Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Season is Upon Us...

It has been far too long since I have written a post and there has been so many times I have thought about it, but just didn't seem to get around to doing it. We have been hanging in there the past few months, and have had to learn how to adjust to a busy hunting season, paired with hours of homework and after school activities.  About a month into the start of school, I started to seriously question if I would survive until the end of hunting season, but I am here, and I survived.  The girls had about 3 hours of homework each night and it was hard managing their work, the little kids homework, getting supper on the table, running them here and there, all while Russie would be gone every evening.  BUT, it has gotten easier, and we have all learned how to adjust a little better.  The girls are doing great in school, and their studying and hard work is paying off, and they are learning so much, and getting very good grades.  We are trying to teach them that everything that you are successful at, requires a great deal of work to get.  

As this season is upon us, the season of Advent, I get so excited for what is to come.  I have been reading and preparing for Advent for the past week for our church.  I have been blessed by what the words and meaning of the season have done for me.  Advent, meaning "the coming" or the "anticipation" of Christ is such an important time for us as Christians.  This time of the year is often referred to as the "first advent," meaning anticipating and waiting for the first birth of our Savior.  When I meditated on this first Sunday on advent this morning, I was reminded of the faith it takes to wait for something. How easy is it at times to become impatient when we have to wait on something for God to do in our lives?  We become weary and start to lose faith at times.  We need to remember that waiting is part of the plan.  When Mary gave birth to Jesus, he was not born an adult savior, it took many years for him to become our savior.  Many years of him growing, and evolving into what the Father needed him to become.  For us, it is the same, we need to grow and to evolve before we are ready for the next path God has for us.  As we "wait" and "anticipate" this first advent this season, ask your self what it is you are waiting for God on, and pray for the faith to see it through.  I had mentioned about this season being the first advent, but let us not forget the second advent as well.  By human nature, we get so focused on the wrong things around us, that we often forget the real and eternal things we need to remember.  The second advent, refers to the second coming of our Savior.  If we truly anticipated the second advent the way we should, we would be bouncing off our seats everyday, much like my Bubba was tonight waiting for his Dad to say, "ok, it is time to leave to go to the hunting cabin."  So why are we not acting like that?  It is because we have lost focus, and our eyes can only see what is right in front of us.  It is only with devotion and a thirst for God that he can "lift our blinders" so to say, to see the real excitement and the real goal of eternal life with him.  I guess I write this at an appropriate time, as we are more sensitive to thinking about our savior and King in the midst of this season, but I truly hope we can all "anticipate" a little more this CHRISTmas season.  I will end with this story from about a month ago, that is not only a highlight of the year, but to this point, a highlight in my life...

About a month ago, I went to some revival services at a local church. The kids attend awana's at this church on Wednesday nights, so I had gotten a flyer in their bag the week before.  I decided that I wanted to go each evening, so each evening I packed up the kids and we went.  The one night it was just Laynie, Grace and I in the van on the way to church. Gracie was talking about her grandfather that recently passed away and was asking questions about him being in heaven and was thinking about what he might be doing up there. I started to tell her and Laynie the things about Heaven that are mentioned in the bible.  Grace continued to ask questions and Laynie continued to sit back and soak it all in.  At one point I found myself talking about the rapture and explaining how we get to Heaven.  Gracie was excited to talk about this because earlier this year, she made a commitment to God and asked him in her heart.  When I pulled in the church, I thought, wow, kind of a deep conversation to have in the car with my 2 little girls, but we went in, and my mind shortly forgot about our conversation...The next evening after we returned from church, I was helping Laynie get ready for bed, and she was telling me what the teacher had talked to them about that evening.  She said that the teacher also was talking about going to Heaven, like we were the night before.  Right there, in her bedroom, standing in front of me, with not a stitch of clothing on, my baby says to me, "Mommy I am ready."  I lifted my head quickly, and said, "Laynie you are ready for what?"  She said, " I thought about what you said last night in the car and I am ready to ask God in my heart, so I always know I am going to Heaven."  Talk about God's presence being with us in one of the most "normal" and routine parts of the day.  I quickly said to her, " Do you understand what it means to ask God in your heart, and do you understand how important it is?"  She said she did, and she asked me to pray for her.  There in her bedroom, with my little girl in front of me, we joined hands and I prayed a prayer of Salvation for her.  Five years earlier, she entered this earthly life as a naked babe, and that night getting ready for bed, she entered into her eternal life journey with God the same way.  After the prayer, she quickly jumped up and said " I am definitely going to heaven now!"  I don't think I have ever been more proud as a parent as in that moment.  My girl, of only 5 years, now understands what a life with God is all about.  There are many days, the daily stress and duties overwhelm me and make me question what in the world I am doing, and am I where God wants me to be.  I was so quickly reminded, that I am on God's mission field each and every day I wake up in this house.  It validated and confirmed for me, that it is the day to day decisions we make and do, that lead us to the most holy and most important things. I wonder now, what if I would have just turned the music up a little louder or turned a movie on for the girls in the car that night, instead of talking to them about Heaven, I would have may have missed out on one of the greatest moments of being a mother...

