Thursday, January 31, 2008

What are the Odds?

You may remember that I was able to take Hannah to see Hannah Montana in concert in Tampa back in November. It was a great last outing with just the two of us before we went back to Ukraine for Kristina. I knew that a live concert would be unfathomable for Kristina, but Hannah and I spoke about how fun it would have been to have her with us.

Back in Decemeber, Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) announced she was extending her tour and including two shows in Orlando in late January. I knew it was a long shot, but I was going to try to get tickets for the three of us. On the morning of their release, I was on the TicketMaster website with my finger perched on the key to request tickets. Unforunately, the show was sold out in a matter of minutes and I never got my request through. As the concert date approached, I checked CraigsList and eBay frequently hoping to find reasonably priced tickets. No luck. The tickets were reselling for the most rediculous prices. Kristina asked this past weekend if we could go and I explained that there was no way.

Monday morning, I was sitting at my desk reflecting on that conversation. I did one last check of eBay and Craigslist and still didn't find anything. I decided to call the Orlando Ticket Master box office, but it was 5 minutes before they opened. As I hung up on the recorded messages, I remembered a friend telling me how she had gotten tickets the morning of a show once. I steeled myself against the idea of actually getting tickets to avoid the disappointment that inevitably laid at the end of the conversation with the box office. I watched the minutes tick by on the clock in my room and decided it couldn't hurt to try. This time I got a representative and inquired after tickets for that night's show. A long sigh came across the line, "That show has been long sold out, but I can check." The click of her keyboard was audible through the phone and then, "Hmmmmm. Actually, there are a few tickets. They must have just been released." "Wait, I don't think I understood you. Did you say there are tickets?" "Yes, but let me see where they're located. They may be singles and not together," she cautioned. "Hmmmm. Well, they actually really good seats, one row off the floor." Obviously, I took the tickets. The fact that we were able to get all of them for less than the cost of what one scalper's ticket in the top balcony section was selling for, made the deal that much sweeter. I printed the tickets and couldn't wait to get home to tell the girls. Want to see what that revelation looked like?

The concert was great, even the second time around. We were so close to the stage, it was unbelievable. Everlife opened the concert. They're a girl group, three Christian sisters, and they were actually very good. Miley's dad Billy Ray Cyrus had flown to Orlando for the concert and he came out near the end and performed some songs with her. So what did Kristina think of the whole concert experience? I'd already decided that she's a hummingbird trapped in a little girl's body. Imagine that at a rock concert and you get 3 straight hours of this:

and a little of this:

At the end of a very loud evening, I was relieved to know that home was just a 20 minute drive up I-4 rather than the nearly two hour trek Hannah and I had when we had seen the concert in Tampa. We made our way through the ocean of fans pouring out of the arena and headed towards the parking garage to join the endless line of cars already snaking around the building's perimeter. I directed the children up the stairs and onto the level we had parked the car. We walked to the end of the lot when Hannah made the observation, "Mom, where's our car?" I spun around to check the level number and we were in the right place. We walked back down to the next level where a group of police officers was gathered. "Um, excuse me," I interrupted, "My car is missing." "If its a Dodge Durango, then we're trying to find it now. We think it was illegally towed," he replied. I was only slightly comforted by the fact that it hadn't been stolen. My plans to be home and in bed before 10:30 were quickly slipping away. A security guard noticed that I was wearing my school ID and offered to let us wait in the School Board Complex next door until everything was sorted out.

It was nearing midnight before the officer explained that if we wanted to get home, we'd probably have to pay the tow guy and work out the details at a later time. The tow company had taken the car waaayyyy out by the airport to an impound lot. By the time we made it there, it was after midnight and the driver had left to go get another car! We waited twenty minutes for him to return and when he came back, there was no reasoning with the man. He demanded $125 in cash to release my car. Let me tell you, I was not happy about walking up to an ATM machine at that hour. The ATM only dispenses $20 bills, so when I returned and handed him $140 he smiled and said, "Sorry, I don't have change." "So you'll just take $120 then, right?" Robert pressed. He wasn't budging. "There's a 7-11 down the road and you can probably get change there," he persisted. It was cold, it was late, and the evening needed to end. We paid him his ransom money and got the car. The evening didn't exactly end like I imagined, but its never dull around here!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Back to the Fishin' Hole

See, you should never make promises. I said I would update more often and well, I didn't. So I thought I'd give you a quick update on a favorite pastime we've been indulging in once again. Those of you who know us know we're a fishing family. Robert is a country boy, born and raised hunting and fishing in the woods of Mississippi. We introduced Kristina to fishing during the summer of 2006. The first time Robert rattled the poles and set out the tackle box a few weeks ago, she was on his heels. There's a charming little fishing hole in biking distance from the house. The shaded platform looks out over a lily pad speckled lake. The fish bite almost as soon as the hook hits the water. Even if they're small and Robert has to throw them back, the kids still get wound up just from the tug on the line. The boys have learned how to scale and clean their catch while the girls squeal in disgust. While I don't eat them, I do love to catch them (the one pictured at the top is MY catch!)

