The Funeral

Before I even start, everyone is alive and well. Kids, husband, extended family, pets, even a few too many flies that have invaded our house… everyone is fine.

So, why the somber title for this post? Well, ask Reed. A few days before the event I am writing about in this post, he started asking family members, “Are you going to the funeral?” The typical response: “What funeral!? Who died?” Reed: “Oh, oh, I mean, reunion.” He did this three or four times and I’m not sure he won’t make that mistake again. Previously, this reunion has also been called the dance farm, which seems like a more accurate term.

If you want to read about previous trips to the funeral/dance farm…

When we got to the hotel, it was raining. I was really wondering why we had decided to come, instead of going straight home. The reunion is mostly outdoors, except for a bit of cover from a barn and tents. Being there in the rain is no fun.

Fortunately, the rain cleared up during our time at the hotel.

We had to get a shot of all of the kids in their shirts before we left the hotel. We always make matching shirts for them to make it easier to keep track of all 12 of them.

Then, the drive to the reunion. It’s through the country where we pass lots of Amish buggies, including this one with a boat on top.

We got to see the horses again, including this very friendly one who we met in 2013. Almost the same kids in the picture, too. In 2013, We have VV, Lena, Leif and Gus and in 2015, we have Gus, Lena, Leif and Reed.


While we waited in the massive line for food, my aunt insisted on taking a picture of the 12 kids in their matching shirts.


Lena enjoyed playing on some wrapped hay bales.

She was also reunited with a friend who she has played with for the past few years. They always have a great time together.

The clouds coming over the mountains were very dramatic and at least 3 different people commented on them to me!


The evening is wrapped up with some square dancing. Lyuda gave it a try and LOVED it. When it was time to leave, I unfortunately had to pull her away from her square dancing fun or I think she would have kept dancing until it was over.


On day two of the reunion, we go out for breakfast. The restaurant we go to is very Americana.


Taking 16 kids to a restaurant is a bit overwhelming, but we survived.

Day 2 of the reunion is a smaller crowd and bit more low-key. The cows were wondering what was going on at their place, with all of these cars and people.


Lena “borrowed” her toddler cousin’s hat. And rocked it.


We didn’t stay too long at the reunion. We drove home from there, which meant we had about 20 hours of driving ahead of us… to our new home!


The Boat Race

Two years ago, I shared about a boat race that the kids and their cousins participated in. Unfortunately, we missed it last year, as we weren’t on the East Coast yet, but we were excited to do it again this year.

The kids start off with decorating a boat.


Reed’s was “Reed’s Revenge” since he didn’t win last time.


Gus decided that he didn’t really want to drawn on it himself, but he wanted to tell me what to draw. A rainbow, clouds, his name, and then… everything. That’s what he wanted, “everything”. I did my best.

My super talented nephew working on his boat.

That actual boat race was a tiny bit chaotic, especially for my oldest nephew, who volunteered to be the one catching the boats at the end. But, it was a fun experience overall and the kids loved playing with their boats in the water.


Over the past couple of months, Gus got obsessed with fireworks. Two years ago, he was terrified, desperately clinging to me while I got him away from them as quickly as possible. Last year, he seemed to enjoy them. This year, he anxiously anticipated and counted down.

We enjoyed a 4th of July dinner with my family. My 16yo nephew made a festive dessert.

“You should take my picture.”

All four of them had matching shirts.

These two wanted a picture, with Reed batting his eye lashes.

We also had to light some fireworks off ourselves. Because we’re proud Americans. Only the little stuff, though. My favorite part about this picture is Reed and his cousin on the left side of the frame.

Gus finally got what he had waited so (im)patiently for. He jumped and danced around, delighting in each explosion.

It was a rainy day, and most of us huddled under a tarp, while Gus jumped around, loving the rain and the fireworks.

My mom and several of her grandkids. That’s my nephew with Lyuda in the back– she loves to be cuddling with anyone.

Gus loved them so, so much.

So much that when we were done with the city fireworks, we drove around to find a spot to see the fireworks of the amusement park nearby that sets them off. We ended up at the end of someone’s driveway.

Another night we did sparklers. It was my nephew’s birthday.

Lyuda was an awesome helper, who made sure the little ones could hold their own sparklers safely.

Not quite as great as fireworks, but still pretty awesome.


