"We are going to focus on LIFE for Katya. I believe, one day, she will amaze the world."

Dr. Ben Carson on Katya Dueck

Friday, August 19, 2016

Back to School 2016-2017

Katya has started back to school.

She had a range of emotions on the first day.


A little anxious while waiting for the school van to arrive. (Break my heart!)

And then back to self confident once the van with her dearly beloved "van ladies" and her traveling companions arrived!

The reports coming in are all positive so far. Here's hoping for a great year!

In other news, Charity is enjoying a lot about her time in Japan. The "pestilence that stalketh by night" being a duly noted exception. It seems the cabins they are staying in at the one location are thoroughly loaded with vermin. Eep!! They are giving two concerts a day, plus rehearsals and so a lot of time is going into music, but they are also doing some hiking and other things. I am sure she will have a lot of good memories. Please keep praying for the group's safety and an enjoyable time for them all!

Friday, August 5, 2016


Katya's summer camp ended last week. We have given her a wall calendar of her own with just events that are pertinent to her marked on it, and it seems that is helping her to cope with changes a little better as she can keep checking the calendar to visualize what is going on.

She had another successful check up and cleaning. No cavities! I am grateful for how extremely patient the staff is with Katya at her office! It takes twice as long as it should to get a check up and cleaning done because they have to be so patient with her, but they get it done!! ;-)

Chad went off to camp for kids with pulmonary issues and came back yesterday tanned and happy!

He really enjoyed the dogs at camp--here he is telling them good-bye.

And after he was home, with his camp blanket! The camp has volunteers who make and donate a blanket for each kid's bed and they get to take the blanket home with them at the end of camp! So grateful that Chad has had the opportunity to attend camp there last year and this year.

Kristina has been helping at various events this year as a teen volunteer. She also got to travel with her friend B, to WI to the camp where she is volunteering and spend some time with her friend there. While helping with work was part of what Kristina did, she also got to have some fun!

One fine Saturday we went to a Farmer's Market as a family. Found a gluten and dairy free stand and the kiddos got to enjoy treats!

We also took a 1 day summer vacation and all 7 of us went to a Ukrainian Festival. It was a lot of fun!

Katya enjoyed the food like usual!

Chad hung out with the K-9 and his very nice handler.

Kristina took a turn too.

And so our summer keeps moving right along! Charity leaves next week [gulp!!] for Japan for what has turned into a NINETEEN DAY TRIP with about 30 some concerts planned! Please pray for her strength and stamina and for safety for the tour group if you think of it. I know they would all appreciate it.

We don't have much more time before school will start up again and things will be busy so we are packing as much into our days as we can. Today we will go meet up with a friend who moved out of town but is back visiting for the day. We will all enjoy sitting and visiting with her for awhile as she is dearly loved by all of us!

How is your summer going?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

New Territory

Our hearts have long wondered how Katya's birth mom was doing, and yearned to know more about her family in general. We kept waiting for the right time to pursue a search for her, as well as the right person to handle the search.

Recently, things all fell into place, and we knew we had the right time and the right person. A search ensued, and Birth Mom was located. Imagine our surprise and joy to hear back from the searcher that she was thrilled to know Katya was loved and doing well! And we were further surprised to learn that she had given her phone number and address to the searcher to pass on to us!

Well, after several fruitless attempts to reach her, this past Saturday every thing fell into place and Kayta's birth Mom and I got to hear each other's voices for the first time! We had an interpreter who had me on Skype with her, and she put her phone call on 'speaker' so that we could hear each other even though we didn't understand much of each other's languages! It was a short phone call but very meaningful to me, and especially meaningful to hear directly from birth mom that she wants additional photos, and welcomes further contact. She has a pleasant voice, and I imagine that Katya's voice sounds similar. She wants to send some photos to the searcher to scan in and send to us, and we are waiting with so much excitement for those!

Imagine what a shock it was to hear yesterday from the searcher that birth mom had called him after our phone call, scared  that we might be trying to figure out how to take her other child, a half-sib to Katya! We were so sad that we had brought fear and terror when we only meant to bring peace and friendship! My hat is off to this brave woman for still agreeing to contact so that she could know more about her bio daughter, while simultaneously being afraid we might "try to take" her other child. The searcher said she is so excited to be learning to know about Katya, and yet so afraid.

