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

Dr. Ben Carson on Katya Dueck

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Lots Going On!

Life keeps moving on and we are busy!

Katya had a good Thanksgiving break. We were able to meet up with friends at the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens the Friday after Thanksgiving. Planning this was a bit of a nervous moment as we were not at all sure how Katya would do with it, but we were hopeful that with plenty of preparation ahead of time, she would enjoy it. And she did! Stan Hywet made it easier for us by posting photos and short video clips on their FB page for several weeks leading up to our trip there and so we made sure to show Katya those and discuss it, as well as marking the event on her calendar. When the day came to go, I said, "Katya, tonight we are going to go to the big house to look at lights!" She moved over to her calendar, pointed to the correct day and looked at me with a questioning look on her face. She was happy to get confirmation and took the whole event in stride. She loved walking and looking at the lights outside, and even handled the crush and slow shuffle through the house quite well!

I think two of my favorite memories of that evening involve her. One was her wide eyed stare inside the house at the tree as we were going up the stairs! (She's there--you just have to find her!)

The other memory was after we were done with the tour and were getting ready to part ways and go home, we asked our kids who wanted hot cider. And just like that, Katya's hand flew up into the air! She wanted it! She stood patiently in the long line till her Daddy was able to get the cider for her and her siblings who wanted it. Such a long, long way Miss Katya has come! It felt so very nice to be able to be able to do something with friends as a family again!

Chad's room has been getting a "make-over" to make it more friendly for his allergies and asthma. Since we were stripping out the carpet and putting down a hard floor, we decided to pain the walls before hand since they were in need of paint after a succession of children through that room in the last 10 or so years.  Chad was happy to choose Gratifying Green from Sherwin Williams.

The room is not entirely put back together but we are very nearly done. Chad is pretty happy with how it is shaping up. It feels good to be getting that project behind us, and I'm pleased with the fresh look.

We also, shock of shock, actually managed to get some family snap shots taken this December!!

After several years without any family pictures, I'm quite happy about that! It was a bit of a challenge to manage to catch everyone home as our adult kiddos have schedules that they need to adhere to, and Paul's work makes catching him at the same time as everyone else super hard, but we finally had it happen!

Now we are busy with different Christmas related events--musical events and other things. It's a most wonderful time of the year! ;-)


The other day Katya came home from school and we went to offer her a snack of jelly bread. She began to fuss heavily. It was obvious she did NOT want jelly bread! "Katya, I hear you don't want jelly bread! Get your 'talker' and tell us what you DO want for a snack!"

She knew what she wanted for a snack!

You want crackers and [goat's] cheese? Indeed you shall have that, child!!

Little by little, a little more communication is coming.

We are very, very thankful for that!!

Katya loves to tease. The other night I was tucking her and Kristina in and went to leave the room. "Good night, girls!" I said. Katya immediately faked giant snores. It is hard to believe such giant snores can come from such a petite miss! I began to laugh and said, "Oh no, Kristina! Katya beat you going to sleep!" Katya began to giggle and giggle. I asked her if she had been trying to tease me and she giggled even harder.

Thankful for this kiddo and her siblings every day!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Like it or not, fall is coming. So rather than fighting it, we are trying to embrace it.

We did some cleaning in the living room today and started putting out our touches of fall d├ęcor.

This is a new room brightener for this fall. We took a vase and some fall glass beads we had on hand,  and then added a cheap pack of pinecones, pumpkins etc., and the miniature lights.

We all love it. I think it needs a little more yet to finish filling up the vase and hide where the light cord runs over the lip of the vase to the battery pack hiding behind it, so I may add some fall silk leaves and things yet to the top--not sure yet. It's fun to have my finger in a small project again--it's been a good while since I have done anything like this! I never used to think I was really a creative person but I have discovered that really I am. If I'm not at least occasionally creative, it isn't a good thing.

Along with sprucing up the house for fall, we are focusing on trying to make sure that the kiddos have what they need for winter weather. Charity has been helping me by sewing a warm jumper for Katya for the rapidly approaching cooler days of fall.

Katya is very interested in the progress and seems exceedingly pleased.

