It’s been over 6 months since Oleg came home. That’s crazy. It seems like he’s been here so much longer. He fits into the family perfectly. It’s clear that God’s hand was at work bringing Oleg to us. There have been difficult days in the past 6 months, but not a single day when I questioned whether or not we did the right thing. He is our son and I would cross the ocean a million more times if that is what it took to have him home with us.
This reminds me why I don’t keep a journal! Anytime in my life when I have tried to keep a written record of things going on I always fail. I always get behind and then avoid it completely because I never have the time to keep up. That’s what happened with the advent activity calendar blogging. The advent activity calendar was a big success, but me blogging about it was a fail and has resulted in me totally avoiding tumblr.
On a happy side-note: I have pretty much everything bought for next year’s calendar on clearance at the end of this year! I love a good bargain… and time spent with my kids.
Sometimes the new year is a good time to put things behind us. I need to put blogging about the advent activity calendar behind me. It stinks to get so far behind on something! And I don’t want it hanging over my head any longer!
I don’t have pictures of everything, and I’m not going to go into major detail, but here goes…
Day 17 (Ornaments/Dinner with Randy and Natalie)
After Oleg got home from school I had the kids “open” the sock and work on these ornaments, but the real activity for the evening was dinner with Randy and Natalie (the couple who helped us adopt Oleg). We told Oleg at the start of the month that they were coming over on the 17th and he was so excited for this day to come! Almost everyday he would ask about it (way more than he asked about how many days until Christmas). I am so glad that we set this dinner date up. We had a wonderful evening catching up. Randy and Natalie truly are wonderful people and we are blessed to have them in our lives.
An interesting thing from the evening was how much Oleg spoke in English even to Natalie! It’s amazing to step back and think about how far he’s come.
Day 18 (Snowman ornaments)
If you’ve been on pinterest you’ve probably seen the snowman ornaments where you draw little snowmen on each finger of your child’s hand print. On day 18 I made those ornaments with Wally and Lucy while Oleg did some freestyle work on his ornaments. I didn’t take pictures of the ornaments (because I didnt expect to get this far behind and I wanted them to be a surprise for our parents) but they turned out adorable! We will definitely cherish those ornaments for years to come. (Hopefully we will all forget how much I kept yelling “Don’t touch anything!”)
Day 19 (Star Hunt Game and Oleg’s Christmas Program)
I was pretty exhausted on Day 19… it is so hard to make it through Christmas stress free! I was scrambling for an activity the day of because of all the changes we had to make previously. What I came up with was Burger King crowns and a sponge in the shape of a star. The kids were at Mema and Papa’s house with Uncle Travy so it was up to Uncle Travy to hide the star and the kids searched for the star just like the wisemen searched for the star above Bethlehem. I knew it was pretty lame for Oleg and he was pretty bored with it, but the real activity for him was his school Christmas Program that evening.
I did not expect to cry. In fact when it started I thought about the moms who post on facebook about crying through their kids programs and I wondered why. BUT then I saw Oleg up there being so comfortable and confident. And heard him participating in songs about our Savior. And I lost it. Seriously lost it. I was sobbing. And trying to hold in the sobs which turned into explosions that either sounded like laughter (totally innapropriate during serious parts of a children’s program) or snorts (absolutely humiliating). The more I tried to stop the more they came. It was awful… actually it (Oleg’s program) was wonderful; I was awful. And the awful thing about being the mom of a 13 year old boy is that after the program you want to shower them with love and share a special mom/son moment, but they would rather ignore you and hang out with their friends!
I really wish I could say more about how proud I am of Oleg and how hilarious it was to see him flirting with all the girls, but I must move on.
Day 20 (Choose your own adventure)
Day 20 was total stress for me. I was running around like crazy all day and realized at the end of it that I never sat down and ate a single meal. Thankfully the kids were with my Mother-in-law. Unfortunately I messed up and didn’t have a sock activity for them. Thankfully Sherry pulled out some activities she had in her basement and let the kids choose whatever one they wanted to do. They came home with some fun craft projects and more great memories with their Grandma.
Day 21 (Our family Christmas)
Day 21 was wonderful. I’m realizing right now that I am way too tired to attempt to put any of that joy into words (or the joy of the days that followed).
I’ll finish up tomorrow.
Happy New Year! 2012 was truly one of the most amazing/life-changing/challenging years of my life. I feel like I’ve come to the end of a marathon. I’m exhausted and relieved to be done, but also extremely thankful to have gone through it. I know that 2013 will hold new challenges, but I also look forward to it with the confidence that it will hold more wonderful experiences.
