Monday, August 30, 2010

If you haven't already...

It's not too late.

I have watched The Little Light House move up from spot #47 to spot #30 in the Kohl's $500,000 giveaway in about a week's time! I know I might sound a little biased since my daughter goes there and all, but you have to trust me, this school is so amazing and is so deserving of this grant! This is a tuition free private school. Enough said. And it is exclusively for children with handicaps.

We have to be in the top 20 to win. So if you haven't voted already please do! And don't forget to vote five times. And don't forget to spread the word. Please. There are some really neat kids that could really use this kind of funding.

Click here to vote.
Thanks to all who have helped so far! Look what a difference it has made!

Wrapping up the summer

Last week I had a surprise visit from Teri. Remember Teri? She and her sister Kim stayed with us for about 9 months when they were little girls age 7 and 9 and when John and I were foster parents....long before any of our kids were born. Wow, a lot has happened since then. We are so thankful that our relationship did not end when the girls went back home but they have continued to call and pop in occasionally. Thanks Teri for the visit! Love you and your beautiful girls!
Sweet Acacia and Trinity....

Jude wanted to go roller skating for his birthday. Since John has been working so much lately we finally got around to celebrating a couple of weeks late. Does the idea of taking our bunch roller skating sound exhausting? 

Well it was. But it was a lot of fun.

The birthday boy....
Why does my camera keep making a dark shadow on the right side of the picture? Why??? Can anyone tell me? It is really bugging me.

This is one of the many things I love about my husband. He always keeps his promises. I wonder if we are the only family in America that sets up their swimming pool a week before Labor Day?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sometimes I wonder what our family must look like from the outside looking in. I've gotten a few strange looks recently as I've been out in public here and there. And the fact that I have four children in kindergarten might sound strange to some, but it feels perfectly natural to me. :)

"How in the world do you homeschool?" I've been asked.

Honestly I have no idea!! It's been a little crazy to say the least.
We started a new program called Classical Conversations which is a classical approach to education. We pretty much picked it because of the weekly coop that meets on Mondays, so we could make some friends and get a little social interaction. You know us unsocialized homeschoolers. We were all so nervous to go on Monday. I realize about myself that I would rather be in a room full of kids than a room full of adults anyday! There is nothing more nerve-racking than meeting a bunch of new people, and my kids felt the same way. But everyone was very nice and welcoming, and the kids made some new friends, and I made a new friend, and my friend Delahne will be there to hold my hand. Thanks Delahne. So I think it's going to be a great year. We got a CD to listen to in the car and we are going to be learning Latin this year. In addition my kids who were world travelers this summer have been practicing their Russian and Spanish they learned over the summer. Do you think my newly adopted Ukrainian children might be a tad bit confused?

We've rearranged several bedrooms over the weekend and now have a little play room downstairs which also doubles as Joseph's bedroom.
Zoya has been sleeping in there too, just because it was the bedroom that she was in previously and I didn't want to uproot her again so soon. Eventually we may switch around again but for now here is the bedroom setup:
Simeon and Jude share a bedroom and a bathroom upstairs.
Liesel has her own bedroom upstairs and uses the downstairs bathroom.
Hope and Ava are sharing.
Zoya and Joseph share. The door has a gate on it to prevent Joseph from wandering around the house as he had been doing at 6am every morning. Although I will definitely miss him crawling in bed with me and poking my eyes and kissing me on the lips.

John installed door locks for the bathrooms and the office, to keep Joseph out. Did I mention he likes water? Sinks and toilets too.

Next to playing in the water hose, Joseph's favorite thing to do is to tear paper. It's actually a really great harmless and quiet activity, which can keep him entertained forever, which I wouldn't mind AT ALL, except we have a bunch of adoption documents, birth certificates, enrollment forms, and homework papers around the house. You should see the bits of paper and toilet paper scattered here and there. Wow. That boy keeps me on my toes, that is for sure!

