Sunday, April 23, 2017

Adoption Update

As usual, I've been pretty bad about updating this blog as our lives have been rather busy.

As I said in my last blog post we're adopting again!  This time we've chosen a little girl who will be turning 11 this summer.  She's been on our radar since December of 2014, while we were still in the process of adopting Milena and Aleks.

This little girl who goes by the pseudonym "Alexis" was listed on Reeces Rainbow in December 2014 by our adoption agency Hopscotch Adoptions Inc.  At that time I had not even met Milena and Aleks but felt instantly drawn to this little beauty.  I can't explain it but deep down I secretly wanted her as my daughter.  I'm not going to lie, I have somewhat felt that way about other children before but a seed was planted the day I first saw her.  Now fast forward to March of 2015 when I finally got to meet Milena and Aleks, during that trip I was talking with the translator in the car about Claudia, Milena and Aleks and was joking around how if we added a 9 year old to our family, all of our children would be 3 years apart in age.  At that time Aleks was 3, Claudia 6 and Milena was 12.  I told her that I had seen "Alexis" was available for adoption and joked that she would be our next addition to fill in that gap.  It was then that I learned that "Alexis" already had a family that was coming for her.  I was happy for her and honestly didn't think we'd have been able to adopt her anyway as we were adding 2 at once already which seemed overwhelming at the time.

Fast forward several months, I noticed that "Alexis" was still listed as available on one advocacy site but she was no where to be found on another.  I inquired about this (if she was indeed available, I wanted to be able to advocate for her and if she was not, I didn't want anyone thinking she was still available.)  I was told it was a mistake and she was quickly relisted on the site.  I didn't think too much of her being taken off and thought that perhaps our translator had misunderstood which child I was talking about during our conversation.

I tried to do a few unsuccessful fundraisers to boost "Alexis's" grant and shared her profile hoping a family would come for her.  Nothing happened.

Jason and I were neck deep in doctors appointments and adjusting to new life in general but I often brought up adopting again.  In my head and my heart I went back and forth several times whether I thought we would and could adopt again soon.  One part of me felt like my child/children are out there waiting and it's not fair to them but the other part felt too overwhelmed already.  I'm pretty sure Jason just thought I was crazy!  "Alexis" stayed on my mind though.  There were other children during this period of time that I also felt drawn to but they either got families or I'd change my mind.  I kept coming back to "Alexis."

Jason and I continued to have discussions about where we were in life, what we could handle and what we couldn't.  Neither of us were sold on adopting again but the pull was there. God has a way of gently tugging you where he wants but it's up to you to take the final leap.  We decided to ask our adoption agency for more info on "Alexis".  We got a bit more info along with older pictures we had not seen before.  After going over the new info we decided it was not enough for us to make a decision one way or another.  We had so many appointments and had a very specific family dynamic that was working for us.  We knew we could not take on serious medical conditions or behaviors so we inquired further.  It took a few months for our adoption agency to get an update.  Once we finally got the update we spent some time going over it and decided to go all in.  If "Alexis" was meant to be our daughter, God would make a way.

We had to take out a rather large personal loan to help us pay for the initial adoption fees since we'd just bought the new house.  But we needed the house in order to adopt and also felt that it was our duty to do everything we could to get "Alexis" home as soon as we could.  By this time she was already 10 years old.

We started plugging away at our Home Study and getting all of our paperwork started for our Dossier.  I started picking up extra shifts at work and we worked to save as much money as we could.

In November we were able to submit our USCIS I-800a paperwork to the US Gov. for approval.  Once we got their approval we would be able to send our Dossier over to "Alexis'" country for translation and review.  We were able to submit our Dossier in late February.  Unfortunately there have been changes in the government out "Alesix''" country which caused some delays in reviewing any Dossiers.  Finally on April 14th our Dossier was supposed to be reviewed.  At this time we're still waiting to hear news from her country.  Once we get our first Prime Minister approval we'll be invited to visit with "Alexis" and accept her referral.  Once that happens it'll be another 4-5 months before we can travel again to pick her up.  We're still hopeful that she will be home by the end of the year!

