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

Dr. Ben Carson on Katya Dueck

Thursday, May 30, 2013

We Have Been Sewing and Planting

One of the girl's needed a new slip. When I rummaged in my stash of fabric, I did not come up with any suitable pieces of fabric large enough to make into a slip.

So I dug deeper, and pulled out the flat sheet of a sheet set that had the pillowcases and fitted sheet wear out. I had tucked the top sheet away, not entirely sure what I would do with it, but thinking it might come in handy.

Evidently, the day had come. I measured and then cut out a rectangle that I thought would allow enough fullness in the skirt to be practical, but hopefully not so full at the top as to be ridiculous. Normally, we make A-line style slips, but with wanting to incorporate the wide lace edging on the flat sheet, I wasn't sure an A-line approach would be suitable.

The recipient was satisfied when we were finished, so I will call it a good job! And we had all the materials on hand so that was excellent. ;-)

It is always satisfying to create something thrifty like this. And I just love the wide lace on the bottom!

Charity helped sew this, and then she tackled two aprons for preschoolers/kindergartners.

The shark apron is for a baby gift for friends of ours who had a son recently.

And the adorable owl apron was made to sell, and we already have a buyer!
The apron is 100% cotton and can be machine washed and dried! Mom's generally tend to love these, and so do the kids.

Charity and I hope to tackle many more sewing projects for our family, and also to sell this summer.

Kristina has discovered this year that she really likes planting flowers, and Katya also is loving helping. She has her very own flower pot that she takes good care of, and she keeps a sharp eye on the rest of the flowers.

Love seeing them enjoying the pleasure of planting together!

Katya loves flowers and planting them makes her happy!

Isn't she just blooming?!

And look at what Katya colored ALL BY HERSELF this week!!!

Not bad at all for a kiddo who less than two years ago had not been allowed to color, draw, cut, or paste!

We are loving watching her talents expand more and more this year!

Photos compliments of  "Wares By Cherry".

Monday, May 27, 2013

If a Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words . . . .

 . . . then you can have a lot of words . . .



It was a lovely, lovely evening. I'm so glad we got to enjoy it. The roses were delicious, and the weather was just right for enjoying an outdoor concert--which was an unexpected surprise.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

What a Day!

So this morning Katya came out to the kitchen where Paul was making scrambled eggs. She watched him for a few seconds, then signed, "Help!" As far as we know, this is the first time she has ever initiated the sign "help" when she wanted to help US--usually it's always been to get us to help HER. So we were very excited about that! Katya did great then helping to crack eggs, and when Paul said that all the eggs were in the bowl now that he wanted, she snagged the whisk before he even realized what she was up to and was standing there patiently showing it to him and indicating she wanted permission to use it! Katya really is a handy little girl in the kitchen, and we love watching her bloom there!

Then in church, Katya drew several nicely detailed flowers on the bulletin! I was so excited and was hopeful that they would get to show up on the blog here, but Katya erased each one very carefully! What a disappointment!

As if that excitement wasn't enough, Katya then got out a song book and looking at it carefully, began signing the numbers 1 to 20 as she matched them up with the song numbers! Pretty cool! She's truly getting it! Now if we could just find a DVD that taught all the numbers to 100 in ASL--so far I have not located one.

After lunch and nap time, we all loaded up in the van and went off to a flower garden. We spent a lovely evening strolling around enjoying the flowers, and when we discovered a high school band was doing a concert, we were able to take in part of that. The weather was just amazingly perfect, and the sun's rays shed a golden glow on the grass and trees. I felt so happy sitting there with our family, able to be outside in the fresh spring air. It was a good evening, even though Katya had her challenges with dogs and other children, making it less than perfect. But still, it was good, and I'm sure it was good for her! While the rest of us had been to the garden different times, I think it was her first time there. She loved smelling the roses (a fairly new skill--she did NOT know how to smell things when she first came home to us, and we have put a lot of effort into teaching her, since we suspected that it might be important for her as a step towards learning speech.) We kept pointing out to Katya that her middle name is "Rose", just like the lovely roses. She seemed pleased with that. ;-)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Potato Salad

Years ago, after eating lunch at a friend's house, I asked for the potato salad recipe. It was the best I had ever tasted!

Years later, that is still the recipe I reach for when I want potato salad!

Today the girls and I made it to have for supper, along with grilled turkey burgers. Mmmm!

Potato Salad

Hardboil 12 eggs. Peel and chill.
Potatoes: 16 large--peel, cook, chill

Dice eggs, potatoes, a medium sized onion, and 1 and 1/2 cup celery.

