Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Our Trip East

We took an awesome trip out east in September. Andrew had training and we decided to tag along. Our trip started in Washington D.C. and then moved to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. The kids were excited that we visited so many states on our trip. 

We enjoyed seeing the White House at night and loved walking around the city after dark. (And we lost a kid - he wandered off by accident - took about 10 years off my life because it truly felt like he had vanished into thin air.)

We visited two Smithsonians (Air & Space and American History) - both were fascinating. The oldest two boys saw an IMAX movie which they thought was pretty cool.

The two youngest enjoyed riding the historic carousel on The Mall (truthfully, Emmi had been begging to ride any "up and down" horsey since we had embarked on the trip). Emmi was especially delighted by this part of the adventure. 

(She always chooses a white horse - such a girly girl.)

We walked MILES and visited several monuments. They were all memorable in their own ways (it had been years since Andrew and I had been in DC). The kids favorite was probably the Lincoln Monument and mine was the new WW2 monument.

Washington Monument

WW 2 Monument

We also visited Mount Vernon and spent most of Monday at that beautiful home and property. While Emmi failed to appreciate the mansion tour (or much of anything other than the flowers), the rest of us thought it was wonderful. There was so much space for the kids to run and relax. It was so much fun!

 "Look, Mom, a butterfly!"

Checking out the gardens while the boys played in a field.

This is how she felt at the end of the day...

We arrived in WV on Monday night and Andrew spent the rest of the week in classes. So, Tuesday and Wednesday, the boys had class and then the kids and I spent the afternoons exploring Harper's Ferry National Park and eating ice cream. We hiked, learned about the local history, discussed the Civil War, checked out a portion of the Appalachian Trail (my cousin through-hiked it several years ago), and just generally had a great time together!

They hid their sticks on Tuesday, so they could use them again on Wednesday. 
Boys and their sticks. 

The weather was 100% perfect for these outings! We really enjoyed the great outdoors and the freedom from set plans and timelines - we just went at our own pace.

Thursday was our final day of exploration and that day took us to Gettysburgh. I decided to purchase the audio cd and book and tour it on our own. It was awesome. We did the shorter of the tours (still 3+ hours). We got out at most of the locations, listened to the fascinating narration of the events of that battle, and once again appreciated the wonderful beauty surrounding us. 

The largest monument at Gettysburgh.

The boys were pretty fascinated with the history.

All in all, it was a memorable trip. We are thankful we had the chance to go and thankful for the time we had as a family. The boys had been asking to visit DC for a few years and so this was a dream come true for them. We found some great books at the library and they devoured them in preparation for the trip and on the trip. We listened to Carry On, Mr. Bowditch and that passed time in the car. Emmi at 3 1/2 was a challenge (which was expected), but she had a lot of fun, too.  We are looking forward to our next big trip - perhaps Colorado! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

On #4

#4 has turned our world upside down. I was a boy mom and totally unprepared for the drama, attitude, craziness, and joy that comes with girls. I love having both genders! Emmi is a spicy girl...of course, we continued our tradition of non-laid back kids. :) She is on the go, talks all the time, and is a delight. Her toys, fashion sense, and sense of responsibility are quite different than her big brothers. And my word, she has them WRAPPED. She could tell them to fly to the moon and I'm pretty sure they would try. I am loving the hair bows and dresses and shoes and accessories. She asked her dad the other day if she could "buy happy snowman bows" to match a dress - he readily agreed and she poured over the options before choosing two from Etsy. She is now anxiously awaiting their arrival in the mail.

She wears me out with her energy and then gives me limitless energy with her hugs, snuggles, "I love yous," and declarations of "my mommy." She is happy, well-adjusted, and growing like a weed. She made it into 3T clothes in the late spring though she is still super skinny with very little behind. She potty trained in February and we are once again diaper free (HOORAY!). Her language acquisition has shocked me and though she still leaves the endings off many words, she talks in sentences and we understand most of what she says. 

Emmi makes friends easily, loves people, is a dedicated follower of Titus, and loyal defender of our family. She seems to somehow understand what family means and to embrace it. We feel like she has always been with us and yet it's just shy of 18 months. So thankful for this sweet addition who cracks us up, keeps things extra lively, and teaches me daily. 

 With one of her best friends ever, her cousin, Max.

