Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is it really that easy?

Thanks to all of you for your wonderful and sweet comments on my last post. Yes, John Urban is adorable and truly one-of-a-kind. And I wouldn't trade him for anything.

A few people asked the question-and it's a good question-Is it really that easy? I mean, do you just pick a kid you want to adopt and start the adoption process?

No, that is not how it typically works. Normally you would start by picking a country whose requirements your family meets, sign on with an agency, start your paperwork, then wait for your referral (or the child you are offered).

Some children, however, are considered more difficult to place because of various special needs, and so they are placed in the waiting child category. Waiting children are children with special needs such as fetal alcohol syndrome, albinism, limb deformities, HIV, disabilities, or cleft palate, just to name a few. Waiting children are also older children and sibling groups.

So, to answer the question, the reason we were able to identify a child before we selected an agency is because the little girl in the yellow dress (I'm not allowed to say her name on a public blog) has Down Syndrome, therefore is a waiting child.

Reece's Rainbow , The Shepherd's Crook , The Russian Lighthouse Project and many other organizations work hard to advocate for these children who have a harder time finding families. Also, Rainbowkids (international), AdoptUsKids (domestic), as well as probably any adoption agency can provide a list of waiting kids in need of families. In fact, here are just a couple of randomly picked photos of waiting children. Love at first sight, anyone?

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Surprise Adoption-The girl in the yellow dress

So I told you there was a story behind the picture of the girl in the yellow dress. I hope I can tell it just right.

For awhile now we have been praying about a second adoption. We had planned on adding a boy to our family this time, you know because it makes sense to even things out a bit. :)We were looking to adopt from China or possibly domestically. A few weeks ago an orphan-advocate friend emailed me a picture of a little African orphan-girl wearing a yellow dress. She half-joked (maybe not) that the girl "had my name written all over her" and that she would be the perfect addition to our family. It was quite honestly love at first sight as far as I was concerned. I showed the photo to John and confessed to him that more than anything in the world I wished I could be her mother!

I could think of nothing else for an entire week.

The email/photo didn't seem to have the same effect on John. In fact, every time I brought it up I felt that it must not be the right time, he must be busy, he must not be interested. But OH, how I loved her!!

So a week or so passed, and FINALLY he said, "Charissa, show me the picture of the little girl you told me about last week." I couldn't believe my ears!! He was actually interested in looking at her picture! He was actually interested in hearing more about her!

I wasted no time running over to the computer to show him the private RR link with her photo on it. I was SO excited.

One little problem. When I brought up the page, her picture was gone, and in its place it said in big letters: MY FOREVER FAMILY FOUND ME! All week I had been looking at her and just that fast she was gone.

A wave of disappointment came over me. I tried to be happy, really I did. She wasn't going to be an orphan anymore! I should be thrilled for her, right? How could I feel disappointed when this precious little girl would not be an orphan anymore. How selfish I was to feel sad that it was someone else and not me that would get to be the mother of the little girl in the yellow dress.

Then in my peripheral vision stood John Urban with a HUGE grin on his face, holding up a little gift bag, and he said, "Happy Birthday!" Inside the bag was the picture of the little girl in the yellow dress. :) And she was going to be mine after all.

HA! Can you believe that? He had been faking aloofness, acting uninterested, and all the while he was scheming, of all things.....an adoption! And I never had a clue!! I just want to say I sure do love that guy!!! How blessed I am to be married to a man who knows just how to make this woman's birthday dreams come true!

(Disclaimer: Do not try this at home. A surprise adoption may not make every spouse's dreams come true!)

Little miracles

These photos represent so many miracles to me (not least of which, the fact they were taken indoors, at dusk, on manual setting with no flash....just had to throw that in there).

Anyone who has been reading this blog long enough will surely remember this girl's aversion to touch, her inability to hold an object, her inability to even sit up by herself, hold eye contact. And don't forget my fears that she would never show emotion, love and affection, and that I possibly might not be able to love an adopted child with so many delays as much as "my own".

Not only do these pictures represent so many obstacles that have been overcome, look at what else they show. TRUE love. The most heartfelt affection. The sheer joy of being a "mommy".

Learned from none other than....ME.

(And I just want to point out now how cute I think the two little bald heads look together.)

Oh, my heart.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

We all agree......