In case anyone is wondering what ever happened to the family that was in process to adopt "Alexis" I did eventually get some information.  Actually from my understanding there have been at least 2 families before us that have wanted to adopt her!  A few years ago an Italian family tried adoption her but was unable (I don't know the details on what happened) and then an American family started the process to adopt her.  The American family was also unable to complete the process and actually contacted me after we announced our plans to adopt "Alexis" and explained that circumstances occurred in their lives that made them unable to continue the adoption process and although they were sad that "Alexis" would not be their daughter, they were happy that she finally had a family coming for her.  I keep in touch with this family and they are great cheerleaders for us!

The total adoption cost for "Alexis" will be around $35,000 which includes everything from agency fees, translator fees, US Gov fees, wire transfer fees, express mailing fees to medicals, flights, apartments and more!  We started the adoption with a loan, since then we've done several small fundraisers.  We were invited to go speak at the First Baptist Church of Manchester where they graciously did a bakesale for us!  The Church raised over $600 for us which paid for our NY State Apostilles!  "Alexis" had a $10,000 older child grant which we will be able to access once we get our first travel dates.  We also received a large donation anonymously made directly to our adoption agency.  As I said before I have been picking up a lot of overtime at work which has brought in a good amount of additional income for us.We currently have an online auction going on which should net us about $1000 which brings us to needing only $5000 more to be fully funded and several months to do it!  I continue to sell Norwex" and Origami Owl: to help raise funds for the adoption.  I try to post our fundraisers on my Facebook page every now and then but I don't want to bore or alienate my friends.  If you are interested in our current auction which ends on Thursday you can find it here:

If anyone would like to make a tax deductible donation to our adoption of "Alexis" we have a FSP set up through Reece's Rainbow HERE.

Sorry for the long post!  I think that just about catches everyone up on our adoption of "Alexis."

Here's the photo that started it all (with the addition of text by yours truly!)


Friday, February 3, 2017

5 Year Plan

We had a five year plan.  A great, solid financial plan.  A plan to increase our income to a point that I could work  part time to be with the kids and Jason more.  A plan to buy acres and acres of land, to build a big house that our family could grow into, that the children could stay in with us forever if needed.  We stayed on track with that plan for a whole 7 months before veering!

Then, things changed.  Through the summer I spent hour upon hour cleaning our house and purging unneeded things.  I finally got around to moving some items that came home with me from Armenia, over a year ago! Several of those hours were spent in the attic, purging, sorting and moving various totes and boxes around.  After spending so much time up there, in the sweltering conditions, I think something got to my head!  I began thinking that we should finish half of the attic for more living space.

To be honest, having 5 people in a 3 bedroom house was getting rather suffocating, especially with all the kids "stuff!"  Despite the purging I'd done already I could not bring myself to get rid of enough. After several discussions, creating a Pinterest board of finished attics and even sketching out some renderings of the possibilities I was excited that we could have more space soon!  Jason, being the more practical of the two of us (I mean he IS the Engineer after all) began looking into the preparations we would have to do and what it would actually take to finish part of the attic.  After some research we learned that in New York State if you finish the 3rd story, (aka an  attic) of a wooden structure, you must put in a sprinkler system.  I know we've probably all seen finished attics where the home didn't have sprinklers in the ceilings, but we wanted to do this by the code.    After discovering this news, I became disheartened.  I was really looking forward to having breathing room but this option was no longer cost effective for us!

After having my dreams of enlarging our home crushed, I went onto the MLS to search for houses  that could fit our needs.  I honestly did this somewhat as a joke to blow of steam. I came across a lovely house (with a lot of space!) and it had an open house later that day!  So at 1:30am I sent Jason an email saying that we were going to buy that house, jokingly of course.  Because I work nights I was asleep for most of the day, I woke up around 2pm, got dressed and told Jason I was going to the open house.  He was fine with that, after all it was only a few streets from where we live.  So off I went.  I liked what I saw although the house was in desperate need of updating (the master bedroom was an ugly green with gold carpets!) but what really caught my attention was the storage space, the size of the rooms, the huge yard and quiet street.  I went back home and asked Jason to go look at it and he did.  Jason came home stating "It's in rougher shape than I thought!"  He listed some of the issues, mainly the updating it needed and then to my surprise asked me if I wanted to put an offer in on it!  What went from a joke at 1:30am turned into "let's make an offer" by 3:30pm.  Jason and I troll the MLS frequntly so we know the market and know a good deal, so this was not (completely) a spur of the moment decision, it was an educated one.  That night we had an offer sent to the homeowners.  The next day we went back and forth with the homeowners once or twice and just like that we had an accepted offer!  It took about 37 hours from the time I half-jokingly told Jason I wanted that house until the time we had an accepted offer!  Sometimes things really work out.