Saturdays have been my favorite day of the week this July. We’ve developed a routine. Where we live in the Midwest, we are surrounded by country. Gorgeous, wide-open spaces. If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you know that while I’m a hesitant Pennsylvanian-turned-Midwesterner, I adore wide open spaces.

On one of our first Saturdays here, we wondered what we should do with all of this free time. Monday-Friday, the kids go to the pool with my mom in the afternoon while I work. Saturday seemed like a long day without plans.

I suggested the mini-golf place about 25 minutes away. We’d give it a try. We brought a picnic along, and stopped at a park to play and eat first.

Before we could get to the mini-golf place, we saw signs for the steam train, so we had to go and check that out. Loud, messy, but interesting.

Then, mini-golf. Oh dear. With Gus? Just no.

18 holes turned out to be a terribly long game with kids who didn’t really have the patience for it. Plus, 6 people playing mini golf is too many. I don’t think we’ll attempt this again anytime soon.

We finished up mini-golf with ice cream, because we all needed a little pick-me-up after that.


This place does soft-serve in 24 flavors. I got mint chocolate chip with chocolate sprinkles. Yes, please.

The last thing that we wanted to do was stop and pick up some produce from the country stands. In this area, there are a ton of Mennonites who have produce stands Monday-Saturday.

This was one of our favorites. We sampled corn from all of the stands and theirs is the best.

So this became our Saturday routine. Ice cream and “Mennonite Land”, as I called it.

One of my dad’s favorites is this goat farm. He gets eggs and goat milk, kefir and cheese here.

A creative chicken coop.

One of my favorites for the aesthetics. Lots of flowers… and their whoopie pies were delicious too.

Unfortunately, we said goodbye to all of our favorite stops last week, as today we’re heading further west, to our big family reunion and then home to Kansas.


Until next year.

Summer, Summer

We officially have a new house. Aaron and the dogs are all moved in and the kids and I will be back in a few days to join them. Can’t wait.

At the end of June, we pretty much packed up our whole house with the help of my mom. We filled up this portable storage container with our stuff.

Then, my mom, the kids and I headed off the East Coast, like we usually do the month of July. We watched our house disappear in the rearview mirror.


So, on the East Coast… this month has been busy.  The bubble machine was a big hit.

Reed mastered the pogo stick in an afternoon.


Gus isn’t too interested in riding a bike, despite my attempts to interest him in a balance bike. He enjoys bringing me surprises, including this piece of corn he stored in his pocket.


Catching fireflies is a summer must.

The kids get to go to the pool every day with my mom while I work. They had two weeks of swimming lessons before we came out here and they just finished up two weeks more. I haven’t been to the pool with them recently, but I’ve heard that they made great progress.

Gus got two barbies to take to the pool with him, after playing with a little girl’s barbies every day. I drew tattoos on them as a way of marking them as his.

Gus has also progressed on getting his shoes on the right feet. But not before I took this photo.

The other thing standard about summer is spending time with my sister’s kids, their cousins. I joked to my mom recently that these 11 kids together seems like a gang, but they love being together.

Lyuda loves this little guy in particular.

I’ll share a few more posts soon with some photos and what we’ve been up to this summer, with an update on how Lyuda is doing!

The Next Chapter

We’ve been busy. I recently had someone comment on our Facebook page, checking in as I’d been quiet for so long. Oops!

Yes, we’re all fine. I’d say things are going a bit smoother than my previous post, but we’re also in this wild season called summer. It’s hard having four kids home all day and trying to work. On top of that, keeping up with the math and English lessons I have planned for Lyuda. Send coffee.


And… on top of that, we sold our house. And just last week, we found our new one. We’re under contract for both, moving in about 7 weeks.

We bought our current house when we’d been married for about 9 months. We chose our house and went under contract on it shortly before we committed to adopting Reed and Lena, and we moved in shortly after we started the adoption process.


Reed and Lena’s room, ready for them to come home

It’s been a good house to start… and grow our family in, but it’s time to move on. We tried to sell it unsuccessfully twice before. We even had family pictures taken at our house a few years ago, anticipating a move.

Almost 3 years later, we’re finally moving! Today was the inspection for our current house, and we’re awaiting to hear what they want us to fix. Wednesday will be the inspection for our new house.

We spent much of our afternoon at the dog park, waiting for the inspection to be done at our house.