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Anya & Nastya 
We all have a part in God's plan, it is just up to us if we take it or not, and then what we do with it.  Right now, I sit in a quiet house, tired after a long day, but yet I am awake.  I am awake because God has called me to do something more, something that has meaning.  Today, that more, is help a friend.  I have mentioned our friends, The Shawley's numerous times in this blog.  They were called to adopt 2 girls ( pictured)  from the same orphanage as our girls.  There is no simpler way to put it, than, they need our help, and they need it now.   They are in need of financial support in order to be able to travel to get their girls.  They have stepped out on faith since the beginning of their process, and have watched how God has unfolded their story, layer by layer.  There are many people that doubt what God can do.  Many people think, well it is crazy for them to just come up with enough money to be able to make this happen. I say to those of you who doubt, how many people doubted that Jesus was in fact The Christ.  Even Thomas, Jesus's own disciple doubted that he indeed rose from the dead.  Thomas had traveled with Jesus and saw the miraculous things he had done, he had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, but yet he still doubted.  Thomas's human nature overshadowed his faith.  Let's not let our human nature overshadow our faith for God moving in this very situation.  Let us join together and do our part, as fellow christians, and help this family.  If you are a friend of mine on Facebook, you may have already saw that I created a pledge drive for Jim Bob and Mandy that is going on right now.  We are asking families, churches and individuals to give whatever they can to help bring these girls home. Have you ever felt like you wanted to have a part in something BIG?  This is your chance to have a part in a life changing experience that will effect not only this families lives, but everyone that surrounds this family.  Please message me on Facebook or send me an email if you know someone that is in a position to help and I will give you all the info you need to make a donation.  All donations are tax exempt.  After all this is what being a Christian is all about, helping those around us that are in need.  Time is an issue here, so lets pray this can happen and happen fast.  

Here is a link to The Shawley's blog if you would like to check it out and see their story :

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer of opportunities...

 To all those people who say, " oh after you have 3 kids, you don't even notice a few more" well they either say that because they are temporarily confused due to the amount of kids they have, or they are lying.  Adding 2 more kids to the household has definitely made us notice.  Although with the 2 older girls, there is not a dependance on us as parents, to help them with the daily things, like our little kids, there is a dependance for us to plan, love, nurture, and train them up in a way that is right.  It says in Proverbs 22:6, "train your child in the way that is right, and they will not depart from it."  I sometimes wish there would be additional footnotes or an explanation of certain verses.  I often wonder if we have enough time to train our girls up in the way that is right?  In reality, we only have 4-5 years until they may leave our home.  Is that enough time?  In essence, we have to mold them into different people from who they have been their whole life.  This is not something that can happen overnight.  Think about how hard for us it is to change one area of our life, like giving up something for lent.  For 40 days, we try and give up and change one thing, and even that is hard sometimes.  Even though this is a better life for them, it is still hard to give up and change everything about the life they once had.  I am so thankful that God has placed so many people in our lives to help us "mold" the girls into the people we want them to become.  With having so many kids, we are always feeling like, can we give all of them what they need right now.   This summer, God has taken over and provided his "earth angels" to help in the "training."  The girls have had so many great opportunities to be involved in this summer.  They have been to 2 different Christian summer camps, weekly youth group, Sunday school and church every sunday, and they just returned from a 5 day youth event called Impact, where churches from all over the state gather for an outside christian festival.  Russie and I both attended this event in high school and we are thankful for the opportunity for them to do it as well.  They are also getting the opportunity to travel to South Carolina with my Mom, on Sunday, to do a missions trip.  They are excited and anxious for the opportunity to help others.  I am blessed beyond words for God to have really provided these enriching opportunities for them this summer.  I guess all these opportunities for this girls is maybe "God's crash course" training for them, seeing that we lost so much time with them.  On a normal day, you are just thinking about what we are going to do that day, or what needs to be done, but sometimes it hits me, "wow, these girls have to make up for so much lost time"  Anslee told me the other day that she wished she could turn back time.  I asked her what she meant. She said she wishes she could have been in our family a long time ago so she could have seen the kids when they were babies and watch them grow."  I had never really thought about that before.  Not only have they missed out on so much as far as their life goes, but they have missed growing up with all of their siblings.  I pray that God will keep providing us with "alternative" solutions and feelings to make up for lost time.

Tonight I was prompted to blog because I was reminded of how far we have come and how hard it was to get here.  Our friends, Jim Bob and Mandy Shawley, are adopting sisters from the same orphanage.
 It seems like yesterday that we traveled the same path they are preparing to travel.  We went over there knowing God would do great things, and he did.  One of which, was the path he paved for The Shawley's and their soon to be daughters.  God opened the door for them to Skype and talk to the girls and begin the process.  The emotion of that came rushing back tonight as I wrote to Mandy.  I have thought about their girls often and remembered their smiles and the sunshine in their hearts.  I am so excited to see them again, and to see the Shawley family complete.  Please pray for them in the coming weeks as they prepare to travel.  They are still in need of financial help in order to travel.  Pray that God will provide them with what they need to complete the journey he has called them to do.  Please also remember the Raabe's in your prayers as they are preparing to bring home their daughter, Ana as well !!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What we do for the ones we love...

It has been a month since I have given an update, so I thought it was time.  Our summer has been fun filled and is flying by so quickly !!! The kids have been enjoying swimming, the park, time with friends, summer camp and bible school.  Anslee and Vika attended their first summer camp in America 2 weeks ago.  They traveled to Greene Hills to attend a teen camp with the Salt and Light ministry team.  They absolutely LOVED it and cannot wait to see all the friends they made there again.  They had story after story to share with us.  This is the same summer camp Russie and I both attended in high school, so it was neat for us, that they got to travel down a similar path that we once had.  The kids have all been a big help with the fawns this year and have all been pitching in to make this big family work.  We are looking forward to more summer camps and bible school for the kids in July.  In August, Anslee ( and maybe Vika ) is going to be traveling with my Mom, and a mission team, to SC to do various mission projects there. We are hoping to get away as a family for a few days in August before school starts, but are still waiting to see if that can happen.  My title is entitled, "what we do for the ones we love," so here is a story to explain that...