Cover with the following dressing:

3 cup mayonnaise [we like to use the Spectrum version]
6 T prepared mustard
4 teaspoons salt [we use the pink salt]
2 cup sugar [we typically reduce by at least 1/4 cup or more]

Chill all ingredients well, and then sprinkle with paparika before serving for visual interest.

(Today, we made the dressing up ahead and had it chilling while the eggs and potatoes were chilling so that we could quickly throw every thing together at supper time. Also, I just remembered that I usually add more eggs and potatoes--by two or so--more than the recipe calls for. The dressing always seems to make more dressing than needed for me unless I increase the eggs and  potatoes by a bit.)

All photos courtesy of Wares by Cherry.

New Respite Situation

Now that school is out for the summer, we are trying to broaden Katya's world and increase our options for her when she needs care. Katya has a lot of understandable anxiety issues, so helping her ease into a new situation is very important.

We thankfully have a lovely teen here in our communtity who has done some sitting for Katya at our home on a few occassions when Paul, Charity and I all needed to be away. Her family was willing to open their home to Katya to see how respite care for her will go.

Yesterday was the first time Katya went there. She was anxious, as we knew she would be, but after starting to see some of the toys and things, she calmed down a lot. We left Kristina to be additional reassurance to her, and kept the first visit fairly short. She did great, and ended up having a lot of fun till the visit was done!

The chalk drawing was so fun for her!

Kristina enjoyed it too!
Katya also enjoyed watching their farm animals from afar! When she was going to bed last night, Charity was visiting with Katya and talking about her day. She mentioned to Katya that there were animals at E's house. Katya quickly signed "horse!" and Charity agreed. "Yes, they have horses. How many did they have?" Katya's face grew very thoughtful, and then she signed, "Two" which was exactly the amount of horses they have! We were so excited to have that bit of "conversation" with her! We look forward to more interaction with Katya as her understanding and use of ASL continues to expand.
I also want to give a shout-out of thanks again to our Amazon affiliate shoppers! Your decision to shop through Katya's affiliate link (upper right hand corner) is very helpful! With this month's gift card to Amazon that we were given, thanks to the advertizing percentage we get from purchased items, we were able to purchase supplements,  plus get a Signing Language DVD to help Katya and our family further our knowledge of ASL. Thank you, again!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Adoption Ethics

Ethics in adoption.

What do those words convey to you? Do you think ethics in adoption are important? Or do you believe that all is permissible in love and war--and getting a child home?

We happen to believe that all is NOT permissible in getting a child home (or in love and war, either, if you want to know!).

That belief has made us not very popular with a segment of the adoption community.

When we discovered that there was vast corruption going on during the course of Katya's adoption, and spoke up about it, we were un-friended--and even blocked by some people on social sites such as Facebook. We were referred to with interesting expressions such as "minions of Satan". (Honestly, that one still makes me laugh . . . if it were true, it wouldn't be funny, but I'm happy that God knows my heart, and that He judges with a righteous judgement!)

So when Jen Hatmaker started blogging about ethics in adoption, my ears went high, and my eyes began reading as fast as they could. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. I am eager for Part 3 to be released.

Here are a few snippets that stood out to me:

Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff: As my friend Ryan at AWAA so perfectly put it: “If there are bad actors coercing people, paying bribes, etc., then we should not call this ‘adoption’ but ‘trafficking’. When thieves run into a bank, point a gun and steal money, we don’t call that a bank withdrawal; it’s a robbery. Our response shouldn’t be to close banks or criticize all bankers but to step up bank security. In the same way, criminal activity should be described as such and not as adoption.” (<---- Exactly. This goes to my point in Part 1 that trafficking is not a God-endorsed franchise and shouldn't receive the same assessment as adoption. Let us step up bank security, because we should clamp down on less-frequent robberies instead of imagining that banks never attract thieves.)

Red flags for PAPs:

  • When you ask questions, do you feel shut down, disrespected, bullied, or discouraged? I asked my agency hard questions and got pages and pages of immediate, thorough responses. If you are discouraged from talking to other families, researching, asking difficult questions, or investigating, RUN.
  • Are other adoptive families with concerns are painted as lunatics or troublemakers?
  • Does correspondence lean too heavily on emotional propaganda and "rescue" rhetoric, as opposed to professionalism and an obvious commitment to best practices?
  • An agency that offers something different than other agencies.
  • An agency that only does infant adoptions or promises lots of babies.
  • An agency that offers the same thing for much less money. 
  • An agency that offers the same thing as other agencies in much less time. 
  • An agency that claims to have special connections or processes in country.
  • If you hear the word “expedited,” run for the hills. That is not a thing. That is corruption.
  • Payments without receipts (common in Eastern European adoptions).
  • “In general, if it smells fishy, don’t eat it…” Ryan Hanlon, folks. We cannot allow Baby or Child Fever to overtake our instincts. If your gut senses a red flag, YOU ARE PROBABLY RIGHT.

