Saturday, February 28, 2009

Last day

Don't forget, today is the last day to enter the drawing for my digital camera. $10 buys one ticket. Be looking for the winner tomorrow. And thanks to the 20 people who contributed to raise $1,200 so far for Yulia! As far as I know she doesn't have a family yet but I am believing someone is coming for her soon!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Little kids and cardboard boxes

The last large appliance in our house was a new refrigerator purchased 2-3 summers ago. Of course it came with a built in giant cardboard box perfect for kids to play in. I will never, EVER be able to get a certain vision out of my head, the vision that I saw when I looked out the back kitchen window one day that summer. All of my children, even a couple of neighbor kids, happily crawling one by one, through the cardboard tunnel. Isn't it wonderful how kids can find so much joy in the little things, I thought. Suddenly I noticed the boy standing on the outside with a big breadknife from my kitchen, carving windows into the side, while the unsuspecting children crawled by the sawing knive.

Oh boy. Thankfully nobody got hurt. But wow. You certainly have to be on your toes as long as there are children nearby.

Apparently even little Ukrainian children love cardboard boxes!

And I am loving my brand new stacked washer and dryer given to me by my mother-in-law for Christmas! She ordered it the day after Thanksgiving and it finally arrived last week! She told me that if anybody needed two washing machines it was me. HA. Thanks MN! You are right, I didn't realize it until now, just how much I needed it! What a blessing it has been!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

This is a test. I am trying to experiment with a couple of different things to see if I can keep my photos and captions from shifting around. Whatever the end result is, I'm going to leave exactly as it comes out. John helped me upgrade something-or-rather on the computer and I am hoping it will make a difference. Windows Writer seemed like a good option but it is not Mac compatible.

My Aunt Sharon (Ok, she is not actually my aunt but we call her Aunt Sharon since she and my mom have been friends for a very, very long time) asked to see a picture of our house. Here is one taken a couple of weeks ago after a nice little snow. I hope you like the bikes laying in the yard, they are usually put away so neatly every day on the side of the house just like they are supposed to (NOT).

A couple of people asked how I made the school bus cake. It was two sheet cakes stacked on top of each other with icing smeared in between. I cut off about 1/3 of one side longways (to make the long bus part), then pieced the extra pieces on top for the roof of the bus, windows, etc. The little kids in the windows are made out of vanilla wafers. I let the kids help me bake the cake and decorate the little faces in the windows. I just used different sized icing tips to decorate the cake. I couldn't remember Ava's actual bus number so I wrote 220 for her birthday, Feb 20. The wheels are those little chocolate covered devil's food cookies. I took a cake decorating class at Hobby Lobby once with a friend and my sister for the same reason I WISH I would have gone to beauty school to learn how to cut hair save a lot of money on a bunch of kids who need frequent haircuts and birthday cakes!

Grandma Urban sent this little school bus for Ava's birthday. The kids knew she would love it so they brought it to her the morning of her birthday, while she was still in her pajamas eating breakfast. I'm so glad my camera was close to capture these expressions. :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A little boy named Bryce

As we were working on taxes recently I came across this piece of paper listing the physical therapy goals for Ava 11 months ago. Prop sit for 8 seconds.....Roll to right or left from supine. I chuckled to myself. I never could have imagined as I watched the evaluating therapist writing out her goals that day that not only would she roll over and sit up within just a few months, she would be standing and pulling up a year later!

Recently it has become apparent that Ava will need a walker for mobility. Because we didn't make the phone call before the end of the year when Ava's insurance deductible had been met, and because the deductible starts all over January 1, insurance will not be providing a walker. Argh!!!

So I got on Craigslist and started shopping for used walkers. I did find one, and in the process found a neat little boy named Bryce whose story is amazing. His mother gave me permission to share his story here. Trust me, if you don't have the six minutes to watch it now, you will definitely want to come back later. And be sure to grab your Kleenex when you do. And would you believe, Bryce's mother, after learning about Ava's adoption story, decided she wanted to donate the walker to her! I've been amazed at how God has brought so many people into our lives and blessed us with little needs met, just like this. Thank you so much Bryce and family!

