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mad scientist

Saturday, March 31, 2007

I have a mad scientist living in my home this weekend...and she's dying to get her hands on a real experiment!
Punky's class has a whole list of great 'jobs' that are assigned to a different kid each week. She's been a 'calendar girl,' 'line leader,' 'star of the week,' 'geographer' and next week it's the class 'scientist.'
Part of her duties as class scientist is to bring a nifty experiment to class next week for everyone to oooh and ahhh over. I had thought about having her do the 'Diet Coke and Mentos' experiment. Haven't seen it? Well, check it out at here.
But then I had nightmares of her covering her class in a sticky mess of Diet Coke. Thankfully, the packet she brought home includes a ton of great ideas in addition to the stylish safety glasses and home improvement apron. I think it will be safer for everyone involved if she does the one that cleans a stack of pennies...besides, it's always important to teach a mad scientist how to clean up after her work is done. :)


going nowhere

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I'm really bad at waiting...no, really. I have no patience whatsoever...that's one of the many lessons I think God is trying to teach me through this adoption process. You would think after having adopted three kids from Russia that I would have the patience thing down.
I don't.
I may be about as bad as I have ever been.
Part of my frustration right now lies with our adoption agency. It's a nice agency...the owner is very friendly, very patient and a Christian. She came with glowing recommendations...and I can see why. She is forthright in the answers she gives you...and she instills confidence when you talk to her.
The key word is WHEN.
We have had an awful time getting in touch with her. We call and email just about daily, trying to get an idea of when we'll be able to start our paperwork. All we want is the list. We've been through this three times before, we know what we're doing.
But she rarely calls us back.
Today, she sent an email, explaining why things have been so slow lately. It seems like she's had more clients than she is accustomed to, so she's hired a new person to help her out. She hopes that will improve her ability to get back to everyone on a timely basis.
That's a relief, because it feels like we've wasted the last two months waiting for returned phone calls instead of getting started on our adoption. I truly think we could be done with the paperwork by now if we just would have had the list.
We do have an appointment to talk with her tomorrow night to talk about paperwork...so it looks like we may finally get started. And then Saturday is the homestudy.
We may finally be getting somewhere.


st*!$d questions

Saturday, March 24, 2007

In our family we are not allowed to use the word st*!$d. It's hurtful and demeaning and not allowed for ANY reason. But I think I'm allowed to bend the rules when people say things like...

- What happened to their 'real' parents?
- Are they 'real' brothers and sisters?
- How much did you pay for them?
- Don't you wish you could have had your 'own' kids?
- Why didn't you get an American kid?
- Why didn't their 'real' mom keep them?

Why is it that when people find out your kids are adopted they suddenly come down with a big case of the stupids?!
Before we adopted I really didn't think so many normally 'smart' people could be so ignorant! I know, I know, they are really very nice...deep down inside. (very deep) They don't mean to hurt us....they're just naturally curious and don't have a clue as to the pain they are causing. But if they would stop to think for just a minute, they would know better. And while I try to give them the benefit of the doubt and let their comments slide....they still sting.
Thankfully, it's been a long time since I've heard the big daddy...
'Now that you're adopting...of course you'll get pregnant!'
Instead of re-inventing the wheel I thought I would defer to a fellow blogger - David. He was somehow able to sort through all of the hurt, anger and repulsion and came up with a very sensible, emotional and easy to understand explanation of why this comment hurts so much. He summed it up in his blog - I finally figured out why...
Thankfully we don't have to face this one very often...at least not anymore.
When we adopted our oldest son in '99 we heard it all the time! Like somehow the last 10 years of infertility were just an illusion. We had just had a terribly real nightmare and now we would be able to finally have a family the 'right' way. Like adoption was a second-class way to build a family.
We heard it everywhere we went. The doctor's office, in line at the grocery store, at work, at school...just about everywhere.
But there were three groups of people who, thankfully, never felt the need to enlighten us.

