Friday, September 25, 2009

The Miracle Worker

Last night we decided to have a family movie night. Things had been been busy, the kids had all worked so hard, it was raining, and curling up together on the couch seemed like just the thing to do.

The Miracle Worker is the biography of the childhood of Helen Keller and her dedicated teacher, Annie Sullivan. Helen, blind and deaf, was an angry child who was allowed to engage in disruptive behavior such as breaking vases when angry or eating off anyone and everyone's plates at mealtimes. She was then 'rewarded' with candies for throwing tantrums. Her parents were so filled with pity for her that they allowed her behavior and only desired to make her 'happy'. Helen was becoming increasingly disruptive and manipulative and causing great distress in their entire household. It came to the point that they were even considering institutionalizing Helen. In one last effort, they hired Annie Sullivan to be her teacher. Annie had been blind but with surgery had regained her eyesight. Helen immediately doesn't like Annie because Annie will not allow her to do whatever she wants and sets rules and boundaries in her life. Annie tells her parents that their pity is only hurting their child and that the most loving thing that they can do is to teach her to obey first. Annie wisely pointed out that until Helen can learn to obey, she can not begin to be taught anything else with any success. It breaks the hearts of Helen's parents, but they allow Annie to take Helen and discipline her. In quite an amazing scene in the dining room, a battle of the will takes place as Annie requires her to eat from her own plate with a fork. Despite her blindness, Helen was a very smart child who clearly understood what was being asked and was defiantly refusing. With great patience and endurance and discipline, Annie finally succeeds in gaining Helen's obedience. The training continues and with consistency and discipline, Helen is very soon happy, engaged, eating with perfect manners, learning to knit, and quite delightful to be around. Annie endures spitting, hitting, being locked in a room, and much more to teach this child that she must obey. But then Annie tells Helen's parents, "I have only taught her one thing - NO. If only she could learn one word then I could give her a million Yeses." Finally, one day with water running over her hand and Annie signing on her hand, Helen understands. The sign means water. Suddenly she can communicate and her life was changed. She went on to do amazing things, she and Annie were dear friends the rest of their lives, and there is much more to her story. What stood out to me though is that learning to accept 'No' had to come before the million 'yeses'. Learning to obey was first and that opened the door for her heart and mind to receive so much more.

Why did I tell you this?

Because of what happened after the movie. Katya and I were in her room and I noticed that she seemed particularly clingy and loving. She held me tight and just started sobbing and saying that she didn't know why she was crying. I told her that was okay and just held her. Then she said (without us having made any connection whatsoever) that we had loved her like Annie loved Helen and that no one had ever loved her like that before. She said that sometimes discipline and teaching was hard for her but that she needed it and that she was so thankful that God had given her parents to teach her. Was this the same child who was so defiant and disrespectful only 8 months ago? I told her that we loved her that way because God loves us that way. We are all a bit like Helen before we learn to walk in the joy and fullness of life that He longs to give us. But we can't even communicate with Him really until we learn to say "Yes" to Him and accept "No" as a loving response even when we don't understand. And nothing is more critical or loving to teach our children.

Katya has felt incredible love and safety and healing in knowing that we will be consistent, that we will follow through with what we say, that we will love her enough to not allow her to continue with a wrong attitude, and that our love is unconditional. Oh my, the insights and tender heart that God is giving our daughter. Unbelievable. He is the Miracle Worker.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dreams... come true...

Two years ago, completely unknown to us, our sweet little Anastasiya sat with a group of girls and two mentors at their orphanage. The mentors were ladies from the community who spent time with her particular class to encourage and help train these girls for life outside the orphanage. They would later share this story with us. On this day, the ladies asked the girls to say what their dreams were. Anastasiya, never having met us or even heard of us yet, wrote that her dream was to live in a family and to be able to ride horses. You see, God gave her a love and passion and apparently a gift for horse back riding long before she ever even sat upon a horse.
Well, several months later she met her new family, and to her delight she discovered that her new host family had horses and that her aunt-to-be was a horse trainer and teacher. We had no idea of her previous hopes and dreams but just saw that this child was in love with the horses. She begged to be with them as often as possible - a love that has only grown stronger with time. When we were in Ukraine, this mentor found Zach and I and with tears in her eyes said that she knew that Anastasiya's dreams for horses and family had been fulfilled. She couldn't believe that this child had not only found a family but one immersed in horses. We told her that only our Lord could have done this.

Anastasiya rides twice a week and visits the horses pretty much daily. She is at the barn every chance she gets and is heartbroken if rain or other events prevent her from having a lesson. She is quite gifted at it, and my sister says that she has quite a natural ability. Well this weekend Anastasiya competed at her first ever horse show. She was in heaven with all those horses and she did very well in her class - fourth overall and first out of all the children in her class. You can read more about the show on the family blog.
Here she is doing what she loves the best and doing it well! How grown-up does she look with her full show riding outfit on?!?

