We have been blessed with two special daughters and two sons from Eastern Europe. We welcome you to follow our journey as a family of five, waiting to travel and pick up #6, with the ins and outs of family, education, farm life, and love!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mexico mission-The Work

Let's just say, on this mission trip, I used muscles I haven't used in a LONG time.  I have helped my Dad on the farm over the years, I lift Mila's manual wheelchair daily.  I carry leggy Mila here there and everywhere. None of this compared to the lifting I did in a weeks time in Mexico.

Jared had told us there was concrete to pour.  Somewhere in my mind I though it would be a small job, or play a small part in our week's work.  Instead, we poured concrete almost every day.  Sometimes, we poured concrete twice a day!  I think I could now tell you the mixture in my sleep--three (buckets of) rock, three (buckets of) sand, one (half bag of) concrete, one bucket of water.  Dump and repeat.  While the guys did the lifting of the buckets and carrying the wheelbarrows, the girls shoveled rocks and sand into the buckets and had them ready each time a new batch was made.  On top of mixing and pouring concrete, we dug dirt out of a hillside to put into low spot on the playing field, we tied re bar, painted, and worked with kiddos on English.
Start of day 3 concrete
A determined helper
Taking a break between pours
Long day of pouring concrete

Just one of two sand piles we filled buckets from.
The work was tough.  Looking at a pile of sand and a pile of rocks, one thinks to herself "no biggie".  Well, after countless buckets, it is a biggie.  Advil was my good friend during the week.  Thankfully Jesse commented as he shoved the buckets into the pile of sand (and filled the bucket part way), "I know what it's like to be a bucket filler".  This guy, big muscles and all, who made picking up a filled 5 gallon bucket look like rocks were marshmallows, validated my work.

There was time to spend with the kids each day, but there was lots of work to be done as well.  Truth be told, I loved spending time with the kids, but the work was very rewarding.  A team of twelve extra people arrive.  Heck, if I was on staff at the orphanage, I'd make us work too.  Twelve extra people make a huge difference!  We poured over 10,000 pounds of concrete!!  Seven different slabs.  We became a well oiled Ohio machine.  Looking over our work at the end of the week was very rewarding.  Knowing we made a small dent in the work that is still to be done was gratifying.  With sore muscles at the end of the day, I wish we could have done more in a weeks time.
5 of the 7 slabs we poured.  This will become a sports activity area for the kids.

Slab we poured on the roof and dirt we filled into low areas.

Miguel is 5 and such a helper.  He could sling some dirt.  Sometimes I had to race him to the shovel!

Jared gave one ride....and then Diego wanted one every trip Jared made.

Mexico mission, the trip

Ive been home from Mexico for three weeks.  There has been so much on my heart since that trip, I needed time to process it.  I needed time to pray and thank the Lord for all his great blessings.  I can't wait to tell you all about my trip. There is so much I want to tell, I decided to break it into three parts-- The Trip, The Work, The People.

The Trip

When I heard about the mission trip to Aguascalientes, Mexico, I was determined to go.  I LOVE being in the presence  of kids.  And since the day we stepped in an orphanage in Eastern Europe in 2007 to adopt Hannah, I have never felt closer to God, than when we are adopting and caring for orphans.  So when our church announced the trip, I wanted to go.  What made the trip even sweeter was our good friends, Jared and Bethany were going on the trip.  Jared was leading the trip.  Jared has traveled to the orphanage in Aguascalientes twice before.

Jared- our fearless leader, after one of the many days of lifting buckets of rock and sand to mix concrete.

As with every mission trip, you are encouraged to send out letters to friends and family to ask if they would help fund your trip.  This is the part I always struggle with.  I do not like to ask others for money.  I know what it is like to go through a season of financial struggle.  I also knew that at this point in time, we as a family did not have the funds to finance the trip ourselves.  I sent out some letters and prayed.  Slowly, money came in.  There was a deadline that a certain amount needed to be raised, and I was short of that amount.  I was beginning to question going.  Maybe this wasn't where God wanted me.  Maybe my place was at home with my children.  One evening I texted Jared to say that I wasn't sure if I would go.  The funds were not coming in and we didn't have the money to supplement.  Then he texted me back and said "your trip has been paid in full, stop stressing and have a good evening".  I'll never know who funded the rest of my trip, but I know that God was giving me a true sign that I was going on a trip in June to love on some kiddos.

