Friday, December 4, 2009


The phrase "Umm..." has begun to elicit what I would like to refer to as the "Wolf Family Emergency Response System".

When any member of the family responds to the question, "Where is Ivan?" with "umm...", we know we are in trouble. Really this is not new. It is just getting a bit more intense. I wish I could video a real time enactment of one of these situations. We will all be standing near the kitchen, setting the table, getting ice in the dinner glasses, and suddenly we realize one of us is missing. Gone. QUIET! We look around, call his name, and then scatter, searching for what havoc has been made and where.

This happened recently on a peaceful afternoon. Maggie had a friend over to play. Ivan was in the kitchen with me and then told me he wanted to "play Maggie". "OK", I responded, "go knock on her door and see if you can play with her."

Ivan scampered down the hallway with a smile. I heard him knocking on her door, "Me come in?" I hear him ask. He asks twice and then I assume she opens the door and willingly invites Ivan to play.


It was a few minutes later. Truly, 3 or 4, when I sensed an eery quiet. This happens often and always sends me into the same quick search. If Ivan was really with Maggie, there would be giggles, or screaming, or tears by now. I rushed to her door and opened it.

No Ivan.

"Oh No!" I said. "I thought Ivan was with you..." "Ummmm.." Maggie replied, "We better find him!".

I then opened my bedroom door to find this.

I stood in the doorway looking at the baby-powdered wonderland. "NO!", Ivan said with his hand extended up in front of his face. "No panking!" he shouted through a frowning mouth.

Seeing that he had done all harm he could do, I grabbed my camera and photographed the little baby-powdered monster as he said, "No panking, no panking, no panking!" I lowered my camera and he changed his tune slightly; "Little panking Mommy?, Little panking."

I would love to tell you this is an isolated event. It is not. Ivan has squeezed out toothpaste, emptied shampoo bottles, filled the toilets, poured out an ENTIRE bottle of liquid laundry detergent, played in diaper rash creme, and countless other fun, messy, naughty things. These often happen when he "was just right here!..." I have to tell friends and babysitters that he must be watched every single second. "I take him to the bathroom with me when I go. I put him in the shower with me if he is awake", I say. "He literally can't be out of your sight for any amount of time." They usually smile and think I am over-exaggerating. And a few messes later, they realize that I am only trying to spare us all from the perils of his curiosity.

Let's hope there is something in his future that can turn his sneaky mischief into an asset. And I am not thinking anything against the law here :)

I better go find him.

Monday, November 16, 2009

For the Memory Books

Yesterday was one of those days. One of those days for the memory books, a day I think will be etched in my mind and heart for many, many years to come.

We are absolutely thrilled to be part of an amazing church here! (I secretly believe the CHURCH is the reason God moved us to Texas, but please don't tell Phil's boss.) We had received an email earlier in the week about a special surprise in the Sunday morning service, something that the kiddos needed to be part of as well so we would all be in worship together. I actually have always LOVED this whole concept, but I think I will love it even more when Ivan isn't quite so wiggly and loud; let's just say we drew a lot of attention to ourselves way back in the back!

Following an inspiring and abbreviated sermon, (which may or may not have been shortened on account of sweet little Ivan,) our church family was given an amazing assignment. The service had only been 45 or so minutes in length, so we were asked to take that "extra time" and head out together to go shopping for food and other necessities to fill some very empty food pantries in our area. I love this kind of thing--practical, helpful, great teaching moments with the kids, etc. I actually teared up, so thankful again for this church we have been blessed to be part of. Our congregation would be 1 of 15 other churches in our area all taking part in the same simple act; they had actually had to "warn" local stores about what would be happening! I love that!

As we headed out to the car, we were already chatting excitedly with the kids about this great opportunity. We were giving them the details of what we needed to purchase, why we would take part, and how it would bless many other children and their families who were hungry and desperately needed food.

Again, I eat this kind of thing up and am always looking for opportunities to teach our kids about the needs of those around our community and around the world. I want them to want to be part of the solutions. I want them to be generous and joyful about serving and helping. I was literally giddy; I might have even skipped if it hadn't been so crowded and busy in the parking lot!

