"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, December 3, 2015

Katya's Umpteenth Trip to Baltimore--Part 1

We regret that we did not start keeping a careful count over 4 years ago of all the many trips we have taken to Baltimore for Katya's medical care. I know the amount is astounding--once we counted up just what Charity or I had documented on our blog, or what we had record of otherwise, and it was a lot of trips! I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say we have easily averaged 5 trips a year up to this point. All that aside, we went again because when you need to go, you go, right?!

So Saturday afternoon found us heading up North to drop Kristina off with friends, and then we dropped back down to hit the right road and head over the mountains towards Baltimore. We got as far as Grantsville, MD and then parked it for the night at a hotel we have used before coming or going from Johns Hopkins. Paul had enough "points" accumulated from his business related hotel stays, that it was a free stay for us (YAY).

The kiddos got to work off the energy that had accumulated with so much sitting still in the car in the pool before going to bed. The next morning, we got up and got ourselves around while listening to hymns from YouTube and then packed up and got back on the road. The traffic patterns were not that good and we were glad that we were not trying to get the whole way to Baltimore that day!

We arrived safely finally at the Children's House, got ourselves checked in and our luggage unloaded and then had a little time to make a fast trip to The Book Thing. We had never been there before, and Charity and I ended up enjoying it. Chad was only in for about 3 minutes before something in there sent his asthma into over drive so Paul took him and Katya out to the van to watch a DVD together and Charity and I browsed a little longer. Between the two of us, we fairly easily found 13 books we thought we would enjoy bringing home. It felt SOOO odd to walk out of there without checking out or paying! (All they ask is that you use the honor system to write down how many books you take!)

A family brought in a home-made pizza supper (complete with fresh hot apple pie and ice cream for dessert) and then we tried to get ourselves settled in for the night. It is always a challenge to get enough sleep for everyone sharing a small room, as in our little family group, we have a wide variety of sleep needs and patterns!

The next morning we puttered around a bit after breakfast, and then not having anything easily available for lunch, took ourselves off to the Fells Point area to find a Subway that we could use the gift card we had been given at. We found one, ate a hasty lunch, and then ran into the Old Navy we had found when there back in Sept/Oct to snag some more warm tights and boot socks for the women in this family. They had a great sale going on, so that was helpful.

Then it was time to head back to the CH because we needed to get Katya over to her appointment. Charity and I took her for her eye exam. Paul stayed with Chad at the CH and helped him with a little school.

We had to wait a good while. Charity helped entertain Katya.

And Katya improved her mind while waiting by finding words she wanted to know in the brochure, typing them into her Ipad and then having it say them for her.

The eye exam itself went well--Katya is very comfortable with the people there that she knows. The good news is that while there was a little change in her eyes since last exam, Katya's vision was still good. No surgery needed right now, and no glasses at the moment.

Dr Repka said he is not ruling out doing surgery at some point in the future, but nothing now. We were happy to hear that, of course!

--To Be Continued

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Adult Coloring Books

While we were doing our "extended stay" at Johns Hopkins Hospital, a friend of Charity's kindly sent her a care package that contained among other things, some adult coloring books.

I had been thinking that I would enjoy something like that to do with my hands and after sneaking a peek at one of the books that Charity was gifted with, decided that adult coloring would suit me very nicely, thank you!

Well, I found it as enjoyable as I thought I might. The coloring seemed to have a calming effect for both Charity and myself.  And although I have not found time to do much with it since getting back home, Charity has continued to enjoy it, and Kristina has picked it up as well.

Interestingly enough, Katya has reverted back to coloring with precision after observing us coloring--and she had gotten to the point that it seemed she was done with coloring except for a random scribble on each page in her coloring book! So we are pretty happy about the return to careful coloring!

I especially enjoy Johanna Bashford's book, "The Secret Garden". The detailed pages of garden scenes draw me in and allow me to create a beautiful, colorful world. And the title harkens me back to my childhood love of "The Secret Garden". I loved that book so much as a child, and am still quite fond of it as an adult, truth be told!

What are you favorite adult coloring books?! What do you own and enjoy and what would you like to try? Leave a comment and let me know!

Saturday, November 7, 2015


Katya has finally, finally turned the corner and is enjoying good health again, much to the relief of her Doctors at Johns Hopkins, here local primary care practice, and of course, to us!

She first went back to school last week on Friday as kind of a trial run--Friday's at her school are a bit shorter days and then she had the weekend to rest and recharge. She was greeted with loud clapping, cheers and yells when she arrived at the school van that day! Everyone was SO happy to see her after such a super long absence!

When she got home, she looked absolutely exhausted and was very eager to go to bed that night. We are still needing to make sure she gets more sleep than she did before her surgery but the amount she is generally requiring has overall gotten a little less so that is good.

By Monday she was thankfully rested up and ready to go back to school. She had a very successful first full week back at school and now is enjoying the weekend.

We are so very grateful to God for restoring her to health! We are also thankful for the expert care she received from her Doctors both at Hopkins and here in Ohio. Additionally, we are very thankful to know about things to do to help build her immune system and improve her overall health.

Our weather took a turn for warmer this week, and that has helped relieve Chad's asthma so at the moment, we are enjoying overall better health at our house. VERY thankful for it!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Katya Needs Prayers

Katya has not been really well ever since her surgery. She was doing better, then slumped. She has been to the Doctors multiple times, has had tons of lab work done, and now today, with her **STILL** sick, we took her to the Doctor again and ended up finding out that Katya has: a fever again of 99.6 F, swollen lymph nodes, a "beefy, red tongue", and "odd sounds in her lungs". Additionally, she had sores on her face that are concerning.

So a lot of swabs and cultures were done, we were sent to get labs and X-rays. The results of the X-rays are back already and we know that Katya has pneumonia in her left lung. For right now, we are allowed to keep her at home with careful watching and management. We have our orders, and know what to do and when to take her to the ER if need be. Depending on the lab results tonight or tomorrow AM (whenever the Doc gets them) we may have to take her to the hospital to be admitted. That is not a happy thought  . . .

Additionally, Chad has been struggling and we were thinking it was "just" his asthma but now we don't know so he has an appointment for tomorrow AM to get checked as well. Just need to make sure he also does not have pneumonia since both kids got sick with seemingly the same thing last week within about 24 hours of each other.

I can't say thank you enough for all the thoughts, support and prayers that have already come our family's way, and I thank you for continuing in prayer for our precious Katya and Chad!