Day 16 was another day of canceled plans. Wally was still sick so no cookie decorating or Christmas Carol Dance Party. But it was still an amazing day!
Oleg was grounded from electronics so he went crazy decorating the house for Christmas. We now have so many paper chains hung up with blue painters tape all over the house :)
This was just the start of it.
We also made some amazing Peppermint Crunch Puppy Chow (one of my new favorite Christmas treats).
But none of that was what was inside the back-up plan sock!
Inside the sock was a note that said “Christmas Car Ride”. The kids were so confused over what that could mean. They kept asking if we were going to Mema and Papa’s house :)
We started off by making special Christmas treat necklaces for the car ride. We made them out of yarn, bells, Fruit Loops, and chocolate covered pretzels.
I helped Wally complete his first so naturally his was completely eaten before we even headed for the car. He kept telling me the food broke off and then he would eat it and smile.
(Excuse the spaghetti stained faces from dinner)
Lucy and Oleg took more time on their necklaces (really just meaning they put more fruit loops on their’s)
After they were done we all loaded into the car. All I would tell the kids was that we were going to drive around listening to Christmas music and eating our snack. Wally went through every member of the extended family asking if they were going to “be there?”
Our secret location was the Brown Christmas Light Show which is a house in Mason that has a huge display of Christmas lights set to music you can tune into on your radio.
Unfortunately, I didn’t pay close enough attention to Lucy’s diaper before we left and once we got there she informed me that she was wet and cried to go home to be changed. We did stay for 2 1/2 songs and it was pretty awesome.
When we got home Oleg wanted to find new uses for the remaining yarn. After enhancing some of his previous crafts he came up with the brilliant plan of setting a trap for Nate’s return home from work.
Even though I was sad to have Nate gone all day, and for our canceled plans, it really was an amazing day with the kids.
Day 15 is something we have always said we would do with our children. I was excited for this day, but also nervous to see how it would play out.
Day 15 was set to be the first time the kids would be receiving presents this Christmas. We were scheduled to have our home-group Christmas party and we had drawn names with the other kids in the group. Unfortunately the party is postponed due to sickness, but we went ahead with our morning plans anyway.
Nate asked the kids if they could think about how excited they get to receive presents. He told them they would be receiving a lot of presents this Christmas from our family members. Then he told them that some kids don’t get any presents at Christmastime. He asked them to think about how sad they might be. He asked them to go through their stuff and pick out toys and books we could give away to those kids who don’t have any this Christmas.
Nate went with Oleg to his room and I brought Wally and Lucy into the playroom. We had a big Santa Sack to put all the toys in.
At first Wally was hesitant and wanted to keep a lot of his stuff (he freaked out a little when I mentioned giving away dvds), but after a little bit he would pick something up, say “give away”, and run over to put it in the sack. He had the biggest grin on his face as I cheered him on. He made a small pile on the couch of the things he wanted to save.
In the end Nate and I were blown away by our youngest son. He wanted to give away so much! He held onto his favorite things (which is how I knew he wasn’t just putting everything in the bag as a game), but the things he really doesn’t play with much he wanted to put in the bag. I was amazing, and slightly horrified as he gave away the first 2 stuffed animals we bought the kids before they were born. I thought about stopping him, but then I realized those toys really don’t get played with so what’s the point of holding onto them. We can learn so much from our children.
Lucy was an entirely different story. From the moment Nate mentioned giving stuff away she started declaring “my stuff” over and over again. Wally would take something to the bag and she would grab a handful of things and put it in the clothes hamper she had claimed as her keep pile. She just kept yelling “My stuff” and “No”.
Here’s a picture of her clinging to her stuffed animals (neither of which she plays with anymore).
Towards the end of our activity we told her that she had to give one toy away. This is what she came back with.
A “stress ball” cow we got for free from the AG expo… notice how the face, ears, and feet have been bitten off.
Is it bad that this stuff cracks me up?
In the end we sat next to the santa sack and told her she had to give away either the lion or the doll. Eventually she put the lion in the bag and then balled her eyes out. I love that little girl :)
(Sorry Adam and Heather, who gave her the lion on the day she was born, part of me really wanted to keep it for the sentimental value, but we really needed to get down and Wally had already moved me towards giving away stuff we don’t use).
Oleg did great. He picked out a lot which cars he could do without, organized the rest, and found some over due library books in the process!
I’m so proud of all 3 of my children!
