Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Alive & Well :)

I wish I could get back in the blogging groove! We've had a busy fall.

Last week we enjoyed a week away at a cabin. It was quiet and peaceful and just what we needed. I took precisely zero pictures and Andrew took maybe six. We saw our first snow of the season which excited the boys - me...not so much. :) We visited a chocolate factory and enjoyed some delicious treats. And we went on one hike (it was a prairie maze) and went to one museum. We also visited with my sister and brother-in-law and some very good friends. I read Jane Eyre for the first time and loved it! It was a delightfully rare treat to be able to read so much - something I enjoyed so much when I was younger and find tough to squeeze in amidst everything (I tend to fall asleep two pages into reading at night :)). All in all, a great week.

I'm very excited that The Cooks Next Door re-launched this week. After a hiatus since mid-August and several conversations as well as a weekend retreat, Steph and & I decided to change some things and to bring it back to life. We are posting daily between now and Thanksgiving and then planning for 2-3 new posts/week after that. We also are tweeting (@cooksnextdoor) (I'm working hard to understand Twitter a little more) and we started a facebook fan page - you can "like" us here. I'm looking forward to collaborating with Stephanie - we will be bringing you all types of recipes including seasonal, simple, gluten-free, vegetarian, and more.

Well, we are back to reality this week and getting ready for the start of the holiday season - can you believe it's already here?! I'm busily cleaning and recovering from vacation while starting to think about all of the baking and cooking for next week. I love the cozy, warm feelings that the holidays bring to our home.

Any plans for you, readers? Are you baking, cooking, hosting? Any great recipes? I'm hoping to try a sweet potato pie with bacon this week!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The 5K!

Saturday was a gorgeous day in Tennessee for the 5k! We over 100 participants - some familiar with Two Hearts for Hope and some who were not. I love the fact that we reached more people and spread the word! The race was awesome, the kids' race was adorable, and the time with old and new friends was priceless.

We are so excited that we raised nearly $8,000 for the window project in Ust! What a blessing to be working towards a healthier, better home for the many children in that baby house. It's not too late to donate - you can go to the Two Hearts website and make a donation online or mail it!

Special thanks to all of you who sponsored our family - I'm proud to say that all four of my men finished and Patrick was a top finisher in the kids' race! We raised $260! The boys are always so proud to be a part of this event and so aware of and concerned for "kids who don't have parents." We feel honored and blessed to be involved with Two Hearts.

(Pictures to come when we download them tonight!)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

An Orphan's Hope 5K

I guess I rely on facebook a little too much and I forget to mention things here. Anyway, An Orphan's Hope 5K (formerly Walk for Kaz) is this coming weekend in TN! We are so excited to be a part of this second annual event. It's not too late to join us!

What I love is that all of the money raised will go towards Two Hearts for Hope Window Project. The windows in this particular baby home are awful. The babies and children who live there are sick from the drafts and cold in the freezing winters. Will you consider helping us to help with this great need? Any amount will be a blessing and bring this huge project closer to completion. We so want these children to have a warm, safe, and healthy place to live.

We would love for you to join us or to sponsor/support our family for the 5K! You can paypal on the Two Hearts site and reference the 5K and our family or you can send a check to us our Two Hearts. All five of us will head down to participate - well, I will be helping to run the event and Andrew and the boys will be walking!

Thank you for considering partnering with our family!

Our boys have raised our awareness and challenged us to keep making a difference in the lives of the many children left behind.

So thankful for the boys entrusted to us!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Remembering & Celebrating!

Five years ago, we were in the final week of our month long stay in the beautiful country of Kazakhstan. It had been a challenging and wonderful adventure and we were navigating our first days of parenting our new sons. We had one son who was terrified, timid, and unsure but slowly emerging from his shell and letting us see his personality and another son who was sick, starving, malnourished, confused and a clown. 

October 4, 2006, the judge had granted our request to adopt Calvin and Patrick; October 5, the boys met for the first time and left their respective baby homes. The first night was a dream, my mommy heart was so full and so in awe. We boarded a plane for Almaty the very next morning - the boys had already been stretched far beyond the walls they had known for the first year plus of their lives.

We spent ten very difficult days in Almaty - new parents, grieving and scared children, no translator (most of the time), no transportation other than quite literally waving down rides (which we did many times - sometimes they were taxis, often they were just kind strangers), and no idea what the boys were used to eating. We lost 10+ pounds a piece as we struggled to be the best parents we could be and used many Nursat cards to connect to family at home for prayers and advice.

It was perhaps the happiest and lowest point of our journey. We were SO glad to be the parents of the sons we knew were ours but we were SO exhausted and overwhelmed. On October 15, We were sad to say goodbye to a country we had grown to love but we were so ready to be home. It was an emotionally draining 27 hour trip home.

We've had our ups and downs over the past five years - isn't that just the way parenting is? :) However, we would not change our journey, our gifts from God, our experience, and our eyes and heart being opened (and stretched) in life-changing ways. Not one bit. We can't imagine life any other way! 

Adoption was always part of our plan - little did we know just how amazing it would be. Our boys, our sons have rocked our world. We love them with all of our hearts. Our lives are full.

We celebrate five years with a little bit of disbelief (where has the time gone?), with a lot of joy, and with more love and happiness then we could ever imagine.

The boys chose (for this momentous family day) to play at a park, go for a short hike, and enjoy an all-american dinner (cheeseburgers, fries, macaroni & cheese, salad, grapes, and blueberry cake with ice cream - all their choice :)). Andrew and I enjoyed reflecting on these blessed years of being their parents, of remembering the journey that brought us all together, and of anticipating the furture. 

Sunday, October 09, 2011

That Little Two-Letter Word

I frequently ponder my responsibilities as a mother and lately those reflections have been on saying that little two-letter word...'no.' Too often, I find myself saying 'no' to my kids. Sometimes it is absolutely the right thing to say but a lot of times, I think my reasons are selfish.

Here are the three main reasons, I think my response is negative:
1. I am too busy.
2. I do not want to do (and am not interested in) whatever is asked.
3. It is inconvenient for me.

When I look at the list, I notice a startling theme - those main reasons are ALL about me. There are, of course, other good reasons to say 'no' - safety, timing, etc. but those are not generally my main reasons.