(Katya getting one of multiple swabs done today.)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Flashes of Hope

The day Katya got her final head drain out, and removed her NG tube (more on that in another blog post some time!), the amazing Child Life Specialist, Peyton, offered to take us down to the CCTV Studio where an organization called, "Flashes of Hope" was set up and taking pictures of the children and any family members who were around and wanted their photo taken with the child. The timing of this offer was impeccable--Paul had just arrived back in town the night before after working away from us 10 [tough and lonely] days, Katya was finally feeling well enough to smile, and naturally my heart was over flowing to be back with my hubby and a healthier Katya.
The emotions I feel every time I look at these photos are huge. If you look carefully in the photos, you can see Katya's IV port, my hospital ID bracelet, and other things that hint that this is not a normal photo shoot. Her head was full of 40 staples still and she was in her PJ's.  But Katya was alive, after having survived an undiagnosed surgically acquired infection for days, an emergency surgery to remove all her small bone grafts (due to being overwhelmed by the infections from two different common skin bacteria that some how were introduced into her surgical area) and a handful of other stressful events. The joy and relief we all felt was huge. And I love that the photographer was able to capture these emotions.

I will be forever grateful to the photographer who was willing to come and capture that day for us. Katya missed her school photos this fall due to her surgery (and her school does not do a "make up day" for school pictures). I had been feeling very sad about that. This does not replace school photos by any stretch of the imagination, but it is still a nice record for Katya and us.

Thanks to "Flashes of Hope" we have these moving photos to share with our other kids and for Katya to look at over and over to help her process her hospital stay. They did a great job capturing Katya and snips of her personality.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Home Sweet Home

We have been home for over a week now and are still trying to catch our breath and catch up (not sure that will be possible?! HA!)

The trip home was pretty uneventful, thankfully. The weather was great, we saw lots of gorgeous fall scenery, and Katya did beautifully traveling.

The next day, Katya was pale and acted a little lethargic, and we didn't think a whole lot about it, assuming she was just worn out from the traveling and getting home late.

But Saturday she slumped a little more. And while she stayed about the same Sunday, by Monday she was worse. And at our primary care physicians office she laid entirely listlessly for a whole 20 minutes on the exam table. The PCP couldn't find anything to explain the low grade temp she had, nor the listlessness, so sent us off to town for lab work.

And that is how the week went. Katya just clearly did not feel well, she didn't look well, and she frankly was worrying our PCP tremendously. In that week's time, she saw two different Doctor's, and had labs drawn 4 times.

In addition to all that, (along with phone calls and texts from the Doctors as they were trying to figure out what was going on) I was also getting texts and emails and phone calls from her Doctor's at Johns Hopkins as everyone tried to figure out the puzzle!!

Finally, by Friday evening, we were told by her Hopkins Doctors that they were concerned that the risk factors of the antibiotics she was on were becoming greater than the risk of the [surgically acquired] infection overwhelming her system again, and they wanted us to pull Katya off the Levofloxacin and Vibramycin antibiotics that she was on and just "wait and see" how Katya does. That was not an easy thing to hear, because frankly none of us were sure that the infection is completely beaten back, but Infectious Disease Doctors and her Surgeon both felt that some of the deterioration we were seeing with Katya could be related to the antibiotics, and that it was worth the risk of stopping the meds after she had been on a full 4 weeks.

Sunday was her last day of antibiotics, and now we are in the "wait and see and pray a ton" stage. We are also choosing to support her immune system with some specific things that her Doctor wanted us to try so hopefully it helps and Katya comes out of this well and healthy without the need to return to Baltimore for more medical treatment.

Today, Katya has been acting bored and seeming to have more energy, and so we asked her if she would like to go back to school tomorrow. She said she would, so we are hopeful that we can wake her up in the morning in time to send her! She has been needing a LOT of sleep each night and hasn't come any where close yet to waking up at get-up time for school even though she is going to bed on her school schedule! So we will see how it goes in the AM, but we are hoping she is able to wake up and go to school. She has missed so many weeks of school that I hurt about it as she was doing so well this year and I hate every single missed day for her because I know it's a school day she can never get back. She was not cleared by her Docs to return of course though when she felt so clearly lousy.

At least having her home for awhile allowed for such cute scenes like this in the mornings! ;-)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Finally--Headed Home!

Thank God! After leaving home after church September 6th, we are *Finally* headed home tomorrow on October 8th. We are so excited to be able to go HOME! It has been quite a journey for our family, but God has been so faithful and with His help and the support of so many, we have survived this challenge.

Katya has been an amazing fighter--we are so very proud of her! With the support of the amazing Child Life team this time at Hopkins, Katya weathered so many huge challenges. Last time she was hospitalized (in 2012) so many of the hospital procedures were hugely traumatic for her. I entered the hospital this time with a fierce determination to get in and back out with out any post traumatic stress events for her. Thankfully, I was able to accomplish that goal thanks to how protective and supportive not only the Child Life staff was, but also Katya's nurses! In general, we felt we had much support for this goal also from the physicians and other staff who cared for her this time and so I am very happy to report that we went through two surgeries and many procedures during a total of TWENTY FOUR DAYS in-patient and got back out successfully! I can not stress enough how very huge this is for Katya. Her self confidence actually grew during her hospitalization as she successfully went through new and scary things with lots of support and encouragement.

Today while we were snuggling and chatting, I asked Katya if she had been scared while she was in the hospital. She signed "yes" but was unable to answer, "What made you scared while you were there in the hospital?' until I handed her the Ipad. Then she quickly replied, "Ouch".  "You were scared of things that hurt you?" I asked her, and she signed, "yes". I told her that she had been so very brave--that even when she was scared of things that were hurting her she had tried hard to cooperate and do what she was supposed to so that the Drs and nurses could help her to get better. Her sweet face lit up a little and I could see in her eyes that she understood. I asked her then if she was glad that the Doctor's had been able to fix her head so much and that her big soft spots (which used to bother her if someone accidentally touched her head there) are gone. Her face lit up again and she signed, "yes". So I feel satisfied that we made the right decision.

During the awful few days when things were all up in the air after it was becoming apparent that Katya had a serious infection in her skull area, and then the night when we *knew* she was a very sick girl and was facing surgery again,  there were times when I wondered if we had made a horrible mistake to go through this surgery. I had to keep going back over our decision making process and asking myself if we had made a mistake. It was not a fun process. But I  kept coming back to this phrase--"There is no way out but to go through this." And then it would echo in my head--"through this  . . . through this . . . "

And corny as it may sound, that phrase gave me courage to put one foot ahead of another. To walk into that OR on a total of 1.5 hours of sleep, set aside the tears that wanted to flow and to sing Katya's favorite song to her while she drifted off to sleep for her emergency surgery.

And now we are out on the other side mostly and it looks like we have come through this with the "best case scenario" so far. We don't know yet, and won't know for sure for several more weeks until Katya has completed her course of treatment and is off her medications for awhile whether or not we are completely through with this chapter of our lives. But we feel hopeful, and so does the staff who is caring for her. Everyone says Katya has recovered faster and better almost than they had dared to hope for.

We give thanks to God for her improving health, for her fighting spirit, for the excellent care she had, and for the fact that so many people around the world have loved our Katya and been praying for her and our family.

I have had a few people ask me if our experience this time was worse than our previous time. No, absolutely not even though this time was longer and had it's share of challenges. But things overall were much better and more stable for our family in so many ways. I could give a long list of ways it was different than last time, and while I may some other time, I won't tonight.

