Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankful for YOU

This year at Thanksgiving I have so many things to be thankful for.

But the one thing that I think about almost on a daily basis is how thankful I am for all of you that helped to bring my sons home.

Your Prayers. Support. Encouragement.

Your Giving of Time to help with fundraising.

Giving of Money. For many of you I know it was sacrificial giving. Maybe you didn't even have a dollar to spare, yet you gave.

I do not, and never will, take any of it for granted.

I want you to know that your $5. Your $100. Your $500. It was a gift that will go on for eternity.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you for giving my boys the opportunity to have a HOME. To have a mommy and daddy, a sister and brothers. To feel love.

This is what YOU made possible

Gabe then

Gabe today

Levi then

Levi today

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Placed by God's hands

We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life

But those who make their journey home

Across time & miles,

Growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them

Are carried on the wings of destiny

And placed among us

By God's very own hands

Friday, September 23, 2011


My 24 year old brother Luke decided to make a trip into some woods one day in our little city of Brooksville. He had a bag full of burgers and decided to see if anyone living amongst the trees would like some.

That was the first of many visits and the beginning of a genuine relationship with a man that called himself Kowboy.

Kowboy passed away this week.


My sister Tanya wrote this:

No one probably even noticed when this happened yesterday in the morning. It happened in the woods. In a tent. Probably alone. Kowboy was a homeless man who lived in the woods in Brooksville. You have probably seen him stumbling down the sidewalk a time or two. Not someone you would look at and give a second thought to, except maybe that he really needs to do something with himself, and then look the other way.

A few people did get to know him though. Luke, April and Alex got to know him a long time ago and had frequent visits since. They got to know this man who's real name is Claude, but everyone knows as Kowboy (with a K). April even made him a cowboy hat of his own, with his name "Kowboy" stitched on the front.

Over the past two years Luke and Kowboy became very close. Sharing meals together. Drinks. Stories. Luke listened to the man a lot of people would simply wave off. He learned that Kowboy had a sister, a family, loved ones. He learned that Kowboy served this country many years ago in Vietnam. That he was haunted by memories of things he saw, things he did, regrets.

Luke also learned that he just met one of the most giving and caring people he would probably ever know. A man who had nothing, but would give you everything. A man who looked out for others that came wondering into his "camp" looking for shelter, an extra tent to sleep in. Kowboy was a man who never once asked for anything for himself, but if someone he knew had a need, he would call Luke up to see if it could be filled. "So and so needs a sleeping bag. Someone just got their tent ripped up, could you get one for them?"

Kowboy would just randomly stop by Luke's work, just to talk. Or maybe show him a new chord he learned on the guitar that Alex gave him. When he was sober he could actually play pretty well.

Once he did need a ride back from the jail. He got kicked out of his spot in the woods and then arrested for loitering. This was a common occurrence for him and his friends.

One time when he was caught at another spot in the woods he called Luke to see if he could bring his truck so they wouldn't have to make so many trips. While moving stuff it looked like it was gonna start storming. Kowboy started to get angry at God for allowing this to happen, so Luke suggested praying that the rain would hold off, at least till they were done. Kowboy almost laughed at this, "why would God even care about us enough to do something like that?" God cares, Luke said, very much. "Sure, go ahead" said Kowboy.

Luke prayed, and the rain didn't come until they were finished. I think that was the turning point for Kowboy.

One day, out of the blue he called Luke up. He was going to stay with his sister in Georgia. He wanted to get sober. (Something he had no intention of doing, and had not been in years). He was so proud to tell Luke, and Luke was just as proud to hear it. Like a parent that just found out his kid wants to go to college, this was a huge milestone.

Time went by. Some of his friends would come by to see Luke, check in, maybe get some supplies.

Then out of the blue Luke got a phone call. It was Kowboy. He was with his sister in Georgia and he was doing great. Sober. Feeling better than he had in a long time. He just wanted to call and check on Luke to see how he was doing, and to let him know that things were going great. Again, Luke was so proud. In fact he beamed for the rest of the day like a proud dad. More time went by with a few phone calls here and there, just to check in.

Not long ago he called to tell Luke he was coming back to Florida for a bit. He missed his friends and just thought he would visit for a while. He was still doing good, so Luke wasn't sure if it would be a good idea to come back and be around the same crowd again, but Kowboy won out.

Visits were few and far between. Time went on. Kowboy still stayed in Florida.

Then on September 21st, around 10am, Luke got the news. Kowboy was found in his tent, no longer awake on this earth.

Luke and Alex went by the campsite that evening to bring dinner to his friends and just sit and share stories, memories, tears and laughter. No one wanted to move anything in his tent or touch any of his belongings. They all brought flowers to surround his tent with. They celebrated the life of a man who was once someones baby. Someones brother. Someones friend. A man who usually wouldn't get a second glance beyond the first glance of judgment. But those who knew him, and took the time to sit with him knew what kind of man he was. He was a man of honor. A man of dignity and hope. A man who was selfless. A man of compassion.

The one comfort that we now have is that we know where he is.