Here is the walker....I'll post more later as she learns to use it. I have learned that it is very difficult to manage a walker and the camera at the same time. :)

PLEASE CLICK HERE to see Bryce's amazing story!!!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Birthday cake, boots and needles

Tomorrow is my nephew Von's birthday, and he could sure use our prayers right now. My brother explains it so much more eloquently than I ever could....Please join our family as we pray Von through this next round of chemotherapy.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Can't take it any longer

OK. This has been driving me crazy for quite sometime. Can someone please tell me why blogger switches not only my pictures around but also all the little captions that I carefully put under each photo! It used to work perfectly for me but has been thoroughly screwing everything up lately. I have to go back several times after I publish and put spaces, delete spaces, copy and paste pictures, and it is driving me nuts! It looks right on compose mode, looks slightly different on edit mode, and then totally messed up after I publish it ! I can't remember exactly when it started but I'm thinking it might have started when I switched over from the urbansworld blog. Can someone please help me. This is enough to make a person quit blogging. Seriously.

Birthday pictures, and family visit

So yes, I ended my blogging break early because I reached my grant fund goal much earlier than I expected to. I will still hold the drawing on March 1st in case there are any last minute Yulia-contributors out there. My kids and I have been praying for Yulia's family to step forward, I sure look forward to seeing that prayer answered.

Here are a few pictures from the past couple of weeks. We have enjoyed having my parents up for a visit from Mexico. We just said good-bye to them tonight after singing Happy Birthday to Ava and blowing out the candles.

Ava's two favorite things are her daddy and her school bus. A Daddy cake sounded a little creepy, so I went with favorite #2, a school bus cake. Last year she ate her birthday cake pureed with milk through a lamb's feeder bottle. This year she got to shove the real thing in her mouth, (OK, actually she shoved one bite in her mouth and then flung the rest across the kitchen!)

In case you are wondering, the little thing that looks like a dog turd in the grass is actually supposed to be our dog, Bliss. If you look real carefully you might be able to see a resemblance of a golden retriever? OK, maybe not.

My dad taught the kids one morning about heritage and legacy. I'm not sure why he happened to have all these old pictures of our ancestors, but it made for an interesting and educational experience, not to mention a special grandparent bonding time. Thanks Dad. You certainly have honored your ancestors.

My brother came for a rare visit. I think he has an admirer. Not everyone gets a kiss like that!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dear Ava

Dear Ava,

Five years ago today you blessed the world with your arrival. Of course your dad and I didn't know it at the time. We would both have to wait almost 4 years to find you. I also didn't know at the time how deeply I could fall in love with a little girl born to another mother halfway across the world.

I have found myself awfully teary-eyed today. I keep blaming it on allergies, but I know better. I am thinking about your birth and wondering what it was like to be you and to be your mother in a country where nobody knows what to do with children born with disabilities. I would imagine your mother was very excited about your arrival, she probably labored long and hard for you and couldn't wait to meet you for the first time. She probably grieved to go home without you, and probably is still grieving today.

Sometimes when I think of your mother I feel resentment towards her for leaving you there. Sometimes I wish I could have been the one to carry you and feel you kick me and hold your sweet body seconds after your birth. Many times I feel gratitude that she brought you into the world and she gave you life.

But mostly I feel sympathy towards her, knowing she only did what her doctors instructed her to do and what society expected of her. She didn't know what else to do I'm sure. Mostly I feel sympathy towards her, though, for all that she's missed out on. She never got to see you grin at her and sign "mama", never got to see you stroking your baby doll's eyelids, never got to see how excited you are when your Daddy's truck comes down the road every day after work.

I wish I could tell you everything about your mother, and about your birth. Sadly there is not too much to tell. I know you were born 4 weeks too early, you weighed 4 and 1/2 pounds. Your mother was 30, she was married to your father who was 34. They were educated and both employed. I know her initials were I.G. I'm sorry I don't have a picture or a name.

I did receive a wonderful gift from Miss Kelly this morning though. One that I appreciate more than she could ever know. Miss Kelly, who is the one who held you and told me about you for the first time, sent these pictures of the hospital where you were born. I will treasure these photos always.

