Friday, December 27, 2013

1,055 Days


Idritsa Orphange

For 1,054 days my sweet boy lived here. Third floor, in a room with 16 other children. Children came and went, I'm not sure how frequently. Nurses and caregivers came and went. Days were spent looking at four walls, a small playground (weather permitting) and hallways illustrated with paintings attempting cheerfulness. 
The ladies that cared for him did the best they could. Clothes were shared, shoes were shared. Laps to cuddle in were few and far between. There just simply wasn't enough. Not enough diapers. Not enough food. Not enough time in the day to give that many children the attention they needed. Not enough hugs and kisses to go around.
Writing Home from Russia
Looking out of those lacy curtains, my sweet boy spent 1,054 days of his little life.
Today is a happy day for us, the day we "tip the scale" of orphanage life. Our 1,055 day together. Home. With a family. Where, praise God, there is always enough. Enough food, enough hugs, enough kisses, enough encouragement. And talking, constant talking....No longer is the world made up of four walls. A world of church, of home, of community. A world with a giant ocean for swimming in, a never ending parade of grandparents and gifts. A world filled with movie theaters, theme parks and camp-outs. A world with discovery and learning. A world that is explored everyday by a chatterbox wild-child with a memory like a steel trap.
I recently asked him if he remembered Russia. He said "I remember when you were there with me". I asked him "You mean when we met you? When we brought you home?" He replied, quite offended "No, when you lived there with me" Sadly, I told him we never lived there with him. He looked at me in disbelief. Then he shrugged and said "I guess you were just looking for me, but it felt like you were there the whole time" It was a profound statement to me, but he chased it with "What are we having for dinner?"
Then I realized I was with him the whole time. For 1,054 days I was longing for him and waiting for God to make a way for a child to be born. I was praying and seeking and waiting....Little did I know that a child was waiting, across the ocean for me.
Whenever I feel angry about the 1,054 Charlie spent waiting for a family, I can't help but think that God's timing is always perfect. That He was setting into motion the perfect plan for both of our lives. That while I was staring at the ink dots He was painting a masterpiece. Our red thread, though it twisted and tangled, was never broken.
And I can't imagine these last 1,055 days without him in it.
Thanksgiving 2013


Saturday, November 16, 2013

I hate Elf on the Shelf and 86 other reasons why I am a bad parent

Recently I was wasting time on Facebook instead of doing laundry (#36 of why I am a bad parent) and came across a PDF calendar of someone's Elf on the Shelf's planned adventures. As in, like a day by day outline of where their elf would magically appear to spread Christmas cheer to their children. If you don't know about Elf on the Shelf, you've been living under a rock and you can read about it HERE. 
My personal favorite was the day suggesting I should make a dozen tiny donuts out of cheerios and fashion a tiny take out box for my elf and pose him in a model to scale version of Krispie-Kreme Donut shop complete with a real working conveyor and those tiny paper hats. (Ok, I made up the part about the donut store...) But still, really? Please keep in mind that this calendar was also published on NOVEMBER 16th. Our Elf is going to need a search and rescue party to dig him out of the Christmas Decorations about a week into December.
Don't get me wrong, on week number one of the elf, I was excited to move him about the house and watch Charlie's surprise every morning to see where Chippy could be. I simply moved him from one perch to the next in our house. Then Pinterest happened.
I saw pictures of other elves hang gliding from the ceiling on their parents underwear. I saw Elves spelling out words in m&m's and growing forests of lollipop trees. I'm not too proud to say I bought into this irrational behavior for several weeks. Chippy dyed our milk green and took a bath in a tiny tub with marshmallow bubbles. But soon, the magic wore off and my true self emerged.
Enter reason #47 I am a bad parent. When my kids go to bed I don't even like to get up to go the bathroom. I want to sit. Like I've never sat before. Every night I almost shed a tear when I have to pack lunches or put clothes in the laundry not much less build a house of cards and balance a stupid elf on top of it. There I said it.
Some people may argue that it takes focus off Christ at Christmas. For me, that's just not it. If that were the case then we need to throw 97% of our Christmas traditions right out the window, including presents. 
I guess in the long run it comes down to this for me. Why all the pressure? Especially at a time of year that is the pressure cooker of seasons.
Mom, I am talking to you right now. Let it go. If you want to Elf, by all means, Elf your heart out. Just don't buy into all the hype. Forgive yourself if you have to smuggle the elf under your shirt at the breakfast table and toss him haphazardly onto the ceiling fan of the next room because you forgot to move him from the night before. (Yes, I speak from experience, Reason #59) Get off Pinterest and sit on that couch after 8pm like no one has ever sat on that couch before. Especially at Christmas time. Spend those last 10 minutes of the night reading an extra book to your kids instead of creating a paper snowflake forest for your elf to frolic through. It's just not worth it. Some of the best memories are not the things that we over-design in an effort to make us feel like we are making memories, but the memories that just happen through our presence with our kids.
So this year will we be Elfing? Yes, I suppose so. Will I be making tiny cereal pastries complete with chocolate glaze and sprinkles? Heck no. Chippy's calendar will look something like this:
Day 1: Hang off the ceiling fan. Day 2: Sit on top of the table Day #3....You get the picture. I have to go. My couch is calling.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Happy Birthday Jack Jack!


video
It's hard to believe this little bundle of joy came into our lives two years ago. Our little Jack Jack was once a quiet, tiny peanut. Two years later he's currently requesting "chocolate milk in the round and round (microwave) and fruit snacks. He's running, jumping, climbing and knows every animal sound under the sun. He can count to 13.... When you ask him where he wants to go he simply replies "Mickey!" because he loves Disney World as much as his Mama.
Mama holding you for the first time
Going home from the hospital
He wants to watch Sing Songs on TV and sometimes will even specifically request the episode- "Big Feet" or "Peek-a-Boo", but mostly Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. He tries to keep up with everything his big brother does. That includes tree climbing and power-wheel driving. His favorite foods (other than fruit snacks and shock-o-late) is spaghetti, pizza, french fries and hot dogs- hold the bun. He can operate an iPad with the best of them. He's one busy guy. 
So precious
We love you Jack and are so blessed to be raising such a hilarious, sweet and brilliant little guy.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Wonderfully chaotic