First of all, there is a legal process that needs to happen for a child to be available for adoption, and secondly it would be evil--even sinful in my thinking--to try to wrest a child from their family just because you wanted to adopt again! And last but not least, we are not planning to adopt again, and were we to be interested in doing so, we would certainly be looking for a child who was without parents to care for him or her! We asked the searcher to explain these things to bio Mom and assure her we want only to have contact for friendship's sake, because we think that it is best for Katya to know as much about her roots as she desires to know as she gets older, and also because if we were the biological family we would want to know our child was safe and loved!

The searcher told us that she is very excited to be able to see photos and hear about Katya and so he thinks after he reassures her she will be calmer and hopefully OK. We are hopeful that will prove to be the case. The more we learn about her, the more we long to know her better.

This is uncharted territory for both of us, so hopefully we will all get it figured out and have a long and happy relationship and friendship. That is our heart's longing! After all, it's clear we share some thing very important in common--a love for this special little gal, and our other kids!

Please Note that we will only share information with Katya as we think she is ready to handle it! While we want her to have access to this information, it needs to be done with discretion and wisdom and as the timing is right, so no, please don't come up and start talking to her about it, or to us in front of her, please! And just to be clear, we respect Katya's birth family and their privacy too.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Good Kick

On June 20th, I wrote the following.

So as I posted earlier today, the air quality here is terrible and Chad's asthma and Charity's allergies were just going nuts. So we decided to pack up and head out to cleaner air in the Wheeling area per the air quality map.

Sure enough--the closer we got to Wheeling, the better they both felt! So after kicking around walking and walking in the mall and mainly browsing (although we did find a couple clothing items on clearance that we were happy to find!) we were tired and hungry and wanted something nourishing to eat since our PB and J sandwiches etc. at lunch time had long worn off. So Charity found this little local cuisine place in the historic Centre Market that was called The Soup Shack and we set off to find it. We were charmed when we walked in and placed our orders, and they were soon brought to the table.

We had just started to tuck into our yummy soups when Kristina says, "There's a rat!" with a slight edge of amusement and nervousness. Everyone's heads were swiveling as we tried to locate what she had seen, and Chad suddenly exclaimed--"There's a BIG mouse!" I by that point located it scuttling up the edge of the hall, and exclaimed, "That is a BIG rat!"

Charity stood up at this point to try to see over our heads and caught a glimpse of Mr Rat as he decided to dodge into one of the shops that sold fabrics! Chad ran to tell the Soup Shack employee and he came and poked around with another person to see if they could find the rat. They couldn't but we all assured them that we definitely had seen this critter and he was a HUGE rat! Well, they went back to their stations and we went back to eating soup while laughing over what an unusual experience that was!

Lo and behold, just a few minutes later, Chad suddenly whooped, "There it is again!" and sure enough! We saw it again! He went calling for the young man working at the Soup Shack, and he came running and this time saw Rattie as well! Mr Rattie did NOT like the attention and commotion and came running out of the fabric booth and down the hall with the employees in hot pursuit. We sat down to eat again, laughing even harder because we could hear the commotion at the other end of the building! People were laughing, yelling and exclaiming and we heard someone yell, "Get him OUT the door!" Well, after a bit every thing died down and the young Soup Shack employee came back shuddering, shaking out his shirt which was suddenly dotted with spots of perspiration and waving his hands in a mix of stress and excitement. "That rat RAN OVER MY FOOT and I had to KICK him out the door!" and he disappeared out the door himself to the side walk where we could see him still pacing and practically quivering with nerves.

A few minutes later he came back in, tried to work a few minutes and then gave up, coming to talk to us again. "There's two things in life that scare me!" he proclaimed earnestly. "God Almighty is one, and RATS are the other! And that rat ran over my foot and I was afraid he was going to climb up my leg! I try not to smoke at work, but I'm still so shook up I have to go smoke!" and out the door he disappeared again.