We ended by letting them open their new Christmas shirts (which were suppose to be worn to the party if it hadn’t been canceled)
This was Nate’s attempt at getting them to pose on the couch holding up their new shirts.
Instead of the party that evening we all watched The Polar Express and hid bells in the kids’ stockings. It was a great day despite the change of plans.
The flu struck again! :(
Sherry babysat the kids on day 14 while Nate and I had a much needed date night. Sherry was going to take the kids for a special night out at Potter Park’s Wonderland of Lights, but Wally started feeling worse as the night progressed. Instead they had lots of fun, and lots of cuddles, with Grandma at home. I couldn’t ask for anyone better to take care of my little guy when he is feeling sick.
My heart breaks for the families who lost their precious children in Connecticut and my heart hurts for the darkness that is present in this world. God sent His Son into this world to be a light in the midst of the darkness. May His light shine bright in Connecticut as they grieve their great losses— bringing comfort and joy. And may His light shine in our hearts as we hold our dear children tight. Thankful for another day with them. Everyday is a gift.
On Day 13 we did our advent activity over at Grandma’s house with our friend Grace.
The kids love looking at ornaments on our Christmas tree so I thought they would really enjoy making their own ornaments for the tree. I found some on clearance at Michael’s.
For the big kid ornaments we used scrapbook paper, mod podge, and optional puffy paint.
Sherry wanted a nice picture with Oleg…
Finally a semi-decent one with Lucy too
It’s so fun having a son who enjoys doing crafts… although I think his favorite part was when he squeezed the puffy paint and it made a farting noise. Oleg did a great job on his ornament …
Grace wins the crafting award (I didn’t get a picture of her 2nd ornament which was equally cute)
Mine and Sherry’s
Once again, it is great to share these special times with people we love.
While I was out celebrating 12/12/12 day with my CL students. Wally and Lucy and Oleg were doing their 12th activity at Mema and Papa’s house (with Uncle Travy there to help!).
It weirds me out so much to see a picture where Wally and Lucy look almost as tall as Oleg!
How did they have a snowball fight with no snow?
sneak attacks from Oleg
I’m pretty sure Oleg loved it…
As always, the kids had a blast with their Mema, Papa, and Uncle Travy.
Day 11 I had to work more than normal so I didn’t get to participate in that evenings family activity, but I did get a touching compliment from Oleg before I left. I overheard Oleg ask Nate if I was leaving for work. When Nate told him I was, Oleg groaned and said, “Mom’s fun.” That made my day… it also made it hard to leave!
Nate did a great job of helping the kids decorate gift bags with some nativity stickers I got from Oriental Trading Company.
They did about 6 more and Oleg keeps asking when he can decorate more! I think he is excited about being able to participate in giving gifts to our friends and family.
Day 10 was another punt because Nate was still sick. We were suppose to babysit provide free babysitting for one of Nate’s co-workers, make more treats, and bring the treat plates to the neighbors. Not wanting to get anyone sick, we canceled those plans.
It’s hard to find activities that a 13 year old will enjoy AND 2 year olds are capable of doing. Since day 10’s back up plan was thrown together last minute I didn’t have a snowman craft for Wally and Lucy. Thankfully 2 year olds don’t need anything fancy to keep them entertained!
They tried out these new safety scissors I found at Goodwill.
And made random Christmas trees with Oleg’s left over supplies
Oleg made snowmen out of Chinese take-out boxes.
I’m so proud to have a son who knows how to use a glue-gun! haha
They turned out great! I can’t wait to fill them with some Christmas Crunch Puppy Chow.
(I’m finding that the week after being sick is sometimes worse than being sick because you have so much to catch up on and your still worn out! Sorry for getting so far behind)
Day 9 we were suppose to go to the Christmas Journey at Trinity Church which I hear is amazing, but Nate was still sick and it was raining outside so we decided it was best to stay inside.
Oleg had an assignment in school involving a book about a tall tale, legend, or myth so we picked The Tale of the Three Trees since we could use it as an advent activity as well. It’s a wonderful book about how God’s plans don’t always look like we would expect, but they are always good.
Oleg’s part of the activity was mainly doing homework (kinda lame), but we did all have tree ice cream after dinner which made it slightly more exciting (I know I’m not the only person on the planet who gets excited about ice cream).
Wally and Lucy did a Christmas tree craft I found on pinterest with 2 of my wonderful Campus Life students.
They loved the chance to use a glue stick! And then they got to use paint to add some snow!
Although we missed out on my staff Christmas party due to illness, we still made the most of the day the best we could.