I know...I know....it's been too long again. But it's like life is stuck on fast forward and I can't get a break. It's just whizzing by and around me and I can't get off the ride. Well, I could, but then I think the house would literally fall down around me. So, for the three readers out there that actually still think this blog exists here is a brief recap:
I've been thinking about taking up yoga or drinking or at least a multivitamin regimen. I need some zen people.These boys are buck wild. Does anyone else's kids NOT play with toys? My kids NEVER touch a single toy. Well, I take it back we have these two play swords and they play with those because with the swords they can run and jump and climb the furniture WHILE stabbing each other with plastic swords. But anything else? Nope. Just running, jumping, screaming, climbing and destroying the house. On days we can't play outside it's literally like a nuclear bomb filled with confetti, dirty socks, old cups of juice, and torn book pages fill every crevice of the tiny rental house. Which brings me to my next point.
We haven't sold the freaking house. 242 days on the market and not a single nibble. You can imagine the havoc this is recking on our finances. When I pay our mortgage every month I vomit a little in my mouth. HERE is the link in case you want to buy it. I'm holding my breath.
On a lighter, more positive note, Charlie has been doing great academically in school. According to his report card he is "at age level" in Language (!!!!!) and math. Which is so exciting. He is really making some wonderful strides in his studies and in speech. Socially, he gets in trouble almost everyday because he CAN'T.STOP.TALKING. Which is quite ironic considering the baby child didn't speak a word for the first three years of life. His teacher complained about his talking and I plainly told her I couldn't be happier that he talks all the time. She looked at me like I had three heads. He's just making up for lost time :)
Jack is turning 2 this coming weekend. I can't believe he is two. With Jack we are raising one hilarious kid. His sense of humor is out of this world. Who knew a baby could be sarcastic and tell a story just to get a laugh. When I ask him how his school day went he tells me everyday his teacher bites him. Then he laughs. We told him he needed to start pooping in the potty (because he's starting to tell us while mid poop) and he responded to our request by saying "Uuuuhhhh....not today" What 23 month old says "Not today?" He makes me laugh everyday, that is when I'm not pulling my hair out at his antics. Stripping off his clothes, peeing on the floor, biting, hitting, throwing temper tantrums, telling me to "hurry!!!" or "Go Mama!!!" when sitting at red lights or talking to another adult....grrrr.....
So, life in a nutshell has been absolutely chaotic. Wonderfully chaotic. But that doesn't make me any less tired or looking all old and haggish (is haggish a word??)
On that note...I'm going to bed.



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Lions vs. It

Tonight as we're loading up the car leaving church my darling husband, who is driving separately, says to Charlie, why don't you tell Mama about the lions! And promptly shuts the door.
Please keep in mind at this point I've:
Awoke with the chickens, opened the school, worked all day, brought Jack home from daycare, chased him around, packed dinner, drove back across town, went to church, chased other people's kids around. I just wanted to turn on the magical DVD player and zone out for the 30 minute drive home.
I digress, the lions.
Charlie informs me he has checked out a new "chapter book" (his phrase, not mine) about lions. Then he launches into a 30 minute (I kid you not) dissertation about lions.
Mama, did you know lions eat food with BLOOD in it? You know why? They can't cook their food because they don't have kitchens so they have to just eat the blood with the meat.
If the zebra ate a chicken before the lion caught it, then the lion gets to eat the bloody zebra and the chicken! (uhhhh....ok)
Mama, did you know only two boy lions are allowed in the Pride? A pride is a family of lions, but the only boys are the lion king and the uncle, the rest are "lady lions". The other boy lions have to fight to be the king and if he wins he eats the babies because he only wants his own baby cubs, they're called cubs mom, that's what they're called (holy crap....)
He proceeds to tell me about how baby cubs like to snuggle with their moms, they are good jumpers, they like eating meat and blood (we covered that several times....) about their teeth, claws, sleeping habits, on...and on...and on.....
I ask him "Charlie, how do you know all of this? Did the teacher read you this book?" No.
"How do you know so much about lions?"
Mooom... I read the book myself when I looked at the pictures, that's how I know about the blood. And the rest I learned on Wild Kratts (yeah PBS!) Papa told me that lions don't have kitchens, and the rest I figured out on my own.
Whew. After all of this can someone please tell me why my kid can't remember the word "it" on his flashcards, but is practically the lion whisperer. Someone, anyone?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

