Monday, December 31, 2007

Good-bye 2007

As the evening draws to a close and I contemplate bedtime, I have taken a moment to reflect on all that the year 2007 has offered to my life.

There have been the continuation of friendships that have been on-going for years. The "Girls", Sharon, Jennifer, Dianne, Iris and Dawn, remain a steady source of support for one another and I know I speak for all of us when I say I can't imagine life without them. I was blessed to make new friends and even more blessed not to lose any of the ones I have. I continue to be blessed by my friend Susan who challenges the way I think, points out when I'm wrong, listens when I complain and buys me Starbucks' gift cards.

My mother was seriously ill a lot this year, but as the day draws to a close I have heard how she is cleaning and washing and organizing and preparing for the new year. For those simple activities that she can enjoy I am thankful for there were many, many times this year that those things were not possible. We have been blessed to have had the Lord provide healing from cancer, deliverance from much of her pain through physical therapy and even after much difficulty post-operatively, the successful removal of her gall bladder and thyroid.

My dad was healthy throughout 2007 and had good results from a colonoscopy this year. He continues to work at The Home Depot and get up earlier than the chickens. He developed a huge interest in computers and cameras this year.

Joshua has done well in his new school, both behaviorally and academically. It was a good move for him. He did well in sports this year and looks forward to basketball, baseball and football for the coming year. 2008 will see him enter middle school. How can this be? He just isn't old enough! 2008 will also see his tonsils and adenoids out -- a procedure that has my mommy-fear on high alert. I know that God gave him to me and that He loves him more than even I do. I know He will take care of him. 2007 was the year we learned of both his and my ADHD diagnosis and we have truly come a long way this year in finding what works for him, for me and for our family. Knowledge truly is power in this case.

Kevin has done well this year at work, completing the submission of his packet to become a Senior Geologist and move up to a more managerial position in the company. This is something he has wanted for a long time and I know he is happy to have achieved it. He has been asked to be a Deacon Partner at church in the coming year and is very excited about that. I am very proud of him and thank God for blessing this man who takes such good care of us.

And me, well, 2007 didn't bring my daughter, but it allowed God to use this time to mature me and grow me more into the person He needs me to be. I was able to travel several times this year to South Carolina to do projects and while it is always hard to be away and is hard when I return, the time away is always like a respite from "real life" and allows me time to focus on my relationship with God as I only have responsibility for myself during that time. I was blessed in my time facilitiating the Beth Moore classs on A Woman's Heart: God's Dwelling Place. 2008 will bring about facilitating another Beth Moore class, Stepping Up. I am truly looking forward to it as I grow immeasurably from each study of hers that I do. Sadly, I know it will bring on more direct attacks from Satan as I work to study God's word in-depth, but it is a price I am willing to pay to grow closer to Him.

I have become so much more aware of the plight of poverty, homelessness, orphans and political unrest in the world around us. Sadly, I have become somewhat jaded about the world of adoption and of the agendas of the agencies who proport to serve these populations, but I know that my God is the Ancient of Days and that in the end, He will work it out so I don't have to.

I lost my dear friend this year, Scatty-Ratty-Patty-Boombalatty, aka Scat, my big fat yellow kitty who had such a hard life, medically. There are times I still catch sight of him out of the corner of my eye -- walking through the house. I suspect that 2008 might be the year we loose our Sunshine, an old girl who has been a good dog.

I feel I have settled more into my church and have made more friends -- a hard task for someone who really prefers to be the introvert. I have made many new friends online through my adoption research.

I still have my Grandmother, but each year, we think it will be her last. She turned 80 this year. She is only a little short of living to be the oldest of her siblings.

2008 brought home Reed from Taiwan; the birth of Caleb; the pregnancy of my friend DeeAnna; and the move of our friends, The Lyons to another church. It brought about the recent referral of Mikayla from Hong Kong to our friends Mark and Anita after their move from Tennessee to Florida this year. We saw the referral and subsequent travel of friends, The Hoods from Smyrna, who traveled to China to get Jadyn. My high school friend Terri traveled to China to get Teagan (and she also experienced the marriage of her daughter and birth of her granddaughter this year as well). And fellow Tennesseeans, the Hindman's traveled to China to pick up Zoey. 2007 saw the miracle of Brea Wusterbarth, a precious little one originally from China who received a heart transplant.

2007 saw me turn 40, my grandmother turn 80 and my son turn 10. It was a year of "0's". It was the year that dear friend Phyllis Trevathan, who also turned a "0" age this year, left our cul de sac to marry and move to Franklin. Sadly it was the year that my dear friend Stoney lost his brother, Dean, and uncle, Cecil, both unexpectedly.

It was the year that Kevin and I first got to attend the Weekend to Remember marriage conference at Opryland -- it was life changing and a wonderful experience -- thanks to our Sunday school teachers, The Felts'.

It was the first year that all of Kevin's family had been together for a holiday in many, many years. It was such a blessing to have Thanksgiving all together and for all of the family to finally all be in the States at the same time.

It was a good year, all things considered. It was a year that made me laugh and cry, to glorify and praise God and to question Him. It was a year to be thankful.

I look forward to 2008 and all the excitement it has in store!!

Happy New Year Dear Friends!

Moving Photo

This photo is from one of the Baby Houses in Kyrgyzstan -- Tomok, I believe. A local humanitarian group recently went in and provided medical supplies for three orphanages in the area and provided this photo and an update of what they did. I hope you have the time to read it -- it is just one page.

This is the link to their site, The Footprints Network. Their goals (from their site) are:

We support the UN Millennium Goals:

With two billion of the world's people living on less than $2 a day, alleviating this crushing poverty and the health, social and environmental ills that accompany it, is everyone's responsibility. Most projects we support are in developing countries, as these projects yield the greatest social return on investment.