To Jen's excellent information in these articles, I would add--apply the same standard of scrutiny to ANY type of organization that is involved in children's welfare/adoption. I am going to specifically mention grant organizations, or fundraising groups. There are far too many true stories of some unethical ones functioning much as an agency, without the legal obligations and oversights that an agency would have. There are far too many families ending up hurt, and thrown under the wheels of the bus. And then, when families are speaking out, the families are painted as trouble makers, or crazy people. For example, they are told that the problems they are encountering in country are of their own making, or that it's "just how people in that country are" when reality is not that.

People who speak up after they are home, are often ostracized by the very people who should be providing them support and help. They are left to flounder, thinking they are alone in the world with their bad experience. Some of them are suffering Post Traumatic Stress due to the things they experienced in-country. I have spoken to far too many families to think that it's a rare problem. One family who ended up coming home empty-handed after horrific treatment in country, told me sadly that they will probably never attempt to adopt again.

Ethics in adoption DO matter. Those of us who have had bad experiences, or observed bribes, lies, manipulation and illegal activities need to speak up, and not be silent. Some people like to try to wield a sword of fear--"If you talk about this, the kids will be hurt and it will be all your fault! Do you want their blood on your hands?!"

I have news for you--if you continue to participate in UNETHICAL ADOPTION PRACTICES, the blood of the kids of the world **IS** on your hands. God, who sees, and knows, WILL judge if you continue to involve yourself in unethical things knowingly. And in the long run, it hurts the kids. No matter what your religious beliefs are or are not, bottom line, unethical adoption practices HURT KIDS and that is why we should ALL shun them.

Make up your mind to be ethical. Do your due diligence. If you stumble on to unethical practices, speak up! (And don't keep your head willingly in the sand so that you are able to plead ignorance either!) Be willing to pay the price for speaking truth and living ethically for the sake of the kids.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Two Years Ago . . .

On May 20th, 2011, I posted this photo to Facebook, along with the comment: "Check out the super PEACEFUL look on her face. And if I look like I've been crying, it's because I was . . . tears of joy . . ."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Now the Eyes . . . .

So yesterday Katya woke up with her right eye a little swollen. We duly noted it, but did not panic.

By bedtime, it looked a lot worse, and was turning reddish on the skin, as well as looking a bit oozy.

This morning, it was definitely way worse and the left eye was swollen now too.

Charity managed to snap some photos to send to Dr. Dorafshar while Katya was chowing down on granola and fruit.

Poor Katya! She clearly didn't like how her eyes felt, but she was determined to still eat one of her favorite breakfasts--homemade granola with fresh fruit.

Dr. Dorafashar soon emailed back (bless him--he's so good to do that!) and said he figured (as I did) that it was a simple infection--probably conjunctivitis--not related to any thing with her surgeries, but he would be on stand-by via phone if the Drs needed to speak to him.

So due to several considerations (the condition of our van,  how I was feeling, the fact Charity was out for the morning with a friend of hers and not able to baby sit, and a few other things) we decided to try the local urgent care, rather than going to the Children's Hospital urgent care.

Katya got a lovely female Doctor who was patient and kind, but very thorough with Katya. She finally decided that it's likely "pink eye" (although Katya doesn't show the characteristic blood shot look to the eyes) and prescribed antibiotic eye drops. Katya took going to Urgent Care VERY well--she did not get noticeably anxious or panicked, even with a new place AND a new Dr. We were VERY proud of her.

As for me, I had pink eye left and right as a child. It was utterly miserable. But in all my 20 years of parenting . . . this is the first child of mine who has had it! I'm holding my breath and praying it does NOT sweep through the family, but given how Katya rubs her eyes and then puts her hands every where, and vice a versa, it's neither surprising to me that she got pink eye, nor will it be surprising if she passes it around to the rest of us.

I'm grateful that it seems like the problem this time is a "common" problem. Hopefully she feels better/looks better by Monday and can return to school for the last two and a half days of the year. Katya was out still recovering from surgery last year, so she didn't get to see how the school year winds down, and then finishes. I want her to be able to experience that this year.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Two Years Ago Today . . .

Paul and I arrived safely in Ukraine, ready to complete the adoption process for Katya that we had started nearly 9 months previously.