A place with no more tears, no more hunger, no more pain and no more suffering. There is a place that was set for him at the banquet table that he is sitting at and enjoying every moment. He has probably already joined the angel choir singing praises at the top of his lungs. I can see Jesus beaming at him like Luke used to, like a proud father, happy to see his son again.

He may not have meant much to that many people, but he meant everything to one person. Jesus.


The thing I love most about what my brother and his friends did was that it was not about "religion". They made a point to build RELATIONSHIP. They knew they didn't need to preach to Kowboy and the rest of the camp, or stand in a circle holding hands to pray. No, they wanted to SHOW Jesus to them by their actions. By coming out into their world. Their dirty, smelly, uncomfortable world. To simply play cards, talk, and share meals together.
It's funny, I remember someone else in the Bible that would do the same (well maybe not cards) and the "Religious" had a real problem with it.

I'm sharing this with you to encourage you to think twice when you see someone on the side of the road looking for a handout. Don't worry about needing to preach to them. Maybe they just need a smile.

I know there are a lot of thoughts about what the homeless do with the money you may give them. My take on that? Read the Word. Did Jesus, in the hundreds of times that He talks about helping the poor, did He ever say that you better know that when you give to them it better be going to good use?

I highly recommend reading the book, "Under the Overpass" by Mike Yankoski

It is about a young man that steps into the life of a homeless man living on the streets for months. It will open your eyes and really help you understand what your role could be in helping the homeless.

But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won't help him--how can God's love be within him ? Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions. - 1 John 3:17&18

Friday, September 16, 2011

New beauty waiting to be born


I know many of you are asking about the boys and how they are doing. I do post updates often on my Face Book, so if you would like to add me feel free. Just let me know that you are a blog follower:)

I have so many blog post rolling around in my mind and I so wish I had the time to write them down! In the meantime I thought I would do a quick catch up post and of course have pictures for your enjoyment.

We have been home 3 months today!

Gabe and Levi are doing really well. Far better than I expected really.

Gabe is gaining more energy everyday. He likes to crawl throughout the house and even pulls himself to stand in his playpen. He is a cuddler and would spend the whole day with his arms wrapped around your neck, snuggled close to you if he could.

Health wise he has gained 4 pounds. He does have a heart murmur and is scheduled for the cardiologist this Thursday.
We went to the dentist and most of his teeth will need to come out. The rot and decay is due to 6 years of lying down with a bottle. The pain he must have went through is hard to even think about.
Thankfully they are all baby teeth.
We cannot have that procedure done however until we find out the condition of his heart.

Levi surprises me everyday. He is learning sign language fast. I can sign "shoes" when it's time to go and he will go and take his shoes out of the cubby for me to put on. After one time of showing him to take his shoes off once we are home and to put them away, he now does this as soon as we walk in the door.
Levi's main issue right now is over stimulation when we go out in public. He gets so excited with all the new sights and sounds that he works himself up to a place that is hard to bring him down from. At home though during our normal routine, he is usually calm and happy.
I love that he is getting attached to me and Guy. If I am in a room with others, he will usually prefer me. He comes to me constantly throughout the day to be held and snuggled.

Levi has also gained 4 pounds. He is overall healthy.

Both boys will start speech, feeding, occupational, and physical therapy next week.
The therapist said that Levi falls in the 16-19 month old developmentally and Gabe is around 3 months.
They loved the boys and were excited to have "happy" kids to work with:) They said that I am going to be tickled to see how much and how quickly Gabe advances.

So how is life at the House's House?
Well, I went from looking for something to do during the week, to: schooling a 6th grader and 2 first graders, a little side job once a week so Jude and Zane could take Karate class, drum and guitar lessons (thanks to 2 wonderful Uncles), the gym 5-6 days a week (I am addicted to spin class!!!), co-op, church, changing more diapers than I can count, doctor appointments and therapy appointments. Whew!

It is also filled with this:

First trip to the beach


When he saw the seagulls he ran flapping his little arms wildly after them



Looking at this gorgeous face everyday

Hugs from GG (Great Grandma)

Of course naps are always nice

Last month Gail Hollenbeck, Times Correspondent came to our home and wrote a beautiful story on our family. You can read it here:
A Brooksville family shares the love, adopts boys with Down syndrome - St. Petersburg Times

"Dreams are renewable. No matter what our age or condition,
there are still untapped possibilities within us and new beauty waiting to be born."


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Angels Singing

Did you hear them?

The angels.

Singing, every morning last week at 8:15AM when I walked out of our house with all 5 kids fed, teeth brushed, bathed, dressed and ready for VBS. It was definitely a miracle.

This last month that we have been home I have basically been hanging around the house because of the simple fact that it takes a LOT to go out. Not just because there are now five kids, but with Gabe and Levi being more like a toddler and an infant, it takes a lot of planning and packing to be out for the day.

It was a long week, but a great one. My husband was the director this year and I helped with the photography. The kids all had a blast.

In the middle of this crazy week I thought a photo shoot was in order.



My boys just LOVE to let mommy take their pictures

Yeah right!!!
"Why is mommy making me stand in this stuff?!?!"