  1. Our family. Both sets of grandparents are tremendous and don't treat our kids any differently from the other grandkids. All of them are affectionate, generous and totally in love with each and every one of them...no matter where they came from. And our brothers and their families love them with reckless abandon. In fact, one of my brothers is in the middle of an international adoption. The proof lies in the fact that six of my parents 11 grandchildren are adopted...soon to be eight out of 13!
  2. Our church family. Every church we've been involved with when we brought a child home has given us nothing but amazing love and total support. Truly a gift from God.
  3. Our 'real' friends. They are a blessing. They have opened up their hearts and welcomed the kids home with open arms.
These people realize adoption is an amazing way to build a family. For us it was the only way. It was what God had in mind for us from the beginning of time. Before we were fearfully and wonderfully made, he knew Meshak and I would go to Russia to find Q-Ball, Punky and JacJac. And he planned it so we would start searching for Maddie in Ukraine.
It was his perfect plan. He just used infertility to complete that plan. We wouldn't have it any other way.
Still the words hurt. Even though we no longer WANT to have biological children and we can't imagine why everyone doesn't build their family through adoption...the fact so many people feel the need to ask us these questions makes us feel like they think we are somehow not a 'real' family.
Thankfully God usually gives me a hefty dose of grace every time I cross paths with one of these people. I've never lost my temper and started yelling things like, 'Oh yeah?! Well, your mama is ugly!' ...yet.
But that doesn't stop me from trying to come up with a snappy comeback. I'd love to have an arsenal of smart-aleck zingers to throw back at them. It may not be Christ-like, but I think God will forgive me this one weakness.
Or maybe he will just change me...and give me the grace and humility to accept there really is no perfect answer for stupid questions.


home invasion

Thursday, March 22, 2007

We're preparing for a home invasion.
Our homestudy is next Saturday.
This part of the process always makes me a bit nervous. I'm not sure why, really...we've never had a problem. But there's something about inviting someone into your home to judge your qualifications as a parent that gives me the willies.
My biggest problem, I guess, is I don't know what they're looking for. For our first homestudy in '99 our adoption agency told us we needed to make sure our cupboards had child-proof locks and all of our smoke detectors were working. She never looked.
For the homestudy in '02 we had other families tell us to make sure we had outlet covers, fire extinguishers and all medication stored away. We ended up having to ask her if she wanted to tour the house.
This time I don't know what to do. Part of me is getting ready to go out and stock up on outlet covers and child-proof locks (it's been years since we've needed them), but another part of me wants to call her up and asking what she'll be looking for!
Then there's the matter of cleaning up. For our first home-study I got on my hands and knees and scrubbed our kitchen floor till it shined. For the second home-study I mopping with a Swiffer Wet Jet. This time she'll be lucky if I run a dust-buster over the floor before she gets here. Just kidding...that's what I have kids for! ;)
There's also my big fear of the unknown. Will someone totally misbehave while she's here forcing us to prove we can parent without using corporal punishment? Part of the interview includes questions about your discipline style...and we tell them the truth - spanking is one of our many discipline tools. But there is no way I'm going to spank a child while she is there. You can count on it.
In my head I know everything will be just fine. She sounds incredibly nice and understanding over the phone...and this isn't rocket science. We're a nice, well-adjusted family. Something would have to go horribly wrong for us not to be approved.
Still it makes me nervous...and I have to wait a week for it all to be over.


the beginning

Monday, March 19, 2007

It's officially official.
We're on our way.
The check is in the mail.
I sent in our application today.
Woohoo! I can hardly believe it. We've been waiting for a long time...probably too long in fact, to finally officially get started on this adoption process.
We've been thinking about this for a long time. We mulled it over for a long time and then finally made the decision over Christmas...then we did the research. We asked questions of just about everyone who had adopted internationally. We asked for references on e-groups and visited agency websites asking for information. We checked with the Better Business Bureau and prayed ALOT.
We finally decided on an agency about a month ago, but had a hard time lining up someone to do our homestudy. Then we had to wait for tax return to get here before we could get started and then in the last couple of weeks we started having second thoughts about our agency. But all of those fears have been firmly put to rest and we are finally ready to go.
I just got back from sending off our precious packet of information. It's on its way to Texas via the postal service complete with one of those little green confirmation stickers. (That way I can track it as it crosses three states (four if you count Missouri where I mailed it from!) I'm so excited!
Now I just need to get down to business and schedule our homestudy, send off for birth certificates, track down our marriage license, schedule our doctor's office visits, fill out our I-600A, have everything notorized, have everything apostilled...ect., ect., ect.
It makes me tired just thinking of it...and then I get a big smile on my face and realize...this is only the beginning!