Katya's experiences this time were overall so much more positive that we are glad we made the decision to return to Hopkins and allow them a "chance to show they can do it better". It was better this time. So much better. Yes, something went horribly wrong during the surgical process that the infection was able to take root and overwhelm her body. There are no clear answers forth-coming about that, and there likely never will be because while it's as obvious as can be that *something* went wrong some where, I doubt any one but God knows for sure. Infection--even life-threatening infections--are sadly a risk of surgery even though typically things go well. To me, while of course I'm unhappy that Katya and our family had to go through that, what is most important is that she received good care once the situation was figured out. Her surgeon did his due diligence caring for her once he figured the situation out, and that is what matters most to us.

Additionally, his team of residents this time was extremely respectful and mindful of Katya, and showed themselves to be a bright and likely group. His newest Chief Resident was an amazing woman who quickly figured out how Katya was ticking and worked in very intuitive ways with her to accomplish things like getting out a head drain and a head full of staples. Those things count for a lot.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Surgery Update

Katya's surgery occurred on Wednesday as expected, after some initial delays in the morning. The surgery went very well and she was out before the estimated end time.

She is having a difficult and painful recovery, but that is to be expected. She is running a small fever currently, which was brought down to an extent by Tylenol, but prayers are still appreciated for that.

She was feeling considerably better following getting some food into her.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Big Surprise!!

There is a sweet family in our community who we knew a little in several different ways. When they found out that Katya was having surgery, they got in touch with us and asked what music Katya liked, and some other questions.

Last night, they came over with an amazing huge gift bag! Look at one of the things inside for Katya!

She was so curious and then so happy when she realized what it was! What is it, you ask? An AMAZING MP3 player that this kind family pre-loaded with some of Katya's favorite songs and some very wise choices of their own! The ears also function as a nightlight of gentle rotating colors! Katya loves it. And when I explained that her friend, S., had a similar bunny and that this present was from S. and her Mom and Dad because they thought Katya would like one too, Katya's face lit up in the happiest and sweetest of smiles!
This very generous gift will be accompanying us to the hospital, no doubt about it. It's small and light weight enough that Katya can tuck it beside her in bed if she wants to, and tidy enough to sit easily on the bedside tray if that works better. I am guessing that it will accompany us to the treatment room for blood draws and such as well.
The love and care of this family will bless our family for many days! Our deepest, most heart-felt thanks to the W. family!!
And while I'm giving thanks, I'm going to mention a few more people who have done a lot to help us be ready to leave in various ways! This is not intended to be an exhaustive list but quickly off the top of my head, a big shout out to A. who has been coming over and faithfully helping us get some fall house cleaning done for the last few weeks. I was not able to get the entire house done, but we got the main areas done and the kids bedrooms done, so I'm very thankful and will call it good till we are back from Baltimore. Also, she came over yesterday and helped do a general cleaning of the main areas of the house so that we can leave things pretty clean for those who will be still here at home. That is such a peace of mind to me!
Additionally, there is Katya's dear music teacher, Amy, who has been blessing our family in various ways by spear heading up some things like an email list to send out prayer requests for our family, meals for after we come home and other things! She's an amazing woman of God with a servant heart!
And then there is Laura, who is the most amazing and wonderful director of the special needs support group we are a part of. She has been coming with ideas that will be a blessing and help to us!
There are many more people but as I said, this is not intended to be a comprehensive list. But we want to thank all of you who have helped in any way from the bottom of our hearts! We are feeling the prayers of God's people for Katya and our family and are seeing the results in tangible ways!

We ask you to continue to pray for Katya's Doctors and all the staff that will be involved in her care. She will start having appointments on Tuesday, the main one being with a Child Life Specialist who has a lot of ideas that we are hoping and praying will be useful for Katya in various ways. Then Wed., September 9th we need to be at the hospital 5:30 AM to start pre-surgery prep. Then they hope to have surgery going by 7:30 AM. It is expected to be another very long surgery--close in length to her previous one, which was about 13 hours.
Pray for Katya to have peace and calm in her heart, and for her little body to handle the stress of this surgery well. Thank you, dear friends!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Indignities of Adopting

One day recently, another adoptive Mom and I were talking about all the things adoptive parents go through that biological parents don't typically get to "enjoy". And since she and I are both bio and adoptive moms, I think we have a pretty solid basis to compare the situations.

Well, I'd had a horrible rotten no-good day that day, but as we were chatting on that topic, I suddenly remembered the story I'm about to share with you, and it kind of brightened my day a little just reminiscing about it. I thought you might enjoy hearing about it as well.

Back track to 2004 and Paul and I were deep in our adoption process of Kristina. And Russia very carefully tried to screen the health of parents to be. Among many other things, we both had to be tested and proven free of HIV and Hepatitis. After making a lot of phone calls and inquiries, we found out that the most logical place to go get those particular tests done was our local Health Department.

So we called, explained the situation and got an appointment date to come in for this testing. On the day appointed, Paul and I were sitting all nice and pretty in the waiting room quietly minding our own business when the nurse came to the door way of the waiting room and loudly called, "Mr and Mrs Dueck, you can come back for your HIV and Hepatitis testing now!"

You could have heard a pin drop as everyone's heads swiveled to look at this "Amish" couple standing up to walk back for their STD blood born pathogen tests. You really could have. I'm sure I saw a few baffled and astonished looking faces too! And did their eyes see right that the Missus is pregnant too?!

It still makes me giggle just a little to this day, even though at the time it was just slightly annoying.

Moral of the story--what you **think** you know could be really, really far from the actual truth!

And this is also why it's not accurate or polite to ever say to an adopting parent, "Oh, you are taking the 'easy way out'." Trust us on this--we go through things no bio parent ever does. Being a bio parent brings it's own set of challenges--I do not discount that. But so does being an adoptive parent.

Moving in a Blur

The days are moving in a blur.

We are desperately trying to cling to all the precious moments we can--to imprint them on our minds. The sound of Katya's giggle. The twinkle in her eye. The feel of her skin. The curls in her hair. We snuggle her and tell her a thousand times a day how much we love her. We hug her and kiss her, sometimes with tears raining down our cheeks.

September 9th is racing at us, all too fast. We cry out to God for his strength, his mercy. We brain storm every way we can think of to try to head off proactively some of the issues we had last time that led to Katya nearly dying twice post-op. We tell ourselves that this time will surely be different. We try to be brave. But we are scared. So scared for her. And yes, scared for ourselves too.

So we go back again and again to God. That is all we can do. Cry out to him. We know that while it's good to be pro-active, good to make wise care plans and good to advocate for Katya in every way we know how, that ultimately, all that happens is way too much out of our control. We can do our best, but we can't make sure that this surgery has a smooth or good process. We can't be sure that post-op recovery will be any less traumatic and stress free than last time. We can't be sure that we will even walk out of that hospital with our precious Katya with us.