The truth is...sometimes I will hear myself say that word and wonder why in the world I didn't just say 'yes.'

I don't get a re-do on this parenting thing, nor do I want my children's prevelent memories to be of me giving unnecessary and unreasonable negative responses. Honestly, I find that sometimes...I have created the discipline situations in our home by my lack of wisdom in the use of the word 'no.' Wow. That is not something I am proud of at all.

As I have continued reflecting and seeking to grow, I realize that my desire is to:
- Build trust.
- Have my 'no' be meaningful - not my knee-jerk response.
- Bring joy to our home.
- Love my kids better.
- Be a gentle example.

So, I'm working on saying 'yes' more often, pondering my 'no' before saying it, allowing myself to be "inconvienced," giving more of myself to my kids, showing more interest in their ideas, and realizing that these years are (in many ways) fleeting. I want to look back without regret and with joy. YES! YES! YES!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Coming Home

This day dawns...the last day of my regular work life...for now. I worked at a practice downtown and a practice on the westside of town for years and then took a great new position in a start-up practice 1 1/2 years ago. It was a wonderful career move with fantastic co-workers, great patients, and the best boss anyone could ever want. The professional growth and the increased responsibility proved rewarding.

This summer it became clear that our beautiful boys needed me home. Homeschooling has little to do with it - though it will be nice to have a more consistent schedule. We realized that they needed the continuity and the stability as we worked through some things. Recently, we learned just how much the stressors of all three of our children's early development affects their actual brain chemistry. We need to be more proactive as we help them to continue to overcome the sad disadvantages that come with being from hard places. It takes more than love to bring healing and we are 100% committed. We feel incredibly blessed to be their parents and even during the tough times, we wouldn't have it any other way.

And if it's even possible, learning about how much the first year of life and even prenatal stress effects children makes me even sadder about the orphan plight. Praying that many, many children will find loving, committed homes and families. It has been hands down the most amazing, rewarding, challenging journey of our lives. We love our kids and we continue to advocate for orphans and for adoption. They have changed our lives, shifted our focus, and given us a deeper understanding of our own relationship with God. And, in many ways, we have changed their lives - I'm so thankful we all have each other.

So, it's with a mixture of sadness and joy and excitment that I end a chapter and begin a new one. How can I not be excited about being home with my sweet sons?! But in all honesty, I worry - even though I know God will provide and I know that this is His desire. So here's to trusting Him, finding joy in the journey, and embracing these years (that are passing too quickly!) with the boys. I can't wait!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Burden

147 million.
This number is burdening me.
It has been on my heart for a long time now.
I think about it daily.
I pray that God makes our path clear.
I trust that He will continue to use us.
He has already enlarged my heart.
He is opening my eyes to need.
He is challenging my ideals.
It is sometimes painful.
It is sometimes hard and confusing.
It makes me love Him more.
It makes me love my children more.
My "plans" are changing.
Our vision is growing.
147 million.
What can I do?
What can WE do?
What can YOU do?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


My husband had mono this past spring/early summer and therefore our garden was put in a little late. We have been anxiously awaiting the tomatoes and what beautiful ones we have! They are delicious - there is really nothing like homegrown tomatoes.

We are working on ideas for re-launching the cooking blog. I'm excited! My kitchen has been a bit boring of late although I enjoyed making a pound cake with berry sauce and honey whipped cream as well as trying a new pumpkin bar recipe (both made to share with others :)). It's soup season which I love and I'm planning to venture into the artisan bread world - the perfect fall and winter comfort meal in my opinion!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Not to Throw You Off...

...but I'm posting again. Wow. I don't want to speak too soon but I *might* be getting a little bit of my blogging groove back. I have missed it - really and truly. Anyway...

Yesterday we had such a great time at Conner Prairie Country Fair and Mini Maker's Faire. It was a beautiful day and a wonderful event. There was something for everyone - the boys loved building an egg protector and then launching it in an egg catapult. C & T built mini whiteboards and and P made a set of coasters. We enjoyed a hayride, tractor parade, heirloom apple & tomato tasting, robot demonstrations and so much more. Perhaps our favorite part was the circus equipement we got to try out - bikes, tightrope, and trapeze are a few of the things they provided! We spent SIX hours there (a record for us) and the boys still weren't ready to go home. :) All in all a very fun and successful family day. Oh, I forgot to mention that all of the above was included in normal admission or free for members.

Here are a few pictures of the fun!
P building his coaster set!

A happy little boy...anything with food. :)

Helping C build his white board.

C & P with their egg protector - the egg survived and they were awarded a golden egg!
T getting ready to launch his egg - alas it was scrambled. :)
C & P trying out a little circus bike built for 2!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Top 10

It's probably no surprise that I can get pretty excited about kitchen products. With my love of baking and cooking goes an insane love for all things kitchen...gadgets, dishes, serving ware, cookbooks, you name it! I can get lost for hours in the kitchen section of stores. My idea for building a house is to start with a great big kitchen with lots of storage - my husband thinks maybe we should be a little more balanced in our approach but I digress...

Anyway, I'm hosting a Pampered Chef party next week and it has made me think about the products I love the most. My kitchen is stocked with many of their items and they receive regular use - some almost daily use. Since cooking and baking are a hobby, I use more products than maybe the average home cook but their kitchen basics are awesome for anyone!

So, it seems fitting to offer my top 10 most-used, favorite products:

1.   Chef's Tongs (quite simply, I don't know how I ever got along without them - amazing)

2.   Measure Mix & Pour
(this is for salad dressing - it even includes recipes on the outside - I don't even buy salad dressing anymore)

3.   Stoneware
(I use the flat stones and bar pans ALL the time - things bake more evenly and they are easy to maintain)

4.   Mini Serving Spatula
(the best size for serving just about anything - brownies, cornbread, bars etc. - I had two, one handle broke - I will be getting another one!)