Kristina has sewn a warm, flannel PJ bottom for herself


and one for Katya.
And so, little by little, we are getting ready for the cooler days.
Among other things, we are remembering that a year ago, God kept Katya alive when she was desperately ill from a massive infection in her head post grafting surgery.
This picture was snapped seconds before she was wheeled to the OR on Sept 20, 2015, for an emergency surgery to do what needed to be done to clean out the infection and save her life. As you can see, sepsis was doing it's deadly work and Katya was a very, very sick girl. She couldn't have hung on much longer with out the appropriate medical attention.
How thankful we are that Katya is alive and happy today! Here she was Saturday helping me to put away the shopping!
What are you doing for fall?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Back to School 2016-2017

Katya has started back to school.

She had a range of emotions on the first day.


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

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

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

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

Friday, August 5, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katya enjoyed the food like usual!

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

Kristina took a turn too.

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

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

How is your summer going?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

New Territory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Good Kick

On June 20th, I wrote the following.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer is Flying By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your summer!

(This post contains our Amazon Affiliate Link)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

5 Years Ago

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

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

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

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

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

Chad had a blast being a climber!

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

Happy, Happy Summer to you all!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Baked Oatmeal Recipe

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

I still love it and fix it for my family.

Baked Oatmeal

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Charity Is Going to Japan

God willing, Charity will be going to Japan this summer in August for about 13 days with her chamber orchestra. [Edited to say that the group was just invited to several more places so the trip has been extended to around 19 days now!]

To help raise the funds she needs, she has been making and selling items. You can see some of what is for sale at her Facebook Page, Wares By Cherry.

Charity is very excited for this amazing opportunity and is working hard to be ready to go--she has a solo violin piece her teacher wants her to play at their performances. I will have to ask her for sure, but I believe it is "Winter" by Vivaldi. She has also done some sewing for herself which I hope she will blog about at some point as she wants cool and "easy wear" clothing that packs nicely.

Check out her Wares By Cherry page!

And if you would like to hear a little clip of some of their music: Come Thou Fount

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Your Questions Answered Part 2

Natalia asked: "How are the other kids doing?"

Milena asks: "Also, I wonder what your other four children do currently? College for the older two - or are they working? Does Charity still play the violin?"

I'm glad you asked! They are all growing in one way or another! Not all of them are growing physically any more--after all, I am Mom to two full-fledged adults! But all of them are growing some how!

Todd is 23 and busy with work and college. After graduating with multiple honors and an Associates degree he took a break from college for a year or so, but started back again in the fall. He is continuing to mature in delightful ways and is a blessing in our home! He hopes to build us a chicken coop here in the next few weeks so we can try for egg layers this year. This is a long held dream for our family, so hopefully all the details work out this time--you would not believe the amount of things that have happened each year to stop this from happening! So I'll believe it when it actually is reality.

Charity is 20 now and I seriously don't know what I would do without her. She is a wonderful blessing with so many aspects of our family life! Charity also blesses the community through her involvement in MOPS and other volunteer activities. She is very involved with her musician's life and God has opened up some really cool opportunities for her through her musical abilities. In addition to teaching violin, she is a part of a chamber orchestra and very busy with that each week. She has a good reason to be very busy--her Chamber Orchestra is going to Japan in August for 10 days to perform! What an amazing opportunity for her! Additionally, she is traveling to England in June with her best friend and parents. Charity is very excited about these adventures and we are so excited for her!

Kristina is now "Sweet 16" and very busy with her school work, continuing to re-learn her Russian, expand her knowledge of American Sign Language, and helping me around the house. I can count on Kristina to be my best organizer! Back in Feb. I believe it was, she got to go with her Dad and me when he had a job in the general DC area. The timing was perfect for us to take her to the FRUA Russian Spring Festival at Hillwood Estate and Gardens and she (and we!) enjoyed it very much! She re-connected this winter via VK with a dear friend of hers who was with her when she was in the orphanage in Russia, and that has brought much peace of mind to Kristina, knowing her friend is alive and doing OK,

Katya is 11 and the light of all our lives! Yes, she still has plenty of challenges that she throws at us, but she is most definitely a part of our family and she knows it more and more! [And just a FYI for the nay-sayers who were saying we were definitely going to disrupt her (along with a lot of other trash made up about us) if you are reading this, I hope you think about this long enough to learn some important life lessons.]