So today I officially conquered my fear.   Of all the fears out there, mine was scuba diving.  I don't like to go under water at all, so obviously this would make sense why I was scared. I don't even go swimming hardly ever, so this was so far out of my comfort zone.  Last year we cruised to Honduras and went scuba diving there and it was really beautiful and Russie decided after that, he wanted to get certified.  I was not as excited about the idea as he was, but after some convincing and a few pouty faces, I agreed.  When we went in Honduras, we had an instruction course and a dive master who basically did everything for us.  We were in warm, crystal clear water and could see forever, not the case here in PA doing the certification dives.  Last June, we started the course, did a written test, and a pool dive.  A year later, they called us and said we needed to finish our last 2 dives to get our cards.  So two weeks ago, we show up at the blue holes in Williamsburg, and they say, "ok, lets go"  My anxiety starts to build as I totally forgot most of the important things I should have known in order to dive.  I stride through my initial fears, and go get my wet suit and start to gear up.  Anyone who has ever done this, knows how just getting into a wet suit is a small victory.  By the time I finally squeeze in it and get the rest of my gear on, I am now sweating, mostly because it is a hot day and the wet suit is hot, but also because I realize it is time to jump in, and I am not ready.  They tell us it is really cold and the visibility is about 5-10 feet.  I jump in with my group and that is when the panic begins..."I can't breathe, my goggles are fogged up, what if I get to the bottom and panic, I forget all the skills and hand signals that I need to know....all these and many more thoughts invade my mind.  I feel my chest tightening and the breaths become short and labored.  The instructor is telling us what we have to do when we get down to 28 feet, and my anxiety is so high, that I can't even remember the little I did know 20 minutes before.  The others started to descend and I followed...but it was only for about 10 feet and then as fast as I could, I headed for the top.  I swam to the shore and the nice men helping, pulled me out and could see the fear in my eyes.  They helped me up the hill and sat me down.  I had heard people describe a panic attack and what it felt like, but  had never had one, until that moment...I sat there, struggling to catch my breath.  After about 15 minutes, I was calmed down and took off my gear and told myself that I would never do that again.  I knew that I had a slight fear of going underwater and not being able to breathe, but it was not until that moment that I realized how deep my fear really was.  When I was a teenager, I was trapped under a flipped over, sinking canoe, and could not get out from under the canoe because it was on the bottom and I was trapped in it.  My friend saw my hand from under the canoe, and was able to get it off of me.  I remember the feeling of thinking I was going to run out of air, and it all came flooding back that day.  After Russie got done with his dive that day, I could tell he was disappointed that I could not do it.  He had all these exciting and new places for us to travel to and experience together, and he realized if I didn't pass, it would not be like he had planned.  Despite my fear, I told him I would try it one more time for him.  So the next day, we go back and meet our group for the 2nd dive.  The anxiety was still there, but I needed to prove to him that I wasn't going to quit.  I get in, and realize it is still way too uncomfortable for me and that there is no way I can do what the teacher is telling us we have to do.  One of the guys there, offered to take me by myself and go down with me, and get me comfortable.  I did go down with him and it did help and make me realize if I wanted to, that I could probably do it.  They sent me home with a tank to practice with it in Loris pool, so the next day, Russie and I were down there practicing.  Yesterday, I went back to the Blue holes for another chance at the dive.  I was nervous, but had an assurance that I could do it if I tried.  I went down and did everything I needed to do and it felt good.  Probably better than my own feeling of accomplishment, was the smile on Russie's face when I gave him the thumbs up that I had done it.  He knew I tried it again and conquered my fear for him.  I went back today and did my second dive, and am now officially certified.  To most of you, this probably doesn't sound like a hard thing to do, and to most it is not hard, but for me, it was hard.  I had to convince the part of my brain that told me I could do it, to override the big part of my brain that said I couldn't do it.  I share this story because I think it can relate to a lot of other situations in life.  How many times do we let the "bad" part of our brain override the "good."  We let the devil convince us that we cannot do things and forget about the verse in Phillipians that says, " I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me"  It doesn't say, I can do most things, it says ALL things... including scuba diving.  There was actually one point during my dive today that I quoted that scripture.  I was so nervous about taking my mask off under water and putting it back on and clearing all the water from it.  As I started to do it, the water went up my nose and I started to feel panicked, but I calmed myself and said that scripture and was able to do it.  God gives us his unwavering strength to get through all the hard situations in life, and it is up to us to accept his strength or deny it....the choice is ours.

Monday, May 23, 2011

So busy !

I realized 2 weeks have went by since my last blog !  Wow, it has been crazy around here.  Fawns have started to come and Russie is bottle feeding about 20 right now, with more coming every day.  There have been spring sports, end of school activities, lots of cakes to bake, parties, and Heather and Torey's wedding is this Friday !!!!  It is hard to believe the wedding is finally here, we are all so excited ! I have had to rely on daily lists and constantly looking at my kitchen calendar to be able to remember everything we need to do in a day.  I remember a day last month, when it was just Madie and I here one morning.  I was folding some clothes and Madie was playing, so I thought.  I walked out in the kitchen and she had taken down my dry erase calendar and was just wiping off the last day of writing !  She was so happy that she cleaned it off for me, that I couldn't get mad at her, but my goodness, I instantly became panicked because our whole month of events had been erased.  I get school papers coming from 6 different ways and just write the dates on the calendar and throw the papers away.  So there was a few things I forgot last month, but all the kids got strict instructions not to mess with Mom's calendar.

We have had several things to celebrate since I last blogged.  Last weekend we celebrated my little brother, Dema's, first birthday in America.  He turned 10.  This was the first birthday party he has ever had, so it was pretty special.  The rain held off and the kids were able to have a camp fire, and play outside.