This past weekend, we ventured down the road to one of the state parks and tried our luck off the pier. Not much was biting, but before long we had a crowd of kids watching the seven of us casting into the dark waters. Robert noticed their intent interest and before I knew it had them lined up to try their hand at fishing. One of the moms walked over and commented on how good Robert is with children. She wanted to know if he was a teacher. I told her that with five children, I guess in a way he is.

We're continuing to be blessed by God in so many areas of our lives. Things aren't perfect (a post is coming on that soon enough), but we wouldn't want things any other way.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Growing in Grace

I'm sorry that we dropped off the face of the world for the past 10 days. I truly didn't intend for that to happen. We've spent time with family and had friends over. Email and voice mails have built up and I feel bad for letting it go so long. When Cindy and Gabby showed up on the doorstep last night and mentioned that they've been visiting the blog (hint, hint), I figured I better check in. The holiday was a wonderful time of togetherness for all of us. Its amazing how God has knitted us together as a family through everyday experiences. It has made me treasure the common things that make our lives so blessed. Some snapshots of our time over the last few weeks:

I think its the earliest childhood memory I have. My small hands gripped the chrome handle in front of me. My thighs aching with tension as I perched astride the yellow tank. The helmet muffling my father's voice as he gave me a warning, "Ready?" My hands, stony gripped on the metal bar, sought a tighter hold as the dirt bike began its ascent up the sand dune. He was the only one I would ride with, the only one I trusted. The motorcycles scared and thrilled me all at the same time. Kristina got her first experience on the motorcycle at my parents' house. She clung to Robert's back squealing as he whizzed across the back acre on the four wheeler. She showed little fear as she tried to ride the mini bike. It didn't take her long to get the hang of it and she spent much of the time asking when it was her turn to ride again.

Having so many brothers at the orphanage gave Kristina just the edge she needed to climb in the trees with the boys and swing from the rope swing until one of them snapped from overuse!

In the last few weeks, Kristina was able to reconnect with several friends who have been adopted by American families. Each Saturday or Sunday she chats endlessly in high pitched Russian with girls that she lived with for years in the orphanage. We're thankful that she has the opportunity to practice and use Russian. A few days ago, we learned that one of her friends would actually be in the Orlando area for a day. Anya and Kristina were very close and we couldn't pass up the chance for the girls to see each other again. We met up with Anya and her family for a few hours. The girls were immediately whispers and hugs. It was good to compare notes with Anya's parents. They're a wonderful family.

We visited Sea World and Busch Gardens (thanks, K!). Kristina still loves roller coasters and she even convinced Hannah to ride every one of them with her. They were drenched after riding the River Rapids, but insisted on going on more rides.

Church has been an exercise in self control for Kristina. She is still a constantly moving bundle of chatty energy. She cradles the song book, following the lines with her finger, belting out words here and there that she recognizes. When its time for the preaching, she turns her face into my arm and I can feel her warm breathe through my sleeve. She tries so hard not to strike up a conversation with me as she studies her church shoes swinging back and forth under the pew. Last Sunday Kristina was able to observe communion. I love the way our church practices this cherished sacrament. We knelt at the front of the church together as a family. She looked around curiously at the other families that were gathering together. Tom knelt before us, took Kristina's hand, and thanked God for bringing her into our family before he reminded us of the significance of the elements we were going to partake of. She watched as we each took the bread and wine and I loved that God would use her curiosity to provide us with a teachable moment.

So, is it all rainbows and lollipops? Of course not. We've had our fair share of growing pains, but the 10 weeks she spent with us in the summer of 2006 laid a very firm foundation. We went through much of the painful transition and willful disobedience back then (just check the past posts if you don't believe me). I appreciate that other adoptive parents like Jim, Beth, and Sean have been so honest about this period of time after adoption. Knitting a family together is not an instantaneous thing. God uses the process to refine all of us, parents, children, siblings. There have been times that I have thrown my hands up in the air and huffed out of the room. Robert has been the real hero in this portion of our journey. He has had the patience of Job, taking the time to speak with the children (over and over) about expectations and compassion for one another.

I returned to teaching this week. That's another story all to itself about the provision and goodness of God. It is so good to be back in the classroom and ministering with the gifts God has given me. All of us are enjoying school. Kristina is doing so well. We consistently reinforce in her that she is the smartest Ukrainian girl in the whole school! She's very proud of that fact!

I promise to try and be more consistent with posting. You all have been so faithful to check in and leave words of encouragement for us. We still believe that this is the beginning of an exciting journey for our family and we are in prayer over the path we think God may be calling us to. Please continue to lift us up in prayer!