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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Dear Anna,

Dear Anna,

Hello sweet girl. I know you have been waiting for me. I'm sorry I didn't come sooner. I know you have wondered where I was and why we haven't been together all this time. I will explain as you get older. For now will you accept me as I am? Will you trust that I love you and want whats best for you? Will you give me time to earn your trust and to explain one day when you are wiser?

Sweet, sweet Anna, will you forgive me when I am tired? Will you show your mama grace when she does not deserve it? You will. I know you will. It is written in your sweet sweet soul. Your smile, your eyes, everything about you is pure of heart. I see a little fire in that sweet smile. A fire that often stays buried but sometimes when you are just a little too tired, hungry, sick or frustrated.... Its ok sweet Anna, I too will show you grace.

Your papa and I love you so much! We have not forgotten your tight hugs and your big eyes. Papa did not forget you. He thought of you every day. He cried the day he recognized your beautiful face on Reece's Rainbow. We are coming sweet Anna, and we are bringing friends! Lots of friends! We are an Anna Army! yep your own army Anna! Every princess has an army. Yours just happens to be the BEST army!

We will have a good life together Anna. You will see.... Sometimes some of us get a rough start Anna. Life can be difficult sometimes. But we will be together Anna! We will face those hard times together now. Papa, Mama, and all your siblings. We will celebrate together and we will cry together. We will have good times and bad. But we will always, always, be together. Forever Anna. In Heaven and on earth. You are loved beyond measure.

Love,  Mama

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The greatest gift...

It is 2am. I woke up itching my fingers from my usual "washing dishes" induced eczema. My brain ceased the moment to send rushing ideas and thoughts my way as often it does when I am awake. I clung to this one thought... "what is the greatest gift I can give my children?"

I read an article yesterday that got me thinking. It was about a young elementary aged boy that had taken his life. His parents suspect bullying was the reason for his decision to end his life. The father made a plea for parents to take the extra time to talk with their children. Many people commented on bullying and how to prevent your child from being a bully or becoming a victim of one. All very good and true. But... was it enough? In a dark moment? Whether you are an adult or a child we have all gone through very dark days. We will lose loved ones and suffer tragedy and simply lose hope at some point. So what will carry us through those times? Will the love of a concerned parent be enough? What if there is no parent? What if the sadness is caused by the loss of ones parents. What if the source of sadness IS ones parents?? Will a book or program about bullying be enough? If a child or you or I... had no one? If we were alone in our suffering. What would be "enough" to carry us through? Certainly we want to give our children everything they need and much of what they want. We want them to be happy but more so we want them to be healthy physically and mentally. So on their darkest day, in their most desperate moments that are sure to come in this broken world. What will carry them through? Certainly it won't be xbox, money, a swing set or any other material thing. but... will the love of a parent or teacher? Will a program on bullying or a book about how to make friends? Would counseling or even medication be enough? I would imagine any surviving parent of a child or loved one that committed suicide, will tell you they loved the person. They likely suffer guilt on what they could have said or done to prevent it. But would their words truly have been enough? Some children and adults may have underlying mental health issues or chemical imbalances that only medication will resolve. But ALL of us will suffer some loss and devastation. How will we cope? How DO we cope?

The conclusion I kept coming back to was God. Any missionary will tell you the most faithful, prayerful, grateful people are the poorest, the sickest, the most desperate. Those that are suffering pray to God the most. He is there for us in our darkest hour. When the road seems to end abruptly and there is nothing left. He is good. He is faithful. He is worthy. He is love. So when you are stripped of ALL your worldly support. No friends, no family, no medication, no therapy...... where do you turn? If you were lying naked in a cell by yourself. Where would you turn? I know where I would turn. Desperate and out of solutions. I would turn to God. Always faithful, always with me. Forever and always.