naming convention

Friday, March 16, 2007

While I want to protect my kids identities on the internet I've come to realize many of you don't know Q, K and J. And even if you know what their real names are...you're not able to get a clear picture of their personality from a letter of the alphabet...so I've decided to come up with a naming convention.
From here on out I'm going to be using the nicknames we use for the kids. At least that way you won't be stumbling over letters as you read my blogs and hopefully it will give you some insight into their individual personalities - after all...that's where their nicknames came from.


Q - Usually known as 'Q', 'Q-ball' or 'Q-ster'. I'll refer to him as Q-ball...that's the one I use for him most often. He is in 3rd grade and will be turning 9 in a few weeks (Eeeeek! Where did the time go?!) He loves playing ball...any kind of ball, riding his bike and playing with friends. In school he loves math (especially multiplication) and is learning to like reading - it's been a long process but he's starting to appreciate it more. Right now we're reading - Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (The sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
K - Usually known as 'K', 'Punky' and 'Punky-Monkey-Turtle' (the last one is due to her propensity for taking forever in the bathroom...and she's not even a teenager yet!) I'll be using 'Punky' for her...although I don't like the nickname. I usually just call her 'K'...a tribute to my love of the alphabet I guess...two out of my three children's nicknames are just the beginning letter of their name! :)
Punky was given her nickname by her dad while we were in Russia. I hated the term and was determined to fight in until we got back to the states and she had her first doctor's appointment. The doctor finished looking her over and the first thing out of his mouth was, 'Well, she's a punky little thing - that's for sure!' That was it! It stuck...there was nothing I could do! (I still don't like it...it sounds too much like Punky Brewster!) Punky is 6 years old and in Kindergarten, loves to play Barbies, dress-up and try on makeup and paint her nails. In school her favorite things to do are read and color. I know those were my favorites! Right now we're reading one of my all-time favorite books - Ramona the Pest.
J - Usually known as J...-man, Little Guy and JacJac (after the baby character in the Incredibles - somehow it just seems to fit! :) I'll be referring to him as JacJac. JacJac is the youngest in the clan but he is definitely not overlooked. JacJac fits his namesake in a lot of ways...if you have any questions about that just rent the movie - you'll see what I'm talking about! :) He's got everything down except turning into a ball of fire! :) On the other hand JacJac is also a compassionate little boy with a very big heart. He loves to give hugs...although Mommy kisses are off limits right now. He is 5 years old (will be 6 in August) and is getting ready to start Kindergarten. He is thriving in his new Pre-K program...it was the best decision we ever made. He is doing simple math and is ready to read. His teacher (who is the school's gifted teacher) keeps telling us that he is going to keep us running. - we should just get used to it now. He loves to ride his bike, play football with Q-ball and play cars. He also enjoys having me read to him. Right now we're reading - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Maddie - While we don't have her yet...she already feels like a part of the family. While we don't know what she looks like, we know she'll fit in with our Heinz 57 family. (We have a dark brunette, a blond, a couple of sandy blonds and a red-head...what's left?) While we don't have a name for her yet (if you have questions see 'what's in a name' blog) as soon as she gets home it won't really matter because she'll automatically be called something else anyway. The book I'm most looking forward to reading with her is 'Goodnight Little One.' Absolutely precious!
S - While I'm at it, I might as well give S a nickname as well. I don't really have a nickname for him...I've always just called him by his name, but I think I'll refer to him in blogland as Meshack...most of you should get that one...if you don't - drop me a line and I'll fill you in.
So there you have it - our family's naming convention. Simple, yet revealing. I hope it helps. And by the way - don't ask...I'm not going to tell you what MY nickname is! :)

