Sunday, July 13, 2008

Christine tells all

Let me start off by saying that I really have enjoyed reading all of your questions. Some of them had to do with what happened to Dennis and while they were quite personal, I appreciate how delicately you approached the subject. Honestly, I expected you to ask, and I will try to answer as honestly as I can while keeping private the things that I think he will have wanted me to keep private out of respect for him.

This is the post where I will probably share more info about myself and my family then in any other post I have written before, and you probably will get bored before you finish reading, but I nonetheless have promised myself that I will share with you all the answers to your questions. I smiled more than once when I read some of your comments and I am thankful that just when I think that my post is baring my soul a little too much, I can lighten it up by sharing what my favorite flavor of ice-cream is. Thanks, Christie.

Here goes.

About us

It didn't take John and I long before we eloped to Tahoe in December, 1993. We are living proof that opposites do attract and over time we have come to compliment each other------ the secret to our successful marriage. That, and our mutual love for the Lord who we both came to accept and adore in 1996, and there you have the explanation why we will both love each other until death do us part. John and I both feel passionate that I should stay home with the kids, and he provides for all us as a Director of Supply Chain in the fruit and juice business out here in California. We both just celebrated birthdays last month------ I am 33, he is 39.

Did we always want this large of a family? No. What I mean by that answer is that we didn't sit down before marriage and discuss kids or how many either of us both wanted. It is amazing that for the most part, we are both happy about the size of our family. That is what I mean by us complimenting each other. Through our love for the Lord we have both tried to stay in tune with each others desires and we have both come to realize that children are a gift from God. Honestly, I think that something that happened in my past has kept my desire to have more children going, and I thank God that my husband has not been able to find a good reason to quench my desire. We both mutually felt led to adopt after the Asian Tsunamis struck in December 2004, and we have been blessed with the the uniqueness as to how our family has been knit together.

Sadly, I think that John feels our family is now complete..... me on the other hand (and I am sure that some people will not be too pleased to read this)would love to fill up our van. As far as what the future holds.... we'll just have to wait and see. One thing is for sure....... we both agree that Dennis will be keeping us busy for awhile.

I really enjoy driving my fifteen passenger van, and yes I have become quite good at it. My three point turns are actual three point turns now instead of seven and I rarely bump the cars in front of me when I am trying to park (just kidding). We listen to homemade Cds--- that way there is a little of what everyone likes and for the most part we get from point A to point B with me only having to yell once or twice. ;).

As far as getting the kids ready for school or when we have to go somewhere...... they are really good about that. My kids are very responsible and nine times out of ten, they wake me up in the morning.... even on school days. We always make it to first service at our church and my kids are never late to school just because. I admit that I am strict.... no dilly-dallying when it is time to get ready to go somewhere........ we don't put any emphasis on a long fancy beauty regimen. It should only take 31 minutes to get ready in the morning...... five to get dressed, one to fix your bed, ten to brush your teeth, go potty, and do your hair, five to pack your lunch, and five to ten to eat breakfast. Really, if they can't get ready in the morning in 31 minutes or less then that means that they are still tired evidenced by how slow they are moving and should probably go to bed early that night and probably for the rest of the week for that matter, until they can move a little faster in the morning. This may sound strict, but it is what we are all used too, and it works for our family.

Oh, and I think I'm a plain old chocolate ice-cream kind of girl. A bowl late at night eaten next to my husband in bed while watching Letterman is heavenly.

Our Faith

Our family attends the First Baptist Church in our community. You can read all about it here. We both love the Lord and put him at the top of our marriage. We are like a triangle in a three way relationship with John and I at the base of the triangle. As we get closer to God, we move up the triangle, and as a result we become closer to one another.

My Motivation for adopting Dennis

Clear and simple. I absolutely love the joy that children bring. I can no longer have children biologically and yet have never felt done growing my family. I believe that God closed one door and opened another. I cannot explain the desire that God has put into my heart to have so many children......... I guess it would be like someone trying to explain why they feel that having three children is perfect for them. I think that our amazing God lays different things on each of our hearts and that none of us is made to think and feel the same. While I have come to accept that not everyone will understand nor support my feelings on having a large family, I know that it isn't their opinion that I have to care about.

