Saturday, December 31, 2011

Past Revealed through the Present.....Joshua Part I

Exactly one year ago today Mike and I were sitting in the airport awaiting a plane that would take us to China to bring home a little brown eyed boy. As I sat in that airport I had no idea what was waiting for me in the little boy I had come to love deeply only through a photo. I had the experiences of our journey to bring Emily into our family although I was confident that this time would be drastically different. Unlike Emily, Joshua was older and we were told that Joshua had spent all of his life in an orphanage. He was described as shy and not liking strangers and the sadness on his face in most of the photos we had received led me to believe that this was one unhappy little boy. I was fully prepared for the worst of reactions but I don't think I could have ever imagined the reality of who this little guy was. You can read details of our journey here.

After spending a year with our boy my curiousness has exploded as to what his life was like before coming to our family. I have arrived at some confident conclusions and a bunch of speculations about his time in China. On the day we received Joshua, he arrived to the civil affairs office with an entourage of Chinese women and one man who obviously adored him. He was confident, secure and definitely was not afraid of strangers. He embraced us with little to no reservations. We were told that Joshua had just been on a shopping trip with these women and it was apparent then and now that this may have been something that he was accustomed to doing with these ladies. Their love for him was so clear as they seemed to have a hard time leaving wanting to make sure that we knew of all the things he liked. For example they really wanted us to know that he liked warm baths and was rocked with a bottle of milk each night. As they left the office there was sadness in their faces and the one man who hadn't said anything stayed behind and as I glanced his way I noticed that there were tears in his eyes (something that I know is not typically of Chinese men). Somehow I have come to believe that this man may have been someone very special in the early life of my son. So does our little guy have a story? I am confident that he does and it certainly is not the typical one written about so many orphans in China. We were given the gift of some photo's of his time before he was with us that further reveal my confident conclusions that he was well cared for, loved and probably spoiled rotten. He came to us very familiar with things that reveal he had definitely spent some time outside of his orphanage with women. Such things as, how to apply make-up specifically mascara, he is quite comfortable in walking around in women's high heels, and I also discovered that he is quite comfortable in nail salon. These are only just a few of the situations that he has shown familiarity. There are situations that my 14 year old who has lived with me all his life doesn't have a clue about that Joshua seems completely knowledgeable. Despite my curiosity as to what took place prior to me becoming his mama I am so thankful that my son had lots of love filling his life before God brought him to me. This face confirms in my heart that he was very happy boy:

Baby photos

All of these photos are taken in his orphanage and he looks so uncomfortable which contrasts with photos of him with his nannies where he looks so happy and content. I have often wondered just how much time he spent in the orphanage. I know that these photos are staged but I get a sense that this was just not a place where he felt "at home".

These are photos of Joshua with his nannies....

He seemed to love this particular nanny alot....

And this is the man who appeared to have a hard time saying goodbye.

It's A Brand New Year

The ticks of the clock will soon usher in a brand new year and I have to admit that I am overjoyed to see 2012! 2011 was not the easiest of years for me and I am beginning this January 1st with a hope that this new year will be bright with a freshness that comes from living with purpose and direction and being intentional in as much of my life as possible. Last year brought so many new challenges most of which were in the form of a 25 lb little China boy. There were many old challenges that intensified throughout the year while managing the life of 4 kiddos, a husband, a house, 2 cars and a job proved to be beyond overwhelming. Most of my days began at 4:00 am and didn't end until 10:00 with me falling in bed exhausted, asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I spent 3 of my days making sure that 4 kids and myself were dressed, fed and ready for school, carpool at two schools, working a full day, pick up at school, arriving home to dinner prep, homework, laundry, baths and bedtime. The other 2 days of the week were much of the same minus work and add in a Joshua pre-school drop off, errands and a slew of doctors appts. Weekends were spent scrambling to get laundry washed, folded and put away, our house cleaned, bills paid and anything else I could squeeze into 2 free days. Combine all this with 3 surgeries for Joshua, managing life with a moody and rather explosive teenager who has Diabetes and trying to make sure that the girls don't feel neglected. It has been exhausting, I find my tank empty and very eager to find ways in this new year to keep the tank from running on fumes.

During this much needed break from the normal chaos of our everyday life I have tried to be more reflective in my thoughts realizing that two of the biggest things that I need to focus on during this new year is taking care of me as well as being a more proactive wife and mom. I think that as mom's we have a natural tendency to live a martyrs life or at least I know I do. We completely sacrifice ourselves to everything surrounding us and end up living in a survival mode. When we are simply surviving we can be nothing more than reactive in what we do. That has been me in a nutshell....treading water trying to stay afloat and merely reacting to anything that comes my way.

I am determined to seize this new year and attempt to do things differently. As I have thought about our year my thoughts have turned so often to someone who became very significant in my life. She entered my life like a fresh breeze bringing a sweet joy and calmness to my chaos. This adorable woman entered my life as our social worker and left us as a treasured friend.

Laurel Constantinides would softly enter our home like a ray of sunshine with the warmest hugs I have ever experienced. I couldn't wait for her visits and each time she came to our home we would settle in with a warm cup of Kahlua flavored coffee and chat about life. Sometimes our conversations would be very practical but most of the time they were deeply philosophical. Not in a very academic way but in a philosophical mommy way. During her last visit in July we ventured into one of the most inspiring chats I think I have every had with another woman. Little did know at the time that this would be the last time I saw Laurel for it was just a few days after our visit that Laurel and her three beautiful adopted daughters died in a tragic accident.