That is why I literally stopped in shock when Barrett asked, "Can we please go home?"

Now, he DID just have his tonsils out a week ago and was feeling pretty puny, but did he not also just sit in the same service I did and hear about the need we were getting to help fill? Did he not just also hear our chatter about helping and serving and doing our small part?

I nearly unleashed my sermon on selfishness and attitude and a whole slew of other things when he said, "I want to get my wallet."

He wanted to go home and get his wallet.

We climbed into the van to hear Maggie and Maryn ask, "Yeah, can we get our wallets too and spend some of our own money to buy the food for the kids who are hungry?"

These are the moments we parents absolutely love and want to bottle up and pull out when things are not going quite so fabulously aren't they? We of course drove home (which is really not that close I will add), got their wallets, and headed off to shop.

They held their dollar bills with such pride as they shopped for items off the list. Barrett and Maggie decided to combine their $42 and get the greatest variety of the requested items they could find. They had pasta, cereal, flour, sugar, canned fruits and veggies, and much more. Maryn, on the other hand, wanted to spend her money on her own favorites, assuming correctly that all kids would want macaroni and cheese, chicken noodle soup, and cheerios. She also threw in a few cans of chicken, perhaps concerned about the carb-loading she was encouraging?

Their proud smiles lit up the store as they paid for their carts of food and loaded the bags back into the van all by themselves. And though I did not think it possible, their smiles grew even larger when we pulled into the drop-off and they placed their bags among the mounds of bags already donated. The effort raised 40 tons of food in just a few hours! Maggie in particular was elated at the sight of all that had been brought; she said over and over again, "Whoa! That is SO cool!"

What a simple and deeply profound thing. They bought food for hungry people. I am so thankful for an opportunity put in front of us that we could take part in and watch our children be blessed and be a blessing. They have already asked to go shopping again and take more food for the hungry.

A day for the memory books indeed!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A New Forever

Of all the days that are special and memorable in our adoption process with Ivan, November 1, 2008 trumps them all for me. Today is the ONE YEAR anniversary of having Ivan in our arms for good! Today is the anniversary of the day we traveled back to the orphanage for the last time...
  • ...when we walked away with changed hearts, changes lives, and a new son.
  • ...when we said farewell to the caregivers that had held, changed, fed, and bathed Ivan for the previous year.
  • ...when we watched tears fall down one special caregiver's cheeks as she bid Ivan farewell (a visual answer to our prayers that Ivan would be a favored, would be loved, would bond with those who were there when we could not be)
  • ...when we hurriedly walked to the car in the chilly night air while I said to Ivan, "We are busting you outta' here!", turning our tears to laughter.

For me, November 1st was the day in the process when it all seemed real. There was something about the entire process for me that seemed like a movie or a novel, something that was happening, but not really to us; something we were watching and even experiencing, but not really ourselves living. There were so many documents, appointments, phone calls, questions, fears, doubts, and dreams that it all began to feel very surreal.

I remember being in court on Halloween, giving my speech, feeling like I was having an out of body experience. Not the kind that is creepy or spiritual, just the sense that what was occurring was so strange and huge and miraculous that it might not be real. I remember going to sleep (or TRYING to do so) the night after we were pronounced Ivan's family and he was given the name, Ivan Philip Wolf, wondering if tomorrow would really come. Would this child we had prayed for since even before he was born really be ours? Would they really let us swoop him up and take him home with us just like that? Would this new forever really ever begin?

November 1, 2008 will definitely go down in history as one of the greatest, most memorable days of my life. I have vivid images of virtually each and every moment of the day:
  • getting Ivan's passport after paying our fine for "breaking Russian law!";
  • shopping for food, milk, and diapers that we would need for our first days together;
  • purchasing the train tickets to head back to Moscow;
  • the long, long drive out to the orphanage;
  • seeing Ivan again with the new realization that I would never have to "visit" him again but would instead eat and sleep and drive and live with him;
  • changing him into his first outfit and soft leather shoes;
  • driving back to the hotel in utter disbelief and overwhelming thanks;
  • bathing him and snuggling him in his delicious footed pajamas;
  • standing over him as he slept with thick tears in my eyes...