5.   Silicon Basting Brush
(admittedly wasn't sure if I would like this but I LOVE it - easy to clean, no bristles falling out, and even rests on the side of your bowl)

6.   Rubber Scrapers
(you will never buy any other rubber scrapers...the end.)

7.   Bamboo Spoons
(sturdy, perfect shape, really nice)

8.   Twixit! Clip Combo Pack
(keeps everything fresher - they are constantly in use)

9.   Ice Cream Dipper
(makes scooping ice cream so much easier - this might get used more often than it should... :))

10. Easy Read Measuring Cups
(no more bending down to make sure you have the right amount - you can look from the top and (bonus!) they stack inside of each other for easy storage)

HONORABLE MENTION - these items are also favorites and are used constantly - should have made it a top 15!
- 12" Skillet w/lid (heavy duty cookware, great size, use it all the time - the clear glass lid is a really nice feature)
- Garlic Press (no more mincing and getting all of the garlic smell on your hands)
- Citrus Press (gets all of the juice out of your lemons and limes)
- Whisks (both the traditional and mini are great quality - the handle is nicely weighted)
- Microplane (excellent for citrus, hard cheese, nutmeg, ginger root, garlic and more!)

What are your favorite products?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

School - Our Second Year

We have begun our second year of homeschooling. In many ways, I still find myself surprised that we have been led down that path. It was unexpected. However, I remain convinced that it is the best choice for us at the moment and overall we are all enjoying it. We continue to take it one year at a time - we re-evaluate and decide each year what is best for each member of the family.

We've chosen a fairly rigorous classical program with lots of memorization and the boys have loved it...well, most of it. :) This year I am teaching for our group classes and it has been so fun! Patrick has taken off with his reading skills and both of the boys enjoy math. We have added several new subjects this year and I am loving the new curriculum. The homeschool convention in March proved to be just what I needed to feel inspired, to branch out from the known, and to challenge me to not underestimate my children. 

This year, Titus is insistent that he be included in school. I put together a bin of school activities for him which he likes...as long as I am sitting with him. :) Since he is so motivated, I decided to be a little more structured for him, so we are working on colors, shapes, numbers, and letters. He participates in much of the boys memory program and often wants to "do it by myself." (That independence is a bit of a theme with our three year old. :)) He really likes to work puzzles, read books, play games, and color. Thankfully, he is also learning to play some by himself.

We are all enjoying our Bible program this year and it has provided many opportunities for deep discussions. I have appreciated the opportunity to also talk more about their history and personal stories and the great joy they have brought to our lives. I feel like I can never fully express to them how thankful we are that God chose them to be in our family but they love to hear it and feel that affirmation.

So, I'm happy for the fall - the structure is good for us. I delight in seeing the boys learning and growing and I am trying to treasure these moments and years. It amazes me how much they are growing. As I'm changing out the clothes for the season, I'm reminded again of how quickly the years pass. My heart overflows with love for our sons. Our children. I never get tired of the sound of those words.

I'm excited for this 1st grade year for Calvin & Patrick and pre-k for Titus. I trust we will learn together and challenge one another. Here's to a new school year - always an adventure! 

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Change is in the Air

I guess since it's official, I can share that at the end of this month I will be home full-time. It was such a hard decision in many respects and an easy one in others. I love my boss, my job, and my co-workers - it's been a great career move and a rewarding position. While I loved it, I was also feeling very torn - the needs of my family were increasing and my commute was long. Last year the boys were in kindergarten and it worked; this year I didn't know exactly how I was going to balance their more intense schooling with everything else. My desire to excel in everything was resulting in stress and a feeling that I was succeeding fully in nothing. Most of all, it became clear this summer that there were some challenges that need addressed and worked through with the boys and it was hard to do that with our busy schedule.

So, with much consideration and prayer and agonizing, Andrew and I decided that I should resign my position and come home for this season. I'm excited and looking forward to this new adventure. I know I will miss my job but I know that I will find much fulfillment in being home. I will work once a month to keep my skills current (and continue care for some of my patients) and I will continue to complete all of my continuing education in order to maintain my license.

If you had told us at the beginning of the summer that we would make this decision, we would have doubted. :) In fact, we imagined sharing very different news but that must wait. We are thankful for the employment God has provided these many years. We are looking forward to seeing how God will continue to provide for us and guide us.   

How do the boys feel about it? They will miss their sitters but they are thrilled that I will be home all the time...at least at the moment. :)

Saturday, September 03, 2011

And Now He Is 3

Titus turned 3 last month! He was so excited because he really "got" the birthday thing this year. I made cupcakes that were a disasterous flop and so, I changed tactics and let him decorate his own. He was thrilled, I was relieved! :) He wanted everything to be chocolate - a boy after my own heart.

It's hard to believe that we were blessed and surprised with Titus three whole years ago. We remain so thankful that C chose life and that she gave us the honor of being his parents. He has brought all kinds of new adventures and joy to our family.

Titus has grown up so much this year as is inevitable with the changing from toddler-hood to little boyhood. He has embraced this change with much gusto - insisting on keeping up with his brothers in every way. He feels positively left out if he doesn't have school work to complete and asks regularly for "my reading" and "my numbers." :) He is a tiny guy but don't let his size fool you - he can talk your ear off and play a mean game of baseball. He LOVES sports and counts down the days until he is old enough to play soccer.

Dear Titus,

You have grown up so much this year! You insist that you are not a baby - not even my baby - but rather that you are a big boy. Titus, you love to laugh, play jokes, and make others laugh. Sometimes your brothers get frustrated because you want to do everything with them but really, you are good friends with your brothers. :)

This past year, you conquered most of your fear of separation and went to class one morning a week. You had so much fun playing and learning and making new friends. Although you are often shy at first, you actually have a lot to say. You especially enjoyed bringing things for show-and-tell occasionally.

Titus, you have a great memory and work to memorize everything the older boys are memorizing. You also enjoy playing games almost more than anything else. Your favorite games are match games, Cootie, and Cherry-O. You really like to read books - it is so fun reading to you and your brothers. 

You bring so much joy and blessing to your dad, brothers, and me! We can't imagine our family any other way! We think of your first mom and thank God for her - for her choosing life and for her choosing us to be your parents and family. We pray that you continue to grow in grace. We love you so much and we are so thankful for you!

Love forever,

Monday, August 01, 2011

Happy 6th!