What NOT to say to adoptive parents

I feel as if I've visited this topic before, but it's worth repeating. I've made a handy dandy list of things NOT to say to an adoptive parent. If you utter these words to an adoptive parent, this is what will happen to you: We will blog about you (see...it's happening right now!) We will forget that you make an excellent holiday cheese ball, wished us happy birthday that one time, or let us borrow a Kleenex when our kid had chocolate running down their face. You will forever be known as the idiot that asked that. Adoptive parents are like this sisterhood of families that have beat the odds. We stick together. We have this crazy support group. I am part of an adoption forum that has over 1,000 members. We chat, we meet face to face when possible, we swap stories daily about "You won't believe what my cousin's next door neighbor said about my son". Anyway, the list.
Please print this out and carry it in your pocket for future reference.
1- How much did he cost? Lets just put it this way....you asking me that is exactly like me asking you how much your lady parts hurt after giving birth to your child. It's private, personal, and just plain rude. Is adoption unnecessarily expensive? Yes. Would I pay every penny again in a heartbeat? Yes. In the International adoption scene, I considered it ransom. But my kid is not a car. He did not come with a price tag. My response to this question? He was free. It was the shipping and handling that was out of this world.
2- Do you know anything about his REAL mom? Yes. She is 5'8 and has dark brown hair, green eyes. She loves to cook, play ridiculous games on her iPhone and read books. I look at her everyday in the mirror. Last time I checked real moms clean up vomit, fight their way through homework, wipe butts, noses and whatever else needs wiping. We cook, we clean, we hug, we kiss. We stay up late and do it all again the next day. Like Coca-Cola, I'm the real thing baby.
3- Now that you've adopted, you know what's going to happen right? You're going to get pregnant! I thought about making this #1 because it is so vile. But I'm lazy in the cut/paste department. My favorite time this statement was made to me was at my OB/GYN office. BY MY DOCTOR!!! We had been through the fertility junk with her. Then we stopped and decided to adopt. A year later, I told her we were pursuing adoption. Then she uttered those fatal words. I almost fell off the table. You've learned to smile and nod when the friends, family, neighbors, church people say this. But a fertility doctor??? Come on. Finalizing an adoption doesn't make my ovaries kick into hyper drive. Everyone know a friends, sister's aunt that this happened to. I get it. Some people get pregnant after they adopt. Some don't. Why say it? Just why?
4- They are sooo lucky to have been adopted by you!! First, luck had nothing to do with it. Adoption for me, was and is a very spiritual experience. It's the most tangible way I've ever seen God work in my life. To chalk it up to luck is somewhat cheapening the experience. You get lucky when you find a dollar on the street. Luck and adoption should never grace the same sentence. I have always liked this Chinese parable: An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break."While Charlie and Jack were being knitted together by God in their birth mother's wombs, they were being set apart for our family. Chance had nothing to do with it. Furthermore, my kids were not "saved" by me. They didn't escape a life full of despair when I came onto the scene. From the beginning, God knew these boys would destroy every piece of furniture in my house, make me get grey hair and turn my life completely upside down in the most miraculous way.
5- Do you ever wish you could have had children of your own? This one is pretty self explanatory. If these children are not my own, could someone else take over the dirty, sticky parts? I'll just be the fun aunt.

The list could go on: Why did his mom give him away? How could she give away such a sweet boy? What are you going to tell him when he asks about being adopted? What if he wants to find his birth mother? It's amazing that your kids look like you when they're not! When you think you've heard it all...someone asks "Which one of your kids cost more?" (True story....) And you are amazed all over again. I think the best guide to keep in mind when talking to adoptive parents is this: Not all families are made the same way. That doesn't make me less "real" or my kids not my own. I don't need to give birth to have a baby. I'm not lucky, my kids aren't lucky, we are a family rooted in the same stuff your family is rooted in: unending love, overflowing joy and strict bedtime rules. You can't put a price tag on that, so please don't ask. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Advice please Mamas!

How much is too much for a Kindergartner? What exactly does his teacher expect? What is really normal for my kid to know at this point? Is it realistic for him to know 50 sight words by the end of this 12 weeks? Am I being unreasonable? Making excuses? Being a whinny mommy? Do I just need to push through and stay consistent in the current nightly homework torture?
Every night we have a small homework assignment and a book to read. On Thursday we pick a book out of the four read and do a little book report on it (mostly pictures on his end). That seems a little much, but it's not unrealistic. We just end up working a little through the weekend to give him two nights off during the week.
But then the sight words. Also known as the flashcards from Hell. The part of the night that almost makes my son cry every night. It makes me into a mean mom. I see his frustration when asked for the eight time to sound out the word "it".
Now, I lay 12 words out on the table. I say "Show me the word "it" Poof. He does it. I say show me the word "Green" bam. No problems. But stack those suckers up and ask him "What does this say?" and the flopping, flailing, and amnesia starts.
This is the kid that remembers directions 30 miles away from home. Knows north and south, east and west on highways from here to his grandparents house 3 hours away. Remembers every conversation, promise, schedule. Remembers that I have a promised chocolate bar in my bag. Is so observant it's ridiculous. Today in church he pointed out to his teacher that there was a kid that didn't belong in the class because everyone that was suppose to be in his class has a "Z" in their bar code and he had a different letter (yes, our church bar codes kids, add your own creepy comment __here___)  Can recall names, titles, movie lines, when we last ate tilapia for dinner. But can't say the word "It" after five weeks of flashcards. 
What is the disconnect? What am I doing wrong?
Is it a speech thing? A confidence thing? Side note: He is going to speech 2x a week at school. And has been receiving speech therapy since about 3 1/2.
Does anyone else out there think that this is too much? 5 weeks into school and my son (who has only been speaking ANY language, yet alone English, for two short years) gets an "N" on his progress report because he can't recall 50% of his sight words? What happened to "learning" in Kindergarten?
Am I being unreasonable? Is this normal? Has it just not clicked with him yet? Does every Kindergartner go through this learning curve? Help me out.
I just think about future reading assignments and it makes me want to throw up. Advice is much needed and appreciated....


Sunday, September 15, 2013

People in glass onion dome cathedrals.....