We support the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which aim to significantly reduce world poverty by the year 2015:

  • Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger

  • Achieving universal primary education

  • Promoting gender equality and empowering women

  • Reducing child mortality

  • Improving materanal health

  • Combating HIV / AIDS, malaria and other diseases

  • Ensuring environmental sustainability

  • Developing a global partnership for development

Thank you for Giving to the Lord

We had such a beautiful song sung at church Sunday -- "Thank You for Giving to the Lord." I was so moved just as I am every time I hear this song, knowing that this side of heaven, we have no idea what our actions really can mean. We have no idea how God can take what little we do and turn it into something magnificent. I have been blessed to be able to see His effects on my life through all the turns and twists that I went through as a baby to come to the home and parents that I now have.

I came home to search for a video of this and was amazed again by God when the video I choose to watch (out of many on YouTube) was one with photos of people who are Asian. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. As I watched this video I realized just how my viewpoints on life have changed. I want, so desperately, for God to use me, to change lives. I want to fully give myself to Him to do great things. I just can't imagine knowing the needs in today's world and not wanting to DO something about it. But for the grace of God go I.

Let the Fundraising Begin

Friends -

We are beginning to exhaust every effort we know how to in an effort to bring Ellie home this year. The fees associated with adopting from Kyrgyzstan are roughly $37,000. We have some of these fees, but no where near ALL of the fees. We are implementing some small fundraisers here on our blog.

  • There are links to the left for magazine sales. We get 40% of the cost of the subscription and the rates are lower than most places.
  • We have added an ONLINE MALL for those of you who shop online. We get a small percentage if you make purchases. If you regularly buy things online, consider coming here to this site, clicking the link to the left and connecting to the site that way. We only get paid if you go through our link. There are wonderful stores like Wal-mart, Target, K-Mart, Dell, Circuit City, BestBuy,, RitzCamera, Office Depot, Toys R Us, KB Toys, I-tunes, GAP, The Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Dicks Sporting Goods, Nike, Linens and Things and PacSun. There are also LOTS of SPECIALS and CLEARANCES that are only good through these links.

These are the small things we are doing. Some of the other "small" ways we are trying to fund our adoption account include:

  • Our family is cutting out "eating out" for a month. That money we would normally spend is going into our adoption fund. The additional benefit is we will eat healthier for a month.
  • We are cutting back to basic cable. We only watch a couple of channels at our house and think we can save around $30 a month here.
  • We are looking for "found" money. Everyone occasionally gets a check for something they weren't expecting. Just this past month we got birthday money, a check for a sweatshirt we had sold to someone, Christmas money and money from selling a couple of extra tickets we had to the Music City Bowl. This alone added several hundred dollars to our adoption account.
  • We have cancelled our Netflix account. $10 a month there is a savings, considering we hardly ever use it.
  • Kevin is having repairs made to the van and we are going to sell it.
  • We are considering absolutely every purchase on whether or not we actually need it or just want it. Wants are out the door until Ellie comes home.

Will it add up to $36,000? Not each of these things individually, but we hope that it is the start of a snowball effect and that other fundraising efforts we will try in early spring will help. Continue to pray for our family as we seek to do God's will.

Kevin, Maria and Joshua


Ok... so this was priceless.

Last night we were in the car and Joshua was trying, once again, to pop his ears. I suppose his sinuses are in a jam because he's all the time trying to "pop his ears". The feel full, he says.

So, I say, "Joshua, are your ears stopped up again."

He says, "Yes, everytime I get near water they stop up." Huh??? We were passing a pond.

Then he says, "When I stick my fingers in my ears, my eyes sweat."

After a one second pause, both Kevin and I burst into laughter. It hurt his feelings, but, gosh, it was just so funny!!

Then, this morning, he lost a tooth. I went over to see "the hole" that he wanted me to see. He had said, "Well, thank goodness I have two holes in my mouth now." Huhhhh???

When I couldn't see another "hole", I asked where it was. He ran his tongue around his mouth and then proclaimed, "I guess the hole grew in." Ahh.....

Josh-isms -- a daily breath of fresh air.

New Year - New Look

Ok... so I don't really like it, but I don't have time to fool around with it today. However, I think it's time for the ole' blog to undergo a facelift. Anyone with real SKILLS in this area, feel free to contact me. *smile*

Kyrgyzstan - The Country

Kyrgyzstan was born on the 31st of August, 1991 as a sovereign modern democratic state. Though young in years, it has a rich heritage and cultural continuity that dates back to many thousand years of antiquity and history.

Situated in the North-East of Central Asia it has a total area of 198.5 thousand square kilometres supporting a population of 4.700.000. Kyrgyzstan borders with Kazakhstan in the North, Uzbekistan in the West, Tadjikistan in the South West, and China in the South East.

Most of Kyrgyzstan's territory lies within the Tien Shan Range, the highest and some of the most beautiful mountain peaks in the world. The highest being Pobeda Peak - 7439 m. and Khan Tengri ("Emperor of the Skies") 6995 m. Over 93% of Kyrgyzstan surface area is more than 1500 m. above sea level, over 41% is higher than 3000 m. In the towering mountains are vast regions of unspoiled nature and primordial beauty which give Kyrgyzstan more than 28 thousand rivulets, sparkling streams and lucid brooks. There are 2000 large and small lakes in the Republic. The largest and best known is Lake Issyk-Kul literally "hot lake" so named for its perennial waters that flow the year round despite high altitude and freezing cold. Lake Issyk-Kul is the second largest in the world after Titicaca in South America. So large are its waters and so deep (in volume 1.738 cubic km, in depth 668 m.) that the lake is often mistaken for an inland sea. Some other relatively large lakes are Son-Kol, Chatyr-Kol and Mertsbakher.