The kids also had a spring musical at school.  The theme was "God bless America."  I think it was their best program yet.  All the kids sang their songs so good.  They had a slide show during one of the songs with veterans who were all family members of the school, it was really touching.  Vika surprised us when her class got up to sing.  She is usually shy and backward, but she got up there and sang and smiled the whole time.  We were so excited to see her having a good time and feeling confident enough to sing all her songs while she is still learning english.

We also had a mother daughter dinner with our church this week.  It was special for me to be able to take all my girls with me.  I think it was meaningful for the girls as well to be able to attend a mother daughter dinner as well.  They enjoyed being there and participating very much.  We had several gift baskets that you could have the chance to win, and they are so excited to try to win them.  One of the things we said everyone could do to win tickets for the baskets was, if they sang a song, they would win 10 tickets.  Right away Anslee, asked me if the song had to be sung in English.  She said she wanted to sing one in Russian if she was allowed to. So her and Vika got up and sang a song in Russian together. I wish I would have recorded it, but I didn't, it was beautiful and I was so surprised at how good they sounded together.  It was a great moment and once again, I sat there in awe that they would feel comfortable enough to do that.  They have come so far in just a few short months, we all have...

Please continue to pray for all the families that have came through this process, or who are still going through it. There are so many emotions along the way and so many things that you cannot be prepared for or predicted.  There are a lot of families that NEED your prayers right now to be able to get through this process.  Hope you have a great week.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A great week !

Another week has passed by so quickly.  It is overwhelming at times trying to keep our family schedule straight!  We celebrated Laynie's 5th birthday this week.  Her real birthday was Tuesday, and then we had a party on Saturday for her at Delgrosso's.  The rain held off and we had a great time there.  It is finally nice to get a true taste of what May is supposed to be like.  I Love the month of May and there is always so much to look forward to; the smell in the air, the new flowers popping up, and of course mother's day!  I always feel so blessed and special on this day.  The kids all made me things in school, church and at Nanny's house, so I was flooded with Love, flowers, and pictures.  My day started out a little rough but ended well.  I have been battling a head cold and sore throat.  Russie pretty much had to drag me out of bed.  I felt pretty lousy most of the day, but the excitement the kids carried me through.  It didn't take long to notice how excited the older girls were that it was a special day for them as well as me.  I was thinking about it and how it must have felt for them to wake up and have a mother to celebrate.  The last 7 mother's days for them have been spent in the orphanage probably with hopes that they would once again have a mother.  I have always had a loving, amazing mother and never wondered what it was like to have it any different.  But this mother’s day, I realized what a blessing a mother truly is. I was watching a movie last night before I went to sleep. It was such a great ( and sad) movie. There was one line in the movie that stuck out to me and brought me to tears.  The boy in the movie said, “I would never want to miss out on something great, just because it is difficult”  I think that one line may summarize my life and duties right now.  Being a mother to 6 kids is difficult in so many ways, and there are so many times I don’t know if I will pull through, but I would NEVER want to miss out on the joy and greatness that motherhood brings, just because it is difficult.  I am so very blessed with 6 GREAT kids !

Russie took Anslee to Pittsburgh yesterday, along with Mick and Vika McCracken to get her official citizenship paper.  If you are over 14, when entering the country you have to get fingerprinted coming thru the border, you then have to have an appointment to obtain your citizenship certificate a few months after you are here.  Vika’s came in the mail because she is 13.  Anslee came home yesterday and said, “mama, I drive all day in the car to sign my name”  I chuckled at her when she said this.  The guy that was helping them at the appointment told Russie that this is the most important paper they will ever have and will need this paper the rest of their lives.  Although to Anslee it seemed like a long day just to sign her name, it was a very important step for her new life.

All in all this was a very good week for us.  We are getting ready to enter into our busy time, with fawns starting to come any day now.  We have to bottle feed the fawns four times a day starting out.  It is a round the clock job.  Russie will be sleep deprived in no time at all.  Beyond all the feedings, it requires a lot of extra time spending with the fawns to make them tame.  The little kids usually are ready for this job of petting them, naming them, and caring for them.  Laynie is our one that has a special way with the fawns.  There was a certain fawn last year, that would only let her feed it.  At any given time she could go in the pen and recognize which fawn was which, we bottled feed close to 30 fawns here last year, so that was a lot for a 4 year old to remember! We are hoping with 4 extra hands this year that the load may be lessoned a little. We are also praying that we have a good fawning year with no major outbreaks or incidents like in years past.  We have had several different happenings that have killed a lot of our fawns at once.  I am reminded of a day last year when Russie woke up to find a few fawns laying dead in the pen.  He had no idea what had caused this, there were no signs of bigger animals that may have gotten in the pen so he was at a loss.  I remember him running around and coming to get me saying there was something majorly wrong.  I went to the pen to see the ones that were already dead and the rest of the pen laying down fighting to stay alive.  It was a devastating feeling seeing our whole pen of fawns dying.  Most of these had already been sold to people, and the rest were the ones we were depending on for our lively hood.  I stayed in the pen while Russie rushed the dead ones to PennState to try to figure out what was wrong.  So many thoughts ran thru my head as I sat there trying to nurse the fawns back.  I noticed that they wanted to get up and walk and would try, but they couldn't.  I said to the kids to try to get them up and walk around.  So for hours, we would go around fawn to fawn helping them walk.  We found that we gave them too much worming medicine. It was a new brand and Russie used the same dose as he did in the past, but this one was much more concentrated and caused them to overdose on it.  It was attacking the fat in their brain, making them disoriented and slowly shutting down their breathing.  As horrible as a reality it was that day, that we almost lost our entire fawn herd, there was an incredible moment I will never forget.  Each year, Russie lets the kids pick a fawn to name and care for.  Bubba had picked one and named it Obie one ( after star wars )  He loved and cared for this fawn everyday.  It had grown great and was one of the bigger healthier fawns.  When he came out and saw her near dead, he was crushed and was in tears.  She was one of the sickest ones in the pens and she looked like she was not going to make it.  We sat there and he put his hand on her and we prayed for her to live.  I told him to keep trying to stand her up. So for hours he followed her, helping her walk the whole time.  When Russie finally got back with the vet and some treatments for them, Bubba was still trying to make his fawn walk.  I told Russie he had been doing that for hours and was not giving up.  We walked over to give his fawn some of the IV medicine and what we heard was precious.  Bubba was praying again, by himself, and said "God I know you are always listening, but just incase you didn't hear me before, please don't let my fawn die" Sure enough all the fawns in that pen lived and were running around the next day like they have never faced death the day before.  I know the determination and prayers of that little boy helped to save our fawns.  We do know God is always listening, but sometimes, just like Bubba, it doesn't ever hurt to ask again.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Are you stuck living on Friday?

