts me as I try to keep him busy and active.  Honestly he could probably use 10 adults to tag team all day long to keep him busy.  His energy level COULD be a wonderful quality since he LOVES to help out and would be a wonderful worker on a farm or in a lawn mowing business.  It's just not easy to find people who need a 12-year-old boy to help out.  It is just tiring keeping him busy 24/7 because I don't have a whole lot of hands-on work around the house to keep him busy.  Anyway, it's nice because of his active personality, the American lifestyle is perfect for him!  So as a result we are confident he is ready to enter traditional American school this Fall.

The second area is his education.  Anyone that has worked with a stereotypical European boy realizes European boys do not value education as being necessary.  In their minds men work with their hands and they do not study.  School is for girls.  Trying to get an excessively active boy to sit still and learn is A LOT harder than it sounds.  Add to that, he has never been taught to memorize.  This is a problem.  Everything about American school requires memorization. Retraining his mind to read English letters when his mind is still thinking Ukrainian Cyrillic is hard.   I've worked with his learning style to get him up to reading at a 1st grade level and he also knows through the 4 times tables.  He still really struggles with basic math concepts such as addition, subtraction and multiplication.  The +, - and X all mean different things and he struggles to differentiate between any of those symbols.  He's definitely a bright boy.  He just needs a gifted teacher who can really motivate him to want to learn.  If someone can get him to WANT to learn, the sky is the limit because he is passionate about anything he does.  He always wants to be the best at everything.  That force to be the best makes him unstoppable.  It's just tapping into his own mindset that school is in his best interest, and it is not only for girls.

As we've learned over 5 months a bit about his personality and education mindset we've been praying where to send him to school.  The private school that Brandon went to is really great with loving on children and things like that, but it has no resources to teach English as a 2nd language.  The 2nd private school we looked at near our house considered taking him, but they wanted to put him in 2nd grade.  Matthew is 12.  He does NOT belong in 2nd grade.  Yes, his education level is 1st-2nd grade, but his body is still 12.  He acts like a 12-year-old.  He needs to play with other 12-year-old boys or he could seriously injure the other children.  He does not know his own strength.  Not to mention he takes being in 2nd grade as a put-down, or a punishment.  He does not deserve to feel punished just because he does not understand English, and has never been taught to learn properly.  I talked a bit with Tim's aunt, who retired from teaching in the public school system, and she gave me the confidence to go talk with the neighborhood public school.  This was a big step for me, because I've always heard every bad thing you can think of about public school and how it will destroy a quality child.  I've always heard quotes like, "If you send him to Caesar's school, don't be surprised if they turn out like Caesar."

Let me tell you, from the moment I walked through the doors of that public middle school, I was impressed.  I was introduced to the principal, counselors and ESL teachers.  Tim and I truly had a peace about enrolling him in public school.  They placed him in 7th grade and he visited the school and is VERY excited about going there.  I've never seen him so excited about SCHOOL.  He also knows some of the boys that attend there because he's active in our neighborhood and he played soccer for the recreation center with several boys who go to this middle school.  He generally makes friends very easily.  He's definitely NOT a shy boy, and has no problems in the confidence area.

We enrolled him this past Thursday.  Friday was July 4th holiday.  Monday morning received a call from the head of the County's ESL program.  This head had reserved a free laptop with English Rosetta Stone installed on it for Matthew to use indefinitely.  He enrolled him in a week-long ESL reading summer camp.  Matthew is also signed up to get whatever testing for an IEP during this camp.  This head of ESL was SO kind to explain all the ins and outs of the ESL program and treated me like royalty.  I was impressed that he'd read up on Matthew's profile that'd I'd only filled out this past Thursday.  All the teachers and counselor's knew about him already were calling him by his name, and recognized that he was from Ukraine.  They gave Matthew a bunch of books in Ukraine/English, dictionaries, websites with reading/math games, and lots of other resources.  The head gave me his business card and told me if we had ANY problems or concerns whatsoever with his care at his middle school to give him a call and he'd take care of the concern.

This week Matthew is away with Haley at a Christian Summer Camp.  It was such a blessing that an anonymous someone paid his way to camp so that he could go learn about God and also be fully immersed in English.  If they had not done that for him, we would not have been able to send him to camp this year.  He was excited to go, but nervous because he didn't really know any of the other boys attending.  I was proud of him for being brave and going even though so much was unknown for him or unfamiliar to him.

It is SO neat to me to see how God is working out the details in Matthew's life and in the rest of our family.  My nerves are settled as far as him attending public school with over 2,000 kids.  Matthew is excited.  It is neat to see him trusting us as his parents to care for him and make good decisions on his behalf.  It's neat to see his confidence and bravery.  We are praying that he really takes off this year with his learning and maturity.  We look forward to watching his growth!  We are SO proud of how far he's come in only 5 months! He is an active bundle of JOY! God is good!

This boy can hoolahoop for 3 minutes straight without stopping, eat an snow-ball popcycle treat, AND yap a mile a minute.  Who says men can't multi-task?

Matthew & Haley ready for summer camp!

Ready to go away for the week! (I'm more nervous than they are!)