Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Baby Steps

Our family is doing well. We had VBS last week, which means lots of late nights and hard work, but the payoff is totally worth it! We had more kids attend than ever before and so many awesome volunteers to help things run smoothly! What a blessing it is to have such a great church family! I am proud of how well things went! The girls all had fun and it was so neat to watch Isabella and Becca participating and learning! They all memorized the verse 1 Timothy 4:12 and the big girls got up with the music leader and sang. I was so proud of them, my heart was just about to burst. I think they are starting to understand more about God and why Tim and I are so passionate about serving Him. It is hard to remember that is definitely takes baby steps to change the way the think about things and to teach them what the Bible really says.

We had our first major issue with Becca. To make a long and hurtful story short... their birth mom contacted them via email after Becca searched for her on a site kind of like Facebook. We have handled it the best way we knew how and are praying that Becca will be able to move forward without too much curiosity to find out what her birth mom is doing. I took the liberty to email her and explained that she could not contact them and that I was their mom now. I know that she just wants money. I pray that she will find the Lord and someday understand the impact of her neglect on Isabella and Becca. I want us all to be able to forgive her and move on, but it is so hard. The more they open up about their life with her, the more I want to cry and punch her in the face. The other night at dinner Reagan said she wished she were still a baby and Becca said "Me, too, I wish I could have been a baby in this house." It breaks my heart.

Summer school is going so well! I love teaching the elementary kids with Bridget and Lauren. We have been having so much fun! It makes me really wish Bright Beginnings could expand to include elementary school. If only money wasn't an issue...

Our third and FINAL!!!!! trip to Latvia will be at the end of July. Tim will go with the girls alone again. The tickets are just to expensive for us all to go. All of the Latvian side is done, so now we just do the American side, so they can be citizens as soon as they land on American soil. There names will be officially changed and we can celebrate the finalization of their adoption. It seems like it has taken forever, yet it was one year ago this week that we met them for the first time! Wow! That is hard to believe! I think about how going into it, we knew there would be difficulties and struggles, but we weren't sure what they would be. Now we know some of it, but I wouldn't change any of it for any thing! There are people, I am sure, that look at our life and think we are crazy or hear about the negative things and think we made a mistake, but when I think about it, I can't imagine not having them in my life. As much as we are teaching them, they are teaching me so much, too, about life and love and trust and faith. It is amazing and frustrating and wonderful and difficult all at the same time. But do I regret it? NO WAY! God made us a family and every gift from Him is a blessing. Tim and I are learning that you can love all of your children in different ways and that the love for our big girls is naturally different than the love for Ryleigh and Reagan because we are still getting to know them. It is hard to admit that, but it is a different feeling and that is okay! We continue to bond and it just takes baby steps to integrate them into life here. It is definitely not something you can rush! There are lots of things to teach them, show them, and let them experience. I am so proud to have the privilege of being the mom of all my girls! And I can't imagine parenting without Tim by my side. We have learned more about eachother through this experience, too. Truly a blessing!

We have started a job chart for the girls that is working like a charm! They each have a list of jobs that doesn't change and then two jobs that rotate between the three older girls. It's nice to have the help and they do a great job with the chores. They get paid a dollar a day if they do their jobs. If they don't do one and someone else does it for them, that sister gets the dollar. One of the "jobs" on all their lists is Obey the first time. This is a phrase that has become quiet popular in our house! But it quickly ends the arguing and talking back that sometimes happens with preteen girls! They all chipped in last weeks allowance to buy Just Dance for the Wii and we are having tons of fun with that! It was nice to see them agree on something worth spending their money on. And they all bought Daddy gifts for Father's day with their own money and also donated to our VBS Mission, which was the Red Cross. Hopefully we are teaching them a little bit about money!

I am looking forward to July. We have my family reunion with my dad's side of the family, so the big girls will get to meet a lot of new relatives. Becca is playing in the Show-Me soccer games so we will all go to Columbia for that. And we are trying to work out a time to go to Wisconsin to visit my grandparents so they can meet Isabella and Becca, too. I am eager to rearrange and organize my office and have several little projects to do at home, too. And hopefully we will have time for swimming, family games of whiffle ball and Hillbilly golf, and lots of rest and relaxation!

