Sunday, August 31, 2008
My birthday has been wonderful to be able to celebrate it with so many that I love. What a blessing to have such an amazing family. I love you guys! Thanks for making it so special for me. I just feel so loved! It was extra sweet to have Nastya and Katya here too and they just delighted in making me special gifts and even gave me an interesting birthday chant complete with 'ear tugs' this morning...a unique tradition for sure :) What sweethearts!
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
As we were leaving, I asked Liliya to translate some information to the girls about the upcoming dentist appointments this week. (More on that in a sec) The kids were in the car and it had started to rain. So standing in the rain under an umbrella with her daughter waiting, Liliya patiently translated a what turned into a quite lengthy conversation! What an incredible gift she has been to us! So in the middle of talking about dentists and swimming and random stuff, Katya asks what must have been on her heart and finally she saw a chance to express. Nastya followed that up with "Nastya no hochish internot" (Nastya does not want to go to the orphanage). With hearts melting, we looked at both girls, held their hands and told them that we loved them both very much. We said that if it were up to us they would stay here forever and not leave at all. But that it was not our decision and if we did that we would go to jail. That got a few laughs and they understand. Then we told them we had done everything on our end and that we were just waiting for the governement of Ukraine to tell us when we could come to Ukraine. We told them that we hoped it would be before Christmas. That is all we could give them. This led to a quiet, introspective ride home for Katya and to nightmares that night for Nastya. My heart breaks that they must return.
I followed up that conversation with a little more via the online translator. I told them again how much I loved them and that I could not wait for the day when we can talk more about what we are all thinking. I told them that this was God doing this work in our lives and they wholeheartedly agreed and Katya said that He had given them so much good.
On another note, please pray for me. I am tired. It has been a doozy of a month and the adrenaline is over. The next week seems daunting on an emotional and physical level. Allee and Jadon start school Tuesday and that is also the girls' last day here. Another doozy on timing! It seems that just about every major life event of the past two years is being squeezed into this particular time period. Allee is worried about school and the girls are emotional about leaving. I have much preparation to do on both ends. Oh, did I mention my birthday is Sunday? I want to make this time sweet for all but have many conflicting demands. Pray that God redeems this time and gives me the grace I need.
On yet one more note, we have had some challenges with Katya. She is super sweet and loving one minute and then so pouty the next because perhaps I say that we are going to the park and she would rather swim! Like a 12 year old one second and 2 the next. It's hard to know how to react and how to balance grace and firmness. And then there are little things that are difficult. Particularly when it is time to do anything, sit down at the table, get in the car to go somewhere (even somewhere she wants to go), get ready for bed, etc...she had a gazillion things that she needs to do before doing the thing that we have asked. I am struggling to clearly, patientely and firmly redirect and show her what to do and to realize that anyone needs to have a little time to finish up what they are doing before moving on to the next thing. But this is definitely an area we are praying for wisdom... Of course I guess all this is maybe not so different than our boys but we just know how to deal with these issues with them and I guess because of her age we expect more. But I know I shouldn't. She hasn't had the blessings of godly parental love, training, and example. I guess we are just seeing firsthand some of the struggles that we completely expected (and thankfully not nearly as bad as imagined actually) - this just happens to be reality rather than imagining!
So on to the dentist update. Nastya went last Thursday and did great! She had two teeth pulled (don't worry they were baby teeth that needed to come out) and one filling. She is so brave and just had a few concerns when the drilling started. She was very happy when we told her that new teeth were going to come in where the others were pulled. And she had her first experience with the tooth fairy! She wanted a real live puppy but a tiny, cute pink and purple one along with some gum was okay too :) We go for round two tomorrow...
Today has been an interesting day. We got home from roller skating at 9:00 tonight and with a child who was pouting because she didn't want to leave the skating rink - glad she loved it so much :) Then we couldn't find my beloved 11 year-old golden retriever, Bailey, who had gotten himself stuck in a hole that he had dug for himself in the mud. It took quite awhile with flashlights to find him in the dark yard and while calling him, we woke up a few kids :) It was kind of like 'Shadow' on Homeward Bound. But at least he wasn't hurt!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Well it has been quite the roller coaster ride for the past few days - some definite hilltops and some definite lows. I of course enjoy blogging about the highs more, but to keep it real and honest to others and because I want this to be an honest journal for our family in the future - I will share a few struggles. It's funny because I started to type this Sunday night and it was pretty negative and I just didn't have the energy to finish. But already I can barely recall those feelings because really it was just a bump in the road and we have already moved on.