Placed along the Silk Route on the historic crossroads of trade and cultural exchanges between China, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India and the Arabian Sea, Kyrgyztan is home for more than 8O minorities and ethnic communities. Kyrgyz, Russian, Uzbek, Ukrainan, Germans, Tatars, Kazaks, Uigur and Tadjik among others. As a multi-national state Kyrgyzstan has a rich variety of languages, literature, folklore, arts, crafts, customs and communities that lend color and variety to Kyrgyz culture. The Kyrgyz Republic firmly upholds the equality of all communities.
The official language is Kyrgyz yet Russian forms a common language of all groups.
The capital city Bishkek is located on the foot of the Ala-Too mountains of the central part of Chui Valley. In 1825 the Khanat of Kokand (region now in Uzbekistan) conquered and demolished the Kyrgyz fortress. In 1862 it was recaptured by Kyrgyz with the help of Russian Military detachments In 1878 the city became a district center called "Pishpek" after the Kokand conquest. In 1926 under former Soviet Russia the city was renamed Frunze after the communist leader and famous Soviet public figure who was born here. With the Independence of Kyrgyztsan in 1991 the traditional name Bishkek was restored. The city lies in close proximity to some of the most exotic and legendary places - Samarkand, Khieva, Bukhara, Kashgar; and in a region that glitters with historic figures of Alexander the Great, Tamerlane, Moghul Baber the Lion, Marco Polo, Umar Khayam.


Between China and Central Asia there is a country, lifted by its mountains above the world. Tien Shan is the name given to the mountains by Marco Polo, a great traveller and merchant, who walked across the territory of the present-day Kyrgyzstan on the Great Silk Road.

Kyrgyzstan is at the same altitude with Italy and only a little smaller in area.
The climate is sharply continental. Summer is usually dry and sunny in the valleys, whereas it often rains in the mountains. Clear good weather lasts till December. There are thaws in winter and cold spells in spring and autumn.
Kyrgyzstan ranks first in Central Asia in prospected coal reserves. Mining and processing of non-ferrous metals, such as antimony, mercury, tin, copper and others, is presently the focus of the ore-mining industry and it's prospects for the future.

Wool processing and cotton growing occupy a conspicuous place in the economy of the republic.
Now the republic is actively developing tourism, aiming it to be a leading article of economy in the future. To coordinate the activities and to render state assistance to the newly established enterprises the Ministry of Tourism has been formed.
In days of old the territory of what is now Kyrgyzstan was crossed by the Great Silk Road leading from Europe to China.
It was invaded by the hordes of Genghis Khan which left blood and ashes behind. Alexander of Macedon exhausted his army in these parts and turned back. The mountains would save the Kyrghyz and enable them to preserve their original culture.

There are monuments, left from those days indicative of the industry and workmanship of the ancient people - the Buran Tower the Uzgen Shrine complex Babur's House on Mt. Suleiman the Tash-Rabat caravan-serai and others. Heavy and bloody dependence on the Khans of Kokand promoted rapprochement of the Kyrghyz with Russia which determined to a great extent the further social and economic development of Kyrgyzstan.

The world biggest relic forests of nut-trees grow here in the republic. In the middle of the century nut trees were exported from here to Greece where they have taken root very well.
Peerless in beauty and salubrious properties are forest tracks of the Tien- Shan fir, Semyonov silver fir, long-living archa-tree, pistachio-tree, almond-tree. Thickets of sea-buckthorn, black currants and dog-rose are the world largest.

Lovers of wild animal hunting have a nice opportunity to adorn their house with horns and skin of the celebrated argali of Marco Polo.The mountains are the habitat of wild boars, bears, snow leopards, lynxes, wolves, foxes, badgers and other beasts.

National parks and wild life preserves have been established, special routes and grounds for visitors to see everything in natural conditions have been organized.

Lovers of keen sensations Kyrgyzstan proposes the world renowned mountain tops of the Tien-Shan and the Pamirs: Khan-Tengri, Pobeda peak, Lenin peak.

It also proposes terrific speed rafting down the swift rivers Naryn, Koke-Meren, Chon-Kemin, Chatkal and others.

Numerous tourist firms of the republic offer tourists trips to most interesting sports of the Tien-Shan, mountain gorges with silvery rivers, glaciers, cliffs, fir-tree forests, lakes and inaccessible mountain tops.
For rest on water there is an Alpine lake, Issyk-Kul. Like aquamarine in the crown of silvery mountains it lies at the altitude of 1607 metres. The depth is 6681 metres.

Issyk-Kul with its fine sand beaches, crystal clear mineralized water, combination of mountain and maritime climate is a very good health-resort zone. Many health centers on the lake use thermomineral and therapeutic mud baths for tourists' health building.

