Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Kirsten and Matthew's Graduation and Future Plans

This weekend we celebrated the high school graduations of Kirsten and Matthew. Both of these kiddos are among the nine we've adopted from Russia. Both have been home schooled since the day we brought them home.

We adopted Kirsten Nadezhda in November 2010. She has no biological siblings, although now she has a houseful of siblings though adoption!

Kirsten is the only one of our nine Russian adoptees to have started high school in Russia and finished in America, and she didn't speak any English when she arrived. What an accomplishment! We're very proud of her!

Kirsten has had a lifelong passion for horses since living with her grandmother on a small farm in rural Russia as a little girl.

Kirsten's dream now that she's completed high school is to become a horse trainer. She hasn't yet settled on which school would be the best fit for her. As she continues her research, the Lord has provided a wonderful opportunity. Kirsten will be working for about two months this summer at a Christian Guest Ranch that is also a full time cattle spread with over 35,000 acres in western Nebraska. Most of her duties will include caring for the guests who come from around the world to ride in this "old west" setting.

Photo Credit ~ Faith Reynolds

Matthew Vladislav's adoptive story is nearly the opposite of Kirsten's. He was adopted at age five way back in 2001. He was the youngest of a trio of siblings. Zhenya and Sarah are his biological siblings. They were eight and seven, respectively.

When we began educating Matthew, we were scared! He was so far behind on what we thought every five-year-old should know. The most basic concepts eluded our new little boy. We wrestled with hopelessness and projected the worst in our minds. Math was by far his weakest subject.

That was Matt then. What a work the Lord has done in this young man! Matt is now a strong academic who loves to learn. Mathematics is now his strongest subject.

Matthew plays the piano but is an accomplished guitarist. He's also a vocalist and a song writer. He just plain loves to make music!

Despite his love of music, the yearning of Matt's heart will take him in a far different direction than the music field. Since he was a little boy, Matthew has dreamed of being a U.S. Marine Officer. Like Kirsten and her plans, we're not completely certain what the immediate path to the goal should be. We'll use this next year to solidify his plans. In the meantime, Matt would like to spend at least a couple of months on the missions field overseas. We figure this will be great preparation for the rigors of military life.

When the world thinks of older orphans, they often conceptualize lost causes. Now that four of our older Russian adoptees have graduated from high school, we would like to debunk that myth. Our kiddos have met their academic requirements, and they overflow with so many giftings that a career choice for each of them is difficult. God is so good. He does heal!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

More Europe: Our First Day in London

As Mr. Reynolds checked us into our hotel, I was fascinated by the chandeliers hanging in the lobby. It's hard to tell by this picture, but each one is dangling at a a different angel.

As soon as we dropped our luggage in our rooms, we went on a hunt for food. On the way, this contrast of the old ~ London's traditional double-decker buses ~ with the recent development of rental bikes intrigued my photographer's eye.

We walked around the Australian Embassy in Trafalgar Square, only to discover our favorite restaurant in the area had closed in the last time we were here in 2008. You might suspect that this eatery served some very European delights. But no. The restaurant had been called "The Texas Embassy" and served wonderful Tex-Mex. When we lived in England in the late 1990s, Tex-Mex was very difficult to find. Thus when we'd make a day trip into London to sight see, we'd finish the fun with a bit of "home." Today, the restaurant wasn't nearly so welcoming!

We again rounded the center island of Trafalgar Square and walked past the National Gallary of art. We were eager to get in a couple hours of perusing art, but we were far too hungry to ohhhh and ahhhh over famous paintings until our stomachs were filled.

Happily, just around the corner past the massive museum was one of our favorite pizza restaurants: Pizza Express. Every since living in the U.K., we've loved this chain that stretches across Great Britain serves delicious paper-thin-crusted pizza, and every restaurant is decorated differently. Here we were greeted by a giant prayer extolling the importance of making the best pizza possible.

We were surprised to discover that the other giant wall hanging pictured hay fields that looked just like home in Iowa!

Our jet-lagged crew slowly made their choices.

We were a subdued crew until we finally got fed. This was Nathaniel, Kirsten and Eliana's first European foray.

After getting refreshed, we retraced our steps and walked by St. Martin's in the Field, the church in the background. If you're a classical music fan, you may notice that some of your recordings have taking place in this ancient building with remarkable acoustics.

We continued on toward the front door of the National Gallery. We were surprised to see a statue of George Washington on the lawn that hadn't been there when we last visited.

Apparently the piece of artwork was a gift from the state of Virginia.