 The doll thing is so sweet - I loved my dolls!

 First trip to the beach - she had the best time!

 Orneriness personified.

 She continues to be a huge water bug with little fear.

 Pink and purple are so cliche, but they are her favorites of her own accord.

 She feels amazing when she accessorizes.

 She loves Pippi so much.

 Art Projects are so much fun until you get your hands messy.

The Fab Four - yep, that look is one we've seen a little more recently...yikes.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Life Update

My poor neglected blog. I so often think of when I had the time and energy to write on a regular basis and miss it!

Life...good things, hard things, different things...

E has been home for almost 18 months. She is doing incredibly well, loves being the baby of the family, and always has something to say. She is sassy, sweet, stubborn, and smart. Her fashion sense is hilarious. It is so different having a girl! I'm enjoying almost every minute. :)

The big boys will be 4th graders this year which I find impossible to believe. I cannot possible be old enough to have 9 year olds, right?! (Don't answer that. :)) They will be attending an online, private, classical, Christian school this fall - it will be a quite a change and I think we are all nervous and excited about it. The boys are also getting ready for their first 4-H fair and I'm having flashbacks to judging week when I was a kid - so much to do!

T will be in kindergarten and he cannot wait. I'm looking forward to our time learning together this fall. He is super athletic, loves numbers, and still has time for cuddles with mama.

Andrew started a new job this summer - it seems like a great fit and we are so grateful for it.

I'm working one day a week and thankful for the flexibility and opportunity to stay current in my field. I enjoy my patients and really love my office.

As we continue to parent children from hard places, I'm constantly reminded of the need for flexibility, grace, patience, and endurance. It is far from a one-size-fits all parenting - our parenting is different generally and different with the needs of each child. We are incredibly grateful for our support network as we have navigated some tough stuff this year. While we may not abide by "traditional" parenting books and philosophies, we have found great resources and encouragement. We have great days and good days and really bad days. What a growing and maturing process it has been for Andrew and me as we learn more about sacrificial living, sensitivity, and just how to meet the variety of needs! We are so proud of our awesome kids - their overcoming spirit, tenacity, and growth.

We are a family. We stick together. We love each other. We have fun together. We belong together.

I would like to say I will blog more frequently, but time will tell. :) There is plenty to write about - like how we actually briefly considered yurt living, how we lost a dearly loved grandma/great-grandma, how our kids enjoyed their first ocean visit, how we are using our CSA produce, how Andrew keeps me playing fantasy football... So much to say, so little time/energy. Until next time...

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Beauty in Challenge

I know I have dropped off the face of the earth. It's been quite the transition in our family. E is doing great but I'm exhausted. :)

In reality, we are always working towards healing for our children who have all experienced trauma in their young year(s). Our home feels like chaos sometimes and I sometimes wish for "normal" (whatever that is) but I am thankful that this is the journey God has called us, too.

I struggle to keep balance between wife, mom, homeschooler, dental hygienist, and whatever else. I long for organization and order and rarely have it. If you drop by my house, the dishes may or may not be done, the dining room table will likely have things on it, my pantry/laundry room will most definitely have the door pulled close, and don't even think about seeing the bedrooms. :) I remember what it was like to have it all clean at one time (I LOVE organization!) and every once in awhile it happens, but mostly we are in survival mode. Nurture is more important and so I might opt to read that story or have that cuddle or play that game or go to bed or recharge over getting every bit of housework completed every day.

So, we soldier on, we make sometimes hard choices for our family, and we constantly seek to love, understand, and care for our children better. They are a delight. We love them with all of our hearts. We are proud of the people they are becoming. Our lives and priorities have changed...for the better.

Our big boys will be doing presentations about our family at our co-op this week and I asked them what they wanted to share - P stated that he wanted to tell his class where each person in our family is from and what some of our traditions are (like celebrating the Kazakh New Year). My heart nearly burst as I blinked the tears back - he is [they are] incredibly proud of our diverse and unique family and it's his story to share.

And so, in the weariness and struggles, I grieve. And yet I so often see the progress and rejoice.

Thankful and blessed.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

One Life

This past week, I had the privilege of attending Summit 9 in Nashville, TN. The conference is put on by the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO. This was the second time I have attended - we have Emmi. :) God used that conference to begin calling us again to adoption. While I did not come home this time knowing we needed to start the process again, I did come home with much conviction, encouragement, and many things to work through.