So what is "the greatest gift I can give my children?" For me that answer is clear. Christ. If I am not here to comfort or guide them, I want them to turn to the Word not the world.  I want them to turn to the one true sovereign God. Faith is the one thing the world can never strip them of.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Rescued

 As I drove in the rain this evening, alone, quietly reflected on everything that has happened these past few weeks. I felt peaceful. The day had ended with a generous gift to Anna's fund and it gave me a renewed spirit. I am tired. My body is hurting! but.... I am satisfied. 
I reflect often on how I handle things. People. People who are kind... people who are not so kind. Sometimes I am satisfied with how I handled things and sometimes I am disappointed in myself. I am not a patient person by any means. I have struggled with this my entire life. I insist on getting things done......yesterday! ;) I come from a 20 year high pace marketing career in health care. It was competitive and ruthless and it ate me alive at times. also made me strong. It gave me a confidence and persistence, that at times may seem aggressive to some of my friends that are a little more laid back, quiet, or unfamiliar with the working world. It is this "toughness" that has gotten me through the past four years of being pregnant at 38, giving birth at 39, adopting two special needs children, then two more and now a fifth! It is this "toughness" that gets the job done when five toddlers are all demanding my attention at the same time and I have a photography business to run. It is this same grit that gets me through brain surgeries, heart surgeries, therapies, seizures and flying poop! God gave me this strength. He did it, so he could use it. For His Glory. For His Purpose. Unfortunately I am human and I don't always handle this gift with grace. For that dear friends, I am sorry. 

 When I look at Anna's videos I see a gentleness. A child waiting. Patiently waiting for that day promised her. She has a sense about her that she "knows" we are coming. That she is simply waiting. I never quite understood why God brought us back for Bo and Lettie before Anna. Why he made us wait? Why he made her wait? but.... one thing I have learned is that whatever you think God is doing, it is likely he is actually doing something completely different. I am on a mission to "rescue" my daughter. but in reality... Anna is the one rescuing me. All of my children have challenged me, changed me, molded me and taught me things no adult or book could ever teach. I am excited to give Anna a better life. A bedroom and toys of her own. It will be a pleasure to read to her and brush her hair. Teach her to cook and be her mama. But I am also excited to see what my daughter has in store for me. What will she teach her old tired mama? 

As I drove home in the rain I understood. Daddy promised Anna he would come back. It wasn't the kind of promise I could package into a neat manila folder and slap a deadline on. I couldn't write it in my agenda book and confidently look at it and think "yep, there it is. Right where I wrote it." It was Gods timing. All messy and painful and.........perfect. Anna somehow knows this? This knowledge that had escaped me and frustrated me. She carry's it. In her simplicity. Her simple trust. She trusts because she has God. Without being told or taught. The Holy Spirit lives in her. She is at peace in her soul. Although her belly may be hungry and she may be hurting she feels Gods peace. I want that peace. That rest. I want the innocent trust and faith that my daughter carries with her. I want to protect her and learn from her. Somehow she understands the orphanage is not her home.

As I turned down my street I smiled to see a beautiful rainbow. Gods Promise. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


In 2013 while visiting with Edgar and Dunham in Ukraine, we met a quiet, shy, beautiful young girl with the saddest eyes. She wasn't popular with the nanny's and they were often scolding her for what seemed to be typical child behavior.... running, talking, jumping. Just about everything she did seemed to annoy them. She captured my husbands heart one sunny spring day when she darted from one of the nannys and ran to him yelling papa and flew into his arms. She hugged him tightly, her eyes begging him to love her, play with her, .... to be her papa too! Whenever the other children tried to come near us the nanny's would scold them and tell them that we were Vova's (Edgars) Mama and Papa. Sometimes when they saw us coming they would run over to Vova and yell "Vova, Vova! Papa, mama!"  One day my husband captured a quick hug from the sad little girl and told her "I will come back for you one day".  We did return to Ukraine to adopt Lettie and Bogdan but my husband never forgot the promise he made to this one sad little girl. Yesterday while cruising FB the face of a little girl grabbed me. I have seen hundreds of orphans on the pages of social media but this child made my heart leap into my throat! The way Willow had done many months earlier. My husband was driving our van as we returned from an ice cream trip with the kids. I leaned over and said "This little girl, her face her eyes. I feel like bursting into tears. I don't know why she is affecting me this way?" My husband yelled "Its her! Its HER Jen!"  "Its who?" I asked. "Its the little girl I promised to go back for!" I cautioned him not to get too excited. I told him many of the children look similar. He was certain. I was skeptical. I messaged the woman who posted the pic. I asked her where this little girl was located and what her name was. My husband was relentless. I could tell he was ready to leap on a plane tomorrow! An hour passed. and then.... she messaged me back. and indeed it was the lost girl with the sad eyes. She had actually been on Reece's Rainbow for over a year. We just hadn't seen or recognized her. We prayed. We inquired. and we committed! We are overjoyed and humbled to introduce our daughter................

