Wednesday, November 30

How this works...

I posted before leaving about all the prepping for me to go... The things I did to get the household ready so that I could leave the country for nine days. What I haven't posted yet is the awesome people that have stepped up to help while I'm gone.

First off, the man doing most everything and keeping life going on the home front... Michael. Mike is getting all 8 kids up and dressed with shoes (mostly) on and glasses (mostly) on and everyone's lunches together and folders signed and everyone out the door to their prospective school or other place for the day. A few days he has help, some he doesn't.

Michael is also doing baths and medications and getting out (already set out) clothes, and making sure everyone gets their time and love and attention every day. He's doing great, and the kids are having a good time. What a blessing Michael is. Not every dad can survive a solo weekend with the kids, much less our busy crew for 9 days!

Both sets of grandparents are also helping out! Since Brianna and Lynae only go to their church program 2 mornings a week, grandmas stepped in for the other three mornings as well as the time between when their church program ends and the other kids get out of school. It is wonderful to have grandparents that are willing and wanting to spend time with their grand kids! They also each took an afternoon to invite one or two kids to their house to have some extra special play time.

Our friend Chris invited Kristopher to come play one afternoon making this a special week for him :).

We also have two GREAT babysitters that are watching the kids in the afternoons. Both of them have been not only watching whichever kids need it each day, but they also have been left a list of honey-do's for the afternoon! They are unpacking backpacks, cleaning our lunch boxes, defrosting and starting dinners (pre-cooked before I left...), and starting the laundry and/or dishes if there's a need.

Things are going good back at home, and I'm thankful to be able to enjoy this time with Shelley and Annikah and our new friends here in Bulgaria and not have to worry that the kids, or my husband, or any of our caretakers are overwhelmed or stressed out.

God provides for every need, and we are thankful that He doesn't overlook the details when making those big picture plans!! THANK YOU to all that have helped out with the kids, prayed for our family, or otherwise been a part of this trip!

The goal was met!

In an amazing six hours, the goal was met to provide the Bulgarian parent group with the funding to print four thousand educational brochures with the TRUTH about Down syndrome on them! Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, November 29

Brochures for babies...

The Down Syndrome group parents that Shelley and I met with on Saturday night let us know something that we could do that would geatly help them to educate and advocate here in Bulgaria. It's something that would help parents, educators, doctors, friends, neighbors, and anyone else with a curiosity or interest in Down syndrome in general! The goal is to create, with information and tools already available to them, four different brochures which would each tell about one area of Down syndrome. For instance, one on birth to three years, one on medical interventions, one on education, and one on community living. The actual topics would be defined as they are put together, but along those general lines. The printing isn't costly, but it is money they just don't have sitting around ready to go. The info, the knowledge, the printing resources, and the desire to send them to hospitals, schools, government centers for women, to therapy centers, and to new parents... Those are all ready to go!

Will you play a part in publishing these four brochures and providing one thousand of each for circulation in Bulgaria? The cost isn't huge... $450 US dollars including paypal fees. the reward, however, is GREAT!

Tomorrow Shelley and I and Annikah will spend the day with one of the directors of the Down Syndrome group here. Tanja's family are American missionaries living here in Sofia and have four children, one of whom has Down syndrome.

If you would like to be a part of this, we would love to raise the money THIS WEEK and leave it here with the group when we leave! The need is great, but God is the provider, and I truly believe that this is one of the areas where a relatively small amount of money, if raised in small amounts from many, can amount to a GREAT amount of awareness and education here in Bulgaria!

CAN WE RAISE THIS MONEY IN THE NEXT THREE DAYS? Chip in will close on Saturday, and any money raised by late Friday will be given toward this project before we board the plane on Saturday :).

(the small print: money raised after we leave will be wire transferred at a later date. Chip in goes to Shelley's personal paypal account so it can be sent to her via hubby immediately as it arrives)

To chip in, please click the link below:

Monday, November 28

Bulgaria!

We are here in Bulgaria, Shelley and I. We now have her new daughter, Annikah as well!