Oleg was sooooo excited about the snow! He spent most of the morning outside in it. In fact he had to come in and change twice because he was soaking wet. He kept riding his bike around in the yard and purposely turning the handle bars and sliding… I’m just now imagining the donuts that kid is going to do when he gets his drivers license and I’m very frightened!
Oleg made a little snowman in the backyard. Which is super cute, but it makes me want to cry because we couldn’t all be outside together helping him.
Once I had done my fair share of sleeping and was feeling a little better. It was time for the sock.
Actually the kids weren’t that excited at first. I don’t think any of them knew what a stocking was at first.
We started with some crafts while Nate ran to the store.
Oleg got to use fabric markers on a robot stocking for his room. Wally and Lucy decorated paper stockings.
And we had some hot chocolate too! (By this time Lucy was showing no signs of being sick… otherwise I wouldn’t have given her any hot chocolate to drink!)
Lucy and Wally were so excited to drink out of the big travel mugs!
When Nate got home it was time to hang the family stockings.
(The tshirt change on Lucy does in fact indicate she ended up with hot chocolate all over her shirt)
Nate is an awesome husband! I told him I didn’t know where we could hang 5 stockings this year since our previous stocking holder held only 4. He went to the store and found this shelf and added hooks to the bottom for our stockings. I love it! And the kids love looking at their stockings.
Day 7 started our weekend of sickness and cancelled plans. I woke up sick Friday morning, Lucy got it Friday night, and Nate woke up sick Sunday morning (still praying that Oleg and Wally don’t get sick). So that meant no Christmas Carol Dance Party Friday, no YFC staff Christmas party Saturday, and no Christmas Journey Sunday. Despite the illness we tried to make the most of it, moved around some days, and still did activities with the kids each day.
For day 7 Nate packed up our supplies and took the kids to Grandma’s house.
Wally and Lucy worked on these cute little Christmas trees made from a sugar cone to help decorate our house.
(I had to crop the picture super close so you wouldn’t see the dust on top of our bookcase where the trees are displayed)
Nate and Oleg made reindeer cookies that will soon be delivered to the neighbors.
Day 6 was a little rushed because we had family pictures at 4:30pm and I worked at 7pm, but we ended up with enough time to open the sock and presents together.
Oleg helped Lucy get the slip of paper from the sock.
By this point in time no one was surprised to be opening the #3 presents under the tree, but I don’t think they knew what was going to be inside.
Along with the Wise men pieces to the nativity set the kids got to watch Veggie Tales “Little Drummer Boy” while I was at work. (Another unexpected orphan story, but Nate said Oleg did alright with it)
I love how Oleg finished setting up our nativity set
Although it still crack me up that Joseph is looking adoringly at the animals instead of Jesus :)
We are cutting back on presents this year, but does that mean we are against gift giving at Christmas time? No way!
I love to find fun gifts for people. I love it when I come across something I know a person will totally enjoy. And sometimes it’s just nice to give someone a gift in order to express appreciation— for what they’ve done for you, for who they are, for how much they mean to you.
And I love to receive those kinds of gifts as well. Honestly we’d probably have very few new outfits, new toys, or trips to a restaurant if it weren’t for gifts we receive. And we are extremely grateful for all of those things. In many ways we rely on the generosity of others at Christmastime.
What I hate is giving gifts simply because you have to. And getting stressed out at this wonderful time of year because you have to make another trip to the store. Plus gift giving can be a financial burned on our household (thankfully we’ve never had to go in debt because of it).
I guess the challenge we are wrestling with is just finding a balance and keeping the focus where it should be.
I’m looking forward to seeing people’s faces as they open special gifts we’ve picked out for them this Christmas. I hope it shows them a glimpse of how much we care. And I hope somehow they can know that we give because so much has been given to us.
Dear Oleg, Wally, & Lucy,
You are so extremely precious to me. You fill my life with so much laughter and love. I cannot understand why I am so incredibly blessed to have you in my life. We might not have many fancy things, but we are wonderfully rich in so many other ways.
This Christmas there wont be many presents under the tree from your dad and I. Even if we had enough money to buy you a lot of things, I believe we would still choose not to. Instead we have picked out a couple of things we know you will really enjoy. But I hope when you look back on this Christmas in years to come you wont remember those gifts at all. I hope you will remember all the wonderful time we spent together and the small differences we tried to make in other people’s lives.
