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Welcoming Summer

We stood in line at the check out, Finley in the metal chair of the cart facing the tiny, grandmotherly woman behind us.  Just before we paid for our items, the little old lady lets out a long, leisurely yawn.

Finley, facing her, “What?  You tired?”

She started laughing, “Oh, um…yes.”

And as we drove home, Maria and I hear from the back seat, “Pooping on the potty…”

“Who’s pooping on the potty, you want to?”

“No…I think grandma is…”

To which we laughed, on and off…

for a while.

We are planting a tree, so what better place to hang than in the hole…even the chickens came to make themselves comfortable.

Although I wish they were already laying eggs, I am so happy that since we raised them from chicks, they are great with kids, and more of a pet than anything else. 

Can’t get enough.  Just can’t…

This weekend, we installed an outdoor shower, it is now their favorite hang out spot.  Also, thank goodness.  Perhaps my two boys can be presentable for once.

We walked Maria to school for her last day of fourth grade.  She signed a paper year book, and said goodbye to sweet friends.  We celebrated that night with cinnamon rolls for dessert, you know, the kind you pop from a tube with a spoon, it’s so hard.  We even had a movie night and watched, Milo and Otis.  We were so excited to watch the movie, Andrew and I both had fond memories of it, but that movie is cray!  We spent a good amount of time googling what happened to those poor animals, hah.  Oh well, the kids loved it.

Last day of school

“Mom, fourth grade in America so hard, it’s like so much hard books and everything, in Russia, so easy, you know like, ‘A’ say ahhhhh…”

Basically, she and her friends were in a glorified kindergarten for most of their lives.

“Well, you’re doing awesome, and I can’t believe what a good reader you are, you rocked fourth grade.”

“Yeah, I like it better here for learning, learn so much!”

She has a passion and zeal for learning, one I haven’t seen most American kids have, even when it is so hard for her.  Her last week of school, she worked on a report about Russia, it’s grandeur and splendor.  

Mama, I no miss Russia, Russia so…so… grumpy, but here, here so nice…”

“What do you mean?”

“Like over there, everyone pushing and no nice, and here, everyone nice like say, ‘Please’ and ‘Excuse me,’ you know?”


“MOOOOOOM!!!!  Mama!!! Try to find us!  We’re in the box!!!!”

“Hmmm…ok, I’ll try my best….”

This is literally their best attempt at pretending they are asleep

Mhmm…much better…
Guess what!  We got a kitten.  Yes, totally.  It was sort of on a whim, although Andrew and I had been talking about it for a while.  We coincided it with Elijah’s birthday, but said it was a family kitty.  We got a little boy kitty from someone down the street, he is so cuddly.  It has been one of the best things for Maria, she feels so independent with ‘her new baby.’  She has so many little containers out for him, a variety of foods, and we often find her rocking him wrapped in a blanket in one of our rocking chairs, the kitty just a pile of content purrs with his sweet mama.

“Let’s name him something Russian,” we said, “Maybe like Mishka, or Vanya…”
“No,” Maria said, “let’s name him something else…” which didn’t sound like her.
“How about Kiska…”
“No…I no want Russian name….”  Andrew and I caught each others eyes.  “Ok, that’s fine,” and we picked the name Jasper.

Sometimes, it can be the largest, most present realities that we often don’t see or notice as we live our lives, like a goldfish unaware of what water is.  It’s often not until there is a change to our reality so profound, that we are able to recognize not only our present realities, but we’re able to reflect on those of our past, see them with a new awareness.
At six months homes, with the continual onset and deeper ability in language, input, and love, Maria is beginning to share, what is in her heart, from a reality past, now in focus.  As bodies and hearts heal, ‘family’ is the reality, not a novelty, as love is the norm, not frantically sought.  As security and health are visible, she begins to look at her past with a new lens;

 And at night, she smiles at us, as the tears slip down her cheeks, catching on her teeth, her hair.  “Papa, mama, I talk to you?”