So I am sure you are wondering what my title means, so I will explain.  With just celebrating Easter, I have had much reflection on sacrifice and resurrection.  I was reading a devotional last week and it was saying about Jesus dying on a Friday. We all know the story...the pain, the suffering, the ridicule until his body could not withstand any longer, resulting in his death.  During that day, and the time to follow, he took on the sin of man and faced everything we are faced with.  Do you find yourself being stuck in your suffering, your temptation, your pain ?  When we are in a period where we feel like everything is closing in around us, and we are afflicted, it is sometimes hard to see out of it and see past the dark clouds.  How must he have felt to have endured all that for us and for everyone to see, it was the ultimate sacrifice and act of humility.  It never says, that our days will be easy and perfect and that we too will not endure hard and trying times, but what we KNOW is that Sunday came, and Jesus was not dead.  Our pastor preached a message yesterday on "resurrection power." There is so much power in the resurrection.  I find myself struggling and trying to "hang in there" at times and wonder, how long is this going to be like this?  But I find peace in the fact that Sunday is coming.  Christ has risen from the dead, he has trampled death.  Regardless of whatever Satan tries to throw at us and how much he beats us up, let history speak for itself, and know that Sunday came, and that Christ is alive the same today as he was then.

God has really been helping me get through those hard and confusing moments lately.  We continue to see the fruits of our family.  It seems like every time we have a moment or an "episode" with one of the girls, we come out the other end stronger and more aware than when we went in.  We met at the lodge yesterday with numerous other families who have adopted, or are in the process of adopting.  It seems that each of the families have similar stories to share.  We have all had moments where we have wondered, " am I prepared and capable of this" and moments we have not understood things, it is comforting to have that support.  It has been good for the kids to have all these other kids to be able to get together with and share the "life in America" things that they are dealing with as well.  I have learned that you can never assume anything with the girls.  I think some times my expectations may have been too high for them in some regards.  You see them as what they are, 13 and a 14 year old girls.  In some ways, they are mature beyond their years, and have developed and a "toughness" to survive and have also had to grow up quicker than normal kids.  But it is so evident that there is so much they have never had or experienced before.  I sometimes assume they know how to do this, or do that, but reality is, even though they should know these things at their age, they haven't been taught or shown.  They are like dry sponges, wanting to absorb everything they can.  It has been good for Russie and I to sit back at times and see how far they have came in a short amount of time, and to see them do things that they have learned from us and from the people and surroundings here.  They are gaining confidence and gaining a sense of what a family is all about.  I know what it feels like for me to be going through this adjustment period, and experiencing all these new emotions,and trying to deal with them.  I cannot imagine what it must be like on their end.  They have never had anyone in their life that has loved them consistently and cared for them the way a parent should.  They have never been able to trust people completely.  They have never had an environment where they didn't live in some kind of fear.  They have never been told that they have been a "good" daughter, or have never had little sisters and a brother.  There are so many things they have never had or known before.  It is sometimes hard to remember this on a daily basis, but God is reminding me, to stop and remember where they have came from and realize they don't know what these things are to be like until they are shown or told.  It is a constant learning experience for them and for us.  We are thankful for the depth of God's love and how he has showed us his love for those who are labeled "unlovable."

We were excited this week to celebrate Lena's ( Russ and Lori's daughter ) 15th birthday.  It was a special day because this is the first birthday she has had in America.  She was glowing and was excited.  We had cake and ice cream for her with the family and then went roller skating.  Everyone had a great time and shared in her excitement.  We are excited to be celebrating Laynie's Birthday this week too.  She will be 5 tomorrow.  I have no idea where the last five years have went and how I ended up with this beautiful, independent, and smart little girl.  She has been such a blessing to us and has brought a completely different dynamic to our family. She is the strong willed child, who is determined and knows what she wants.  You cannot change her mind and we have learned there is little use trying to.  Although is a a bit more stubborn than me, I see so much of myself in her.  I tell her all the time, that when she was born, she stole my memory.  I used to have a sharp memory and never forgot anything, well that is not the case these days.  I always tell Laynie to remember things for me and she always does.  We are having a party for her at Delgrosso's on Saturday.  I hope she feels special and as blessed this week, as we do to have her in our family.

Here is the link again for the song I posted on my last blog, a few have said they were not able to listen to it, and also a second link to a song that Russie made me stop everything I was doing one day and listen to it., and some pictures from the week  

          Christ is Risen - Matt Maher - Lyr
                    Laura Story - Blessings

Also, as I was writing this, I got an email from Janna, the lady who did our home study for us, she sent me this link on youtube for a video a family had made that adopted through their agency.  I do not know this family but they are from PA as well.  It is a long video, but within seconds I was in tears and had to stop it half way to pull myself together.  It may not effect you the way it did me, either way, it is a great video and I enjoyed watching it.