                                            Daddy never forgets a promise. <3

The FB post that grabbed my attention! 

Ukraine 2013 

If you would like to help us bring "Chelsea" Home we have set up a YouCaring site

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

What a Horrible Mother!

I have thought about writing this blog several times but it just never seemed like the right time.
In a world of so much calamity and fear we have become a very "alert" society. I myself try to be aware of my surroundings and alert at every turn. I have five small young children with special needs. Isn't that what is expected of me. I have watched a million shows about murder, rapes, child kidnappings, pedophiles, drowning, choking................. I want to be a GOOD mom! I don't want to fail my children. So I am constantly checking doors, windows, safety, safety, safety!!!!! I paid for expensive swim lessons to prevent drowning. We practiced what they learned every day after swim lessons. What a great mom I was being! Other mom's surely will say I am doing well. I proudly posted a swimming Edgar on FB. Many commented on how fantastic it was. One mom said "This instructor should be arrested and thrown in jail!" ......... Wait. Huh? Abusive swim lessons??? Yep. This fellow adoptive mother decided she didn't like my choice of swim instructors, my chosen method or ME! and made a call to DCF. She didn't like a video I posted on FB or my decision to delete her when she became insulting. She publicly accused me on FB of "abusing all of my disabled children". Despite the fact only two of the four were in swim lessons, and she had never met me or my children. She started up a lynch mob on social media consisting of her friends and family.  She felt my "traumatized orphan children" were being further traumatized by swim lessons.  Overlooking the fact that we lived in Florida, the drowning capital of the world. Ignoring the fact we had a swimming pool and that children with special needs were much more likely to drown than typical children. and............ she apparently had no qualms about separating "traumatized children" from the only loving home they knew.  She didn't care about facts or accuracy, only painting a picture that suited her vengeful agenda.  It was a sad and painful time. Yet, I forgive her. I decided I would not be angry or get revenge and instead did a local news piece on special needs, drowning and the importance of survival swim lessons. My pediatrician and swim instructor joined me. Edgar swam under water smiling his great big Edgar smile! A local Autism Group contacted the instructor to teach survival swim to their students with Autism. It was incredible!

So I watch FB and see this... "OMG I saw a mom put her child in the car without a seat belt, I got the tag and called the police!" I watched as other moms applauded her and called her a hero! Others called the mom a "horrible mother" and vilified her. Perhaps feeling better about their own "imperfect" parenting. Another friend posts.... "Did you see this article? Her children were in the street! Watch your F-ing kids people or don't have them!" and another... "These parent's are idiots. They let their six year old use the bathroom by herself and she was molested. These parent's don't deserve children." .........