As time drew near the trip, doubt started to creep in.  Doug will tell you I'm a 'worst case scenario" person.  I plan for the worst case scenario, because if it happens, at least I'll be prepared!!  I began to worry about my kids, my family that I was leaving behind for a week.  And to make matters worse, I have one (we now know two) kiddos that have separation anxiety.  It's interesting how many buried emotional scars our children carry, even after years after being adopted.  Thankfully, our flight out of Columbus was early morning, so I tucked the kiddos into bed the night before and I was gone in the morning when they woke.  I think that is way easier (on both of us) than a teary goodbye at the airport.

I was the only single on the trip.  Every other person took a spouse, son, daughter, or mother with them.  And then there was me.  The single.  The only claim to fame I had was having the most stamps in my passport...and knowing how to pack a suitcase to the max weight without being over 49.5 pounds!
Jordan and I on our first of two flights to Mexico.
Customs was very different in Mexico than the other countries I have traveled to.  No passport control person behind thick glass with a small hole in which you pushed your passport through.  The lady smiled--very unlike the other countries I've traveled to.

Jesse picked us up at the airport.  Jesse and his family are originally from Canal Winchester.  After several mission trips to Dulce Refugio, Jesse and Faith stepped out in Faith and moved their family to Mexico to serve at the orphanage.  Check out their blog here http://thebecxicanwire.wordpress.com/.  We rode about a half hour from the airport into town.  To my surprise, the orphanage is right in town.  WHAT?!?!  Orphanages I have known about are tucked away outside of small villages or on the outskirts of town.  Very rarely are the right in the middle of town.  Our sleeping arrangements were at the orphanage.  The girls had a room in the girls dorm and the guys had a room in the boys dorm.  It was nice.  Though I was a single on the trip, I never was alone.

The view from my bed of the room the girls stayed in.
Boys dorm on the left, girls dorm on the right.
The orphanage is beautiful.  Bright and colorful.  Well kept.  You can tell that the staff and children there take pride in their home.  As I looked around, I felt a sense of calm.  A sense of peace.  In a way, I felt very at home.  In my heart, I know that God has a great plan for me-- a great plan for my family.  He has already lead us to adopt four children.  Four children, who were once orphans.  Now our children are home, loved and part of a forever family. My frist night as I layed in my bed and prayed, my prayer was simple.  "Lord, use me to do your will this week.  Allow me to show love through my actions and everything that I say and do. Amen"

Another picture of the boys dorm and the awesome castle structure built for the kids.
The week went quickly and before you knew it, it was time to come home.  This place made such an impression on my heart.  I look forward to the opportunity to return.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Twelve years, I had no idea.

Today marks an anniversary in our family.  It's the day, twelve years ago that I stood before my friends and family, before the Lord, and committed to love and cherish, for better or worse, in sickness and in health.  Little did I know on that day where the next twelve years would take us.

I had no idea that in our lifetime we would go from praying to God to let us have a baby to something totally different.  At a time in my married life, I wanted nothing more than to birth my own children.  To know what a part of me and part of him would look like. (Dear goodness, I prayed that the child would not come out hairy like my husband!)  I had no idea that God would lead us through sadness when after trying for months, my sister announced she was pregnant.  It shattered me.  And then, God led us towards an open window.  Hosting--an orphan from far away.  Six weeks.  Show him love.  Teach him grace.  Keep a correspondence with him after he returns home to his country.  I had no idea the love I would feel for this little boy who spoke very little of my language and I of his.  I had no idea how hard it would be to put him back on a plane-- the first time, second, third, forth, and fifth time.