Lena was very specific that she wanted me to make her a blue cake
with white roses.

Lena got rollerblades from her mama and papa for her birthday, she was thrilled !


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Holy Week...

As I sit here and reflect over this Holy Week, I am flooded with emotions, memories, and gratitude.  First and foremost, I am grateful for the one that paid the ultimate price so all of us can have a chance.  It is hard to fully comprehend the magnitude of the sacrifice that was made for us.  I am understanding each day that the less of myself I have, the better off I am.  A year ago, I never would have guessed I would be where I am at now, if God would have showed me the picture then, I would have laughed and said, " that looks nice, who would you like me to tell about your picture, because I know that is not me in the picture." Sometimes I still look at the picture and although I see myself in it now, I sometimes don't recognize myself.  I had mentioned previously about the emotions I have been facing and trying to make sense of.  I have realized that the person I was a year ago is not capable of handling what I have to handle now.  I have realized that I am being transformed and that I have to be "more" in order for this to work.  In every way, my new life requires more, and I guess at first I didn't realize how much "more" I needed to be as well.  I feel like our new family is a work in progress and if I could use an analogy ( for those of you who know Russie, this is how he likes to explain things..) I would say we are a rose bush.  Everyone knows what Roses look like and how the process works to have beautiful roses.  It starts with the soil, the soil has to be prepared and remain nourished in order for the bush to grow and produce beautiful roses.  Just like the bush, we have to be nourished in order to survive.  We also know that roses have to be pruned in order to produce more flowers.  I know when I go to cut back my roses every year, it makes me a little sad to cut off the branches.  The first time I had to do this I questioned and wondered how cutting it would make it grow better.  In the same way, Although it is not always enjoyable for God to "prune" us, he knows it is necessary. This is the phase I feel personally like I am at now. I feel the pruning in my life everyday.  I feel the branches that are being cut, I feel the pain of it.  Although, it may hurt at times, it is necessary and I am starting to see the picture of the next step of the process.  I took notice to my rose bushes outside my house the other day and I was excited to see the green leaves starting to grow on them.  Within weeks, there will be more green than brown, and not long after that, there will be beautiful fragrant flowers.  I see the potential that our family has, and it is like a beautiful rose every time I think about it.  There is one more thing to highlight about the rose bush though, always along with the roses, there will always be the thorns.  There will always be the thorns in our lives, even when the roses are beautiful and bountiful, because we are human and we will face hardships and temptations as long as we are in this life.  It actually comforts me to think about the thorns, because we are not expected to be perfect, we can't be, and it is okay, we can still bear beautiful fruit regardless how many thorns there are.  That is what God has showed me this week...and here is the some of the other details of the week that made it a full week for us...

Our Easter festivities began last Sunday with painting Ukrainian Pysanky eggs (check it out to see what they are .  The kids headed up to the lodge where they were meet by a lady named Francine, who had graciously offered to show them how to do this Ukrainian tradition.  I think the little kids may have been more interested and patient than the older ones !  Unfortunately, we only had 2 that made it home in good shape, the eggs are blown out, so they are very fragile.  Also this week Russie headed to Altoona with all the kids to get bikes.  He has been wanting to get bikes for the family for a few years now, and I guess he finally decided it was time.  Each of the kids had to pay for half of their own bike, and he paid for the other half.  When he told them what his plan was, they were on board. Vika asked " Pop, how much money are bikes?"  He gave her a ball park, and she said, "but Pop, I only have $6 dollars"  Anslee and Vika were excited to hear that in the cupboard they had 4 target gift cards with their name on them from their welcome home party.  They didn't understand even when they received them what they were, but when we explained they would buy them a bike, they quickly understood.  The girls told me when they got home, that this was their first bike that they ever had and they always wished they could have one of their own.  I guess mother nature didn't really get excited as we were about the new family bike adventures, because she has not provided too much ideal biking weather this week, but we still managed to find a few times to try the bikes out.  On Friday, we took the kids to rails to trails to ride. It was cold, but we went for it anyway, the last 2 miles we were determined to make it, even though it was hailing !!!  Russie and the older girls, and Erik and Lena, rode to Tipton last night, and the girls goal is to ride to Altoona, so if you live between Tyrone and Altoona, you may see a bunch of crazy bikers heading your way !  The girls also went to a youth event this weekend that they enjoyed very much.  There was many kids their age that went with them.  They were excited to tell me that they understood the preachers when they were talking and told me their favorite part of the event was communion by candle light.  I am grateful that they were able to understand the word of God, they have came so far in 2 short months ! 

Take notice of Bubba's face in this picture !

It was also very nice being able to celebrate our first holiday today with the girls.  We have been able to talk to them about what things they did in Ukraine to celebrate Easter and we were able to show them what it means for us here.  We told them that when they woke up today that there would be something special for them, they would just have to find it.  They had no trouble find their Easter baskets this morning and marvel at the things that were in it.  We got them each a bible in English, their favorite gum, a summer outfit, and some Ukrainian chocolates ( thanks to Dusty and Tina for telling us about the Ukrainian food store in State college )  They were amazed to see the chocolates and wondered how I got them. There was not too much extra time this morning to enjoy the easter baskets because we had to be at Sunday School by 9:00.  In the midst of my craziness to get all the kids ready and hair done, I heard 2 sweet voiced saying, "mama, we have something for you"  Grace led me to the kitchen and had a bracelet and a picture she had drawn for me on the counter.  She said I am sorry we stayed up so late last night, but we were working on this for you and Daddy.  Vika and Anslee had also stopped at a store when they were away for the weekend and got me a necklace and bracelet, which I wore to church this morning. There was so much joy for them when they watched me put it on, and the joy went two ways, I was overwhelmed by their thoughtfulness, it diminished the rush and the stress of getting everyone ready. I know I need to stop and concentrate on the moments like that a lot more than I do.  Just like I used the analogy earlier of the rose bush, we need to always remember to stop and smell the roses because there is a lot that goes into growing a beautiful rose...

