the 12 days of giving at home

12 12 2011

I heard it estimated that if Americans were to take 1/4 what their Christmas spending and use it for other causes, it would be enough to end world hunger!  Whether that is true or not, I don’t know, but doesn’t it make you stop and think?

A few years ago, I did The 12 Days of Christmas with our kids where each day for the 12 days leading up to Christmas, they would receive a little gift.  It was usually something that they needed anyway like pajamas or maybe a new puzzle or game that we could open and enjoy together.  Then, on our huge rolled-out sheet of paper taped to the wall, the kids would draw what they received and we would sing our own “12 Days of Christmas” song substituting their received items.  It was very fun and I recommend it to stretch out gifts or treats or time together.

But this year, I started thinking about the value of giving.   I want to raise givers, don’t you?  Givers leave behind a legacy of giving.  And the heart of a giver, according to the Grinch and good ol’ Scrooge, is an open heart – a big heart that is open to receive the greatest gifts like joy and peace.   No doubt our One True God is the greatest giver of all time – in creativity, thoughtfulness and magnitude!   To be given a Savior?  From all of this grinchiness and scrooginess?  Incredible.

Is it more blessed to give than to receive?  We are aiming to find out!  And we welcome you to join us!

How to do 12 Days of Giving with your kids:

1.  Make a giving list. 

The kids and I made a list of all the people, groups or organizations they felt like helping out.   They wanted to help Daddy, their teachers and a few organizations we know about.  I helped them think of ideas and as we were out about town, we would write down the opportunities to give that we saw (like a mitten tree, Toys for Tots, etc.).   The giving couls be all for neighbors and people close by.  It’s all about intention.

2.  Give your kids a giving budget.

Nash started to worry about using all of his truly hard-earned allowance and I assured him that we would give each child a giving fund.  Take all or a portion of what you would usually give this year and let your kids help spend it.   Our kids particularly love the giving catalogs, like the one for Compassion International, where you can shop by price – $55 gives a family clean water for life, $10 gives a child school supplies, etc.

3.  Spread the giving bug!

Share what you are doing here or on your blog.  Share the giving bug with your child’s classroom, school, your family, church.  Set a group goal for one of the days and be creative!  After all, caroling is a gift.  Cleaning windows is a gift.  Not screaming at your siblings (self-control) is a very peaceful gift.  Even with zero dollars, we all have many things to give!

For Day One our kids decided to forgo allowance.  And these kids work hard for allowance!  Each time they help out by cleaning, taking care of a sibling or anything else that is sincere and helpful to the function of our home,  they get a sticker or two.  At the end of the week, they cash in their stickers for 10cents each.  It’s our way to recognize their hard work and their call to responsibility.  They reasoned that by skipping allowance, they would be helping Daddy who works so hard to provide for our family.   “And that’s the most stickers I’ve ever even had!,” exclaimed Hattie.  It was such a sweet gesture… and of course we let them experience the joy of giving that big of a gift to him.


Zoe’s 1-year HOME celebration post!!!

12 12 2011

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve  longed to update this blog on our family and on how our new addition, Zoe, is adjusting.  I always say that it takes me about a year after the birth of a new baby to find my way back to normal and the “birth” of Zoe into our family is no exception!

Oh, I’ve made attempts.  Here is one from July about growing up all over again, six months after Zoe’s adoption:

Even though the first years of Zoe’s life were spent in an environment in a place where she received food and a decent amount of acknowledgement, I don’t think anyone would argue that she had actually been “raised” anywhere.

It’s hard to figure out how and when to discipline her and when to issue her a check of grace.  We do both.  Sometimes she throws fits (like if we take away a screwdriver, for example) and if we ignore her (letting her stay in the same room with us), she will immediately stop after 1 minute and walk away as if nothing happened and start playing.  Typical.  Sometimes she will hit or throw something when she is obviously frustrated by lack of communication, i.e. when she obviously wants someone to put her down or stop offering her the same thing or stop hugging on her, etc, but they keep on.  Usually, it’s merited. In those situations, we are more understanding.  But knowing what to do and when is…..well, it’s exactly like learning to parent any child because each child is unique and different.  Each one of our children has a different way of communicating their thoughts and feelings and we are working hard to learn Zoe’s.  She has a big range of emotions and we don’t understand which is on display at what time yet.  It’s hard to explain….but sometimes I imagine she feels lost because she is expecting that something that used to happen in her orphanage will happen here….at least that’s what I imagine.  She is transitioning into a realization that what used to bring attention doesn’t and what does bring attention are the simple acts of kindness that had gone unnoticed.