Sunday morning was great - the girls love church (especially worship) and enjoyed playing afterward in the gym since we ate lunch there. Then we came home (Zach had to leave to work that afternoon) and I really struggled with obedience issues with Katya. Just simple things - like refusing to turn off the tv, getting fruit without asking (we have told them just to ask first), not eating in the appropriate places, splashing a lot of water in the tub (for the 2nd day in a row), and pouting when corrected. And just working through some slight hurt feelings among the three girls. Not to mention, Ben wouldn't nap and Jadon kept picking on his brother! Did I mention that I had stayed up too late and was tired too!!! Not a good combo and led to a rather overwhelmed and grumpy momma and you know, "If Momma's not happy..."
So that's the bad part - not really all that bad now that it is past!!! Perspective is amazing! But the really amazing part is once again how God supplied for our needs and quite literally poured out His grace on us. All I can say - if you were led to pray for us Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and today - God heard your prayers and I felt them!!!! The first way that God helped me was through Zach - my sweet, wonderful husband came home and calmly took over - realizing that I needed a break. Then he made time for me to talk with Allee and help her figure out some healthy boundaries and just talk and pray with mom. Much needed for us both. Then he patiently listened to me and didn't correct me in my emotional state but wholeheartedly prayed with me and for me and for our family. He encouraged me to pray and spend some time in the word and to ask for some advice from those who have gone before us in similar journeys. Some have expressed concern that the added stress of adding two new children to our family may place too much stress on our marriage. I can say that without a doubt our love for one another has quadrupled and the stress has thus far done nothing but draw us together and allow us to see God at work in each others' lives. Thank you Lord for my husband.
So then I received some great encouragement from Connie - she adopted 2 girls the same ages as Katya and Nastya about five years ago. I have really appreciated what she shares on her blog and through emails to me. Our talk helped me to be more confident about what approach to take. Thanks Connie for making time to talk and pray for us!!
Then on Monday afternoon we had Liliya come over- the translator that we hooked up with at the pool (or rather that God dropped in our path!!!). We played memory game all together and learned a little English. We talked about the importance of listening and while at first Katya said that she 'did not promise to listen to Momma' :) she truly listened to me and we have seen her really trying and doing so much better. I really expected all this (although in reality I don't always react the way I imagine!) and seriously - this kid has never been able to really trust adults and now here she is in a new family that she can't communicate with and we are telling her that she has to listen to us all the time. I understand her frustration and am very encouraged to see that she has been doing AMAZINGLY well the past few days. I know it will be ups and downs - but with what child is it not? I see enormous potential and hope by the grace of God. So I guess that is why I titled this 'learning together' - I think my expectations were pretty unrealistic on Sunday and I was grumpy which led to further feelings of uncertainty and unwillingness to listen. I was able to talk to her through Liliya and really communicate some much needed conversations, my love for her, my desire to do good for her, and just to laugh together and joke around a bit. So I am learning how to more graciously approach Katya (as well as the others) and having some more clarity and direction about how to best love and train her. This time is so invaluable for us to learn and regroup before they come home forever. We are seeing a few needed changes that are hard to make right now - such as we plan to eliminate all tvs from the house other than the one in the living area and perhaps my bedroom so that it is easier to regulate the amount of movies they watch.
Moving on to Tuesday ~ Zach left very early and came home very late this day. I considered taking everyone to a movie or roller skating or something to just get out of the house. But as I thought about the day, I decided we needed a down day and that if we left, it would be more for me than for them. I also determined to keep them downstairs and with no movies until rest time. Amazingly - it worked! We (all six of us) cooked together, cleaned together, played games together, did an art project that Liliya left, worked on English lessons (Rosetta Stone), and just had a blast! Then they enjoyed a quiet afternoon and Ben even slept!!! I used that time to do some much needed office work. Everyone then got up and we played a few more games and ate dinner. We tidied up once more and were happily on our way to bed by the time Zach came home. How nice that was for him!!! And how thrilled I was to just experience the Lord give me the grace and strength and wisdom to walk through the day with joy.
