My Lighthouse Shirts

One of our most requested fundraisers was t-shirts. I completely blanked on sharing them here! I was going to close the pre-order today, but decided to keep it open until Wednesday (11/18).

We picked this song, as it is one of Luda’s favorites. I wrote about it here.

molly parker Shirt3 (2)

These are unisex shirts, available in sizes S-XXXL. I have a couple of different shirts by this company and I love them. I can’t wait to wear this shirt!

Click here to purchase one

The Very Worst Camping Trip

We’ve had a few friends comment on how we’re “really outdoorsy” or even ask us for camping advice. Snort. Neither one of us went camping a lot as kids. I was briefly a Girl Scout, but chickened out of the overnight trip when I realized that there were spiders in the cabin. I basically started “enjoying the outdoors” when I met Aaron, because when a cute boy likes something, you generally convince yourself that you like it, too.

All in all, we were doing okay at camping… at least until we had the very worst camping trip.

We planned a three day weekend this summer, pre-N visiting, to take the kids camping. It would be our longest yet, Friday-Monday. A couple of days before, the weather forecast started looking pretty bad, particularly for Saturday. But, we wanted to go, we had made arrangements, so we decided to stick with it.

Before we were even halfway there, I realized I’d forgotten my tripod. I cried. Too late to turn back, but that is what I look forward to most about any camping trip, being under the stars with my camera.

We arrived, set up our tent, and then headed off to our first planned activity… the kids’ first ever drive-in movie.


It rained for the whole movie. We had to run the air to keep the windshield from fogging up, and run the windshield wipers from time to time for the rain.
Despite it being a really less-than-ideal drive-in movie experience, we still had fun.

When we arrived back at the campsite, I knew that I wasn’t missing out on anything star-wise that night. It was so cloudy and even a big foggy.
(camera set on a picnic table)

We decided to hit up some other close-by state parks the next day, Saturday. Aaron is currently doing a little contest to see who can visit all of the Kansas state parks first (there’s a cash prize!). We first went to Mushroom Rocks.

The kids enjoyed this weird park. But, we ended up literally running back to the car as it started pouring.

We spent our day in the car, driving around, to a couple more state parks and through various small towns of Kansas. All the while it was pouring rain.

When we stopped for lunch, it was hard to even eat under a pavilion, with rain blowing in.

Fortunately, the rain cleared up in time for dinner. Things were looking up.

We had a nice time, roasting hotdogs and making s’mores.

We decided to get pajamas on and head to bed early, hoping to make the most of the following day, Sunday. Aaron took Reed and Lena to the bathrooms and I got Gus ready for bed at the tent.

This is about the moment when I discovered our BIG problem.

Everything inside of our tent was wet. Ranging from soaking wet to damp, depending on how close to the edge of the tent it was. There was no way we could sleep in the tent.

I gave Aaron a choice… find the closest laundry, hopefully at the park, OR pack it all up and head home, two days early. We opted for the laundry. Well, there was no laundry at the park. The closest laundry mat was 30 minutes away… and it was already 8:45.

The laundry mat closed at 9. And, like I said, we left at 8:45 and it was 30 minutes away. Miraculously (or because it’s small town Kansas), they had not locked up. We headed inside, hoping that no one would arrive and kick us out.

I would have loved our local laundry mat, with it’s wifi, huge TV screens and open 24 hours. We would have camped out in there for awhile, getting everything sufficiently dry. Instead, I took this semi-clean laundry mat and was grateful that no one kicked us out.

So, we made it through the night and survived until Sunday. Sunday was supposed to be the nicest day of our weekend… and it was.

A little aside, one of our dogs loves to stand on things.

In the morning, Aaron took the kids hiking while I hung out at the trailhead and practiced my Ukrainian. The afternoon was designated for swimming at the lake.

I’m not sure if it was the rain the day before, but the kids were not impressed with the lake.

I just found this picture while prepping for this blog post, and I love it.

In case you’re wondering if things can be worse in retrospect, when editing this picture, I saw a mosquito in my s’more that I did not see before I ate it. Can we say “eww?”