I had no idea that God would lead us to him.  For God to lead us to a foreign land, then in the last hour, close a door right in front of us.  I had no idea how I would possibly go on.  How could I love another?  I remember laying in his bed, crying out to God for clarity.  Why?  I have no idea how we pulled ourselves together and went to another country.  It was by the grace of God.  Someone once said to me- "Your son lead you to Ukraine.  Maybe God used him to be a messenger."  I had no idea that five years into our marriage, I would fall in love with a little girl who was not of my own flesh, and never again regret not birthing our own children.  I saw a need she had-- a family, someone to love and care for her.  She saw my need--my brokenness, someone needing love.  A perfect match.

I had no idea that after being home for six months with Hannah, I would be ready to adopt again.  I had no idea, that once again, the child that we thought would be our child, God had different plans-- a different country.  We had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into when we first met Mila in Serbia that June day in 2009.  We thought she would be much like Hannah.  I had no idea that mountains she had to climb.  I had no idea that God would trust me with such a precious, needy one.  He thought I could handle this one?!?

I had no idea, that though God had lead us through such heartache with Max in 2007, that two years later, just weeks before traveling to adopt Mila, we would learn he was back in an orphanage.  I had no idea what this meant for our family.  We had always prayed that someday, somehow, God would lead us back to him.  And here was our opportunity.

I had no idea what it would be like to have two young daughters and a much older son in our home.  He had seen some much turmoil in his life.  I needed reassurance that everyone would get along.  And so, in 2010; eight years into our marriage, we hosted our son, once again.  He got along famously with Hannah and Mila.  And so, before he even left the states, we had papers in hand to begin another adoption.

I had no idea that God would lay on my heart to adopt two at once.  And though I should have learned from previous adoptions, that God's plan is better than mine.  The child that I thought would be ours, was adopted by a Ukrainian family.  I had no idea that for us, the number 42 is magic in Ukraine.  42 days in the country, both in 2007 to adopt Hannah, and in 2011 for the first trip to adopt the boys.  I have no idea where the money continued to come from as the adoption costs continued to add up for the boys adoptions, yet we always had just the right amount.

I had no idea, standing in church on that July day in 2002 (after one of the groomsmen passed out...) where the next years would lead us.  And I'm glad I didn't.  God had, and continues to have a great plan for our lives.  Twelve years, countless stamps in our passports from various countries, and empty wallets from bringing our children home.  I am abundantly blessed with a husband who loves God, orphans in countries far and wide with varying abilities, as well as our children at home.  We make a great team.  I have four great, and wonderfully abled children that God has blessed us with. 

An anniversary is a great time to reflect on where you've come from and where you're headed.  It's time to establish goals for the coming year/s ahead.  As I look at our family, I hope in the coming year to instill the love of acceptance in our children.  We have all come from different pasts.  We all carry different burdens, both visible and unseen.  Rather than judge, we need to accept and love the best we know how.  And as for acceptance, I hope to encourage my children to continue accepting themselves.  They are each beatifically made.  God had a reason for making him/her the way they are.  I know how painful that has been lately for our daughters--to be so different from others.  I hope that one day they learn to accept that God is using their story for HIS glory.

Another goal I have for our family is to make life more accessible for all our children.  I look at our current housing now and as I carry Mila up and down the stairs and bathe her in the tub, I am reminded that there will come a day when I can no longer carry her up the stairs or lift her out of the tub.  I would love to have a house with no limits for Mila.  For her to feel free in her own home.  And with this goal of accessibility for our children, I would hope that they learn to appreciate what they have.  There are many others, both in our country, and countries around the world who do not have the same opportunities that they have.  We are blessed with so much.  It may not be sparkly and new, but there is a roof over our head, food in our bellies, warm water to bathe in, and a safe bed to sleep in at night.  They have the love of a family and the love of a Heavenly father.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Frustrated, but remembering HIS plan is perfect

