Hoping to someday find M's brother adopted in the U.S. -
Myckola Oleksandrovych Markov - 8/26/2003

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014...

This song has touched a place deep inside of me this year.
In 2010 we first saw the dark and broken places of a baby house.
The sad, longing eyes of babies dressed in ragged clothes.
Those memories drove us to host in 2012.

In 2013 we once again saw the dark and broken places in the eyes of Ukraine's orphans.
A Detsky Dom is no home.
The stories the children have just rip my heart out.
It was so hard to see those kids and leave those kids.
How does a person go back to life as usual after seeing that kind of pain?
My answer was to devote myself to the children I did get to bring home.

2014 has shown me the dark and broken places of the public school system.
It has been indescribably painful to experience first hand.
My children who have been through so much deserved better.
All of the children deserve better.
As taxpayers we deserved better.

So many times I have felt hopeless and helpless.  
How much difference can one person really make?
Similar to the orphan crisis, 
people do not really care about special education either.

This song has always come on at the right time this year. 
I would be driving to or from school, crying 
or trying not to cry, and it would come on.   
I hadn't heard it for a while, but I heard it again tonight.

I don't know what 2015 will hold for us.
There are a lot of unknowns and some really big "What ifs?"
Some REALLY BIG "What ifs?"

2014 has been one of the most challenging years of my life.

I'm thankful that God has constantly reminded me that His hand still holds me
even when I don't believe it.  

Oh and I'd be totally chill if 2015 was really boring and uneventful.

Making Varenyky

Monday, December 29, 2014


I get a lot of hits on this blog every day from all over the world.  I'm very curious to know, do any of my readers unschool?  Not just homeschool, but UNSCHOOL.  Please leave me a comment if you do, and your blog link if you write about it!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Noteworthy notes

M got boots for Chriatmas that fit over her AFOs AND AND AND she can put them on herself!!  Thank you Stride Rite for zippered boots!!

The kids are working through the first book of dyslexia games over Christmas break.  E did three worksheets today and was still smiling :)

I woke up vomiting the night after Christmas and have been pretty useless since.  I did manage to get the tree down today though.  Yay me.  I can't wait to get my house back to normal after the Chriatmas mayhem!  

Naughty Bunny

As I was un-decorating my house today...

Oh look, someone put all kinds of crap on my sofa, so I'm helping you remove it!

Bows!!! You didn't want these, right?  Good.

Cause this one is mine.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Happy Gotcha Day M!

Four years ago this guy spent Christmas alone in Ukraine so he could walk out of the orphanage with this kid.  She still talks about the car they rode in from time to time because until we met her, she had never been outside of those 4 walls.  Its hard to believe its been four years.

Meeting M when she was 4.

The Referral Photo.
The day we saw this picture was the day we first heard "cerebral palsy" and a laundry list of other medical conditions that quite honestly scared the crap out of us, but we chose to see the child instead of the labels.  We were 25 and 27 years old, questioned on our motives and sanity every step of the way.  She's made me a fighter from the moment I saw her face. 

Four years later as an 8 year old

Its been four years since she left her old life behind.  In a few more months she will finally reach the milestone of living with us longer than she did in the orphanage.  Her adjustment has not been easy.  We have had our struggles, particularly the first 1-2 years home.  More recently she has made wonderful progress, but still every day brings its challanges.  Sometimes when I get frustrated, I try to remind myself that she has STILL spent more time in an orphanage being unwanted and unloved than she has spent here.  Four more months will change that though and the pendulum will finally swing the other way.  I'm not sure why I find it so significant, but I do.

Happy Gotcha Day M!  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

New Years Resolution

Last year my resolution, or my "word" for the year that I felt God wanted me to focus on was "LOVE."  
I wanted to love.  Just love.  My resolution was to just focus on loving.

Where do I even start with this…

Well, first off, I feel that I have learned from trying so hard to live out love is that its soul changing.

Love is not just a feeling.  Its not just something you do when you are happy.

Love is a verb.  It is an action in every sense of the word.  ACTION.

I love my children so deeply, and I thought that by focusing on "love" I would simply focus on the mushy side of it.  The part that made me feel good.  God apparently had other plans.  He used the love that I have for my kids, the love that goes so deep it hurts, and He motivated me to change things, big things, with it.  

Love has kept me going when nothing else would have.  There have been so many times I wanted to just cry and give up, but love…  Love tried again.  And again.  

When my heart was tired, love pushed me on.  When I questioned myself, love was there to remind me why I was doing these hard things.  Love is a powerful force.  There is nothing else like it in the world. Love dares all things.  Love hopes all things.  Nothing can stand in its path.