ex·cep·tion·al
ikˈsepSHənəl/
adjective
adjective: exceptional
1.
unusual; not typical.
"crimes of exceptional callousness and cruelty"
synonyms:unusual, uncommon, abnormal, atypical, extraordinary, out of the ordinary, rare, unprecedented, unexpected, surprising;
informalfreaky, something else
"the drought was exceptional"
There has been a lot of talk about Putin's letter in the New York Times directed towards Americans following President Obama's speech calling Americans "exceptional" when it comes to our role in shaping the World.
You can read it HERE word for word or HERE if you prefer an experts "annotated" (fact checked) version. The latter may be for you if you admit to reading such articles as "Nine Questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask". Which I'll be the first to admit, I was all over. Think of Max Fisher, writer for the Washington Post as the guy writing "Current Events for Dummies" in short editorial form. Count me in.
I am NOT up on current events, I couldn't find Syria on a map and I'll be the first to admit, I find politics, well, tiresome. I only un-friend two kinds of people on Facebook. Ones that cuss word to regular word ratio is greater than 3-1 and people that yammer on and on about politics. It just wears me out.
However, something about Putin's letter just rubbed me the wrong way. People are saying he didn't write it. I don't care if he wrote it or one of his speech writers. His name is on the paper. He is taking credit for it. So in my eyes, he wrote it.
So back to the wrong way-rubbing. I have a personal problem with Putin and everything he stands for. Get ready for the rant. (I would like to apologize for the political un-correctness that's about to come your way)
I hate the fact that he says things like this in his speech to Americans "There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal" THIS from a man who started his career as a KGB officer, persecutes gays, doesn't allow peaceful demonstrations, allows orphans to languish and die in his care. Some may say that this has nothing to do with Syria, America thinking that we are "exceptional" or anything to do with war or NATO. To that I say you're probably right. But I just can't get past it. This coming from a man that blew Georgia and Chechnya to smithereens without even so much as a "let's look into it" from the UN. Hmmmm....People in glass onion dome cathedrals....
I say you are playing with fire Mr. Putin because Americans are exceptional. Are we perfect? No. Do we need to step into every political situation with guns blazing? No. But my friend, former Senator Jim DeMint responded to Mr. Putin. Dripping with sarcasm and bravery. Please read it HERE. It's so good it makes me want to jump up and cheer.
He explains our exceptional-ism in a clear and conscience way "“America is an exceptional nation—that is, one like no other, not just now but in history—because it is dedicated to the universal principle of human liberty,” DeMint wrote. “This is grounded in the truth that all men—not just Americans—are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights by their Creator. As a British admirer of America, G.K. Chesterton, once put it: ‘America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.’ We are, in other words, not a nation based on ethnicity, but on beliefs, and not coincidentally, that is why we attract people of all ethnicities and they become proud Americans.”
Then he goes on to say "We understand, however, that in Russia today, the rule of law is easily ignored and that you’ve managed to remain in complete power since 2000, even though your country’s original constitution supposedly limited you to two consecutive terms,” DeMint continued. “You may want to devote your attention to such topics in future writings.”
Ok, well that was just mean. Mean but true. People in glass onion dome cathedrals.....
Then he enclosed some light reading by Matthew Spalding called "Why is America Exceptional". You can read it HERE for extra credit. 
Ok, you can un-friend me now or take me off your blog roll. I'm sure I've annoyed the snot out of you. But when I see injustice I want to fight. I guess that's what makes me exceptional. :)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Adoption needs!



You don't have to look far to find someone desperate for a helping hand.... Here are just a few needs I've come across in the last few days. Please pray for these families, donate, bid, support and reach out to these precious families.

HERE is a chance to help a lovely couple bring their cutie with down syndrome home from China. The Phelps family have devoted their lives to orphan care and camps for kids with special needs. They are short funds for their SEPTEMBER travel dates to bring her home. Please consider helping.
 Just look at that face! It's worth chipping in $10 and skipping a lunch out, right?!

HERE is a great resource for those considering Foster Care. It's a FREE book download and is wonderfully written. Safe Harbor: A Christian's Guide to Foster Care is a booklet designed to familiarize Christians with the U.S. foster care system and the biblical call to care for orphans. Safe Harbor provides an overview of the needs of children in the foster care system, along with an explanation of the basic structure of foster care, and the process of becoming a foster parent.

HERE is a beautiful success story of what God can do through generous, willing hands. The Higsby's were fighting to bring home THREE teenagers from Ukraine, one of which was weeks away from "aging out" of the system. The cry went out Thursday night to help them raise a minimum of $8,000 needed as "ransom" for their children before time ran out. In TWO days over $22,000 was raised. Not only will this cover their ransom but with pay for the lodging, visas and plane tickets for their trip. God is good, isn't he? Wow. Please continue to keep this family in your prayers.

HERE is a great link to a fun little auction for the Seely family to raise funds to bring home their daughter, Yulia from Ukraine. Auction ends at midnight (EST) on September 10th. Here is my favorite thing so far....A close second to the vintage Ewok collection and California Raisins figures! Happy bidding :)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I still think about you....

As my baby lies sleeping across the hall, I can't help but think about the ones going to bed tonight without a bedtime story and a kiss.
As we looked through hundreds (I'm serious....) of clothing options for the first day of school tomorrow, I think back to a time when my boy was dressed from a pile of unisex clothes that felt as if they were laundered in lye soap and bleach. I think about the mismatched, dirty little ones that will itch and scratch their way though another day tomorrow.
As we thought about footwear options, I think about the shoes he shared with dozens of other children that were two sizes too small and caused his toenails, to this day, to curve under like tallons. I think of the kids left behind that might get to wear shoes today if they are the first to be dressed.
I think about the ones that will sit silently at a table for hours while my boy is a world away receiving a top notch education by a team of experts.
I prepared his lunch- whole grain this, organic that. Fresh fruit. I think about the ones that will eat watered down soup tomorrow, if they are fortunate enough to eat at all. I think about the ones that will fight for food, just like I saw my boy do, just to stay alive.
As I send my boy off to his first day of Kindergarten tomorrow with more than a backpack full of hopes for his future, equipping him the very best way I can as a parent, my mind drifts to those that have no one to advocate for them, no one to cheer them on, not a soul looking out for their best interest. For all those left behind.
I am asking you for a favor. Say a prayer for them tonight. Pray for the million orphans in Russia alone that have a little to no chance of ever being adopted. That the ban on adoptions would dissolve. That the pride of men would crumble. For the 300 US parents NOT sending their kids to school tomorrow because they are trapped in a living nightmare of red tape, political ambition and foolish pride.
Maybe a bigger favor, consider adoption. Don't make excuses. Don't say I'm too old, my kids won't "adjust" to having another sibling in the family, I don't have the money, I don't want to take the risk. I want kids of "my own". Well, they might have too many "problems"....Carry too much "baggage"..... The list goes on and on. I know because I told myself the same thing for years. Just put all that aside. Adoption is perfect love, and perfect love drowns out fear.
It will change you forever. You'll want to tell everyone you know about the joy of adoption. But along with that joy, comes a responsibility to tell everyone you know about the ones left behind. The ones that want nothing more than a family of their own. People that vow to never forget their faces, that minds drift back to their cribs all in a row, their hungry eyes, still hear their voices crying "Mama! Papa!" every time you walked into their sterile room. I will never forget you.
As I send my baby off to school tomorrow I will say a prayer for you too.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Don't ever move.