So while we try to be positive, we also try to be realistic. We keep searching our hearts and going over and over our decision making process that led to this surgery and questioning every detail. Because we have to know that this is the right decision--made with as much care as possible--so that we can stand on that fact no matter what happens.

Last time, when Katya was suffering beyond what I can even express here for 14 hours with a combination of a clogged surgical drain tube, anaphylaxis, dehydration and out of control pain, I remember calling my Mom about 8 hours into it and sobbing my heart out. "Mom, if I had not known this surgery was absolutely necessary, I would absolutely hate myself right now!" I cried.

I know now that pretty much every thing she suffered during that 14 hour time span was completely preventable and her suffering was the fault of a nearly fatal combination of mistakes made by the residents caring for her over the weekend. That does not make it any easier for me to handle--it in fact, makes it worse.

And for that reason, among many others, I am afraid. We do not take this decision to put Katya through surgery again lightly. We know she lost ground during that 14 hour period that she has never regained in several key areas and that makes me sad. It makes me sad that she suffered unspeakably for 14 hours. It also makes me angry . . . and that makes me afraid too. I do not want to go into this surgery time flinging bricks unnecessarily at every one due to fear and anger from last time.

And so, again and again, I cry out to Jesus for his peace. His sustaining mercy and grace to me. For me to have the wisdom to know how to advocate powerfully for Katya but not to be a jerk who spreads fear and terror among the residents--who are, certainly,  a completely new and 'innocent' batch of residents.

And we pray for her Doctors, for the nurses who will be caring for her, and yes, for the residents, who admittedly are who we feel the most instinctively wary about after our really bad experiences last time. We pray, and we pray. About many things. Things we have shared here and things we have not.

Meanwhile, time races on. And September 9th is going to be here way too soon. Way too soon we are going to be told to kiss Katya and walk out of the OR, leaving her behind for the next 10 to 13 hours or so. Way, way too soon.

So we hug her and kiss her and sing to her and pray with her and love her and hold her and read to her and play with her and snuggle with her and do every thing we can to cement these memories into her heart and into ours. Because time is moving in a blur, and September 9th will be here way, way too soon.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ukrainian Festival and Other Summer Activities

We only were able to squeeze a 24 hour vacation into our lives this summer. But we made the most of it!

Paul had enough points accumulated from all the business travel that he does that we could get two nice rooms for free in a hotel. We raced through therapy that Friday morning, a few errands and pushed as much laundry as we could through the washer and dryer, while packing.  We packed our supper, and headed out. The kids were great travelers and we did not have to make any stops till we got to our destination in the outskirts of Cleveland.

After checking in, we found the hotel pool nearly deserted, so Charity and I took the kiddos to swim while Paul crashed for a nap. Working nights and then needing to drive to the next job during the day has meant that many 24 hour periods he gets as little as maybe 4 or 5 hours of sleep, and it's taken a toll on him, so the nap was pretty necessary.

The kiddos had a ton of fun even though the pool water was surprisingly cold. It finally caught up with Katya though, and she began to shake, so it was time to get them all out and into the warm water that awaited in the Jacuzzi tubs in our rooms! It was SO much fun to watch Katya enjoy her first Jacuzzi experience! ;-) She loved it, especially when Kristina joined her in the tub and was playing with the bubbles with her. Both girls had a blast. ;-)

After the swimmers were warm and dry, we headed out for a bedtime snack--a trip to Menchies for some yummy cold goodness.

It was pretty cute--on the walk from the parking lot to the store, Paul asked Katya if he should get her a hot dog. "No! No" signed Katya! Paul laughed and asked if he should get her Menchies. "YES!" she signed. She does love her dairy free sorbet there!

After that, it was time to head back to the hotel and our comfy beds. We got up in a timely fashion the next AM, packed up after enjoying breakfast and then headed to the Ukrainian Festival.

We were truly not sure how Katya would do with it, but we wanted to try it. She did fantastic! With her noise cancelling ear muffs to tamp the sounds down, she stayed pretty calm and happy the whole time. The food of course made her quite happy! She ate vast quantities of Ukrainian food.

She played outside with the children's activities (bubbles, side walk chalk etc.) and enjoyed looking at the Ukrainian hand crafts.

Paul was quite happy too.

He said that the food reminded him so much of what he grew up eating at various relatives homes. We had figured out when adopting first Kristina and then Katya that much of the food he grew up with clearly had it's roots from when his relatives were living in what used to be called "Prussia" (now Ukraine). I think that is part of why our family feels we have found such a "home" with Ukraine.

Chad had been concerned about going to the festival, fearing he would find it hard to enjoy due to "strange foods". Well, he quite happily downed a huge bowl of borscht (that is a food we fix frequently), and then was relieved to find that outside of the fellowship hall they were grilling something as American as hot dogs for those who needed American foods! ;-) He ended up being quite a happy camper!

We found some people to chat with, enjoyed hearing Ukrainian accents again, and after a very interesting question and answer session in the church, we headed out hot and tired but happy. Kristina was still interested in attending the Russian festival, even if briefly, so we headed that way. Paul and Chad thought they were tuckered out enough they did not want to keep walking so we left them to sit in the van while the ladies headed into the festival. The food there smelled delicious too but we were still too full of Ukrainian food to indulge.  After wandering around awhile and listening to some of the music and watching some traditional dances, we left because we had to drive all the way home yet and get unpacked and to bed for church the next AM. And I needed to stay up and finish packing up Chad for camp!

So after driving for awhile, we stopped for a quick supper at Chik-fil-A because Katya likes their chicken noodle soup. Well! This time she did NOT want to order fruit with her soup (her usual order there) and she only picked at her small bowl of soup and finally only got down about half of it before rejecting the rest. I guess she was still full of her Ukrainian food! LOL!

We got home and began rushing kiddos through the bedtime process while I began washing and packing Chad's stuff for camp in earnest. Months ago, a friend alerted me to a camp for children with medical needs. She suggested we see if Chad would be eligible because his asthma makes it hard for him to participate outdoors in a lot of activities at times in the summer due to the heat and humidity being a trigger for his asthma at times. We went through the application process, including Chad getting a physical and a referral from his CRNP who thought it was an excellent idea for Chad to go. He was accepted and the big day had finally arrived! Sunday after church we took him. He was excited!

He was the first kid to his cabin, so got to pick his bed out of all of them. He choose a top bunk with a dog themed quilt. All the beds had adorable assorted quilts! And the Counselors told us that the kids each get to take their quilt home at the end of camp! Chad was excited to learn he could take home his chosen quilt. ;-) The camp sends out an update or two to parents throughout the week and Chad's reports state he is doing well. A little home sick but having fun. I'm so very glad for the chance for him to go to a camp experience where he can make new friends, have a lot of fun and yet be supervised by trained medical personnel who are experienced in helping kids with asthma to stay safe! They are also trained in food allergies, so the fact that he needs to avoid all dairy as we have found it is also a definite trigger for his asthma was something that can be handled there as well.