A few days later, we were allowed to see Katya--for Paul it was his first time. For me, it was a return to the child I had known for many long months was meant to be a part of our family.

Katya was swinging when we were lead to her. I was shocked--and not in a good way--when I glimpsed her. Pale, scrawny, and clearly shut down compared to when I had last seen her, my heart sank to my toes. I can not tell you how badly my heart sank.

Katya sat there swinging, emotionally and mentally in her own little world. Listless and really uncaring about these weird people talking to her. There was no recognition on her little face of me, in spite of the intense connection that I had felt and seen on the medical missions trip to her orphanage.

And then, when I reached out Katya, took her thin little hand, and began to massage it gently the way I had on that trip, her body suddenly stiffened. Katya's eyes became alert and piercing--she stared hard at me, then suddenly her hand was yanked away from my hands and her head whipped away from me. Her whole entire body posture and behavior radiated anger.

My heart leaped with joy and amusement! YES! My sweet Katya was still inside! She remembered me, and she was TICKED that I had taken so long to come back to her! Yes! There was hope for her!

Time has proven my gut-instinct assessment of Katya to be right. Katya's spark of life was tamped down, but not dead.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Supports and Service for Katya for 2013-2014

After the disheartening experience visiting multiple disability classrooms we had lately, we were all primed up and "ready for bear" when we went to the meeting with Katya's school today. There was no doubt in our minds that we knew what was best for Katya, and were prepared to stand our ground for her.

We did't need to. Evidently, a copy of something I had posted  on Facebook about the experience and my strong feelings about the treatment I saw of the children in that classroom, as well as my determination to keep Katya at her current school where I knew she was treated with respect, made it's way to the decision makers at Katya's school. I do not know this for a fact, but I am pretty sure from some things that were said, that is precisely what happened.

That strong declaration evidently set the stage, because we walked into that meeting, and the school officials wanted to know what we envisioned for Katya for next year.

#1. Katya in a nuerotypical classroom with pull-out services as needed, much as she has this year.

#2. In addition, we wanted Katya to have a one-on-one aide with her who was fluent in basic ALS and able and willing to learn more as needed to help Katya keep communicating with her school teachers and peers.

#3. Also, we wanted Katya to have instruction two to three times per week from someone who is fluent in ASL.

Katya's current teacher spoke up quickly and firmly and said, "I think that's all apprpriate and reasonable and I agree that is in Katya's best interests!"

WHAM. BAM. About that fast, everyone else had agreed!! We were almost shocked. (Except not 100% because we already had a good idea that they had viewed my strongly worded Facebook Declaration.)

But then, they got to drop the final shock on US.

When I mentioned that whoever taught Katya next year needed to be someone who was like her current teacher, Ms M. as much as possible, "because Ms M. doesn't let Katya get away with bloody murder--she's no nonscense, but she loves Katya and Katya knows it!"  big old grins were exchanged around the table. And then Mrs. M. said, "Well, I will be teaching her next year!'

We were SHOCKED. Wait a minute? Ms M. teaches Kindergarten! And then they explained--"We decided to do a split classroom next year with Kindergarten and First Grade, and Ms. M. is going to teach it!"

Well, I have to tell you, what burst out of me was a very emotional, "THANK YOU JESUS!" as I threw my hands into the air! I think I shocked 'em all, but they looked pleased! And yes, do I EVER MEAN IT. "Thank You, Jesus!"

Because, this is the absolute best thing for Katya in terms of reducing anxiety and increasing learning. Katya will be in the exact same classroom, with the exact same teacher who knows and loves her,  with the added benefit of getting more grounded in the kindergarten basics that she needs, and yet exposed to the new and more advanced 1st grade concepts! Katya can benefit from the best of both worlds--just as kids in the old multi-grade classrooms did! Having been in those a number of years as a kid, I know they can be helpful.

When thinking about what we wished next year could look like for Katya, we had wished she could still spend some time in Ms. M's room reinforcing basic Kindergarten concepts. But we knew Katya should not simply repeat Kindergarten again. While she needs much of the teaching, she didn't need it all! She has moved beyond simply Kindergarten, although she's not ready for a full and typical First Grade curriculum or exposure.

A split classroom, with a teacher who knows her well is absolutely the most marvelous idea for Katya, and is a true blessing from the hand of God.

I am so glad we did not agree to settle for less than the best for Katya. Sooo, sooo thankful!!! Because if we had, we wouldn't have had THIS for her.