I have a VERY good reason why I took a week of from blog world last week. I honestly didn't know it was Sunday. My days, nights, months were honestly scrambled into a jumbled mess between state lines, houses being packed and unpacked, kids being shuttled, and dogs being chauffeured.

Tuesday July 30th- 189 miles and my sanity. Sat in the health department ALL day long. I thought I was ahead of the game having the boys physicals before we left home, turns out our new state requires fancy pants forms and a couple of additional vaccinations. So, I actually set an appointment a month in advance to ease the typical "pain in the @$$ness" usually associated with the Health Department. I was wrong. After four hours I was about to loose my mind and had to show out and steal drinks for my kids who were dying of dehydration.The good news was at the end of the visit we didn't have to pay because there was literally not a soul left in the Health Department other than the incompetent nurse giving the vaccine (that kept asking Jack, 19 months, where he wanted his shot....) and the cleaning crew. My parents are keeping the boys and the dogs for a few days because they love me :)

Wednesday July 31st- 389 miles starting at 5am. Left for SC to pack up our house. We drove and got there around lunch time. I realized just then and there how much stuff I said "Oh, I'll pack this in August when we return" was left in the house. Thank goodness about 20-25 people showed up to help out. We actually had 98% of the house packed by that night. It made me so sad to leave our house and our friends again. But I know this is the next step in our journey, but it was still a bittersweet, physically and emotionally taxing day.

Thursday August 1st. 389 miles and my good humor. As we were packing the last of our house in the SECOND u-haul. We realized that the key to the first U-haul had been mistakenly packed into the truck (don't ask....) Luckily, I vaguely remembered a box that seemed to be accumulating A LOT of misc. items. One of our friends, who is apparently part monkey climbed through the Tetris stacked boxes and found the key inside the box. It was a miracle and after I regained my good humor we said goodbye to the empty house :( and hit the road.

Friday August 2nd. No miles. Thank the Lord. We did however, brave the 100 degree heat and started unloading the truck with significantly less helpers. Thank goodness for Robbin, JT, Sam, and Pastor Jeff. I think we would have run out of steam without them.

Saturday August 3rd. Unpacking boxes from sun up to sun down. This rental house is a like a doll house. Getting creative in stuffing, stacking, sorting. If you've never lived in a 1000 square foot house with two adults, two kids, and two dogs I highly recommend it. Its an exercise in creativity and character building. It allows you to get rid of the stuff you thought you couldn't live without. I took at my closet and think "did people in the 50s just not have any clothes?" I honestly think they rotated between like 6 outfits.

Sunday August 4th. 189 miles again. Go home to my parents to pack up part two.

Monday August 5th. Ikea to buy some storage solutions for my dollhouse.

Tuesday August 6th. 189 miles AGAIN. Load the kids, the dogs, the stuff into the car and repeat the whole darn thing.

Wednesday August 7th- What day is it? Setting up my doll house and making the kids feel at home. Running errands to Charlie's school, my school, here, there and everywhere. Lost track of miles, but I think I'm clocked in at roughly 1,389 miles, an endless amount of boxes and tons of fun (sarcasm). I think we are getting settled in. NOW we're getting geared up for work (boooooo) and school. I can't believe how fast summer has flown by.

My advice to you? Don't ever move. Especially in the dog days of summer.
So, sorry I missed you last week, but I'll see you next Sunday now that my head has stopped spinning and my feet are planted firmly on the ground.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Friends :)

I've heard it said that a friend is born in times of adversity. I'm fairly certain this quote is from the Bible, but it's late and I'm too tired to google. If you came here for accuracy, you obviously are new here and I'm sorry you've been misinformed about the content of this blog.
Anyway, friends. This week I've been thinking a lot about friendship- I always get nostalgic when I spend time with my very first and best friend, Kathleen, which I got to do this week. It's always a special time. Here is an especially blurry photograph of the two of us circa 1984. Please note my ears and the height difference between us, both of which continue to be an issue to this day....She was always by partner in crime, shoulder to cry on, and first rate secret keeper. Fast forward 30 (gasp, I totally typed "20" and then had to do the math...) years and she is an amazing mom to two incredible, bright girls and one precious special needs son. I love her for her devotion to her family and her unwavering faith in God. I am always in awe of her every time we are together. 
Then, my little sister got engaged (!!!!) and ask me to be her Maid of Honor. Technically, I suppose I am a "Matron" but I despise that word as much as the word "Mucus". We were talking about the evening up of the bridal party numbers ie: he has 5 good friends, she has 6 or vice-verse. And I said "With the wedding being a year away, what if you become really close friends with someone you didn't already ask to be in the wedding?" She looked at me as if that was an impossibility. After all, what difference could a year make as far as your lifelong friends go? A lot my friend, a lot.
When we were in the deepest valley of adoption woes (The most hopeless being around the fall of 2010 when we were told to "move on" by our agency, that Charlie was never coming home...like in this entry HERE) I met a wonderful, kind soul that was walking through a darker adoption valley than we were. I won't go into details, because her story is just that- hers, but I can tell you, that we spent many a night talking, crying, cussing Russian officials together. We were friends born out of a time of adversity. But both of our stories had a happy ending and I cannot express to you the joy I felt Skyping with her from the hotel lobby in Moscow with Charlie in tow. I will never forget that night. She was leaving in a few weeks to meet her son and we had finally won the fight. If that night was a book, that would have been the end of a long and painful chapter and the beginning of a part with the happy ending.
This week I had the honor of meeting her and her son face to face along with some other new friends that had braved the roller coaster of Russian adoption. What an amazing feeling. We went to Magic Kingdom to celebrate and being the sappy nostalgic individuals that we are, we had the boys throw their pennies in the water right at the Russian part of "Its a Small World" Awwww....priceless. I wish I could show you their faces (I have MUCH better pictures than this, but since these aren't my kids, I want to protect their privacy.) It was a day I'll never forget.
My prayer for my boys is as they grow they will always be proud of where they came from. I hope that they will find true friends along the way that stick with them in the times of adversity. It is my hope for them that they will surround themselves with people that love them, are encouraged by their strength and make them into better people. I hope they they will have true friends like I have found.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Beachy....