So that brings us to today - Wednesday. It was Ben's first day at pre-school, Katya's first filling at the dentist (which Liliya helped SO much with by clearly explaining the process and the need for the dental work), and the day that my sister's precious baby boy - Bennet Toufiq - came home from Ethiopia!!! We had a good morning - Zach took Ben to school and Jadon to work with him. We headed to the dentist, calling Liliya on the way for a brief run-through on what to expect again and to discuss the schedule for the rest of the day. Of course they like to know what they are going to be doing the rest of the day and today they had a few choices to make! The dentist appointment went well - it was a deep cavity and while not very painful - it was very frightening for her to hear and feel the drill. She clung to my hand for dear life and a tear or two slid down her cheek, but she bravely remained still and the dentist finished in record time. When it was all over she was confused about the numbness but we told her it would go away. We had Marble Slab to celebrate her great job!!! She told Nastya it is not so bad, which is a good thing since her first appointment (of many unfortunately) is tomorrow morning!! She has to have an extraction - which sounds horrible - but it is really not since it is just a baby tooth that will come out easily due to the bad decay and she will be numb. But her greatest fear is having teeth pulled - they do this commonly in Ukraine when there is bad decay and they don't use anesthetic!! So I have not told her specifically what is being done yet - not sure when to break the news.
Last, but certainly not least!!! BENNET TOUFIQ ROBERTS is HOME!!! Whoop!! It has been a difficult process but it is all forgotten now! He is just about the cutest thing you've ever seen. We had a fun welcome home celebration at the airport - complete with signs and Ethiopian flags! Thanks Becca! He is doing so well and it is so amazing to see how perfectly he fits their family. Check our her blog for pics and more details!!! http://www.edenhorsefarms.blogspot.com/
Okay, if you are even still reading :), sorry for the loooooong post again - but I just have so much to remember right now!
Saturday, August 16, 2008
and a lovely second-hand store - Twice Upon A Time
What did we buy there? Pure joy :)
Dancing shoes, tights, baby dolls, and dance recital outfits/tutus!!!!
Katya had been asking for dance shoes since her arrival and last night kissed the book, Angelina Ballerina. She told me that she dreams about dancing in her sleep. And I must say, the girl has got some rhythm! So today we decided it was time to spoil them a bit :) And it was so fun!!!
All three girls ran into the house, changed clothes, and then I surprised them with pushing all the furniture away from the living area (which has wood floors) and putting on The Nutcracker, an original version filmed in St. Petersburg. They danced their little hearts out and delighted in showing me their impressive moves, spins, and splits (Nastya can go from standing to a complete split on the floor in .2 seconds - amazing flexibility)!!! After that they watched a movie and the boys rested while I had some nice quiet time with the Lord - what a lifeline and refreshment that is for me. So great to just thank Him for what He is doing and to continue to go before Him for strength and wisdom. It goes without saying that I could not walk this journey apart from the Lord nor could I experience the joy as I walk it.
Then Katya asked me to type the info written on the back of her favorite movie into the computer so that it could be translated into Russian. She then wrote every word down into her journal. She then looked at the English words on the back of the movie, compared to what I had typed, and realized that I had summarized on the computer, leaving out a bit (it was really long)! Can't get anything past this girl!!
To top off this fun day, my parents and my sister all came for dinner, bringing dinner with them!! Thanks guys!! We cooked hamburgers and hotdogs and the girls repeated the dance performance for everyone. The boys got involved this time, pretending to be the mice in the play. To cute! Things got a little crazy when Jadon suggested that he tie a rope around Ben and pull him up from the second story balcony so that he could fly. Things had to stop there :) So maybe we're all a bit crazy but we are having a blast!!!
Another amazing blessing - when we went to the pool yesterday at our neighborhood park, we walked up and who was there but Liliya!!! Liliya is a Ukrainian woman who has lived in the US for 10 years. She is too sweet and wants to help us by translating, teaching the girls English, and just supporting them and us!! Who but God could have placed her at the entrance to the pool when we were walking in!!! We met her at Christmas when Nastya was here but I didn't really know if she would want me to call her. And guess what she used to do in Ukraine?!? Teach kids English!!!