The school has come such a very, very long way in understanding and accepting Katya's unique challenges and agreeing to work with them appropriately. What we have gone through together has not been easy--for them or for us. But it was necessary to get Katya the services and supports she needs to become as well educated as possible, so she can fulfill her full God-given potential.

And when I see papers like this coming home . . . well, it makes every single battle we have fought for her worth it.

This was a paper from today.

We will never give up on our precious daughter, God helping us. We will continue to advocate for her until such a time as she can advocate for herself.

Our family knows Katya is an amazing child, created by the Hand of God. A child who needs to be lovingly but firmly helped to learn. A child who wants to learn. A child who is loved and is learning to love.

Oh our sweet Katya, how very much you are loved and cared for tenderly by God and so many others! Some day, I think you will understand much more about the miracle your life is to all of us.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hiding in a Black Bumper Van

Yesterday, exchanging stories while visiting with friends over a meal, we were reminded of one of our family stories--the one we likely would vote as our "most incredible" story, were we voting.

It all began the day, years ago, that our family realized we needed a new vehicle before leaving on a trip to help care for a family member. We had very litle time to look for a vehicle, and limited funds to purchase one. When we received a tip from a helpful friend about a minister they knew several hours from us that often had good quality vehicles at a fair price, we jumped.

Paul called the minister, and he told us that while he didn't have a lot on hand that would meet our needs, he did have a black mini van he had actually driven himself for about a year, after purchasing it at an auction. He felt it was road worthy, as far as he knew, and would serve us well.

So, we went to look at the van, and ended up purchasing it. The minister belonged to a religious group that felt that their vehicles should all be black--bumpers included, and so since he was driving the vehicle, he had dutifully painted the bumpers a nice black. The entire van was black.

Our children at the time, Todd and Charity, were excited to have more room to spread out while traveling, and though we noticed a few "interesting" things about this vehicle, such as how very worn the driver's seat was compared to the rest of the vehicle, and the fact that one of the grills for the heating and cooling system along the side of the van was missing, we still pronounced it satisfactory for our needs.

We went on our trip, helped with the care of our relative for a number of weeks in Wyoming, and then wended our way farther south to visit Paul's family in Oklahoma, and then trecked home. As I recall, I think we were gone easily 6 weeks--maybe a bit longer, and the van had many, many more miles put on by the time we arrived home than it had when we left.

By the next spring, we knew we wanted to improve the air conditioning system before the heat of summer hit. Being a solid black vehicle, the van was a heat magnet, so a well functioning AC was essential for parental and child happiness while traveling.

Paul took the van into our local friendly shop, and explained what issues the van had with both the front and the rear systems. The mechanic looked at Paul and told him, "I"ll take care of the front, but you do the back! I don't want to mess with the back, and you can do it  yourself."

As Paul was re-telling this to me, I could see the puzzle this was to him on his face. I was puzzled as well. This shop had worked for us before--we had always paid promptly, and there were no issues, so we couldn't figure out why they refused our offer of work. However, Paul tackled the rear aconditioning system himself, not wanting to push the gentleman.

That night, Paul came into supper, and over food, he began telling me that he was sure surprised after he took off the rear side panel to find not only the grill for the vent shoved down into the wall, but also that the people who owned the van before us must have thought it stunk and needed to have baking soda put into it, but he couldn't figure out how their idea would have helped improve the van's smell because the baking soda was in sealed zip lock baggies, and two of the bags, it was strange and looked like it was in a brick.

Immediately, I began laughing. "Oh Paul!" I exclaimed, "I don't think you found baking soda, dear! I think you found cocaine!"

He looked at me a bit stupified, and insisted that he thought it was baking soda. I told him to let me look at it after supper, and I would tell him whether it was baking soda or not, but I was quite sure it would NOT be.

So after supper, we all trooped out to look at the baggies. I looked through the plastic, and could see right away that the composition of the white "stuff" was NOT the same as baking soda. It was a larger, grainier, more crystal like powder. I gingerly opened one of the bags with the brick and sniffed tenatively. Uggg--it STUNK horridly! "Paul, baking soda does NOT stink like this! And look at how it almost glitters--this is NOT baking soda. I still think you found cocaine! This was a drug runner's vehicle before the minister purchased it! That explains the worn out driver's seat, and the relatively high mileage for as new as it was! Somehow, they lost some of their drugs in the wall!"

(All the bags in our vehicle contained much, much more than this photo, taken from http://www.erowid.org/chemicals/show_image.php?i=cocaine/cocaine_powder__i2006e0373_disp.jpg  shows.)

"Well, yes, the bags were pushed way up where you couldn't have gotten to them without taking the panel off, " Paul explained.