Your gifts under the tree wont have Santa’s name on them this year. Part of me feels a little sad that you (Wally and Lucy) wont grow up with the excitement of believing in Santa Claus. But I will do everything I can to make sure your Christmases, and your lives, are not lacking in wonder and excitement. I pray that your hearts will be filled with wonder over what God has done for us. And that you will have greater anticipation for Christ’s return than for presents under that tree. Those are lessons I am still learning myself and I have a feeling that being your mom will teach me even more.
It’s only December 7th, but so far this has been one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had. I love spending special time with you each day and getting to teach you about Jesus. (It hurts my heart to be away from you today while I’m sick in bed).
Jesus is the best present any of us could ever receive. After Him, you children and your dad are the 2nd best gifts in my life. I live each day with the hope of being together with Jesus in heaven. If this wonderful life we have been given is just a glimpse, I cannot imagine what is yet to come.
Loving you always,
Oleg, Wally, & Lucy got to do a special advent calendar activity with their Mema and Papa on Wednesday. I’m so thankful they get to do stuff like this with my parents and Nate’s parents. We are incredibly blessed to have these wonderful relationships in our lives.
Wally and Lucy spent the morning with Mema and Papa while Oleg was at school.
Checking out all the Christmas stuff around the house. Wally wants to eat everything he sees and Lucy loves to find pictures of herself :)
When Oleg got done with school it was time to see what was inside the sock.
Mema searched all over Lansing to find one of the last copies of the new book “The Legend of the Candy Cane”. It’s a beautiful book that explains how Candy Canes help us celebrate Christ at Christmas time. Added bonus… the little girl’s name is Lucy!
After reading the book and enjoying their candy canes/new ear accessories, everyone went to the mall to hand out candy canes to the bell ringers and other people working at the mall (if you ever wonder where i get my ideas from, besides pinterest, it’s from my mom!)
Even though it looks like Lucy is trying to run away and the bell ringing is trying to knock Oleg out with his bell… everyone really enjoyed this special Christmas activity. Thanks Mom and Dad!
On day 4 the kids got to open all the presents marked #2.
Wally and Lucy got the Shepherd and animal pieces for their window cling nativity and Oleg opened those from the Willow Tree nativity.
Oleg gets to place the pieces however he wants and he is always proud to show us how he did it.
The kids also got a new book to read together “The Newborn King” which focuses on the shepherds coming to praise the newborn king.
Also, on day 4 Oleg was excited to find Leonard hiding in the bowl full of Christmas bulbs.
Today it was Oleg’s turn to “open” a sock. He wanted Nate to lift him up to take his down.
The kids were instructed to “Open #1 presents” under the tree.
Wally and Lucy opened pieces from their window cling nativity. And Oleg got to open the Willow Tree set.
Each of Oleg’s pieces came with a poem or verse.
Mary- Tonight we honor Mary chosen by God to be the mother of the Christ child who was sent for you and me.
Joseph- Tonight we honor Joseph, who God chose to rear His son, while Jesus lived upon the earth until his work was done.
Donkey- The little gray donkey carried Mary on his back across the hills he carried her, no courage did he lack
Jesus- For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11
Of course I got them from pinterest.
Sherry came over to bring us her copy of “The Nativity Story” dvd
Even though it is a hot mess trying to watch a serious movie with 2 year olds in the room, I really enjoyed our evening together. Through the whole movie Lucy kept asking where baby Jesus was and we kept telling her to wait. She was cuddling on the floor with Oleg when the time came for Jesus’ birth. It was so sweet to see them together and hear Oleg keep repeating “Lucy, baby Jesus! Baby Jesus!”. I was just about in tears and then the moment passed and Oleg kept trapping Lucy and pretending to fart on her. Oh the joys of parenthood.
I love my kids!
Oleg is only pretending to sleep… he actually called me over to take the picture :)
Right now Oleg is talking to Nate about how tomorrow he is going to be the first one to find our Elf on the Shelf not Wally and Lucy :)
I think our electric bill will be going up this month… Oleg wants to have all the Christmas lights on (outside and tree) when he is home… no matter what time of day it is. I am so excited that he is excited for Christmas that I don’t tell him no.
We started our day off by bringing our angel tree present to church and talking about the importance of giving to people in need. Lucy kept asking when she was going to get her presents and asked if all the angel tree gifts at church were for her. I’m glad we are putting some effort into teaching the kids that Christmas isn’t all about getting presents. I’m praying that it will somehow sink in even though she is only 2.
Side-note: I need to figure out how to slip our names onto the tree at our church next year because the people at St Luke are super generous with their angel tree gifts. I saw some bikes and scooters this year next to giant bags of presents… ok maybe I still need help getting it to sink in that Christmas isn’t about the presents.