Chad is 10 and still our sweet, funny, wonderful kid! This school year we did something new to us--we joined a local Co-Op and had weekly classes there. I'm glad we did--it's been beneficial and since Katya's need for an early bedtime keeps us from easily being able to participate in events that go on in the late afternoon or evening with our home school group, this weekly Co-Op has been great as we can get home before Katya needs someone at home to get her off the school van. Chad has really enjoyed the Co-Op and I'm glad for some help teaching some things like Art that I did not feel like I was doing that well accomplishing! Chad loves helping his Dad with projects--Chad has so much strength he is often a real asset now for things requiring strength! Chad is an awesome part of our family and brings joy to us every day.

And there you go!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Answers to Questions Part 1

Angela asks:

"How is Katya's signing going? How many signs does she use independently? Also is she independent with eating/drinking? Can she use normal utensils/cup etc??"

Katya continues to learn ASL. She understands that this works for her, both at home and some what at school (many of the staff there are fluent in basic ASL, and some of the kids know ASL as well). She loves learning new signs, and in fact has learned new ones on her own just from watching "Signing Time" videos--and then we have to try to figure out what she is telling us! Whoops! At times, because language is simply tough for her, Katya looses a sign and then is very frustrated and will try several times even though she does not remember the sign. Often, we can figure it out by asking her lots and lots of yes and no questions and then refresh her memory on the correct way to sign what she wants.

How many signs Katya uses independently is anyone's guess! She uses enough now that we no longer attempt to catalog them! The last time we did so was several years ago and she had well over 100 in addition to the alphabet and numbers at that point! Her vocabulary has continued to grow since that time. Additionally, Katya uses her Ipad with communication app to communicate beyond what she knows in ASL at school. She does not prefer to use her Ipad however, and so mainly signs and uses what verbal language she has here at home.

Katya came home able to independently convey food and drink to her mouth. Please note the word "convey". She has since refined her skills and much improved them!! She has room to grow in this area but no one is concerned probably about it except her Mama at this point. ;-) And yes, Katya uses all normal table utensils and dishes! She also understands setting the table for meals with them and is quite happy to participate in this as it means food is coming soon!

Thank you for asking, Angela, and I hope that you will continue to comment on Katya's blog.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Question and Answer Time!

So it's that time again . . . what questions do you have that you would like answered?

You can ask anything you want, and if I can I will answer the questions as I have time!

Ask away!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Doctor in the House: My Life With Ben Carson

I have been eagerly waiting for Candy Carson's book, "A Doctor in the House: My Life With Ben Carson" to show up in our local library. Today was the day that I finally found it in the new books section!

I have started reading it already and am finding myself very interested, as I expected to be.  Candy's stories help fill in some of the questions our family has had about some aspects in Doctor Carson's life. For instance, I had always wondered if the portrayal of them losing twins in the movie, "Gifted Hands", was accurate. I questioned it as I had never heard Doctor Carson mention that in any of his speeches or books. (If it's there, I have missed it.) Candy writes about the death of their twins in  "A Doctor in the House".

Candy writes with a clear and engaging style that makes the book a fast read. This is a plus for me as a busy Mom to kids with special needs.

Obviously, I have not finished the book yet, but I can't imagine that I will end it feeling any differently than I do so far--that this book is a great addition to my reading list!

Friday, February 26, 2016

And Kristina is 16

Kristina celebrated her 16th birthday recently. She was quite surprised to be gifted with a great, heavy cardboard box--so big and heavy that she could not move it. She was further surprised to see Russian writing on it!

Yes! the box was full of a Russian china set, including a soup tureen! Way back in August/Sept of 2005 when we adopted her, we had purchased a Russian china set in her birth town and with the help of our dear Russian friends, packaged it up and it was sent via UPS back to the United States to wait for her birthday at some future point!
We had not purchased the matching tea set at the time, but when we returned to Russia in 2010, we were surprised and pleased to find the exact same pattern of tea set in a shop, and we purchased and hand carried that home to give to Kristina. She was thrilled with that, and then to get a matching china set some years later just shocked her to no end! ;-) I'm truly happy that we could do this for her, as the china is incredibly beautiful, and because it is from her birth country, it is meaningful to Kristina.
She wanted to eat her birthday cake on one of her new plates.
And while her birthday was a much smaller deal than we would have liked it to be, due largely to me being in a state of pain and dysfunction due to a torn rotator cuff (which is now healed, thankfully!), Kristina still had a happy birthday.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Katya's Umpteenth Trip to Baltimore--Part 3

Remember, we began sensing there were problems with the van before we even got out of Baltimore? Well, as the miles ticked by, we began to be more and more unsure we would make it home with the van.