Perhaps my biggest take away is that I have ONE life to live. What do I want to have my life defined by? What is God's desire for my life? How can I make a difference? What do I do with the undeniable command of God and the knowledge I have? How does my (our) burden for children here and around the world effect our lives, work, and callings?

The other big, though not new, lesson was once again a clearer understanding of God's adoption of us. His plan of salvation and his adopting us (not based on anything we have done) was and is a model for adoption. It is messy and not easy but yet rewarding and life-changing. To hear that preached and taught challenged my heart, my ideals, my goals...again.

I am NOT okay with the status quo and with the "american dream" but that doesn't mean I don't fight it. We are, as a family, really seeking to know God's heart, His goals for us, His plan...not to say that doesn't include nice things (God gives those gifts!)...but that cannot be all we seek in life.

So...here I am.
One life.
Passionate about parentless children.
Burdened heart.
Loving God.
Thankful to BE adopted.
Seeking truth.
Called to make a difference.
Blessed mama.
Happy wife.

A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land. 
Psalm 68:5-6

The Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord raises up those who are bowed down;
The Lord loves the righteous;
The Lord protects the strangers;
He supports the fatherless and the widow,
But He thwarts the way of the wicked.
10 The Lord will reign forever,

Your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!
Psalm 146:8-10

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these aresons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slaveryleading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Romans 8:14-16

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 1:27

1“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.
John 14:18-19

Monday, February 18, 2013


We are home and a family of six! I always forget how challenging the first weeks are. :) We are doing well overall though - just not getting a lot done! Emmi is perfect and beautiful and adjusting fairly well. If we could get some consistently good sleep, I think it would do us all a world of good! Here are a couple of pictures (picture credit to my sister-in-law!):

Daddy's Girl Already
The BEST sight after being away for 2 weeks! Love them so much and they are AWESOME big brothers!
All four of our precious gifts - we are seriously blessed!
Our family of SIX! So hard to believe!

Friday, January 11, 2013


So, so excited that we will be meeting our daughter, Emmarie, a week from Monday!!! If you would like to follow our journey, you are more than welcome! We will be blogging exclusively on our adoption blog while we are away.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Special Deal

For two days only, I'm having a Pampered Chef Special Deal. We are so close to bringing our daughter home and my Pampered Chef  business has been a huge help with funding!

Here's the announcement:

As we close in on our trip to bring Emmarie home, I have a SPECIAL Pampered Chef by Alaina deal! This is for TWO DAYS ONLY - all orders must be received by 5 p.m. on the 10th! 

Place an order of $30 or more and get your choice of seasoning FREE ($4.75 value)! This offer is only available through me - please message me with the which seasoning you would like and I will add it to your order! Additionally, if you order $60 or more, you will receive a mix 'n scraper FREE as well as the seasoning! And if you order over $100, you will get a second seasoning FREE ($4.75 value)!

GREAT DEALS for a cause!

Have some Christmas money? Ready to revamp your kitchen for the new year? New recipes?...our seasonings are fabulous! This is the time to shop!

All orders can be shipped to me if you live locally or you may have them shipped to your home address! Don't delay order TODAY - only through me! Place your order at this link: http://pamperedchef.biz/alaina?page=host-search-results&showId=3977988

Thanks so much for making 2012 an awesome Pampered Chef year - I am amazed at how much we were able towards our adoption! So blessed!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


As we usher in a new year, I can't help but reflect on the past year. While it has brought much joy, it has also brought sorrow and challenges. A few things that defined this year:

- In January, a mere 3 weeks after visiting with my grandparents, my Grandma C. unexpectedly and suddenly passed away. It was harder than I can possibly explain - she was an amazing person whom we all adored. Emmarie's middle name is 'Doris' after my Grandma. I wish I had known we would be adopting again and could have told her!

- In February, we were contacted about an unexpected infant adoption (a bio related to Ty). We were very excited and welcomed the idea of boy #4. She changed her mind before we got far (and before we had shared). It was hard. We understood and we have a good relationship with her - we are happy that she was able to parent.

- In March, I visited my Grandpa C. for the last time. As he prayed over us and with us, I felt so blessed. God gave us such wonderful examples in our grandparents. They loved and supported and prayed for us always. We celebrated Nauryz with some new friends!