Now over 100 groups of mineral and thermal waters of Barzpomi, Narzan and Essentuki type have been discovered. In winter, adventureous people can find varies forms of tourism. Alpine skiing routes and bases are only 30 km from Bishkek. In summer one can ski on mountain-skiing routes of the Ala-Archa and other glaciers.
The food eaten in Kyrgyzstan has developed from the subsistence diet of the nomads - mainly meat (including entrails), milk products and bread. The diet of the nomads is limited to mutton and noodles. The most traditional dishes are besh barmak (meat with noodles), a mutton stew, and roast lamb. For ceremonial meals, the lamb is killed without spilling its blood, and the head is served to the guest of honour, who slices portions of the eyes and ears and presents them to other guests to improve their sight and hearing. Horsemeat is eaten fresh and in sausages. Traditional beverages are kumys, fermented mare's milk, a mildly alcoholic drink, bozo - a thick yeasty concoction made from fermented millet. Tea is usually served without milk.
Nan is local flat bread, is baked in a tander, a beehive-shaped oven. Dimlama steamed layers of meat and vegetables topped with cabbage.Lagmen is a spicy noodle-based dish common to Central Asia Mante steamed buns stuffed with meat and onions.Shashlik (kebab) is usually made with lamb or mutton, occasionally with beef.Pilov is a pilaf-like dish with bits of mutton and vegetables.Fruits of all sorts are locally grown and are excellent, although fruits and vegetables are rare in the Kyrgyz cuisine.
The vast majority (75%) of today's Kyrgyz are Muslims of the Sunni branch, but Islam came late and fairly superficially to the area. The geographically isolated southern provinces tend to be more conservative than the industrialized, Russified north. Kyrgyz Muslims generally practice their religion in a specific way influenced by earlier tribal customs, which reinforce the north-south differences. The Russian population of Kyrgyzstan is largely Russian Orthodox (20%). The Uzbeks, who make up 13% of the population, are generally Sunni Muslims. Freedom of worship is practised.
In 1993 Kyrgyzstan introduced its own national currency. The monetary unit is the som dividable into 100 tiyn. Currency code: KGS. Kyrgyzstan is effectively a cash-only zone. The local currency is the only legal tender, though in practice US dollars and Deutschmarks may be accepted or even requested for some transactions. There are currency exchange desks in most hotels and many shops. Most places accept only brand new banknotes. Banks change US dollars travellers' cheques into som, though licensed private moneychangers in shop fronts have slightly better rates for US dollars cash. Credit cards are not widely accepted, even in Bishkek.
January 1 - New Year's Day
January 7 - Russian Orthodox Christmas
March 8 - International Women's Day
March 21 - Navruz ('New Day') - Ancient festival recently introduced in Kyrgyzstan. It can include traditional games, music festivals, street art and colourful fairs.
May 5 - Constitution Day
May 9 - Victory Day - Celebration of victory in the World War II 1941-1945, with military parades.
August 31 - Independence Day
September 1 - Day of Knowledge - The first day of school for students of all ages.
The centuries-old artistic work of the Kyrgyz has developed under the conditions of a nomadic way of life. Alongside the ever-constant work of cattle breeding and agriculture, the people have been involved in various crafts.

Materials for making plates and dishes, horse saddles and harness - wool, leather, skins and wood - were procured on the spot. National masters have long supplied the local market with articles magnificent in beauty and simplicity. These items have been passed from one generation to the next, along with the secrets of their making.Fortunately, ancient traditions are not lost today. The traditional Kyrgyz handicrafts that are still practised by local craftsmen are rug and carpet making, jewellery making, leatherwork, wood turning, metal chasing and embossing etc.

Having a nomadic life-style, Kyrgyz people have used a material made of felt. As felt is very warm, it protects the Kyrgyz national dwelling (yurta), however it is also used to make felt rugs with coloured panels sewn on (shyrdak) or pressed on (alakiz), and wool tapestries.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Welcome to the World - Caleb

Our friends Danny and Michelle had their son yesterday. Joshua and I went to visit them in the hospital today. He is SO ADORABLE. It reminded me so much of when Joshua was born. I remember holding him and just looking at him and thinking he was the most beautiful baby in the world. I saw that same look on Danny's face today. He is so in love with his son! Visit their blog (link also to the right) to see photos of him in a day or two (when they get home).

I hope they have a wonderful, wonderful life with their blessing from God. Congratulations my friends!

Adoption Update

I don't want to go back and read my blog to see where I last left off on our adoption update, so there might be some overlap. Several of you have heard updates off and on too, so wade through to where you need to in order to be "caught up".

We have officially made our decision to go to Kyrgyzstan. Our application was mailed off to our new agency and accepted. We have received our contracts and dossier checklist from them. Once we have an updated home study, we will sign our contract, send it and our first payment and will officially be "on the list" for a referral. After that we will complete the remaining documents needed for our full dossier. During this time we will wait for our new I171H. Apparently, in order to stay in line with China, we will need to file (and pay for) a new I600A (Petition to adopt an orphan). This will require another fingerprinting session. Since our others are about to expire, we will probably have to fingerprint twice in the next few weeks. WHY can our government not use one set of prints??? We are proceeding without the help (or technically, the "approval" of our first (China) agency. They have been less than helpful and have told us it could take several months for them to come to a place where they will have policy in place to allow for concurrent adoptions. We are not willing to wait any longer.

We are using another local agency (yes, our third) to update our home study. We have an appointment with them January 10 for our first meeting. After that, they will come to our house (major house cleaning coming up!!) and finalize the home study update within two weeks after that. We have multiple documents to gather for them as well.

Today we opened an adoption account at our local bank. That was another step that made this process feel "real". We felt we needed to keep these funds separate from our regular account since we were paying for our China adoption for our regular account.

I am in the "gathering" phase, paperchasing. It gives me something tangible to do. It's easier than the waiting phase -- which I don't do so well.

Hopefully, we will be "on the list" by end of January. Based on the information we've been given, we could receive a referral sometime between March and July. We would travel a week or two after that for our first trip/visit. We would stay about 2 weeks and then return home for somewhere between 4-8 weeks and then one of us will return to bring Ellie home.

Joshua Applies for Passport

Today we went to the post office to apply for Joshua's passport. We filled out the paperwork, he had his photos made, checks were written, oaths given and he has officially applied for his passport to travel to Kyrgyzstan to meet his sister!!!

We anticipate having his passport mid-February. He was really excited about it.

It's hard for me to imagine that as a ten-year-old he will be an international traveller. I'm a, well, we all know how old I am, and I'm just now going to be a true international traveller. I don't count Canada and Mexico or our cruises as true international travel.

