Tuesday, May 11, 2010

So many blessings...so little time to blog about them!!

Well it is hard to believe that I haven't blogged since February but life has just gotten me the last couple of months and blogging has been at the bottom of the list. So here is an update on what we have been up to.

  • Starting at the end of March we began our birthday circuit. First the boys had a party to attend one weekend then the girls had a tea party birthday to attend the following weekend.
  • Next we celebrated my grandmother's 90th birthday early. Her dearest friend was leaving town last month so we planned the party so that she could attend. We managed to keep the event a secret and she was so thrilled. We had relatives from around the country join us and it was a blessing for all of us in our very small family to spend some time with folks we rarely get to see. Nanny was blessed and that was the most important thing!
  • The following weekend we celebrated Emma's 11th birthday with a couple of her church friends coming up to join us. We had lunch and painted pottery and overall had a grand time. What a blessing to have sweet friends that were willing to make the trek north to bless her. They each painted a fun piece to remember the occasion and Emma got a fun plate that she eats on each night that we all signed. Fun memories!!
  • We had one weekend off the end of April but it was busy none the less. We spent time working to clean up our yard and get rid of trash and a lot of water meters. The older kids have been doing a job for Robert's company tearing apart old water meters which has been a great learning experience for them but has left our yard looking less than what I like. This weekend we made a lot of progress and it looks much nicer which I'm very happy about.
  • The first weekend in May was spent in the valley. First we finally had our appointment with the geneticist to find out about Daniel's MRI results. He has given him an official diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome which while it is not the best news it was such a relief to finally know for sure that that is what we are dealing with. We both felt such a lift knowing that we have not been crazy and also that we can finally stop pursuing and just give him the best care we know how to and deal with each new day as it comes. Next we headed to the east valley to hang out with our sweet friends from church at their house for the weekend. They were on an adventure to Africa to pick up their newly adopted son and we had the privilege of caring for their two daughters for the weekend. We had grand fun on Saturday helping to put on our church's first Mother/Daughter Tea. It went very well, we had awesome food and wonderful entertainment as well as sweet fellowship with ladies young and old. One of the things that I love about our church is the multigenerational fellowship. What a blessing it was.
  • Next came our first weekend to help out some other friends butcher their first batch of chickens of the year. We all headed to Paulden early Friday morning me with a little trepidation but the kiddos oh so very excited. James, Peter, Robert and I all helped in one way or another. The other three just had a blast playing on the farm. It was exciting last night to cook a chicken that I helped to process quite a feeling of accomplishment for me who wasn't quite sure I could do it or not!! Now mind you I was at the quality control end of things but still I feel like I conquered something and I'm looking forward to doing it again several more times this summer.
  • Now we are preparing to leave for our long awaited vacation back east. We are going to get to spend a whole week with our dear friends in Virginia and then head south to spend some time in North Carolina. There is a family integrated church that we have been wanting to visit for some time now and we are finally going to get to go. We are all excited to see what the Lord reveals to us in our time away and we are all so very excited for a break and time to just be together. I am pleased to be able to say that we finished our Core for school and our major subjects and so we can go and relax knowing that we don't have a bunch of school waiting for us when we return.

It has been a blessed and busy spring for our family and we pray that the Lord will continue to bless us as we head into summer. Hopefully I won't wait till the end of the summer to blog again :)!!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Box Checker's Day Off

Those who know me well would not be surprised to hear me call myself a box checker. I enjoy knowing where I'm going and then feeling the accomplishment of checking off the box when I'm done. I get a sort of endorphin rush from checking things off. My sweet friend Melissa would call this being my "gold" self...right Melissa? Well this gold box checker has been having a difficult few weeks coming to grips with the reality of sweet Daniel's condition. We still do not have an official diagnosis but I know in my heart that we are dealing with alcohol related something. Whether you call it FAS, FAE, ARND, ARBD, or pFAS matters little the reality is we are in for a long haul and a lot of unknowns. I think that what I have been feeling is in a manner of speaking grief and it has put me into a bit of a tail spin.