- In April (really right at the end of March), we KNEW God was calling us to adopt again and that we were not to wait any longer. We had four different possibilities fall through between July 2011 and February 2012 and weren't sure what to do. It became clear and despite our fears and hesitation, we took a leap and began this walk and journey of faith. Our first home study visit was in April. I also became a Pampered Chef Consultant - directly related to the call to adopt.

- In May, my Grandpa went home to Heaven. I still can't even type that without tears. I miss my grandparents so much. The loss of them was very defining in my year. Rarely does a day go by that I don't think of them. We also had our first HUGE garage sale towards our adoption expenses and were blown away not only by the success but by the incredible help and love of several friends - from donation gathering, pricing, set-up, take-down, and volunteering to work, we were blessed.

- In June, I celebrated my 33rd birthday. We worked on lots of adoption paperwork. Honestly, I struggled a lot in June. It was a hard month. We found out Calvin would be having major surgery in August - something we did not expect. We saw the face of our daughter but didn't realize she was ours just yet.

- In July, we enjoyed a camping vacation with my family. It is very rare for us all to be together and almost everyone was able to make it. We agonized over a family decision that was incredibly difficult. We also enjoyed our denomination's international conference that comes once every 4 years. It was fun to catch up with family and friends and the boys had a blast!

- In August, we turned in our dossier (all of our adoption paperwork). Calvin had his surgery (a palatal repair/correction to improve speech). He spent two LONG weeks on a liquid diet and four more weeks on a soft diet. We were very thankful for several friends who brought meals as he recovered and for many who sent cards and gifts - he was so grateful! He was a trooper but it was challenging and was right at the beginning of our school year. God unexpectedly brought the little girl we had seen in June/July back to us through our coordinator and we knew she was our daughter! We submitted our Letter of Intent and waited to be approved and matched with her.

- In September, we were officially matched with Emmarie! We worked to get in the swing of things with 2nd grade and with our classes. I worked hard as the lead planner for our annual Two Hearts 5K - it took a lot of work but was rewarding. We enjoyed seeing our dear friends for the 5K. This month also brought the unexpected move of my sister and her husband. They moved to CO - she is one of my very best friends and honestly, I just miss her a ton.

- In October, we celebrated SIX years of Calvin & Patrick being home - so hard to believe! We anxiously awaited our Letter of Approval but it did not arrive. We plugged away at school and enjoyed our classes. We worked football games on several Saturdays (Aug-Nov) to earn extra money towards adoption expenses - and were again incredibly blessed with friends and family who volunteered at the concession stand and others who watched our kids.

- In November, our family learned that my dad has Parkinson's - a very hard thing for all of us. We are still processing and working through this as a family. We received our Letter of Approval which was exciting! I enjoyed a great month with Pampered Chef. And I had a very stressful month at work. We also learned that we had been given a large grant towards our adoption and were completely surprised by the generosity of it!

- In December, we struggled with some health things. I enjoyed a second really great month with PC - a huge blessing towards our adoption! We worked really hard to get things ready for Emmarie. We celebrated Christmas with both sides of our family. We started really thinking towards travel and the logistics of not only adding #4 but of adding a girl and a toddler. Tried really hard not to be overwhelmed and stress - mostly failed.

That brings us to January 1. I'm still overwhelmed - we could be leaving in as soon as two weeks. I'm trying to outfit our daughter and pack for a trip that will be in two climates and get ready to add a GIRL to our very  BOY home. I have lesson plans and meal plans and childcare and house projects that really need completed before we leave - I'm plugging away at them.

We are thankful - God has sustained us through the good and the difficult. And God has directed every.single.step. of this adoption journey. We cannot wait to meet our daughter (despite the stress of getting ready :)). We know it will be an adjustment and we know the first weeks and months and year will have their challenges but, by God's grace, we are ready. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she is ours - what joy!

While we certainly don't know what all 2013 will have in store, we know that we will grow - physically (well for the kids anyway! :)), emotionally, and spiritually. I'm looking forward to it. My word for the year is THRIVE. That is my prayer - that I would thrive in the various roles and situations God has for me and that our family would thrive with our new addition and that Emmarie would thrive in her new family.

Blessings to all of you as you welcome a new year!