I remember those days well!  The lack of verbal communication, the feelings of wishing we could be more bonded and feeling like a first time parent all over again.  Zoe and I have both grown so much since just six months ago!

The colder temperatures these days in Indiana have brought to mind those last days in Kiev before flying home.  Zoe and I were freezing our tails off in a very nice apartment and I imagine now how afraid she must’ve felt then.  She clung to me and had to be able to see me the entire time.  I understand now.  I was the most familiar thing she knew and if she couldn’t see me, then by her understanding she was in danger.  And I would’ve felt the same way.

The Zoe that Zoe is now is so much like the Zoe I imagined over a year ago when we were fundraising off of a photo and the call of God in our lives.   We could just tell she was a firecracker and a smarty-pants and an absolute sweetie with a ton of personality.  She has grown into the big girl (more or less) that we knew she was on the inside from the moment we saw her.   In short, she has really bloomed!   She has rooted deeply in the fertile soil of family love and spread out those beautiful and unique petals.

We’ve spent the last year getting to know each other and even as I write this, just thinking of Zoe makes me smile.  She’s endlessly silly and always trying to play games with us.  Her language development has come so far and she has no problem telling us what she needs (and in no uncertain terms!).  She loves to dance and always, always understands much, much more than she can speak or than we know.  I can’t stop getting over all that she understands.  And she does not like to be treated like a baby, by they way.  What self-respecting 5-year-old girl would?

Zoe LOVES the dog.

Zoe is completely adorable and has stolen our hearts, but by no means do I want to romanticize adoption.   For months I honestly felt like a first-time mom all over again.  We tried some holding therapy in the beginning to help with bonding only to find out that holding therapy is sometimes held in high disapproval.  Still, it worked for us for a while and then Zoe seemed to bond best through play.  I learned that my expectations of her upon bringing her home were way too high and I have seen fit to lower expectations all around – even of myself.  I have been so frustrated at times by being pushed away when my desire was to be so embraced by my daughter and so I’ve learned some patience.  Some things just take time.  And we have time.   And then there’s the “no” word that Zoe like a toddler fell in love with.  “No, no, no,” to everything all day long gets a little exhausting as any mom can tell you.  But, as the vocabulary, clarity of speech and, most importantly, confidence started growing, the no’s started fading and are still on the fade.  We started going to a bonding therapist this fall who is ecstatic about how wonderful Zoe’s doing.   I don’t know all there is to know about bonding, but I know that God is faithful and amazing.  What He calls you to, He will see through!

Hear this:  If we had to do it over again – shock our families, raise funds, fly over the ocean, bring a child home, struggle with bonding and letting go, experience not knowing what in the world to do and end up where we are today – we would do it a million times over.   Yes, yes, YES!   Whatever challenges have come our way have been worth facing for both the growth and joy that it’s brought into our lives.  When I see Zoe with her siblings (who adore her) day-by-day becoming more trusting of them – and when I see how happy they are all four together – and when I hear Zoe pray and thank God for everyone in our family by name – and when she comes to me with an injury – and when she stomps in so proud from preschool and rattles on about parts of her day – and when she squeals my name when I come in the door from grocery shopping – and when she dances around the kitchen shakin’ her tail feathers like madness – and when she sings songs to her baby dolls – and when she giggles in her mighty way – and when, and when and when it all boils down, we are beyond grateful for such a beautiful gift.

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Here is a bit of an update from October:

As I walked Zoe into her first day of preschool this week, it occurred to me how very far we’ve come. Not just distance-wise from Ukraine though 5,000 miles is a huge way.

I remember when we first brought her home and she couldn’t yet say two-syllable words. “Say Mama,” I would tell her. “Ma!,” she said back. “Maaa-mmaaa,” I would say. “Ma!,” and nothing more could she repeat. I remember the first time she said “Papa” in talking about Marc’s dad, her grandpa. “She said Papa!!,” I exclaimed knowing that it would’ve been no great feat in other circumstances for a 4-year-old girl to say two identical syllables of sound together.

The first day that Zoe went to preschool, I walked her to her classroom, helped her hang up her backpack, said good-bye through teary eyes and then went to my car to sob just like I did the first day I dropped Nash and Hattie off at school.