I love you my sweet daughter! I am so glad we found each other just in time. Happy Birthday!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Baby Shoe

I had to share this sweet video. Ava has a habit of turning any object into a pretend baby doll. Water bottles, sippy cups, remote controls. In the car when she has nothing to play with, she cradles her leg in her arms, strokes her shoe like a baby's head and sings, "baby" to her leg. It is hysterical but I rarely have the video camera in the car to capture it.

The other day when I was putting her shoes on (yes, on the table, but there were 2 adults on either side of her, FYI), she grabbed the shoe out of my hand and started singing to it. I love how she is watching herself in the dining room mirror and cracking herself up. Apparently she realizes just how silly this is. I can see that she has a sense of humor developing!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dear Simeon

Dear Simeon,
I had so much fun taking you to the Athletic Store tonight and shopping for new soccer shoes-blue, size 6- to start out your new soccer season. I was so proud of how you walked out on the field and introduced yourself, "Hi, I'm Simeon", to your new teammates. I hope you will always be confident like that.

We have had a great year and I am starting to see that rambunctious energetic boy turning into a mature young man. At Hobby Lobby yesterday you told me, "Mom, it's so tempting. I just feel like running down the aisles with a baseball bat, knocking all the vases off and smashing them into little pieces. It's just what boys want to do." See? You are learning self control and I am so proud of you.

My favorite thing about you is your tenderness and compassion. I love that you wanted to share your party with your newest sister but I wanted to spare you the embarrassment of having a half pink cake or having any of your friends tease you. Maybe next year we'll do it.

I wish I had taken a picture last night of your expression when Dad walked in holding a brand new fishing pole and tackle box for your birthday. You sure do love to fish! One day I hope I'll get to fish with you without Hope and Ava tangling up the lines and squishing the minnows.

I remember so well that 28 hour labor 11 years ago. It was exhausting but it was so worth it! I'm glad you're my son!
Love, Mom
P.S. Sorry that the 'Y' candle broke on Happy Birthday. I guess it was a Happ Birthday instead

Thank you!!!!

I am ecstatic! I got an email yesterday telling me that my Chip-In goal of $1,000 has been raised for Yulia's adoption fund. LOOK HERE!!!! Thank you to all who contributed! This certainly made my day because it brings her a little closer to finding a family. I'm going to keep the button on the side in case anyone still wants to donate. The bigger her adoption fund, the better her chances of getting adopted. By the way, donations are tax deductible through Reece's Rainbow and do not go through me. I'm going to keep the drawing on Mar 1 in case anyone else wants to contribute. And soon I'll be on my blogging roll again. :)

Meanwhile, I got an email last night that I wanted to share from one of the Reece's Rainbow mommies who is leaving soon to adopt a little boy from Ukraine. She said so many things are falling into place and she asked me to pray. She and her husband had really hoped to adopt a second child, a 4 yr. old girl, while they are there. But the funds just are not there. All they need is another $4,000!

I couldn't help but think what a shame it would be for a measly $4,000 to come between a little orphan girl being able to have a family of her own. I told her I would mention it here. You guys were so generous to Yulia, and I thought if anyone still has something to give, perhaps you could help this family out. I am not going to publicly share their blog here, but if anyone wants more information about this family I can share more info with you. Just email me

Simeon turned 11 yesterday, and Ava be 5 on Friday! Birthday pictures to come....

Friday, February 13, 2009

I keep messing this up. Sorry. HERE is the code from Rachel's blog. (Now do you understand why my blog is so plain with no cute little buttons everywhere? I have no idea what I'm doing!) Thanks again Rachel.

Rachel made this cute little Yulia button. I don't have any idea how to give the code for anyone who wants to put it on their blogs but Rachel made it very easy. Just scroll down to the bottom of her post to get the code. Thanks Rachel. By the way, you'll get a real treat by visiting her blog, trust me.

And thank you to those who have already donated so generously! Over $650 already! Can you believe it?! With a big enough grant there is no reason why Yulia should have to spend the rest of her days alone. Thanks everyone!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Yulia adoption grant-Win my digital camera with video!