Someone stopped on the street while Shelley was paying for some groceries and I was outside with Annikah. I'm pretty sure he told me what a beautiful little girl and so well behaved she was, since I have absolutely no idea what he was actually saying... But he was smiling and nodding at the little one, so one can only guess that it was nice, right? :)

A little something to leave you with... Shelley swears that the hotel we are staying in is more of a business hotel than a tourist hotel, however some moms from the Ds parent group told us it is where the "prostitutkas" go. That word I could translate pretty well :).

Anyway, we haven't made their acquaintance just yet but weren't so surprised to find this in the minibar in the hotel room. The liquor, not surprising. The box of other goods were a bit more of a shocker though :)

By the way, it isn't a prostitute's hotel, but there are those around and they aren't so far away... And the business men just might be here to find a wife...

The only thing we can read on the "love" box is that they smell good.....

Wednesday, November 23

Our visit with the Comellas!

We had such a nice time visiting with Lisa, Dan, Elaina (sorry if I misspelled it…) and Danny today!  They were in FL at Disney and took the time to drive out to our place and spend the afternoon with us.  What a blessing to get to know their family! :)

Here’s Lisa and I with the ten kids…

 IMG_2828

Lisa with Brianna (excuse Brianna’s horribly long bangs... they are cut now though! LOL)

IMG_2840 

Elaina with James.  They were buddies :)

IMG_2842 

Emma took to Lisa like she doesn’t take to many people!  She wanted to hold Lisa’s hand, sit with her, and smiled (and was clapping) sitting with her!  They had such a sweet little instant bond!

IMG_2843IMG_2851

Danny was thinking it’s pretty fun to hold the younger kids after he held Lynae in the group picture.  Micah—wasn’t as sure :)

IMG_2848

Tuesday, November 22

Wow, what a blogging break...

There's been quite a lot going on the last 10 days or so!  It's been an emotional roller coaster in some ways and just busy in others.

We've had an abundance of Orlando appointments the last week or so including having 5 kids fit for orthotics.  One set is ready now, but we're going to hold out for the next two to be done to make that drive again!

In addition to the 'normal' life stuff, I've been doubling up on everything, making extra meals for all of the kids, extra dinners for the family, and sorting out clothes to get everyone ready for me to LEAVE!

Yes, that's right... I'll be heading over to Bulgaria with my good friend Shelley for NINE days!!  That means setting up child care, lunches, dinners, smoothies for the boys, clothes for the week, and anything else I can accomplish in order to help Michael out so that he can have a GOOD time with the kids while I'm gone :).  Shelley is adopting a little girl with Down syndrome that's just a couple weeks older than Brianna.  I'm excited and blessed to be able to go with her and help her and her sweet daughter home!!

I'm excited to be meeting up with friends tomorrow and ALL the kids will be home!  Then Thursday is Thanksgiving, and we'll be having our feast here at the house with just the ten of us.  After dinner I'll be putting up leftovers, freezing what we can and setting up lunches for the family with some of them while I'm gone.  Then... we're going to head out to visit with family here in town then back home to do my final preps for the trip.

A busy, but good week.  Now it's time for a busy week of another sort, and a week of travel!! :)

Please keep Shelley and I in your prayers as we travel, and her new daughter as she transitions to her new home!  Also pray for Michael since he'll be doing the 'single parent' thing for a week.  And our childcare: Mike's parents, my parents, and Katie and April.  Also, my sister and brother in law that are helping with horse therapy while we're gone, and whoever else might be in and around and affecting our household and children and Shelley's adoption and her family and... the list goes on :)

THANK YOU! :)

Monday, November 14

The Orphan and the Call to Help

If you are a Christian...  I say this because this post isn't necessarily meant for those that don't call themselves by Christ's name.  Not because they won't find it equally as informative, but because they are not required to live by a standard set by the Bible, God's Word in text.  Many do, however, uphold the Biblical morals and so much more.  More so than some who call themselves Christians even.  However, those who are not Christians do not have an obligation to the Faith.  A standard set by Christ himself that we as people and followers of Christ should strive to be like.