So much to blog, so little time

Ok, so I've made a list of things to blog about because SO MUCH has happened in my life in the past two weeks that I was afraid I couldn't remember it all!!! Here's my list:

Surprise Party
Kevin's Virus
Christmas Eve at parents
Christmas Day and Santa
Finally 40!Thanks Dianne
Contracts Received for Adoption
Joshua's Passport
Caleb's Birth and Visit
Kygyzstan to Name a Mountain for Santa

I hope there aren't folks getting this on feed -- if you are, beware, it's going to all come tonight -- properly recorded with photos in fast succession as I try to catch up with recording what's going on in our lives.

Whew, I'm tired already.

Hold onto your hats folks, here we go!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"Queenie" Turns 40!

With much appreciation to my friend Dianne and my mother (Kevin ratted you two out), the photo of me dressed as "The Queen Bee" from Halloween made it's way into the Ashland City Times this week.

It is with much apprehension that I post it here for fear that you all might actually THINK that my hair is this high and white -- believe me, others have thought this -- or that you will feel the need to call me to comment on this, um, lovely photo of me and it's accompanying caption. However, what blog would be complete without all the facts? And, what is life if you can't poke fun at yourself. So in that spirit, here you go ...

Be sure to note the FLAMING candles and the crown. My life is complete.

The next day, I saw the following car in the parking lot of the Cracker Barrell. I think it would be the perfect ride for "Queenie".

For those of you who are frequent readers of this blog, you will remember that a few weeks ago I made a list of the things I would be doing in my last days of my 30s. Please note: finding an ad in the Times with my "Queen" photo was NOT on the list.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today while we were opening presents and enjoying our day, somewhere in China, someone took our dossier and officially logged it in. And, at that time, we thought we would be so close to bringing Ellie home from China.

What a difference a year can make.

Now, here we are wanting to continue down that path, and, at the same time, wanting to travel down another path as well.

We can't wait to see what 2008 will bring, but we know that God will be in control of it.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Kygyzstan to Name a Mountain for Santa

Found this on a blog of a mom who is adopting from Kyrgyzstan.

Kygyzstan to Name a Mountain for Santa
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - This former Soviet republic has mountains honoring Communist and Russian leaders. Just in time for Christmas, autrorities say they plan to name a snowy peak, 'Mount Santa Claus.'

Three climbers set off Wednesday to scale the designated peak and bury a capsule containing the flag of Kyrgyzstan at the summit on Christmas Eve.

Why is a predominantly Muslim and former Soviet land honoring the jolly old elf?

'We want to develop tourism and Santa Claus is an ideal brand to help us do this.' said Nurhon Tadzhibayeva, an official with Kyrgyz tourist authorities.

Plans are afoot to hold an international Santa Claus congress in Kyrgyzstan in the summer, Tadzhibayeva said. The country also intends to hold annual games in which Santas from all
over the world will test their chimney-climbing, sled-racing and tree decorating skills.

Other Kyrgyzstan peaks bear the names of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

And, as my fellow blogger shared, PLEASE, PLEASE let our travel dates concur with the dates of the SANTA CLAUS CONGRESS!!!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Surprise to Me!! Surprise to Kevin!!

Poor Kevin ... that's the most appropriate way to begin the story of what was my "surprise" birthday party.

Last night, Kevin and Joshua went to see National Treasure 2, Book of Secrets. I decided to stay home because my friend Susan told me she was coming to see me today. Knowing how HORRIBLE my house was and not being able to stand it anymore, I told them to go and I'd work on cleaning out the "junk" room, putting up Joshua's tree and cleaning the upstairs.

They came home and shortly after, Kevin said that he thought he'd eaten too much popcorn and that his stomach hurt. It went downhill from there. He ended up with some sort of virus and was very sick. I couldn't understand why he was leaning over the trashcan going, "This CANNOT be happening now." I tried to be re-assuring as I told him, "It's no big deal; it's just a virus. We don't have anything planned. You can just rest." HAHAHAHAHA Little did I know.

Today, I got up and got Josh and I ready for church and took all our goodies (it was class party day) as Kevin was still laying on the couch, looking pitiful. He said to me, "We need to talk when you get back." Still, nothing -- although I was curious about what he wanted to talk to me about.

When we returned from church, I told him I needed to run into town to finish up some last minute Christmas shopping and he blurted out, "Well, I have to go to Sams." I'm like, "What??? You can't get up, much less go to Sams. What is it? I'll get it for you." He said, "It's your birthday cake. I'm having you a surprise birthday party this afternoon." Well, surprise to me!!!!

So, the irony and fun was that I got to go to Sam's to pick up my own cake and got goodies/snacks too. Imagine my next surprise when I found out that "the girls" had already taken care of all the food. *smile* My freezer is now full of all kinds of hors douevres and goodies.

The next big surprise was for Sharon and Jennifer when I showed up at the party -- driving myself and with the cake. Apparently, Iris had not told them that I knew so when I drove up they were mortified. It was just one big laugh after another. No one can say my turning 40 was anything but a surprise and a laugh. Poor Kevin, he didn't even get to come to the party he planned for me.

We all had a nice time, though, with good food and good friends (wow, I sound like an Applebee's commercial). There were presents and cake -- my two favorite things -- so the party was a success in my eyes. *smile* Ellie even got some presents and she's not even here!!!

I'm glad to report that by the time we got home, Kevin was feeling a lot better. He slept pretty much all day. He was hungry when I got home, so he's surely on the mend.

The greatest story from his being sick is when I called home to ask a question while I was at Sams, I heard him saying, "Josh! Stop, quit!" I asked what was the matter and he told me, "Joshua is Lysol-ing me and the CAT!" That's my boy!!

