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wordless wednesday

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


quick update

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Why is it when you give notice at work, suddenly everything goes into hyper drive?

And not just at work...
At home too.
Shad is bound and determined we need to have every piece of non-essential home furnishing packed by this weekend.
He's dreaming.
I'm not convinced it will be packed by the time we are ready to pull the U-Hau! out of the driveway.
We only have three weeks people!
That's 21 days before we are supposed to be pulling into our new driveway.
And we don't know where that driveway is yet!!!
We won't know until August 12th!
We finally decided yesterday that I will fly out to Colorado and find a place for us to live.
On. My. Own.
How's that for pressure?
I have to find the perfect place for our family of six to live in only 48 hours.
The good news is we have a great real estate agent who has been working her tail off trying to find us the perfect house. And she's giving us options on how to make all of this work. We're talking about finding a house to buy and then renting it until our house here in the Sunflower State sells.
Who knows how long that will take...but at least we have some options.
So we've been perusing real estate websites, combing over the emails she's sending us, dreaming about the kind of house we want.
Tell me it will all come together.
Promise me that a year from now everything will have settled down and all of this will be a distant memory.
Remind me that this is just temporary and if we can survive four international adoptions, we can certainly handle a move to the Wild West.
I needed that.
Oh, and by the way.
We're moving to Wyoming.


happy family day!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I first posted this last July when we were still in the process of Finding Maddie. Now that she's home, this day has even more significance...even though the date is actually the gotcha day for the older three children. For those of you who have read this before, please indulge me. For the rest of you...enjoy!

Some people call it 'Gotcha Day'.
Others call it 'Adoption Day'.
We call July 26th 'Family Day.'
It describes us best.
Today is the day we celebrate becoming a family.
It's kind of a cool story, actually. But you have to promise you won't think I'm a freak. I'm a little nervous about posting this thing...it's very personal, but it's story I have to tell in order to fully appreciate our 'Family Day.'
Ten years ago we were your ordinary, everyday couple.
We had been married for nine years.
We didn't have any kids...not for a lack of trying.
The doctor's couldn't help us without some serious intervention and it just wasn't a road we were ready to travel. We didn't want to go through all of that pain, stress, heartache and expense only end up childless at the end of the journey.
In May of that year, I was going through my yearly Mother's Day depression...but for some reason in 1998 it was hitting me particularly hard.
I had moped around all week, crying over all of the Mother's Day ads, complaining (mostly to myself) about the injustice of it all and just generally being a really grump to be around.
One night, a few days before Mother's Day, I had a dream. In the dream I was sitting in a chair in one of the bedrooms when a little boy with dark hair, overalls and a t-shirt walked up to me and climbed into my lap.
His hair was soft, he smelled like baby powder and he called me 'Mama'.
It was a very vivid dream...you know, the kind where you wake up and are convinced it was absolutely true.
It was a great dream.
I took a lot of comfort from it.
I wrote it down in my journal, savored it for a bit and then after awhile forgot about it.
Mother's Day came and went.
Later that summer, Shad and I took a vacation to northern Minnesota. While we were there we had a lot of time to talk about where we were headed, what we wanted from life and what kinds of goals we wanted to set.
It was during these conversations that we realized it wasn't biology that we were after. We just wanted to have a child.
We wanted to build a family.
We didn't have any spectacular genes that we needed to pass on.
We had a faith and a home we wanted to share.
So as we were driving home we decided to start looking into adoption.
When we got home from our trip we had a call on our answering machine from our best friends. A woman from an adoption agency had spoke at their church. They talked to her about us, had picked up a packet and given us a call. I called the agency on Monday.
A few weeks later we sent in our application.
We quickly set our hearts on Russia and started working on our I-600A and homestudy...but something wasn't feeling right. We couldn't place our fingers on it...it was just an uneasiness.
I've learned in my almost 37 years, that when I get to feeling uneasy, it's usually God trying to tell me something.
So we backed off a bit. We went ahead with our homestudy and our I-600A...but we didn't start compiling our dossier...not quite yet.
Christmas came and went...and still the uneasiness was there.
I know I've told you before that I used to work in television news. I loved my job. One of the things I loved was that I had access to information and people that the public generally doesn't have.
In January of 1999 we ran a story about an infant that was left on a doorstep in our town. It was a little boy...healthy, cute as a button and only two days old.
I immediately called one of my contacts, who told me that I wasn't eligible to adopt him (they had tons of people in the system ahead of us) but had we ever considered adopting from Russia? She had a friend who was a lawyer, who had just started an adoption agency. Maybe you should give her a call.
I called her that night.
We changed agencies that weekend. Suddenly things just felt right.
Four months later we had a referral of a little boy with brown hair, beautiful blue eyes and the most serious look about him.
We fell in love.
Within seven months of signing with this new agency we had our little boy.
We were a family.
Three years later we were working with a different agency. (Our first agency had to shut down due to some new Russia regulations). We were getting ready to take our second trip. This time we would be going to court and bringing Anya and Nick home with us. We got our court date on July 4th and the next day I called around and purchased our plane tickets.
On the 6th our agency called back to let us know the judge had pushed the court date back a week. We wouldn't be traveling until the end of the month.
Thankfully the travel agent hadn't finished up all she needed to do to get us the tickets, so we were able to make the change without any extra charge.
A few weeks later all three of us were on our way to Russia. The day after we arrived in the region, we went to the orphanage to visit with the kids and to introduce them to their new big brother.
While we were there the orphanage director asked if we would like to take the kids home...before court. Evidently the kids were going to be moved the next day to a new orphanage. The old one was going to go through some much needed repairs. Instead of having the kids move twice in less than a week, they thought it would be better if we took care of them leading up to court. She had even gone so far as to get special permission to make this happen.
We were thrilled! And of course we said yes!
A few days later we went to court...and became an even bigger family.
It sounds like your run-of-the-mill (if there is such a thing) family day story. But if you look at the details there is a very fine red thread running through our family's history...
  1. A year after we adopted Alek we were getting ready to move to another state. I was going through the books in our room and came upon my journal. I thumbed through the pages and stumbled on my entry about the dream and the little boy. It was May X, 1998. The day Alek was born.
  2. When we heard the message on our answering machine from our friends, it came as a huge shock. We had just made the decision to adopt on our way home from Minnesota (on Sunday morning). The guest speaker had spoken at their church that Sunday morning. We hadn't had a chance to tell our friends about our decision to adopt. We hadn't had the chance to tell anyone.
  3. I found out when we got received the referral paperwork on Alek that the day I called that first agency was the day Alek was put on the Russian 'available for adoption list.'
  4. Obviously, if we hadn't changed agencies we would never have found Alek. The old agency didn't even work in the same part of Russia.
  5. And finally, the change in travel dates. Remember we were originally supposed to travel a week before. The change in travel dates put us in the region at the same time they were moving the orphanage to a different facility. Which means we would have gotten custody of the children on a different day. As it was, it ended up that we got custody of Anya and Nick on July 26th...three years to the day that we had taken custody of Q-ball.
Pretty cool, huh?
You may be thinking this is just the ramblings of a woman who reads too much into things.
Or you might consider it a neat red-thread story.
I believe it's a God-thing.
Obviously, Maddie probably won't have the same 'Gotcha Day' as the other kids (unless we really get delayed - Heaven forbid! :)...but I can't wait to look back and see all of the neat little threads God is weaving through her story. (For more on her 'red-threads' you can read about her story on Finding Maddie.)