What better way could I imagine spending this time? Laying on a beach maybe? That sounds fun but, truly, despite the fact that the struggles are very real and difficult, the joy intertwined is so sweet that I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Here's a video of the recital - Allee is in pink Katya blue, and Nastya is helping Ben.
Friday, August 15, 2008
I want to be honest about things here. So I will start out with the challenges and then move onto how our Lord has met us at each challenge. In the last six days:
- Nastya and Katya arrived in the middle of the night
- We have kept my three year old niece who was starting to really miss her mommy and needing lots of comfort
- Zach's grandfather died and he and Allee left town for a few days
- N&K had their first dentist appt which they were very very fearful about
- I went to Target with the girls (big mistake, enough said)
- Nastya came down with an ear infection and we had to get anitbiotics (another dreaded doctor visit with six kids)
- Some 'testing of the waters' on the part of Katya's attitude and behavoir and certainly a fearfulness of not being accepted/loved
- My parents and my sis arrived in the Austin airport without my brother in law and new nephew b/c Bennet's visas issues were not resolved in time for them all to come home together, so they were all frustrated and sad about that and of course extremely tired and a bit sick.
- Besides the normal work of cooking cleaning, buying endless fruit as it disappears instantly upon arrival, and caring for basic needs, I think that about covers the past few days
- Oh, the day after the girls arrived I lost my special watch that was from my grandmother before she died, my wedding ring and my Aggie ring
Okay, but here are the really amazing parts. I want you to know that I write about all this above only so that it can show how God is so good and His grace is sufficient even when times are very difficult, including minute details:
- The arrival was amazing and I really didn't feel all that tired the next few days.
- Ella was a sweetheart and had the sweetest reunion with her mommy at the airport AND our sweet friend Becca kept the other kids while I went to the airport to pick them up because it is such a far way and they have been getting car sick. It was great to have a little time on the way home to hear about the highlights of Ethiopia and see pics on the camera and hear all about Bennet Toufiq.
- Zach and Allee had a nice time together enroute to the funeral, which was really nice and truly honored the life of his grandad. AND I stayed at my parents' house that night with the kids and everyone went to sleep by 8:00 including my parents and it was so wonderful to have some extended quiet time alone with the Lord. Thank you to those of you who were praying specifically for that.
- The dentist was SO kind and gentle and would you believe it - they actually said that they kind of liked it!!! They left all smiles :) (The good news is that Katya has pretty good teeth with only a few cavities but the bad new is that Nastya has some really serious issues and they won't be able save some baby teeth, but long term it will be okay)
- Target, well....let's just say that we left alive and without Bratz dolls but with a cute new pair of sunglasses, goggles for swimming, new shoes, a few other small goodies, and some food...only minimal pouting about the many "no's"
- Our kind doctor (also a family friend) prescribed antibiotics without us coming to see him and the ear is much better - Thank you Dr. Nelson!!!
- My sister's baby boy finally got the visa paperwork fixed and they have an appt at the US Embassy in Ethiopia on Monday - Jason and Bennet Toufiq will be home Wednesday assuming all goes well
- AND I found my watch and rings!!! - a kind person had put it up after I forgot it at my parents' house one day and I didn't get the message about where it was until much later
As far as the girls, they LOVE swimming and want to "kupatseeya park, please Momma" (swim at the park) every day. Katya LOVES to sing and dance - just as Nastya told us - and has asked countless times to go get dancing shoes and a leotard and to have dance lessons. We have not had a chance yet to get the shoes, and I kind of want to surprise her too. She is very sensitive - in a sweet way - and wants love and affection so very much. She gives the greatest hugs of all time and enjoys reading and drawing as well. She is a bit more shy in personality that Nastya (who will jump off a cliff if it we tell her it can be done :)), but certainly is trying very hard to learn English. She was so excited when I showed her a book that is written in Russian that I bought for her.
Nastya is doing great - she is a little bundle of energy and joy and is ready to pull a prank on you too! She LOVES horses and even kisses the pictures that Allee has of them. She can't wait to ride again. She seems much more comfortable with us than before and we really have not had any struggles so far on this trip.