When we first saw a picture of Mila, we thought she would be much like Hannah.  Mila was sitting in pictures, holding herself up, smiling, holding toys.  We thought she would be mobile with minimal assistance.  The first day we met her in her home country of Serbia, we took her with one of the caretakers into town to have her passport picture taken.  I remember sitting in the park across the street as we waited for her pictures to be ready.  I remember looking at Mila, then looking at Doug and saying, "We're going to love her to the best of our ability..."  I remember my first blog post, sitting in our apartment crying as I typed, thinking of how one of our good friends rode on the glider with Hannah just days before we left the country, talking about how he couldn't wait to ride with both the girls when we got home.  And here we were, in a country, far away from home, where I was admitting to myself and everyone else, that the little girl we were adopting was going to make strides in her own way.  I really thought in those first days, she might not ever talk, we would be spoon feeding her for the rest of her life.  That we would love her, but I wasn't sure if she would every be able to show love back.
Sitting in the park waiting for her photos. (Belgrade, 2009)

I've prayed for Mila many times, praying that the Lord would help her learn and grow.  And those of you who know Mila, know that she talks, finger feeds herself, and is highly opinionated.  She has a WILD imagination.  Though we had hopes of her being mobile, it just hasn't come to fruition.  We tried a gait trainer that gave her maximum support to be able to walk.  The few steps she would take, were labored and highly assisted.  We tried a crawling device.  She screamed and threw a fit when we put her in it.  Though she will army crawl short distances at home, being non-mobile frustrates Mila.  I truly consider Mila to be a child "trapped inside her own body".  She wants to be mobile.  She wants to leave an activity when her sister leaves her.  She thinks she can and then reality of her lack of mobility sinks in.  And when someone doesn't come to get her right away when she calls, she screams and throws a horrible fit.

Two years ago in March, we purchased a used minivan, hoping it would make loading Mila's manual chair easier on my back as I am the one who takes her to school each day.  Our other vehicle, I had to take the wheels off the chair to put it in the back.  That same summer, our Physical Therapist suggested we try Mila in a power chair.  Not knowing where the trial would lead, we worked all summer on driving technique.  Mila was a different kiddo.  She was independent.  She could go where she wanted.  She could "run" outside like her sister.  She could "walk away" from an activity when she was done.  She didn't need to wait for anyone to carry or push her to a new location.  After months of trial, we had to pass a test with a doctor to prove she could safely maneuver the chair.  After all, power chairs are an expensive piece of equipment.  Mila did well, and a power chair was recommended for her.

When Mila fist got her chair in October 2011, Eli was just newly home.  He was much like an infant.  He was barely crawling.  We thought Mila was best to work with her chair at school.  So we took the chair to school the last two school years and left it there during the school year.  In the summers, it comes home.  We continue to have her manual chair to use on daily outings.  And when the weather improves and she wants to be outside, we go to school and bring the chair home for the weekend.

Mila is quickly outgrowing her car seat.  She is 38 pounds.  She is 48 inches tall.

Today I met with the girls provider from our county Board of Developmental Disabilities (DD).  The DD has been wonderful in assisting us with the purchase of adaptive equipment for Mila when we need it through her Medicaid waiver.  I asked about the possibility of outfitting our van to accommodate Mila's wheelchair.  I was given names and told to let them know what I found out.  There is money available.

I wasn't ready for the gut-wrenching blow.  One company told me told me our vehicle had to be 2011 or newer to outfit, and under 50,000 miles. (Our Honda van is a 2009 and 80,000 miles.)  Another company told us, yes, they could modify to the tune of $20,000-$30,000.  When Doug picked his jaw off the desk, he commented on how expensive it was.  The lady commented that is why families typically purchase a van with a ramp already installed.  When you look up accessible vans, they are in the tune of $30,000 and over for used.  If you want a new van, outfitted with a ramp, there are some out there to the tune of $40,000-$70,000.  REALLY?  I'm not wanting luxury for my daughter,  just access.  To be "normal" in the world she lives in.  To be able to get in and out of the car independently.  To be able to access her community independently. 