And every so often, and only recently, only a handful of times, we sit with her, as she buries her face in papa’s stomach, “Papa, I so happy, but I crying.”

“It’s ok to cry.”

And the tears come hardest at first.

When she tells of her friends left behind.  She shares of her friends, the ones who were hurt, the ones who shared their hearts with her.  The children who she shared a building with, the ones rejected and housed.  The ones going to live with sisters; as she cries, “And she drinks, and smokes, and no money for food, she no have food to eat with her sister, hit her…”

And she pauses.  “She no have husband, she no have money, no papa, like my papa.  My papa, he love…” as she continues telling her story, but on the last words, she catches.   Brought to reality, as she stops and looks up at us, as if she had just been somewhere else.

And it goes from a statement, to a soft question, “My papa,” she tries again, “he loves me?”

“Yes,” we smile.  “We love you Maria.”

And she shares, and we listen, and she now cries over things which would have just been, “life,” in the past, not particularly sad.  She breaks our hearts for little boys and girls, of their lives, their pasts, their desire for love and mommies and daddies, the words they would tell her, their broken hearts shared.

She carried a burden for her friends.

But there were a few glimmers of kindness, “The hospitachy (orphanage worker) told us to name our blankies in Russia, to name them ‘mothers hand’ so that at night, when we would hold our blankies, it’s like we were holding a mother’s hand…”

And as she shares, she cries less and less.  She holds our hands, wipes her tears as she talks, such a new depth we see.  Her voice changes as she remembers a funny thing Finley did that morning, wants to tell us about how far she rode her bike, how much Josephina loves having her diaper changed at the same times Elijah does, how Jasper likes to bat at blinds string…her voice brighter, her new reality. 

“Papa, Mama, I so happy,” big sigh, “I love my family…”

Some children are rocked from the day they are born, others have to wait 11 years for parents of their own. I’m not sure which of these two are happier in this moment
We’re obsessed with Maria’s doctors.  We took her this week, and they showed us her growth chart with a growing line, sloping up like a steep mountain towards the top of the paper.
“And this is where she started 6 months ago, under 25% in each category…and here she is now!” They said with eager joy, celebration in their voices.  “Up to 50% for weight, and more importantly, and with great telling of good nutrition she’s at 50% for height!” as they cheered for us, patted us on the back. (Ok, well they are all trained therapists, so they’re good at making people feel great.)
“Amazing guys, just amazing!” as they hugged us and her.
“And remember to call us for anything, even for Elijah or Finley, or school or whatever, we’re always here for you, any hour.”
Hah, best part of adoption, the people that get to be in your life.
I had the boys plant some sunflower seeds to take care of, teaching them about what seeds need to grow.  “You need to water your seeds everyday,” I told them, and kept a full watering can near the pot.

And day by day, “THEY GROWING!!!  My seeds, they growing!  My flowers, getting big, and bigger!”  They are so proud.

Sticks and rocks and dirt and hugs and trucks, mostly trucks, my two, two year old boys.
My sweet wild things, who are actually cuddly softies 
#mamasboysforvida 😉

“And how long have you been feeling this way…actually, I’m going to need to take this call…”

Off to Neverland

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. // Ephesians 1:11-12

Happy fathers day to a man who just invests it all.  Blowin’ bubbles like a champ, holds nothing back.  Invests time, energy, heart, everything I tell you.  Who loves Jesus with everything, and a whole bunch of sweet kids, who adore this selfless father of theirs.

We love you, Papa!


 ‘…far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!’

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{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Ana June 18, 2013, 12:17 pm

    Do you make sure to separate Maria’s perception of her orphanage from the perception of her home country? It sounds a little bit like she is constructing a negative image of Russia in her mind and that would be a shame. Perhaps you could talk to her about cultural differences worldwide without the good/bad scale in use?