I just do not want to put a box around God and say that we shouldn't have more children just so that we will fit into society. I do not like the excuses, that I can't save the world so I should stop trying. I am not trying to save the world. I do not want to limit what God wants to accomplish through our family. I truly believe that he will satisfy my desire to have children when his plan for our family size is complete. Why wouldn't he? I know tons of people who feel their family is complete and wouldn't even contemplate adding another child to their family. I wanted to adopt Dennis because I do not yet feel that way.

As far as his special needs...... I also feel that by demanding a a perfectly healthy child, I am putting a box around what God wants to accomplish through us. I am so thankful that he laid Dennis on my heart because I know that there are many blessings to come by having this precious child in our lives. I think of how imperfect I am and how devastated I would be had my family and friends chosen to not make me a part of their lives.

I personally enjoy getting to be a part of each of my child's lives and cannot think of doing anything more meaningful in life than to help raise a child that God has entrusted me to temporarily raise and take care of in this short amount time that we are here on earth. Sure, my children will not get as many material things growing up that other children in smaller families will get and we very well may struggle to put them all through college, but I do know that they will grow up having been exposed to family values that will be helpful in raising their own families someday with added patience, humility, tolerance, responsibility, compassion, and knowledge that family is where the heart of everything lies.

James 1:27 (New International Version)
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

About Dennis

Dennis is from the Antoshka orphanage in Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. He is almost 22 months old but reminds me more of a 12 month old because of his size and lack of stimulation and freedom to interact with other children. He spent the first fourteen months of his life in a hospital. I truly believe that he will continue to catch up by leaps and bounds like we have already seen and that in no time he will be developmentally on target except for his speech. Now I may be completely wrong so don't hold me to this..... but regardless we will always love him to pieces.

As far as Dennis' medical conditions.... we are truly in the dark at this point. In the beginning we were told that his eye and scarring were do to a tragic accident resulting in his mother's parental rights being terminated but have since been told that his injuries happened naturally while he was in the womb. One of the doctors that I contacted went as far as to say that his injuries were caused my facial clefts or amniotic banding. Either way, we saw a very young baby picture of him with his eye the way it is now so we know he has been this way for most if not all of his life. John and I are hopeful that he has some sight in his right eye and might be a candidate for an eye transplant, but we just really don't know. He appears to have a cleft palate that makes eating hard for him---- everything has to be pureed. Of course, we are planning on doing all that we can to help Dennis as soon as possible so that he can live a more normal life and have a less shocking appearance. While it is not necessary that he have any operation to alter his appearance in order for us to be his proud parents, I do think that Dennis would appreciate having a softer first impression as he gets older.

He will most likely need numerous surgeries, and while we don't have the details worked out yet, we have faith that God will work out the logistics in order for us to provide for all of his medical needs. We do have both of our parents that live fairly close, and John's job is very flexible, and our church family and friends always amaze me how they faithfully step up to help when the need calls for it. I don't want to take anything for granted but I do trust that God will carry us through all of this.

Juggling the dynamics of a large family

As far as juggling the needs of all the other children---- I just do it. It is not a big thing---in fact I take care of my children in exactly the same way moms of smaller families take care of theirs--- what choice is there? I do however, find shortcuts that make our lives easier, like always having two of the older kids go to the dentist at the same time where I can just drop them off and have them look out for each other while I run errands and then I swing back by and pick them up when they are done. Little things like that, and really it is not that hard. My son's monthly trip to the orthodontist has been combined with visiting my mom and doing a Costco run. I try to schedule trips to the doctor to coincide with my other son's trips to the dermatologist.

While Dennis in my mind is a healthy little boy I am not kidding myself either. I know that he has special needs and will require numerous medical appointments, surgeries, occupational therapy, and not to mention speech therapy. But that isn't new to me. Four of my other children have or had IEPS with the same types of services. My husband and I have learned to advocate for our children and feel confident that Dennis will receive all of the services he needs to do well in school come time he is ready for kindergarten.


