Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Really Need to Catch Up!!!

I feel like that has been the title of every post recently! I would so love to get completely caught up on our blog so that I can post frequently about daily stuff. Oh well, I can dream!
I haven't posted from as far back as Timothy's 3rd birthday so I have decided to post from there. Hopefully that will help me get caught up with everything in between because our first baby girl turns 6 in one month!!! How did that happen?

Here's how our 3 year old little guy spent his special day.
Awaiting his special present from his Mimi.

  The long-awaited Imaginext Dragon Castle

A fun day celebrating Timothy with friends at the Discovery Center.

I know....a pathetic little cake:(  This is what happens when you can't use dyed frosting to decorate a cake. I had to use something that could be removed easily since TK can't have red (or any) dyes. Timothy didn't seem to mind:)

Timothy and Sophie....such sweet little friends.  They were tickling each other here:)

Love our little ones!

What a little nut!  Our kids LOVE to dress up!!

Sweet Stella Bella!

Derek is the best dad ever...always found hanging out with multiple kiddos when our friends' little ones are around!

Saying goodbye to Sophie...she looks like she has had enough of his nonsense:)

Sophie's momma and my dear friend...she looks way too cool to be at a 3 year old's birthday party!

Emily always loving her time with her daddy!!!

Opening gifts back at home sent from Halmee and Grandpa in VA!

The beloved trampoline that was a joint gift from us and family for the kids.

The "Sprinkoline" never gets old

And this is what I LOVE about the trampoline!  How did we EVER survive without it???

Ice cream cones on TK's actual birthday!

Our fun and sweet little man!  I might note that he was in his usual attire pants:)

Stella's first Nutty Buddy:)  She LOVED it and ate the ENTIRE thing!!!

Timothy Kramer, you bring us such an immense amount of joy and laughter!  We love that you are so spirited and always ready for an adventure.  We love your desire to know more and more about God and His Word.  We continue to pray that you will ask the Lord into your heart at a young age and that your "winsome" personality will lead people to Him!  We love you so so much and can't wait to see you grow into a man seeking after God's heart!!!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Our Father's Love....Thoughts on Sacrifice and Calling

Big shocker here....I am WAY behind on blogging. You know when you start getting emails and blog comments of concerns such as "you haven't posted in while....hope you guys are okay" you really need to carve out some time for updates.:)

We are really doing okay. I promise! I remember being so disappointed when I followed various family's adoption journeys and then they got home and stopped posting. The best part finally came and there were no updates....hahahaha!!!! Now I COMPLETELY understand why! We have been busy!

I have mentioned before but this is our first year homeschooling Emily. Enough said.:) And being that we now have 4 munchkins 5 years and under, well..... And add in LOTS of doctor appointments, paperwork, spending time together as a family, normal daily chores, Daddy having to travel, attempting to serve others when possible, Mommy getting to go on a Women's Retreat, busy weekends, Mommy and Daddy going away for a night (woohoo!!!!), and Mommy getting rear-ended with Samuel in tow (involving approx 8-10K in damage to our van, a totaled Tahoe, and ordering 4 new car seats) and you have one pretty busy household. I am quite sure I left some things out:)

We are seeing amazing things in Samuel! I have said it before but it truly is like watching redemption take place right before our eyes! He is different in so many ways and has only been home less than 60 days. We continue to see regression when our schedules are too full and he is exposed to too many new faces, but overall he is finally smiling and beginning to really trust us.

I think one of the hardest things to figure out is to sort through the reasons for behaviors because honestly we just don't know. Samuel is in a whole other "category" of adopted child. It is very difficult to find information on children that have been adopted with DS from Russia/Eastern Europe. We have read info on adopted children, info on children with DS, but not those 2 combined. At this point, all we really have to go on is other families (and wow the number is growing!!) that are in the same boat as us. I feel like we are all sort of in this murky water of uncertainty and honestly lots of times it just isn't easy. Not knowing the "whys" of behavior or what is the best way to help our children is very very hard. Add in the social responses when you leave the safe confines of home or church, and the simple fact that bonding takes time, and you've got a yummy recipe for "Adoption Ain't for Everybody" Soup!