I am a few days late but I would be remiss if I didn't write about Patrick's 6th birthday! He had a great time celebrating his much anticipated event. And his big gift from us - a day trip to an amusement park - has yet to be completed. He chose a baseball theme cake and had some great baseball gifts. He was so happy!

Perhaps I have seen the most growth in my sweet son, Patrick this year. It has been a year of tremendous growth and maturity. My ever-responsible son has continued to blossom into a selfless and sweet boy. How blessed I am to be his mom and I can't believe God chose me! I cherish the moments we spend in conversation, reading books, playing games, and working together. What a wonderful son.


Dear Patrick,

My heart is full as you celebrate your 6th birthday. It's so hard to believe how quickly the time has passed. With each passing year, I see you grow and change and mature. I love you SO much.

This year, I have seen you continue to be a leader. You take responsibility very seriously and I appreciate that. You work hard to include others and to take care of your brothers. You are a loyal and faithful son. I still cannot believe that God chose you to be in our forever family. I am so privileged to be your mom!

Patrick, I love how you excel in school and work hard. You do well in your classes and you have learned so much about self-control and kindness this year. I'm so proud of you! You are athletic and great at team sports!

You have a lot of interests including building with legos, playing games, riding your bike (!), playing baseball and soccer, reading books, and drawing & coloring. You amazed me when you learned to ride your bike in one day this summer! You also taught yourself to whistle and you lost two teeth this year - both were very big deals.

What a beautiful heart you have, son. I love to hear you sing and pray and ask questions.

I can't help but think of your birthmom who chose life. And I'm so very thankful for her choice and so thankful that God brought you into our lives and family! I am thankful every. single. day. I love you, Patrick - always and forever. Happy Birthday!


*P.S. I will add pictures at some point! :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hair Saga

All right, here it is - I'm totally vain and I color my hair because I am going prematurely gray. I can admit it and I'm fine with. Whew, good to get that out of the way. :)

The problem: my hairdresser of 12 years is away for the whole summer. I can't go a whole summer without having my hair colored and cut. So, I decided to try the beauty school - I remember being a student and practicing on people's teeth (by the way, I think that might be totally different - it doesn't show!). I went on Saturday and requested a more experienced student thinking that they couldn't mess my hair up that bad. Um, I was wrong...

The next problem: the color. I requested a natural color with blond and red highlights - my usual. We discussed the color and she began. People, I have NEVER had so many foils on my head. It was crazy and it took forever. She commented that my hair took color quickly and after her smoke break, she washed it out. I started to worry when I saw the color in the mirror but decided maybe after it was dry it would be better...

Another problem: I didn't realize the final issue for a couple of days...really until I was at home and bought a new hand mirror. The haircut. It was cute from the front and I liked the way it laid. It was awful in the back - a big chunk of hair cut halfway up. I could not fix it very well - it just wouldn't lay right. It was NOT what she told me she was going to do.

Seriously, the instructor said it all looked good...

Oh people, five days I lived with it. I tried to be okay, I said I wasn't going to fix it but I rejoiced when I saw red washing out... Then I caved, I simply could not make it behave and I do NOT like to draw attention to myself. So, I walked into a salon and asked them to fix the cut - the hairdresser did an amazing job. I'm scheduled to go back tomorrow for the color...I'm still deciding if I can live with it...

The hair is getting expensive. I am mortified that I lived with it and yet, going to the beauty school was a calculated risk. Sometimes the difference between a bad haircut and a good one is a couple of weeks but I don't think a couple of week was going to help.

I can laugh about it. Hair will grow. My mortification is completely vain and I know that. People have tried to be nice about it and a special thank you to the little girl at the Y who stopped me to tell me how much she liked my hair - that was very sweet. A no thank you to my brother who said I looked trashy and my little sister who said it was simply awful - it made me even more self-conscious. And I'm sorry to my husband for not listening to you right away about the cut. Thank you for loving me and laughing with me. Yes, I'm still laughing about it...mostly...

So...here is the striped fiasco (I did not take a picture of the cut):

Be Kind. Please. It's been a tough week. :)

Oh and it is not white in the front - it is bleach blonde. And just so you know, it actually has faded a little since this picture...oh and the picture doesn't really do it justice.

Monday, June 27, 2011

10 Years

It's hard to believe that I graduated from college and passed my boards 10 years ago! I'm so blessed and privileged to be a part of the dental profession. I have worked for most of those years - varying amounts based on the needs of our family. :)

The past 1 1/4 years have stretched me professionally as I have helped to open a new practice and switched from paper charts and film x-rays to all paperless and digital. It has been an exciting year - supporting an amazing dentist and watching the practice grow.

My top 10 favorite things about being a dental hygienist (in no particular order):

1) Patients - They make my job such a pleasure. I love seeing them every 3-6 months and sharing in their lives and families.

2) Smiles - Cheesy, yes - but definitely true. Knowing that I can help encourage and create positive self image is a joy!

3) Educating - Whether it's in classrooms or with individuals chairside, I appreciate the opportunity to educate about oral health, homecare, and general health.

4) Flexibility - This has been the perfect career for our family - being able to work part time and as little as 1/2 day/week has been great.

5) Benefits - God has called our family to adopt and we have been so thankful for the way He has used my job to help with the cost.

6) Team - I have worked with amazing people over the years.

7) Kids - I LOVE seeing kids. I've always worked in a general practice and would not switch but I love when the kids come (most of them... :)).

8) Relationships - I touched on this with #1 but I have met some wonderful people who have become friends.

9) Health - Knowing the link between oral health and the health of the entire body makes my job all the more serious...not only educating my patients about that link but in actively treating disease.

10) Success - Working towards the success of the practice through creating trust and loyalty. I love seeing my dentist meeting the needs of our patients.     

So...there you have it! I mostly love my job and feel incredibly thankful!

And I would like to say a big thank you to the patient who asked me last week how long I have been a hygniest and acted shocked when I said 10 years...she said I didn't look old enough... :) Bless her.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

These Things Must Be Recorded

Two things should be noted:

1) Patrick taught himself to whistle a couple of weeks ago - I am quite impressed. He LOVES it and honestly, I think having something that only he can do has been great for him!

