Tomatoes in Late November

Aaron’s family has a “hoophouse”, a type of greenhouse where they can grow some produce year round. The tomatoes are really thriving in there. We went out today to take a look and the kids helped their uncle pick some.









In case you wondered what it looks like at night…

And, if you look really closely in this one, you’ll notice a ghost dog.

P.S. I didn’t entirely forget about Imperfect Fridays, today. But, I did forget to take a picture for it! I will share that I got one of my nicer pairs of shoes completely muddy and gross today. Mud on the outside AND inside. I wore them to walk the dogs in a field, because they were all I had, and the last part of my walk was incredibly muddy.

This was before they got muddy today, but you can see where this is going. And, just so you know how weird I am, I often take photos of my shoes while I’m out on walks.

Thanksgiving 2013

The internet is a bit slow, so please forgive me if I am unable to post tomorrow or Saturday. But, I’ll do my best!

We spent Thanksgiving with Aaron’s family. They have a family reunion with his extended family on Thanksgiving.

To quote another one of my children, “That’s all?!?” Don’t worry, there was plenty to eat. Gus just wasn’t impressed with what was on his plate at that moment.

I love this photo of him. He looks at me like this often, usually when he is puzzled by something I just said.

Aaron, his grandmother and Lena.

After lunch was over, Gus and I snuck off to a little playground. This is a very small town, and as it turns out, they have an old fashioned merry-go-round. I saw a really awesome photo recently, taken on a merry-go-round and I thought it would be fun to try. We weren’t going quite fast enough, but you can get some idea of how it would look.

Gus needed a nap after lunch, so…

Aaron and his brother played cards. These two are ridiculous together. If you’ve never heard Aaron get loud, put him in a room with his brother and a deck of cards.

Lena played blocks with her great-grandmother.

And Reed and I played Legos together.

Because Aaron’s parents live in the middle of nowhere, I snuck out with my camera for a bit tonight after the kids went to bed.


Have I ever told you guys how much I love night photography?


Preparing for Advent

Last week, I saw this neat Advent calendar idea. In short, you can purchase a digital download of a “random acts of kindness” cards, which benefits the Cystinosis Research Foundation. It’s a cool idea, so I purchase the download. But, I realized I can’t do a random act of kindness with the kids each day. There are days where we only have an hour and a half to eat dinner, do bedtime and spend a bit of time together.

But, I loved the idea of random acts of kindness in the Advent season. I decided to use the ideas from the RAK cards for some days, and fill in the rest with Bible verses.

The cards for Monday-Thursdays are Bible verses related to Christ’s birth and why we need Him in our lives. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are a random act of kindness that we will do.

I had to gather some supplies.


I wanted to stamp the envelope with the date, but apparently stamps are crazy expensive at Hobby Lobby. Not happening. I should have printed the date on them, but I ended up hand writing the date on each.

In Photoshop, I made the actual template for the cards. I was inspired by the RAK cards one, but that ones says “Random Acts of Kindness”, so I wanted to make one that was accurate to what we are doing.

I know the little symbol in the middle looks like a sun, but I’m calling it a Moravian Star.

When I went to print them out, I realized that I had no colored ink cartridges. Only black. Oh well.

I could only find 2 finish nails, so I had to hang the two strings from the same nails. It would look a bit better and the cards would overlap less if I had 4 nails.


Can’t wait to start! Anyone have any fun Advent traditions of your own?

November 24, 2010: Part 2

Hannah found missing second part! Yay, Hannah, thank you. Apparently, I added it as a page, not a post, but I also did schedule it to add, which added my confusion. Guys, you need to realize, I work on my computer and websites all day, so I’m generally pretty computer saavy. But, 4 letter words that start with the same letter stump me every time. Anyways, here you go…

So, back to a knock on the door. The door opened and Lena walked in. Tiny and real. There she was. She knew that we were there for her, and after orienting herself and being handed a doll, she stood at my knees. I gently picked her up. She was light, soft and real. She seemed comfortable, almost right away.
If you’ve never experienced this, you might not know the strangeness of it, having a child you only know in pictures now on your lap. You know a child by their photos or maybe by a brief description. And suddenly, they are 3 dimensional. You can smell their scent, feel their skin, and hear their little giggles. So strange.

This little person finally in front of me was, formally, Olena. As they called her at the orphanage, Lenushka. Or, as we came to know her, Lena.

Before we could get too caught up in that moment, the door opened again and there he was. He looked like a startled deer. Staring, eyes scanning the room, then running to the social worker. Everyone gestured for Aaron to take him, and with some encouragement, Ilya let him. We knew him as Ilya, but they called him Ilyusha.