My cake

Guess what I wished for???
My favorite kids: Joshua, Katie, Emily (aka Emilemilee) and Kirstin

The Girls - Back L to R: Dawn, Dianne, Jennifer and Iris
Front: Me and Sharon (she's next on the big "4-0" train)

My parents with me

Stoney and me

Me, Daniel, Susan and Katie (where was Dan??)
Thank you Kevin, for planning this surprise for me. I'm sorry you didn't get to come and have fun!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Every year since I was a little girl, my daddy and I have had a trip to town to buy mama's Christmas present. Since I got married, we have converted it to breakfast and shopping. When Joshua was born, we added him. Poor Kevin and mama get left out. (Maybe they should go out to eat on their own?)

So this year we waited so late we didn't have any presents to buy so we just went to Cracker Barrell for breakfast and time together.

It was fun even though the C.B. was packed (reminded Daddy of the Thanksgiving I decided I didn't want to cook and we all went there for lunch), but since we weren't in a hurry, it was fine. Here we are before we left. I'm smiling so big my eyes disappeared.

The "Why" Questions

I know God understands my heart. After all, He made me. He is the only person with the blueprint for my heart and my life. I think He understands when I look up at Him and go, "But why?"

Tonight was our Girl's Night Out (GNO) Christmas get-together (there will be separate post covering "The Girls") and we went to eat at O'Charley's. There was a family there waiting to be seated and we started talking to them. They had a little boy who was three, twins (a boy and a girl) who were two and the mom (22) was pregnant again. Now, all that is fine. I've finally gotten to a point that all that is just ok with me. But, the little boy was a little bit lively, and as they were walking in, he was acting up and the mom grabbed his arm and kicked him in the bottom. We all just kind of were stunned. She had said earlier when we were talking to her, "I had to get a job to get some time away from them." What?

Then, I come home to read in my email about a little boy in China who died before he was able to come home to his family. Granted I know he has been "matched" with the best family -- his eternal Father -- and his best home -- heaven, but it makes me sad. He is one of three who died this week waiting for their forever families.

I think the reason this really makes me the most sad, and angry, is because of a conversation I had with our agency this week (the first one that we are working with for China). We have waited and waited to hear from them about their decision on their policy on concurrent/interim adoption. While CCAA (China's Adoption governing body) has made a public statement allowing concurrent adoptions because of current wait times, our agency says:

As soon as the multi-agency organization (JCICS) publishes the list of agencies that are participating in concurrent adoptions, we will move forward with supporting families that request and are approved to do this. Until then, there are no guidelines or practices in place, and therefore, we are not in a position to approve these quite yet. As I'm sure you and your families can understand... this affects more than just our China program and the process of establishing a new policy is quite cumbersome. We hope that families appreciate our deliberate approach to being cautious and detailed in preparing for their adoption(s). We are working on developing specific interagency agreements, refund policies, social work assessment and reassessment tools for families and workers, and of course, clarifying with CCAA the details of their eligibility requirements should a child from another placement join the family prior to a Chinese child. We ask for workers and families to be patient as we move forward with all our "ducks in a row" so that the best interest of the child can continue to be provided, all while servicing families with these additional requests.

I spoke with our social worker this week and, for the first time, have become significantly upset with her and have voiced this displeasure. While this agency continues to spend months upon months debating the impact and developing policies and researching this, that and the other, BABIES ARE DYING!!!! I have explained that we are not trying to change the world, nor this agency, nor how they operate. I understand the need for developing appropriate, well thought out policies to protect both the agency and the children. However, this agency is a MULTI-BILLION dollar (non-profit) corporation whose mission is to find homes for children who need them. What I am trying to do is ascertain how much longer they will take and if they will allow this to happen. She said it could be months and she doesn't know if we will be able to do it. The director of the China program sent an email (that apparently wasn't supposed to be shared with us) asking multiple questions about how the process would go with our doing a concurrent adoption. I answered each and every question as it related to our situation and sent it back to our social worker. I was told, "These were rhetorical questions. The agency is developing their own answers to these questions and they do not need or want your input." Hmmmm... thanks. I reminded the social worker that they are a SERVICE-ORIENTED, FEE FOR SERVICE agency and that we had paid them several thousand dollars and that maybe a little cooperation would be nice. *sigh*

So . . . when I read stories about the babies that die waiting, or when I see the moms who have the babies who probably don't yet realize what a blessing they are (myself included in this at times, I think), I stop and ask, "Why?" No more, no less -- just, "Why?"

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Time with Friends - Speed Stacking

My friend Susan is the closest thing I have to a co-worker. In this field, everyone is an independent contractor. She is the person who got me this job when we met at a research study group five years ago the summer before Joshua started kindergarten.
Since then, she has become one of my closest friends. We talk almost everyday, and some days we talk 5-6 times. We've been through more in 5 years than most friends get to experience together in a lifetime. We have traveled together for work so many times I can't count.
So, today, Joshua and I headed to the 'boro to spend some time with them and to exchange Christmas presents.

Katie was bouncing up and down when we got there she was so excited about presents. Apparently, mom had had her vacuuming the house and cleaning before we got there so she was glad to quit. Katie has been praying for us to bring home Ellie for a long time now. She has even given us some of her outgrown clothes for Ellie too. Here are some lovely photos of my most beautiful, seven-year-old friend, Katie (whom I like to call Katherine Grace), opening her presents.

Katie's brother, Daniel, was given "The Claw" a toy that resembles the large ones in the stores that you drop a buck into and try to pick up a stuffed animal with the claw. This one is for candy. Of course, I didn't READ the box and didn't know it takes 3 "D" sized batteries so we couldn't play with it. DUH!

Susan had asked me a few days back about a present for Joshua -- something about stacking cups and timing it and trying to beat the time. As I told her, I just wasn't sure this was something Joshua would like. I have never heard of it. Imagine my SURPRISE when I noticed Joshua, as he was putting up dishes, trying to stack our plastic cups. What's up with that, I'm thinking? Then, when he gets his present open, he says, "Oh yeah, we do this in PE at school. We've even watched a video on it." Huh! Who knew?