Currently, we’re working on verbalizing emotions and desires, something I think every person in the world could benefit from practicing.  I like that Zoe has a voice, strength and a sense of self – things she didn’t have before.  When we look into the coming year and years to come, we only imagine her blooming more fully.   Yet it’s not because of what we have done but because of the immensity and intensity of our Father’s love for us.  Anyone who opens their heart to the thought of adoption can be tugged, pulled and led on a tremendous and joy-filled journey of growth, acceptance, change and lovelovelove.

Happy One Year, Zoe!

Watch these videos to see the difference a year can make!  Here is one of Zoe before we even met her.  And here is one of her this Halloween as a beautiful butterfly – how appropriate!


To read our travel and adoption blog from last year, go to  or email me at  and I’ll get you a hard copy!

Fun give-a-way for Lera

12 03 2011

I couldn’t pass up sharing this fund raiser for little miss Lera.  CLICK HERE or on the photo below!  The Higbie family is bringing her home and still need quite a lot of help.  Their friends (who I now want to meet!) have rallied around and donated items that you can’t help but want!!!

The NEW iPad2, an emerald and diamond pendant, a beautiful tutu, a $100 gift card to Radio Shack, $50 to Staples, $40 to Scentsy….and maybe more to come!

Every $10 gives you an entry and a post to Facebook or a blog also gives you an entry.  Oh, and it’s tax-deductible!

happy birthday, sweet harriet

12 02 2011

The question we get asked most often of Hattie is:  Is she always like that?

And the answer: Yes!

Always fiercely passionate and dreamily pleasant.

Always unleashed in thought, action, speech, volume and laughter.

As comfortable in a crowd as she is on the couch at home.

Free as a little bird.

Gives the best compliments one could ever dream.

Spends over 60% of her time in her imagination.  And usually, in costume.

Makes up new songs everyday.  Forgives effortlessly.  Equally adores mud pits and pink tulle.  Never sees a bad side to anything.

She is a true character – one not easily forgotten.  And we don’t deserve her or the thoughtfulness, joy, enthusiasm, hilarity and sweetness that shines through her actions and into our lives every day.

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Here are some Hattie quotes in celebration of her 5th year!

– “When I’m not mad and I try to make myself mad, I just can’t be mad no matter what I do!  I can try and try like ‘errrgh!’, but it just doesn’t work.  I’m still not mad.”

– “Well, mom!  I have changed my mind.  I have changed it to choice that I am going to let myself grow up.”

– “Whatcha up to, boys?”

– “I know you are supposed to be old, like a grandma and everything, but you’re really pretty.”

– “That sure is  ‘fewph’!” (as in ‘a relief’)

– “When I grow up, I want to be a paleontologist.”

Gifted in hospitality, born to take chances – may the Lord we serve protect you as you rise to set changing foot in the world you so love.  Happy birthday, sweetheart!

zoe’s first weeks home

1 02 2011

Wow, I think.  God called us to this?  To blue eyes, a sweet heart, a voice that lilts with inquiries, advice, song and laughter all day long?  To opening our inner doors to this beauty and privilege?  And you (readers, supporters, friends, family) were given the opportunity to help bring this sweet little one home – and you answered.  With prayers, gifts, emails, phone calls, meals….so much!  We had great support in making and selling necklace pendants and in acquiring items for our garage sales!  A Bible study in TX rallied together and committed to pray for our family.  People we didn’t know prayed and listened intently to our story – at garage sales, concerts and around dinner tables.  One group of college students sent us a Visa gift card that we were able to use toward traveling expenses.  Friends whose hearts beat passionately for the lost and forgotten have blessed us beyond belief by joining us in approaching the heart of God on matters of the fatherless.  From the moment we felt God calling us to step foot on this path less taken, He has seen to it that we have not stumbled by supplying amply at every turn.

There is no fear on the path less taken….only in those moments before the first step is taken.  We have not been alone.  We did not and could not have managed this adoption on our own.  There was a call.  And we all answered together.   Thank you.  And to those who are considering a step in the less-taken direction:  Immeasurable are the blessings!  Unimaginable is the growth!

A couple of tie-dyed kids sharin' the LOVE.