It's just not the same around here without you. :(

Friday, June 26, 2009

Coloring bags, handsewn with love

Check out these totally cute bags my little girls got in the mail a couple of days ago. They are the perfect size for toting coloring books and even have tiny little slots on the sides to hold crayons.

But the thing I love best about these little bags is they were hand-sewn by ROBERT, a big, tough, army DAD to raise money to adopt an orphan from an institution in Bulgaria. I don't know about you but the thought of that just makes me want to say "AWWWWW!"

Please go over to the Bedford's blog and buy one or two for your kids, and help bring their little boy home. (Remember the Bedfords are the ones who adopted Ava's little cribmate from Ukraine). Thank you Robert! My girls absolutely love these things!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Farewell, Friend

I want to thank everyone for their words of encouragement and sympathy.

June 25, 1995, my newlywed husband walked in the door of our apartment holding a fluffy little golden furball with a pink bow tied around her neck. "Happy Birthday", he said. :)

Today, on my birthday again, John Urban and I held each other in the vet office and bawled our eyes out as we reminisced 14 years of memories: how she used to stick her head out the car every time we went for a ride, bring the ball to play fetch.....over and over..... and over.... and over again, and how she insisted on sleeping under the crib each time a new baby was born. (I am trying to forget all the times I threatened to send her to live in the country for digging holes in my yard or tracking mudprints on my clean floors. How I wish those words never came out of my mouth.)

We said very tearful good-byes and then we watched Bliss take her last breath.

Thank you for all the encouraging words and personal experiences. It helped me more than you will know. This morning when we woke up we knew beyond a doubt that today was the day. She labored pretty hard to breathe all night, her legs had become paralyzed......and her tail was no longer wagging. :( I'm guessing she had a stroke in the night.

She was a GOOD dog, I mean a really, really wonderful dog. We will never forget the friend she was to our family. We are at peace.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An announcement....

A few people asked if I was making an announcement yesterday when I posted "The Accidental Adoption."

No, that was not an announcement.

THIS is an announcement.

My heart is breaking

How does one know when it's time to put a pet to sleep? Please help me here. I am really struggling with this one.

Bliss is 14. She just lays in the same spot all day until I think she must probably need to use the bathroom. I have to help her up. Sometimes she falls several times on her way out the door. Then she struggles back and lays down in her spot again. It seems like it is time.. Several people who have seen her recently have urged me: "It is time." Then again, her tail still wags when we pet her and when she sees her green tennis ball.

HOW can I put down my sweet girl when her tail is still wagging? :( I sat outside with her on the porch yesterday and had a good cry. I am sure going to miss her.

44 years

I just want to wish my parents a happy 44th anniversary today!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Accidental Adoption

(Author Unknown)

Honey, sit down. I have some news for you.

What is it?

Well, I don't know how to say this, so I'll just come
out with it. I went out to the mailbox today and . . .
. . well, we got an I-171H.

A what?!?! An I-171H? As in, we're going to have
another baby?!?

It looks that way.

But how? We've been so careful! I put away all the
blank 1-600A forms.

Didn't you hide our homestudy update?

Of course I did. But don't forget, there was that one
night . . .

What night? (pauses) Ohhh, that night. But it was only
once. We were just messing around. I didn't print
clearly. I didn't even use black ink! (pauses

But it was kind of fun.

(giggles) It was, wasn't it? I'll never forget how
cute you looked getting your fingerprints.

So now we've got our I171H, eh? But that doesn't
always mean you'll adopt,does it? I mean, shouldn't
you see the agency or something, make sure
everything's okay?

I already did.


I'm five documents along.

Five documents!

And they're all notarized, certified and
authenticated, okay?

Just great.

There was one small scare when the agency couldn't see
the notary's middle initial, but it showed up just
fine under the magnifying glass.

Thank God. And you, honey? Are you feeling okay?

I'm feeling fine. As long as I know you're happy about

Happy? I'm thrilled! It's always a shock at first when
something like this happens, but of course I'm happy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fathers Day photo shoot

On Saturday I took a photography class for moms, learning how very little I actually know about photography. Poor John got to spend Father's Day letting me practice my new photography skills on him and the kids. What a good sport he is! So this was my first attempt at using the manual setting! It is way harder than it looks but hopefully I'll get the hang of it before long. And before anybody asks......No, Ashley will not be hosting any more classes for awhile. She is due with her 4th child any minute now and will be taking a little bit of a break at least until the fall. Sorry!