As far as how we were received in Ukraine... I think that went really well. We always made our desire to adopt Dennis regardless of his "imperfections" clear to everyone we met. Sure we got many questions, but once they knew our hearts and intentions, we both felt really comfortable around all of the officials. Were people shocked when we told them we had 10 kids? Of course, but after being in Ukraine and seeing how much more difficult it is to raise kids there compared to here, I can understand why. Most places aren't stroller-kid friendly with ramps and such. Many tall apartment buildings do not have elevators. Unless you find the hole in the wall stores like John and I ventured out to find and are okay with buying less than name brand things for your baby, raising one child in Ukraine is very expensive, let alone ten. We take so many for granted here in America that makes raising a child a breeze compared to raising a child in another country.

Court went well---lasted about an hour. Naturally we were asked lots of questions about our family, home, job, ability to provide for another child, and motivation to adopt a child with special needs, but we never felt like our answers might not be good enough. It really seemed as if the judge was just making sure to see if what was written in our dossier matched with what we said.

Gifts and medical needs

Yes, we have been blessed many times over with donations towards Dennis' adoption, but it never crossed my mind that some of you would be asking to send something once he was home. You guys are just amazing. Let me tell you. I am so thankful for all of your kind and encouraging words, prayers, and donations, that I feel like we have already been blessed more than one could ever imagine. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

(Amy, I got your package in the mail today. The overalls are adorable. I hope they fit Dennis. You are so very thoughtful....... I wish you were closer so that we could go out for coffee together. Will you please email me your blog again?)

As far as Dennis' medical costs, I am assuming that most of it will be covered by insurance, but if not, we will cross that path when we come to it. My husband is a wonderful provider and we are by no means poor, but I do not think we have thousands of dollars laying around for Dennis medical bills if they are not covered by insurance. However, again I do not feel that God would carry us this far and then leave us high and dry. I just have a feeling that God has amazing plans for this little one, and I trust that his needs will be met one way or another. No matter what happens, I will just always remind myself that he is better off in our family then he was back in the orphanage without anyone to truly love him. I believe that love in itself will prove to be some of the best medicine Dennis will ever get.

Our family

Thank God, our family has been supportive. Naturally we were met with some questions, but I have no doubt in my mind that they will all fall in love with Dennis once they meet him if they haven't already. :)

I have a wonderful relationship with my mother and she is a huge help to us. My in-laws are extraordinary. I have been truly blessed by my husband's parents and they are the most amazing grandparents to our children.

We have an amazing extended family as well, and they have all been very supportive.

Out in public

As I close, I do want to address how I handle those odd and often times rude questions that people ask.

First off, not all people are rude. Many have been very complimentary and uplifting. But for those who have felt compelled to ask some off the wall comment....... I fantasize about giving them some off the wall response back.

"Are all of those kids yours?"

You don't know how many times I have been tempted to say, "No, are you kidding? I just like to go around and pick up all the neighbor kids when I go shopping so that I don't get lonely."

But I don't. And I try not to let it anger me. Honestly, I find their questions amusing and just try to answer as politely as possible. I always think of this as an opportunity to shine a light for Jesus.


Mike and Christie said...

I just knew it was chocolate somehow! :)

MMrussianadoption said...

thanks for giving us so much details. Cant wait for the little one to meet all his new siblings.

Salzwedel Family said...

Thanks for sharing so much about your wonderful family Christine. God loves your faithfulness. I can't wait to see pictures of your precious Dennis at home with the rest of the gang!

Salzwedel Family said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Terri O'Laughlin said...

Thanks for sharing everything. Good luck with travels this week. I will be praying for a safe return with a beautiful little boy! You are all lucky to have found each other! God Bless!

One Crowded House said...

Your family is awesome....

We only have 6 kiddos- but I get that question all the time "are they all yours"....
I like your answer :)

Wishing safe travels for your hubby and baby.... can't wait to see pics of all the kids meeting Dennis!

Mike and Christie said...

Christine, what a great story and wonderful testimony of God's Faithfulness. You are correct, HE will provide, as HE IS your provider.
And even if Dennis were to never have surgery, he is still him. He is still that sweet little guy that stole your heart and he is in a MUCH better situation than he would or could ever be in Ukraine.