And so tonight, I'm feeling pretty defeated.  Defeated that I cannot provide my daughter the access to the community that every person deserves.  I have no doubt that Mila is much better off today in a loving family than her days of laying on her back for hours on end in a crib in an orphanage (or at this point of her life, in a mental institution) in her home country of Serbia.  She's come a long way from the little girl I met who looked through me.  She laughs, she makes jokes, she loves.  She's got a feisty attitude.  But today, I feel we are holding her back because we aren't able to get her what she needs.  That's hard as a parent to stomach. 

So tonight, though feeling horribly defeated, I'm trying to remember that God's plan is perfect.  His plan and my ideas on how life should go don't always mesh.  I needed the reminder that HE had great plans for Mila long before she was even born.  HE knew a couple from a world away would fall in love with her auburn hair and ornery grin.  HE knew we would travel around the world and say yes after our first meeting with her.  HE knew we would commit to love her, no matter what.  HE knew she would be angry, and have horrible outbursts when things didn't go her way.  HE knew that this family would provide her with great opportunities, and most of all, HE knew we would love her, just as HE loves us--unconditionally despite our flaws, our shortfalls, and our mistakes.  HE knew we were the perfect match for her and he for us.  I just need to remember HE has the perfect plan, in HIS timing.  Not mine. 

Monday, June 9, 2014


Mila received a dog from Canine Companions for Independence in February 2014 after attending two weeks of training with Mom and Dad and successfully graduating.  Let me just say, she loves her dog!  Kindy is her best friend.  She cuddles with her daily, helps give her food and water and loves to play with her and brush her.

Mila has limited mobility in her upper extremities.  She can hold a spoon, but has trouble taking it from the plate to her mouth and getting it into her mouth.  She can hold a crayon, but fatigues easily.  She can hold a tennis sized ball in her hand, but does not have the mobility in her arms to throw the ball.  She can release ti from her hand, though the motion is labored and slow.

Mila wants to play with her dog.  She had become increasingly frustrated at having to ask for help to play with Kindy.  She needed someone to throw the toy.  Kindy will bring it back to her and Mila can give her the command "give" so that Kindy knows that Mila has a hold on the toy/ball and she can release her grip on it.  Mila would only "play" with Kindy for a few minutes before getting frustrated and giving up.  It hurt my heart to see her so defeated.

Mila talks about Kindy continuously to anyone who will listen.  If Kindy isn't with us, she is telling everyone she passes, "I have a service dog", "Kindy is at home".  So it comes as no surprise that Mila talks about Kindy when she is at school.  This spring as Mila's Occupational Therapist; Mrs. Kerns, was working with her, Mila began to talk about Kindy.  Mila often needs refocused as she tends to go off in her own little world.  Mrs. Kerns, knowing that Mila's IEP was coming up, asked Mila if she had any OT goals she would like to work on.  Mila said "I would like to play ball with Kindy."  And so, our great OT began to look for ways that she could adapt something so that Mila could play with Kindy with minimal or no help.

One day Mrs H; Mila's aide, came to my classroom (I teach in the same building the kids attend) and asked if I could come to the OT room that Mila had something she would like to show me.  The giggle and smile were priceless when I arrived.  "MOM.....LOOK!  I can play with Kindy with this ball shooter, by myself!!!"  She was ecstatic!

The ball shooter is a Franklin Sports Pitching Machine.  It comes with six plastic balls.  Thankfully, Kindy is trained not to chew on things, so the balls will last a while.  Unfortunately, she is still a dog, and loves to attempt to catch the ball as its flying through the air, so there are some teeth marks in the balls.  (Replacement balls are available!)

 A battery interrupter was purchased.

These can be found on Amazon or any Special Needs catalog.  A battery interrupter allows you to adapt your own toy to work with a capability switch.


Lastly, a switch was inserted into the battery interrupter.

Typically, without the battery interrupter, the pitching machine throws balls at a set interval.  With the battery interrupter, the ball is only thrown when the user holds down on the switch to activate the machine.


Mila is happily playing with her dog! Though she often requests help from one of us or her sister to put the ball back into the machine, I have no doubt we could train Kindy to bring the ball back and drop it in the machine!