This is Yulia. She is a little 4 yr. old orphan girl who wants nothing more than a family to love her! Please consider helping her by contributing towards her adoption fund. She has Down Syndrome, and will soon be transferred to the mental institution unless she is adopted. Please help me spread the word about her.
A name will be added to the hat for every $10 chip-in donation made. On March 1st Ava will pull a name out of the hat and the youngest reader in my family will announce the winner of my digital camera....via blog video. (Don't feel too badly for me. I have been thinking of upgrading and this will be my motivation to finally do it.)


As Ava's 5th birthday is approaching I find myself constantly thinking about whether she would still be alive and what her life would be like had we not found her when we did. Disabled orphans around the world are sent to institutions when they reach a certain age, under the assumption that no one will want them. The orphanage director told us herself that no child from her orphanage had ever survived their first year at the mental institution. It's not because the caretakers don't care, it's not because they don't try. It's because there are so many orphans, and so few hands to help, so little funds, and supplies, and food, and medical help. Children are dying every day. And the most tragic part, is they are dying without anyone to hold their hand as they take their last breath. Just yesterday there was a painful reminder of this as we received news that a flu epidemic had spread through and taken the lives of some very special little girls from Reece's Rainbow whose families were unable to get there on time.

A woman named Andrea, who was volunteering to raise funds to improve the quality of life for Eastern European orphans a couple of years ago, haunted by the stories she read and the pictures she saw, decided to make a difference. Knowing she couldn't save all of them, she decided to try to save the ones she could. That is how Reece's Rainbow was birthed.

Our Ava is safe now. She never has to worry about spending the rest of her days tied to a bed laying in her own excrement with no blankets in the freezing winter. Many others have found safety and love as well. But still others are waiting for their fate.

You all have seen the miracles that we have witnessed with Ava. It is not because of our knowledge or competency as parents. It is because she is LOVED. It had nothing to do with money or medical supplies being sent to an orphanage, but everything to do with a Daddy who throws her up in the air and gives her towel swings after her bath, a mommy who rocks her to sleep at night and sings songs to her, brothers and sisters who play pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo, ride the horsie, and lets-see-who-can-crawl-to-the-toy first.

As Ava's birthday is approaching, I want to use this opportunity to spread awareness of children who so desperately need families. There are families who would take them if it wasn't for the costs involved.

For the next couple of weeks I am going to take a blogging break. We are celebrating this whole month of February Ava's birth and her adoption. I am so happy to have her in our family, but I don't want to forget those who are still there, awaiting the fate that Ava was spared.

There is a little girl who will be transferred soon to the mental institution. She has just turned 4. It is not too late for her to be adopted. I am hoping that you will help me spread the word about her and raise money for an adoption grant for her. When we committed to Ava, she came to us with a $1,000 grant. I am hoping to raise at least that much for little Yulia.......

I will put a donation link on my blog tonight (I'll need some time to figure out how to do it). I am not going to blog again for the whole month of February. I hope that you will help me spread the word about Yulia, help me raise a nice sized adoption grant for her.

On March 1st, I will let Ava draw a name from the hat. The random name drawn will win my digital camera, a Casio Exilim, with video camera. The camera that went with us to Ukraine and back, the camera that has captured all of Ava's accomplishments, a very special camera indeed. I may throw in something else too but you'll have to just wait and see.....

Link to my blog if you'd like. We can't change the whole world, but let's just see if together we can change Yulia's world! Please help me spread the word!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Updates and questions answered

It's been fun to have my parents up from Mexico visiting for a couple of weeks. More about that later.

A couple of people have asked about my nephew Von. He seems to be responding beautifully to treatments so far. He has gained some weight, lost his hair and eyebrows, and had some mood swings as a result of the cancer treatments he is receiving but it seems that his body is responding, praise God. We heard today that they may try to come visit us before he starts this next round of chemo that is supposedly pretty difficult on the body. We hope to be with him to celebrate his 4th birthday! doing fabulous! Back to his normal self now that that darn stick his out. He is back to eating, swimming in the pond, and well, chewing everything in sight! He is a great dog and we are so glad he is OK. I really don't understand how he survived an accident like that, but he is not only alive he is well. (And yes, I DID pull the stick out myself for those who were wondering. I thought I was pulling out his neck bone, and was actually relieved to see it was only a fragment of stick).