"I think we should call the police and let them deal with this!" I told Paul. He still wasn't ready to believe me that he had actually found something illegal in our vehicle. He didn't think the police would want to be bothered, so told me he was just going to pitch the bags into the trash and burn them, which he did.

Some time later, when telling a police man friend of ours the story, he backed up my belief that we'd found cocaine as he said my description matched closely enough that he was sure too it was what it was. He explained that had we called the authorities, they would have investigated us, but then would also have kept investigating backwards to find the owner who had been using it as a drug running vehicle--maybe even been able to make an arrest.

The most sobering and NOT.FUNNY.AT.ALL. part was when we realized what havoc our little family could have been thrown into had the mechanic at the air conditioning shop agreed to fix the rear air conditioning. When Paul told him the story later, he was in shock, and said he had NEVER had something like that happen to him before, but he would have called the police, suspecting as I did what it was. Stop and think--our vehicle--found to possess what at the time was around $7,000 worth of street value cocaine. It's possible we would have been arrested till every thing was sorted out. Our children would likely have been removed by CPS. At the time, both of them were very young, and emotionally extremely dependent on their parents.

Or--all the traveling we did during the previous year-through states that are known to set up road blocks and conduct drug searches with dogs! Can you imagine the terror and fear for our family?! Our children ripped away from us while we were handcuffed and thrown into a squad car till the whole thing got sorted?!

Paul asked the mechanic, "Why did you refuse to fix the rear AC?" The mechanic looked at Paul and said, "I don't really know. I just figured you could do it yourself so I would let you do it. I don't usually turn down work."

Later we shared the story with the minister who sold us the vehicle. He was shocked as he too had driven the van for a year. As he began thinking about how it could have impacted his family's life, he was so thanful with us that God preserved both of our family's from harm in any fashion.

So, hidden in that black bumper van was a very unusual surprise for us that day. We are thankful that it ended as well for all of us as it did.

Needless to say, we never relax on any vehicle purchases since until we have examined the side panels. I think we'd do well to have our own drug sniffing dog. What do you think?!

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Sometimes to be who God wants us to be, to do what He wants us to do, we need to prayerfully walk away from a relationship with a toxic person. Not that we close our hearts to them, nor close our hearts to ever having a relationship with them again if God opens the doors, but we walk lovingly away, holding "space" in our hearts and lives for them to reenter if the time is right.

Possibly many of you can identify with that. I think especially for those of us who have special needs kiddos, we have a great need to be extremely careful who we allow into our lives. Our energy is mainly all needed to enable us to parent wisely our children. Toxic people can zap *all* of our energy, leaving us unable to fulfill our primary calling--to serve God and our family.

While we shouldn't be too quick to write off every challenging relationship as "toxic" and walk, we do need to evaluate carefully our relationships, and see if they are helping us fulfill our primary calling. Only after we are doing well keeping up our relationship with God and our family do we have extra energy to meet others needs/wants/desires. God can call us to ministry with others outside of our family, and that is fine, as long as we meet our family's needs first.

I'm speaking this out of experiences our family has gone through. We have had to learn some things the hard way. I've personally learned to try harder to REALLY listen to Paul if he is expressing little hints about how he feels about the involvement of people in our lives. Our spouses can  give us valuable input about relationships and our involvement with situations. (There's a reason the Bible says, "Two are better than one.")

Do you need freed from a toxic relationship so you can be the person God has called you to be to meet your families needs? Then trust Him to lead you as you prayerfully seek how to disengage yourself. Does He want you to maintain a relationship for the good of the other person, and perhaps some sanctifying in your own life? Then trust Hiim for that too.

And speaking from my own experience, when God removed a toxic situation from my life, He has been gracious to bring in healthier relationships that have helped me to grow in various ways, and enriched our lives as a family.

Choosing to walk from a relationship should never, ever be done lightly. It never should be done in the "heat of the moment" but only after careful reflection and prayer--maybe even counsel. In one case with our family, we actually sought a lot of advice and counsel before choosing to walk away sadly. We still hold open hands and hearts and pray for the person regularly even years later, but we know that until such a time till they are hopefully ready for a healthy relationship, our family can no longer be involved, even though we still care.

While walking from a relationship is a cause for sadness, there can also be a great sense of freedom as we are more able to focus on healthy things in our lives and relationships with others who are more healthy. As I was thinking about it recently, I knew God freed our family to be able to more effectively care for Katya than if we were still involved in that particular situation. Katya needs all that our family can give her right now, and while we never want to be selfish or uncaring, we do have to be wise in what types of relationships we are involved with outside of our family. At this point in time, our main call for ministry is to Katya, and our other children. That may change as Katya's needs lessen hopefully, and our other children grow and mature, but for now, it is as it is.