We prayed, we tried to not worry. Paul had checked all the fluids and done every thing he knew to do while traveling, so we would just have to keep pushing on in faith.

Just as we nearly crested the top of the hill just on the Maryland/West VA border on I68, our van lost power so fast that we couldn't even get the van to a point where there was a shoulder! We were in a precarious position still really on the road. Paul put the van in "park" and went to get out to try to figure out what to do--only he realized the van was rolling backwards! "Park" would not hold the van! Paul managed to jam the Emergency Brake down, but even that did not seem like it wanted to hold the van well, and the trucks and cars were whizzing dangerously close to us in the dark. "Out! Out!" Paul ordered us! "Get walking on the other side of the guard rail and get up to the Welcome Center."

Bless my children--Charity, Chad and Katya all grabbed their back packs and water bottles and crawled out and over the guard rail and began walking in the dark and rain. Later, looking back on it all, I was amazed at how fast they moved. We trudged through the dark, slipping and sliding a bit on the hill and loose gravel. It was certainly not a very comfortable walk, and Katya was rather agitated at first, but with the others staying calm and positive, even she cheered up! Eventually we got to the Welcome Center and went in to settle down for who knew how long of a wait in one corner of the place.

Charity pulled a book out of her backpack and offered to read to Chad to help distract him and pass the time, and that left me free to supervise Katya and keep checking in periodically with Paul to try to figure out what to do. He informed me he was trying to keep people from hitting our van in the dark and rain by using his flashlight to motion them to get over, meanwhile he was making calls, trying to locate help for our stranded family.

Time drug on and we finally rummaged in our back packs to check on what few snacks we had. We all had a few things and laid them out. "I don't need mine," Chad manfully declared! "Let someone else eat mine!"

As time drug on, we began to envision spending the night in the Welcome Center. Our spirits lifted after one of the care-takers, a kindly older gentleman, came around to check on us. "Don't worry!" he solemnly assured us. "You are safe here and if you need to spend the whole night, that's OK. I'll make sure you are OK!"

After a call to one of our pastor's to see if they knew of anyone in the area who could possibly help us, Paul got a call from someone who said they were coming to help us but it would take them about 45 minutes to get to us. When this dear man showed up, we had been waiting at the Welcome Center for about two hours, hungry and tired, but even Katya was really an amazing kiddo the whole time! While waiting, she let me take a nice photo of her at the tree.

Well, to make a long story short, the kindly gentleman who showed up and rescued us, turned out to be the father of the new wife of one of our pastor's! So that was a fun bit of "connection"! At great risk to his own life and limb he towed our van to the Welcome Center (He and Paul just narrowly escaped being hit by a tractor trailer in the process  of hitching the van up to his truck). Then, he put himself totally at our disposal and said he would do whatever was best for our family--either take us home to his own house for the night or take us to a hotel--whichever we desired. While Paul and I were debating which would be the best plan (we had lots of angles to consider due to our kiddos needs), this gentleman asked, "How far away do you live?" When we told him we had several more hours to go, he offered, "How about I just load you all up in my truck and take you home?!" And bless his generous heart! That is exactly what he did! We had a tight fit with the 5 of us and the Mr in his truck but Katya (in car seat), Chad and Charity all squeezed into the back seat, and the Mr., Paul and I all squeezed into the truck front seat.

We had a time of blessed fellowship and rejoicing in the Lord as we traveled back home. And even though we arrived way, way late and very tired, our hearts were full of warmth and gladness due to the kindness of this man and his caring heart. He would not even allow us to give him anything for his gas and bother, but blessed us and turned around to begin his long drive back home through the dark and rainy night.

The next day, Paul and a friend of ours went and towed the van back home--indeed, the transmission which was less than a year old had gone completely out! In fact, it had gone so completely and thoroughly out that "park" did not work at all, so had it not been just almost at the crest of the hill when it happened, rather than going down the other side, we could have had a very different ending to our story--because as it turned out--for whatever reasons, the emergency brake did not work right either and just the "jostling" that occurred when hitching the van to the gentleman's truck to tow it caused, the van started rolling backwards and Paul had to run and brace it with his body while the man ran to his truck to start pulling the van forward before it gained enough momentum to pull both vehicles back down the hill. That was a night to remember, that is for sure!

We are very thankful for God's mercies to our family and for how he provided one of the kindest, most gentle man of God to come to our aid when we were stranded! And so that was how our trip to Baltimore and home again went.