After waiting most of the day for the kids to discover our elf, Leonard, hanging from the advent calendar we did some prompting and sent them on an elf hunt. Oleg showed his 13 year old side and rolled his eyes and kept trying to escape upstairs to his room. But eventually the elf was found, we read the book together, and started another year of having to come up with creative places to hide our elf each night. I decided next year we would put Oleg in charge of hiding the elf for Wally and Lucy each night.
~ I brought Oleg to the dentist on Monday. Thursday I found his toothbrush and toothpaste still in my purse…
~ Along with her stuffed animals, multiple pillows, and blankets, Lucy is insisting on sleeping with 2 of my high heeled shoes (not matching).
~ In his constant search for artistic expression Wally put stickers all over the wall. I tried to yell at him and he proceeded to take them off the wall and put them all over his face. I stopped yelling and started taking pictures (I will post them later).
~ Oleg is getting in trouble at school for poking and wrestling around with the other kids and calling them names. He has moved on from animal names to “crazy”. At home I now find myself saying “Oleg you’re crazy… but we only say that at home, not at school!” Oops.
I’m sure there are a million more, but my sleep deprived brain can’t think of them right now.
This year we are going to celebrate Christmas bigger than we ever have before. It’s going to be a whole month of joy, and laughter, and giving, and honoring Christ. But we aren’t going to do it in the most expected/traditional ways. When it comes to Santa and material gifts we are actually scaling back. Here’s why…
The Incarnation is an incredible thing. The fact that God would give up all of His majesty to become one of us, out of love for us, for the sake of saving us… is awesome. And the way it came about is beautiful and filled with wonder. It is an event from history totally worth honoring.
The question we are wrestling with is whether or not we think the traditional ways of celebrating Christmas are the best way to honor the God who gave up everything for us.
When I examine my own heart I find that Christmas seems to bring about a lot of discontentment in me. It’s all about what I don’t have and what I desire to obtain. I don’t think this is true for everyone, but it is true for Nate and I. That’s crazy! Christmas shouldn’t have anything to do with wanting more stuff.
When I look at my children as they are right now I see that they have such contentment and joy. They get excited about the simple things in life and I don’t want them to lose that. If my kids dance with joy over a new sheet of stickers (Wally and Lucy), or cherish a beat up 2nd hand remote control car (Oleg), why are we spending a lot of money (we don’t have) at Christmas time getting them a bunch of new toys they don’t really need?
We’ve made excuses for this stuff in the past saying that Christmas time is about giving and generosity, which is true, but I’m starting to see that giving toys and new clothes to our own children isn’t necessarily the best way to be generous.
So this year we are going to scale back on the amount of material gifts we give each other. Instead we are going to be generous with our time and our love towards one another. I’m working on an Advent Activity Calendar so that we can spend the days leading up to Christmas doing things together as a family. And we are going to cherish the wonderful time we get to spend with extended family and friends.
And we are going to find ways to reach out to people in need, just as God reached out to us. We are going to buy presents for people who don’t have any, we are going to spend time with people who are lonely, and we are going to show love to people who are hard for us to love.
And we are going to focus on Christ. Nate and a friend are writing daily devotions for the days leading up to Christmas and another friend is translating them for Oleg so he can better understand the true meaning of Christmas. We want all of our children to grow up knowing that Jesus is what Christmas is all about… not simply a side-note to all the flashier ways of celebrating.
We are making these changes for our family because it is what God has put on our hearts, but we aren’t doing it with any judgment towards people who celebrate Christmas in the more traditional ways. This is simply where we are at on our journey with God. And it’s a way to address things we currently struggle with.
Nate and I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas with our families growing up. We truly are excited to create our own memories and traditions with our children. And we are thankful that our extended families are such a big part of our lives so we can continue to create memories with them as well.
I’ll do my best to post pictures and reports throughout the month as we celebrate Christmas in a big, and different way this year!
Today Oleg asked if he could ride his bike before church. I told him yes but he had to be careful not to get his khaki pants dirty. He came back inside with one pant leg tucked into his sock… Not a good way to hide ripped pants from your mom!
Nate won! Oleg gave his speech on why Nate should be president and he won the vote! I’m so stinkin’ proud right now. I can’t believe Oleg actually gave a speech in front of the class. And I can’t believe Nate beat out MLK Jr. haha
1. Nate did not take the “call” to Open Arms. It was hard to put aside the pull of our hearts to serve God at Open Arms, but we are totally at peace with the decision. As we wrestled through a huge mix of thoughts and emotions we went back to what we know for sure… and that is the fact that God has called us to bring Oleg into our family and we are still in that process. To take the call at this time would hurt that process. That is when the decision became clear.