We can't wait till he can get home and tell us all about how much fun he had! ;-)

Meanwhile, on the home front we have been doing a lot of deep cleaning. We are trying to do every thing we can to have the house as spic and span as possible before Katya's surgery so that during her recovery period we are less stressed! We do not know how long her recovery time will be, nor what all it will entail--home health nursing for a period of time possibly even--so it just seemed prudent to get our fall house cleaning done now. I'm always happier when I know all the dust and grim is at a pretty low level so think of it as being good for my mental health too, which is important after going through the stress of a hospital stay.

So we are running hard and the summer is flying by . . . there are only a few more short weeks before we head to Baltimore for the big surgery. Thank you to all who have been lifting up our family in prayers! We also were blessed with some anonymous money that arrived with a Texas post mark, and some gas cards that also arrived anonymously with an Ohio post mark along with a super sweet card of encouragement. We thank whoever our kind donors are. Please know that your gifts are MUCH appreciated and will help a lot with the many expenses that our ins. does not cover when we go to Baltimore. It is very kind, and feels like warm reminders of God's love and care for Katya and our family.

Here's hoping you are all having a great summer! Leave a comment and tell us what is keeping you busy!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Another Surgery

After a lot of stops and starts for the last few years, and lots of various evaluations and second opinions (both obtained by Katya's plastic surgeon from mentors he trusts and by us from several medical professionals who have no "bone in the pot") the decision has been prayerfully made to go ahead with another major surgery on Katya's skull.

This will consist of several procedures.

#1. Removing some hardware from several locations that her body never was able to absorb from her surgery in March 2012.

#2. The more involved and serious part of the surgery will involve trying to patch several significant  "holes" that remain in her skull from the major expansion in March 2012 that her body was not able to fill in with new bone growth. These holes leave her brain vulnerable to injury. Bone will need to be taken else where from her body to lay into these areas. We will not know for sure till Katya is out of surgery exactly where the surgeon will have taken bone from. He has discussed with us that he may have to take bone from the back of her head, her ribs and even possibly her hips in order to get enough bone to fill these holes.

Yes, we are aware that the more places he has to take bone, the more significant Katya's post op recovery will be. No, we don't like thinking about it. It makes me want to cry to think of putting her through this. But her surgeon's at Hopkins AND the medical professionals we have consulted all feel that this is the safest long-term course of action to take for Katya.

As per her CT scan in early June, Katya's skull bones remain only 50% as thick as the average person's, so her whole skull is fragile. Her general bone structure is small, so that makes this surgery tougher than it would be on an average person. We have been praying specifically for miraculous bone growth for Katya prior to her surgery on September 9th, and we would love to have you join in with us in prayers.

In addition to the procedures being done on Katya's skull, there will be at least one other procedure done while she is under general anesthesia--possibly more. We are being told that the surgery likely will be about an all day surgery again--similar to the 13 hours or so of last time.

She will likely have a lot of pain post-op we have been warned, and as her plastic surgeon, Doctor D, said so wisely, "This is Katya we are talking about, so of course we have to be prepared for bumps post-surgery!"

Please pray for our sweet Katya! We know she remembers enough about the previous surgery and the horrible aftermath that she will likely be quite scared this time. She understands so much more English than last time, that I hope it helps. She also has been with our family much, much longer than last time too. Over 4 years this time versus less than a full 9 months last time.

We also have some ideas to help prevent some of the complications post-op that happened last time. Paul and I have had a "chat" with her plastic surgeon and as he pointed out, "This time you have ALL of my contact information and you know how to use it even if I am not present in the hospital." Yes, that will make a big difference from last time when residents who were not listening seriously to my concerns were caring for her. I have never known Doctor D. to "blow off" carelessly anything I have shared with him about Katya, and we have a mutually respectful relationship when caring for her.

Were it not for that, and the fact that we do feel a measure of peace as we have prayed about this, I think we would run screaming in a panic the other way. I'm sure it will be an on-going challenge for our whole family as we proceed forward through the next few weeks. Pray for all of us as God lays it on your hearts.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Begone, Tonsils!

Up until the last two winters, Chad was my healthiest kiddo. He rarely ever had even a cold. Then a series of infections felled him, and he developed not only asthma, but enlarged and "boggy" tonsils. When he would recover from one illness, the tonsils would not really recover before he would get sick again. By this past winter, the tonsils were so large and painful all the time that we accepted our PCP's offer of a referral to a pediatric ENT and set up an appointment.

At the appointment, the ENT decided to order a Sleep Study before he would agree to surgery. So we had to wait to get that done, then wait for it to be interpreted, then wait some more until Chad's approval for surgery moved through the system and we were called for a surgery date. Meanwhile, Chad struggled to get even food down many days due to how swollen his tonsils were. I was worried too--as bad as they looked some days, I couldn't imagine what would happen if he would have even a mild reaction to something and have some slight throat swelling!

Meanwhile, Chad's desire to get those pesky, miserable things gone grew stronger and stronger. Like he told me so maturely one day, "If I don't get these out, I have no end in sight to my misery. When I have surgery, I'll be miserable for awhile but there is an end to it!"

So Monday he was right ready to get up at 4:30 AM and head to the hospital! He was a champ through the whole entire process, including a one night stay there.

Chad Waiting in the Pre-Op Area

The surgeon told us post op that fully 60% of his airway had been compromised by the super enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Given that he was in **much** better shape Monday in terms of swelling when he went into surgery, than he had often been this winter, I shudder to think how compromised Chad's airway was during those times!

The surgeon expressed hopes that Chad will have an increase in his energy and health now that those nasty bits are gone from his body. Yes, we are well aware that the tonsils and adenoids are important and intended to be a part of the body's immune system, and all the rest of us have ours and hope to hang on to them permanently, but for whatever reason, Chad's broke down and were no longer helping his life. Rather, they were hindering it, as our PCP explained that when they continue to stay enlarged and full of pitting, they actually harbor bacteria that can easily overwhelm his immune system at any time. Also, they were impacting his ability to breath well while sleeping, creating sleep apnea which further harmed his body and health. So it was time to evict them and hope for a better future!

Chad, post-op.

Chad's surgeon wanted him to spend one night in the hospital to be monitored. Chad was a champ about starting to take ice chips as soon as he was awake and then moving on to a popsicle and then dairy-free sorbet and so by supper time he was allowed to eat some soft foods and progressed to being able to get up and go do a craft because he was doing so well! Everyone was very proud of him!
By the next morning, Chad was doing so well he was discharged and allowed to go home so we got home soon after noon.
Discharged and Ready to Go Home
Now Chad is recovering at home. He says today he does not feel as well as he did in the hospital but we were warned that was to be expected, so we are just keeping up with fluids and pain meds and hopefully in a few days he will feel a lot better. Meanwhile, Kristina is reading books to him and whoever can snuggles and watches movies with him, or we find other things to try to distract and entertain him. We'll get him through this, and hopefully be on the path to a healthier and better fall and winter this year!!