Sarah has restrictive Band syndrome and I didn't see any bands on any part of Dennis's body. So I would question that. It doesn't matter.

I just bet the Craniofacial Foundation may be of huge help to you and Dennis.

The Lord has taken care of each and every medical need we have had for our girls in a miraculous way.

If we had looked at our income and their needs without the lense of the Lord's leading, we would have said, "we can't do this", and THAT my dear, is exactly where God wants us. We can't, but HE can. :)

As for those comments, "are you finished yet? are they all yours?
You just need a shopping shirt.
Put one question on the front with answer. And one question on the back with Answer. :)

As for the comments you will get.... get prepared....

Our son who had CP prepared me for the questions we got for our girlies. But people would come right up and say, "did you take drugs when you were pregnant? or "what is wrong with him?" I would simply say, "nothing is wrong with him, why?" and walk away.

I suspect folks will stop and ask you if he had an accident and you can simply come up with a kind comeback...

For our girls, somebody asked me, "did you have a terrible accident?"
I said, no it was no accident. We are together on purpose. :)

TheMonroe6 said...

Beautiful post, thank for sharing!

Kristy said...

It was wonderful to hear your story.
We have 8 kids now and are trying to adopt six. We were really questioning whether it could be done but it was an encouragement to read your blog. God is in control!

kitzkazventure said...

Loved getting to know you better! What a special family!

A. Ray. said...

I just feel like I've known you guys forever! I love how you have shared your heart and your family with us! I can't wait to read more about Dennis and John's journey back home!!

The Flying Eagle said...

I wish we lived closer to you so you could adopt me :-) I have a feeling I would love hanging out with you and your family. We are having so many doubts and fears right now. But I am so comforted when I read your blogs -- they always seem to say exactly what I need to hear at the right time. I am very grateful that you have opened your heart to us.

Rachel said...

Thanks for being so open to sharing so much personal information. You have a beautiful family!

I am looking so forward to Dennis coming home to join you all!

Little Patch of Heaven said...


Thanks for sharing. I will be emailing you tomorrow. You are an inspiration to me.


redmaryjanes said...

You are amazing to me and so inspiring. You are a spiritual blessing and I am so glad to have crossed your path.

Stefanie said...

Christine, Thanks for being so honest. God will continue to provide for Dennis and your family beyond your wildest imagination. You don't need to worry about the future, because God goes before you. I wish you all God's best in your life. I admire you for saying, "yes, Lord!" when many would have said, "no or I can't" You are blessed! Stefanie

MamaPoRuski said...

PLAIN Chocolate was really the only surprise. (And that you are YOUNGER THAN ME! :0) You strike me as a "french vanilla bean" kinda gal. Give me mint chocolate chunks any day... :)
Oh, and I want to know how many gallons of milk you go through each day...
Thanks for being an example of Christ in human skin!

tammy said...

thanks for sharing! i enjoy reading your blog. your adoption adventure has brought me encouragement during ours.

Rachel said...

I greatly admire you and your family and your willingness to follow the Lord and adopt Dennis. I look forward to seeing pictures of him with his siblings! As for the question: "Are they all yours?" my favorite response , I believe is from the book: Cheaper By the Dozen. The dad had six of the kids with him, and was asked "Are those all your children?" He said, "No, the other six are at home!"

Chelley said...

Your family is AMAZING! And I am so happy for your all and your new little man!

Thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions!!!

I really admire you! You really are an inspration to me!

Nancy said...

Christine--thanks for sharing! You are an inspiration to many.

Martha said...

I am blessed by this extraordinary story! And I love the statement "I believe that love in itself will prove to be some of the best medicine Dennis will ever get." If only we all let Jesus love through us in this way, the world would truly be a better place.

I had to laugh at your van comments. For a short time I drove a 15 passenger van, although it was missing two back seats. I actually learned to park between two cars at the grocery store! (Without hitting either one) Once a guy walked out in front of me while I was driving my Toyota Corolla and asked me if I "knew how to drive that thing". I doubt he would have dared to walk out in front of the Clubwagon.

