Saturday, May 29, 2010

New Link

Just wanted to note a new link on my sidebar. I'm one of the planners for Walk for Kaz. Please check out our website and consider registering for this great event! You can also find us on facebook. Here's a brief summary:

Come join us for the first annual 5K Fun Run/Walk for Two Hearts for Hope! It's September 25 at the beautiful Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis! It will benefit the orphans of Kazakhstan and will be an awesome whole family event! Spread the word and help raise money and awareness for the orphans still in Kazakhstan. Everyone is welcome! We are also looking for sponsors - individuals, families, or businesses.

Obviously, this cause is very important to our family. We are absolutely passionate about providing care for orphans. I'm so excited to be a part of this fundraising effort that will directly benefit the orphans of Kazakhstan. I do hope you'll consider joining and partnering with us for this exciting event.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Boys Take Over the Blog

Today I'm having two guest posters here on my blog - my 4 & 5 year-old boys. These are their words and what they wanted to share with you.

Patrick - I love playing outside with my friends across the street. I like to play games with Mommy & Daddy. I love going to the Children's Museum and to Conner Prairie. It's fun to cuddle with Mommy. I love my Mommy & Daddy. And I love Titus and Pippi and Calvin. And I love the rest of our family. We are going to Conner Prairie today.

Calvin - I really want to go to the circus, the zoo, the museum, and Conner Prairie. I love Mommy and Daddy and I love to cuddle. Daddy is going to Conner Prairie with us and it will be much fun! Yesterday I went to the dentist and I got lots of cool stuff. I love to play with Patrick. I love Mommy, Daddy, Titus, Calvin, and Patrick.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


The big boys just finished their first soccer season. We signed them up for a rec league and they played for the Blue Sharks. The beginning of the season was tough - especially with one of them. :) However, we watched them make huge strides and really begin to enjoy the game and understand it. They have both asked to play again in the fall and so they are registered. We love that it helps with their coordination, encourages team work & spirit, and burns some energy!

It was so hot (90 degrees!) for their last game. Despite their sweaty-ness and frustration with my picture taking :), they were super proud of their trophies!
An aspiring soccer player - he seriously can't wait until it's his turn!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Summer Has Arrived...

...and with it new haircuts and lots and lots of dirt. They are covered in it! That's when the backyard pool comes in handy!

Lots of fun was had today!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


The last several months (well, really the last couple of years) have brought much prayer and consideration. We knew that something needed to change. And so, here we are. Andrew will be starting a new job in a couple of weeks. He will be working for the state and leaving private law practice. It is a welcome change and we are thrilled. It will take some lifestyle adjustments for us but we are ready for that. As we've considered what God has for our family and for Andrew's career, we knew that this was a necessary and "for the best" job transition.

After keeping much of this to ourselves and experiencing quite a lot of stress, we are grateful and excited for the future before us!

Congratulations to my sweet husband!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Does It Get Any Cuter?

Despite not feeling very well, Titus was super photogenic yesterday. He is such a sweet guy. I worry a little that he's not talking much but he definitely communicates and understands. He uses some sign language. All three of our boys have been very late talkers. We may end up having him evaluated by our local intervention program - if he qualifies, they would come to our house for speech therapy. Somehow I have a feeling once he really starts talking he won't stop and I have a feeling he will catch up pretty quickly.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I spent all of yesterday at a continuing education seminar. And, much to my chagrin, a lot of it was an interactive seminar. Not so much my style of learning - makes me nervous. :) I spoke up once and earned myself a pin, "Goddess of Gums." I wore it with pride. :)

For the afternoon, we broke up into groups by our profession. There were only five hygienists there. We chose a spokesperson - thankfully not me. Unfortunately, our spokesperson had to leave before the seminar was finished. Somehow, I happened to take her place and share one of our points. Big Mistake. The seminar leader then asked to role play a scenario with me. This was my worst nightmare. So, in a room full of dentists and other professionals, I had to come up with what I would say in this situation (completely off-the-cuff). It was probably only a couple of minutes but it felt like 10. And it went fine but it was torture. Thankfully, I made everyone laugh at the end.