Ok, intro over.  If you are a Christian... you are called to care for the orphan.  So, what do you do?

  • Adopt
  • Foster
  • Support financially an organization working in children's interest
  • Advocate
  • Volunteer with children
  • Volunteer with an organization
As a Christian, there's another part to it all.  There is a cycle of poverty, neglect, child removal, parental rights termination, and then the child growing up to be an adolescent aging out of the system in poverty, then neglecting their own child bringing another generation of foster children and parental rights termination.  That's not to say that every person raised in poverty will perpetuate this cycle, nor that every child that was in 'the system' will go on to do the same.  It is a cycle that some get 'stuck' in. 

God's call to the orphan is not just to bring them in to families, but to change that cycle.  To bring them to an understanding of Jesus Christ.  To show them the love of a real family, and to bring them to desire to see their own life changed.  If they go to a foster home with someone that doesn't hold to the Christian morals and standards (though MANY people that are not Christians do...), then how does the cycle break?  How do the children in 'the system' get to know God, how do they have the opportunity to understand true love?  How do they get the 'out' of the system that they all so desperately need?

As Christians, we need to provide for the least of these.  We need to provide not just by praying, but by investing our lives in it.  Finances, time, love, or even the extra bed in our home (or even... a brand new bed, made to fit especially for a foster or adopted child).

If we, the church, do not care for the orphan, who will??  Do we expect non-believers to take care of the orphans? And are they also to bring the children that have seen the most neglect and abuse and hurt in their lives to a place of comfort and healing that, as Christians, we know comes fully only through the saving power of Jesus Christ?  

I have no doubt that there are many great foster homes where the parents are not Christians.  Many kids are finding some semblance of normalcy and peace there.  I am not arguing that Christians should be the only ones doing it, or somehow the non-believers shouldn't be allowed or able to do it.  I am simply saying that, as Christians, with a Biblical call to call to care for the orphan, and a Biblical call to share the healing of Christ Jesus with the world, that it only makes sense that we should also be trying to provide for those that are in the most need.

I found a statistic yesterday that I'd heard before in general terms but this one is more recent.  It says that there are 127,000 legal orphans in the United States waiting to be adopted.  There are 302,000 churches in the US.  WHY ARE THERE STILL ORPHANS IN THE USA???  Where is the church??

Out of every FIVE churches, if TWO of them each helped ONE FAMILY in their congregation to adopt a child from the USA, there would be no more children waiting.  TWO out of every FIVE churches.  

In the same way, as you follow a calling to support orphans internationally, I strongly suggest that you use an organization that is a Christian organization if possible.  Someone that will be accountable with the finances.  An organization that will share the Gospel with others as they minister.  If you are adopting, choose an organization that will not only call themselves Christians, but can easily say that their partnering organization in the other country is also Christian. There's nothing like signing on with a ministry only to find yourself in the care of someone of questionable morals, ethics, or actions when you arrive in a foreign country.

We are ALL CALLED to care for the orphan!  And there are so many different ways to be involved.  Call your local foster/adopt agency to see what the requirements are in your area.  Find out about taking the PRIDE (formerly MAPP) classes to foster or adopt.  Ask your local children's home whether they have a Christmas Angel Tree where you can provide a gift for one of the children in your community for Christmas, or a way to donate toward their Christmas dinner.  Join a program of sponsorship for a child that is in an orphanage overseas to provide a 1:1 caregiver for a child that cannot feed or care for themselves, support missionaries that are working in orphan care, or donate a wheelchair through an organization that distributes them to the needy in foreign countries.

SO many ways.  How will you be a part of the answer?  How will you, as a Christian, share God's life and light with those who need it the most?  

Saturday, November 12

Horse Therapy!

Before I tell about horse therapy I want to THANK everyone that prayed for our family today!  The decisions we were asking for prayers about have been made, and God has made them CLEAR!  We praise Him for that!!

Ok... horses!!  Of course, I forgot my camera...  My sister and her husband had cell phones, but those pic's aren't uploaded yet, so they may or may not come.