Speech therapy...Boy, where do I start. First of all, thanks to so many of you who gave input and suggestions. We contacted superintendents, special ed directors, private speech pathologists, our pediatrician, advocacy organizations, our insurance company. We did not get the response we were hoping for. The law is the law. Public schools are not required to treat homeschooled children. Poor Liesel heard many of these conversations, and I'm sure sensed my frustrations and I'm kind of sorry she had to hear it at all. We discussed sending her to public school for the sole purpose of receiving therapy. While she was open to this, she said she preferred to continue to use the practice worksheets that my good friend Cammie,(whom I've never met but am determined to real soon), who is a speech pathologist, sent us in the mail. Thank you Cammie! Meanwhile, she is doing so much better. I have noticed a big improvement already, she really seems to be trying hard, bless her heart. Ava's speech therapist also mentioned that next Tuesday she'll take 5 minutes to give us tips to work on at home with Liesel. I think she'll be fine.

Ava has made great gains in all her therapy goals. I'll blog more about that later, but I was so pleased to see the annual report.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Jesus Loves Me

We're heading out to therapy in just a little bit, but I wanted to share real quick something that absolutely made my morning!

I have 4 songs that I sing to Ava over and over again. One of them is Jesus Loves Me. We do the signs, to the best of my knowledge, hand over hand. Jesus, if I remember correctly, is touching the inside of your palms, like the nails in His hands.

So this morning during our schooling time, I was reading out of the Bible to the older kids, the story of the disciples asking Jesus who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And I kept saying, "And Jesus said...(this)...And Jesus said...(that)". A lot of Jesus's coming out of my mouth. And I looked up...and Ava was watching me and signing "Jesus", her little fingers touching her little palms with her finger over and over again!!

Just wanted to share. :)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Just thought I'd share what happened when I sent my husband to the store for cucumbers this weekend...... :)Gotta love those husbands!!!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hope's art work

Since this is my blog, I'm allowed to brag on my daughter's artistic abilities, right? OK, thanks.

4yr. old art is probably one of my most favorite things ever! I've got these things plastered up all over my house!

Here is a picture of Hope holding Ava. They are picking roses in the field dressed like princesses.

This is a cat wearing a dress, with some random numbers floating around in the sky

Here is a mommy and baby horse. If you look closely you can see where the baby gets her milk. :) There are giant butterflies swirling over the mommy's head, and they both happen to be wearing hair bows out in their clover field.

Here is Hope holding Moses (by the tail???) There appears to be a dead bumblebee on the back of the horse behind them, the horse who also happens to be dressed like a princess.

And my favorite. This is Hope with her special friend, Ashton, who happens to be a boy. You may remember this blog post about Ashton

Here they are, riding a horse together (off into the sunset maybe). This horse looks like it might have thyroid problems. Notice the hearts above them.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ava's favorite YouTube video....

This is the video Ava and I have been watching over and over and over.....and over again. Imagine her sitting on my lap clapping and squealing while we watch it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Poor, poor Moses

Here is a story for ya...

The day this picture was taken, about a month ago, we had some friends over to play, when Moses (my brother's dog who we are watching) was running with a stick in his mouth and tripped and fell, evidently in some pain as he whimpered for about 5 minutes afterwards. The kids all ran in to tell me, I checked it out and saw no blood whatsoever, no wound, no signs of any stick to the back of the throat. We all thought he was OK.

Next day he looked like this.....We had to carry him in a wagon to get to the car to get to the vet. She checked him over real good. The vet inspected thoroughly and did not see anything in his throat either. He did, however, have a fever, which we chalked up to some unrelated infection, put him on antibiotics, and sent him home.

So about a week ago, his neck swells up to the size of somewhere between a grapefruit and a cantaloupe. Took him to the vet again, still no sign of injury anywhere. We assumed he got bit by a spider or a snake, and again, treated him with antibiotics and waited for the infection to go down.