Things came to a head on Thursday morning while I was doing my Bible study. I'm studying Esther and Beth Moore's lesson on Thursday was ironically talking about the joy that the Jews felt after Haman was hanged and Mordecai was promoted to his position and emerged from the palace clad in robes fit for a king. The paragraph that got me was when she said, "At times I feel stressed beyond human capacity and other times profoundly lonely. Sometimes I feel so frustrated I could scream and other times so ill-equipped I could panic. And those are only the things I feel free to tell you. The far more challenging conditions are too private to share. I venture to say that for this brief season I'm possibly living life as good as it gets...yet even it is hard. So when a time of happiness comes, I think we ought to take it and run." The words ill-equipped jumped off the page at me at that moment. That is how I feel right now. I know in my heart that the Lord will provide all the necessary equipment that I need in His timing but in that moment and really for a few weeks now I have felt so very ill-equipped for this task that He has put before me. And I could not face another box checking day, so I did something fairly radical for me and decided to chuck the day and take my children to Phoenix to hang out with my friend Nancy and her two kiddos. I know that doesn't sound too radical, but for a box checker like me it was pretty huge. I called Nancy and she was gracious enough to change her day (she is a fellow box checker so this was difficult for her too) and allow us to come hang out for the day.

It was exactly what I needed at that moment. The drive down was a blessing in itself as I listened to praise songs and prayed for wisdom and guidance. The Lord brought to mind a sermon that one of our elders preached a few weeks ago. He was talking about Psalm 127 and the fact that children are such a blessing and that even though having many of them can be stressful that he often prays that the Lord will give us each just one more than we think that we can handle so that we are desperate for His help and realize that we can do none of this on our own. I think that is where I am right now. I realize that in my own strength there is no way that I can handle all of the issues that we are currently facing as well as all those that we will more than likely face in the future. The beauty is that if I will allow Him the Lord will do the "how" for me. I just need to worry about the "what". I believe that is knowing that He has called me to raise these children in this time and that they are a blessing and that He knows what they need and what I need and He will provide each thing as it is needed. If I could just remember that when I begin to ruminate over what Daniel's future might hold what adolescence may be like, what adulthood is going to hold. I know that I'm definitely not the first parent to have these thoughts but they are in fact overwhelming none the less.

In any case this week He has provided for me in a myriad of ways. He provided a day of rest and refreshment and a friend who understands and was willing to take the day and spend just reflecting and sharing her heart. He provided a wonderful phone call from another friend earlier in the week from sweet Melissa who always listens and provided such encouragement and wisdom. Then last evening another phone call from sweet Jodi who is walking much the same walk that we are with her own son. We were able to download some of the feelings of grief and frustration with the medical establishment and the public in general who don't seem to think that alcohol related birth defects are necessarily a big deal. He also provided a husband who processes things quite differently but who is so willing to listen to my heart and support me and us in this grief process. And to let me know that we will succeed in this journey with God's help. I am so grateful for the people that the Lord has brought into my life to walk along side me in this. They are gifts that He has provided for this ill-equipped box checker to lean on. And even though the grief is still there I feel just a little more equipped to handle it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Weeks 13-18 Favorites...to Mongolia, Russia and Beyond

Hard to believe that we have just finished up our 18th week of school and it is time for another update of our favorite things from the past six weeks. It has been a bit longer than six weeks because we did take a breather during the Christmas season to study the Advent. But for the last three weeks we have been hard at work and have "visited" some very fun places. Including four of my children's homeland RUSSIA! Yippee!!!

James was excited about finishing up a book we started when we were studying China called the House of Sixty Fathers. It is a story of a small boy who gets swept down river in his family's sampan during World War II. He ends up having the adventure of his life while he tries to make his way back to his family. With the help of some very kind American military men who are also in China fighting the Japanese he succeeds. James enjoyed learning about the extreme lengths that people went to to get food in this time of history and some of the interesting things that they ate when they were hungry to include grass. He was also excited about our study of Genghis Khan during our study of Mongolia. He was intrigued with the fact that coming from such humble roots this man became such a powerful if not brutal ruler.

Peter has been enjoying our study of his homeland Russia. He has especially enjoyed seeing all the changes that have happened there over the years and particularly some of the information that he learned while studying Alexander the I. Russia has had such a difficult history but through it all the people have persevered and survived some very difficult periods. I think Peter has enjoyed getting to know more about where he came from.

Emma was thrilled with our most recent read aloud The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. This engaging book kept us all coming back for more. It is a bit of a mystery and chronicles the lives of two cousins who find themselves at the mercy of a wicked cousin who comes to care for them while the one little girl's parents are out of town. They are quite brave and creative in their approach to the situations they are put into. It was very well written and easy to read which compared to some we have read this year was a blessing for old mom as well!!