Five kids and I have never started scrapbooking! I resisted the temptation right from the very beginning. While all my girlfriends were having scrapbooking parties, I passed. My reason: I knew I was going to have a big family, and I knew I wouldn't have time to keep it up after the 4th or 5th (or 6th or 7th?). I imagined my grandkids looking through my attic someday wondering why I only had scrapbook albums for Uncle Simeon and Aunt Liesel. :) Instead all my photos are in piles of photo albums in the attic, and now taking up space on my computer!

So we are halfway through our foster parenting classes. Last week a couple talked about their two sons who had spent their whole life in foster care before they adopted them. They said that when they came into their care at ages 4 and 5, they had FIVE....TOTAL pictures of their entire childhood. Five pictures! I was heartbroken for them. What kind of foster homes must they have lived in to not at least take more than 5 pictures of them???

So this gave me an idea. Since we are going to be doing emergency foster care, we will most likely be the first placement for kids coming through. I got to thinking it would be really nice to have a scrapbook-type album to give as a gift to every child that enters our home and start it while they are here with us, hoping to encourage future foster families to fill the scrapbook up with photos and childhood memories.

So are there are any scrapbookers out there reading this that might be of help? What would be a very (I mean very) simple way to do this project? Inexpensive would be nice too. I wonder if there are scrapbooking companies that would donate albums to kids in foster care. OOOOh, that would be great.

While I'm on the subject of scrapbooking, here are a couple of things I've done taking advantage of all the pretty patterns of scrapbook paper. There are so many fun, cheap decorating projects that even the kids can help me with! The last picture is a display in the girls' room, "clipboards" made from plexiglass with pretty paper showing through from behind. I could have used actual clipboards but it was about 4 times cheaper this way!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ants and Artichokes

I made chicken artichoke pizza for dinner tonight, and while we were eating Simeon said:

"Mom I don't want to hurt your feelings or anything, but you know how when you squish ants between your fingers and then smell them? Well this pizza tastes a little bit like that smell."

I guess it's only reasonable to assume then that squished ants must taste like artichokes?

(I don't suppose I'll be getting any comments asking for my chicken artichoke pizza recipe after this post.)

My other "Mini-Me"

This is part 2 of this post.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More random stuff

We have our foster care home study tomorrow so I have been searching for marriage license, insurance cards, vaccination record for kids (and pets), paycheck stubs, social security cards. Feels a little like a scavenger hunt, only without all the fun and laughter.
We are planning a trip to Mexico this summer to visit my parents so we had to drive all the way to the downtown post office to issue Ava a U.S. passport. When we arrived downtown and pulled into the parking garage, Hope asked, "Are we in Mexico?" To her credit, it did look a little like Mexico.
Gideon the cat seems very happy here and--I'd never thought I'd hear myself say it or see myself type it, but--is really growing on me. Hope refuses to believe that he is really a boy. After all, he is white and looks like a Princess Snowflake.
The animals are now tick-free, thanks to my friends who suggested Frontline. You know, in the city I never remember dealing with ticks or fleas ever. But out here. Oh my goodness.
It turns out Nellie has heartworm. When I took her in about a month ago for her vaccinations and check up, etc. they tested her and it came back positive. Of course we have no idea how long she has had it but heartworm is very serious and we have to make a decision how aggressively we want to treat it. I, the frugal one in the relationship, feel that we can provide a happy doggie life for her and very little cost by just letting her be. John on the other hand, is more generous, nurturing, or maybe just a little more attached to the dog, and wants to pursue the aggressive and very expensive treatment which still may not necessarily guarantee riddance of the heartworm. Decisions, decisions.
When I took Nellie in for a treatment, waiting in the vet waiting room for her, I found out by using one of those dial chart thingies, that Bliss is over 100 years old in people years! I guess that would explain a lot of recent behaviors-and odors. While also waiting in the waiting room, I read a couple of framed thank-you letters from former (deceased) "patients" and their owners. Needless to say soon I had rivers of tears flowing down my cheeks, and all my children were laughing hysterically at me.