2) The crib is officially down. Titus was happy to make the switch and would have done it sooner but I wasn't quite ready... :) I'm actually okay with it.

And incidentally, Calvin has increased his prayers for a baby for our family. :) I'm definitely not sure how I feel about that, though we are open to God's leading! He has been advocating for quite some time with the support of Patrick and with the opposition of Titus.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


What a full week. And somehow nearly three weeks has passed since I posted last. For shame.

Calvin had his surgery this past Wednesday. We decided to drive up Tuesday night so he could have a good night of sleep before arriving at the hospital at 6 a.m. For the first time ever, he was the first surgery. It was quick and went well. The doctor explained that tubes were his best option and that hearing aids would be the other option. That was more direct and blunt than we had ever discussed before. We are praying and trusting that these will work and hopefully they will stay in longer than the last couple of times.

This time, Calvin was more upset coming out of surgery. They waited to bring us back until he was awake but it really scared him and it was hard to calm him - I was nearly in tears myself. He calmed down more when I climbed into the hospital bed and held him. My poor little guy. He also had more pain this time with his left ear especially - thankfully after a few doses of pain medication, it seemed to mostly resolve.

I'm always uptight about surgery but he was a champ. Here's a picture of him after the gave him some medicine to relax him before surgery - yeah, he was relaxed...and funny!

So thankful to have this behind us! We are hopeful that speech will improve and that he won't continue struggling with hearing. I know it frustrates him.

Monday, May 23, 2011

To Recap

- Calvin (as we anticipated) will have tubes again. We are just waiting for the call to schedule. I anticipate that he will have the surgery before the end of June. It's outpatient though I am always a nervous momma. :)

- Andrew has struggled with health since April 29 and was finally diagnosed with mono. We are glad to know what is going on but dreading the long recovery.
- My youngest brother graduated from highschool last week - thus ending my mom's 27 years of homeschooling. We had a celebration for her, too. :)

- I had the privilege of attending the 7th Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit. God did some serious work on my heart. I'm not sure exactly what that means practically speaking but I have not doubt in God's continued call for me and for us to advocate for parentless children. I'm continually challenged by the parallel of my adoption in Christ. And the number of orphans (here and abroad) is still staggering. Such a need for orpan care, such a need for churches and people to get involved!

- Early this year, I was asked to join the Board of Directors for Two Hearts for Hope. After prayerful consideration, Andrew and I decided that I should accept. It's a privilege working with them and seeing God grow the ministry. Two Hearts is expanding into Russia which is very exciting. Please check out their website to see how you can partner with us as we minister to orphans in Kazakhstan and Russia. We have some great fundraising items like re-usable grocery bags, necklaces, shirts, and cookbooks. We are currently raising money to replace the windows in an orphanage - they are in very bad disrepair and contributing to health issues in the children. It's a big project!

- We are busily begininng work on our 2nd annual 5K! It has been renamed An Orphan's Hope 5K (formerly Walk for Kaz). This year it will be held in Tennessee! We are so excited to see how God will  work as we raise funds, raise awareness, and enjoy a wonderful day. If you are interested in participating, early registration is now open! We are also looking for sponsors and people to spread the word! Check out our website.

- As if we don't have enough going on, I'm working a few extra days this summer. We are so thankful for the provision of a good job. Andrew and I are both at our new jobs for about a year now and both know we are in the right places!

- We are also planning our first big family vacation! We've done church camp, 3-4 day trips but never a week. We are all very excited to enjoy a week away this summer. We are thinking it will be a beach destination...it's been entirely too long since Andrew and I have been to the beach. We loved our year in Southern Florida and while we won't go that far, we look forward to introducing the kids to the ocean, eating delicious seafood, and relaxing.

Whew. And now you are mostly caught up. Here are a couple of pictures because really, posts are more interesting with photos. :)

 The boys at the Children's Museum - seriously, getting all three to look at the camera and smile is nearly impossible. :)

Meeting Max for the first time! So sweet!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cleft Team Appointment

Tomorrow Calvin has a full team appointment in Chicago - it's a long (exhausting) day with lots of specialists. We leave super early in the morning and get back late. I think we will be told that he needs more speech therapy (which I am trying to figure out) and that he is having significant hearing issues. We've noticed a rapid decline in hearing and therefore enunciation and speech progress since March. It's tough - tough to see him struggle, tough that he realizes and is frustrated, and tough that I can't just make it better. Oh how I wish I could take it away for him. But he is a strong kiddo, a fighter.

So we will trek north, enjoy the time together, eat some fun snacks, and find out what the next steps will be on this journey. I'm thankful to be on this journey with him - cheering him on, helping him understand, loving him through, and reminding him that he is a great and handsome little boy. I can't help but be proud of him - the grace, the strength, and the determination.

God knew we belonged together and God created a way for him to be a part of our family through his clefts - what a blessing!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Spinning Tires

Do you ever find yourself struggling with the same things over and over again? I wonder why I keep coming back to the same things. I wish I could just learn how to manage everything and move on! :) Seriously!

I'm already working on planning school for next year - for the whole year. I have to, I need the organization, I need the plan... It won't go perfectly as planned and I'm sure I will re-evaluate and plan throughout the year but knowing that there is an organized plan makes me so happy and relieved!

So you probably guessed that I'm still working on organization. I have had to embrace (or at least accept) that life with three active (and absolutely wonderful!) boys needs flexibility and that things are definitely NOT going to go exactly as planned at least some, okay, most of the time. It's okay, I'm getting there - on the accepting and the flexing that is. And I'm constantly seeking to train them in responsibility balanced with lots some fun. :)

Being a mom is the hardest and most rewarding job. Many days I feel like I fail more than succeed. But the sweet smiling faces, the contrite apologies, the hugs and kisses, and the love make everything worth it. I think I've grown more as a person since becoming a mom than ever before and it's super humbling to have to apologize to my kids when I have failed. Together we learn and strive and grow. We love each other more. They tolerate my crazy (and sometimes irrational) need for organization and I love them for it!

Everyone in different directions - lots of fun, lots of crazy! :)
 So I continue to work towards some of my goals, let go of others, and spend more time with my beautiful family. 