Laurel had a way about her that made you feel safe, she seemed to have the ability to look deep into your heart and see the reality of your emotions. Maybe it was her experience or her profession but I just think it was who she was. During our last visit sensing the extreme fatigue and discouragement I was feeling in managing my life while maintaining a healthy sense of who I was outside of being a wife and a mommy, she shared with me some profound thoughts. Things I wish I had wrote down to savor forever but only can rely on my memory....

She said, "Sweet Nichole,

You have to be BRAVE
Brave to take care of you.
Brave to express the emotions of your heart whether they are good or bad.
Brave to accept you have limits and ask for help when you need it.
Brave to love without expectation
Brave to accept the realities of life with hope and faith that they can change AND
Brave to believe that every day is a BRAND NEW DAY!"

I paraphrased and summarized what she spoke into me that day but hold these Laurel Inspirations close to my heart as I embark on this new year.

As I strive to be brave I am reminded of the words of Max Lucado in his Cure for the Common Life,

"God endows us with gifts so we can make him known. We exist to exhibit God, to display his glory. We serve as canvases for his brush stroke, papers for his pen, soil for his seeds, glimpes of his image. I pray that during this year I can "Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in me" (2 Tim. 1:6) I hope you can too.


The Gift of Friendship

I couldn't let the year end without posting about friendship. Friends are the most important ingredient in our lives however, as we become grown up girls and as our life plates get full of so much food that is absolutely necessary to sustain the life of our families we forget to keep the seasoning of girlfriends. I don't think that I ever realized the importance of this until we moved from FL. When I left FL I also left my best friend, (my sister). Our friendship was easy and we never had to work at it. She was always there, loving me unconditionally and filling the cup of my life with more than I could have ever know. Arriving in CO with no relationships other than the ones under my own roof I had to find girlfriends and when you are a 40 year old homeschooling mom with a stay at home husband that can be rather difficult. Fortunately, God brought Sara into life right away. She and I bonded instantly. We shared a love for our God, Beth Moore, Coffee and Adoption then their family moved. Our friendship didn't cease to exist with her relocation but like my relationship with my sister it became more difficult. My heart ached and I wished for another girl to fill the friendship void and along came The VanKirks. We actually met them within a week of moving to CO but it wasn't until this past year that our friendship blossomed. Jenny, makes me smile, she is so calm, loving and encourages me with her patience and kindness. We are southern girls at heart and share a love for orphan adoption. What I love about this family is that our friendship is a family affair. Mike enjoys Jim and all of our kids love being together. Our family's aren't together constantly and sometimes Jenny and I will go for weeks without connecting but there is a wonderful contented state of our friendship that is always there and can be embraced at any moment. I love it!

I know that the following photos seem out of place with this post but I had forgotton to post photos of our annual gingerbread house decorating party at the VanKirk House. Jenny and her daughter Abby made and assembled all the houses and the kids got to decorate. It is a tradition that our family has come to love and we are thankful that we are included in this special time.

These next two photo's are just random of our kids with the VanKirk kids

Luke and Cody

Joshua and his VanKirk women...take note of Sammy's phone in Joshua's hand....these gals know the way to my boys heart.

Giving Thanks!

Well, I think I have just about done it....all caught up in just 2 weeks. I know that in this massive updating I have missed so many thoughtful things that touched us this year especially all those moments absorbing Joshua's presence in our family. I have 3 posts for today just to make sure start Jan 1st in real time.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love everything about Thanksgiving and this year we celebrated with our friends The VanKirks. We enjoy this family so much and love sharing special occasions with them. Their son Luke is Cody's best friend and their daughter Lizzy is the perfect match for Grace and Emily. They have a another beautiful daughter, Abby who is growing up so fast and I am convinced that Joshua has a secret crush on her (maybe it is because she lets him have her ipod and phone) Their oldest daughters Sammy and Katya are out of the house so we don't see much of them however, Sammy was able to join us for Thanksgiving. We ate lots of yummy food and enjoyed sharing the afternoon/evening with good friends. Once again here are lots of photos of the fun as well as a few of Joshua's preschool Thankgiving party and Grace's Native American Day.....

The next four shots are me trying to get a good shot of Emily and Joshua
And finally, a decent one
This was the result
She tried to give him a good "talking to" but got tickled
This was the first

Kids Table Setting
The kids table

Joshua's Party

Grace's Native American Day.
One of my bosses made this on her daughter's Native American Day, it was so nice and fit Grace perfectly.

Not too happy that her brother was stealing the show at her party.

Friday, December 30, 2011

It's Pumpkin Time

I am entering the home stretch, think I may have 1 or 2 more posts and I am caught up. I do apologize for the mammoth amount of photos with each post. With 4 kiddos, I just don't want to leave anything out so once again here we go with tons of photos.

Fall is such a fun time of year and this was great in that the weather here in CO was awesome. Normally we get our first snowfall in Oct. but it was gloriously warm which made this girl very happy. We loaded up the pack one Sunday after church and hit a great little pumpkin patch about an hour and a half from where we live. We had been there before and loved it. They have a corn maze, hay rides, corn boxes and a cheesy little slide. The kids had a blast although due to our being late in the season the pumpkins were a little picked over nevertheless everyone found that perfect pumpkin and my little wild man was just that WILD.

Had to post this one...Emily has developed a love for photography and likes to take photos of us.

Had to post this one of my boy eating corn...I just had to look away...seems I do that alot with this one.

Need I say more....I get this look often.