SPEED STACKS became the favorite game for the day as both Katie and Daniel had stacking cup sets with timers and we all tried to have the best times. It is an actual sport, for goodness sakes. For those of you who are just as clueless as I was, click the link here to read more about this. Here are some photos of Susan and Josh trying to beat each other's time.

I suspect there will be another set of SPEED STACKERS at our house as we compete against one another for the fastest time. It's as close to playing a sport as I'll likely get. I might actually be good at it. Who knows??

Joshua came home and watched his DVD and practiced his stacking for hours this evening. Great gift!
Of course, there were presents for the adults too and my gift was the BOMB!! I got a gift card to Starbucks. Now, for a while, I can enjoy a Peppermint Mocha latte, guilt-free! Man, that's an awesome gift. Kevin also got a Starbucks gift card and a bag of their Christmas blend coffee. I'm hoping he'll make us a pot in the morning.
Katie and I got to play a few rounds of Guess Who as did Joshua and Katie before it was time to leave and fight the traffic back home. It was a nice time. I wish we lived closer so we could do it more often.

"The Girls" Have Christmas

It was such a nice time to get to spend some time tonight with "the girls." Sharon, Dianne, Iris, Dawn and Jennifer have been my friends since I was a little, little girl (ok, yes, that was a LONG time ago). Each month we get together and go "do" something.

For Christmas this year, we had planned to go to a restaurant in Pleasant View to eat and back to Jennifer's house to watch Wild Hogs. We had seen this at the movies back in the summer and wanted to see it again.

As it turned out, the restaurant was closed tonight and so we went to O'Charleys, followed by a quick stop at Walmart (really, only 20 minutes) and then we went back to Jennifer's house. It was 10:00 by the time we got back to Jennifer's so the movie was pretty much out at that point. We looked at some of Jennifer's old photos and talked about what we might do for a little trip or something special this year since all of us (yes, except you Dawn) were turning 40 (HOW did THAT happen???). We never really came up with a plan -- not surprising -- but we did have a lot of fun!! I am always happier when I have spent time with them. I always laugh; I sometimes cry; I'm sometimes made mad and sometimes made fun of. It is always good.

We took a photo of all of us because it is so rare that we are all together at one time. I bought a frame at Kohls recently that says, "The Girls". This will be the perfect photo for that.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Joshua's Christmas Party at School

Today was the last day of school before Christmas break starts, and therefore, the day of the school's Christmas parties. I wonder how long it will be before someone ruins this for children and it is banned for fear of offending someone. Classes all met in the gym for an hour to sing Christmas carols. It was a lot of fun singing along with the kids and teachers.

Then we got to have the breakfast party. Our class moms always out do themselves. We had a great selection of foods and the kids had a nice time eating. However, they were really excited to get their stockings filled with goodies. There were so many things in that stocking it was unbelieveable. Of course, I think their two favorite things were the rubber duckies (a phenomenon in fourth grade classes at our school) and the flute. I heaard so much flute music I thought I might loose my hearing.

The party was over relatively early and we left school by 9:45. Joshua invited Braiden over the play for the afternoon and they had a lot of fun.

Josh and his teacher Mrs. Stroup

"I'm going in head first"

Josh and Meagan waiting patiently to open those stockings

What a big stocking you have there!


Kevin Helps Out Santa at School

A few days ago, we got a call from Joshua's school saying they needed a helper to fill in for Santa on Wednesday. Apparently, Santa was not going to be able to make it since it was his busy, busy time of the year, and a Santa was need for photos and visiting with the kids at school. Kevin graciously agreed to help out and got to go help out for about four hours.

Since he knew a lot of the children and their parents, it was funny to watch him say things to them about what they liked to do and to name their parents. The look of WOW on their faces was priceless.

It seems that the fourth graders, smart little children that they are, figured out that Joshua's dad was filling in for the real Santa that day and this was the buzz around the fourth grade.
During the time Kevin was taking photos, I helped out in Mrs. Stroup's room. The fourth graders were studying about Colonial Times and doing crafts related to this. On Monday, we strung popcorn and cranberries. Today, Mrs. Stroup traced silhouettes of the children on black paper and we cut them out and let them put them on a white background. It was a lot of fun and cool to see how they turned out.
For parents who are interested, Santa reports that electronic items were tops on the list of wants this year, including the Nintendo DS, Wiis (a really hot item) and Playstations and Playstation Portables (PSP).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Purpose Driven Life Email on God's Timing

Each day I get a daily devotional from Purpose Driven If you would like to subscribe, click here. Today's devotional was titled, "The Time Came for Her Baby." Since it is Christmas time, I assumed it was a devotional about Mary giving birth to Jesus, and, in a way it was.

The full devotional can be found in the archives. However, this was not your regular Christmas devotional. It was about God's timing. There was a nice story to share:

"God is always on time, at just the right time – George Mueller, the great prayer warrior from the 19th century, once waited on a dock for a special chair to be delivered. He had a bad back and needed the chair for the ocean voyage ahead of him. When the departure time grew close and the chair still had not arrived, Mueller’s friends offered to buy a substitute chair, but Mueller said no – “Either God will provide the chair, or he’ll give grace to do without it.” Like a Hollywood ending, the chair arrived just in time, right on time. Mueller noted, “If the chair had arrived earlier, we might have dismissed the provision of God.” This Christmas, point out the provisions of God when you see them."

There was another section that struck me personally. It said:

"What if you were certain God would provide? – How would you act, think, and live differently if you were absolutely certain God was at the end of the deadline? That is, even if there were mere seconds left, you still believed with certainty that God was working through your circumstances? Believing he’s there and about to provide is the essence of faith. Tell God, “I believe; help my unbelief.”