School time for everyone! Hope started last week and Ava started school today so now I am down to just Joseph and Zoya.

I intentionally picked homeschool curriculum that would free me as teacher up a bit this year and demands a little more independence on the children's part. Doesn't it look like these three are getting along beautifully while cheerfully doing their schoolwork in the fort? I won't comment any further on that.

Speaking of, I sure love my husband. He is a great problem solver. When there is a question of, say for example, whether there is enough room for three children AND a big giant beanbag in the fort, and an entire hour of school time is wasted reenacting a Jerry Springer episode an hour of precious school time is spent negotiating whether bean bags should be allowed in forts, John suggested that any disputes that come up during the day be turned into a writing assignment. At the end of the day he will hear all sides and will issue a ruling. I think I will start calling him Judge John.

While the big kids whine and complain do their schoolwork cheerfully and diligently in the fort, the little ones swing happily below.

This is a dragon fly, I think (?). Simeon brought it in the house and asked me to guess how he caught it. I made a couple of guesses and gave up. Would you believe he was tossing a block up in the air (anyone who knows Simeon knows that he is throwing or kicking something almost every minute of the day which often gets him into trouble). Up went the block and down fell the dragonfly. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time! Poor little thing. Look at those gigantic eyes! Amazing.

Hope has been to school four days now and has decided that kindergarten is not all that it's cracked up to be. She had no idea that you have to lay on your mat and rest in kindergarten and she's not sure she wants to go anymore. For the last two days we argued about when it's OK to stay home from school. I said you have to be sick to stay home from school. Yesterday she said, "Well I am sick. I'm sick of school." Today she asked if it was a school day and quickly had a hundred and one things wrong with her that would prevent her from going. Her head hurt, her hand hurt, her fingers wouldn't bend, and by the way her tummy hurt and she thought she had a fever. Of course I didn't buy that and I made her go anyway. A couple of hours later I get a phone call from the school saying Hope had a fever and I needed to come get her. OOOPS! 

John is so sweet. I sure love him. He told me not to cook last night, he wanted to give me a break. He brought home Taco Bueno and made a picnic outside that so I could have the evening off. And he insisted I go to bed early. I sure needed it. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Our weekend

Simeon has made quite an impression on Zoya. She really likes him a lot. His kitchen job is sweeping, and he lets her ride the broom as he sweeps around the table.
Wow, look at all these kids! This was Saturday morning's family meeting. I think we're getting too big to have family meetings on our bed. This was one about how we all need to keep our bedroom doors shut and our stuff hidden or put up high out of the reach of the little ones. Looks like some of us were happier about family meeting than others.

My sweet friend Justine brought us dinner tonight. I asked her to please stay and eat with us. Thanks Justine! Justine adopted 9 year old Timothy from Hong Kong 6 months ago. He happens to have an extra chromosome just like Ava and Joseph. Look at these three little cuties all in a row. We kept marveling at how different yet how the same they all were! Aren't they cute? Timothy is so smart. 

Justine and her kids picked Joseph last year to sponsor for the Christmas Angel Tree Project for Reece's Rainbow. She kept saying, "I can't believe it. He hung on our tree....and now he's sitting at your kitchen table!" ha :) Oh it was so fun to hang out with Justine and be with her sweet kids.

The older girls hung out with T.C.....

While the boys and the littler kids played in the water hose of course.

Guess who else LOVES playing in the water.

Joseph and Tim are a perfect pair. Joseph loves to spray, and Tim loves to be sprayed. :) They could have done this all day long. 
Thanks Justine for a fun evening (and an AMAZING dinner!). I am blessed to call you friend.

Good questions

I was thrilled to log on this morning and see 14 comments from people who had already either voted or tried to vote. Thank you all!! You are the best blog readers ever!

To answer a couple of questions and comments that were left:

AussieKirstie said...

is it The Lighthouse Christian Academy
Brentwood, New Hampshire
thats the closest i could find im happy 2 use all my votes for u i just want to make sure i have it right
good luck from down under

Nope. It is The Little Light House in Tulsa OK. (See below comment to clarify what the problem may have been).