Zoe is doing great at fitting in around here.  Our youngest, Jet, had the most noticeable issues with adding a new sister that is almost exactly his height and weight (although Zoe does weigh less) who was competition for his mommy-daddy time.  But now, not even two months after being home, it seems he’s glad for the companionship of someone who is learning words and behaviors right along with him.  Zoe has helped motivate Jet to potty train, and she is less lonely when they are co-piloting the bathroom.  It’s a win-win!  I’m grateful that the two “little ones”, as we say, can entertain each other while I do lessons with the older kids.  And while the littles are napping, I get quality time with my older two.  All three of us enjoy the break!

We have room in our house for our kids to sleep separately, but they each one generally refuse the option.  They love sleeping together – they say that sleeping alone makes them feel lonely and afraid.   We were planning for Zoya and Hattie to share a bed, but sweetheart Nash nudges his way in there, too, and on a very rare occasion, Jet will beg to be free of his crib and flanked by sibling slumber.   What can I say?  They are a very tight group and love to be together.  And I love being with kids who love being together!

There were four in the bed, and the little one said....

Zoe (or Zoya, as we also say) is the addition of a pleasant presence in our house.  She is kind, obedient and has a great sense of humor!  She is lightning-fast at watching the other kids and us and intuitively picking up what to do.  And they learn from her as well.


And…she LOVES food!  She is what the grandma’s call a “great eater”.  She can eat her weight in mashed potatoes, applesauce, yogurt or bananas and can artfully scoop vegetable soup while avoiding some of her unfavorite vegetables.  Sometimes she will do a little fake cry if she sees me fixing food at meal time and thinks I’m holding back on her.  But, wow, how far we’ve come.  She doesn’t protect her bowl like she once did and she will ask for “more, please” with signs.  She softly lifts and lowers her plate and bowl (no more throwing!…okay, well, almost no more throwing) and has learned that her napkin can stay by her at the table.    She will drink (chocolate) milk now, too!  Her food repertoire is growing every day.  It’s funny to watch her turn down things that she has never seen before judging by appearance – things that we know to be irresistibly delicious, like pie or candy, just because she has no reference.  She will completely refuse and, giggling, we’ll shove a little bite in her mouth.  Her ‘no’ changes to an “Oh…I see…” kind of a face as she reaches for more.

Fkusna? Is it good?

Zoe has a great laugh!  At the orphanage when we first tried to tickle her to make her laugh, she just kind of looked at us, like “Huh?”  Well, boy, does she have it down now!  She loves being tickled until she is laughing uncontrollably.  Loves riding piggy-back, doing skin-the-cats, being spun around, danced with and carried around all kinds of silly ways.

That laugh keeps us smiling!!!

Above, she is learning about play dough for the first time.  I never grow tired of being there for some of her firsts.  First car ride (maybe), first time watching somebody cook a meal in a kitchen.  First time using a fork.  First time walking in snow.  First time drinking out of a sippy cup and straw. First time being strapped in a car seat.  First time eating McDonald’s.  First time being able to take a long bubble bath.  First time using lotion.  First time opening a present.  First time having her back scratched or being held for a long time with no other reason than just being cuddled.  How can I tell that she is doing these things for the first time?  I can tell from her reaction!  Screaming at snow, rubbing a fork across her lips just to see what it feels like (after attempting to comb her hair with it), licking at a sippy cup and just those wide-eyed strange stares and giggles.  First time jumping!  We’ve had to practice that one a lot.  First time eating pizza or a bread stick or blueberries.  First time praying while being tucked in at bedtime.  We LOVE the firsts!

Zoe loves to help out!  And she loves to clean up!  She can keep herself busy for a long time with just a wet paper towel to go over surfaces and clean up.  If she sees me putting things away, she’ll pitch in immediately and ask me where things go.  I can tell that she’s helped pick up toys and cleaned floors before!

And Zoe, like any girl, loves shoes.  She loves to try on everyone’s shoes and walk around the house in them, but you can clearly see that she can devise her own fashion footwear…no tools necessary!

First time making sugar cookies at Christmas!


Big brother, Nash, rolls out the dough...

Once we were rested from traveling, we really packed in the fun times before Christmas!  We cut down and decorated our tree, made cookies, went to the dentist and visited the Children’s Museum and the Rhythm Percussion Center in Indy with friends.