I never want to forget that day. It was HOPE realized. It was a miracle. It was the beginning our new forever.

And I never want to forget today. Today I feel so blessed and full of love for my precious son that I could burst. I squeezed him a hundred times today and rocked him even after he had fallen asleep just to feel his warm footed-pajama body and hear his tiny breaths.

What a day. What a year. What a journey.

Words are hard to find that adequately express all that my heart if feeling today...this momma is going to sleep tonight with a full and thankful heart! "The LORD has done great things for us and we are filled with joy!" Hallelujah! (And seriously, could he BE any cuter?!)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Boy Heaven

I'm pretty sure we live in "boy heaven".

I was calling our life here "Mayberry" for a while, but it almost isn't a strong enough image.

I of course grew up many moons ago when kids roamed the streets, "ruled" the neighborhood, and stayed out until dinner. It has been all I've ever wanted for my kids growing up years. I've wanted them to ride their bikes until their little legs were too tired to ride any longer. I've wanted them to catch little creatures, keep and name them. To play in the mud and climb trees, explore creeks and come home worn out, tired from play.

Well, we've got it.

Ivan was so dirty yesterday that I didn't want to carry him in! It is a shame I missed the early photos which showed the leftovers of him TASTING the mud soup he and his buddy Gage were cooking. There has been a lot of rain here (which I LOVE) and so there is a lot of mud. I am done trying to keep little boys out of the mud and puddles. After all, I'm pretty sure they are a staple in "boy heaven".

Part of the blessing for Barrett has been that there are oodles of boys living on our street and around this corner and that one. They invade our home in droves and wait eagerly outside our door until we finish dinner. They build forts near the creek and have secret clubs. They have caught more frogs and lizards than Barrett even knew existed. (We even had a frog in our playroom. Yes, playroom. Boy heaven, not Mommy heaven!) They play flashlight tag, ride bikes in the rain, and love every messy minute of it.

We had a hard time narrowing down our invite list for Barrett's 9th birthday party a few weeks ago...Boy heaven I tell you.

Soccer games have been canceled for the weekend because the fields are under water. We have a long, gray, chilly, damp weekend ahead. Sounds like the makings of some good boy heaven fun!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Quiet Commotion

Ivan likes mornings. A lot. A wee bit too much for the rest of us in fact. Maggie is usually the unfortunate soul who is subject to his newest morning ritual.

Ivan wakes on his own and I think he feels a bit lonely. He sneaks his way into the girls's room and UP the ladder to Maggie's top bunk! (I KNOW this is not good...we are working on it...) Just being up there with her is not enough. He must sit on her, pinch her cheeks, get WAY too close to her for it to be that early in the morning, and I almost forgot, must do all of this under the light of her clip-on reading light which he turns on (first we think). I told Ivan just this morning that he needed to stay in his own bed when he woke up. He smiled and said, "Maggie bed". "I know Ivan, but Maggie was sleeping..." I reasoned. He smiled and whispered, "Quiet".

Maggie does not really like mornings, but she does love Ivan. And so, groggy and mid-dream, she loves on "little buddy" and helps him down off bed via the same ladder that brought him there. And then being the stellar oldest daughter that she is, she gets her clothes on and brings Ivan to the kitchen where she GETS HIS BREAKFAST! I usually hear them somewhere between the getting down off the bed and the breakfast piece but know she has it covered and let the whole waking-up process linger a bit for myself :)

Maggie is super responsible and loves to be left in charge. She has all the makings of a great teacher in fact. She loves to teach, help, grade, etc. We do lots of pretend school in our house these days. The following sign was JUST removed from her door after a two week stay:
"QUITE!!!!! Do NOT Dizterb!!!!!! Testing in progest!!!!!"

I also saved Maggie's spelling word sentences from a few weeks ago. A couple of them are too good to pass up. I ask you, what must the teacher think of this new, "California-bred" family?

"Ivan likes to bite."
"Maryn likes to stay up late."
"I like to shake it."
"There is a lot of commotion in this house."