2. Multiple times Oleg has said he likes basketball. And multiple times he has told us he wants to be on the team. Practice starts this week so Nate brought Oleg to the gym on Saturday to practice. The ball hit Oleg’s fingers in a way that hurt (as often happens in basketball). Oleg refused to play after that and says he doesn’t want to be on the team. We’ve asked him multiple times if he is sure (even having Natalie translate) and he still says no basketball. We are respecting his decision, but I have to admit I never thought I would have a child who backs away from something they enjoy because of a little bit of pain. Hmmm… that makes me think we might need to reconsider taking him snowboarding this winter!
3. On the plus side… I am looking forward to more family time at home now that Oleg isn’t in a sport. The fact that I work 3 evenings a week cuts down on the time I get with Oleg. And when we are all together as a family it seems like I naturally end up with Wally and Lucy while Nate and Oleg do stuff together. Nate and I have talked about him intentionally watching Wally and Lucy so Oleg and I can have more time together. Oleg and I have a great relationship, but I am really looking forward to deepening our bond.
4. I can’t help but smile when the kids “fight”. My favorite example is when they “steal” each other’s prayer requests before bed and get mad about it.
Nate: “Oleg who do you want to pray for tonight?
Oleg: “Mema, Papa, Travy’s jeep”
Wally: “MEMA, PAPA, TRAVY JEEP!”
Oleg: “No. Me: Mema, Papa, Travy’s jeep”
Wally: “MEMA, PAPA, TRAVY JEEP!”
Nate: “That’s enough. Lucy, who do you want to pray for?”
Lucy: (Pause for her sly little grin) “Mema, Papa, Travy jeep!”
It cracks me up and warms my heart to see them bicker like siblings.
5. It’s almost been 4 months since Oleg’s been home… and we still have to tell him everyday to chew with his mouth closed! The worst part about it is that the minute we tell him to stop Wally and Lucy start doing it.
6. Oleg’s friend Tolik is now home with his forever family in Florida. Oleg and Tolik got to skype on Saturday. I love that he gets to keep that connection from his past.
7. Oleg and I keep running into confusion/frustration over clothing. Two Saturdays ago Oleg got confused and thought it was Sunday so he came downstairs in church clothes. I told him it was Saturday and sent him back upstairs to change. He came down in shorts and a tshirt… it was 50 degrees out! So I had to send him back upstairs to change again (I’ve now taken all the shorts out of his drawers). He wants to be independent and pick out his own clothes, which I think is great, but so often I have to send him back upstairs to change! Plus he doens’t even touch half the clothes in his closet even though I’ve asked him multiple times if he likes them!
8. Oleg has a chore chart and beneath it is a picture of his allowance money broken down into quarters. Every time he refuses to listen he gets a quarter taken away. It’s now very rare that we have to take any quarters away! He really is such a great kid.
9. Unfortunately, we did need to take half of Oleg’s earned allowance money away to help pay for broken stuff. Oleg has broken a lot of things in our home (including a glass pane in our front door). It’s never intentional or out of anger… he just doesn’t know how to be careful with things. We never yell at him about it, but we decided to make him use half of his money to pay for the damage to the door in hopes that he would learn to be more careful with things.
10. I’m really excited for Christmas with Oleg, but I am also really freaked out. I’m so excited to start new family traditions with the kids and build wonderful memories. I am also really excited to teach the kids about the amazing truth behind Christmas… God left all of his majesty in heaven to become man and rescue us because He loves us. I just don’t want all the wonderful things about Christmas to get lost in the gift giving. More on this in a future post. Nate and I are really working through how to approach Christmas with the kids this year.
Sorry about the extreme length of this post! It’s good to be caught up. I will try to do a better job of keeping on top of things in the future.
I had to share this message from Oleg’s teacher. It brings tears to my eyes!
“The sixth grade read biographies of someone they feel would be a good president. They are making posters and the first week in November they are going to give a speech.
Oleg nominated his Dad and made a poster today. So, I would like him to give a short speech as to why his dad would make a great president. Some characteristics he shared with me are that he likes to have fun, loves Jesus, and loves his family Oh yes - a great coach.”
Oh boy…. Oleg has entered into the “What is that…?” phase!