I have realized lately the people in our life that can really be counted on and I am so thankful for the love and support that our true friends have shown us. When we are having trouble with the girls or something and someone just stops to pray with us, it is such an awesome feeling. I really appreciate those friends that know just the right things to say to build me back up after a difficult day. It would be so easy for people to judge us or criticize, but instead we are surrounded by people who love us and appreciate our hearts. We may not be perfect, but we try to live a Godly life, and when people can see that and know our hearts, we feel so loved and cared for. So, if that is YOU and you are reading this, THANKS!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Summer Begins

I'll just start by saying I have been overwhelmed lately. I have been filling in for the last couple of months for the Daycare Director position because we are in between real directors. It has been way too much to take on with all of the other responsibilities I have in my life, but there wasn't really a choice. I have not felt this busy and on edge in my life. So, obviously blogging has not been a priority. But I did want to post a few things to update everyone on our family...

We finished up the school year and all the girls were successful! Isabella and Becca will make the transition to the jr. high (where daddy can keep an eye on them!), Ryleigh will move to Boswell (where I used to teach, but thankfully there is a new principal), and Reagan will start kindergarten. I want the summer to go really slow, so I can enjoy them all before a new school year gets started! Time goes so fast...

Tim took the big girls back to Latvia last week for a court date. Everything went fine and after a 20 day appeal period, they will be officially ours in the eyes of Latvia and we will be able to make our final trip to finish up the American side of things so they can become U.S. citizens and legally change their names, etc. The judge was not nice and didn't smile (Becca's words) and had a lot of questions about their biological sister who is older. The social worker told the court that she had already had her children taken away from her, so she would not be fit to take the girls. Apparently, the judge wanted to make sure that not biological relative could take them. The girls did not show much emotion about any of this or about being gone for a few days. It is certainly a slow process helping them open up to real emotions. They were very excited that they got to swim at the hotel, though. Their flights were all smooth and great, except for delays in Chicago (Tim is boycotting that airport now!). I stayed home with the little girls and we survived just fine, but missed everyone terribly.

Our summer schools started today. I am taking Ryleigh and Reagan with me to Bright Beginnings' Summer in the Son program and Isabella and Becca are going to public school summer school. Lucky for us there are only 6 kids in their grade that are attending and the teacher is Isabella's teacher! I am glad they will be getting a lot of individual attention and instruction that will help them transition to Jr. High. Tim gets the summer off, except for teaching at Drury on Thursday nights. He is also going to drive the church van on field trips for my school! He's also going to come do science experiments! Both summer schools are only half a day, so we should have some down time as a family, which we desperately need. All the girls are going to take swimming lessons, too! Hopefully they will learn how to do the different strokes since they all can swim okay already.

I've had a lot on my mind lately about things I hear from others... People often say to us that we are such a great family and that Tim and I are doing such a wonderful thing adopting the girls. And to be honest, most of the time, I don't feel that way. It is not easy and it is certainly not an experience that is full of joy all the time. Tim and I have been struggling a lot lately with our emotions. There is very little time, if any, for us, and that is hard. When I am grouchy I don't feel like I am the right person to parent my four daughters. They have definitely seen me at my worst now and Tim, too. So, we are trying to do better and trying to balance everything. We know that we are so blessed that God made us a family and we need to really focus on bringing out the best in each other. I know my kids deserve better than the mom I have been lately and I am reevaluating my work life and how we can be more efficient at home with housework and all of our activities.

The girls are getting along pretty well, but you can definitely tell they are sisters. The preteen attitudes and bossiness is coming out in all 3 of the older girls. They love to correct eachother and tattle, but then they turn around and play for hours together. Becca and Ryleigh put on a show the other day using a bunch of science experiements and magic tricks they found in books. It was cute and very entertaining! Sometimes I can see that Isabella gets jealous of the bond forming between Ry and Becca and that is bothers her. I keep encouraging them to all find ways to play with each other and to never leave anyone out.

As crazy as life has been and as busy and hectic as we are, I still feel like we are one kid short to being complete. We are nearly 3 and a half years into our wait for our China baby and when we decided to adopt the big girls, we thought we would just play it by ear and see how things worked out. Honestly, I still want my little Reece as much as I have since the day we visited Reagan's orphanage. I just know there is a little girl that is meant for us and someday it will be our turn to make that awesome journey back to China to get her. All 4 girls talk about Reece like she is already a sister they have, especially Reagan. She always says she we have 5 girls in our family. I know she is going to be a great big sister! She is at the age now that Ryleigh was when we adopted her, which is so weird! It is neat to think about her getting to go to China and make all kinds of memories, just like Ryleigh did! She will remember it forever and have a better understanding of her adoption, too! I am excited for that! It is probably more than a year away, but it is something to be looking forward to for all of us. We will need all that time to rebuild our savings so we can all make the trip together (anyone want to come along and help us????).