Well, there goes our 5 year plan!  BUT we were comfortable with disturbing our plan in this way.  It was a good compromise.  The house we bought will keep us comfortable for several years, so for now I'll call it our 10 year plan!

We're putting the finishing touches on our new house now and should be all moved in soon.  We're excited to have breathing room and a place for the kids to safely play.  The house will bring us much needed space and an additional bedroom!

With the bigger house, bugger yard and just overall more space it'll be much easier for our family to grow!  Many of you already know that Jason and I have begun the adoption journey yet again, and for those of you that didn't know, well now you do.  Our journey to "Alexis" will be saved for another post!

Our New Home

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Three Musketeers and Advocacy Post

Once upon a time there was a beautiful little blonde girl named Milena.  Milena spent her days in an orphanage in Eastern Europe.  The care she received was very good but there were several other children there and she didn’t get the one-on-one attention she deserved.  Milena saw several of her friends leave the orphanage to go home with their new mommas and papas.  Milena wondered why she didn’t have a mamma or papa, she wondered if there was something wrong with her. You see, Milena was left at this orphanage in Eastern Europe primarily because she has Down syndrome.  In her country the medical care is not great and her birth mother did not feel she had the resources to take care of her.  In Milena’s birth country, there is no place for people with special needs other than orphanages and institutions.  When a child is born here with special needs, their families are encouraged to place them in orphanages and even to tell other family members that the child died!
So there Milena was, thinking there was something wrong with her, that she was unwanted and would never have a family of her own.
  More and more friends were adopted and then all of a sudden Milena was 10 or 11 years old.  By that time, most of Milena’s friends now had families of their own, in fact there were just two other children left, we will call them “Annalise” and “Jake.”  Annalise, Jake and Milena were the forgotten and unwanted children despite their capabilities. Milena and her friends were soon transferred to an adult group home because they had aged out of their orphanage.  The chance of them getting families was now slim to none.  Little did Milena know that there was a family working hard to bring her home. 
Despite a few setbacks, in March of 2015 Milena met her mama for the first time!  She was shy at first but quickly warmed up to her mama and let her true colors shine!  By the end of the week Milena understood that she would be going back to America several months later.  At the end of the trip to meet Milena, her mama got to meet Milena’s lifelong friends, Annalise and Jake.  It was a pleasure to meet these beautiful children and Milena’s mama wanted so badly for them to know the love of a family as well! 
In July of 2015 Milena’s mama and papa came back to her country, had court and were legally declared her parents!  They went to her group home to pick her up where they again met Annalise and Jake.  It broke Milena’s mama’s heart to leave them behind, to be taking their lifelong friend to her new life in America.  What were the thoughts going through their heads?  Were they happy for Milena, jealous?  Only they know!  One thing was certain, her mama wanted desperately to find families for Annalise and Jake before it was too late.  You see, the US does not allow children to be adopted into the US after they turn 16.  This summer Annalise and Jake will be 13, leaving them less than 3 years to find forever families!  This blogpost is that mama’s cry for Annalise and Jake, a hope that their families will see them and take the steps necessary to bring them home forever!

Annalise and Jake also have Down syndrome but because of the great care they have received in their orphanage, they are very capable.  Throughout their lives they have heard and thus learned the English language, they care for several of their own needs, are independent with eating and toileting and are beyond polite.  Milena talks about Annalise and Jake often.  I would love for her to have play dates with them here in the states!