I have said from the beginning that I want to be true to this process of adoption and what it truly looks and feels like. At the same time, there are some things that are best shared in smaller more intimate ways. The last couple of months have changed me more than I ever thought possible. I have had to draw near to the Lord in ways I didn't even know were possible...really. Every week, we participate in a local Bible Study called CBS (they are everywhere and I highly recommend:). Last week, our lady that lectures at the end, said something that resonated so deeply within my soul. She played the song by Selah "How Deep the Father's Love for Us" and spoke about what Christ's sacrfice cost.

This is what she said that struck me so deeply. "Jesus was brave and courageous to leave heaven to come and redeem us." It cost Him cost Him everything! His Father even turned His face from Him. Can you even imagine? I listened to her words and let them really soak in. God's call on our family cost us something. We have officially left the "comfort" of our before life and entered into His will for us. It cost us all something and is still "costing" to bring Samuel into our family. Redemption isn't cheap! Jesus did what He had to redeem us. The picture of that and the truth of that is what spurs me on daily. I don't have enough of anything within me to carry out His will, and goodness do I DAILY need my Father's grace!! But He has called us all to lives worthy of His redemption, not saying that we have to work for it!!!! He GAVE us His life but His life was costly and in return our lives as believers and followers of a risen Saviour should be characterized, not by ease but by His love, and yes sacrifice!

Considering all of this right now, at the beginning of a month where God's people focus on the need for us to all step up and care for orphans in some way, has lead to real heart change in the day in and out for all of my children, but especially in my care for Samuel. Christ's adoption of us certainly was one of sacrfice and of bravery and courage and a letting go of "everything." Would He expect any less of us? Our choice has not been easy. If you choose to adopt, don't expect easy. And once you bring that long awaited child home, it actually gets harder than all of that waiting, fundraising, travel, and paperwork ever could have been. Bottom line, it's worth it. Totally and completely worth it. Our house has been downright ugly at times since beginning this journey and it has been so good for us. We are closer to the Father, utterly dependant, aware of our sins and selfishness, and thankful beyond words that He chose to redeem us when it cost Him everything!

The Father's love should compel us to live a life that looks very different from our own plans. That is something that I will wrestle with until I am with Him someday. I will continue to complain and ask God "why me?....I can't do this!!!" But He knows, He knows I can through Him, if only I lean in...utter surrender, utter dependence. I am thankful for this place, for His calling. Part of me never wants to leave the "hardness" of this season because the temptation of doing it without Him creeps in. Humility and dependence is good for me. God certainly knows that. I am learning to accept what He has called our family to and respond in complete surrender.

Exactly one year ago, I had no idea what I was praying. I couldn't have even imagained what would happen in the next my heart, our family, my relationship with my husband and children. God knew though. And here we are. Hard? Yes! Exhausted? Absolutely! Stretched? Yes! Comfortable? Haha...Heck NO! But blessed?  Oh wow, beyond measure! He called us because He loves us, and that my friends, is something I will never grasp!

In case you didn't know, it is Orphan Awareness Month. What might He be calling you to?

Pictures to follow, of course...promise!  It will be worth it!:)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Locks of Love...With a Twist!!!

There are so many families that I would love to help with fundraising for their adoptions! 

Unfortunately I am lacking lots of things these days...time, talents, energy, money, mental name a few.  But something I do have a lot of is hair!  Okay don't laugh! Stay with me here.

I have cut my hair for Locks of Love multiple times and I began thinking maybe I could use it to raise funds for a family in the midst of adoption.  I kept thinking...SURELY someone out there wants to see me nearly bald!!!  What a fun little way to raise some cash for travel expenses for this very sweet family that I love dearly! 