The one question I am left with at the end of this year is what would love do now?  Love has fought a hard fight, but its far from over.  Does love continue to fight?  Or does love look indifference in the eye and walk away with its head held high?  

What does 2015 hold for us?  

After the year I have had, I am almost scared to consider the possibilities.  My perceptions of people and places that I esteemed have been stripped away, revealing things I never wanted to see.  We are left with no place to call our church at the end of this year.  That has been a hard pill to swallow (and I'm still sputtering) considering that both of us were raised in church, and we thought we had found the church to raise our children in.  To have that stripped away because of the things love motivated us to do has been so painful.  So many people have shown their true loyalties when honesty and morality required a line to be drawn.  So many people have come down on the opposite side of the line from what we expected.  A few have proven themselves to be true friends, not because of some sense of loyalty to us but because of their character.  That's the thing about standing up for what you believe though.  Its not popular, but you will find the select others that also have a sense of justice.  

What I am really trying to say is that I have been disappointed.  All of my life I have been taught to stand up for what is right no.matter.what.  What I found the actual reality to be is that people only want you to stand up for what's right, as long as you aren't taking a stand against them.  Indifference is the most powerful tool in the toolbox of inequality.  As long as no one else cares, nothing will ever change.  When those who preach love, and tell us to go out and change the world are actually part of the problem, its no longer popular even in the church to be a voice for the voiceless.  In fact its downright scandalous.  This is the reality I have suddenly slipped into.  Actually doing what has been preached to me my entire life has resulted in being unwelcome in the very place it was preached!

In this new reality I'm living, I find myself angry at God.  
WHY GOD!?  WHY!?  How can this be!?  Is there to be no place for us!? 

But here's what I've found.  He said "In this world you will have trouble."  And what I thought it meant was literally, 
"In this world (but not in the church) you will have trouble."  
"In this world (but not if you do what I say) you will have trouble."  
But that's not what He said.  
So I've had to do a lot of re-reading of the Bible.  I've done a lot of questioning.  I've done a lot of searching.  I've read series on how Israel was reborn as a nation after WWII.  The Jews also questioned God for years as their lives were torn apart in Europe.  WHY GOD!?  Is there no place for us??  I do not have all of my answers yet, but my heart has been comforted to see that God's chosen people asked the same questions I do.  There can be no answers without questions.  There is no need for faith unless you are waiting for a miracle. 

God's hand is holding us.  I can feel His presence even more closely as my heart breaks.  The love I prayed for and hoped to live out this past year has become a burning flame that I couldn't put out if I tried.  Sometimes I feel like Jeremiah, with a fire shut up in my bones.  It HAS to come out.  It cannot remain inside of me.  These feelings, experiences, thoughts, and realizations, they must be given a voice or I will be driven crazy.  

I have had issues with "friends" taking things I've said on my personal Facebook page (set to friends only) and this blog and using them against me and my children.  Because of that, I have neglected to post many things.   What I have started to think about is the possibility of writing a book about my experiences with our adoptions as well as the many struggles we've encountered with the school.  

Like Jeremiah, the fire is shut up in my bones and it has to come out.  If it can't come out on social media or my blog then it must still come out somewhere.  I have these nights where I lay awake composing a chapter to an imaginary book.  If I don't actually type it out, I get no peace from it.  I have been both blessed and cursed with a remarkable memory.  I can remember where people sat around a table at meetings.  I can close my eyes and see them there.  I can hear them talking.  I can remember ridiculous details about every email I have sent or received.  I can recall conversations, years after I had them.  After a while, these things are all buzzing around in my head just giving me no peace.  I have considered that if I gave my story a voice, I might feel more at ease.  

This year my resolution will be to write this book.  I've already worked up a title (or my brain did when it should have been letting me sleep.  

Twice Neglected 
One mother's encounter with inequality towards adopted children in the hallways of *our state's* Public Schools."      

This story is running around in my brain, giving me no peace, coming out whenever I open my mouth or try to type anything else.  Its literally physically painful to deny this story a voice.

My New Year's Resolution is to write this story. 

Merry Christmas

So there was that one time my brother bought the kids a ton of stuff at the surplus post and all of my Christmas pictures ended up looking like a scene from Rambo.

Hey mom!  I got Minecraft animals and I've been doing recon in the backyard!

Look at my new fleece hat, smeared with night ops face paint!

Here we are with our presents; we'll be doing a little surveillance on the neighbors after lunch...

Clearly we start them young with the survival skills.