He was warm, sweaty and obviously tired. I have a feeling that they had just woken him up from his nap to come meet us. He was understandably stiff, and while we talked sweetly to him, he kept his head tucked down in great apprehension.

While these few moments were exciting, the nerves rose again. What if we didn’t seem comfortable enough? Were the doctor and social worker judging these first moments to see how we behaved as instant parents? Ilya’s head stayed down, but Lena was relaxed and quiet. Our facilitator snapped a few pictures of us, which truly excited Lena, to see herself on the tiny screen and she gestured around the room.

More of this is recounted in my original blog post.

It was only a few minutes, of this nervous playing, before they told us the children needed to go. Back to the their groupas. We could come again tomorrow. Although the excitement was over, I released tension walking out of that room. No longer did we have the social worker and Ludmila observing our amateur parenting.

Down the hallway, then the stairs, and back to squishing in the car. Sasha began to tell us how happy the children seemed. “Ilya, I was so worried. He had a woman visit him before. She came many days, but he always cried. She wanted to adopt him, but he cried so much that she did not think he would be comfortable. He did not cry with you. That is very good.” Huh. So already things went much better than we thought.

“Do you want to adopt them? We can start the paperwork or if you want to spend a couple more days with them first, you can do that.” Aaron and I exchanged some edgy, excited glances and some short, awkward phrases like, “what do you think?” Yes, we are ready. We don’t see why not and we don’t want to wait.

Off we went. We dropped off the social worker, back at her university-like building. Sasha explained, “I need to prepare papers. Shall I take you where you can get some lunch?” To the mall, we went. Sasha dropped us on the curb. She explained that we could gesture in the food court to point out what food we wanted and she would call us when she was done. We choose pizza. Easy enough to know what we were getting. We sat down at a little table and breathed deep sighs of relief.

Again, we were alone. Alone together. In a mall, yes, but we knew the likelihood of someone around us fully understanding our conversation were slim. We could process all that had just happened. Beside us, was a children’s play area. It was strange. The contrast of the baby house and this wealthy mall play area was just bizarre. Adjacent cities, two different worlds.

Eventually, Sasha called. I’m not sure what else happened that day, but the next thing I remember was the notary. Eastern European notaries are independent little offices all over. You can just walk in and pay to have something notarized.  A quick flash of our passports, many signatures and we were out the door.

Then, Sasha offered to take us to the grocery store. I believe we needed to exchange some money first, so we did that. Then, to the store. We had been to little markets in Kiev, but this grocery store was large, bright. Shopping carts and a parking lot. It seemed so… normal. To the left and right, as you walked in, were little shops. almost like a mall. You could grab freshly pressed juice. Or get some home goods. Just a bit further and you entered the store through a turn-style. Check your bag if needed or just go past the security guard.
(Again, not my photo– click for source. But this is the same chain that we sometimes shopped at in Ukraine.)

And, we shopped. Gallons of water. Juice and crackers for the kids. Boring, ordinary grocery shopping, while we still held the slight nervousness of such a monumental day.

Back to the car, and then back to our apartment. Sasha stayed with us that night and read through our children’s files again. She went over details again and expounded on certain things. Breaking down nuances which we might not have understood the first time around.

The day ended mildly, nerves slowly being taken over by exhaust. In retrospect, it’s one of the most life-changing days we’ve ever had. Meeting our children for the first time, the first steps to becoming parents, really saying yes to adopt. Wild and pretty much amazing.

Dog Shaming

Have you heard of it? Although only effective if your dog follows the website himself, but it is good for a laugh. This is my recent favorite.

Anyways, I have a dog in need of shaming.

We were already having a rough afternoon when we got home from picking Reed and Lena up from school. I  opened up the back door, only to find I couldn’t get it open more than a foot. While we were gone, a certain set of canines jumped on the bench by our backdoor and knocked the whole thing over, wedging it shut.

While I was able to squeeze through the door to pick the bench up, I had to set a shoeless Gus down. And, a certain dog, obviously quite guilty, quickly leapt through the small opening, knocking Gus over.

Gus was fine, although very, very unhappy.

Any guesses on who the dog was?

I just wish I had remembered the sign.


Disclaimer: No dogs were actually punished in the making of these photos. Photographed dog is currently laying next to me begging for a belly rub.

Also, about the second part of my story about Reed and Lena’s adoption, which was scheduled to be published today, it seems to have disappeared. I have NO CLUE where it went. If it can’t be found, I will re-write it this weekend. You will have to remain in suspense until then, sorry.