Daniel has been enjoying the reading books he is working on. He has finished up the Beginners Bible and is now having adventures with Frog and Toad and Mouse Tales. He has amazed me with how well his reading is coming along and that he loves it. He is always asking me if he can read a few more pages. Who can resist that??? He is also getting a bit better with his math and he is liking the Touchmath that I have been doing with him. He is beginning to get the hang of using the dots and seems to be getting more answers correct every day.

Ana is liking her I Can Read It stories as well as doing much better with her math. She is loving to use the FlashMaster and is getting pretty good at her addition facts. Whoopee!! She also mentioned our science that we have been doing which is on Weather right now. We have been studying the different types of clouds as well as air pressure.

I have to say I have been loving our unit on Russia as well. There was an activity at the beginning of the unit that involved figuring out how long a trip would take on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. I thought it was a neat activity but it also made me think of how much fun it would be to actually take a trip like that. I told Robert I would like to do that some day. I think he thought I might be loosing my mind :). It has been interesting to see how things have changed over the years in this largest country on the planet and see how the people have persevered through so many trials. We even watched Fiddler on the Roof yesterday, one of my favorites!

As you can see we have not been letting any grass grow under our feet. We have one more week in Russia and then we are off to Central Asia who knows what new adventures we will have there?? I love homeschooling!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Yesterday we visited the geneticist again to find out about the genetics testing that was done on Daniel back in September when he was getting his feeding tube put in. I had been praying all week that the Lord would give us some answers that could possibly help us with his growth as well as just give us some peace about what the long term may look like for him. I wish that I could say that the doctor had something concrete to tell us but alas he did not. All of the testing that he did both the micro-array genetics study and the metabolic panel that he did came back completely normal. I was initially crestfallen when he said this because I had truly thought that perhaps this would be the day that we finally got an answer. I sat through the rest of the exam which was a complete repeat of the last time wanting to cry and also mortified because Daniel was completely out of control because of nervousness the whole time. The doctor told us that he would like to do an MRI of Daniel's brain next to see what that looks like. When I asked what he was perhaps looking for he said that it would tell more about if we were dealing with Fetal Alcohol issues.

That is when it began to hit me. All this time I have been putting the obvious aside. My son has Fetal Alcohol Effect and that could be the ultimate cause of all these problems. Four years ago when we were first home with the boys I did some research about FAS and FAE and at the time I saw some similarities but I still didn't know for sure if what we were seeing was from the orphanage or just environment or what. Then the psychologist that originally diagnosed Daniel with MR and ADHD also reported that FAE was a good possibility. Again I cast it aside not really dealing with all the ramifications that it could involve. Then we started having so many problems with growth and we began to pursue all these other things not really ever dealing with the obvious. So I began to think while we were driving home and while Robert and I were debriefing about why I have avoided this for so long. I think as I told him it is because deep down I didn't want to believe that this was something that could have been prevented. If there was something genetically wrong that his birthmother wasn't in control of I guess I thought I would be able to handle it better. I guess I also wanted to believe that there might be something that could be done to fix or at least help his condition.

Last night and this morning I spent some time reading from a website and magazine from a wonderful organization called CHASK. It stands for Christian Homes and Special Kids. I have been getting their newsletters for quite some time now but this particular newsletter has truly ministered to my heart. Reading the stories about other families that are parenting children with various special needs has given me hope that I am not alone and also that some of my failings are quite normal. You see I have been feeling very guilty lately about my attitude toward Daniel and not feeling equipped to parent and teach him the way I should be. I get very frustrated with him and I think that I was hoping that perhaps these results might help me to cope better. What God showed me last night and this morning is that all the results in the world are not going to change the reality that God made him to be this way for a purpose and I need to start realizing that there may never be a magic fix - this is who he is. This morning I read some beautiful words that a mother of two FAE children from Russia wrote. Almost everything that she described is Daniel to a tee. I also see some of what she said in Ana and a bit in Peter. While it was hard to read the reality it helped to see that I'm not living something that no one has ever seen before.

Robert and I did some talking yesterday and this morning about this and we agreed that we do want to have the MRI done just to see what it says but then we are done. We are not going to continue to search for an answer that may never come. I think we are finally at a point where we just need to dwell in our reality and try to cope the best we can with the behaviors that Daniel displays. And in turn I need to realize that I am going to fail sometimes just as Daniel is going to fail sometimes. I thank the Lord for these revelations and I have asked Him to help me to love this child as He loves him. And also to help me take each day and really each moment one at a time. I thank Him for the grace that He has shown me and I realize how blessed I am that He calls me His daughter even on my worst day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Creative Avoidance...