Here is a video of the kids at the Children’s Museum being penguins:

And here is a bit from the Percussion Museum where Zoe is testing out a handmade xylophone:

At the Chihuly glass exhibit at the museum

Those first weeks weren’t “life as normal” around here.  Zoe entered into the Pre-Christmas Prep and Post-Travel Re-Organization Sequence when there was a lot of warm welcomes and catching up.  In a place where most words and sights were unintelligible to her reference library and native vocabulary, the girl did stellar in dealing with it all and held her sparkle and shine through a flood of new senses, faces and feelings.  Strong-hearted Zoe.

Welcome home.

coming home!

23 01 2011

It is time to catch up my blog audience (blog-ience?), baby!

When we left Kiev on December 3rd, 2010 (a month and a half ago) it was 15F and I remember thinking, Wow! It is SO cold!  But here we are mid-winter in Indiana with an average daily of 5F, snowed in and things around the house are back to our “normal”.  So….I’m back to blogging.  It might be sloppy blogging today (slogging?) since I’m doing this while managing a few other conversations.

It is heart-wrenching to think back to the kids we saw at the orphanage that are left behind.  Take, for instance, this total sweetheart.

Isn’t he the cutest????

Wherever his family may be, they are having a hard time finding him, I think.  So…please pass this post along, because we and many parents who have met this boy know that he is just awesome.  AND HE NEEDS A FAMILY!!!

You see?????  He has a bright future ahead of him….as soon an adoptive family finds him and commits to him.

Will you please pray that this sweet little boy gets a committed family soon?


Marc and I could talk this boy up all day.  He’s smart, inquisitive and all boy…and by that we mean he will likely never wear pink by choice.  Or light red.  Think cowboy boots and Carhartts.  Think race cars and trucks.  Think gadgets and building.  Boy.


Here is one of our last view’s of Zoe’s “home away from home”.  Far, far away from home.  And for a very long while.

Last view of the orphanage

Last view of Zoe's room

I was able to go into a few other rooms at Zoe’s orphanage, so I thought I’d share one of those pictures here.  Please notice how clean and well-taken care of everything is…the grounds, the floors, the sheets.   We are so grateful that Zoe grew up in a place that is so well-run as this is.   The director at this place is so brilliant and so sharp!  She runs a tight ship.  Still, as you look at these room photos, imagine yourself there.

I may have said it before, but knowing that there are orphans and knowing orphaned children are two very different things.


In the airport,

we were accompanied by another RR family, the Smith family bringing home Dasha!    If you would like to see how Dasha is doing, visit the Smith Family blog at We all had gotten up at 2:30 am or so to catch a ride to the airport.  Nice and early.

The Smiths with Dasha, and Meredith Cornish

We all flew out of Kiev with the Cornish Family.  The Cornish’s have…well, let’s see…now (with the latest adoption addition of 2)…they have 10 kids!   Wow is right!  And they are just awesome to boot.   They have adopted many.  You will want to check out the Cornish Family Blog:   If you want to know anything at all about adoptions or where to buy the cheapest diapers ( Subscribe and Save), just ask Meredith.

And here is sweet Zoe….awoken in the night, dragged from an unfamiliar bed and taken to an unfamiliar place.  A brother of a friend said, “Every day must be like Disneyland for her!,” and I agree.  It is literally a whole new world…as it always is when one experiences new freedom.

Leafing through a magazine...a pasttime that provided hours of entertainment on the flights home!

There was no physical birth experience between Zoe and I, but I have seen her be born out of the womb of the acre of land that physically held her into the great, big, amazing world in which we walk around every day and know so well.

The many flights home were tiring (imagine that after not sleeping very much for several nights prior!), but we made it.  Zoe didn’t sleep much, so neither did I.   She sat in her seat with no problems at all and kept herself happy with magazines, DVDs and snacks.  She charmed several people along the way and enjoyed her once in a lifetime adventure!  At the Washington Dulles airport where we greatly enjoyed the huge spaces in which to linger, we saw this:And so the sun set on Zoe’s first day on US soil.  Amazing.

I longed so much for home and for REST after the long travels, and by that I mean…I was dizzy tired.  The airline clerk in Frankfort asked me where I had started out the day and I honestly couldn’t tell him right off the bat.  I was ready for sleep!  But first, and here’s the best part…..

ZOE HAS A FOREVER FAMILY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!     My parents are taking this picture.  I have seen a video of this airport moment somewhere, and if I ever find it I will post it right here.  If.