My messy, messy boy.

Burned my finger on one of the skewers. Ouch.

I love this picture. Camping, challenges or not, is family time.

That’s my summary of our worst-ever camping trip. In short, be careful if it rains while you are camping. Make sure that you have the rain fly on really well and maybe even everything pulled away from the sides of your tent. ;)

In retrospect? It’s all okay. I want our kids to see us respond to challenges and still try to make the most of it. I want them to learn to be creative problem-solvers, so sometimes, that may mean waiting out the rain with markers and paper in the car or heading to the laundry mat late at night. So, we will keep on camping, hopefully learning how to be better campers, teaching our kids a love of the outdoors and how to make the most of unexpected challenges.

VLOG: Adoption Process Explained

I’ve decided to do some vlogs on adoption. I’m hoping to answer some common questions about adoption.

First up, a break-down of the international adoption process (from the unprofessional perspective of an adoptive parent).

Have questions that you want me to cover? Feel free to leave them in the comments, or shoot me an email.

Mug Swap

We’re having a mug swap!! Well, actually, my awesome friend Jennifer is throwing it for us. We are just grateful recipients of this fundraising. :)

Mug Swap Fundraiser

So, what’s a mug swap? In short, you send a mug and some goodies to another participant and someone sends you a mug and goodies.

The long explanation of how it works is that you answer some questions about your likes (and dislikes) on the sign up form. You get assigned another participant to shop for and it’s your job to pick out a mug and some other goodies that you think they’ll like (minimum $15 value), based on what they shared about themselves. Meanwhile, someone is shopping for you! You can share a little “sneak peek” of what you’re mailing out on Instagram with our mug swap hashtags. Once you receive your own mug in the mail, share that on Instagram with the hashtags as well!

Why participate? Who doesn’t love receiving mail?! This is a fun way to treat yourself, support our adoption, and connect with some other cool people.

Sign Up Here!


Happy Birthday, My Teenager

Luda turned 13 recently. Soon, I will be parenting a teenager… whaaaat?

I had been stepping forward on adoption-autopilot, taking the next step, then the next, without really focusing on the who and the why. Until her birthday.

Gus doesn’t get all of this paperwork and process stuff. He always expects to find her when we pull up to a notary or to the police station to be fingerprinted, or anywhere adoption-related. His heart is always a bit broken once he comprehends that she isn’t there.


Her birthday was no different. He knew it was her birthday, and that we’d be calling. In the morning, he excitedly ran into her room, and seeing her bed empty, let out a long, sad sigh.

Calling her is quite an ordeal. I’m not sure if she still has a phone, and shares it with others, or if she is simply borrowing other peoples’ phones. We tried calling… no answer. Tried again… no answer. I gave up and let the kids watch a movie, messaging her “happy birthday”. She quickly replied “thank you”.

I asked, “can we call you?”

L, “yes! yes, mama!”

I paused the movie and we called. I said, “hi! happy birthday! i love you!” and passed the phone to Gus.

G: “Hi, Luda! Happy Birthday!”
L: “Hi, Gus… I love you.”

That’s when my heart melted. I could hear it all in her voice– that ache of missing someone so much, but being so glad to hear them again.

It was the same with Reed and Lena too. Each of them just so happy to connect with her… and her them. Those sweet conversations of so few words, but so much excitement just to have a loved one on the other end.

This adoption is different than the rest. It’s not a child joining out family for the first time… it’s a homecoming. It’s finding someone so precious to us who we thought we’d lost. It’s a whole different bucket of emotions.

I won’t make promises about a happy ending… trials will come. Adoption is hard. Picking up and starting over at any age is hard, but I have to think 13 is a particularly difficult spot. But, my kids’ love for Luda reminds me… she is already family. She may not be legally one of us yet, but that doesn’t matter to them.

It doesn’t matter if we share a last name, or a common language, of if we’re thousands of miles apart, because family. Family doesn’t mean that we won’t face hard things, but it means that we’ll face them together.

It means we matter enough to one another to keep going when things are hard. To keep loving, even when that’s not easy. Something worth fighting for.