There is something about the beach...Isak Dinesen says the cure for everything is salt water- tears, sweat, or the ocean. We had a few tears, a lot of sweat and plenty of ocean. So after this week we should be cured of pretty much everything.
Put either boys in the water and get ready for a show. They are part fish. Jumping, diving, underwater extravaganza.
Being with these boys in the water makes me remember I am alive and relatively carefree. To watch them run, dance, swim is pure joy. I think back to a little boy in a cold orphanage with skin so translucent you could see every vein. To see the same boy now is a picture of health and vitality. I think of Jack and what a tiny little baby he was just a short time ago. Now, he's a strong (physically and strong willed....) toddler that can do practically anything his big brother can do. I just can't wait to see these boys grow up in the sun!

Friday, July 5, 2013

The 4th is the new Thanksgiving.

You've heard that grey is the new black? Pink is the new grey? Well in our household, the 4th of July is the new Thanksgiving.
Maybe its a mom thing, but I'm leaning more towards an adoption thing, but there is something about little celebrations that make me feel a little sappy. During these holidays and experiences, I can't help but think about what Charlie's life would have looked like without our country, traditions- surrounded by family.
The fourth of July is a big sappy day for me. I've always felt so privileged to be an American. I am humbled to live in a country with so much freedom. When the 4th rolls around I can't wait to tell Charlie about why we are celebrating. He just wants to light things on fire- but I sneak in as much in 1776 as possible.....
I can't help but think about what his life in an orphanage would have looked like. Holidays always make me think about the what-ifs....
On the 4th of July I am so thankful that my boy is free. As for Jack, at this point, he is just thankful for the swimming pool.
I hope your 4th was fantastic and you had plenty of reasons to feel thankful.
My fishy boy....

Underwater Charlie 

Seven cousins :)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mouse Obsessed!

Upon moving to Florida, my number one priority was to establish Florida residency in order to obtain a Disney annual pass. Hahaha! Seriously, I am addicted to Disney World. I have a problem. Step one is admitting you have a problem, so there. I have a problem. I knew it I had passed my problem onto Jack because whenever we get into the car he would start shouting "MOUSE! MOUSE!" Imagine the confusion this causes in the middle of the grocery store or the post office. "Ohhh.he's so cute, what is he shouting??" And Charlie? We not longer need a map at any of the parks. He grabs one for good measure as he marches through the crowd acting as our official tour guide. His standard line? "Ok, what are we going to do next?"
I try to go out there with my parents, my in-laws or my friend at least twice a week. Once I got so desperate for a fix I went out alone. I never saw another single person with a stroller, an 18 month and a five year old the whole time I was there. And now I know there is a reason for that. People don't really care that you're holding a baby the size of a frozen jumbo turkey and the hand of a hyper 5 year old while trying to make your way through the crowd. They will run you down and kick you out of the way just to get one row in front of you for the show.
So, this summer, we are enjoying the tourist scene and we know these days are coming to a close sooner rather than later :( I've started to apply for jobs in our new hometown and I guess the real world is quickly approaching. And that makes me want to throw up. But for now we are going to Disney World!


Charlie scratching Pluto's nose, making him thump his foot. So cute! 


Jack meets the Mouse for the first time


Dumbo!

In the shark's belly at the Living Seas

Charlie with his pals Cypress and Bliss! I love these girls!

Brushing the pig at Animal Kingdom

Three little pigs!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

Lets set this up. I've been sooo sick this week with what appeared to be the blublonick plague. (Just kidding, but it sure felt that way...) I had resigned to the fact that there was no way I was going to be able to drag my sorry sick butt to Jacksonville this weekend for Father's Day and hear Chad preach on Sunday. But then my parents came to the rescue, got a hotel room on the beach and drug it for me! Yipppeeee. So today has been a great day! Church, beach, dinner with family and extended family. The works. Just a perfect day.
This morning Chad preached from John 3:16. The most basic building block of the Christian faith, but with a personal application. The amazing story of Charlie's adoption from Russia. Of course we talked about the trials and tribulations of our journey and the year long battle after we had met him to get him home. But, all that aside, a personal glimpse of a story inside a story- When we arrived we expected a little 2 year old boy (and later a 3 year old boy) to drop everything and run into our arms the second we met. For him to instantly know that we would have gone to the ends of the earth (and literally did....) to save him. To hold him. To love him forever. But, Charlie, being the strong willed, frightened and obstinate little boy wanted nothing to do with us. He cried. He pitched a fit. He rocked himself in the corner. For goodness sake- he peed on me not once, but twice to get away from me and go back to the only family he has ever known. He rejected us, over and over again.
You see when God sent his son into the world to save us, we rejected him. We spit in his face. We mocked him and still do. We run from him. And all he wants to do is love us. And save us. He has set us apart and adopted us into his family. And he loves us so much he would go beyond the ends of the earth to show his never ending love. Adoption is redemption. Heavenly, earthly or otherwise, our lives have been made meaningful by our adoption story. I was so honored to be there today to hear our story again, with fresh ears and fresh tears.
I am so thankful for Chad and the father he is to our boys. I don't take for granted for one second that other families are not as fortunate as we are to have a Godly, kind, understanding man as the head of the family. I am thankful for my daddy who has been a example of hard work and dedication to our family for so long. I am thankful for my father-in-law, JR who is an amazing man of God and loves my boys so much. I am blessed to have a bonus dad, Rick who is kind, compassionate and thoughtful beyond measure.
I hope you had a wonderful day remembering or honoring your dads and those that are like a dad to you! Toodles till next Sunday!
Saying Cheeese at the Rainforest Cafe 

Riding Cinderella's Horse at Ft. Wilderness, Disney

Monday, June 10, 2013

Oh yeah....