Yes that is indeed what I have been doing because I can't think of anything that inspiring to write and I think that I'm still a bit burned out from all of the holiday cheer! I have been very pleased to get back into the "normal" routine of life starting last week but once again "normal" is a very fluid concept around our family. I have to say that even our normal is quite refreshing and has been so wonderful for my children. I took a break from regular schooling in the month of December which I think was a good idea in theory but what it lead to was some major slacking on my part and some incredibly bored children. They just about drove me crazy with nothing set to do. I do however think that as we do get back into the routine it gives us a sense that the schedule is indeed our friend and no matter how many times they complain about it deep down they really do want and need it.

Our holiday was blessed but long this year. We had family in before Christmas, treasured friends in for Christmas and went to see more family for New Year's. It was a blessing to get to see everyone but it made for a very long month and made my children just a little self absorbed. I was so thankful that we chose to do Advent devotions this year and to make that a new tradition for us. I think that in all the craziness that it kept us somewhat grounded in what the season is truly about. It allowed us to take things slow and really study each event surrounding the preparation for Christ and His birth. That was a top blessing for the year.

So now what...what will 2010 hold for our Clan?? We are praying for guidance this year and that the Lord will show us where to go from here. We feel as though we are on the cusp of something but we don't exactly know what that is. Perhaps that is why I have not been able to blog. I just feel a bit cloudy and I'm hoping for some clarity. I think what it is teaching me is that I need to cling ever closer to the One that has those answers that I seek and who will give them in His timing. Now if I can just be patient to wait for those answers and pray without ceasing enjoying as much of our "normal" as I can each and every day that He gives to me!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gotcha Day #5

Five years ago today our life changed forever. December 8, 2004 was the day that we stood in front of a Russian judge and asked that Regina Kupinskya be allowed to become Ana Regina and our second daughter. Looking back it was all quite surreal and it seems as though it were a lifetime ago. I honestly have a hard time remembering daily life before Ana joined our family and as I asked her this morning I think she feels the same way. She told me she knows that she is from Russia but I don't think that she can remember many of the details. Perhaps this is good as her first two and a half years of life were not ideal.

I can't help remembering a little for her our first meeting and the chocolate chip cookie that she inhaled. Or the last day we met with her on our first trip standing in the hallway of the orphanage she had just gotten up from a nap and was so sleepy and just laid her head on my shoulder...I was smitten. I cried so many tears that day when we had to leave her there and I was never so thankful that the time between our trips was only three weeks. Then there was the day we went to get her which was actually the 9th of December. Emma was with us and we were all aware that life was about to change but we were not quite prepared for how. Ana was playing outside when we got to the orphanage and she was not at all happy that they brought her in to us. The look on her face when we took her into the tiny room to get her changed said it all. "Who are you people and why did you interrupt my playtime???" I have seen that same look many times since, she was and continues to be quite a strong willed independant thing. But I think this is probably what allowed her to survive her first two years and I'm grateful that God gave her the spirit that he did.

As we pass this five year mark I thank the Lord that He chose us to parent this child. There have been days and I'm sure there will be many more where I wonder how I will ever be equal to the task, but I trust that He knew what He was doing. I'm grateful for her smile and for her sweet hugs and for her willingness to persevere when things are difficult for her. Happy Adoption Day Sweet Girl we love you so very much!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Blessings

Since we have started going to Phoenix for church our Sundays have been such an amazing blessing. Today was extra special because not only did we have a wonderful time of praise and worship and then fellowship at church but after that we got to spend time celebrating a birthday with some special friends of ours. What a wonderful time of fellowship for each of us I know that it refilled my emotional tank and I believe that it did the same for each of us. I was thinking about this as we were leaving Phoenix and just thanking God for how he has rekindled this friendship with these friends after a long time of being apart. We are sad because they will be moving to Montana in the not so distant future but we rejoice for the time that the Lord has given us to be with them and realize just how much we have in common. We are thrilled for them in this new adventure that they are going to be beginning and we are so thankful to have had so much time with them in the last few months.

We must hold loosely to the relationships that the Lord blesses us with and know that there are seasons when we are together in person and others where we may be separated by great distances, but the relationships remain precious just the same. I think the most wonderful thing for me is to realize that even if I will be separated from some dear friends here on earth I can take comfort to know that we will all be spending eternity together!! How fun to be able to look forward to this as well as treasure the moments that we get to spend together in the here and now. Thank you Lord Jesus for sweet fellowship, we are blessed!!