Lisa said...

Hi Charissa! I voted! Just an FYI it comes up as Little Light House with the lighthouse separated and took me a while to find it since it won't come up the other way. :) Good luck
Thanks Lisa for pointing this out! My bad.

Monica said...

Just voted five times :-) Are you going to send Joseph and Zoya to this school also?

I WISH!!! Unfortunately the school is a preschool only and only children up to age 6 can attend. Because it is privately funded there is a waiting list of about 18 months. Most families put their children on the waiting list as soon as their children are diagnosed with a disability right after birth or even in utero. So Joseph and Zoya, who will both soon be 6, will be too old by the time their wait is up. :(

Milena said...

I couldn't vote because I haven't got a Facebook account. Is there any other way to vote?

I don't think so. But you could get a facebook account and then we could be facebook friends too!
Here is the link again 
Look for The Little Lighthouse. Don't forget you can vote 5 times. And please spread the word by clicking on share. It will automatically post to your FB account.
Click here to view the website of The Little Lighthouse. And you'll be hearing a lot more in the next few weeks about my favorite school in the world. :)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Will you do us a favor?

You've heard me talk about Ava's school, The Little Lighthouse. You know from all of my posts how wonderful it is. You know that it is a private christian school for handicapped children, but rather than expecting tuition from the parents, The Little Lighthouse operates solely on fundraisers and donations from the community.

Here are a few photos from when Hope and I took bunnies to the school in the spring.

Well we have an incredible opportunity to win $500,000 for the school. Kohls is giving away $500,000 to 20 schools and right now we are not quite in the top 20 but pretty close!!

I have maxed out my votes and have bugged all my facebook friends repeatedly to vote. Will you please vote for The Little Lighthouse? There are some really special kids who really need it.

Click here to vote, (you must have a facebook account) and type in The Little Lighthouse. You get 5 votes so be sure to use them all. It is so easy and so fast. Please consider doing this for Ava! It would mean the world to me if you left a comment telling me you voted. Thank you!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How are we doing......really?

Well it's been right at two weeks home and of course the question is: How are we managing and how is everyone adjusting?

I find myself answering this question differently depending on the day. Today we had two dentist appointments, an  IEP meeting, a full day of homeschooling, and a homeschool Mom's meeting. I'll be honest and admit we've had a few rough days. In general things like seeking out school services and benefits, doctor's appointments, dentist appointments, and the remaining adoption paperwork are keeping me busy and exhausted. There are some pressing medical issues that we are trying to get under control and we are having to work with our insurance company on getting coverage. We have had back-to-school meetings, meet the teacher nights, evaluations and are involved in a school fundraiser. John's work schedule has been demanding. Even without the daily management of seven kids, all of these things are keeping us busy. Four kids are homeschooling. Enough said.

The truth is, Joseph and Zoya both are great kids and we are so happy to have them in our family. They have good attitudes and seem to be adjusting so well! The other kids seem to be happy with the 2 newest little munchkins and in fact Hope was very disappointed that Joseph and Zoya can't go to school with her. After all they are both 5 just like her. I have been thinking that when I do all the care of the little ones by myself, I don't feel I have much time or energy left for the bigger ones. But when everyone pitches in things go so much better and there is more time for fun things. However I don't want to be that parent. The one who puts too much pressure and high expectations on the oldest ones. I don't want them to ever resent all of this which I don't anticipate, but I'm constantly thinking about this and trying to find the right balance and trying to make sure everyone's needs are met.