I sat in church on Sunday and struggled with this thought in regards to the adoption. I have periods of time when I really want 1000% to believe it will all work out and that God will give us all we need to complete this adoption. Then Satan pokes his nasty little head in and says, "Don't get too confident. What if you get to the referral and something goes wrong? What if you wait, in faith, until the last minute and God doesn't provide." I literally had to tell Satan to leave my head Sunday during the service.

And then, today, this came. TELL GOD, "I believe; help my unbelief."

God is good to always provide me with the support and encouragement when I need it. Why would I think He would do less in other areas of my life?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Basketball season starts

Today was Joshua's first basketball practice. Being the "good" mom, I didn't embarrass him at he first practice by bringing my camera. I'm certain that can wait until, oh, I don't know, the second practice.

There are eight boys on his team. He and two other boys are the tallest -- all about the same height. His coach seems really nice but he didn't have a lot to say to the parents.

Josh did well for his first night once he got over looking over to us to see if he was doing well. He was quite nervous as he didn't know anyone there. I was really proud that he went on it and tried hard. I know it took a lot of courage for him to do that.

He's looking forward to the next practice. This is a recreation league so while he will learn, the emphasis is more on playing and learning than competition.

Stringing Popcorn

Today I went to school to string popcorn.

The fourth grade class at Joshua's school is studying Colonial times. They have decorated two trees, a modern tree and a colonial tree. Their teacher wanted them to be able to see someone stringing popcorn and someone stringing cranberries. Ms. Krantz came and did the cranberries while I did the popcorn.

Ms. Stroup read the class a book called If you lived in Colonial Times. It was a really interesting book.

I wanted to to eat the popcorn, but with all the kids there I couldn't. It wasn't a hard job, but it took a long time. I think we'll try to do that at home. The garland was SO pretty. I really liked the cranberry garland as well, but the berries stain your hands and it just seems a bit messy.

Ms. Krantz took a photo of Josh and and I took photos of her and her daughters. These were made in front of the colonial tree. All the things were handmade on this tree.

Kyrgyzstan Application Mailed

Today I mailed off our application to Adoption Options for our adoption from Kyrgyzstan. Next, we will receive a contract from them to sign and will send in our initial payment. After that, we are officially on "the list" to receive a referral. During this time we will gather all our documents for our dossier.

We will not sign the contract until our homestudy update is completed. We are waiting for the final word from our former agency about their approval for us to do this. It has been a battle, but finally our local agency is backing us. We are very thankful for that and continue to be hopeful that this time will be different than before. So far, it appears to be.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Grandmother's Christmas Breakfast

Today mama and I went to the nursing home to celebrate Christmas at a breakfast for the residents of the nursing home where grandmother lives.

I've never seen so many people attend as I did this year. There were several hundred people there. Grandmother really thought it was Christmas Day. Mama said she called early and said it was Christmas, they were setting up the chairs.

Here are a couple of photos from the day:

Calling all Cameras

actofkindness Missions 1:27: Calling all Camera's

This gentleman does LOTS of missionary work and is currently collecting digital cameras, rechargable batteries, etc. to give to the orphanages in Kyrgyzstan (where Ellie will be from). Click the link above for full details, but if ANYONE has any of the items he mentioned and wanted to donate them, his address is provided. I'd also be glad to collect and ship a shipment of them to him.

Imagine -- having only two or three photos of yourself at age eight.

I am an adult adoptee. The one thing that brought me to absolute tears during my reunion period was finding baby pictures of me that I never knew existed (I was adopted at 22 months) and knowing that my son looked just like me when I was a baby. I'm tearing up even as I write this. There is something incredibly "void" in a person's life when you do not have baby photos. Imagine the joy for families who adopt these children and are able to have photos of their children as little babies -- feasibly from the time they enter the orphanage.

I RUIN every camera I have so the reason I upgrade is of sheer necessity. I have three hanging on the wall over in the kitchen and all are broken. I'm not sure WHY I'm keeping them. I will, however, probably purchase a battery charger and some memory cards to donate.

Blessings to all who read this and whose heart is moved to help! You could be providing the help to make sure I get baby photos of my Ellie.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Joshua's Room

We decided that Josh had so much stuff in his room sitting around that we really were going to have to do something about it. Getting rid of it all wasn't an option as a lot of it was sports trophies, medals, bears from Build-a-bear and so on.
So we decided to add some shelves on the walls. We had gotten a $10 coupon from Lowes in the mail and Kevin's mom gave us another one, so off we went to Lowes in search of some shelving.

Kevin and Joshua put them up together. I'm so glad that Joshua has a dad who will take the time to show him how to do things. I know sometimes it would be easier to just do it himself, but he is always willing to take the time to show him how to use tools, the proper way to use them, how they work and what to do to make sure they are level and centered. He has done this since Joshua was little. Imagine my surprise this summer when Joshua knew all about the mower, how to hook up the trailer and how to start the mower. Now, he is a "Power Tool King" like his dad. Kevin doesn't realize that some woman is going to be SO GLAD one day when Joshua knows how to hang her pictures on the wall. *smile*

Each of the four shelves they hung became it's own "themed" shelf. There is a Vikings shelf, a Home Depot shelf, a trophy shelf and a baseball/soccer shelf. Josh has left one area to put his Vikings football after he gets a case for it. It all looked nice when it was done. It's so nice to have the things off the floor and to be able to see the top of the dresser again.

Notice the cat -- this is Joshua's cat, Little Kitty, and he LOVES to sleep on Joshua's bed

One of the things that is most special to Joshua is his stuffed "Kitty". We've had to replaced several of these when Bear (our dog) was younger as we'd come home and find eyeballs and stuffing all through the house where he would rip it apart. We've had this one for several years now as Bear seems to have lost interest. Kitty has gone on all the trips we have and continues to reside in Joshua's bed. *ssshhhh* Don't tell though -- Joshua would be embarrassed.