3 kids. Big sister didn’t want to join the picture fun.

Big sister changed her mind and photobombed.26903177564_87c8678ef4

This was a funny moment. I looked up and counted my 4 dogs. Except I don’t have 4 dogs… I only have 3.

But my brain couldn’t quite process the 4 silver weimaraners in front of me… the kids didn’t even notice something was off. When I did point out the extra dog, they said “That’s Nina!” No guys, that’s not Nina… THAT’S Nina (the one furthest away from the camera).

We all had a good laugh and met this new weimaraner friend. I’ve met many other weimaraners, but I’ve never had one join our pack so seamlessly that I questioned how many dogs I own.

We also had fun playing in the mud.26903188194_ddee33813227512357575_a5272c4f8a

Back to the house talk– our new house will be a big change, but it should be a very positive one. We’re leaving our small, wonderful city, and moving to a tiny town about 45 minutes away. This will shorten Aaron’s commute by about 15 minutes every day. And while we’ll be living in a small, somewhat rural community, we’re on the edge of a city metro, taking just 30 minutes to get downtown. We’ll have a lot of museums, stores and other resources close by. We’ll be in a great school district that I’m confident can handle Lyuda’s English learning needs.

We’re also gaining more indoor and outdoor space– we’ll have a full acre for outdoor fun. And a finished basement for the kids to be loud, crazy and messy inside. And, we’re going from one bathroom to two and a half. We probably could benefit from 6 bathrooms, but I think having 2 more will help with our school mornings considerably!

The bittersweet part is leaving our friends, and the community which we know so well. Not that a 45 minute drive means we won’t see each other ever again, but it does mean fewer impromptu playdates and bumping into friendly faces at local events.

So, if I’m once again quiet, you can find me buried in boxes, wearing packing tape like a bracelet.

Real Life

Of all of our post-adoption adjustment periods, this has been the easiest. I’m guessing this is for many reasons– her age, she has a full understanding of what was going to happen, she agreed to it, she’s visited us before and knows our family well, and of course, this is our third adoption. We have a slightly better picture of when to let go and when to freak out. That being said, there are still hard things, and I like to keep things real around here.

Probably the hardest thing about this adjustment? Me. I am worn out. The months of compartmentalizing and pushing through tasks with a whatever-it-takes attitude are over. Now, I’m fully jumping back into work and parenting my other kids… and being a real, present mom to this new, wonderful kid. I constantly feel like I need a physical and emotional nap!

Another big challenge is finding boundaries and setting expectations for being in a family. We’ve finding a lot of edges that I’ve always thought of as common sense, but not for a kid who has never lived in an American family. I remember being shocked when we experienced this with Reed, as he opened the door of the car himself, tried to play with the stove and once made an attempt at driving as a 4 year old.  This looks very different with a teenager, but there’s a lot of gentle guidance.

Figuring out the best options for school is another exhausting feat. The school district is unresponsive to both my questions about enrolling her for the fall and ESL resources. I’m trying to fill gaps in her knowledge and build her English confidence and competence before August. It’s hard to find math without a lot of word problems, and English which is doable, but not too easy. I’ll do a whole blog post on what we are using at another time.

We went camping this weekend and I really wanted it to be a great family bonding weekend… it was an flop.

We started it off with swimming, but the lake was a bit cold and the beach was busy with college students celebrating the end of the year. I just wanted to either a)listen to an audiobook as the kids played in the water or b)read a library book as they played on the beach. I didn’t make much progress with either.

On the plus side, we found a nice campsite, secluded with a great view. On the menu was s’mores and hotdogs and other food we wouldn’t call dinner at home.

Josie is really hoping that someone will drop something worth eating.
Chilling by a campfire is one of my favorite things.
Reed made a total of 7 s’mores and ate 5 of them.

The night sky was full of clouds. A disappointment for someone who loves the stars like I do.

With 4 kids, 3 dogs, one husband and me sharing a tent, I didn’t sleep very much. I woke up to 3 dogs ready to go out, and I decided to take them out and see how the sky looked. The sunrise was starting to show, just a bit. At the top, with the break in the clouds, you can see the Milky Way, just a bit.

Aaron went for an early morning hike with the dogs, while the kids and I slept and played around the campsite. Here he is, returning to an excited Gus.

Happy Mother’s Day, from my four crazies.