Friday, May 29, 2015

Lena's End of the Year 2015!

Lena had a lot going on at the end of the school year.  She had her first ever end of the year party at a classmate's house where she played and played and loved every minute of it.
Her first time on battery powered vehicle!

She loved swinging high in the basket swing with classmates
 I took this picture because if you know Lena, you know she loves to eat.  While all of the other children left a good bit on their plates to go play some more, Lena stayed at the table to eat every single bite!
And Lena loves food!
Lena also had her first ever end of the year program at St James.  Andy and I had to miss it due to a long scheduled colonoscopy for me, but Beth was able to be there.
Lena with some of her classmates

Apparently Lena was the only one doing hand motions!

Lena giving her sweet teacher, Lynn Higbe, a goodbye hug

 Finally, Lena began gymnastics through a program at St. James UMC in January called Leap Gymnastics.  Although she will never be a gymnast, it really helped her with balance and coordination.  It also helped her with listening to instructions, taking turns, and staying in place.  Her group had a special program in May.

Lena on the balance beam!
This was a skill that was hard for Lena at first but she mastered it
Lena with her sweet friend, Lucy

Monday, May 25, 2015

Will - Kindergarten Graduate!

Will and Mrs. Cox

Will receiving his certificate from
Mrs. Cox
This time a year ago, Will could not speak English, didn't know how to play, had moderate to severe hearing loss, and no clue about how his life would change over this past year.  But God sent an incredible teacher who began working with Will in the summer.  Diane Cox taught Hope in kindergarten and offered to help Will prepare for K beginning last summer.  Will met with Diane twice a week at Eastwood not only for learning but so he could become familiar with his future K surroundings.  I think it was love at first sight between Will and Diane.  They immediately formed a special bond.

When K finally started, Will had to adjust to not having her all to himself but he eventually did.  Diane taught Will more than just academics.  She finally coaxed him into playing with  others at recess and guided him in how to do that.  She gently guided him in the area of social skills as well, because Will had so much to learn.  She was so sensitive to his lack of experience, hearing issues, and his passion to know everything about everything!  She quickly picked up on how bright Will was; in fact we all did and were amazed.  He was able to grasp academic concepts quickly.  By the end of K, he was reading and performing simple addition and subtraction problems.  He gained so many skills in K and made many good friends.  He will continue to work with Diane this summer on language development.  Our family is so grateful to Diane for loving Will and going above and beyond the call of normal teacher responsibilities.  We know without a doubt God placed Diane in Will's life at just the right time.

Below are some pics of Will at his End of the Year Program.  He did very well with both his speaking and singing parts.  We were so proud of him.  He also had the big end of the year party at Pump It Up which he loves.  He is now looking forward to 1st grade!

Will saying his part
Will singing his part

Hope Finishes First Grade!

It is hard to believe but Hope finished first grade this past Friday, May 22!  Didn't we just bring her home!  She did great in school this year learning to read so well.  She made a 100 on all of her Bible verses and had all As.  She loves her friends and Mrs. Howard and was sad to say goodbye.  She has several sweet friends that are moving which made things a little sadder.

We've always said watching Hope grow was like watching a fragrant flower blossom and this year has been no different.  We have watched her grow academically and socially and are just amazed at how much she learned in first grade!

However, they had an awesome Beach Party playing great games outside and the day was absolutely beautiful.  They ended the party with some yummy snacks and getting lots of pics taken.  We are so thankful for Eastwood School, their staff and curriculum!

Sweet friends - Hannah, Hope, Olivia and Mallory

Over and Under

Relay race!
Hope with first grade teacher Milla Howard

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hope's 6th Gotcha Day!

On Friday, May 22, we celebrated Hope's 6th Gotcha Day.  We released six balloons and treated Hope to her very favorite food - steak!  She also had her first grade party at school plus her big sister, Beth, graduated from high school.  With all of the celebrating, it was a very special day!

I can't even begin to imagine life without Hope (both the word and the little girl)!  She has brought so much joy and light into our lives as we have watched her grow!  On her awards day at school, she was given the award of being the most thankful which made my heart soar.  Her teacher said she will spontaneously mention something that she is very thankful for.  She often will tell us how thankful she is that we adopted her and got her out of that orphanage!  Boy, we are too!  She is a precious gift from God and we are so thankful that He led us to her!   When I consider her adoption, God reminds me over and over about how He truly has a plan for everyone.  Out of all of the little girls in the world, He directed our steps to the adoption of a tiny little girl in an obscure country that we didn't even know existed!

We love our Hope and look forward to celebrating many more Gotcha Days in the future!

Diving in!

Enjoying her steak!

Releasing her balloons in the air one by one (six in all; one for each year she has been home)

Hope receiving her Thankfulness and Starburst Awards from Mrs. Howard

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Gotcha Day - Will & Lena (2015)

One year ago today, Andy, Dow and Beth visited Will and Lena at their orphanages for the last time! May 6, 2014, became Gotcha Day for Will and Lena!  The journey to get to that point was hard fought on so many levels.
Will and Lena leaving Lena's orphanage on May 6, 2014!
Will and Lena, Gotcha Day 2015

This past year has been no piece of cake either.  We hardly knew what hit us last summer!  In fact, last summer seams like a blur with only little memories here and there for me.  One big thing I do remember is how so many people helped us from bringing meals to helping give the children baths!  Thanks again to so many of you who were there for us and are still there offering up prayers on our behalf.

While this year brought lots of adjustments, God also brought just the right teachers (both school and church), medical professionals, and new friends who are teaching our children guitar, art, and gymnastics!  We are so grateful for the adults who have already helped to shape them and have had such a positive impact on them.

We dealt with some unexpected things such as Will having five surgeries including three due to a hearing impairment in both ears.  We became very familiar with Children's Hospital and are so thankful for the medical professionals who are committed to the health care of children.  On the very positive side, we have not dealt with grieving children who missed their familiar environment and the loss of caregivers.  Instead, Lena and Will seemed to know they were "home" from the very beginning.  They rarely showed any signs of insecurity or fearfulness (except for the ceiling fans and dogs at first!).  We have worked very hard and continue to work hard on helping them know how to be part of a family and a community (school, church, etc).

Over this past year, God has revealed a lot of things to me about myself - some were really hard to see! But He has also revealed even more to me about Who He Is!  I am so deeply humbled as I even write this because when He called us to adopt two children, I kept saying I can't do this!  God kept saying I know you can't, but I can!  When I think back over this past year, I know He has been faithful in keeping His promise for He has sustained our family, showered us with grace and mercy and helped Will and Lena make the biggest adjustment of their lives.

We still face some challenges but to see where God has brought us from is amazing.  And to add icing on the cake, Will and Lena know about Jesus and that He loves them!

To celebrate Gotcha Day, each child releases a balloon in the air for each year they have been home and get to pick where to eat.  Then we pull out the pics of their first Gotcha Day and enjoy looking at the changes in them.  While Will and Lena may not have really grasped the meaning of this one year anniversary, they certainly felt special.  Hope's Gotcha Day is just around the corner, so be looking for another update soon!