Joseph: Joseph is just as happy and content as can be. He eats well (Ok a little too well), sleeps well, gives the best hugs and kisses, and is just all around a neat kid. Did I mention though that we spent almost $200 on baby gates to keep him contained and within the first day he had managed to climb over them. John raised the gate up an inch or two, and this just gave him a higher step to step on......And he can still climb over them. Just as we figured out on Day 1 in the orphanage, he is a busy and active boy! He has broken a lamp, a chair, has torn off several wall decorations, and has flooded the bathroom. Twice. How's that for honesty? I think he can be corrected, he seems eager to please and quick to correct, but he is still learning his boundaries and we are still strangers to him and what in the heck are we saying anyway? I am working on a plan to shift some of the kids around to make one of the bedrooms solely a play room. The layout of our house is circular and open, and we just can't think of any other solution for a play room other than losing and using a bedroom. Which means the three boys will have to share but I really don't think any of them mind. Joseph really is a sweet and kind boy, who was blessed with a lot of energy. And for that reason he fits in well in this family, and particularly with his big brothers who play almost daily in the water hose with him. Because that is what he loves best.

Zoya: How many times these last two weeks John and I have said how THANKFUL we are for the gift of Zoya, the bonus child. An unexpected prize. Oh, I am so glad we said YES to Zoya!! Many late nights in Ukraine I feared it might be too much, wondered whether her issues were too complex, if it was a mistake to come home with two. Oh no, there was no mistake! Zoya is without a doubt meant to be here in our family. We are working hard to get her healthy and find ways for her to communicate. I have doctor's orders to allow her to eat and drink all the high calorie foods she wants...chocolate included. Too bad I have to model this behavior for her. :) After all how will she learn? I ordered a communication device that allows her to push a button to express herself. To get started, I programmed it to say "Hi Mommy", "Hi Daddy", "Hi Simeon", etc. She loves this device and goes around the house saying hi to everyone. She also enjoys pushing the button that says "Good job". She is picking up on English and I am beginning to decipher what she is trying to say. She has observed and is copying Ava's sign language, which is a blessing for all of us. She does the sign for and says "I love you", and blows us kisses. How sweet is this girl!! Ok so it actually comes out 'I-uh-oo' but I know EXACTLY what she is saying! We are waiting on a referral to see a cleft palate team. It can be overwhelming to google and research all the 'things' that she must conquer but we are committed to help her, one little thing at a time.

So as you can see overall life is very busy and very grand. We are working to make some improvements on containment and organization and time management but we are very happy with our little family and have no regrets whatsoever. We would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Except for that blasted adopt-e-sectomy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Big day for Hope

Today was Hope's long awaited first day of kindergarten. She was very proud and very excited, but "only a little bit neh-vous".

Gosh why is it so hard to send your kids off to kindergarten. Did I cuddle her enough these last 5 years? Did I read enough books to her? Take enough pictures of her? Take her to the park enough? Oh my sweet girl is growing up.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The kids are fitting into our family so well. In addition to loving having three sisters, Zoya is absolutely crazy about her cousin Evi!

The girls are having fun dressing up every day. And painting toenails. And fingernails. And trying on shoes. And playing in my makeup. Can you imagine what this girl's first birthday celebration is going to look like? A princess party for sure. January 1st. Mark your calendar.
I'm telling you, the girl loves shoes. Even cowboy boots.

Is this sad? Joseph grabbed a screwdriver and started to help John put up a gate. Poor kid had no idea he was putting up his own prison walls!

It's only been in the last couple of days that Joseph and Ava have even noticed each other. Truthfully I think Joseph likes Ava a little more than Ava likes Joseph.

Oh my goodness, is this boy a charmer or what!!

I do think they are growing on each other possibly because they've been spending so much time lately in prison together.

Happy birthday Jude!