A week after moving into our new home we had not yet had the chance to completely childproof although we thought the kids were secure. One day the boys were out playing in our new fenced in back yard. We loved the idea of a 8 foot privacy fence! Now the boys could play outside! Sand boxes, swing sets, running and playing without mom keeping them on a leash! What fun! Bogdan, Lettie and Dunham had just laid down for naps. Gage was sitting on the couch with a sippy cup watching Mother Goose Club. Edgar had decided he wasn't ready to come in yet and was sitting in his favorite spot in the yard. I really needed to stay inside with the other four and fold some laundry. I opened the french doors in my bedroom and living room and begun folding laundry. Peeking out at Edgar every minute or so sitting in his dirt spot playing with his trucks. What a gorgeous day I thought to myself. Just perfect. Marty was out front working on a customers boat. A fresh breeze was blowing in. Check on Edgar, yep playing in dirt. Hang shirts. Check on Edgar, yep playing in dirt. Put away Lettie's blankets.  Dog barking. Check on Edgar. Edgar? Edgar! "He's over here!" The neighbor behind me shouted. My heart dropped. I ran to the fence and stood on a bench to see over. "HOW did he get over there!?" "He JUST fell over. He climbed the fence!" She said. The neighbor had a pool (pretty glad I got those "abusive" swim lessons). Standing on her own bench she handed Edgar back over the fence. Several adults were standing in her yard. I wondered briefly what they thought about this "horrible mother". She smiled and said "My daughter has autism. I know how it is. My daughter has gotten away from me twice." I wanted to hug her!!! For taking away my fears. For not judging me. For understanding. The other adults smiled and walked over to the fence. We laughed and made friends. I told her about the swim lessons, she wanted more info for her daughter. She asked to have coffee I gratefully agreed.
I decided to take some additional precautions that day. We moved the bench first of all! ;) We got all the safety locks and door knobs in place. I called the local Sheriff's office and added Edgar and Dunham to the "Potential Wanderer" list. We got missing child kits and added all the children's info. AND I created a flyer and passed it out to all of my immediate neighbors letting them know who we were and about our children's special needs. Phew! Yep! All in ONE day! This "terrible mom" took precautions. But this day was not over yet.....

I called my good friend to share with her my eventful day, and she shared this with me... She had taken her daughter to the craft store along with her older, typical son's. Not sure on their ages but my guess would be 11 and 13? While she sat in the car with them waiting, her 16 year old daughter called needing assistance inside the store. It was a beautiful day, like I mentioned earlier, the weather was perfect! The windows were down in the car. She told the boys to sit tight be good and she would be back in just a minute. After a few minutes she was checking out when a intercom page asked the owner of (her vehicle) to come to customer service. She did. Standing at the counter was an angry woman. The woman said "You left your children alone in the car!!? What is wrong with you!? I would NEVER do that!" My friend was speechless. She stared at the woman. The woman continued to insult her until she quietly walked away. I have known this friend for years, she has three special needs adopted children and she is by far one of the BEST mother's I know. But here on this day..... this very strange special day, we both shared this awful sinking feeling that we were somehow "horrible moms". We questioned ourselves .... doubt began sinking into our minds. Perhaps we underestimated what it would take to care for so many children? We second guessed our decisions to fold laundry and leave teens in a car.

but.... this day wasn't over yet ;)

After dinner I decided to get out of the house for a bit. I grabbed up Gage and we walked out to the van to head to my favorite "ME" Time spot, Target. As we reached the van I notice an adorable little boy was standing in the driveway of my neighbor's house. He was around 18mo? I looked around for his mother. No mom. Anyone? nope. I noticed the big garage door was open and it occurred to me he must have gotten out of the house that way and nobody knew he was gone. A car was coming.... the boy darted into the street. I yelled "STAY HERE" to Gage and darted for the boy. I knew Gage would stay put. He just does. and this was an emergency! The car stopped just as I reached the boy and a man jumped out. He looked panicked. "Its ok" I told him. "I got him." As I walked up to my neighbors door carrying her son, it was not too soon for me to reflect on how ironic it was I had just put a flyer on her door two hours earlier because of "fence jumper".  I knocked. The mother and two men came to the door. Dad and an Uncle? The mother was young, pregnant, 7 months? She gasped "Oh my God! How did he get out? how? where?" She looked panicked. So much like me earlier that day. I explained where I found him. She was so grateful. She said "We were JUST discussing your flyer!" I smiled and said "It happens, we are all mom's. We have to look out for each other." I told her about Edgar's fence jumping. We spoke about her pregnancy and photography and we all became friends. I couldn't wait to share this with my friend and called her on my way to Target. She too had a similarly redeeming experience. As she took an evening walk with her youngest a neighbor stopped to tell her how beautiful her baby was. This stranger said "You should have lots of children!" These incredible moments to the end of an emotional day, was a sign. A sign of encouragement from a Savior that loves us, walks with us. He is never wrong. He didn't make a mistake in choosing us to parent these children! Despite our imperfections, we are the perfect parents for our children.