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Half Fail

This was the weekend I was supposed to be in Tennessee running/walking my first half marathon. I was nervous and excited and looking forward to spending time with friends. However, it was not to be. For many reasons, it became clear to Andrew and me that I needed to stay home. It was a hard decision and I definitely felt disappointed by it. I still intend to complete a half marathon at some point - hopefully in the not too distant future.

But what this post is really about is the positive life changes that have come about since I signed up for that TN half. It got me back to exercising. While I made an effort to be faithful to it last summer, it didn't stick. For the past 3-4 months, I have exercised and average of 4-5 times per week - a variety of pilates, strength, toning, and cardio. And I feel better - more energy, healthier, and stronger. More than that, my kids exercise with me (at least some of the time) and I know it's a good example for them. I'm thankful for the motivation to a healthier, more consistent (and disciplined!) lifestyle.

So despite my disappointment in not being able to meet one of my bucket list goals, I'm choosing to focus on the positive changes that it has brought about in my life! Not going was the right decision - we have no doubt. I'm planning to keep it up and hopefully next time, I'll be able to actually attend and complete a half!

Congrats to my friends who met their goals this weekend - so proud of you!

Friday, April 29, 2011


If you know me IRL, you probably already know that I became an aunt this week. Yep, for the very first time. Sweet little Max entered the world on Monday and he is adorable! My sister is a champ - pretty sure the birth and unplanned c-section weren't quite what she had in mind. I am just thrilled to have a nephew and thrilled that our boys have a cousin. I have fantastic memories with my cousins and still enjoy spending time with them (I have 14 cousins).

On Wednesday, I took the boys up for a short visit to meet Max - we made a stop on the way so they could each pick a little gift for him and we got a couple of balloons as well. They were SO excited to meet him and were all instantly in love with him. Titus told me repeatedly after we left that, "Max tute." (cute). He (Ty) didn't stop smiling the whole time. All three of them clamored to hold him and gave him sweet kisses when we left. Melted my heart. Max has been the topic of many conversations this week and the most viewed photos on my phone.

Welcome to the family, Max! We love you!

 (More pictures to come...blogger is SO SLOW tonight!!!)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Calvin's Birthday

I am remiss in posting about Calvin's 6th (!) birthday! Last Thursday marked the day. It was with MUCH excitement that he anticipated his big day. He decided to go to Conner Prairie and we invited a few friends to come along. It was the most beautiful day we've head in the past 10 days or so - sunny and 60. First we had presents and donuts as well as a short visit with Andrew's cousin and soon-to-be married in cousin, then our trip to Conner Prairie and finally, a movie night with hamburgers and fries, cupcakes (his choice!), and vanilla/chocolate swirl ice cream. Here are a pictures of his fabulous day:

Such good friends. Patrick was thrilled with the legos he picked for Calvin's birthday gift!

He is so sweet about all of his presents!

Enjoying a "horse" ride with one of his friends.

He still loves to take on various characters.

Holding the goat was probably a highlight - for him, not the goat. :)

Wood working - it took a lot of concentration.

My favorite boys in the whole world!

So fun having friends meet us there!

Gorgeous day and great company!

A little stoic - getting ready to blow out the 6 candles!

Dear Calvin,

What a joy and delight you are to our family! I'm amazed that the little boy that I met 4 1/2 years ago is now a big six year old!

This year you have really shown an interest in art. You are rarely without a paper and pen. You are learning to read and doing very well in school. Sometimes I think I'm not challenging you enough! You continue to work on clear speech and I'm so proud of your dedication to it. You are still a trooper when it comes to your cleft appointments and handle it all with grace.

Calvin, you ask deep questions and constantly want to learn. You tell me how much you love God and it makes my heart rejoice. You talk about how you came to be a part of our family frankly and openly and I love that you are comfortable enough to discuss adoption and your "tummy" mom. I hope you always feel that freedom.

Your favorite thing to tell me is that you love me more. And when I assure you that you couldn't possibly love me more than I love you, you respond with a litany of how much you love me. I can't help but smile and hug you close. You are also very complimentary and tell me when you like what I'm wearing or how I look. You are a sweet son. A good big brother. And an awesome person.

I'm incredibly thankful to God for bringing us together. You were born in a country far, far away and I wanted to be a Mommy so much. I still can't fathom how I was blessed enough to become your Mom. I want you to know that I loved you before I met you, before I even knew about you, you were in my heart. God knew that we needed each other.

I love you always and forever, no matter what, Calvin.


Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Long Time, No Write :)

How can it be another month already?! I feel so behind!

School has been going well overall. It's been exciting to see the changes in the boys - I've especially noticed a lot of maturing in Patrick. I'm so thankful that we decided to homeschool this year. We finish our classes this week and I know the boys will be sad.

I had a chance to attend the Cincinnati Homeschool convention last weekend (thanks, Andrew!). It was incredibly encouraging and refreshing. Last year, I went to our local convention and just didn't get much out of the sessions but here, it was like drinking from a fire hydrant. As we look towards next year (yes, we are signing on for another year), I know there are things I will change and I also have some exciting new resources. Going to the exhibit hall is equally overwhelming and exciting and inspiring. Anyway, it was a wonderful weekend with some great friends - friends from our homeschool group and my friend, Ann, who was my roomie. She and I had a chance to meet up with three other Kaz moms and it was a wonderful time - I'm SO glad we went down early enough to see them all!

Balancing work, home, and school has been tough at times. Andrew is so supportive and I love that he gets to do school with the kids one morning a week! I think I'm still working on how to make everything work effectively but it's gotten better.

Spring soccer kicked off today and we had two VERY excited little boys! This month also marks the month that I will be come an aunt for the first time - I can't wait to meet my nephew! And the boys will have a cousin which they are quite thrilled about; though the whole process has brought up a number of questions since obviously babies come to families in different ways - and it's definitely a different process for our family. :)

Well, just thought I should at least write something. It's been a full first part of the year and we are looking forward to the warm weather. If any of you still stop by my little corner of the web - thank you! I have a feeling I'll be back more frequently soon - I miss blogging so much!  