Here is a link to a song that is my favorite song this Easter season...

The kids sang" Lord I lift your name on high" this morning.
Anslee finding Easter eggs, the big kids liked it just as much as the little ones !
Vika was excited that she found 2 money eggs !
Checking out what they got !

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It seems like the opportunities to sit down and blog are getting harder and harder, but there were 2 people today that said they are looking forward to my next blog, so I figured it must be time. I think a realistic goal may be trying to blog once a week, we will see how that goes!  
We are still cruising along day by day and continuing to adjust.  The newness and the amazement still continues as the girls discover things each day.  They discovered roller skating...and LOVE it !  We went a few weeks ago with our church and they had such a great time.  Anslee ended up with 2 blisters and several bruises, but said " it's okay, when can we go again? "  I am sure the other adoptive parents can agree with me when I say, these kids are so tough!!!!  Things that you think should hurt or bother them, they just shrug off and say, it is okay, I guess they have had to be tough to survive.  Russie was feeling very brave on Friday night, and took all the kids, plus Ana, Lena, and Erik rollerskating again, while I went to the lodge to help decorate for Heather's Bridal shower.  Joe and Ginger did meet him there to go roller skating, I think they were thinking 8 kids to 1 adult was way to crazy, so they thought 2 more adults may help him out..thanks to Joe and Ginger for that !  I mentioned Heather's Bridal shower.  She is getting married on May 27th.  For those of you that read this and don't know Heather, she is my sister in law ( and the sister that I never had).  She has met the Love of her life, and Russie and I could not be happier for her and her fiance, Torey.  We "showered" Heather with lots of love yesterday and lots of presents too !!  It was a very special day we got to share with her.  The girls had never been to a wedding shower and had a lot of questions as to what it was, but they enjoyed themselves and got to meet lots of people.  They did not fully understand the whole wedding thing either, so Heather's wedding will be their first to attend.  They did not understand why all the bridesmaids and groomsmen wanted to wear the same thing.  There are so many exciting "firsts" for them !!!
Two weekends ago, the girls also got to do another new thing, they went to a "revolve" youth event. Revolve is an event held numerous times a year at several different locations across the country for teenage girls.  They have Christian speakers, bands, and comedians.  Michelle & Paul Politizza took them, along with 3 other girls to the event.  They had such a great time and were so overwhelmed by how many girls were there.  They also were so surprised at all the different types of Christian music.  They both brought home some CD's and have enjoyed listening to them.  They are also heading to another youth event this weekend with the youth group they have been going to, they are excited for that as well. 

I feel like there is so many more things I could write about their adjustment, but I think I might head a different direction and talk a little about Russie and I's adjustments to being their parents.  I guess I may not be able to fully speak for Russie, but I know I have had a rush of emotions and adjustments. I reached a wall that I had never came to before.  I did not have one specific reason why I was struggling, or why I was feeling the way I was, I just know that I didn't feel like myself.  The girls were great and there was no issues with them to address, but I just felt burdened and I could not figure out why.  Usually I know what my problem is, and try to solve it, not this time.  The devil had managed to use a new technique on me.  He managed to combine confusion and uneasiness on me.  To keep a family of 8 running, I have to maintain some sense of order and routine in our house, and I have to be consistent or things start to unravel. I could feel myself unraveling and like I said, I wasn't even sure why!!!  Russie kept asking me, what is wrong with you? I couldn't even give him an answer.  At one point, he got very worried because he knows if there is ever anything bothering me, I ALWAYS talk to him about it. When I didn't talk, he was worried, and quite frankly, so was I. After a long few days of trying to self diagnose, prayer, and talking to a friend, I started to feel God slowly lift me out of my "fog" and place me back to reality.  The best I can make of it at this point was the devil saw me becoming overwhelmed and he jumped on the opportunity to work his way on me, making me unaware and confused while doing it to me.  I just wanted to run away and be alone 
( which is not an option for me) I am thankful that God has already defeated the enemy and always will and that he prevailed on my behalf and won again for me.  I know that these moments will probably creep up on me again, but I will have a better knowing of how to handle it.  There are some days, that I am so overwhelmed and cannot process another thought or action, but I know it is to be expected and that God will continue to strengthen me and my family.  He is refining each of us and pruning us to be better and live better.  I have learned that although I have no idea where we are going to end up, I know that I am not jumping out of his hands, I want to rest in his nail scared hands and never forget the Love and mercy he has for me.  Russie and I have both learned so much about ourselves and continue to learn how to be new parents to these girls.  There are so many moments where it is so easy and takes little effort to Love and care for them, and then there are moments where we look at each other and are at a loss for how to handle it.  We knew very little about their past going into this, but we are slowly uncovering things about their life before they came to the orphanage that we are going to have to seek God as to how to approach and deal with.  The attitude they have towards their biological parents is not negative, not resentful, but is matter a fact and they talk about the abuse they endured like it is normal.  In a way, I am thankful for this, that they harbor very little animosity towards their biological family or the life that they had before, but I also know that as they continue to learn what a loving family is, that they will start to realize the things they went through were not normal and were not right.  Thanks so much for your continued support, prayers and words you have enlightened us with, our family has needed and appreciated them beyond what words can say.  Have a great week !