I love that these all simply have periods at the end. True, matter-of-fact sentences. Not even warranting a "shout mark". Just the honest to goodness truth for sweet Maggie.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hope Floats

My Maryn.

My Maryn is usually a joyful little soul. She laughs easily, is unaffected by some of the things that unravel her older siblings, and is just an all-around fun and funny little girl.

Lately however, her emotions have been working overtime and her heart has been a bit fragile. She misses her kindred spirit Jamie in California. She is SHOCKED at the injustices which allow Barrett and Maggie more freedoms, more play-dates, more FUN. Not much feels fair to Maryn. And in reality, this move has been tough on her. She has had some hard, disappointing, lonely days.

One of those days was Wednesday. A friend was in town and was heading to have lunch with Barrett and Maggie. Maryn wanted to join them and was absolutely beyond herself that she could not. She melted into a messy puddle of tears and whimpers and a few VERY loud shrieks in the car. Nothing I said or promised helped to ease her sadness. Not even an icecream date a little later in the afternoon.

We rounded the corner just a block from our house, and saw this.

Tears turned to raised eyebrows at a balloon literally floating down our street. "Mom, there is a balloon...just floating along...what in the world?!" We slowed the van, looked around for the owner of such a treasure, and soon gave into Maryn's great temptation to rescue the balloon from a very uncertain future in the middle of the street.

Maryn's sadness lifted, her tears dried, her shrieks of frustration turned into ones of bliss. Maryn loves balloons! She and Ivan played for hours with the balloon. And she felt special. Her disappoints diminished and SHE was the beneficiary of one of life's little surprise blessings. She is still telling people about the walking balloon that she found and rescued. It didn't take much to get our silly, fun-loving Maryn back.

While I am not expecting to come across too many more lonely balloons, I will be looking for the little blessings that come floating by each and every day.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Little Texas Thunder

We have been in Texas for 6 weeks or so now. Things are feeling more and more like home every single day. I just read my last few posts and was SHOCKED at how long ago all of those seemed. And long ago they were...months ago.

Ivan is doing fabulously well! He started preschool a couple of mornings a week and was so cute on his first day I could hardly stand dropping him off. He apparently did great--with the appropriate amount of crying when I very first left, the same amount when his teacher
dropped him off at music (which he eventually LOVED!), and a few tears at the end of the day as the confusion of kids being taken out to the carpool line unsettled him slightly.

He cried a little and so did I.

I felt thankful and happy as I dropped him off--excited to hear how his first day had gone and excited about a few hours to myself! And then the tears came at a time I least expected them. At pickup. I cried as he walked with Maryn out to the car pulling his rolling backpack that is literally as big as his body. He looked so big, so old. He had started preschool and done just fine--how far we had come in 10 short months. I imagined him heading off to his first day of Kindergarten in a few years and I wanted it all to slow down. Way down.

I have been all sorts of emotional over these last weeks. Partly because of the move, I get that. But some of it is the remembering and re-living of all that transpired a year ago. In late July 2008, we met little Ivan. In early August, we had to leave him in Russia. I remember vividly these early September days of last year, wondering if we would ever be assigned a court date...if the judge would ever return from vacation...if sweet little Vanya would be OK.

And now as I look back, I am blown away by how OK he is. How OK we all are. He has navigated the move to Texas as well as anyone in our family. He is happy and healthy, messy, and snuggly. He loves to be outside and look for frogs, rocks, and lizards. He is absolutely addicted to chocolate milk. He sleeps well, is a picky eater, and is a pesky little brother...all wonderful "normals" we are thankful for.

The biggest shock to Ivan's little system has been Texas thunder storms. The rain does not phase him. He loves water of any sort in any place. Period. But the thunder, that is a different story. The first thunder storm paralyzed him. He didn't have the words to even ask what in the world was happening. Now he has sort of a love/ hate relationship with it. He likes to watch for the lightning, but is quick to jump into our arms at the sound of thunder. "Shunder cary!" (thunder scary) he says over and over again with a winced look on his face.

I will leave you with a few photos. He changes every single day it seems--OK, I feel the need to do better at keeping track.

I will write again and post about the other kiddos soon. All in all, Texas is good. And I, for one, really like the thunder storms.