From Annalise's profile on Reece's Rainbow

"Girl, Born August 2003

Down syndrome, CHD (repaired)

This energy filled and vibrant little girl was born with Down syndrome in August of 2003 and is ready for an active family with lots of structure.  She can understand and speak two languages, including English. She had surgery to repair a heart defect in 2003, but has required no additional treatment.  Annalise is beaming with sunshine and loves cell phones and cameras, like all curious little girls!  She loves to be the center of attention and is very smart!
Updated April 2014:
Annalise is an active, friendly girl who speaks clearly with an extensive vocabulary. She uses short sentences and understands two languages, one of them English. Annalise walks independently, including up and down stairs.  Annalise has great self-help skills. She eats and drinks as well as dresses and undresses without assistance. She can wash her hands and brush her teeth on her own.
Annalise attends school where she has learned to count, recognize 25 letters, cut with scissors and paint. She can re-tell a short story and participates in simple games. Annalise likes to listen to music and dances very well. She would thrive in a loving family.
From a family who met her in March 2015: Annalise is a beautiful young lady with long brown hair and the most adorable freckles.  She is very sweet, but also quite independent.  She came right up to me and sat on my lap. She speaks some English and is very verbal in her native tongue.  The caregivers and other residents at her home speak English, so she has a good understanding of it.  Annalise is adored by the other residents and caregivers in her home."
I first met Annalise in March of 2015.  I met her when returning Milena to her orphanage.  I found Annalise to be silly and polite.  She liked my phone and wanted to see the pictures and videos on it.  Annalise and Milena made me "lunch" in the room they shared.  She is well loved and cared for in her orphanage but would thrive in a loving family.  Annalise is a gem!  She will turn 13 next month which means that she'll only have 3 more years to find a family before she is ineligible to be adopted (USCIS rules.)  Please help me share this beautiful, capable young lady.
Here is the lunch the girls made me in their room.
Here's what has been said about Jake on Reece's Rainbow

"Boy, Born February 2003
Down syndrome
Jake was born in February 2003 with Down syndrome.  He is a happy young man who loves animals and can talk about them for hours, especially about cats.   Jake can understand English and loves music and to sing!   Songs that have hand motions are his very favorite. He enjoys puzzles, books and Legos!   Please give Jake a chance!

Updated April 2014: Jake is an active, happy boy who attends school, likes to play games, and enjoys singing and dancing. Jake has well-developed self-help skills. He eats and drinks as well as dresses and undresses independently. Jake knows how to wash his hands and face, brush his teeth, and make his bed without assistance. Jake is also potty-trained. Jake speaks in short sentences and has a large vocabulary. He was exposed to the English language for the first several years of his life and can understand it. He tells stories, counts, and recognizes 27 letters. Jake understands simple rules and follows them. He would thrive in a loving family.
From a family who met him in 2015: Jake is such a nice boy.  He will greet you happily with a handshake.  Jake understands and speaks English as well as his native tongue.  The caregivers and other residents at his home speak English, so he has a very good understanding of it.  Jake is a very capable and independent boy.  He would thrive in a family of his own."

I also first met Jake in March of 2015.  He is a charmer and very smart!  Jake wanted to take me all around the orphanage to show me where everyone slept.  He is polite and quite the ham!  Jake would make a wonderful son and would do so well in a loving family.  Jake has less than 3 years to find a family as he is 13 years old!  

If you or anyone you know might be interested in adopting Annalise or Jake, please do not hesitate to contact Hopscotch Adoptions

*I can't show their faces in photos that are not already public*

Friday, July 8, 2016

Family Vacation and Respite in One!

Wow!  It's hard to believe that in just ONE MONTH Milena and Aleks will have been home for an entire year!  Where has the time gone?  It feels like they've only been home a few months, yet that they've always been here!

School ended for the kids at the end of June (for a 2 week period, they go back next week!)  On Friday, June 23rd we left at 4:30am to go to the annual Reece's Rainbow Reunion.  This year it was held at the Jelly Stone Campground in Mammoth Cave, KY.  Jason and I have been looking forward to this trip for several months.  Don't get me wrong, we have some AMAZING friends and family in our community, but to be able to spend an entire week with other families that have adopted children with special needs is a HUGE blessing!  These other families "get it."  They don't judge you or your children as they've likely been there and done that.  The fellowship and comradery is much needed for parents of children with special needs.  It provides a bit of respite even.