What?  Doesn't everyone look like this on Christmas?

Our bunny kept an eye on Dan.  She just didn't quite trust him after the mayhem he caused.  

And who could blame her?  E made himself an Army issue beard with his tube of paint before trying out his stilts (that he begged for)

Daisy clearly was skeptical about her favorite human being green.  

We've had a fun two days of celebrating Christmas, but the face paint really needed to make it on the blog :)  

Also, today would have been my Pepaw's birthday.  He died when I was 9, but I remember so much about him.  I really miss him and wish he could be here to see my family now.  I always thought it was special that he was born on Christmas Day and I always think about him every December 25th.  

This has been a very trying year for us, but I'm coming to realize that sometimes the challenges are a gift in the sense that you get to see people's true colors and find out who your real friends are.  When things are easy its simple to keep up the superficial charades.  Its in the the hard places that true character is realized.  I've spent yet another year having illusions shattered.  I'm left feeling like I don't actually know what is real anymore.  Everything I once thought about Christianity and the church has been ripped apart.  Nothing is as it seems.  I'm not sure what 2015 will bring, but I know that forever God is faithful.  Forever.  He is the one friend who never forsakes us.  

Anyways, this post wasn't meant to get all deep.  My stress level drops so significantly when the kids are home from school on break that I feel like I get my real brain back :)  I just love having fun at home with my family.  The kids are all getting big so fast that I know one day I'll wish I had it all back, so I try to take pictures of everything!  We had a great day!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

How to Survive Christmas Break

Divide and conquer!

Two doing Dyslexia Games.

Two playing Legos

Two watching  It's a Wonderful Life. 

Excuse the still not mounted tv.  After 3 months at our new house, some things still aren't quite in place yet! 

God sent animals to ark two by two.  It works well here too :-D

Monday, December 22, 2014

Dyslexia Games

I found a program called Dyslexia Games that "tricks" dyslexic kids' brains into learning to read by using art.  We are trying it over Christmas Break.  M did her first pages today and I am impressed with her coloring!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Therapy for Mama

On this blog, I mostly talk about my kids.  We have 3 kids doing multiple kinds of therapy.  Occupational therapy, vision therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy.  We DO therapy.  I am really great at making sure my kids get to every appointment they need to.  I check homework.  I pack snacks.  I wash clothes.  I clean.  I cook dinners.  I grocery shop for 8 people.  I drive kids to and from the bus stop.  I attend school events.  I attend countless meetings, field phone calls, send emails, and write letters.  I also been great about ignoring my own pain.  The stress of the past four years, and in particular the past 12 months finally caught up to me.  I walk around at a 5-6 on a pain scale most days, and have been for nearly a year now, ignoring it because I have to.  No one else can do my job; I don't have time to take time out for me.  I didn't want to take time out for me!

I finally made an appointment and immediately got sent for X-rays.  I was asked how I was functioning like this.  Well, because I have no choice.  I don't even know what it feels like to NOT be in pain.  Stress is the trigger that is causing me all kinds of problems.  A year's worth of overwhelming stress has left me in constant pain.  Due to the massive amount of meetings I have with the school this month and the extra special pain that amount of stress was putting me in, I am now heading to therapy for several hours next week myself (and probably for a while after that).

Moms get it.  We go until we can't go anymore; we sit down for 5 minutes and get up again.  We just do.  But if the day comes when we've pushed our own limits too far and caused our own bodies harm, we can't be there for those that need us the most.  I've struggled with not even having the time to pluck my eyebrows, let alone schedule an appointment for myself, but I finally did (and many more subsequent appointments after that)

Take care of yourselves Mamas.  I see you in my newsfeed.  I see you at the therapy center.  I see you at the doctor offices, and in the hospital.  If you want to do the best by your children then take the time to take care of YOU.  

Orange Glasses!

His favorite color in glasses!

Glasses and a haircut!

M's glasses finally came.  She was so excited to try them out to see if she could see better.  That kind of remains to be seen (haha I'm so funny) but she *says* they help.  I sincerely hope this will make something, anything easier for her.

       And... She wanted a pixie haircut.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

We Hope

Because we hired a PI to find our kids' extended family in Ukraine, we are able to call via Skype every so often.  We wanted this connection for many reasons.

It seems that perhaps there is someone who knows where my boys' baby brother is.  We only want the connection for our boys.  We are hopeful that perhaps we can find out more in the coming weeks.  D said "Where we live, everybody is friends with everybody.  Nuffin happen dey not knowing about."