I am not a public speaker - I do it when I have to and it makes me horribly nervous. I accept speaking engagements because I believe it is part of my professional responsibility; however, I am always terrified right before them. Despite my fears, I do still go into schools etc. for presentations. I am getting better - kids are less intimidating than adults. But honestly, I skipped speech in college because I could take interpersonal communication at 7:30 in the morning instead. :)

Perhaps as I've become more introverted, my comfort level has changed. Whatever the case, I survived the continuing ed.

Friday, May 21, 2010


We are fighting some kind of fever and cough virus around here. It's made for some grumpy, tired little boys and for a busy and full week. But we feel so blessed and thankful. Our boys amaze us every day and I love being their mom! I love the way they are so excited to see me after a day of work, I love how excited they are when Andrew gets home, I love that one of my sons wants to marry me :), I love that their excitement about learning and about family activities, I love their hugs and "I love yous," - I love my sons! They bless me (us!) every single day.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Moving On

I think I'll take a break from posting about my trip. It's hard to put in words as I mentioned and it seems of little interest. I will finish it eventually for my own journaling and may post the remainder of it here at some point.

In the mean time, the boys have finished school and are eagerly anticipating kindergarten. According to their teacher, they are both ready to progress. So far, I have been asked by one or both boys every day if it's time for kindergarten. :) I should be channeling that energy into some good review and learning - I will. Here's a picture from their final program:

My new job is going well overall. It's a big learning curve since we are a digital and paperless office. It will be good in the long run but it's proving challenging for me for now. The office is gorgeous and I'm really enjoying being in a new office! If you are looking for a great dentist in the area, let me know!

It's been very rainy here but hopefully it will dry up enough for us to get things planted. I purchased plants on Saturday and have yet to get some seeds. We are a little later than usual but then again, last year we had to re-plant due to some frost so later is probably better.

Finally, I just want to wish my parents a Happy 35th Anniversary! What an example of commitment and love. They met on a blind date many years ago and the rest is history. :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 6: Part 1

Note: I'm having a hard time writing about my experience - it was so life-changing and words cannot do it justice. I'm still working to absorb, reflect, and digest. It's very different going for the purpose of adoption versus going this time to give back.

Alas, I was sick for several hours. I realized it was probably a combo of something I ate and not drinking enough the day before. I was up for awhile sipping on water, sitting in the bathroom, and wishing desperately to feel better. Finally I went back to bed and fell back asleep. I was scheduled for the 5 a.m. shower and tried so very hard to get up but was too sick. I ended up missing all of the morning activities while my awesome friend and roomie, Jillian, nursed me back to health and kept me company.

It was about 12 hours or a little more before I started really feeling like myself again but I was determined to be at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the playground. We got dressed up and were picked up by Edick. He told us that he needed to go home and change - he lives in the mountains.
The drive was gorgeous (though I'll admit that my stomach wasn't so sure at times :)) and Jillian and I enjoyed our own private tour of the mountains (Mount Medeo). Andrew and I had been there before on a snowy, fall day and it was just as beautiful as I remembered. I loved seeing it in the spring! It was such a clear day and we could see for miles. We drank in the fresh mountain air and enjoyed the views while Edick was inside.

(Jillian & Me - a sad attempt at self-photography)

We shared many laughs and discussed different cars. The language barrier was overcome through broken English, broken Russian, and hand motions. It was so fun and is a time I will never forget. I was so happy that Jillian's sacrifice in staying with me was rewarded with a very cool sightseeing excursion.


We went to the Children's Home for an emotional last day. The kids were delighted to see us after we hadn't been there on Thursday. Our team had printed pictures of the kids from our week and the children were delighted to have photos of themselves - something so small and yet something we take completely for granted. These photos quickly became treasured belongings as I'm certain most of them have very few pictures of themselves. They swarmed us to ask us to take more pictures, to "borrow" our cameras, and to give us hugs. I had a chance to see two of the boys who had completely stolen my heart during the week (a 10 year-old and a 16 year-old). I was so happy to have a chance to get a photo with each. Their shy smiles and delight gave me so much joy and yet, it was mixed with profound sadness.