Above from left: JacJac, Punky and Q-ball sit on boulders on the shores of Lake Superior. The picture was taken last May on our vacation to Minnesota. The kids loved the trip and have been asking to return ever since.


all done

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

When we first brought 'Punky' home from Russia in '02 there was a big language barrier. Not only she couldn't speak our language or understand a single thing we said to her, at 20 months old she wasn't even speaking Russian. To try and make the transition a little easier, we did what a lot of parents do...we taught her some sign language.
Things like, 'eat', 'drink', 'more' (an absolute favorite!) and 'all done.'
The motions were easy for her to do and helped make her transition and the terrible twos a little bit more manageable.
Today, she is a beautiful, healthy, care-free, vivacious six year old. Full of energy, spunk and determination. A little girl who knows her mind and definitely knows how to express it! :)
Tonight she used those words to do something that a year ago I didn't think would be possible. She passed her AWANA Skipper handbook. To a six-year-old in AWANA this is a really big deal. And to her mama it's a very proud moment.
It's not that I didn't think she could do it. She has the ability to do anything she puts her mind to. It's just that when things don't come as easily for her as for her brothers, she tends to get frustrated. But this little girl, who has amazed me so many times before, amazed me yet again this year. She kept at it. She worked hard and she passed not only the whole book, she has retained every verse she has learned this year and the books of the New Testament! Not only that, but she finished before any of the other kids in her group. (Alright...now I'm bragging! :)
It's amazing to realize that this confident, beautiful, healthy child is the same scared, shy, skinny little Punky we brought home almost five years ago. Only now she doesn't have to show palms up for 'all done.'
Above: Punky (20 mo.) looks out of the window of the apartment in Syktyvkar, Russia a few days into our 10-day wait.


getting down to work

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

One of the great things that came out of the conference last weekend had nothing to do with creating a healthier marriage.
In fact, some might say it's one of the most stressful things a married couple can do.
We recommitted to adopt one last time.
To be honest, the way things had been going lately on the adoption front, we were starting to get discouraged. We had heard rumors (confirmed today by our facilitator) that Ukraine was putting a limit on the number of adoptions for 2007. They've already accepted a third of the dossiers they're going to accept this year...which had us wondering if this is really what God wants us to do.
We had been having trouble getting our social worker and our agency to communicate and it has felt like weeks of spinning our wheels trying to get this thing started.
And financially we were wondering if this was really a smart move.
But something happened at the conference...and I can't help but think it's a God thing.
Everywhere we turned there was something about adoption.
One of the presenters had adopted two boys from foster care, another was getting ready to go to Guatamala and sprinkled throughout the curriculum were referrences to God adopting us into his family. There was a book in the resource room on how to adopt, a couple in our small breakout group had adopted and there were sessions on how to be a good parent! It was EVERYWHERE!
When we started out this weekend I was prepared to tell S that I was ready to throw in the towel. I quit! I think he was on the verge too. He was tired of making the phone calls and getting nowhere.
But this weekend changed all that. S isn't ready to give up and neither am I. For the first time, I can honestly say I have the drive I've been looking for, for a long time - the drive I had when we adopted our three other children. The sheer determination to make it work. I'm ready to kick butt, take names and work like crazy to bring our daughter home!
First thing tomorrow morning I'm calling both the facilitator and social worker and I will leave messages and emails, faxes and text message them if I have to until I find a way to get them talking! Then I'm downloading forms from the internet to get started on our I-600A. I'm going to take pictures this weekend for the photo report and figure out what other paperwork we need to get working on.
I'm not quitting...in fact, I'm just getting started. I'm getting down to work.