There are people out there who will say things like "you asked for it" or "you brought this on yourself" in regards to the behaviors or medical problems that accompany an adopted child with special needs.  To an extent this may be true as families prepare the best they can when they know the child they are hoping to adopt.  They research the conditions and medical needs before ultimately saying "yes" to adoption.  BUT adoption also has many surprises and I dare say that most families at one point or another feel they have bitten off more than they can chew.  (I was there when Claudia first came home and wanted little to do with me except bite me and pull my hair!)  Just because a family decides to adopt a child with special needs does not mean that they have it all together and don't need support.  In fact the opposite is likely true.  All adoptive families need the support of the friends and family.  Adoption is a beautiful thing but it is also hard.  Adoption puts added stress on families for a time.

Imagine being taken from the only home you've ever known (no matter how poor the conditions) and being placed into the arms of strangers who talked funny and smelled funny.  Now imagine they are hugging you and holding you tight when you've never been cared for in such a way.  This holding makes you feel confined and you don't like it, so you strike back, you scream, cry, hit kick, bite... and try to get away by any means possible. Now these strangers are trying to make you eat foods you've never had before so you rebel and refuse to eat.  You don't know who these people are or if they are going to hurt you.  Now you are placed in an unfamiliar bed and expected to sleep.  The sounds are different than what you are used to, perhaps it's too quiet.  There are no other children crying.  Perhaps the strangers are singing to you in their funny voices but you don't know what they are saying.  After several days of this, you start to get used to these strangers and maybe even like them!  Then the next thing you know, you are on a noisy airplane and your ears hurt.  Upon landing there are dozens of strangers with funny voices doting on you but you are exhausted and not used to being fussed over, so you break down... again.   Now you find yourself in another new place, the strangers call it "home."  It is unlike any place you have been before, yet another change in your life.  As you start to get comfortable with the strangers who call themselves "Mommy" and "Daddy" you wonder when the next change will come, will another set of strangers come and take you away?  You have not known much stability in your life, so you don't know what to expect...

You see, adoption is not a fairy tale in the eyes of the adopted child.  At least not at first.  Many children don't understand what is happening to them and can react very poorly to the process.  Often times it can take several months or longer for a newly adopted child to feel secure in their new home.  At any time something can trigger a memory from the past and set them off.  Most families go through a "honeymoon" period with their newly adopted child as the child begins to feel secure and wants to please their new family so they can stay.  After the honeymoon many children rebel and want to test the limits to see if they'll be sent away for negative behavior.  It's after this rebellion phase that children generally start to come around and integrate themselves into the family.  They begin to realize that family is forever and that no matter what, they will have this family forever.

Adoption is hard but oh so beautiful!  Other adoptive families genuinely understand this.

This is why Jason and I looked forward to our week in KY.  We got to spend a week together as a family without the interruptions of school and work, and we got to spend the week with some other amazing people and awesome kiddos.  The other great parts about the Reece's Rainbow reunion was getting to see the children that we'd followed online, to see the real life the transformations that family can have on a child, and to give and receive encouragement.

Our children had a blast!  Most of our days were spent in the pool.  Claudia has been a fish ever since our first Reece's Rainbow reunion in 2014 and loved every minute of it.  Aleks was unsure of the water at first but quickly decided it was a giant bathtub to splash in.  He did great and was even maneuvering himself about the pool.  Milena was afraid of the water at first, despite being able to touch the bottom.  After much work she too was swimming all over the pool with her life vest on.  Milena has even learned to jump into the pool (she previously was unable to jump in a forward motion at all!)

Besides swimming we met Yogi, had cookouts with other families, played at the park, made smores, jumped on a jump pillow, went to a zoo, mingled with the other adoptive families, met some truly amazing children and got away from the daily grind!

Smores are messy!

The zoo we went to was called Kentucky Down under which featured several different animals from Australia including a python, dingos, kangaroos, emu, laughing kookaburra, cava/mara and more.  They also had sheep, goats, donkeys, peacock, tropical birds, owls, working dogs a draft horse and more.  That place was something else!  While there we got to pet and feed kangaroos!  I never thought they would be as soft as they were!  I even found a kangaroo with a joey in it's pouch and felt it kick! We also got to feed the lorikeets which where beautiful birds!  Milena loves animals although she was somewhat nervous around the goats and sheep as well as the lorikeets.  Milena was fine petting the python.. go figure!  While feeding the lorikeets Milena had one land on her shoulder and head, whe was NOT impressed and got a little freaked out but she did really well and didn't even scare the bird away!

Just chillin!