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Serious Prayer Request

Last week we found ourselves climbing over the mountains and heading towards Baltimore yet again.

It was time for Katya to have a CT scan and to see  a handful of her Doctors.

I have processed our appointment last week for Katya at JHH enough that I'm ready to share a prayer request.

We need specific prayers for bone growth for her. In spite of all the many things we have done to try to get her bones to grow thicker again, they have not. Her skull is still half as thick as the average person's skull. This is risky for her and just not a good thing.

It was frankly disheartening to have tried so hard the last year plus to encourage bone growth through diet and Doctor suggested supplements only to be told it had not changed appreciably since her last CT scan. UGH.

Her Doctors were not happy. We were not happy.

Please pray for bone growth as well as protection in the meantime for Katya's brain and for no injuries to her head! Also pray for bone growth in general for her. The Doctor's said her overall bone structure is very petite (no surprise, we knew that). She needs her bones to grow thicker so it's easier and safer to patch the empty areas of her skull. (Yes, we have gotten a second opinion about this, and yes, it is strongly recommended that we get it done due to how large the holes in her skull are, leaving her brain at risk in those areas.)

In better news, the Doctor's were impressed with how much progress Katya had made since her last visit in early December, and were happy for so many good reports from school. Her plastic surgeon enjoyed seeing the video of her participating in her school program--I wish I could share it here but since it has other kids from her school in it, I won't be sharing it publicly.

Thank you for praying for Katya. We really appreciate it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

How To Stay Happy While Focusing on Coupons

Our local library has long had a community service that our family loves--they have a table with a coupon basket so that members of the community can bring coupons they do not need, and take some if there are coupons they need.

I'm a pretty regular person at the coupon box--we try hard to hit it at least once a week. Feeding our family is an expensive proposition no matter how hard we try to keep the cost down since we have multiple members with dairy allergies, and people who need to eat gluten free. We also seem to need plenty of protein (that pesky hypoglycemia!) and of course, that adds to the cost too! So while I often can't find that many food coupons that would be helpful, sometimes I do.  I also depend on coupons for razors and other house hold items that helps stretch our budget.

Well, as you can imagine, sometimes when we go to search for coupons our family can use, the pickings are slim at times. I used to start to feel stressed and unhappy as I would paw through the stack. After all, how were we going to make the limited funds stretch that week without coupons?!

One day it occurred to me that it would do me a lot more good to simply choose to believe that God knows about my needs and to accept any coupons I find as a "bonus" of sorts. That helps me to stay happy while sorting through coupons, whether or not I find any or many. Coupons are something I am thankful for when they are provided for me. But whether there are coupons or not coupons, I am trying to choose to trust. That has taken the stress out of couponing for me and turned it into a mainly enjoyable activity.

If Charity or Kristina can help me look through the coupons, it definitely is an even more fun time! Sometimes one or the other of them helps me clip and sort the coupons at a later time and get them organized into my coupon binder. My favorite way to handle that chore is to grab a cup of unsweetened tea at a quiet Subway in our area and get to work while Katya is at her music lesson with her respite provider. When I keep thinking I will "be good" and get it done when I am at home, it often just does not happen. Then coupons expire or get lost because they are not properly stored. That has happened to me often enough that I have come to realize that I really save money in the long run by grabbing the tea, plunking my binder on the table and getting to work! I carry scissors fastened to my binder, and an envelope to put coupons into that I may not want to go back to the library,  so everything I need is handy for a quick couponing session.

Today I saved $25.00 on a shopping trip to Wal-mart because of coupons. While I often do not do that well, I'm happy that I could this time. Successes like this make me happy to keep on couponing.

What tips and tricks do you find helpful if you are couponing? Do you like to coupon and find it fulfilling, or is it only a necessity that you engage in out of need? Leave a comment or link to a blog post of yours that is about how you coupon!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Traveling We Go

Well--we are not currently traveling anymore, but we DID last week! Paul, Chad and I went to parts West to see many relatives, especially my Dear Grandma who I had not seen for around 5 years! High time definitely to see her again!

Thankfully, accumulated points allowed us to obtain 3 inexpensive airline tickets completely for free. Have tickets, will travel! My Aunt loaned us the use of her car as she was going to be out of the country most of the time we were there, so we happily used that. And all but one night (which we used points to get a free hotel room) we were able to bunk with kind relatives. We packed a LOT of friends and family into one week. It was great even though we needed to come home to catch up on our sleep! HA!

Chad was a trooper, but he finally told us he was home sick and needed to go back and see his siblings! Seeing as that was the last day we were traveling, the timing worked out OK--we boarded a plane the next day to fly home!

Charity held down the fort with Kristina's help and made sure Katya got on and off the van for school safely each day. Katya had a tough time with us gone "so long" but she survived it and was over-joyed when it finally sunk into her that we were really home! Charity made a paper chain for her that she used to help mark the time gone, and if I understand right, the school helped too with a calendar for Katya to keep track of when we would arrive back home.

After we got home, Katya jumped and jumped so long and hard for joy that the school sent a note home the next day that it seemed as if her leg was hurting! I imagine it was a bit sore for a day or so after all the joy-jumping!

It was so good to get to see family again that I don't often get to see, as well as the change in landscape. I love the mountains and prairies and it was refreshing to see them again. It feels great to be back home with all my kiddos even though I enjoyed our little trip.

Friday, April 10, 2015

So Exciting!

Wow! As if last week's great news about Katya's musical progress was not exciting enough, we got another wonderful report after her lesson yesterday! I figured she had done really well because she came home so absolutely thrilled afterwards. Just look at what her teacher reported!

HI Hope Anne, Had a wonderful lesson with Katya today. She is so sweet, was very pleasant and settled, and of course, so HAPPY to be doing music. She had a smile on her face most of the entire time : )

I gave her a new song: This Old Man. The thing I noticed today was the grasping of sequencing. Instead of concentrating on one note at a time ( and she does so, beautifully, being carefully accurate) she could see a full pattern of notes - a five tone scale and play them more as a group. I will begin teaching her more with this technique as her base of note recognition increases. She will begin learning songs quicker. 

We also worked on note values for the first time and she loved this. I think it is because she is realizing that she is really learning music and not just playing at little exercises. We did: quarter note, half note and whole note and she seemed to understand the concept. [Yes--she just learned about fractions in school a few weeks ago, so I'm sure it all clicked with her! --HAD] I held her finger down on the note, to demonstrate and then she was able to do it herself. She has a new Write and Listen book [Book 2] as well and we began that. 

Also, I wanted to tell you she enjoys "paying" for the lesson, bringing the $$ to me herself.

That's it for now. Blessings, A.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Music Lesson Report

This was the super exciting music lesson report we received from Katya's teacher after her lesson last week.