Dear Jude,
You are nine years old today. I remember so well the day you were born. You came so fast the doctor didn't even make it in time. I still remember the anticipation of not knowing whether we were having a girl or a boy, and the joyful tears in Daddy's eyes when he announced it was another boy. We were so happy and so proud. You have brought so much joy to our family these past nine years. I can see you have a lot of the same characteristics as your dad and that makes me feel confident you will make wise choices in life and will be a wonderful husband and father someday. We were so proud this year when you-all on your own-asked Dad to baptize the bathtub of all places. :) We are so thankful that out of all the parents in the world, God picked us to be your parents. We love you. Happy Birthday my Big Man!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I spent 9 hours in the van driving yesterday to get to and from the Little Rock Children's Hospital. It was brutal but well worth the drive. The kids did SO well! We spent three hours meeting with different specialists, a pharmacist, a nutritionist, a social worker, and even the director of their international adoption clinic there. It was beautiful to watch a Russian speaking doctor talking to Zoya and seeing her face light up to understand what he was saying to her. I could see she understood him very well as she tried to answer, although he said her speech is almost unintelligible. Bless her little heart. We are working on a plan to get that corrected. She has picked up a few words this past week which I can understand: no, yeah, uh-oh, drink, potty, Daddy, Mama....and get this......I love you. She's only heard me say it a hundred times or so. :)

I was so glad we scheduled for yesterday and not for in a few weeks when John could accompany me. Because when I showed the nurse the medications we were giving she caught a huge mistake. Since we started out with 3 medications, and we were going to add one and combine two, when we came home with three medications that seemed perfect to me. But they didn't tell me that they decided not to combine the two, so there were actually supposed to be 4 medications.  The nurse caught the fact that one was missing. And when she called the pharmacy in Tulsa they found it in their refrigerator. They had forgotten to give it to us. Yikes! I had a panic attack because it was the one medication I was told was the most important and it was important to NEVER miss a dose, and I assumed I had been giving it all week in a combination drug. And here we had missed seven doses in a row!

Don't panic, the doctor said. Just start back up and don't let it happen again. We have absolutely no medical records for either kid, so we had to start from scratch drawing bloodwork and titers, and TB tests and x-rays. Poor little Zoya was a great little trooper until the nurse came in and put on her purple rubber gloves. Then she panicked and screamed but I was so glad she finally has a mama to hold her hand and sing to her when she has to endure difficult procedures.

Rumor has it we will be getting a specialist in Tulsa in a couple of months so soon we won't have to make the long drive to Little Rock. Until then we have to go every 3 weeks.

The highlight of the day was getting to drop in on our new friends the Lorraines. We had met them while in Ukraine, they were adopting a little girl with cerebral palsy. It took a lot of blood sweat and tears to bring those three children home (well, and prayers), and yet there they were, all three of them, sitting together in the Lorraines living room in Little Rock after enjoying a lovely lunch together. It was so good for my soul to see them. Thank you Lord for little blessings. Unfortunately we couldn't get them to sit still to get a photo, but you'll just have to trust me. It was wonderful! Here is a photo of their kids, I stole it from their blog.

I was tired of hearing the kids complain about their chores so I asked John to please have a talk with them. Thursday evening after dinner John said I hear you guys are tired of doing chores. I'd like to give you an opportunity to never have to do chores again. Would you all like that? Oh yes they would! So he instructed them to each get a pillow, a blanket, a toothbrush, and 2 changes of clothes and follow him. They did. He introduced them to their new home, the barn. He said they were welcome to come to "our" house for meals but they would be expected to clean up afterward. Otherwise they can spend the days and nights in the barn doing whatever they feel like. He said if they ever decide they want to come live with us again they must sign a contract first.

Which they all did, an hour and a half later. Once the coyotes started howling and the mosquitos started biting. hee hee

Ava pretends to brush her hair, she does this often.
I can't decide if it makes me laugh or makes me sad.

Simeon has been trying very hard to catch a raccoon. So far he has caught a possom and a stray cat but no raccoon. I thought we'd be good citizens and offer the cat a new home, but he didn't want anything to do with us.

How sweet is this, drawn by Hope. This is one scrap of paper that I will NEVER be able to throw away.

Here is a picture of my two 5 year old girls. So far they get along very well. They love to dress up together. One girl weighs 49 pounds, the other weighs 21 pounds. One is 47 inches tall, the other is 38 inches tall. One wears a 5/6, the other wears infant clothes. One plots on the growth chart, the other is far, far below.