Meet Brian & Priscilla Hogue...
They are a (current) family of 4 and are dear friends of ours.  They are some of the most generous and sincere people I know.  They walk out their faith very tangibly and we are blessed to call them our friends.  We are praying so hard that they will bring their son home from South Korea very soon...and boy is he a cutie pie!  I would love to blow them away with generosity as they blow others away on a regular basis!

So, I have between 10-12 inches and that would take my hair to a VERY short length. 

This is how it will work.  For every $100 that gets donated, 1 inch will come off.  I have set the chip-in at $1,500.  If more money is donated than I have hair in inches, I promise that I will go very very short!  I am so scared to write that!  But Derek and I love throwing out hypotheticals and I keep thinking that if someone walked up to me and said "hey I will give the Hogues 2K if you chop your hair off right now...will you do it?" Well, heck yeah I would!  It's hair, it will grow back, right?!?  haha!  And what could be more worth it than bringing this absolutely adorable little guy home to his family?....Meet Jacob!

Oh my!  I could eat this munchkin up!  And I am partial because he is in South Korea and Derek being half Korean and all...well I just can't resist this face!:)  Seriously, isn't he the cutest?!?

Once again, here is how it will work.  For every $100 donated, I will cut off 1 inch of hair.  If more money is donated than I have in inches, I will go super short!  And the challenge will end in one month on November 20.  So, you have until then to make me really regret this decision! LOL!

You can donate to the Chip-In on the top right of our blog.

Thanks in advance everyone....and spread the word!  I know that the Hogues are grateful for every penny!

Here is the Hogue's blog if you want to keep up with their adoption. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Testing, Testing, Is This Thing On??????

Safe to say this post has been mulling around in my head for quite sometime!  If you are still reading and checking in on us, thank you!

The last month has brought me closer to God than I ever thought possible.  Every day I am reminded of how much I need Him.  And thankfully, every day He shows up. 

We returned home on the 17th of Sep. and were greeted by an amazing sight at the airport.  Friends came out very late at night to welcome home the newest Kramer with signs, flowers, cameras, hugs, stuffed monkeys, and lots of smiles and tears (mostly mine)!  A dear friend that is a very talented photographer took some pics and I will post when we have them.  I also hope to get video that was taken and put it into some type of creative video with all of my spare time:)  We were truly overwhelmed and felt so cared for in so many ways!

Lots of you may know that Samuel went in for his appt. at Vanderbilt (the Down's Syndrome Clinic) for an appt. that we had scheduled before we left for Russia and had been home home just a few short days.  They ended up admitting him that day for "Severe Dehydration, Constipation, and Malnutrition."  We were there for 3 days and while I was with Samuel, my husband...Father of the Year!...was at home taking care of the 3rd child of the week vomiting profusely!  And of course, you know what comes with that...LAUNDRY!  Oh my dear husband!  He is amazing!  All beds were clean and everything disinfected when we returned home!

Basically, Samuel had not pooped for at least 10 days and the doctors believe from all of the blood work and x-rays that he existed these last 2 years in a constant state of dehydration and constipation.  It truly breaks my heart.  I won't go into detail (seriously, I almost took a picture!) but it took 2 suppositories, a full bag of IV fluids, a full enema, and 2 doses of Miralax for him to get it out!! Oh.My.Word!!!  He is now on Miralax twice a day because his colon is so stretched from the constipation over the last 2 years.  The hope is that if he goes once a day, it will eventually shrink and that could take many months, maybe a year.

We have gotten through some feeding issues, and although still not great, he is eating LOTS of new foods and drinking from a wide mouthed cup!!! Praise God....we are so grateful for that!  And he finally LOVES the bath.  To say he hated it at first is a gross understatement.  Again, very grateful!  He splashes like a wild man now.