Hi Hope Anne,  Really enjoyed having A. [someone who is working on writing a book about our family's journey to Katya and her life with us] come for Katya's lesson.  Katya must have sensed she was there for her, as her performance was heightened and she did especially well.
Usually on the note songs I point to each note and Katya carefully follows each one playing the correct key on the piano.  She loves this systematic learning and enjoys the song she is hearing herself play.  This time, without any suggestion from me, she jumped right in and pointed to the notes herself (with her left hand ) carefully and correctly playing each key (with her right hand).

 She did this for the first two lines and then played the last two lines just looking and playing from the age (with no pointer hand!!) That has never happened.  She can now read music ( at least the big note kind with the letter names on them.)  I will keep feeding her new songs of these that she can do at the lesson and at home.  From there we will transfer to learning and reading notes without names on them.
The other fun thing was that when we played, "He's Got the Whole World," she automatically added her left hand, playing the chords exactly right.  We haven't done much with the left hand at all and this was exciting to see.  

She has such a love of music and a sensitivity to it - she joins and mimics me both in accuracy, tempo and feeling, to where she plays very musically as well.  This was so precious and evident as she enthusiastically jumped in to play guitar playing loud, excited strums and then quieted  down on her own to match how I was singing.

The other fun thing was when I asked if she wanted to play the harp or the guitar, she got her "talking board" (?) [Katya's IPad with the LAMP Words for Life app]  and pressed a button showing "Guitar". 

Beyond that we sang and did hand motions to " You Shall Love the Lord Your God" which she enjoys so much.   If you could help reinforce this at home that would be great.  Perhaps Alyssa could teach Charity or Kristina.  

That's all for now.  Looking forward to next week :  )
--Katya's music teacher
Needless to say, this report got a lot of people in Katya's life pretty happy! ;-)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Body Knows

The last few days have been "off" for me. I have felt cranky, crabby and emotional. My ability to cope with much of anything has been low. Yesterday when I was particularly challenged, one of my kids asked what was wrong. "I don't know," was my response. "I just don't feel well emotionally or physically." It was nothing I could really put my finger on--just a yucky, nasty "off" feeling both physically and emotionally.

I got up this morning feeling what might be commonly called, 'blue' and drug myself out the door to church almost in tears. I was feeling so bad that I actually pulled some "Peace and Calming" essential oil out on the way there and applied it. That helped a good bit but still did not fix whatever was ailing me, and I walked into church and sat down wondering what was wrong that I felt so awful. And why couldn't I feel happy?!

Yes, we have a lot on us, and I'm dealing with a lot of stress from multiple directions, but everyone was reasonably healthy, we had SUN shinning (normally a great thing for me) and life was supposed to be full of joy today of all days! So where was *my* joy?!

Soon after the service started, we swung into "Because He Lives". And in an instant, I was transported back to Easter Sunday 2003 when I sat weeping during the church service, having just come through an emergency D and C  two days before. I was physically wiped out, and emotionally depleted, and in deep mourning for the loss of a baby we had much longed for. That song was sung during that service in 2003. Suddenly I was flooded with clarity.

My body KNEW what anniversary it was, even though my brain did not consciously until the song at church made every thing become clear. As soon as every thing clicked, my emotions were actually able to calm down and even out. There was no reason for me to question myself and/or beat myself up mentally for what I was feeling! There were REASONS--valid reasons--for my body and mind to be in mourning.

By the time the service ended, I walked out feeling much improved both in body and mind. I simply needed to give myself the chance to be gentle and kind to myself on my journey through another anniversary. In order to give myself grace, I needed to consciously aware what was triggering my body and emotions.

Some of the trainings we have attended on parenting children from hard places have covered this topic. I always believed it--and in fact--we have seen it happen with our children--they don't have to be consciously aware of hard anniversaries in order for it to impact them! But this experience has hopefully made me a more understanding Mom the next time one of my kiddos goes through this. As upsetting and stressful as it was for me to experience and try to process until I figured it out, I can only imagine how much more upsetting and stressful it could be for a child.

These days, most of the time I feel much comfort due to the precious blessings God sent into our life after that miscarriage (and others). All three of our youngest,  Chad, Kristina and Katya have given me much joy and laughter and helped ease the ache of the loss of other babies before them. I'm very thankful for my youngers (plus my two adult kiddos, of course!)! But clearly, my body has not forgotten the baby I loved and carried, even when the busy days crowded it temporarily out of my brain. I'm actually glad about that, now that I figured it out.

After I took a nap, I walked out into the lovely spring sun and fresh air today and went to Jessie Jo's angel. I looked at the crocuses that are finishing up, and the daffodil buds that are poking out and soon ready to bloom. And I thought about that Easter Sunday when we celebrated my baby's brief life 12 years ago this month. My heart feels much more OK tonight. So does my body.

And best of all, as I was getting Katya's meds for bedtime ready, she walked up to me, with absolutely NO prompting, no asking--and HUGGED ME. A long, expressive hug with her face full of love and joy as she looked up at me. This is a huge first, and a much treasured moment! May there be many more to come.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

First Place

When the Lego competition was announced by our local library this winter, Kristina looked at the announced theme--"Every Hero Has a Story"--and quickly decided that she would love to illustrate Doctor Carson's life in Legos.

She presented the idea to her friends and they decided to go with it.

After weeks of planning, discussion, research and hard work, they met together at the library for the competition.

The library provides the boxes ahead of time, and you have to bring in your own Legos, broken down into individual pieces and they must all fit into the box.

They had 45 minutes by the clock to build their set. The weeks of hard work they put into the project paid off! The girls not only completed the set on time, but actually got it done with 10 minutes to spare!

The competition was stiff. There were so many good sets! How would the Judges choose? They went around the room and interviewed the teams, asking questions about how they came up with the ideas, and other questions. Kristina and her friends were well prepared, having spent extensive time making sure they understood well what they were portraying. The girls were full of enthusiasm about their chosen subject. In addition, they had provided copies of the cover of the kid's version and the adult version of the book, "Gifted Hands" which is Doctor Carson's story about his life, AND they had typed up information about Doctor Carson and the events of his life they were portraying.
Personally, I'm guessing that their dedication to details and the fact that they were plugging his books were what helped tip the tide in their favor!
YES! Those are FIRST PLACE RIBBONS! And gift cards!!
Needless to say, we were THRILLED and so, so proud of the girls! They worked hard, put in lots of effort, and really deserved the reward of earning 1st place!
Their set is currently on display at our library for the next two weeks. Then the girls will get together to break it down and sort out their own pieces as they combined Legos from each girl's collection in order to make this project work. It's provided them a lot of fantastic fun, good memories and good life experiences. I am sure Doctor Carson would be quite pleased with their "can do" spirit!

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Story From Ukraine

Day after day, while Paul and I were in Ukraine for Katya's adoption, we walked from our apartment up the street, past a McDonald's and went down the steps into the Metro. As we would go down the steps, we would walk past various people selling their wares. A few potatoes still coated lightly with black Ukraine soil, a handful of carrots, with the tops starting to slightly whither in the heat, a sprig of flowers plucked from the road side and tucked into a canning jar.