One is starting kindergarten next week, the other is staying home to get healthy and fattened up.

For various reasons we are homeschooling 4 children and sending three to school this year. We are excited about a new program, Classical Conversations, that we will be starting up next week with Liesel, Jude and Simeon. I'll be working with Zoya on language primarily, in addition to getting her healthy. Ava will have her last year at the Little Lighthouse and Hope will start public kindergarten, which is just across the street. I'll keep Joseph home for a couple of months but the plan is to get him in special ed kindergarten. He and Hope will go to the same school which she is very excited about. It's going to be crazy busy I'm sure but I wouldn't trade my life for anything!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Our new and improved family

Our first photo as a family of 9...Thank you Juan Camacho.

This was taken at the park after church on Sunday morning. Don't we all look thrilled to be posing for a family photo in 100+ degree Oklahoma heat? This was the very best we could get.

John wants everyone to know that he had an adopt-e-sectomy during his two month stay in Ukraine, so this is it. :)

He is such a weirdo but I love him.

All is well

We are alive and well. The kids are keeping us very very busy with their curiosity and newly discovered exploration skills. I need some baby gates!!! Other than trying to establish boundaries and trying to keep up with 2 extra little people, things are going very well, in fact much better than anticipated. Joseph is doing pretty well on the potty now that he is in a routine. We all clapped and cheered when he went #2 and he looked at us all like What in the World???

The language barrier isn't as big of a deal as I thought it might be. The kids are so expressive that they really make their needs known quite well.

There have only been few tears shed, the kids don't seem to be missing a thing about their former life. Praise the Lord. They are eating well, sleeping well and their digestive systems seem to work properly. How did we get it so good? Wow, thank you Lord!

The airlines lost the luggage so we spent a couple of days trying to track those down, plus the stroller. Arghh! The other major issue is that one of the kids is on medications for a pretty rare immune disorder. The orphanage promised to send us home with a 10 day supply, which turned out to be a 4 day supply. Our pediatrician had never heard of the medications and we've spent quite a bit of time just trying to figure out the American equivalent for the drugs and then finding a pharmacy who carried them. The pharmacy ended up having to special order them but then we realized that the kids aren't technically on our insurance yet so we had to pay out of pocket. Thankfully only one dose was missed. We have an appointment to see a specialist in Little Rock on Friday, which will be about a 4-5 hour drive but there are no specialists any closer.

Joseph is busy and curious but very sweet and responds pretty well to correction. He is having a blast with his two big brothers who love jumping on the trampoline with him. Playing in the water hose has become a daily routine. They even rigged up a slide to the trampoline to make a little water slide. He doesn't talk much but he can say Papa, which is so totally sweet. It's not that he doesn't like the rest of us, it's just that he loves his Papa so very much....Hope was sad yesterday. She said "Joseph doesn't like me." :( Yes he does Hope but it will take time for him to show it.

Zoya is loving having a closet full of clothes and momma's shoes to wear. Unfortunately her closet full of clothes is way too big. I was way off on her size. I stocked it with 2t/3t's thinking surely that would be right. It turns out she wears a 6-12 months on top and a 0-3 months waist. Anything bigger, even a 6 months shorts, fall right off her waist. They don't make panties for infants so you can only imagine. Of course her height is more like a 2-3 year old so it has made dressing her quite the challenge. If it fits her waist it's way to short on her. Thankfully a couple of Facebook friends came to the rescue and have offered to give us some infant clothes. My poor sweet baby. She weighs 22 pounds and is 38 inches tall. She is my first picky eater. When she finds something she likes she eats well but if not, forget it. With her being so tiny I almost feel as if I need to cater to her wishes although I don't want to reinforce bad habits.

This is funny: Hope is fascinated with Zoya's cleft palate. She is teaching Zoya to go around opening her mouth for people to show them the cleft in the roof of her mouth. Oh my!