So I guess I still have a blog. Funny, I use to panic if I missed a day of writing. Now it seems the days are filled with swimming, baby catching, bike riding, Mickey visiting and the such. I can't tell you the last time I even had my laptop on.....I suppose we've settled into a new state of normal with the wild five year old (!) and the 19 (!) month old. Charlie has decided to start swimming without his swimmies and ride his bike without training wheels. In other news, I have taken the child lock off his side of the car door, I am now "trusting him" to make good decisions and let himself out of the car. Oh boy. Jack is saying every single word I say like a parrot all of a sudden, which as you can imagine has made for interesting conversation. My favorite new word is "Shock-o-lot" for chocolate, a word screamed at every pass through the kitchen. Some pictures for my loyal fans, waiting and checking everyday to see what we've been up to? A friend of mine who has a photograph biz, captured some wonderful pictures of the boys. You can check Justina out here. She specializes in no pressure photo shoots. Basically, we met by the lake and she just followed the boys around snapping away.



I must say, I have two of the world's most beautiful boys....and I'm not just saying that as part of my motherly duty.
In other news...
We had a "offer" on the house, but notice I use the word "offer" in parenthesis. It was an odd request for owner financing and just sounded too risky. Then we had to other emails stating "Expect offer" yet...no offers flooding the inbox as of Sunday, June 9th at 11:25pm. Yes, I had a nap today, can you tell? Burning the midnight oil.
I am dreaming again of writing a book, and come up with the BEST ideas around midnight only to discover in the morning that it was the stupidest idea on the planet. I wish someone could pitch a plot to me and just have me connect the dots. (It's a story about a vulnerable tomato, no a peach, no an asparagus that felt self conscious about the way it's pee smelled...)
We had the privilege of meeting a fellow adoptive mom a few weeks ago in St. Augustine. It was surreal watching our kiddos from across the sea play together. At some point on the playground a group of kids were playing war and were screaming "The Russians are coming!!!" You can imagine what a kick we got out of that. And the Russians ARE coming. We are greatly looking forward to our Russian reunion day at Disney with some friends from all around in July. How cool will it be to see everyone that we "know" through the process of adoption? I can't wait. I only wish we were also going on the Disney Cruise following the day at the parks. Sigh....
I am struggling quite a bit with missing my old life. I miss my house, our friends, my job, the church....I am so sad that Charlie won't be going to his school next year. I miss South Carolina pace and our annual trip to the beach. I just miss everything about it. This transition hasn't been an easy one for me. But, I am hoping once the house sells and we can fully settle in life will feel better. Right now it's just been hard on me. Ok, enough boo-hooing.
I could go on and on about the 10 million other little things that have happened since May the whatever, but I guess that's the price I pay for not keeping up with the blog. Too much information turns into a scattered mess. So, how about a promise? Meet me back here on Sunday night. I can at least vow to write the 4 people still reading the blog that I will be more consistent on updates. You.Me.Next Sunday. Peace out. 









Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Dear Adopted Mom....

Wow. This is a really great read. Since we've been on both sides of the adoption scene, domestic and foreign, it's like both processes summed up in one beautiful letter. The author is Kathy Lynn Harris and you can read more about her and her books HERE. Happy Early Mother's Day everyone. - Sarah