The ribbon-cutting ceremony was full of speeches - including the declaration that this was like a holiday. There were many heartfelt words and I unsuccessfully choked back tears. The week was so meaningful. These kids so deeply touched our hearts and lives. Yes, we gave them a playground but they gave us so much more.

(The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony)

(The kids at the ceremony)

After the ceremony, we passed out ice cream that had been donated by a local company. The kids were eager for the sweet treat and eager to play on the playground. They smiled and shouted and had such a good time.

And then it was time for goodbyes. Even now, I can't really write about what it was like to have to say goodbye and to drive away from the Children's Home - even now, tears fill my eyes. I will never forget those sweet kids and I really hope to go back.

(Evidently I didn't get the look at the camera memo. :))

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 5

I'm not sure if this interesting to you, readers, or not but I'm going to continue to journal the remainder of the trip for my own record and reflection. It changed my life and challenged me to the core.

This morning dawned bright and early as we headed to the baby house in Karakastak. It was a LONG drive but the countryside was beautiful. We saw donkey carts, horses, yurts, and more. The mountains were gorgeous. The poverty was evident.

Once we arrived, we went to the director's office and were introduced to her and to the doctor. We brought many bags of donations and then spent some time going through them. They were obviously grateful for the items.

After that, we were lead upstairs to the baby area. We spent some time with a little boy who is waiting for his family's court date (note: they are now there and we are praying that all goes well!!!). We also met a little boy who just had surgery. Then I spent some time with Ilosha - a little boy born with a cleft lip and palate. The lip has been repaired - very nicely - but he wouldn't let me see in his mouth. He was a sweet little guy about 22 months old. I enjoyed playing and interacting with him. Others held some of the babies and played with the toddlers. What beautiful little ones. They called us all, "mama," & "papa." Breaks your heart to hear their cries. They are, for the most part, very understimulated - amazing how the love and care of a family changes their lives so drastically. Most of us on the trip have seen that to be true in our own families.

After leaving Karakastak, we went to lunch and then for some sightseeing. We visited a monument, a park and cathedral, and Kok-tobe (a mountain overlook). I really enjoyed the park and cathedral as I had not visited it on my previous trip to Kazakhstan. It was so beautiful! I enjoyed Kok-tobe except that we took the cable car up and I did not enjoy that part even a little. :) Andrew had tried to convince we previously to go on it and I had declined but I was a good sport and went with the team. :) It was terrifying. Once up, I enjoyed the stunning views and having an opportunity to do a bit of shopping!

After a full day, we went back to our house and had a wonderful meal of manty (meat dumplings), salads, and bread. I went to sleep only to be awakened by serious stomach and intestinal pain at 2:30 in the morning...

To Be Continued

(NOTE: My camera battery died this day so all of my pictures were taken by others. I'm working to find them and hopefully add them in - I don't think they have been uploaded yet.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Home & Day 4

I'm home and very jet-lagged. And I hardly know where to begin and so I think I will just pick up with day 4.

We had a later start since the playground was finished but spent the day in the Children's Home. We painted t-shirts and played games with them. As we went to the different classrooms, I was touched by how welcoming they were and how happy they were that we had come.

In the first class we taught the children how to play Duck, Duck, Goose (only it was actually Dog, Dog, Goose due to a translation misunderstanding :)). They in turn, taught us musical chairs. So sweet.

We were with older kids (14-17) in the afternoon. They were a bit more shy and reserved but still gave us beautiful smiles and talked to us. One girl asked us to find her friend who had been adopted and taken to America 7 years prior and she had never heard from her. We were told that the children often wonder why they haven't been chosen. I choked back the tears and knew I would wonder the same if I were in their shoes.

I met a girl who shares a similar name - Ilona. We bonded instantly over the similarity. (On a side note: We had nametags in Russian so the children could all read who we were which was awesome!).

Throughout the day, different children would run up to me for hugs or to tell me something (sometimes I understood and sometimes I needed a translat0r). They often recognized me from their class the day before or from working on the playground. What sweet kiddos! I loved the shy smiles and the joy they demonstrated with each interaction.

My mind cannot comprehend the daily life of living in an orphanage. How sad. They were clearly starved for touch (hugs, pat on the back etc.) and attention. And I gave them all I could.