    • The Tiny Team June 18, 2013, 8:11 pm

      I hear what you are saying, but since this is a first for her to share her feelings, we want her to feel free to do so without correction, reminders or editing. We want her to have her feelings be her own, and although I am sure they will evolve over time, right now I think she is in a stage of stark contrast and may see things very black and white. We’re so happy she feels confident in sharing what’s on her heart! 🙂

  • Fatcat June 18, 2013, 12:46 pm

    Beautiful family. I love that verse from Ephesians. It made me cry.

  • Gina June 18, 2013, 1:59 pm

    Hey Amy–so are the chickens jealous now that Maria’s dressing the cat? 😉

  • Jill - addingaburden.com June 18, 2013, 2:30 pm

    Maria’s story always makes me realize how profound a change these children go through. It is easy to forget when your child can’t put words to the experience b/c they are so young, but hearing how Maria interprets her life makes me a better mama to my little man. Give her a hug and a thank you for me.

    PS: Our cat is named Jasper too! When we first brought Arie home he thought Jasper was a tiger! One of my favorite moments with him! Ha!

    • The Tiny Team June 18, 2013, 8:14 pm

      You are an amazing mama! What an honor, right, to parent those with such large wells in their hearts, ready to sop up so much love! God is smart.

      Cute Arie 🙂

  • pat June 18, 2013, 4:49 pm

    Love your posts! They are all getting so big and that Maria how big a heart she has. Love jasper yellow male cats rock! Hoping the summer goes slow for everything to be enjoyed.
    pat and katie

  • Carla June 18, 2013, 7:07 pm

    So sweet! p.s love the outdoor shower idea!

  • Wendy Talley, Portsmouth, VA June 18, 2013, 7:21 pm


  • kmac June 18, 2013, 8:23 pm

    Wonderful, wonderful tear-provoking post. Such a lovely family. God bless you all.

  • Beth June 18, 2013, 9:48 pm

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Michelle Ott June 18, 2013, 10:17 pm

    Always refreshed by reading your blog – most importantly, I find myself connecting with God as I read your words. Your family spurs me to know God more and his heart for orphans! Less importantly – Milo and Otis. Totally watched that with our daughter with similar excitement….Oh man – cat off cliff! Yipes!

    • The Tiny Team June 21, 2013, 3:56 am

      Best compliment ever! Excited to see what God has, and yes, what the heck a pug fighting a bear in a LAKE??

  • Amanda June 19, 2013, 3:31 am

    Hello! I’ve been reading your blog for awhile… starting when you were picking Maria and Elijah up. Your family makes my heart smile. Just beautiful. We are in the beginning stages of our first adoption journey. So overwhelming but so exciting! Keep posting! God Bless! 🙂

  • Future Nurse June 19, 2013, 1:19 pm

    This is so beautiful — thank you so much for sharing your lives with us. I sincerely dream of adopting an older child in the future.

    I was a puddle of tears as I read about the children being told to call their blankies “mama’s hand”, and then at bedtime last night, as I snuggled with my daughters in their bed, I realized they were both holding my hands…and I was a puddle of tears again as I remembered your blog. They were concerned what was wrong, so I told them the truth about the orphans holding their blankies. After I wiped their tears, we all prayed so hard for all the lonely children in the world. Then my older one asked me, “We are still going to, one day, adopt a red-headed girl, right mama?” (apparently she has some specific criteria in mind! Lol!).

    Sorry for writing such a long comment, but I just wanted to share how your writing and Maria’s words are inspiring us and other children. And as soon as my nursing degree is done, I’ll be signing up for volunteer medical missions to work in orphanages…I suspect that’s how we’ll meet our future child. 😉

    Sending you blessings from Canada, Kate.

    • The Tiny Team June 21, 2013, 3:58 am

      Amazing, amazing, thank you for sharing! That means so much to me. Blessings on your amazing career that will touch so many, and for the seeds God is placing in your heart as well.


  • Joolz June 20, 2013, 2:15 am

    Oh, you’re gonna have to stop it! These posts with cute photos and your beautiful words – it makes me cry every.single.time! Seriously, you are giving these children such a beautiful upbringing, they are rich beyond words!

    Cheers – Joolz xx

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