I have been wondering what the key has been to Bliss' long life (two years over her life expectancy), and the only thing I can come up with is all those great table scraps......And this.

Monday, June 15, 2009


I'm dreaming of.....
......tomato basil soup, fresh garden salsa, corn on the cob, BLTs, blackberry cobbler, buttery garlic potatoes, homemade pizza (ooh, and don't forget farm fresh scrambled eggs!) Can I entice any summer visitors?

Saturday, June 13, 2009


So here is the banana video. Keep in mind she always gets a little shy for the camera so this is the much milder version of Ava eating a banana. Anyone who has witnessed this in real life can testify. Normally she tries to shove the entire thing in at once and can finish it off in less than a minute. Boy she's come a long way in the eating department, hasn't she? I told you the girl can eat! Notice how she savors every morsel, stopping to sign "banana" in between bites. I have to say, I can't help but think of Bill Murray eating corn on the cob in the movie What About Bob. :) I'm wondering if it's time to start working on some table manners.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Kim and Teri...Now.

For those who asked, these are the most recent pictures I could find of Kim and Teri. They were taken a year ago Christmas time. Looks like it's time to get updated photos! I'm taking a photography class next weekend, and I told the girls that after the class I want to go practice on their daughters. By the way, Teri has had a second baby girl since this was taken. Photo #1 is Kim and Kayla. Photo #2 is Teri and Acacia (Baby Trinity was born two months ago).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Where can I buy a t-shirt?

A couple of people asked me where the Adopt(Ed) t-shirts (seen on the Adopt-ed blog header) can be purchased. They are sold at our church with proceeds going towards adoption grants. I just learned that the shirts (and bracelets) can be purchased online too by clicking here. We bought these for every member of our family to support the ministry. They are great for spreading the joy of adoption, supporting a great ministry, and don't forget, keeping track of multiple children in public!

Kim and Teri

One more thing about foster care. I've briefly mentioned here and there that we used to be foster parents 10-13 years ago. What I haven't mentioned is how that experience continues to bless our lives even today. This is Kim and Teri, the first foster children we were blessed with. These two girls gave me my first glimpse into motherhood. There were some days I wondered what I had gotten myself into as a young 24 year old newlywed trying to parent two little girls ages 8 and 10! :) But the joys of fostering them definitely was worth the few challenges we ran into.

Last night I took Kim and Teri out to celebrate Kim's birthday. It was so fun last night to see how these two timid and scared little girls that temporarily joined our family 12 1/2 years ago have blossomed into beautiful young mothers with daughters of their own. We hung out and talked about the challenges of motherhood, swapped kid stories, and reminisced about old times. Twelve years ago I was their foster mother, and last night we were good friends hanging out at Starbucks. :)

Kim and Teri, I love you both and I'm so thankful God brought you both into our lives. You are a blessing. And Happy Birthday Kim! P.S. I had a blast last night!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


While we were in Ukraine we met a special little girl who was living at Ava's orphanage. A few months later we were thrilled to learn that a family had committed to adopt her. Wanting to give Julie (Daisy's soon-to-be mama) a special gift, I emailed every photo I had taken of Daisy. I also happened to have a very short video clip of her that I uploaded to One True Media and I emailed. Now I'm telling on Julie, but I can tease her because I did the same thing with the one very short video clip I had of Ava as well. But would you believe I noticed the next day that video had been viewed something like 127 times? :)

Well I have been following Daisy's adoption blog and my heart is really going out to her her family today. Daisy has already been transferred to another orphanage and they are still short something like $7,000 to bring Daisy home. John and I were so blessed to have people voluntarily help us bring our little Ava home. And we vowed we would give back in return to other people stepping out in faith to rescue God's precious little ones.

I try to be real careful not to be a blog that is always asking for donations. I know there are so many good causes out there and one can't give to everything. However, a couple of you have thanked me in the past for making these situations known, and giving you an opportunity to help orphans, even when you can't bring one home yourself. I asked Julie's permission to post a link to her blog and make her situation known here. Adoption can be so heartwrenching. Maybe you could leave a comment of encouragement on her blog. (If you want to donate you can click on Daisy's photo below and then on the Paypal "donate" button).