Monday, March 14, 2011


Andrew and I celebrated nine years last week.
Nine years since we said, "I do" and pledged our lives and love.
My man is amazing.
He is so loving and kind and considerate and supportive.
Far more than I deserve.
I am blessed.
And he is the greatest dad ever to our sweet sons.

Thursday, March 03, 2011


A couple of days ago, one of our sons shared with me his plan "when he grows up" to bring home 10 children "from where the earthquake was." A little over a year later and he still remembers and talks about the children and people of Haiti. His heart is big. He told me he wants to be their family (and he has told us who the mom [ie who he will marry] will be, but I'll not share that right now :)). I'm blown away by his desire and "simple" plan to bring home 10 kids. He feels there is a need and he wants to meet it. He longs to give children a family "who don't have one." He talks to us about it fairly regularly and has for about two years.

How can we not consider adding more children to our family? He is such an example to us and challenges our thinking (and he lobbies hard for more sisters & brothers :)). And while I know his ideas and plans will likely change, I also know that we appreciate his love, concern, thoughtfulness and care for others. He knows, in a way Andrew and I never can, what it's like to not have the love and nurture of a family. So, we are challenged. We are blessed. And we are open. 

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A Milestone

I am quite sick today and have been trying to get some rest in between schooling etc. And so I asked my older boys if they thought they could make themselves some lunch. Titus was already asleep beside me - really none of us are feeling very well. They asked what they could have and I suggested PB & J which they readily agreed that they could make. I stayed upstairs in bed and let them go downstairs. I could hear them making their lunch and talking to each other - sweet in and of itself. And then maybe 10 minutes later, Patrick came to my room with a peanut butter sandwich and a tall glass of milk. I nearly cried. It was one of the sweetest, most thoughtful things. And he returned with another sandwich and glass of milk for Titus after he awakened.

Patrick has such a servant's heart. He is great at seeing the needs of others and lately, we've seen him growing by leaps and bounds in his attitude and kindness. I thanked him and then I thanked him again. It meant so much to this tired, sick (and yet, hungry) Mom. So not only did the boys successfully make lunch, Patrick went above and beyond and blessed me.

Oh how I love my boys. What sweet sons.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Hungry Boys

Seriously y'all (yes, I just said that :)), the boys are eating us out of house and home. How is this possible? They are all 5 and under. And yet, some days they eat way more than us. I can't complain though - they are, for the most part, adventerous eaters. We present every meal as delicious and we try to never form an opinion for them (ie "You won't like that."). They are increasingly enjoying things that I never would have imagined them liking and I'm very thankful. However, I absolutely cannot imagine what the teenager years will be like...forget college funds, we need food funds! :) Meanwhile, I am working hard to keep them full.

I know, I know, I drop in just for a minute to tell you that. :) But it's what's happening around here. In non-interesting happenings: we are all fighting very nasty head colds.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How Do You Know?

Adopting again is always a topic for us in our home. It's something we discuss, consider, pray about and agonize over. We wonder if God has completed our family (we are okay with that if He has!) and we often wonder if He has another little person or two to add. So many factors, so many decisions.

Our hearts are overwhelmed with love for the three entrusted to us and we feel blessed. We are okay with having all one gender (and don't know if we would specify a gender if/when we do adopt again). And we know that each of our sons is an amazing gift - one we could never have imagined!

But I guess there is a part of us that feels that our family isn't quite complete. We still have the desire to adopt, to support others in adoption, and to advocate for children here and abroad. We have pondered beginning the process again or at least updating our homestudy and profile at our agency and seeing what God has in store. The Truth is: I'm terrified to do that - it could take a long time (most likely) or it could go way more quickly than we anticipate. :) Regardless, we know that if God has another little one for our family, we will be ready and willing.

We are considering how He might provide for another adoption - honestly, we are still recovering from the last three (well, especially the very quick last one!) and while we have the heart and desire to adopt again, we simply don't have the resources right now. And so we continue to talk, pray, and seek. Is there another one? When is the right time? Domestic or Foster or International? How will we possibly fund another adoption? How will we know when we are done?

So many questions. The answer thus far has been to wait. And so we are - patiently most days, somewhat impatiently on others - saving a little here and there, as we are able, towards adopting again. Through it all, we trust that it will be the right time, the right place, the right (no, perfect!) child(ren) for us.   

In the mean time, we are enjoying our family of five!

Thanks to Kevin Swan for taking this photo!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Ice, Ice, Baby

We are experiencing quite the storm here. It started late afternoon on Monday and made for a brutal commute home for me - the roads weren't that bad but traffic was dreadful! Andrew and I were both home from work today - Andrew worked from home and I schooled the kids after catching up on some sleep (I had a sleepless night on Monday night). I would prefer this storm to be snow but so far, it has been ice. The wind is gusting and expected to get worse before better. We are hoping and praying that the power stays on - we have friends that have not been so fortunate thus far. We are as prepared as we can be. The kids are a little stir crazy - hopefully we can reign that in with some organized activities tomorrow. :) 

It seems I feel especially domestic when we are snowed in and I always make soup. Today is was beef vegetable and then I made homemade noodles for chicken and noodles tonight. I baked cookies and muffins last night and then made another batch of muffins tonight. It was fun experimenting with a new recipe - I made them entirely healthy - oatmeal, whole wheat flour, a little white flour & honey. The first batch had craisins and the second batch blueberries. I like the blueberry ones best but both were pretty good.

Even now, I hear the freezing rain and sleet starting in earnest again. I've checked in with various members of my family and everyone is doing okay. My sister way up north is getting a blizzard while the rest of us locally have the ice storm of 2011.

We'll see what tomorrow brings. Welcome, February.