Kevin & Pam said...

I really enjoyed reading your post. You have and are touching many peoples lives. You have expanded and challenged my thinking in several ways. Both my husband and I have been touched by your honesty. Thank you!

Kevin and Tammy said...

Thanks for the beautfiul insight into your family.

Connie said...

Hi Sis :-) Good post! I know you know what you are doing (as much as anyone does!) and it's good to read your attitude about it. If we were all meant to be the same, we would have been created that way. See you soon. We fly out today!

Jill (& Bob) said...

Thank you for all of your truthful answers. I am relieved (for Dennis' sake) that his medical problems are likely from amniotic banding. I know that God has find a wonderful, loving home for him. May God continue to bless your family!

Zac and Jenny said...

Christine you are one DYNAMIC woman. I am proud to call you my friend!

I can hardly wait for Dennis to be home. I completely agree with you that just having your family love him is the BEST medicine of all!

Lastly, could you email me your address so I can send you some of Bryant's hand-me-downs. My email is zjbrandolph at cableone dot net

My prayers are with your family during this transition week. Praying for safe travel for John and Dennis.


Amy said...

Another chocolate ice cream lover! Thanks for such wonderful insight!
Can you give us a guess on what size of clothes Dennis is in?

Glad you liked the overalls - I too hope that they fit!


Sean and Lisa said...

Christine, it was so great reading about you and hearing your heart! Thanks for sharing. Praying your hubby and Dennis home safely.

Dolores said...

About your "motivation to adopt Dennis"-- you voiced my feelings exactly.

About the amniotic banding being a possibility in what happened to Dennis-- I'd wondered if that could be it.

About all of us loving Dennis-- you're right!

mommy24treasures said...

loved reading more about you and your beautiful family.
You probably have thought about this or someone has probably recommended it but with Dennis's medical needs have you considered the Shriner's? I know others that have adopted and the Shriner's were so caring for their children.

Tracy said...

Christine, thanks for answering all those questions. That was a marathon post for you to write. :o) The answers about Dennis' health issues were just as I had gotten the impression from your previous posts. I'm sure it will be very interesting and intriguing as you get in for evaluations in the coming months. And what happy news that he is ON HIS WAY HOME now!

I love the t-shirt idea that Christie suggested. :o)

Mindy said...

What a wonderful post! Everything from how you guys met, to your family, to Dennis - everything! Thank you for sharing it all and for giving us such an in depth glimpse into your home life. Can't wait to see Dennis grow and blossom - it's going to be amazing!

Chelley said...

just wondering if my parcel arrived yet?

Paula said...

Great Post. I'm going to have to try and see if I can get MYSELF ready in 31 minutes. I've learned a lot from you and you truly inpire me. Dennis will be a lucky boy to join your family and your family will be lucky and blessed to have him.
Yes, I agree, its all about shining the light for Jesus!

Expat Mom said...

I happen to think it`s great that you have a big family. I`d love one myself, but it just isn`t possible at the moment. Perhaps in the future.

Thanks for sharing this post . . . I just found your blog through Kimmie and this was a good way to orient myself a bit. :)

Christine said...

Thank you for all of your uplifting comments.

6blessings said...

Christine, what a wonderful post! We do not have nearly as large of a family as you do, but we encounter many of the same things you posted about and we feel exactly the same as you do. So, are your answers copywrited? No, I'm just joking. You did say everything that needed to be said in a perfect and complete way. It was a blessing to read!!

Annie said...

This was very nice, Christine. I knew most of the answers (have been following your life a long time!) but was pleased to learn even more about a good blog-friend.

Interesting, the two stories about Dennis' background. We were also given two stories about one of our children, but because I understood Russian I was also aware of the argument that went on between the director of the orphanage (who had previously told us the truth) and the chief SW (who did not want to tell us any details and denied the director's story was true). What I couldn't tell, was the reason why the SW didn't want to tell us the truth...did she think it would taint our feelings about our son? I suppose it makes me a tad curious, but as much about the argument between the ladies as about the fate of our child's mother.