God alone knew the desires that He has placed into her heart, and the talents that He gifted her with, and He alone placed her into the family that He ordained. He is so good and so into the details of our lives - I am never ceased to be awed by Him.
Here's to dreams coming true.
Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the Lord and HE will give you the desires of your heart."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I am so tired tonight. It has been a good but busy week and I am just pooped, exhausted, worn out, drained, and my brain has stopped working. I seriously can't form coherent sentences - at least not verbally :) Oh and I snapped at my children more than once this evening. Oh how that saddens me when I do that and then to see them start to model my grumpy attitude towards one another. Ugghhh. And just this morning I was thinking, "Oh yeah I'm doing pretty good at this whole parenting thing right now, and I am even running this house well without my hubby home for a few days. No problem.." Well you know what say 'cometh before the fall'... So tonight I was once more made starkly aware of my need for my Savior...and for my husband!! We do this better together!!

Zach has been gone on a hunting trip with his cousin and I am truly thankful that he was able to do this. I mean, seriously, men need time to go kill stuff together, right?!? And I have been blessed with some great help this week with picking up kids and getting some of them to activities when I couldn't be five places at once. Thank you SO much mom and dad!!!

But still, I've been going from 6:30 each morning until 10:30 or so each night with few breaks. I will be oh so glad to wake up to my hubby being home. Did I mention that I miss him too?!? Yes, just having my best friend to talk with is a nice way to wind down at the end of the day.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Back To School!!

Well, we have been rolling along finding our new groove with this year's school schedule. It has been good to get back into a schedule where everyone knows what they are doing.

Summer was absolutely the best summer we have perhaps ever had, but even good things must end or they aren't so good anymore. It was getting long, and we were all getting antsy and tired of swimming by the middle of August. We said our goodbyes to the precious children from Ukraine on August 27th. It was hard to say goodbye, and it just seems like so many of them belong here now after three months. It is strange at church to not see the ones who worshipped with us each Sunday. The precious girl (my girls' best friend), whom I mentioned earlier in the summer, just fit so perfectly into the family (our very good friends) who hosted her. I have actually never seen such a perfect fit so quickly. She looks like them, acts like them, and loves like them - it is so obvious that this child has found her family. Their hearts were so tightly knit together, which is wonderful, but it made her leaving more painful than I ever seen as well. Three months is a long time and then to have to leave. We would appreciate your prayers that God will smooth the path and remove the many obstacles so that this child can return to 'her' family forever. For their privacy we are not sharing their names until she actually gets home - hopefully within the next year.

We started homeschooling Katya, Nastya, and Benjamin on Sept 2nd and it is going very well. I have been absolutely exhausted because the start to school always seems harder until everybody (including me) gets the systems and routines down. Allee and Jadon started their school the same day and of course that means lots of homework, parent/teacher meetings, orientations, etc. So, we have been running like crazy. But back to homeschooling - it is really going well. I am blessed to have three very enthusiastic students this year. The girls are such hard workers, and I am amazed to see how much progress they have made over the summer while we weren't doing much official school. Spelling is really improving, and I think that as we start some speech therapy it will also help their ability to discern between the vowel sounds. If you can't hear/say it correctly then it is pretty difficult to spell it. Katya loves to read and to write letters to her friends and family - both of which are helping her language to improve rapidly. She is currently reading the Little House on the Prairie books and definitely comprehending them. We are trying hard to foster the same love of reading in Nastya - she enjoys reading animal and horse books. The girls' vocabulary is improving so quickly. However, that still proves to be the greatest struggle. For example, we are reading The Story of the World, and it is challenging and very time consuming to explain because so much is not understood as we read. I have to take it slow and explain - they do get it but it takes longer. The funny thing is, Ben is listening too and is just soaking up soooo much! He has the entire geography of the Fertile Crescent covered :) So, I figure that even if we only get through half or three-fourths this year that is still great. And most importantly they love it. We have slowed down on math - we will be finishing fourth grade Saxon by Spring Break or so. They are slowly getting closer to grade level. Nastya especially excels at math and comprehends very easily. Now if we could just get her to show the attention to detail that Katya shows :) I guess each has their own strengths and weaknesses - as do we all.

The most exciting thing about our schooling this year is our coop class on Thursday. We are doing these classes called Classical Conversations. It is really amazing and has proven to be very motivating for each of them. They are learning a LOT and are even taking a writing/grammar class that is teaching them the parts of speech and all about the English language. I really struggled about whether they were able to handle this yet, as it is pretty intensive, but I can already tell that it has been the right choice. They are just soaking it all up, and in the Foundations class they are memorizing these awesome history timeline cards, scripture, learning to give short presentations, science experiments, and lots more. It is really impressive and the greatest part is that they are so motivated by the other kids in their class and are making some great friends.

Anyways, to sum it all up, it is great but hard. The greatest part is that all three kids are just really enjoying homeschool right now. Nastya would like to be done faster so that she can play but she still enjoys most of it. Benjamin is engaged and learning the same thing along with us as well as learning to read. And Katya is always happy to do as much school as I will give her :) She has to work a little harder to undertand new concepts and perhaps because of her age the language is more challenging, but she works so hard and with a great attitude. It is just very time intensive for me to teach them, and thankfully, I usually have the time necessary to do that right now. I do believe that they are slowly becoming more independent, but at least this Fall semester they will require my constant help. Anyways, one day at a time!