One lady always caught our attention. Dressed each day in the same impeccably clean clothing with a snowy white apron, her wares were home made breads and pastries spread out on an absolutely snow-white cloth, and a few flowers plucked from her garden. I always smiled because it was obvious she took a healthy pride in herself and her products, and I could imagine her bustling around early in her kitchen in order to get things ready and be to the Metro in time to catch the early morning commuters! After all, we were there around 8:00 AM most days and she had the appearance of someone who had already settled in for the day for awhile!

After observing her for the first two weeks, I told Paul, "I want to try some of her breads!" And so we did. They were every bit as tasty as they looked, and we only regretted we had not started purchasing them sooner during our stay there. After our first purchase, the lady was definitely happy to see us coming along! She was happy when I let her know through gestures and my limited Russian that we really liked her baked goods! Her round face would beam and her eyes twinkle!

The memory of  sitting at the tiny table in our apartment, eating her bread with butter and cheese, and then the chocolate filled pastry, while looking out the window at the linden trees,  lingers in my heart.

I still think about that lady, and wonder how the war and the stresses of life in Ukraine right now have affected her. I would give a lot if I could walk down that street, head down the steps into the Metro and see if I could find her again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Between 2 Gods

For some time now, I have been awaiting the release of "Between 2 Gods--A Memoir of Abuse in the Mennonite Community" by Trudy Harder Metzger.

Yesterday, I was finally able to download it to my Kindle App and read the book.  Having heard bits and pieces of Trudy's story before, I still found it helpful to follow the story in chronological order, and there were parts of her story that were new to me.

I found much I could relate to, since not only did I move in some of the same circles that Trudy had, but I also knew some of the specific people she mentions. There was much food for thought, but I think one of the things that stuck out the most to me was when Trudy wrote about how after moving to the "conservative" Mennonite church that there was an effort to change and mold her personality. I could certainly relate to that from my own experience as a child whose parents changed churches too! It was a painful, soul-draining experience to have gone through, and the nasty after-math lingered with me well into adulthood until I was able to sort out that I was who I was because GOD made me to be that way, and I did not need to be remade "in their image" into some "ideal Mennonite woman" that I was not created by God to be.

Trudy writes honestly about the abuses she experienced or witnessed but she remains sensitive and discreet throughout the book. She speaks truth, but does not try to be sensational.

I felt that the conclusion of the book was a bit abrupt. It would have been good I think to have more of her story of healing shared, but am hopeful that this signals a possible sequel in the works!

Recommending this book to anyone who wants to read truth, or anyone who wants to see the loving pursuit of a faithful God who cares!

This post is my own opinion entirely, and I did not, nor will I receive anything at all for writing this--not even a free book! However, the link given is my affiliate link, and I will receive a small percentage of the cost of almost anything ordered from Amazon though that link.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Home and Garden Show

Thanks to being gifted with free tickets, we were able to attend a Home and Garden Show this month, much to our delight! We had not been for years, so it was a real treat!

 Chad found the rockers at this display to be quite comfortable.

We were treated to colors, sounds, tastes and smells!

(Photo credit for candles to Kristina)

Our sense of humor was tickled when we happened upon this be-draggled looking chicken in one of the displays!

 What could be more perfect for those of us who are needing hope of spring than a scene like this?!

Wouldn't you just have loved to be allowed to curl up in that amazing looking chair for a few hours? I'd have opted for a good book and a light blanket, not the binoculars in the chair, but they could have stayed tucked in there too just in case I wanted to use them! This display had not won the "People's Choice" award but in my opinion, it sure should have!

 The photo does not really show it, but water trickled down the chain to the garden.

The display also contained visual treats in the form of these wood displays.

I kept going back to this display to study it some more.

The next photo was from a display that showed whimsy by incorporating children's toys, colanders and other items as planters.

 When Katya's school was done, we picked her up and brought her to the Home and Garden Show to enjoy it with us for awhile too. She was a trifle overwhelmed but over all liked it! Having her own goody bag to stash "loot" in was something she enjoyed! She loved the flowers too.

Just lovely, lovely! Spring is coming!

Are you anticipating spring? Is there anything you like to do to help keep hope of spring alive?? Leave me a comment to talk about it!

(Special thanks to Charity and Kristina for the use of their photos.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Birthday

Kristina turned 15. Things were very busy so we went for very simple.

It was easy to choose her color theme as the Valentine themed things were on sale.

Her Dad brought home a rose and some baby's breath to go along with the color scheme.

Katya was interested in the preparations.

She enjoys beautiful things!

Kristina had a happy birthday. She was quite pleased with her presents. She wanted to wear one of them--a new skirt--when she went to interview a retired public health nurse for a biographical sketch she was to write for school.

Interestingly enough, when Katya saw I had the camera, she jumped in beside Kristina and posed for me! You would never know she used to SCREAM and try to hide her face any time a camera would appear, would you?!

Love and care make such a difference!

Happy, Happy Birthday to our Kristina, and many more to come!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Ukraine, We Weep and Pray With You Today

Ukraine is in mourning today.

We weep and pray with them. Our hearts are broken. For those mourning in Ukraine. And yes, for those mourning in Russia who are losing loved ones in this completely and utterly senseless war that the leaders of Russia have instigated against Ukraine.

We have children from both countries who love and respect each other in this family. Would that the world as a whole would understand how to do that too!

We wait for Jesus who has promised true and lasting peace on the earth. Until then, we will continue to pray and weep and do all that we can to help the refugees from the war in Ukraine.

You too can assist them through organizations such as Jeremiah's Hope, Life To Orphans and MCC. The needs are huge, and urgent. It is estimated that there are over  600,000 displaced persons at this point in the tough, winter weather. Some estimate that there are as many as 900,000. These are all families who have fled their homes and businesses--often with nothing but a suitcase, hastily grabbed which may or may not contain enough necessities to get them through just a few days.

We weep with Ukraine. We pray for them. We donate whatever we can. Every single dollar helps, and because the economy in Ukraine is so tough right now, every single USD goes farther than you would see it go here in the USA. I do not know about currency from other countries, but I would assume the situation could be similar.

Will you stand with Ukraine? Will you put yourself in the shoes of these people who want nothing more than peace, and help pray for them, donate relief supplies, and spread the word about the needs? If so, thank you from the bottom of our family's heart.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My Brother's Afghan

Katya finds great joy in rocking and relaxing, wrapped in the afghan crocheted so long ago for my brother by my Grandma. My brother died at 13 from complications from a brain tumor at the base of his brain. The afghan is treasured by me because I remember him being wrapped in it in his wheelchair.  I found it interesting that Katya quickly zeroed in on it and enjoys using it on a regular basis.

This special afghan makes a great way to hide from the photographer too!