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

She doubled her weight

My daughter Ava has officially doubled her weight since we first adopted her! She weighed in at 36 pounds today! For some reason it made me laugh that this tremendous weight gain still only puts her at less than 25 percentile for her age. The girl can really eat! I have been tempted to post a video here of her eating a banana. It is the funniest thing I've ever seen. Can I just say how glad I will be when she finally decides to walk!! 36 pounds!!! Jeez, no wonder my back aches.

Becoming a foster family!

Well I am excited to report that our family has begun the process of becoming foster care certified. (We had to repeat the classes since it has been so long since we last fostered 10 years ago). I don't know exactly what that is going to look like for our family, but we are excited about at least being available to make a difference in the lives of whatever child God would temporarily or permanently bring into our family. We are leaning towards doing emergency foster care. For those not familiar with how it works, an emergency foster home is a very temporary placement until a foster home becomes available for the child. Typically emergency foster homes take in infants and toddlers, as the older children usually go to the children's shelter until a foster home becomes available for them.

The first person that I told this to asked me, "WHY?" (Just exactly like that). Why is it so difficult to answer that question why and why is it that it is so easy to get defensive about it? However, I know that is usually the first question people ask when a family of 7 wants to add more to their plate. So I'll do my best to answer here:

-Well for one there is a great need for foster families, but an even greater need for good foster families.
-We've been blessed with a great home, a great family, we have an extra bedroom, and lots and lots of love to go around.
-We needed an excuse to get a bigger vehicle.
-We love kids!
-We have all fallen in love with my newest little foster nephew and we want one too.
-It is pure religion that God our Father finds faultless. (James 1:27) What better reason than that?

Are your kids in agreement?
-Well it was their idea actually. :)

Aren't you afraid your heart will get broken?
-Well, a little, yes. But it's not about me.

Aren't you afraid that having foster children will take time away from your own kids?
-Not at all, I think it will be good for all of us and make us stronger as a family, just as adopting Ava has made us a stronger family. Like I said, it was their idea!

I'm happy to answer any other questions out there. If you're wondering if foster care might be for your family, I found a list of questions that you can ask yourself here.

Meanwhile does anyone know of any good deals on a big van????

Monday, June 8, 2009

My tomboy/girly-girl

Hope is the funniest combination of tomboy and girly girl. Here she is, out hunting for bugs and flowers, wearing her swim suit and rainboots. On her way back from the barn she gets distracted by a bug that needs squishing, then proceeds to bring me "the mail" (AKA a piece of paper found in the barn) and some wildflowers freshly picked just for me. Have I mentioned how much I love this girl (and my new zoom lens that captured this story in photos)?

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Recently I was made aware of a situation where two siblings locally were removed from their home for child abuse. A group of over 3,000 people were presented with this situation and asked whether anyone in the room could take these children in. I was thankful to find out a couple stepped forward........ but saddened and a little perplexed to find out that only one couple, out of a group of over 3,000 christian people.....stepped forward.

I wish I could remember where I read this so I could quote it accurately as well as give them proper credit, but somewhere recently I read a statement that said something like this: "In a city where there are christians, there should be no unwanted children."


Which makes me wonder why this is so. WHY, if there are 450,000 churches in the U.S.A., WHY are there 129,000 children in the U.S. waiting for families?

My pastor, Alex Himaya, did a sermon series explaining WHY God has such a heart for adoption. I encourage every believer to hear it (Click here to hear). Out of that sermon came an orphan ministry that John and I are so thankful to be a part of. I am working on a new blog,
adopt-ed.blogspot.com where I hope to share stories related to orphans and vulnerable children, connect adoptive families, highlight events, share some of the outreaches of our church adoption ministry, etc. I do hope you'll come visit it, set your google reader, and be a part of the Adopt(Ed) ministry at The Church at Battle Creek.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Roosters, Hens and Baby Chicks

Well 25 baby chicks arrived and they are ALL alive and well....not to mention totally CUTE!

How sweet is this??? In case you're wondering it was totally spontaneous and unplanned. I couldn't have gotten him to pose like that for a photo if I tried!

We asked the guy at the farm supply store how we can tell whether our 6 remaining chickens are hens or roosters. The totally UNEXPECTED response we got back was, "If you hold them upside down by their feet, the roosters will flap their wings and the hens will just hang upside down without protest." I think he might have been pulling our leg, but if he was telling us the truth, we have 6 roosters and 1 hen!