On another note, training for the half has begun. I was able to get out and walk (jogged a little) about 1.5 miles yesterday before the storm hit. So far, the rest of this week will have to be indoor training. :)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Big Goal

Well, I've done it. For about 15 years, I've considered signing up for a 1/2 Marathon. You know, it's one of those bucket list things. And this is the year. I need the motivation to be more active and I need to have a goal. I think it will be hard. I plan to run/walk. I have three months to get ready.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Power of Pez

Yes, you read that correctly and perhaps more precisely...the power of Buzz Pez. It started yesterday. You see, I have an almost 2 1/2 year old that is VERY motivated by sweets. And he has decided that since he gets candy rewards for potty success, he will go potty every 2-5 minutes. I'm not kidding. I really, really wish I were. I haven't even really pushed the potty training thing - my other two were 3 and 3 1/2. While I think it would be fantastic to be diaper free, I'm not one to do it too early - been there, done that, tears all around. :)

So, I seem to be the one who is kicking and screaming at the potty training timing while he announces every 2-5 minutes, "Poop" or "Potty." And here's the thing, he goes 70-80% of the time. A small stream but a stream nonetheless. He will not be convinced to go anymore, he hops down, receives his reward and after savoring every bit of it (about 2- 5 minutes), once again is ready to go again. My day is consumed. My thoughts, my actions, my every thing interrupted all for a little taste of the candy that comes from a Buzz Pez dispenser. Perhaps I should switch to taffy rewards so that I might get a full 10 minutes between trips to the porcelain throne.

I applaud his motivation, his self-starter attitude, and his commitment. But I have to wonder, when the Pez is gone, will the resolve and success remain? I'll let you know, folks, I have my doubts. But for now, we are going strong.

Today's Note: He has stayed dry and I have given some other rewards, so perhaps I'm wrong...maybe this will be the real thing. We are giving it everything we've got - I can't squelch the enthusiasm. :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Word

I'm a little late jumping in with this but I've been pondering this year and while I've spoken a little about what some of our goals are, I've continued to think about it. 2010 was a difficult year and so the start of 2011 was quite welcome. Anyway, many people have posted about what their word for the year will be and I loved the idea. I considered many words and ideas but something kept coming to the forefront of my mind and heart. So, after MUCH thinking, I decided that I want my word of 2011 to be relationships.

I desire this year to be identified by building and strengthening relationships - it's harder to be lonely when that is the goal. :) I'm challenged that I haven't done enough in the areas of hospitality, friendship, etc. Let me just say that the last month or so of really wanting to start the year this way has been wonderful. My cup is overflowing with the amazing friends and family that God has brought into my life. I love that it is full of old friends and new friends.

And part of working on this is also to work on being a better wife to Andrew and mom to my kids - to really work on seeing them each individually and ministering to their needs. It is such a joy to spend time with each of them and to see their strengths and gifts.

It's easy for me to get bogged down by the things that need done, by my own feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, and by various other excuses. The truth is - I sometimes miss out on some of the really important things. And seriously, the to-do list will still be there and I need to work on my issues. :) It's important for me to really focus on people, to quit making excuses.

So, it's time for me to grab that cup of coffee with a friend, make that special dinner for my husband, invite that family over, take that child out for special time... I'm excited about this year, this goal. I really want to deepen friendships. So thankful for the blessing of friends and family - near and far!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hearing Them

I hear them talking, laughing, expressing, and roaming. I see them freely enjoying and living life. I watch them discovering, learning, and growing. I smile at the lives that shine - the personalities, the gifts, the aspirations and dreams. I appreciate the faith, the hope, the love, the joy, the life they have brought into our home and lives.

And I can't help but wonder about the other children in their groups - the ones who called out to us - desparate for attention; the ones who watched us from afar - scared; the ones who understood - Amirkhan & Murat had a mama & papa now; the ones who ran to us - wishing for their own visitors. I think often of the babies and todders in Uralsk Baby House #1 & #2. I remember many of their faces, I remember the smells and sounds, and I remember the understimulation and the crying.

My heart bursts and aches all at the same time. How happy to see my boys thriving, how sad to know how many children are not.

Many of those children - the children who shared a home and toys and food with my boys, for the first year of their lives - are still a part of the over 140 million orphans worldwide - 140 MILLION.      

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Hard Decision

I've been contemplating the blog and struggling to prioritize, re-organize, and balance life. Needless to say, I've decided to quit blogging here for awhile. I'm still over at The Cooks Next Door and I think/hope I will be back here eventually. But for now, I need to let go of the pressure - could be for a month or a year...I'm not really sure. I have seriously missed the more frequent posts, the blog "conversations," the keeping in touch, and the inspiration but I can't seem to muster any of if these days and that's okay. There are seasons of life. And I've also taken on some new responsibilities that I am excited about but will take time.

Anyway, I can still be reached via e-mail and facebook. :)

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year & A Brief Book Review

I'm sitting here on the couch drinking ginger ale and eating soda crackers. Not really the way I envisioned 2011 beginning. Not only did I come down with the flu during my favorite gathering of the year (my family's Christmas) but I completely missed out on ringing in the new year. This perhaps summarizes 2010 - a year where many things did not go quite as planned. :) Isn't that so often life?

There were many highs and many lows of this past year. The highs included my mission trip (and the tremendous love poured out that made it possible!), Walk for Kaz (which surpassed our expectation!), deepening friendships (God has taught me much about friendship this year), and more time with my little family. The lows included smoke damage (and the weeks of hotel living that followed), illness, and the passing of Andrew's grandfather - to mention a few. Andrew and I both began new jobs which have overall been better than we could have imagined. I'm so thankful. The tenor of our home has been a blessing for the last half of this year - much less stress and much more time to enjoy each other and grow as a family. The new jobs were welcome but difficult transitions.

I closed out this year with reading the book, Choosing to SEE, by Mary Beth Chapman - I read it all in one day which hasn't happened for many years! It was an appropriate year-end read and an excellent book. I've ordered a copy to include in my personal library. I am certain I will pick it up several more times. It challenged me, made me laugh, and brought me to tears. There has been a stirring in my soul for the past year and it spoke to me in a profound and convicting way - as a parent, as a Christian, as an adoption advocate, and as a woman. Definitely makes my top books of the past few years and I highly recommend it.

As the sun is streaming into the room, I can't help but feel anticipation of what 2011 will hold. We have briefly talked about some of our goals (especially financial) and I am ready to begin meeting them!

Our family desires to make a difference and show compassion to others - here and around the world. We have some practical ideas to grow and develop in these areas. And our boys have big hearts that have challenged me even more!

I pray that we will live with joy, love with sincerity, grow in grace, and be committed to change!

Here's to a new year (yes, I'm raising my ginger ale :))!