You see... we have a choice friends. We can continue to tear one another down because we disagree or don't like how someone else parents. We can bully other mom's to feel better about our own imperfections. We can vilify and attack others character and even call DCF over swim lessons. We can belittle one another in the craft store or proudly declare ourselves hero's on FB. Or......... we can stop. Show Grace, understanding, kindness. We can lend a hand, make a friend, and truly care for other mother's and their children. We have four adopted children with special needs. This is unusual. Some people want to know why??? Why would someone want these "broken" children. They decide we must have an ulterior motive and they will uncover it and report it! Some people want something to talk about Other's want to be a hero and "fix" or "save" our children from ????????????  Therapy? Swim lessons? Bath time?

I have a third neighbor. She is an older woman. She lives with her grown son. When I was passing out my flyers she asked "why do you need so many children?" Her glaring eyes and smirk were familiar to me. I had seen it on many faces during this season in my life. I saw it on the faces of the Chinese exchange students at Sea World. I saw it on the faces of fancifully dressed Ukrainians as they walked past me looking disgustedly at Edgar. I had even seen this look on the faces of friends and family. I know this look. This voice of disdain. She doesn't like children I thought. Especially "foreign adopted special children". Today, I saw her son peeking through the fence. He was watching Bo. Bo was wearing his usual preferred attire "a diaper" and rolling around in a pile of leaves. The other kids had just gone inside with daddy to get baths. But Bo takes longer and likes to be alone. He doesn't play like "normal" kids because he can't keep up and he is special and unique. He likes rolling around in the dirt and grass. I don't know why... He can't tell me. But I can assume that it feels good to be in the sun after four years in a crib. I was sitting on the porch watching him when I spotted the neighbor. Why was my neighbor watching? I don't know? Was he judging the boy with CP? The mom who let her son with CP roll around in dirt? Did he see what I see? A miracle? A little boy free and loving mother earth? or was it something more sinister? I got up quickly and brought Bo inside.

I thought this blog would flow better. That it would have an end point or some deep meaningful lesson. Maybe I am just an imperfect mom sharing her heart. Maybe I am tired of having to explain why I make the decision's I do as a mother. Maybe I just want to ask that everyone stop judging and tearing each other down and instead show other mom's grace, love and friendship. Maybe I want you to stop and think....... Maybe that little boy with CP isn't unloved, neglected and abandoned in a pile of leaves. Maybe his mama is watching him from the porch, tears in her eyes, watching her beautiful son covered in dirt and thanking God for his very many blessings!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Five days without Facebook

Five days.... that's all. Just five days to focus on my little's, my husband, my life.
and.... What a difference five days makes!! Yes, we completed our post placement report on Edgar and Dunham and registered Bo and Lettie with the Embassy, we caught up on all Dr appts. etc.