Today Micah got on a pony first.  He LOVES the horses!  He rode, grinned, flirted with the girls walking his pony and side walking, and just ENJOYED it all!!  Kristopher got on a big horse and enjoyed it too!  He was a little more cautious getting up, but his week he's going to have his first riding lesson (since he's not needing therapy...) during this time.  He enjoyed it and I think it will give him a great confidence in him as well :).  Lynae rode the pony after Micah and loved it too!  She had a combination of working hard on the horse and being lulled, and she was about ready for bed when she got off!

Aleksa's ride was a little more interesting.  Though she typically makes things more interesting on her own, this instance was even MORE interesting than she could have provided :).  She got on, rode for a bit with a side walker, and the owner of the therapy organization and I talked about how she needs an adult side-walker that can help keep her in the saddle of the big horse, since she's got such low tone that she'll slink off to one side.  The owner ended up finishing up her session as her side-walker, and what ended the session was when Aleksa was thrown from the horse as it laid down and began to roll!

ALEKSA IS FINE!

The owner grabbed her quite literally in the air and pulled her away.  YES, she got dirty.  OH YEAH, she got scared.  AND SO DID I!  I watched it happen and went immediately out, but she really is ok.  The horse was tired, and my understanding is that this isn't the first time she's done this.  YIKES...

Anyway, everyone responded quickly and calmly, everyone is safe, and best part of all?  Aleksa doesn't realize that that's not supposed to happen :).  She will, inevitably, get right back on the horse when her turn comes around again in a couple weeks!  She's quite a trooper :).

Next time I'll try to have pictures! :)

will you pray with us?

We are asking for discernment today, and that God will direct our path, guide our conversations, and ultimately make His Will ABUNDANTLY clear to us and those around us. THANK YOU!!

Tuesday, November 8

Isn’t It Amazing… What Love Can Do?

This week marks 14 years since Michael and my first date.

BEST 0025

I’m pretty confident that I never in my wildest dreams imagined we would have eight beautiful blessings right now…

BEST 0117

Aleksa has grown and changed so much.  She is by far our most challenging child to parent right now, but wow, what a blessing it is for us to look her in the eye (she will sometimes make eye contact :) ) and tell her we love her.  It is amazing…

BEST 0192 

Emma is such a little GIRL now, no longer the infant-like preschooler we brought home.  She is WALKING, and communicating, and we are continuously amazed by what this sweet little girl figures out!

BEST 0093

Our handsome little man that is growing and changing every day.  Kristopher has such a tender heart toward his siblings as well as other children with challenges.  He’s such a loyal brother and friend and a sweet sweet boy :).

BEST 0046 

Wesley has come alive!  His head nods and sense of humor are his best ways of communicating, but the light in his eyes says “I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about!”  What a joy to see him continue to mature and reach his potential!

BEST 0076

Brianna’s determined nature continues to come out, and to be pruned and molded.  I’m enjoying our homeschooling and so is she.  It is amazing to see what she knows and find new ways to teach her each day.   Brianna’s sweet spirit has come alive and she is such a joy.

BEST 0161

Goodness, how James has changed in the last few months!  Our “little wild man” has calmed SO much.  A mixture of maturity and diet, he has molded in to a young man that I didn’t think we’d ‘see’ for a few years still.  James’ playful and alive nature is still very well intact, however, and his cheerful attitude is contagious!

BEST 0037

Micah has matured so much in the past months as well, and he’s met milestones as well!  Our newest little person in UNDERWEAR is a great start, and he is such a little helper now.  Micah loves to snuggle still, which is one of the first qualities that new friends always notice about him.

BEST 0151

Lynae is all SPUNK.  Our sassy little two year old knows she is loved and wants to make sure she gets as much cuddling and snuggling as possible, whether it’s with Mom, Dad, or Brianna, Lynae loves to sit close.  With so many older siblings and such an atmosphere of therapy and learning, we are always amazed at how much Lynae picks up of the stuff we are teaching the older kids. 

BEST 0144 

And this picture, well, they didn’t have to convince me to sit with my arms around him.  Fourteen years after that first date, I am so glad God brought us together!

BEST 0006