Monday, June 29, 2009

Hanging out on a beautiful day

Today we spent the day with 3 other families from my "pledge class" (this is what I call the people who hosted at the same time as we did.) We've each brought home kids within the past six months and today was the first time we've been able to get together with all the kids (the last one just came home last week!) 3 of the kids are from the same orphanage and it was fun for them to get to see each other again and for the moms to just hang out by the pool and enjoy watching our kids play and reflecting back on the process that each of us took to bring home our children. The timeline, challenges, and process was different for everyone but our joys now are the same.

I love this picture - every kid on this bench is one or ours. Oh the fun we will have!

Jonathan and Lukas hanging out at their neighborhood pool. Lukas takes good care of him and Jonathan wants to live at their house so "my friend Lukas would be my brother."

Michael, Charity and Joseph refuel after swimming for awhile. Joseph has pretzels hanging out of his mouth. The kid can't hardly take a normal picture to save his life. He's a ham with very sensitive eyes so he's either being goofy or squinting!

This little cutie is Lucas - the last of the crew to arrive from Ukraine. He is such a joy and a little spitfire. God has placed him in the perfect family. It is amazing to see individual family traits coming out in these kids that were born several thousand miles away from their "forever families." God is so amazing!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

One year ago....

As I began looking forward to this summer I naturally started looking at pictures from last summer to see where we have been. I can’t believe what a difference a year has made in our family. First there was Michael – he was missing his top 2 teeth and looking cute as a button. He was also looking forward to his 1st time at church camp, and I was mourning the fact that he was going (some things don’t change!)

Charity had super long hair and was still spending a lot of time in that preschool mentality. She was dreading reading and we were worried how she would act for her 1st grade teacher. (Unfounded worries, thank goodness! It was a great school year and she loves to read now!)

Perhaps the biggest difference was that we were missing two yahoos – and didn’t even realize it. We decided in early July 2008 to host a little boy from Ukraine and he changed our lives.

There’s no way to fully explain how we feel about our Andriy (even though he probably has an Italian name now). We loved him dearly and I still miss him and think of him often. I’m sure I’ll always wonder how he is doing, if he is happy and most importantly – if he knows Jesus. I would love nothing more than to see this little guy in heaven with me. At the same time it breaks my heart to pieces to think of never meeting Joseph and Jonathan. I am their mom in name, function, and in my heart. It seems like they have been with us forever. (Just don’t ask where the accents come from and I can’t explain the lack of baby pictures: ) ) It is obvious that God had these little ones picked out for us from the get go and he used our wonderful hosting experience and the heartache that followed, to teach His fearful daughter (that would be me) to just hold on to him and let go of everything else. What a lesson and what a blessing. So, one year ago we began to think of our family this way:

And today it looks like this (only more tan and with shorter hair on the boys - and probably a ponytail on me. Apparently I need a more recent family photo!)

I’m scared to imagine what this year may hold even as the next group of Ukrainian kids comes over. We have 2 families from our church that have decided to host kids this summer. There is also another family from our town who will be having an orphan staying with them for the 3 weeks. Eric and I have agreed to act as mentors for 2 families as they enter the exciting, busy, terrifying and fun world of hosting. If any of these families decide to pursue adoption from Ukraine after their hosting experience then we will follow them through that process as well. Our experience is anything but typical - from hosting to the day the boys came home was 5 months! - but we learned a lot about the process in those 5 months and more importantly we learned a lot about trusting in the ultimate adoptive parent - God. (For a great book on this subject try Adopted For Life by Russell D. Moore.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Summer is here!

Jonathan, Joseph, Charity and our cousin Alida at Michael's game last night. It was a bit chilly for a June game in Indiana but they pulled off a win and a good time was had by all.

I love the summer! I hate the humidity and heat but I love having my kids at home and the freedom to just hang around and be “us”. The past few weeks have been busy ones but we’ve had some laughs and we’re ready for the slower pace that the summer brings.
Eric and I ended up going to the Indy 500 this year and had a great time. It is insane that we live as close to the track as we do and neither of us had been to the race – especially since we really enjoy the racing (me more as a tagalong fan. I’m blindly loyal to a team or driver and out of love for my husband have chosen all of his favorites for my own. I like Danica though and he really doesn’t – but she races for the right team and was the only Andretti-Green driver with a shot after the first half of the 500. Poor Marco and TK.) Eric was bummed because his favorite driver (Marco Andretti) was knocked into the wall on turn 2 of the first lap and after that it just seemed like every other driver he likes was having trouble. It’s hard to let it ruin the day though with all those fast cars zooming by. We sat behind the pits and were able to see turns 1 and 4 as well as the main straightaway and a lot of pit action. We had perfect weather and really enjoyed the day. Eric’s sister came and stayed with the kids for the day so they had a blast as well – thanks Aunt Laura.

This is my cousin Heather and I before the race. Fun times!

Jonathan had his preschool graduation on the last day of school. He was only in the class for 6 weeks but he had so much fun and loved his teachers. I know he’s going to miss them this summer. He was a complete and utter cheese-ball during the actual ceremony and I was about ready to throttle him but over all it was a fun afternoon.
Jonathan cheesing it on graduation day.

We celebrated the last day of school with Charity’s “friend” birthday party. She invited her whole class plus some girls from her soccer team and her class last year over for a cookout and some capture the flag. The evening ended up being on the cool side with a threat of rain up until party time but the 21 kids had a great time and so did the birthday girl. Charity waits for her guests to arrive on her birthday.

On Sunday my crazy kids decided they should go swimming at my mom’s house. Apparently the fact that the water was a chilly 72 degrees at the top was not a big deal. I got cold just watching them but Charity and Joseph were in for at least 20 minutes. Jonathan got pulled out after half an hour and Michael swam for about an hour or more and got back in the next day too. They are nuts!

Michael on the inaugural swim in Grandma's pool.

Michael is still playing baseball and Jonathan will have OT/PT once a week but for the most part we have nothing on the calendar on a regular basis for the next few months. We have put the chore chart away for the summer and instead have instituted the 2nd annual Super Summer Challenge. I went to a workshop at the Hearts at Home conference on this topic in March of ’08 and decided to give it a try. I basically print out a list of chores/goals for each of the kids to accomplish. I set a point value for each task and give them a total goal to reach before school begins in the fall. If/when everyone reaches their goal before the first day of school, we then plan a trip for Labor Day weekend. (Last year we went to Mammoth Cave.) They also earn money as they reach milestones along the way. (During the school year they earn commission for completing their chore chart. This money replaces that “income” for them.) Michael and Charity had a blast with it last year and it motivates them to do some of the stuff that they would normally complain about. Yes, I know it’s shocking, my perfect angels occasionally have fits of whining! It also fights the “I’m bored” battle. Rule number 1 of the SSC is you can’t use the “b” word. Today is day one of the Super Summer Challenge and so far I have gotten the laundry folded (6 loads!) and hung up, the sticks picked up in the yard, and the two older boys have each spent 45 minutes weeding the garden. Charity has yet to join in the fun (she has to finish writing thank-you notes from her birthday party before she can begin) but I’m sure by this afternoon she will be earning points as well. Now before you all think I’m breaking child labor laws, I should point out that they can also earn points for going to church camp and VBS, reading, doing puzzles, running, working on 4-H projects, etc. Jonathan earned a point this morning for coloring for 15 minutes. I don’t expect motivation to stay this high but we’re off to a great start!