you are not my enemy

Monday, March 12, 2007

We're back!
The conference was amazing, we met some new people, the hotel was beautiful and we went on our first 'date' in I don't know how long. It was so nice to get away from the everyday, if only for a few days.
But the best thing about our weekend was that we were able to get our hands on some new tools...new techniques for building a healthy marriage. After almost 18 years of married life and 23 years together it's nice to have a new perspective! To take a step back and really take a good look at the person we married. We learned about the things that can threaten marriage, new ways to communicate and how to fight fair. S's favorite phrase right now is, 'You are not my enemy!" (A reminder that we are in this thing together.)
The kids had a great time and so did our parents. (They turned around and headed back early this morning.)
It definitely was a weekend to remember.


a weekend to remember

Friday, March 9, 2007

We've been parents for almost eight years now (we've been married almost 18!). And in that time we haven't had any time off for ourselves.
That ends this weekend.
As an anniversary gift last year, my parents registered us for 'A Weekend to Remember,' a marriage conference in Kansas City. It is held all over the country and teaches God's design for marriage and family. We're excited to go. It's supposed to be fun and non-threatening. My brothers and their wives have all gone to the conference and both of the boys said it was great. High praise from a couple of guys! :)
So Mom and Dad are coming in today from Colorado to watch the kids while we're gone. Pray for them! :) Keeping an eye on three young kids is not for the faint of heart! :) The kids are excited to have them coming and have promised to be on their best behavior, but I've warned them...I grew up with my parents! I know what they're capable of! :)
In the meantime, we're cleaning, packing and doing laundry. As soon as my parents get here we'll be off. I'll let you know if it truly was a weekend to remember.
For more information on the conference check out their website at


statement of faith

Friday, March 2, 2007

I picked Q up from school the other day and as we were walking toward the door, one of his teachers asked me to step into her office for a minute. I told Q to go on ahead to the playground and I'd be there in a little bit.
Worried that something was wrong, I hurried back to her office. She smiled as she shut the door and said, 'Don't worry. He's doing great. I just wanted to let you know what he told me today.'
Evidentally they were reading a book that had some scary undertones to it. It was about a gang who terrorized a town by spray painting graffiti on walls and stealing stuff from people. One of the things Q is working on with this teacher is learning about cause and effect in literature...analyzing the text trying to figure out what is going on and what will happen next. It's an area he struggles with...a deficiency left over from his time in the orphanage.
She asked him questions, trying to get him to figure out what was going on in the story. Where did the boys come from? How do the people feel that they are terrorizing? If they don't stop doing these kinds of things what will happen to them?
Then she asked him the question, "Why do you think the boys are doing this?"
Without hesitating he said, "Because they don't know Jesus!"
Wow! My own little missionary. Isn't it amazing how insightful and unafraid these little guys can be? He hasn't faced rejection yet, everything is cut and dried...black and white. There are no excuses...no hesitation...no fear. He just laid it all out on the line for her.
'Q,' she said. 'You're right. They probably don't know Jesus.'
She said it made her cry.
It made me cry too.
I cried because now I know what we're teaching him is sticking. It's becoming his own faith...one that he is not afraid to share with others. And it's so good to know that he cares about other people's spiritual health...worried about whether they know Jesus or not.
I also cried, because in him I see a promise. I know I've said it before - and I don't want to sound like we're some sort of heroes because we brought them home. We feel blessed and selfish in our parenting of Q, K & J. But at the same time God pulled these children out of terrible circumstances and lent them to S and I for a time. We get the blessing of raising them to follow God's purpose...whatever that may be.
No matter what God has in store for his future, I'm so proud of the boy Q is and the man God is shaping him to become. And I know God will use him in big ways because he has the courage to make a simple statement of faith.


pride goeth...