All in all, things are going well. It was a hard few days but honestly I could feel the grace of God sustaining us and the past two days were such a blessing. God is so gracious to us. We had a wonderful time with the girls today and they are such an incredible joy to have here. I just look at them and am filled with wonder that they are here and at all God is doing in their lives and ours.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
I'm very glad for the girls and for you!!! Good news! CONGRATS!!
I have successfully submitted the dossier on Thursday so there is no any problems at all. Soon we will know the date. I hope to meet you soon.
Take care and have good time there,
We had a wonderful time at church this morning and the girls loved the worship although they were bored but quiet during the sermon. I was trying to imagine sitting in a Ukrainian church service and not understanding a word.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Anyways, so we arrived home and met each and every animal (we kind of have a zoo!). Then they wanted to take a bath (and needed one - they showed up in several layers including sweaters?!? - this is Texas in August and I don't think it is cold in Ukraine either!!). Finally we put on their pjs and we prayed and went to sleep about 3 in the morning. Wow! They slept until 8 and then up we went, cooked breakfast (eggs, little sausages, bread) which they ate well, cleaned up (Katya really likes to help clean and is very organized), got dressed and headed to my parents' house to swim and meet the horses. Oh, before we left Zach and Katya played around on the computer listening to music. She loves music and we had sent her the Breakaway CD (praise and worship music) and a cd player for her birthday. She recognized all the songs and seems to really enjoy them. We had fun looking at pictures too.
So we arrived at my parents and I finally let them unbuckle and roll down the windows once we got into the gate. They were in awe of the sunroof and stuck their heads out. It was amazing to see Nastya's reactions at seeing things again and Katya's reactions at seeing everything for the first time. The funniest reaction was when Nastya saw Solomon - my parents' huge New Foundland who was a tiny puppy at Christmas - she was so confused at how he had grown SO big :) Another example, Nastya knew the seat belt is a non-negotiable but Katya is learning that (just like Nastya did at Christmas). I watched Nastya ride her bike, pet the horses, and swing under the trees today and remembered the emotions of the last day in January that she relished doing these exact things and neither of knew if she would ever be back to do it again. Thank you Lord for bringing these children to us!
We headed to the pool and they have been telling me that they know how to swim. Just before getting in they asked for life jackets!! I had none except for Ben and Ella's - much to small! They said they knew how!! So they squeezed into these mini life jackets and tentatively got in, holding onto me for dear life. Very soon though, they were flopping around, holding their breath underwater, and attempting a few strokes. It won't take them long to learn, but we will have life jackets that fit next time around!!
After all that we ate lunch, went up to the house to rest a bit with a movie, and fit in a little bike riding. Katya is a bit frustrated that her little sis can ride and she can't. It was too hot to practice long today but she will get it soon.
Katya is so incredibly sweet and thoughtful. She really likes Ella and braided her hair so pretty today. She is very helpful and notices when things need to be done. She is very friendly and likes to be with us all the time. She is also calm and I think has a calming effect on Nastya :) She is doing great with English too - it is fun to teach them English.
I go to bed tired but full of joy!
What a gift it is to have these precious girls.
Friday, August 8, 2008
It is surreal after all the uncertaintity. When we put Nastya on a plane eight months ago we had no idea if we would see her again but dared to hope... And now here they come!!!
Thursday, August 7, 2008
FRANKLIN, Tennessee (CNN) -- According to UNICEF, there are 143 million children in the world who have lost one or both parents.
In America alone, there are half a million children in foster care, and approximately 120,000 of these children are waiting to be adopted. In many countries, children are too often orphaned or abandoned because of poverty, disabilities and disease; every 15 seconds, a child loses a parent because of AIDS. These are staggering facts that can seem overwhelming and discouraging, but I believe that God has a loving plan for each child, and that plan is you and me.
Caring for these children is not the job of governments or institutions; instead, it is the job of families, people and communities. As Christians, our compassion is simply a response to the love that God has already shown us. Mother Teresa would constantly remind those who worked with her that the Bible clearly teaches that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Jesus. So in a very real sense, caring for orphans is a chance to meet the person of Jesus in "the guise of human suffering." This is an invitation from the heart of God to know him and to experience his love.