As far as interacting with us and his brother and sisters, every day is better and better.  We have days where he is less "smiley" and seems distant, but he has been home for less than a month and has been through so much change.  We are constantly reminded that it will just take time.  He also flinches and screams/crys less and less with any type of hygiene/routine care such as wiping his face, cutting his nails, diaper changes, etc...  I can tell he is beginning to trust us more.  I must whisper, "Mommy will be gentle" to him at least 20 times a day!

We hope to start therapy within the next month or so.  Sweet boy has a long way to go and we cannot wait to see him grow more and more.  Funny thing is that everyone keeps saying how different he looks and how much weight he has gained.  Haha!  I love it!  He has actually lost almost 2 pounds...probably in poop!!!  Seriously though, I think his body is actually using the nutrients he is getting and it is so cute to see all his new little sprouts of hair!  His chest has filled in a bit and his skin looks less mottled to me.  He is still a tiny little guy at 17 lbs and in 12 month clothing, but beginnning to grow!  I truly cannot wait to see all that God has in store for this precious child!

All of the other little Kramer monkeys are doing great.  Their love for Samuel is really a beautiful and very innocent picture of how amazing children think and respond.  They act as if he has always been their brother...and in God's eyes he has.  Of course, there are adjustments.  Please know that it is not always rosey by any stretch, but overall all of our children are adjusting really well with all of the change.  Emily is loving being homeschooled and we are finally getting into a groove.  She amazes me daily! And Timothy is as much of a stinker as ever and truly melts me with his daily "I love you Mommy!"  Today in the car he said, "you look really pretty today Mommy." Melt.My.Heart! And sweet Stella Bella...oh my goodness I cannot breathe enough of that little pumpkin in.  She is truly intoxicating!  From her infectious little giggle to her mischevious blue eyes, I could literally eat her up!  I love my babies!  Each of them brings something so sweet and perfectly their own to our family.  Derek and I are blessed beyond my comprehension.  God sure has been gracious to us!

As for me and Derek, we are stretching and growing closer in so many ways.  We have never walked so closely and been in such desperate need of our Father.  Derek is caring and very sweet, dedicated and loyal, tender and funny, a man that I never thought I would end up with.  He is a gift.  He challenges me and through this journey of faith and obedience, God has used Derek to teach me a lot!  And praise the Lord!, we had our first real date the other night in a LONG time!  It took 2 babysitters, but it was SOOOO worth it!  Thank you Jessica and Juli...what a gift you are to us and our children! 

Finally, I should mention that we have celebrated birthdays galore!  Derek and Stella are in July.  Timothy was in August (seperate post to come) and Samuel was in September.  We had prayed early on with many friends that Samuel would be home by his 2nd birthday and it was such a joy to celebrate with many of those friends who are in our Community Group last Wed. night.  Samuel turned 2 on Sep 28 and had his first chocolate cake.  He fits right in because he LOVED it.!!  We will have a party for him that literally anyone and everyone is invited to in about 2 weeks!  More to come on that:)

Please keep us in your prayers.  The transition is still on-going and I feel the enemy continuing to try and press in.  God has been so faithful and so kind to us!  I feel His presence at every turn very very deeply!  I love my Lord so much and am grateful for all that He is doing in me, for refining me, and changing me!  I am broken....BUT GOD!!!!  He is faithful.  He is true.  He is so good. 

Now for the pics!  I know that's what you came for:):):) Enjoy them friends!  And know that you ALL played a part in bringing Samuel into our family!  He would not be here without you.  Our eyes have seen what his future would have been and I cannot express the gratitude in our hearts that he is home and has a chance to thrive and grow into all that his heavenly Father created him to be!  October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month in case you didn't know...pretty sweet timing, huh?!?:):):)

And I apologize, as much as I would love to caption every picture....well, it just isn't going to happen.  Oh well, enjoy the pics anyway!  They are chronological starting with our time in Moscow and then our first days home (pre-hospital stay) and then the photo where we are all on the blanket is the day our family was finally all together again.  Everything that follows is in order all the way up to our zoo trip this past Sat. together as a family!