wordless wednesday

Wednesday, July 23, 2008



Monday, July 21, 2008

I started this post weeks ago while sitting in my van in 85 degree heat waiting for Nick's ballgame to start.
All around me were the sounds of summer - laughter, cheering and the pings of baseballs hitting aluminum.
As I sat there sweating, I started thinking - 'this is it. This is the last baseball game I will watch at this field.'
We're moving.
Next summer there will be new teams, new colors, new fields...
New sounds, new coaches and hopefully cooler temps.
Our time here has been good.
The kids have blossomed in this school.
They accepted Christ in this body of believers.
They've learned to ride bikes on these streets.
But its time to move on.
The truth is, eight weeks ago this move wasn't even on our radar. We were (and still are) happy here.
Its safe.
Its comfortable.
Its home.
But six weeks ago our world turned upside down. When Shad's mom became deathly ill, we realized just how much our kids would have missed. They already have spent their entire lives living away from their grandparents. they know their cousins, but they aren't close. They love their grandparents, but rarely get to see them. And then there are the literal scores of relatives they have never met.
But that's not the only reason for this change.
The biggest reason is Bill and Pam.
They need us.
Their lives have been turned upside down too...and they need our help now like they have have before.
I can't honestly say we're looking forward to this move. Its one we've been putting off for the last 17 years.
We don't want to go.
We've carved a life out here for ourselves.
We're comfortable.
We're happy.
But sometimes you have to do things you really don't want to do.
And this is one of those times.
Next month we will be moving from our little house in northeast Kansas to the wild west.
We will be closing this chapter in our lives and starting a brand new one.
Shad has accepted a job at a veterinary clinic only a couple of hours away from both of our families. It's a great opportunity for him.
And a good opportunity for me to trust. I've learned some really hard, but important lessons in the last few weeks. Lessons I need to share with you...just give me some time to wrap my thoughts around all of these changes.
In the meantime I have a HUGE prayer request.
Pray that we find a place to live!
We're moving in four weeks and we don't have a house to move to!!!
And I thought adopting four kids from eastern europe was an adventure!
I have a feeling I'm going to be in for one wild ride.