Most of the time he really is curious, but then his goof-ball side kicks in. Not so serious quotes from tonight…
“What is that, Jesus? hahahaha” & ”What is that, Michael Jackson? hahahaha”
The kid cracks himself up :)
When people ask me how I am truly doing with the job decision I normally try to be truthful and tell them I am stressed. But what I am realizing right now is that stress is something I deal with regularly. Most days are stressful. This is different.
Many days I am stressed but even on my most stressful days my soul is normally at peace. My inner core is normally rock solid with Jesus.
This weekend it’s not.
Jesus is still my center but things feel a lot different when you are wrestling with God. It sucks. It’s worse than normal stress. I feel it in my gut and in my heart.
I know God will win this wrestling match but what that looks like I still have no idea.
Nate has a job offer from the church he worked at in college. In Lutheran terms… he received a call from Open Arms Lutheran Church. Tomorrow Nate and I are driving down there to get more information and try to discern if God is calling us to make another major change in our lives.
Making this decision is actually way harder than deciding if we should add a 13 year old Ukrainian child to our family (WHICH WAS NOT EASY!)
Taking the job would mean moving away from the HUGE support system we have here. It would mean putting our children through another major transition when we are still in the midst of the last one! It would mean leaving jobs that we both love. It would mean trying to sell or rent our house which is now worth less than we owe. It would probably mean having less money to live on than we currently scape by with. It would mean leaving the school we are so thankful to have Oleg enrolled in (although I dont think we would move him until next year).
By far it would be the hardest thing we have ever done.
The thought of it is crazy. BUT for the past year we’ve been living smack dab in the middle of crazy. And it’s there that we have encountered God deeper and richer than any other place. So… we have to check it out.
Open Arms is a wonderful congregation led by a wonderful pastor… so is St. Luke. We’ve often wondered what it would have been like if Open Arms had been able to hire Nate right out of college. Maybe this is our chance to find out.
It’s a hard decision to make. Please pray for us as we desperately try to live lives in obedience to Christ.
A year ago Randy and Natalie (our facilitators and friends) were helping us fundraise for Oleg’s adoption. Tonight we went to a fundraiser for their own adoption! God’s plans are so unexpected and amazing. We would never have met Oleg if it hadn’t been for Randy and Natalie: and they would never have met Dariana if they hadn’t come with us to Ukraine. I’m so in awe of the way God weaves His plans together. It’s an art we can’t come close to replicating. Beauty beyond our comprehension.
Technology is awesome! Today Oleg got to skype with his best friend from Ukraine for an hour. It was so great to hear them chatting away so happily. Tolik will soon be in America with his new family. Praise God for the awesome work he has done in both of the boys’ lives.
The last minutes of my evening with the kids were filled with giggles of delight as Oleg gave Lucy piggy-back rides around the living room. Our family is filled with increasing joy since Oleg became a part of it.
We helped Oleg clean his room tonight and found the insurance cards from our cars, a suitcase from our vacation mid-August still filled with dirty clothes, and a battery that had obviously been chewed on… soooo that’s awesome.
When we fill people in on our story they look at us with wide eyes like we must be crazy… and of course, we are. People assume that our life must be chaotic, and stressful, and strange… and sometimes it is. BUT, for the most part, life is truly wonderful. And the crazy, unexpected thing is that my life has actually slowed down a lot in the past couple of weeks… and I love it! Tonight was the 3rd Friday in a row that we all stayed home and had family movie night. 3 relaxed Fridays in a row… I think the last time that happened for me must have been more than 10 years ago. Also this month I’ve been setting aside Sundays as a true day of rest and time spent with God and family. It’s wonderful!
God has blessed us with an amazing family and I am so happy that we’ve made it a priority to actually spend time enjoying this blessing!
Last night I took the kids for a walk in my pj pants, pony tail, and no make-up. Someone submit my name to “What Not To Wear”. This has to be an all time low for me.
I think the girls who live on our street have a crush on Oleg. They have been hanging out in front of our house a lot. Oleg is currently riding his bike up and down the street to impress them. Their little brothers are going to be so jealous because they keep coming over to see if Oleg will play with them, but he always says no. This could lead to all kinds of trouble… :)
Today while I was looking through Oleg’s school stuff I saw an assignment he did today (with the help of a translator) where he had to fill in information about himself. Under favorite thing to do he put… HELP MY MOM!!!!!!!!!! I asked him about it and he said “No, Wally”. But that doesn’t even put a damper on how happy I feel. I love that kid.
And praise God that school is going really well so far! Hopefully it continues to after we lose help from our wonderful translator, Nadia.