It felt WONDERFUL to be in a familiar culture and around my favorite familiar faces once again!   And, just as with any birth….I would do it again in a heartbeat.  It was emotionally difficult for our family to be separated by so many miles for a few weeks, but in the end it has strengthened our relationships to have endured together.

I couldn’t post very many details of our travels on our public blog while traveling, so I did that on a private blog.  I’m working on finishing it up to make it available to friends and as a resource for those adopting.  If you would like to access our private blog, please let me know.

Again, thanks for following.  Thanks for sharing in the call of God on our lives and for encouraging us in pursing things that don’t rust or fade.

blog slacker!

17 12 2010

I have been a major blog-slacker lately, have I not???

I will post pictures soon -GREAT pictures! – but for now, an update.

Zoe celebrated her 2-week anniversary tonight sitting on the couch with the kids watching Rolie Polie Olie’s A Winter Wonderland.  She didn’t even notice when I slipped out to fold a load of laundry and that is monumental for a few reasons!

For the first week that Zoe and I spent together in Ukraine, I couldn’t be out of her sight for even 3 seconds (literally) without her breaking into tears.   As she has become more comfortable at home, she has started to wander further from my side.   If she sees something that she would like to play with in a different room from where I am, she will enter the other room to retrieve it.  And then come back.  She wouldn’t have done that 3 weeks ago.    She sat with Hattie and drew with markers at a table from where she couldn’t see me for about 20 minutes.  And now, when she wakes up in the morning, she walks through the house to find us – no tears!   Yay!

Besides not wanting to be without the one person who is most familiar to her (and who could blame her), Zoe is fitting in perfectly!  The kids have been awesome in welcoming Zoe into our family and have learned all of the Russian phrases to use with Zoe which have turned into Russian-ish.   Hattie says, “This is our sabaka, Zoya.  Our sabaka.”  I asked Nash what he was doing the other day and he said, “I’m hushai-ing.”  Hushai is Russian for “eat”.  Hattie has been the most purposeful in learning anything Russian.  Tonight she said, “I love you, little Zoya,” to her new sister at bedtime – in Russian.  Nash has been great at just being there for Zoe.  He watches her, laughs at her and places his hand on her back to reassure her spirit.   Jet is enjoying having someone his size around the house who sits at the table with him and takes naps with him.  He thanks God every night for “Mommy, Daddy, Zoe…” in that order.  Too sweet!  Of course they take toys from each other and are learning to share with each other against human nature, but their interactions always end in a hug.   Zoe eats well, sleeps well and is learning English, too.  When we say, “Be soft,” she will stroke the dog (or Jet) very gently.  She knows “all done?” and can say all of our names.  Her pronunciation isn’t very clear, but we can tell what she’s saying!  She babbles very intently to us at the table with very expressive gestures.  It’s so cute that we have to hold our chuckles in.  Or at least we try!  She will also babble on the play phone.  I don’t recall that she babbled in Ukraine very much, so it seems that her communication skills are growing rapidly.  She loves to try all of our shoes on and play with Tupperware lids under my feet while I’m cooking.  Zoe has not been interested at all in watching TV, so I was surprised that she actually watched a show tonight.

Zoya is very serious about her food and is a good eater.  She is so careful while eating that when we are cleaning up the table, she is still eating.  If I take her plate, she asks for it back and won’t let it go until she is ready.  I have Nash get dressed and come sit by me after breakfast each morning.  While Zoe is finishing her food, we start his lessons for the day.   It all works out!   Zoe will eat just about anything.  I can tell that she hasn’t had to chew very much, but she is catching on quickly.  She ate part of a cheeseburger the other night….and it is just so so cute to what her face as she experiences tastes for the first time.  She has some hilariously cute faces!

After running around like a crazy-woman for months collecting and recollecting papers to send and resend, I have been using my time at home to get caught up and enjoy not running around.   Our church family kicked in meals, which made time for unpacking five suitcases, catching up on laundry,  sorting through clothes, recovering from the stomach flu and bonding as a family.  We managed to dig out Christmas decorations (just a few) and put up a tree that we cut down as a family.  My parents watched the kids so that we could get some Christmas shopping done and really…we are getting there!  Being out of country for almost 5 weeks would give anyone schedule-lag.

Our family and friends have continued to be super-supportive, even after our return home…and that has made our return most awesome.  More soon!!!!