color 101

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Teaching Maddie her colors has been such a frustrating process.
We've been hard at work the last couple of months, going over just a couple of easy hues with no success.
It felt like a lost cause.
I seriously started to wonder if she was color blind...that is, until the babysitter painted her toenails pink.
That was it!
She immediately started pointing out anything even close to the shade.
So, I thought maybe I should get fingernail polish in all the major hues.
No need.
This week the lightbulb went on.
She got it.
Now she knows about seven colors...and is quickly picking up the others.
This morning after church, she decided to share her new-found knowledge with Alek and Anya. Notice how, on the colors she doesn't know, she asks them to name the colors - just like a teacher.
Cute stuff!

Hang in there just one more day. I'll try to have the post ready on the big news tomorrow.


spicing things up

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I'm tired of the old look...
Excuse the mess while I play around a bit.
And feel free to give me some feedback.
I'll be back to regular programming soon.
And with some really BIG news! ;>)



Thursday, July 17, 2008

I don't know what 'Zhou' did, but it must have been baaaad! Maddie has had poor Z sitting in the time-out spot all night!
And she's serious about it.
If anyone so much as talks to Zhou they get a scolding.
There's no messing around in time-out!
Maddie has provided us with a very looooooong explanation as to what Zhou did, but the language barrier gets especially strong when she is telling a long-winded story.
Whatever it is, we know one thing.
All the time Maddie has been spending in the corner lately is teaching her SOMETHING!


learning the lingo

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Something has happened in the last seven days.
Maddie's vocabulary has exploded.
Either that or we are starting to understand her better.
Either way it means the lines of communications are open.
Wide open.
She's still limited to three and four word sentences, but I'll take it!
Some of her favorite phrases include...
'Where Daddy go?'
'I okay Mommy.'
'Alek play ball.'
'I want drink.'
'More nana (banana) peeeeese.'
'Mama, I go potty.'
And her all-time favorite...'Mama, Nick hit me.'
The Russian is almost gone now. Even the simple phrases we used quite frequently when we first came home seem to have no meaning for her anymore.
Gone are 'machinas', 'sabaka' and koshka.
They've been replaced by 'car', dog' and colorni (kitty).
I decided to test her the other night and put in a video from Alek's adoption. It was one of those referral videos from the late nineties where the ladies were chatting in the background and trying to get Alek to do all kinds of things no three month old baby should be able to do.
Maddie was fascinated.
You could tell it was familiar to her and that she was trying to understand what they were saying. But unlike in the past when she would quickly run to the TV, jam her ear up to the speaker and start chatting incessently in Russian...she was silent.
So sad.
But the most heartbreaking of all...her precious little Russian accent is gone.
Oh, how I miss that accent!
It's slowly being replaced by a weird midwestern-southern drawl hybrid.
Good thing I got some videos of her talking with the accent before it disappeared.
Can anyone tell me what the above picture says? I'm almost afraid to ask, but I'm hopeful it's something cute since it's got the pink background with little girl phrases.


down time

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sorry I've been so quiet this week. We're busy with baseball again.
Anya and Nick finished up last weekend, but Alek is playing an All-Star game every night this week! (He hit a home run tonight! :) It's all I can do to get home from work, feed the kids and get changed before we run off to another game.
I'll be back to regular programming soon, I promise.The games will wrap up either tomorrow night (if they lose) or Saturday afternoon with a championship game.
In the meantime, go study up on your American history! ;>)


do you have what it takes?

Monday, July 7, 2008

When my ancestors passed through Ellis Island all they had to do was sign the book and pass the health screening.
When we brought our kids home from Russia and Ukraine the three youngest ones automatically became citizens. (We had to apply for Alek's citizenship - it was so cute to watch him take his oath at the age of 2! :)
But anyone who wants to become a U.S. citizen after the age of 18 has to pass a test.
And it's a toughie.
I saw this link on our local T.V. station on Independence Day and decided to give it a try.
I just had to see if I would pass.
I am thankful (and a bit relieved) to say I did...with flying colors.
Of course the first time I took it I only got an 80%! ;>)
I guess all those poli-sci classes finally paid off! :)
So. Do you have what it takes to become an American citizen?
What score did you get?