Dear Moms of Adopted Children

First, a quick note: I wrote this piece after reading an essay written by Lea Grover in the Huffiington Post, titled “Dear Less-Than-Perfect Mom.” The post by Lea was wonderful, and it made me think about us moms who found our sweet babies through adoption, and how we face unique challenges. I hope you enjoy it, whether you are the parent of an adopted child or not. Happy early Mother’s Day, everyone.
——————————————————————————————————————
Dear Mom of an Adopted Child,
I met you in adoption education class. I met you at the agency. I met you at my son’s school. I met you online. I met you on purpose. I met you by accident.
It doesn’t matter. The thing is, I knew you right away. I recognize the fierce determination. The grit. The fight. Because everything about what you have was a decision, and nothing about what you have was easy. You are the kind of woman who Makes.Things.Happen. After all, you made this happen, this family you have.
Maybe you prayed for it. Maybe you had to convince a partner it was the right thing. Maybe you did it alone. Maybe people told you to just be happy with what you had before. Maybe someone told you it simply wasn’t in God’s plans for you to have a child, this child whose hair you now brush lightly from his face. Maybe someone warned you about what happened to their cousin’s neighbor’s friend. Maybe you ignored them.
Maybe you planned for it for years. Maybe an opportunity dropped into your lap. Maybe you depleted your life-savings for it. Maybe it was not your first choice. But maybe it was.
Regardless, I know you. And I see how you hold on so tight. Sometimes too tight. Because that’s what we do, isn’t it?
I know about all those books you read back then. The ones everyone reads about sleep patterns and cloth versus disposable, yes, but the extra ones, too. About dealing with attachment disorders, breast milk banks, babies born addicted to alcohol, cocaine, meth. About cognitive delays, language deficiencies. About counseling support services, tax and insurance issues, open adoption pros and cons, legal rights.
I know about the fingerprinting, the background checks, the credit reports, the interviews, the references. I know about the classes, so many classes. I know the frustration of the never-ending paperwork. The hours of going over finances, of having garage sales and bake sales and whatever-it-takes sales to raise money to afford it all.
I know how you never lost sight of what you wanted.
I know about the match call, the soaring of everything inside you to cloud-height, even higher. And then the tucking of that away because, well, these things fall through, you know.
Maybe you told your mother, a few close friends. Maybe you shouted it to the world. Maybe you allowed yourself to decorate a baby’s room, buy a car seat. Maybe you bought a soft blanket, just that one blanket, and held it to your cheek every night.
I know about your home visits. I know about your knuckles, cracked and bleeding, from cleaning every square inch of your home the night before. I know about you burning the coffee cake and trying to fix your mascara before the social worker rang the doorbell.
And I know about the followup visits, when you hadn’t slept in three weeks because the baby had colic. I know how you wanted so badly to show that you had it all together, even though you were back to working more-than-full-time, maybe without maternity leave, without the family and casseroles and welcome-home balloons and plants.
And I’ve seen you in foreign countries, strange lands, staying in dirty hotels, taking weeks away from work, struggling to understand what’s being promised and what’s not. Struggling to offer your love to a little one who is unsettled and afraid. Waiting, wishing, greeting, loving, flying, nesting, coming home.
I’ve seen you down the street at the hospital when a baby was born, trying to figure out where you belong in the scene that’s emerging. I’ve seen your face as you hear a nurse whisper to the birthmother that she doesn’t have to go through with this. I’ve seen you trying so hard to give this birthmother all of your respect and patience and compassion in those moments—while you bite your lip and close your eyes, not knowing if she will change her mind, if this has all been a dream coming to an abrupt end in a sterile environment. Not knowing if this is your time. Not knowing so much.
I’ve seen you look down into a newborn infant’s eyes, wondering if he’s really yours, wondering if you can quiet your mind and good sense long enough to give yourself over completely.
And then, to have the child in your arms, at home, that first night. His little fingers curled around yours. His warm heart beating against yours.
I know that bliss. The perfect, guarded, hopeful bliss.
I also know about you on adoption day. The nerves that morning, the judge, the formality, the relief, the joy. The letting out of a breath maybe you didn’t even know you were holding for months. Months.
I’ve seen you meet your child’s birthparents and grandparents weeks or years down the road. I’ve seen you share your child with strangers who have his nose, his smile … people who love him because he’s one of them. I’ve seen you hold him in the evenings after those visits, when he’s shaken and confused and really just wants a stuffed animal and to rest his head on your shoulder.
I’ve seen you worry when your child brings home a family tree project from school. Or a request to bring in photos of him and his dad, so that the class can compare traits that are passed down, like blue eyes or square chins. I know you worry, because you can protect your child from a lot of things — but you can’t protect him from being different in a world so intent on celebrating sameness.
I’ve seen you at the doctor’s office, filling out medical histories, leaving blanks, question marks, hoping the little blanks don’t turn into big problems later on.
I’ve seen you answer all of the tough questions, the questions that have to do with why, and love, and how much, and where, and who, and how come, mama? How come?
I’ve seen you wonder how you’ll react the first time you hear the dreaded, “You’re not my real mom.” And I’ve seen you smile softly in the face of that question, remaining calm and loving, until you lock yourself in the bathroom and muffle your soft cries with the sound of the shower.
I’ve seen you cringe just a little when someone says your child is lucky to have you. Because you know with all your being it is the other way around.
But most of all, I want you to know that I’ve seen you look into your child’s eyes. And while you will never see a reflection of your own eyes there, you see something that’s just as powerful: A reflection of your complete and unstoppable love for this person who grew in the midst of your tears and laughter, and who, if torn from you, would be like losing yourself.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Here we go!

We're home. Back in our hometown. After 11 years of being away, we're baaaaaaack. It doesn't really feel like home anymore. Traffic. New buildings. New roads. New everything.
The boys and I are living with my parents. Bless their hearts. They retire and within a month we totally invade their lives and space with our two kids, two dogs, too much stuff.
Chad is living with his dad two hours away.
Yes, in case you are wondering- that totally sucks.
This is not an ideal situation. After 13.5 years of marriage we are apart for the first time. We made the decision that until the house sells we are not going to get in over our heads with another mortgage. I am holding out for my beach house. And WE WILL NEVER AGAIN be cut out for apartment life. I don't even want to go there. So for now, we are calling our living arrangements "temporary". PRAYING that the house sells and quickly. We've had three showings in one month. Good feedback, but nothing serious. Will you please pray that our house sells and quickly? I appreciate your prayers more than you will ever know!
So, here we go, another chapter in our lives has just started. The boys are having a blast at the grandparents house. Charlie just sees this as one big vacation so far. So, as long as they are happy and adjusted, I am striving to maintain a good attitude and a positive spirit. Another season in our lives and ministry.
Stay tuned for exciting changes in our household! Here we go!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Moving on...

Well, after 7 1/2 years at our home and our home church, hubster has accepted another church position in another state.
We are moving on....
On the surface, it looks great because we will be so much closer to grandparents and seminary for Chad to finish up his degree. We will be closer to the ocean, and in my book (and Charlie's) that is always a HUGE perk.
But we are leaving behind a lot. Best friends and great schools. Speech therapists. Our house. Our church. Our life.
It makes me really sad when I stop and think about it.
Currently, I am too busy to be sad. It has been said that cleaning your house with kids in it is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.
If that is true then, having your house on the market with kids in it is like brushing your teeth with  Oreos toothpaste. Impossible.
I am packing, purging all while following my kids around with a toy basket and a garbage bag. I am tired. Moving without children is a challenge. Moving with them is a clip from a Mission Impossible movie.
We are squeezing in as much as possible- dinner with friends, lunch with old colleagues. All of that nestled between gather boxes and 10 million trips to Salvation Army. Our church time is spent sounding like a broken record- why we are moving, where we are moving, HOW could we leave?? I understand the questions because these dear people have seen our family go from 2 to 4 in one year. Without their support we would have never been able to afford an International Adoption. They paved the way to Russia for us. It is heartbreaking to allow this church to become only a "story" to tell Charlie about all the people that loved him before they even met them. A chapter in his journey home to us.
But, we take comfort in knowing that God has lead us here and is leading us onward. We feel certain that as our time comes to a close here that He is opening a door for a new the leadership of this church. And as far as our family goes, a good decision. The next step is going to be a good one for us. Doesn't make it any easier, but in the long run moving on is a good thing.
PS- If it crosses your mind from time to time PLEASE pray that our house sells. This transition would be a lot easier if it sold quickly. We have had ZERO bites on it since putting it up last week. I know it's early...but still. One walk through, please?