My heart broke a hundred times.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Day 3

What an amazing day! The playground was completed in TWO DAYS!!! The kids were so thrilled to be allowed to play on it and the joy on their faces made everything so worth it.

I spent my day inside with the kids. In the morning we had younger kids – probably around 6 or 8. We made bead necklaces and bracelets and played with wiki stix. The kids loved it but even more than that, they loved our cameras. They wanted to pose with us and wanted to take pictures. We also played with sidewalk chalk and taught them duck, duck, goose – they thought it was hilarious!

Many children in this group were affected with fetal alcohol syndrome. It’s heartbreaking. Such sweet, loving kids. Two little boys completely captured my heart – one was named Phillipe and the other had a very difficult name. They gave me many hugs, held my hand, and most of all lit up the room with the most gorgeous smiles. Another little girl enjoyed tickling me – she was an absolute doll. They so enjoyed having us just focus on them. I love that laughter and smiles are a universal language!

In the afternoon, I went to help with crafts and did for awhile. And then I had a chance to teach six of the teens how to play Uno. This was perhaps my favorite time so far. They were super impressed with my ability to shuffle cards which was adorable. The teens ranged in age from 13-17. I spent about 1 ½ hours with these kids playing game after game. They caught on very quickly and definitely enjoyed making each other Draw 2 or Draw 4 or skipping someone’s turn. When they pulled out a candy and shared a piece with me, I was so touched. They laughed at my sad attempts at language but I tried and they tried some English on me. They asked how old I was and wanted to know about my family in America. Seriously, such precious moments. I want to bring every single one of those kids home with me. One boy, Stas, was a quiet boy – he had the sweetest twinkle in his eye and beautiful smile. He later found me and asked me to take his picture on the new playground.

Spending time with the kids is wonderful. It was what I was looking forward to the most on this trip. They love the adult attention. Laughter and smiles prevail. I will carry them in my heart forever. And I look forward to more memories, more hugs, and more shared time.

I can’t wait to share pictures but it is too difficult to upload them from here. I will still have so much to share when our time here comes to an end.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Day 2

We finished our first full day of work. It was long and it was HARD! We started our day by being picked up at 7 a.m. which wasn’t a big deal since most of us had been awake since 5 something… Oh the joys of jet lag. :) Hopefully the challenge and manual labor will help us to have a good night of sleep tonight. Overall everyone is doing pretty well – a little nausea and colds but nothing more.

Most of the holes had been dug and the main frame pieces were cemented in before we came. That left us with nine holes to dig by hand. The soil is full of rocks (big and small), glass, roots, and more – we found things like exhaust pipes and shoes. Today, we finished digging the holes, setting the pieces, and cementing. My team was on the playground all day. We accomplished a lot.

I loved interacting with the children! They range in age from 3-upper teens. The compound of buildings were nice and the children seemed well-cared for. There were a variety of different needs among the kids including fetal alcohol syndrome. Many of the kids joined in and helped with building parts of the playground – it was awesome to see them taking part. They were friendly and since we all had name tags in Russian, they enjoyed pronouncing our names. Lots of smiles and hugs and laughs.

When we were nearly finished for the day, we had a chance to play with some of the younger children. They were so sweet. One of them especially enjoyed taking pictures with my camera. :) One little girl loved to be held and her sister presented us with flowers. I fought the tears back and enjoyed the moments with these precious children.

It’s surreal to be back here in Kaz. I’m treasuring the time. The people and country of Kazakhstan have made a lasting impression on my heart. They are warm and hospitable. And the children make me never see the world the same again. The orphan plight is tragic.

I’m so thankful to be a part of bringing joy and hope. I’m thankful to once again be reminded of our responsibility to care for orphans. And I’m thankful for a chance to give back to a country that has given us two of the greatest gifts. My heart is full, tears are never far, and I genuinely wish that there was a way I could take care of each of these children.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

In Kazakhstan

We arrived safely and with every single piece of luggage. Amazing! We have had a low-key day and I'm really starting to feel the jet lag. We start on the playground and visiting with the children tomorrow morning - bright and early! I started today with a cold shower which did a great job of waking me up. :) I miss my family but am so excited for all that is in store.