Well, I have to tell you, we are such country bumpkins and so easily amused that we all derived considerable amusement out of the event, and Chad especially was totally delighted that he had seen a rat "in his natural element" so to speak! We couldn't wait to get home to tell Paul and he got a good chuckle out of it as well. All in all, a great day! As Chad said, "Everyone got a good kick out of it, especially the rat!"

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer is Flying By

Our summer is flying rapidly by. We are so busy that I don't know how we could pack much more into our lives and still enjoy life! Really glad that we made the decision to not plant a garden this year (due to many reasons) even though we all really miss the fresh produce!

Katya is having a blast at her school's summer camp! She goes Monday through Thursday and has a long weekend off.

Here is our pretty girl the first day of Summer Camp, waiting for the van to take her.

Charity had a successful and wonderful trip to England with her best friend and parents. What a great thing that was for her! She came home refreshed and renewed (although a little jet-lagged of course!)

I was very thankful for the photos of her enjoying her time there that Amy provided!

Now that Charity is back home, she has been working towards preparing for her trip to Japan in August again. She also helped me take Katya to a Doctor's appointment recently.

We have been trying to enjoy as much time outside as we can. Reading an old book, "Red Pepper Burns" that is a favorite of mine to Chad and Kristina has been a lot of fun this summer as we often enjoy doing it outside.

Kristina was thrilled to get to take another Russian lesson from our dear friend, Alex, co-author of the book, "Infinitely More". She is continuing to make progress in re-learning her spoken Russian, as well as learning to read and write it for the first time.

 Chad enjoyed looking at books at Barnes and Noble and coloring while waiting on Kristina to get done with her lesson.

The girls and I went one evening to hear some music and enjoy some flowers since Paul was willing to get Katya to bed due to her school the next day. There is just something about listening to music in the balmy summer evening, with the golden sun shinning peacefully with people I love that makes my heart feel so full and happy.

And, we had an enjoyable day trip the other day . . . complete with a lot of laughs--but that is a story for another day!!

Enjoy your summer!

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

5 Years Ago

5 years ago we were in Ukraine, slogging through the process to spring Katya out of her orphanage and get her home where she could get urgently needed medical care, enough food, and most important of all, a whole lot of love and teaching! I'm so thankful that she is with us even on the hardest of days!

Right now, Katya is currently enjoying her break before she goes to "Summer Camp" at her amazing school next week for the next 6 weeks. She is happy to be home having some down time, but is very excited she is going to go back soon to school. She likes us to show her on the calendar when she is going back.

Sunday we went to a Russian speaking church where we visit sometimes. Katya was really happy and excited there this time. We asked her if she could understand some of the Russian and she signed, "Yes!" Kristina, who has been working on re-learning her Russian, said she thinks she understood about 75% or so of the Sunday School lesson this time, so she was pretty pleased.

Afterwards, we went to a park to grill hot dogs and turkey burgers, and then the kids played on the playground and had a great time!

Katya swung a lot, but also did ALL the slides (something she would not even try a year ago) AND the little rock climbing wall!

Chad had a blast being a climber!

It was about as perfect a day as you could wish for as far as a Summer Sunday goes!

Happy, Happy Summer to you all!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Baked Oatmeal Recipe

Years ago, I used to love going to visit my friend Karen and her family. I even spent the night there occasionally. Once dish I learned to love during those visits was something her Mom would serve for breakfast sometimes--Baked Oatmeal.

I still love it and fix it for my family.

Baked Oatmeal

Mix: 1/2 cup oil
         1/2 cup sugar (or less if you prefer)
          2 eggs

Add: 3 cups quick oats
         1 cup milk
         2/3 tsp salt
          4 tsp baking powder
          1 cup raisins (optional)

Bake at 350 degrees in a 9 by 9 pan. Cut in pieces and serve with milk as a breakfast dish.

That was the way I received the recipe from my friend's mother, Darlene. I make my own tweaks to it when I fix it. First, I need to double the recipe for our family of 7, and even that is almost not enough! I typically always lessen the sugar, I sub Rice Milk or even water for the "Milk" and we like a few pecans thrown in yet for good measure! For sides, a bowl of mixed fruit, and some bacon or sausage round out the meal nicely.

Do you have a "Baked Oatmeal" recipe to share? Link it up in the comments if you do!