my little all-star

Sunday, July 6, 2008

And we thought we were almost done with baseball for the summer.
Turns out...
This means we have another week full of baseball, but we don't care.
We're so excited for him.
This is the first year Alek has really been given the chance to shine.
In the last four years Alek has played ball in our town, nobody tried him out for a position.
No one took a good look at his skills.
No one gave him a chance.
They stuck him in the outfield and hit a few balls his way now and then...rotating him with the other boys who 'weren't skilled enough.'
He batted fine and is a decent little runner, so they usually kept him in the lineup, but they never gave him a real chance to move into the infield and learn how to play the game.
And he hated it.
This year that all changed.
We asked him to give baseball one more chance and moved him out of our town's league and into a big city league where we hoped everyone would get the same fair shake.
It worked!
Alek finally had a coach that worked with the boys.
He talked to each boy individually, asked them what they wanted to play and then went about teaching them exactly how to do it.
While Alek's team certainly can't be accused of being stellar...the boys learned a ton! They improved by leaps and bounds over the course of the year.
Including Alek.
He finally got the chance to do what he wanted to do all along.
Play 3rd base...and pitch.
And he did pretty well.
Well enough to get voted to the league's all-star team by the league's coaches.
I have to admit I'm having a hard time not 'mentioning' his all-star status to some of the parents and coaches on the old team. ;>)
Part of me would really like to subtly mention it.
But I won't...
I won't rub it in.
I'll just be happy for him in my own little heart...
And pray they read all about it in the sports section! :)
(I know, I know, but I just can't help it! :)


реюньон семьи (family reunion)

Friday, July 4, 2008

We met nine years ago in the JFK airport.
Shad was lugging our carry-ons and I was clutching our duplicate copy of our dossier.
Susan and her brother, Steve, were seasoned travelers on their way to adopt her first child.
It wasn't a chance meeting.
Our agency had told us a single woman and her brother would be making this journey with us to Russia.
I caught a glimpse of her in the Kansas City airport, but it wasn't until our layover at JFK that either one of had the nerve to approach the other.
The bond was immediate.
Here we were, two complete strangers headed to a foreign country to adopt our first children.
Even though the trip was only seven days, it was arduous...which made our bond that much stronger.
None of us knew what we were doing.
These were the days before blogs, list-serves and adoption websites.
We didn't know anything about FAS, RAD or sensory deprivation...
We were clueless about attachment disorder, food gorging or any of the other baggage these kids can bring home with them.
Ignorance was definitely bliss.
It was a giant leap of faith.
Thankfully, now nine years later both of these boys are doing great.
And we are getting to see it first-hand this weekend.
Alexei, his mom, Susan and sister, Kristina (adopted from Ukraine) are here for the 4th of July.
We took them to our hometown parade, barbecued in the backyard and watched the city's fireworks show tonight....all the while reminiscing about our trip and comparing parenting notes.
It's been like old times.
The boys took to each other right away, riding bikes, playing ball and bugging us to light our fireworks! :)
It was so fun watching them and marveling at how far they've come and how much they've both changed in the last nine years.
They've gone from being scrawny little babies to strong, athletic pre-tween guys.
Where did the time go?
Top: Alexei (left) and Alek (right) stand in front of St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square with our facilitator Galina - July 1999. (Aren't they cuties?!). Above: Nine years later the boys (Alek, left and Alexei right) take a break from playing to let me take a picture of them.
BTW - It was Susan's courage of tackling the Ukranian adoption system that encouraged us that we too, could handle it. She adopted her daughter, Kristina about the same time we brought home Anya and Nick. When the Russian system shut down in 2006-07 we decided we should give Ukraine a try. We wouldn't have Maddie if it weren't for her.


reading with big brother

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Look what I found this afternoon...
Warms your heart, doesn't it?


me, mine and not yours

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Well, I guess I should be thankful that at least her vocabulary is expanding.
This week marks a new milestone for our little Maddie.
She's got a real good case of the 'me, mine and not yours!'
And she applies it liberally.
She told Nick this week that his chair was hers...
When he graciously moved, she then claimed his new chair was hers as well.
We fixed that one.
She has staked out what she thinks are the best dolls in the girls' room and tries to take Alek's juice packets away from him claiming all the while, 'mine, no you, me mine!'
That one doesn't go over too well either.
Here's a question for you...
What is the typical age for this stage? I honestly can't remember.
I imagine while it's a little late developmentally, it may be that she got away with it quite a bit in the orphanage and is just now feeling comfortable enough at home to display the same behavior.
Or it could be that she's just reaching these lovely toddler milestone.
Either way it's going to end quickly.
Each one of the kids has had to learn the lesson...
We don't have 'mine' in this house.
Everything belongs to everyone and there will be no fighting over anything or mama throws it away. (Unless of course its an expensive item and then it just gets confiscated it for a verrrrry long time.)
And since her brothers and sister have already pretty much learned this lesson, I have a feeling Maddie will be spending some quality discipline time in the next few weeks.
Anyone have any surefire ideas?
I'm tired of the same old, same old.
Above: Maddie sits in time-out recently after learning a me, mine and not yours lesson at one of Alek's baseball games. (The wraps on her arms are for the removal of some mini-warts...don't worry she's doing just fine. It's something she brought home with her from the orphanage...a whole other post, believe me!)


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