Thursday, March 1, 2007

What do you get when you put a small town girl in a pair of work-only shoes in a minivan and send her to Bible Study on an old dirt road she's only seen on a Yahoo map?
Whatever it is...it isn't pretty. And neither is her pair of dark brown leather pumps!
Usually I'm pretty good at following directions. If I'm able to visualize it in my mind I can almost always get there. But it's the almost part that is the catch. There are times...and I hate to admit it...when my usually highly-functioning grey matter turns into a pile of mush and I can't seem to make sense of what's in front of me.
Such was the case on Tuesday night.
Tuesday night is Bible Study night. It's the one night of the week where I can leave the kids with S and go hang out with a bunch of women and not feel guilty about it. S encourages me to do it. He knows it's good for me. Last Tuesday night was no exception. I came home tired, hungry and just a touch cranky...and the minute I mentioned something about skipping out he told me to get the keys and get going.
So I did. But first I had to figure out how to get there. I had asked the Bible study host more than five times for directions to her home and each time she had patiently given me the instructions. But I had lost them...again...and there was no way I was going to ask again. "I'll just Yahoo! Map it," I thought.
In a matter of minutes I had a mental picture of where I needed to go. Just take State street which eventually turns into 190th street out of town to E Rd. Turn right and it will be right there. I headed out of town.
I went about a mile before the road turned into gravel. No problem. I grew up in Colorado. All the roads there are gravel. I know what I'm doing. And there really was no problem. While it had rained a TON in the last 24-hours...the gravel was holding up and my van smoothly went along the road at a cool 55 mph. I eventually came to Hwy 7...and just across the concrete expanse was an even wider road...freshly laid gravel beckoning me to follow it.
I was on the right track. I sped across the road, onto the new gravel and toward the top of the little hill...and on over. It was the over part that got me in trouble. There, in front of me, was an endless stretch of mud.
The road...if you can call it that...was barely visible. My headlights only caught glimpses of it now and then. My van slid this way and that as I slowly inched down the hill. There was no going back...I wouldn't make it. My only hope was that it wasn't as bad at the bottom as it looked.
It was.
By the time I got down the hill I had to rock the van back and forth just to make it a few inches. Fifteen minutes later I slid the van into an access path of a corn field.
I was stuck.
I couldn't go forward...there was another hill in front of me. I couldn't go back...the one behind me was worse. The only thing I could hope for was a cell phone signal.
Haaa! Good luck with that one! I looked down at the phone's bars...I had one. That wasn't going to work...so I got out of the van.
Now remember...I had on office-only shoes. You know the kind...open toed, an open back and not much else on there to keep your naked feet warm!
It was cold. But I got the phone out of my pocket and started wandering around the muddy field looking for a good cell. I finally found two bars if I held the phone high above my head. I put the phone on speaker and made a quick dial.
The first time he answered, S couldn't understand me. The wind was howling, my teeth were chattering and the signal wasn't nearly strong enough. So I hung up and tried again. This time it worked.
I gave him a quick description of where I was and he promised to come right away.
While I waited I decided to get some things done.
* I turned the van around - I wanted to make sure when they towed me out of this

mess it was as easy on them as possible.
* I cleaned out the center console of my van - how did all of that stuff get in there?
* I cleaned out my purse - how did all that stuff get in there?
* And I started writing this blog...I knew there was no way I could pass this one up!
An hour later he still wasn't there.
So I climbed out of the van and started the search for the signal again. This time I called the Bible Study hostess, Phyllis. "Where are you," she asked. When I told her - there was silence. "Okay," she hesitated. "I'll send the guys right out."
I'm sure she was wondering what I was doing on this miserable stretch of road.
Then I called S.
"Where are you," he repeated. "I can't find you."
I gave him the directions again. "Alright...hang with me."
A few seconds later I saw a light...and it started blinking! "I see you...I see you," I screamed.
Then I saw the pair of headlights. Nothing had ever looked better. But they weren't slowing down!
"Don't do it. Don't come down here!"
Down he came. Now he was stuck too.
Two hours after the saga began I finally pulled into Phyllis' yard. The ladies were patiently waiting for me...and praying for me. Phyllis' husband and her son had finally found us...and pulled both of us out.
What does the Bible say about pride...isn't it something about a fall? Now that is a topic for Bible study!


joy of adoption

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