BUT the biggest accomplishment by far was the peace we found as a family.
We found peace in the new routine, the bonding, the challenges. I even found peace with my past....
These children. I cannot find the words to explain the pure love, delight, and purpose they bring to our lives.
 Bogdan has found his own peace. I hear it in his laughter. I see it in his eyes. He knows friends. At breakfast he no longer screams and demands his food... he waits, smiling. Knowing, here, in THIS "orphanage?" he is always fed well. He loves my kisses! Did anyone EVER kiss him before? I will never know that answer. But I know that he feels mine! He feels daddys! He is gaining weight. He is gaining understanding. He is hearing the TRUTH about his Heavenly Father that adores him! He has NOT been forsaken. He is dearly loved.
Edgar. This boy! He is the very best snuggler you will EVER encounter. I take ALL my naps spooning him. His gentle snore. Oh my! His HUGS! Incredible! The best! He is my helper. He is such a loving smart beautiful boy. Overlooked by many... Dismissed by his nanny's as a "retarded" child. Oh this boy!!! He is NOT to be ignored! His gentle persistence is so inspiring. ANYONE who has the opportunity to know him is SO incredibly blessed. I tell you friends HE IS incredible! He renews my faith! He delights my spirit and my chest bursts with pride at the mention of his name!
Dunham. Small but tough! This little dude is strong! He can do pull ups like a jock on steroids! He is super smart and LOVES to learn! If momma does a lesson he is the first in line and listens intently. But like most smarty's he is quick to lose interest if I don't keep his attention.
Gage! Oh boy! My little bio-baby is his daddy through and through! Stubborn as hell! :) He is demanding and is challenging Edgar as Chief of the Little's! He insists on communicating by crying as loud as possible. Then just as I have had enough of his screaming he does the sweetest things imaginable! Brushing Bogdan's hair, gently kissing Lettie's head, sharing his Goldfish with Edgar. He loves country music and takes his dancing VERY seriously! :)
Lettie. This little girl is a pure angel! She is a daddy's girl for certain. She is also a night owl and snoozes most of the day. Between 8pm-11pm she is a ball of energy! Daddy is an evening person too so the two of them are besties! She is rolling over, gaining weight and has slid into our family as if she was here all along.
Friends, our lives are good. Perfect? No. Full of stressful, hard moments? Yes. But.... How...can we possibly FEEL ANYTHING OTHER THAN BLESSED!!! Bogdan's brain was dying every day he went without surgery. Lettie is gaining weight and will receive the best cardiac services in the U.S. They are LOVED! Blossoming! THIS is what life is about friends!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

No Place Like Home...

So much has happened! I traveled to Ukraine to help my husband bring home Bogdan and Lettie. Their thin unhealthy bodies shocked me the most. As soon as we arrived in the US we brought them to All Childrens Hospital. Lettie needs heart surgery but is too small. She needs to gain weight and get healthier first. Bogdan was scheduled for brain surgery immediately. He had that surgery last Wednesday. It was scary, but he is doing fantastic! All of the kids are adjusting well and we have been focused on getting their medical services, paperwork, etc in order.

We are both madly in love with our family! Our five little's are our life. I am grateful God chose us to care for these incredible children. I remind myself when I am tired, sick, in pain.... just how blessed I am! Lettie is an absolute doll! She is so quiet and gentle. She is not a demanding child which is fortunate since we have so many young ones. She is content watching her brothers and notifies us she is hungry by sucking on her lip. She rarely cries and her cry is a gentle low cry. Refreshing from Gage and Dunham's demanding cries! ;) Although she is not demanding she has plenty of character! She makes the funniest faces and plays contentedly by herself. God chose the perfect princess for us!
Bogdan.... oh this child! He has captured my heart so quickly. His eyes say so much! His strength and resilience despite all his challenges is astounding! His hydrocephalus caused CP. It affects his entire body, although his right side is worse. He moves at a snails pace and he has no strength. He is so weak he has to rest his head often. But his smile and laugh are powerful! His eyes are a gorgeous green color and his brown hair and small features make him look most like me! He looks much like the "Reedy" side of my family. He wants to do everything his brothers do and it pushes him to try harder. The peer pressure is positive and he slowly joins in everything they are doing. He cries to me "Na" to join them. He has picked up on several English words, my favorite...."Mommy"! I include him in everything the boys do. It requires some ingenuity to accommodate him safely but I know the extra effort on my part will change his life! He is an incredible little boy and I cannot wait to see what God has planned!