Then I told you how the abscess bursted all over my carpet a couple of days ago, and has been draining since. So imagine my utter horror last night when I saw, sticking straight out of Moses' swollen and bloody neck, something that looked like a bone!! Both John and I were afraid to look but I did manage to muster up the courage to poke around to see why a bone was sticking out of his neck....

It wasn't a bone...It was the STICK that has been lodged in his throat for a month, that finally managed to exit through a hole in his neck. Oh my! 

In all my years of nursing and parenting I have never seen anything quite like this. I am thinking it is a miracle he is alive. And for your amusement, and since now we know he is going to be OK, here is the culprit....the two inch stick fragment.

And that, my friends, is why your mother always told you to never run with a sucker in your mouth!!!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Birthday/Adoption Celebrations

I'm just curious, for those of you who have adopted....How do you celebrate your kids' special days? Adoption is a little more complicated than birthdays since there are so many special dates to remember. Do you celebrate the day you first met your child? The day you were matched? The day of the official adoption? The day you brought them home? Do you just keep it simple and celebrate their birthday only? Or a combination of the above?

For me, Ava's actual birthday is not as significant to me. After all, I wasn't even there! I am leaning towards celebrating Feb.7, the day we flew into the Tulsa airport and were all together finally.

Just curious what everyone else does?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Somebody's gotta do it!

My children discovered last week that picking up dog poop can be fun! That is, if you pretend that two sticks are giant chopsticks, and you are collecting a "surprise" in a flower pot for Dad.....How I laughed when I looked out the window to see FOUR children, without being asked, CHEERFULLY picking up dog poop, for no reason other than it's fun to use chopsticks. Notice the matted hair, the hand-me-down leotard and tutu, and, don't forget, those famous blue striped socks and patent leather shoes? Hmmmmm. Can we say "homeschool"? (No offense to my fellow homeschoolers).

One of the dogs has had a massive...grapefruit sized....cyst? abcess? swollen lump on his neck, I'm guessing from a spider bite or snake bit or something like that. After a day's worth of antibiotics, a warm bath and some compresses, I discovered a fresh trail of blood starting from a puddle on the boys' bed upstairs, trailing all the way down the carpeted stairs, through the entry way, and into the living room.

I was pretty overwhelmed at the thought of cleaning this giant mess, so as an experiment, I set the carpet cleaner, a bowl of water with peroxide, and a scrub brush out on the stairs. Look what happened next. Jude started cleaning, then the rest of the three ran around the house looking for extra scrub brushes, saying "it's not fair" that Jude got to clean the blood from the carpet and they didn't. This is not a lie. I am pleased to report that the blood is gone and I didn't have to do anything but wash sheets!

And it sure is nice that one of my kids LOVES to run the vacuum cleaner!


I happened to have my video camera in my purse yesterday. Here she is, with her occupational therapist, Rachel, showing what is done with a life sized baby doll. How sweet that this comes so naturally to her even with only a year's worth of knowing what a mommy is....

I was torn when Ava first came home with us. On the one hand I wanted to take advantage of the fact that she went to sleep by herself so easily. On the other hand, I really felt like I wanted to make up to her all those lost years of never having been rocked to sleep in a mother's arms. I have tried to keep a pretty good balance of both. Can you hear her singing my made up lyrics to Brahm's Lullaby? Listen to how many times she says "baby". And look how she strokes her baby's eyebrows just like I stroke hers. (Come to think of it, maybe that's what happened to all the eyebrows!)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Two little princesses

Two little girls had fun dressing up like princesses the other day. We even curled hair, put on lip gloss, and sprayed perfume for the occasion.

One of my favorite parts of Ava is this little fat pad on the back of her neck, typical in people with Down Syndrome. It's cute to look at but it sure makes it difficult to keep head bands on! Look how well she is drinking out of a sippy cup all by herself!

And aren't those the cutest feet ever? She is leaning up against the ottoman here but she is able to stand barefoot now, something she couldn't do before. Remember her aversion to carpet and weight bearing? How things have changed.