Nine years ago, my wife and my eldest daughter, Emily, traveled to Haiti on a mission trip. Having been exposed to extreme poverty for the first time, Emily returned home with a determined passion to make a difference in the lives of at-risk children.
Only 12 years old, Emily went on an all-out campaign to persuade us to adopt. She bought a book on international adoption with her Christmas money and would read it to us regularly. She began fervently praying and writing letters to Mary Beth and me, encouraging us to consider giving a waiting child a home. Emily knew God was leading us in the direction of adoption; however, Mary Beth and I were not yet convinced.
My wife and I had always supported the idea of adoption, and as Christians, we understood the importance of loving and caring for others. But what I had not yet grasped was that adoption is a physical picture of what Jesus has done for me. I did nothing to deserve God's love; in fact, I was living as an orphan, without hope. Yet God chose to pursue a relationship with me, and through the death of his son Jesus, I was adopted into God's family.
My wife and I began moving toward adoption with fear and trembling and asking all the questions people ask. I remember Mary Beth crying herself to sleep at night saying, "What are we doing? I can't do this." However, God kept reassuring us that this was the direction he was leading us. It was a huge journey of faith for us.
In May of 2000, we found ourselves in a hotel room in China's Hunan province, welcoming the newest member of our family, Shaohannah Hope. From that moment, we began our journey into the world of adoption, orphan care and Shaohannah's Hope.
We went on to adopt Stevey Joy and Maria. Recently, our youngest daughter, Maria, passed from life on this earth and is now safely in the arms of Jesus. We have been completely overwhelmed by the love and support of so many during this time of deep, deep sadness. Through all that we've experienced, one thing we still know is true: God's heart is for the orphan.
In our travels to Latin America, Africa and Asia, we have visited many different orphanages. If you look past the surroundings and into the eyes of the children, they all have the same look. They seem to convey, "I don't think this is what I was made for. Where do I belong?"
These children are crying out for the hope of a family, for the hope of community, for the hope of a permanent love. Our mission, and the mission of our adoption charity, Shaohannah's Hope, is to show hope to these children and to mobilize people, families and communities to be living examples of God's love for them.
We started Shaohannah's Hope in order to connect willing families with waiting children, but the reality is that there are many orphans who cannot be adopted. Even though we may not be able to bring them into our homes, we still have the opportunity to show them the hope we have.
If only 7 percent of the 2 billion Christians in the world would care for a single orphan in distress, there would effectively be no more orphans. If everybody would be willing to simply do something to care for one of these precious treasures, I think we would be amazed by just how much we could change the world.
We can each do something, whether it is donating, adopting, fostering, mentoring, visiting orphans or supporting families that have taken in orphans. You can change the world for an orphan.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Friday, August 1, 2008
Monday August 4th - (this will really be the middle of the night on Sunday for those of us in the US) The critical visa appointment takes place in Kiev that will determine whether the kid are coming on the hosting trip. We are praying that there are NO complications.
Thursday August 7th - We move back to our house with Ella to get last minute stuff ready for the girls and to make a BIG grocery trip. Edit: I just realized I forgot to include that this was also the BIG day that our dossier gets submitted!!! I clearly need sleep :)
Friday August 8th - Our sweet girls are scheduled to arrive late at night. They will be tired but we cannot WAIT to have them here. Everything's ready for them!
Wednesday August 13th - Bennett comes home - party at the airport!!! This morning is also the girls first dentist appointment.
Even with all this - I think it will be less stressful than this past week has been - at least a really fun version :) This past week has been tough - I have been trying to get a ton of work done in the office and getting lots of things checked off the list to prepare for all this. I've just felt overwhelmed in many ways trying to accomplish quite a bit. So I am glad the prep time is just about over :)
UPDATE AND URGENT PRAYER REQUEST:
Since I first typed this post, my sis had a snag in her process. They are still going to Ethiopia tomorrow - thank the Lord, but there is a chance there could be a problem with their immigration paperwork. Basically a typo was made by CIS about the age of the child they are adopting. It must be changed and the paperwork must arrive in Addis Ababa before Wed. or they will be stuck waiting on a visa and delay their return. Pray that God works out the details!!! There is already a senator on it but the timing will be close at best.