I am loving the bedtime routine, giving each kid the affection they never had. Joseph doesn't seem to know what to do with the attention, and Zoya is eating it up. I caught her sitting up in bed boxing her ears and rocking back and forth one night, so I picked her up and rocked her and she snuggled in to me so tight, and smiled up at me so sweetly. She curls up in a fetal position and it feels just like having a tiny baby in my arms, wrapped up in a blanket. I can see she is very happy to have a momma. Part of me keeps waiting for them to get homesick any day as any child would being away from home for more a few days. But so far not one sign of homesickness.

They both seem eager to help around the house, especially Zoya. Joseph pushes the broom around the house and loves his new job of wiping the tables and chairs. Zoya is my first initiator! She walks around the house picking up items and bringing them to me. She was very concerned to see the trash can without a liner and then helped me replace it.  How cute. My other kids would just throw their trash into the empty can. She did the same thing with the empty toilet paper holder. I love that they are helpful children and but it makes me a little sad really. I don't know what makes me more sad. Wondering if they might be trying to earn their keep around here, or wondering why after all the years of training and training my other kids still whine and complain when asked to do something.

I love watching their expressions as they discover new things. They make it so clear by the confused, curious, mesmerized, perplexed or terrified looks on their faces. Here are a couple of obvious firsts for them:

-grocery carts
-watching somebody cook
-watching somebody put makeup on
-ice cream
-peanut butter (Joseph hated the texture! Zoya loved it!)
-loud music
-car seats

All in all things are great. I'm taking lots of photos and hope to put together a little slideshow soon.

Thanks for still following along.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pictures from our first day together

We had a wonderful first day together as a family of 9! Had a few visitors. This is Jennifer, my dear friend and old college classmate and roommate who stopped by from out of town for a short visit. Thanks Jennifer! Love you!

Otherwise we just hung around the house and had fun. John did have to do a little work both on his real job and on all the appliances that broke down while he was gone. Honey I'm glad you're back! I love you!

A photo at the airport homecoming. Notice how exhausted everyone looks.

Zoya changed clothes I think about seven times today. She tried on every shoe in the house-seriously, rubber boots, clogs, heels, flip flops-- then put them back neatly where she found them. Wow, I'm so impressed with how well-mannered and responsible these children are. Pray that it rubs off on my other children and not the other way around. PLEASE.

Her favorite shoes were my black heels (picture below) which she clunked around in most of the day, even outside when we played in the water hose. She experienced a few obvious firsts, as evidenced by her scared and confused expressions, one being our big dog, and the other being---you'll never guess----the stairs. Once she got them figured out I had to scold her several times for trying to go up and down in my heels. Yikes! 

She hated cool whip but L-O-V-E-D strawberries.

She was SO intrigued/concerned/confused by the stairs, which surprised me until I remembered that they have ramps, not stairs in the orphanage. Wow. John said she had a similar reaction to her first car ride. Can you imagine all the things we and our kids don't think twice about, that some of our adopted children have never experienced.

It's funny, both of these little girls want to play the role of nurturer. It is interesting to see Zoya protest about getting carried around, and babied. While Zoya was napping Hope begged to go in and look at her. "I forgot what Zoya looks like, Mommy", she said.

As expected Joseph loved riding on the lawnmower with Papa.
And indicated he wanted more strawberry shortcake after he finished his first bowl.

Jude is smart. He knows how to duplicate himself to make his kitchen job easier. Both J and Z demonstrate they are in the habit of cleaning up after themselves and seemed to enjoy being given chores to contribute to kitchen cleanup. Joseph, wiping the table, and Zoya, wiping down the cabinets. They are awesome!

I love this picture! Taken just after playing on the swingset and heading back in the house for dinner.

Liesel wanted to be sure and give Ava plenty of attention so she doesn't feel left out with the new additions. I think she is still getting plenty of attention...

And the highlight of the day........