"Thank you, God, for bringing so many healthy relationships into our lives!"

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Buttermilk Oatmeal Muffins

Yesterday, we threw together a quick vegetable soup and some muffins for our lunch, and then took some to a Mommy-friend of ours who needed a little boost.

Since she wanted the recipe, I thought it might be of interest to others as well.

First, the recipe as written, and our changes marked in italics.

Buttermilk Oatmeal Muffins

1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup buttermilk (substitute for diary allergies one cup water with a few drops of lemon or lime juice)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (we lessen the amount of sugar by not packing the cup)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (we use olive oil due to concerns about the GMO canola and corn)
1 cup all purpose flour (we used a mix of 50/50 white and whole grain spelt flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

In a bowl, soak the oats in buttermilk (or it's substitute) for 15 minutes. Stir in eggs, sugar, and oil. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir into oat mixture just until moistened. Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 16-18 minutes or until muffins test done. Cool in pan 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Yield--about 8 muffins. Needless to say, we always triple this recipe.

This is a family staple and goes great, as mentioned before, with a vegetable soup.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Refreshing Your DVD's

Do you have a stack of DVD's that are too scratched to play well sitting around collecting dust?

If so, break out a tube of cheap toothpaste, take a clean, soft cloth, and applying a small dab of toothpaste, polish those DVD's up! Then rinse the toothpaste off, dry gently and then run to the DVD player!

We are being able to play DVD's again that we had totally given up on! It's making for some happy children!


I don't know if it would work on music CD's or not, but imagine so!

Wishing I had known this frugal tip a long time ago. Ah well, better late than never.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Righteous Among The Nations

Had you been a "Gentile" living during the Holocaust, how do you think you would have responded? Would you have started to observe the increasingly rigid bans against patronizing Jewish businesses? Would you have continued your long-standing friendship with your Jewish friends?

Would you have been fearful (probably) but still continued to do the right thing? Or would you have cowered and in fear walked the other way? Looked the other way?? Pretended you didn't see the beating that the elderly Jewish man just got? Would you have have joined in jeering and taunting the beautiful Jewish Mama walking down the street pushing her baby carriage just because you were afraid?

How about putting your life on the line to save the life of a Jew or Jews? Would you have been the family that hid an Anne Frank and her family? Would you have been a Corrie Ten Boom and refused to give up the secret room in your house that was housing precious souls, and gone to the Concentration Camps yourself?!

There is a special name for the Gentiles who aided and protected Jewish souls during the Holocaust--"The Righteous Among the Nations".

The "Righteous Among the Nations" are still regarded with respect and honor this many years later, and there are even occasions where they are given special acknowledgements. Why?? Because their actions spoke to the dignity, worth and value of the human lives of the Jewish people. Because they saved lives. They made a difference.

From some of my earliest days, I grew up immersed in Jewish History and the Holocaust. I heard the story of Anne Frank and her family when I was a tender 5 or 6 year old, standing by the bedside of my oldest brother who was paralyzed by a brain tumor, turning pages for him as he read the book. We had an agreement, Jeff and I--I would turn--he would read aloud. So the stage was set for me, and the seed of desire was born in my heart to be a defender of the weaker, and a protector of the helpless.

Last week, I took Katya on Thursday, and again on Friday to visit the possible school placement. What I saw and experienced in those two days horrified me. What I saw and heard, broke my heart. What I saw and heard made me wonder, "Where are the righteous among the nations in that classroom?!"

No, no one was rounded up for the gas chamber. No one was shot. But--the Holocaust did not start with those things either.  Don't forget, Hitler came for the Developmentally Disabled as a "test" before his full scale slaughter of the Jewish people. Entire hospitals and care homes were emptied and the residents killed, wiping out the "undesirables".

And remember, Hitler didn't start with killing them first, either.

Other things came first. Lack of respect. Viewing them as a little less than human. Doing things to them against their will. Seeing them as a burden to be borne instead of as the awesome lives created to be embraced and enjoyed for the unique and special people they each were. 

Little things, my friends . . . little attitudes. Little actions . . . growing bigger, and bigger, and uglier and uglier.

Last week, I saw the tiny seeds of that overpowering and horrible evil present in the classroom that was being suggested to us for Katya.

I heard and saw anger. I saw kids treated with repeated lack of respect. I saw kids restrained for no good reason. I saw little joy, humor, or gentleness on the part of the aides towards the precious kiddos in their charge.