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Our new "Normal"

It is hard to believe it is April already and that the girls have been here for almost a month and a half.  We are all still adjusting to our new "normal."  Having the girls here has created a new normal for us. Basically in a nutshell, mainly "more" of a lot of things, and "less" of a few things...More people in the house to care for, more directions to head, more responsibliity, more bananas to buy at the store, more clothes to wash, more mom and dad conversations, more meaning to our lives, more reasons to smile, more hugs, and more "I Love You's."  As far as the "less" goes, mainly it is in the sleep department.  It takes more effort to keep our house running now, and requires a sacrifice of sleep.  We go to bed an hour or 2 later now because it is the only quiet time Russie and I get at home once the kids are in their rooms, all the kids have to be in their rooms by 8:30 on school nights. The little kids fall to sleep to a movie, Gracie is allowed to read or watch TV until 9:00, and the older girls, get showers and read until 9:30-10:00. We get up an hour earlier to get everyone ready and fed for school as well. Overall, we have made the nessesary adjustments and are trying to adapt to them as best as we can. 

In my last blog, I mentioned that Vika had a great morning getting ready for school and that there were no tears shed, well I was giving it a few days to see if this was going to be "normal" or if that morning had just been a fluke and would return to tears the next day.  Well two weeks later, there has not been another tear or another ounce of resistance as far as school goes.  Last week they started going all day, every day and are adjusting very well.  They have gotten into their routine in the morning and set their alarm and get up on their own and get ready every morning.  Anslee has a school van that picks her up at our house every mroning at 7:05.  She gets up at 6:00 and is ready by 6:50 and then comes up stairs and wakes the little kids up.  She says she likes waking them up in the morning, and I think they respond a little better to her tickles, than they do to my voice in the morning, so it works out.  The van then drops her off at our house at 3:05.  There are 3 other kids that ride in the van with her, one boy is in her class at school, so she said she talks to him. I am breathing a bit easier now, because it seems like the school thing is working out and is becoming routine for all of us now.  Although, we have gotten over that hurdle, there are still other issues we are sorting through.  Amazingly enough, Anslee has been almost too easy for us and we have not had any real problems with her yet.  She has been a huge asset to our family and has adapted so well.  Vika has had a harder time.  We knew her lack of self confidence would keep coming back and it does from time to time.  She has already made serious ground since she has been here and we know she will continue to do that.  One major issue that is attached to self confidence issues is trying new things and gaining confidence in her surroundings.  If Russie or I are with her, there is never a problem, and she will try whatever we are doing, but if it is something she has to do without us, she gets scared and uncomfortable.  We understand this and are trying to learn how to handle it.  We have learned that she has no idea of what being a part of a family is.  We are trying to teach her as we go.  In the orphanage, she was picked on a lot and had to stick up for herself.  Anslee told us yesterday, that Vika always would stand up to the other kids and the teachers, reguardless of how much bigger they were than her.  She has learned that in order to survive, she had to be a little fiesty and depend on herself to get by. We admire the fight in her, but we are trying to refine that in a positive way. We are trying to teach her in certian situations how to cope and deal with things differently.  We had a hard moment the other night where she got fiesty with me and would not back down and would not listen.  I knew that I had to be firm with her, and not let her get away with acting that way.  I had to give her consequences and take a few things away from her for a few days. I realized that there are not too many things I could take away.  She has no cell phone, no ipod, no TV in her room, and she does not really want to go anywhere. So, although I didn't want to, I had to tell her she couldnt go to dance class last night.  I felt bad taking it away, because she enjoys it and is good at it, but I was hoping it would teach her.  After we got home from dance, Vika was in her room.  Grace was in there with her. Grace told us a few things Vika had said to her that were not very nice things.  Grace did not seem upset or worried by the things Vika was saying, but she was wanting to know how she could help us with her.  As a parent, it was one of my proudest moments.  Grace relayed the things she had told Vika to us.  She told her that being part of a family is not always easy, but a family lasts forever and a family always loves each other.  She told her that when one of them does not listen to Mama or Papa they have to get punsished and take things away because they want us to be good kids, she said that she told her about a few times she got things taken away from her.  I was overwhelmed with emotion when I heard my 8 year old say these words to me.  Gracie said to me, Mom, I know Vika didn't mean the things she said to me, she just doesnt know what a family is yet, I am going to try to help her understand.  I have never been so proud of Grace than I was in that moment.  She could have easily got mad, walked away or joined in with Vika saying negative things, but she didnt. Russie and I were talking about how to approach the situation when we hear a knock at our door, it was Vika.  She was sobbing and the only words she could get out was, I am so sorry Mama.  For 20 minutes she cried and cried and could not even talk.  We consoled her and explained to her why we had to punish her and how we need her to act, and that we are here for her to take care of her.  She went and apoligized to Grace and told her goodnight.  We know that this all had to happen for her to grow and learn how to deal with the emotions she has brought with her, that have been left untreated for many years.  I realized last night, that in the moment of me doubting myself and trying to figure out what we were going to do and if I was even equipped enough to do it, that God was already taking care of it.  I said to Russie, I am not sure I am cut out for this, but moments later she was in there and ground was won.  I realized that it is okay that I am not always going to know what to do or say or be good enough, but God WILL equip me for what I need to do, and he will take care of the rest.  Last night, he took care of the rest through Gracie and Anslee.  First, my little Gracie talked to her, and then Anslee was able to get through to her as well.  It was the first time since the girls got here that I saw us function as a family to resolve something together.  I know that these are growing pains and are essential for all of us to grow and adapt.  God is so faithful to us and has made his self so present in our household.  We are looking foward to everything he has in store for our family, and we are enjoying the journey, even on the hard days.