Last night while V was once again crying, it all seemed so hopeless.  Adoptions in Ukraine are closed.  No info is given out after the fact.  But I reminded V that God sees his baby brother, and God sees him.  God has a plan even if we cannot see it and His plans are GOOD.  I was having a hard time believing the words myself as my son cried.  These boys have experienced so much pain.  He asked, "Why doesn't God just tell me where my brother is if He sees him?  I wanted him HERE with me!"  A ten year old should not be crying his eyes out just wishing he had pictures of his baby brother.  I am telling you there are no words for this, and yet it is my job as his mother to find words.

I have no answers.  But I know that God is sovereign and I have seen His goodness and love poured out too many times to question Him.  People making horrible choices created the pain that my boys experienced, not God.  V asked me if I would go get his brother if I could.  Yes.  Of course I would.  I reminded him that I brought a tiny little coat, and shoes, and clothes when we came last year.  I wanted him, and I am so so so sorry that he was gone.  I am so sorry.  Its not fair.  Its ok to cry and be sad because its not right; its not how things were supposed to be.

This is the very real loss that happens to make adoption necessary in the first place.  It is my heartfelt wish that my boys never had to experience any of this even if it meant they could not have been mine.  I love them so much that I wish there had been no need for me.

But… there is a glimmer of hope.  We wait.  We hope for news.

The Newest Member

M and I have long been outnumbered by the male species at home.  Even the dogs are boys!

So we decided to adopt again.  We heard about a sweet girl needing a new home with people who had lots of time to devote to her. 

Meet Daisy.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Finally Processing

I think everyone who follows my blog knows that we set out to adopt 4 boys.  Our 3 boys had a baby brother, and it was our intention to adopt them all.  What we found when we arrived in Ukraine was that he had been separated from his brothers and adopted alone, just before we got there.

V was crying in his bed tonight because he wants to see his brother.  D was saying, "Its just not cool dey take my brother."

I don't have words to make this better.  This is the worst kind of pain.  I can't fix it.  This kind of pain demands to be felt, and probably always will.  We talked about how maybe one day we can go back and try to find him…but V said, "But people's face change when dey get big."  I said, "Yeah but they have the same name."  NO.  He pointed out.  "You can change name."  He's right…

Why why why did anyone think separation was a good idea?  I have no comfort to offer.  I cried my tears in Ukraine when I had to leave without my baby, but my boys are just now processing it.
I have no comfort to offer.  For some things there really isn't anything you can do to ever make it better.  We all feel he should be here, but he's not.   

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

M's Eyes

As a result of our ongoing struggle with the school system here, M had an independent educational evaluation done by a nationally renowned neuropsychologist.  The results were very validating for me.  I knew she struggled to learn; I knew it wasn't from lack of intelligence.  Finally I have 31 pages of results from correctly performed evaluations, explaining my daughter.

There are many new things we learned about M.  Many.many.many. Things.  Which is both good to finally know exactly what's going on, and very overwhelming to realize all at once how broad the scope of her learning disabilities are.

But today we did this at a developmental optometrist.

And we walked away with several more new diagnosis.  Binocular amblyopia.  Intermitant strabismus.  Dyslexia. And more. 

So this is happening.  Prism lenses.  

Her eyes themselves are healthy.  But they don't work together and as a result of her stroke, her brain distorts images.  Hopefully this will help some.  I feel awful for my child to have been trying to read and write with all of this going on.  

Monday, December 1, 2014


We do a Jesse Tree for Advent.  The kids make ornaments and we read a scripture for each day leading up to Christmas Eve.  These are a few of our ornaments.  What do you do to celebrate Advent and make Christmas come alive for your kids?

Christmas Tree Farm!

We did this on Friday!  The kids have been so excited to put the tree up again this year.  This is only the second time E has ever gotten to do this with us.  D and V have been here either during hosting or as our sons for 3 Christmases with us now.  I can't believe this is our third Christmas with them...  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

National Adoption Day

In honor of National Adoption Day:

The very first pictures I ever saw of my kids before I met them.

How could a mama NOT fall in love?

When I saw this face, my heart said, "MINE."

We always thought that we would adopt babies, but there are waiting lists of families hoping to adopt babies while older kids wait on lists hoping for a family to adopt them.

My heart hurts for the kids that still wait.  
November is National Adoption Month.  
Consider mentoring, fostering, hosting, or adopting.  
If you cannot then consider praying for, donating to or offering support to a family that does.

We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life; but those who make their journey home across time and miles, growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them,are carried on the wings of destiny; and placed among us by God's very own hands. --Kristi Larson