That first day I came home absolutely overwhelmed. I crawled into my bed and cocooned. Emotionally and physically I was wrung out. I was sick at heart. I could not blog about what I had seen and heard that day, for several reasons.   The next day, I had to go back again. What I saw that day was even worse. What I saw that day sickened me to the point that had I not been a determined woman, I would have screamed at the school staff, and run from the building. Katya was upset by what we observed and heard. She didn't want to go back to that school any more.

No matter the lure of a teacher fluent in ASL for Katya, I could not put her into that environment. Even if it had been educationally appropriate for her (which overall it was NOT when I observed for longer periods of time) it was not an appropriate placement for ANY child due to the level of harsh voices, and heavy-handed treatment of the children. Some of what was done appeared to be stemming from a lack of understanding and education about the needs of the children. But in general the attitude was as if they felt that they were in a war with the kiddos, and that they WERE going to win it, by whatever means necessary, so they grimly soldiered on in the battle. Many times their approach escalated problems with the students, and they didn't seem to know how to defuse situations most of the time.

Was the teacher herself part of this treatment of the kiddos?? No, absolutely NOT. She never related to them in any but the kindest and most appropriate manner that I saw. However, did she speak up and address or defuse the situations that were going on under her nose with the aides? No, she did not.

I can only imagine how bad things get in the classroom when a parent is not present, if they were so heavy-handed when I was present.

We prayed, God made it clear--Katya is not going there. There is no way she is being treated day after day in the manner I observed there in her current placement. Were she being treated like that, she wouldn't be going off to school each morning happily as she does. I saw how quickly she became insecure and anxious at the things she was observing.

So, the question I'm asking myself, now, is:  "Where are the righteous among the nations who will speak up and protect these children? Where are those willing to risk their necks to create change for the good?!"

Yes, I'm speaking up. Yes, I'm doing what I can. But I am only one voice. The parents of the children are only a few more voices. Pray for more "righteous among the nations" to rise to the defense and protection of the developmentally disabled and differently able-d among us.

The school has "circled the wagons" even after the appropriate steps were followed to report the significant things I observed, especially on Friday. Nothing appears to be being done to address the serious problems. I will continue to speak out and do what I can--because being righteous when the big stuff comes down starts with the day-to-day small things. We too can be just as guilty as the Gentiles who during the Holocaust  turned a blind eye and walked off, telling themselves, "It's not my concern. I don't dare because if I do, I will have terrible things happen to me and my family as well."

Will you stand as a righteous person in defense of those who need defended??!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

And She Continues to Expand . . .

. . . her abilities . . . that is . . . although, happily, yes Katya's tummy is expanding also as she continues to gain weight!

Tonight, what did we see before our surprised eyes??!

Katya gently pushing Chad on the swing! Appropriately! And Nicely! And she was happy about it too!

Charity quickly snuck pictures from inside the house, because if Katya hears the click of the camera, she is liable to shriek unhappily and stop doing whatever it was that we were trying to capture!

I know these don't really show the action, but trust me, that is what she was doing! It was so cool to watch her do something for her brother that was positive and kind!! Katya is learning!! She is blooming, slowly but surely, into the child God created her to be!

Our hearts are filled with great thankfulness.
It is an amazing adventure to walk this road with Katya. Paul and I talked about Proverbs 3:5 and 6 today: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths." We were soberly observing that had we trusted in our own understanding, we would have totally missed out on the amazing and exciting (and yes, exhausting and stressful too) journey that we have been on with our sweet Katya. We would have missed out on so much.
I'm thankful that we remembered to trust and obey when God called us to adopt her. I hope and pray that we continue to remember to trust and obey Him, and to follow His paths as we seek to raise Katya and our other kiddos.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Something Cheerful

Today was the kind of day that there wouldn't have been enough chocolate to deal with it, even if I had chocolate on hand!

So instead of blogging about it right now, you are getting a cheerful post. And when I have had more time to process    digest  rant and rave in private, and get to the point of forming coherent sentences about my trip to visit the possible school placement for next year, then I will blog about it!

In the meantime . . . sweetness . . .

This is a doll blanket I started for my little niece several years ago. It's finally ALL done, thanks to Charity making bias tape out of the pink Raggedy Ann and Andy flannel, and carefully sewing it on for me. I'm sooo pleased that the project is done. I have never done any thing this large before in terms of making a complete quilt/comforter. Very tickled with how soft and comfortable it turned out to be.

I think I'd be happy for a similar one for myself in a slightly larger size! What about you?!