Surprisingly, I don't having any pictures of the art work inside the Gallery since photography was allowed in most location in the building. On this Sunday crowds filled the building which made getting tourist-free photo difficult.

On our way back to the hotel, I was enchanted by this building flying so many British flags. Such majesty!

This elegant sculpture hanging on the curved corner of the South African Embassy also caught my attention.

Here's another view of the building flying five Union Jacks from closer to our hotel.

By this time, this mother of 12 was a victim of jet lag and desperately wanted my bed! So we marched by the pretty flowers...

...and into our hotel. I went to sleep about four and slept 'til morning, while the rest of the crew went out to do some more early evening sightseeing new Big Ben.

More to come...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

And "Baby" is?

In my last post, I promised that with Eric and Alison visiting, a gender reveal was in store for our readers. Alison is our second oldest daughter and is John's twin.

Today, we had that chance.

It was hard to get these lovebirds ~ married last October ~ to concentrate on the task at hand.

Finally, we were ready to get down to the business of informing our readers the gender of our third grandchild.

Can you make your guess based on the sonogram images? No?

Well, then, let us say, "It's a...


Yes, a little man with ecstatic parents, who are so happy to add him to their family!

We were ready to take more photos, but Alison, who is 22 weeks along, developed a strong calf cramp. Eric lovingly dropped to his knees to massage away the pain.

However, he got distracted by the opportunity to kiss his son...

...which led to much laughter!

 Next we were ready to try a new pose, but got photo bombed by a local orphan.

After I watched the dog wander off, I looked back to see that Eric had gotten distracted again.

We pulled Eric back down to reality and finished the shoot...

...with a posed photo of one of our dog-loving daughter's favorite pals. This giant dog has roamed our neighborhood for years after severe neglect by owners a few miles away. "Ace" and Alison essentially grew up together. The entire photo shoot ended with Alison saying in the most pitiful voice, "He's drooling on my skirt!!! Followed by more laughter as she jumped up.


(Alison's younger sisters, Kirsten and Sarah, were my assistants. I couldn't have pulled this shoot off with our their help.)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Eric, Lissie and BABY visit

We're slated to have a glorious holiday weekend! We're celebrating the high school graduations of two of our adoptees. Matt joined our family at age 5 in 2001. Kirsten was just shy of aging out of the orphanage system in Russia when she joined our family in 2010. We give thanks to God for both of them, and rejoice with them as they cross this important milestone in their lives.

To join in the rejoicing, Eric and Alison flew in from Boston tonight.

This was Alison's first return home since she married last October. Everyone was eager to hug her.

Then came excited questions about "Baby"

Hope led the charge in asking if she could touch Alison's bump. Alison will be 22 weeks along tomorrow. "Baby" now weights about 1 pound and he's already a feisty kicker.

Meanwhile, I snapped this photo of our new grandchild. Eric and Alison now know the gender of their baby and have let us in on the BIG secret. We'll share that news in the next post. Is it a boy or a girl...???

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Trip of a Lifetime!

Mother's Day weekend was a crazy one for us.

First we traveled to Pennsylvania to the wedding of dear friends. In addition to wanting to celebrate with the couple, I'd been asked to be one of the photographers. The event was extra special because our two oldest daughters, Anna and Alison, were amongst the bridesmaids.

As soon as the wedding finished, we hoped in our rental van to head to Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. for the vacation of a lifetime. We were going to England with a side trip to Paris! Beloved family members and friends saw us off.

After a long overnight flight, we landed at Heathrow Airport.

We then took the train into central London. An advantage of having older kiddos was that everyone managed their own luggage. Matt was my hero and helped me with mine. I'm not known for packing light!

Once we reached Paddington Station, we were on the hunt for food. Our stomachs were quite confused by the time change!

Next we headed to our hotel via "The Tube" as London calls its underground mass transit system.

As we came up from the underground train system near Trafalgar Square, this was our view. Our hearts were full of gratitude to the Lord for allowing us to go on this fairy tale trip!

 I so love the architecture in England. This building next door to our hotel immediately caught my eye.

Here every one is dragging their suitcases into our hotel with Dad leading the way.

One of the other thing I love about England is the many flowers that adorn the buildings.

You may have guessed from some of my descriptions that this was not our first trip to England. Our family lived in the country from 1997-2000. It was a magical time for us. Ever since then we are true Anglophiles! We've had two chances to return as a family, and each time we're filled with wonder at God's goodness in giving us the opportunity!

Now, jet lag has caught up with me. More another time!