"It's not that bad Levi"

"Well, this is better being off the ground, but I still wouldn't call this fun"






Saturday, July 16, 2011

Extreme Home Makeover

Cards given to us from sweet Matanya and Makayla. Love those girls.

I have been wanting to show off share what we came home to after our trip to get our boys. It was something I never even imagined. I am not one that you can pull surprises on very often. I almost always find out.

Not this time...

We could not wait to get HOME. Our boys. Our beds. Air condition.

When we walked in to our house I couldn't believe my eyes.

First of all, every womens dream. My house was spotless.

I didn't leave it too out of order, but knowing that it was used by several different friends and family to watch the boys I figured it would be in need of a good cleaning when we returned.

Then the next thing I noticed was my table. This wonderful table was handed down to me from my Grandma. I have memories of all the family on my Dad's side, sitting around the table for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
It now fits perfectly in my dinning room and is used for everything from meals to boardgames to Home School.
As perfect as it was, the medium brown wood color wasn't my style. And neither were the blue striped country seat cushions.

(One of our Science days)

I had dreamed and talked about painting it black someday. Of course I knew it was just talk because there was NO WAY
I would ever get around to painting it.
Way to big of a project for me.

Oh yes they did!!!! My amazing family and friends refinished my table.


It is far more awesome then I could have even imagined it to be.

They even re-covered all the seat cushions.


- A little side note. My sister Tanya has had a burden for awhile now to minister and assist with orphans in some way. She wrote about it HERE After working on my house she decided that she wants to refinish furniture and sell it having 100% of the profits going towards orphans and those adopting.
So if anyone local has old furniture you'd like to get rid of, I know just the garage you can dump it in! -

But the surprises didn't stop there.

Tanya said she had this idea for awhile, to fix up my house while we were gone. She actually said that she had many more things she wanted to do but we came back to soon. I told her she should've told me that and I could have arranged a long layover in Paris so she could finish.

So Tanya, along with my sister Kara & her husband Stefen, my brothers Luke and Adam, and friends Amber and April spent countless hours in the evenings after work putting little touches all over my house.

Refinished the "ugly desk"

Painted the light above the table

Filled once empty frames all over my house with photo's of us in Ukraine.

Refinished this old door that Tanya bought and hung it as a frame to hold photo's.
I can't wait to fill it up!

I had really wanted to decorate the boys room but ran out of time. They added these cool touches which made the room perfect for my four boys.

Genesis' room had special things all over. She was thrilled and shows it off any chance she gets.

A painted tree and bird to match her bedspread

Wall decor

Painted above her closet

It didn't end there

Kara had 2 quarts of fresh goats milk in the fridge for Gabe. Two large zip lock bags full of homemade baby food in the freezer. Juice boxes, baby cereal.
Special toothbrushes and toothpaste, and digestive vitamins for Gabe and Levi.
She thought of everything.

And to top it all off

A big bowl full of chocolate covered pretzels, marshmallows and strawberries, of which I ate most of that night.
Hey, my clock was still in Ukrainian time so to me it was dinner time. And yes, chocolate covered strawberries make the perfect dinner.

Don't tell my kids that.

I cannot express to you how wonderful it was to come home to such blessings.

Although I didn't birth Gabe and Levi, the whole process felt like labor and delivery in so many ways. Coming home with these two new boys not knowing what they like, why they might be crying, etc. Top that with being thoroughly exhausted from the weeks in country and now the long plane rides and jet lag.
I am so blessed to have family and friends in my life that get it, and are willing to make sacrifices just to take the load off of someone else.

The next morning Kara brought over my long awaited Dunkin Doughnuts coffee and breakfast.

I'm tellin ya, my family rocks.

Then two days later my childhood friend Dawn and her family drove two hours from Orlando and showed up at my door with bags of grocery's.
The chocolate chip muffin mix. Oh so good.

Diapers keep showing up by the boxful which will save us hundreds of dollars a month.

I know that most of you reading this have or are in the process of adopting.
If you happen to be someone that isn't but you know someone in your church that is, a family member, neighbor, etc. Please try to consider helping them out when they come home. Coming home is exciting but is also full of emotions from exhaustion, being back with your other children that you've been separated from for weeks, culture shock, emotions over what you experienced over seas, leaving all the hundreds of children behind. It's roller coaster ride for sure and it doesn't end as soon as you get home.
It breaks my heart to hear about other families that come home to no support. I don't know where I'd be without mine.
We need each other. There are such small ways that we can show love and trust me, it won't soon be forgotten!
EVERY TIME I walk by my table or the kids rooms, I am so grateful. As I devoured the chocolate chip muffins I was really thankful. I told ya, very similar to pregnancy. I am STILL craving chocolate;)

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Tanya, Kara, Luke, April, Adam, Stefen and Amber I will be forever grateful. No, I will not refinish your furniture when you have babies, but I will do unlimited photo shoots of them for you;)

Peggy Savory and all the wonderful people at Community Bible Church, THANK YOU for the never ending supply of diapers and wet wipes!!!

Those of you that have given me clothes for the boys. What a blessing, thank you!

~"Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own."~


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