This red kangaroo had a joey in her pouch!

Claudia was trying to kiss the bird!

Claudia wanted to blow the goats nose!

This was a BIG horse!
We had an amazing time at the reunion this year and look forward to being able to go again.  Everyone was sad to leave and wanted to stay.  We truly had a nice break from our day to day lives and were able to relax and enjoy time together as a family.  I hope over the years that our children will be able to build friendships through these events!

Everyone in yellow was adopted with the help and support of Reece's Rainbow!
Thank you Reece's Rainbow!

Friday, April 1, 2016

7+ months home update

Living life as a family of five has been an adventure!  So many things have happened since Aleks and Milena came home in August.  We've been busy managing doctors appointments, surgeries,  IEP meetings, other school meetings, half days, holidays and everything in between!  The kids are doing so well overall but life is not without difficulties.

Claudia has grown in so many ways since Milena and Aleks came home.  She recently had her 3 year school review and has made huge progress in the past 7 months alone.  Having siblings has helped her so much!  When Claudia came home just over 3 years ago, she tested in the 9-18 month range in most areas; she is now testing as high as 48 months in some!  Claudia continues to use ASL as her primary method of communication but I still have hope that she will one day find her voice and will be able to communicate with everyone.  Her frustration levels have decreased so much and we don't see negative behaviors nearly as often.

Claudia adores her little brother and can often be found getting his pajamas and diaper ready at bed time.  She likes cuddling with him and also wrestling around on the floor.  One of these days I think he'll be bigger than Claudia and then she'll have her work cut out for her!  She loves her brother all the time... except for when he pulls her hair!  Just a little ironic huh? 

Claudia looks up to her big sister, Milena.  She frequently wants to do whatever Milena is doing.  Claudia has learned a lot from her including how to help clean and clear the table.  Claudia is learning to be more independent all the time although she regresses occasionally when she wants attention and won't eat unless she is fed.  She does get jealous at times although it's nothing more than any other siblings. 

Did I mention how much Claudia has grown physically?  I don't know exactly how much taller and leaner she has gotten but just comparing pictures from even just a year ago is amazing!  She'll always be small but she's growing!

Milena's English is getting better all of the time.  She still struggles with who, what, when, why and how.  At this time she does not have a handle on those concepts.  She is learning sight words and doing well with phonics as well.  One day she'll love to read just like her parents.  Her self care skills have improved and she is very independent.  Milena is a super sweet girl which has led to a few boundary issues that we've mostly worked out.  She really wants to please people and can shut down at times when she thinks someone is mad at her.  Milena loves her family and loves being a big sister. Milena is a good big sister but can be bossy at times, so we're working on that.  She wants to help out, sometimes a little too much...  Milena is such a great child although we do have some struggles.  The most difficult things we are dealing with right now is her story-telling.  Milena struggles with truth/lie, reality/fantasy and wants to please people by answering their questions how she thinks they want them answered, not necessarily the truth.  This has led to some difficulties with the school and we're trying to figure out how best to handle this.  I can't believe that we're going to have a teenager in less than 6 months!!!


Aleks has come a long way since August.  He has finally been putting on weight, about 2lbs since coming home.  He can eat most of the foods we eat (cut up very small) instead of just pureed food.  Aleks will eat almost anything although he does not like anything to do with apples!  He LOVES his veggies though, so I can't complain.  Aleks went from drinking strictly from a bottle to using a straw and is even doing some open cup drinking!  His heart looks great and he has been weaned from his pulmonary hypertension meds!  Aleks has gotten so much stronger, he's not the wet noodle that he was when he came home!  He's been walking short distances unassisted and can walk pretty well holding one hand.  Aleks is paying more attention to his surroundings and responds to his name.  He has learned his first sign ("more") and is using it appropriately.  Aleks still struggles with playing with toys appropriately, he likes to bang things and make loud noises!  Our biggest struggles with him are the self-harm.  Lately Aleks has been punching himself in the head and face and laughing about it.  The self-harm behaviors are so hard to watch!  He's also gotten into pulling the hair of others and smacking at people (mostly me) at times.  I really think he is beginning to understand when he does something wrong but he just gets a big grin on his face and laughs about it.  We're working on these behaviors too.  This boy is such a ham though!




As a family we've made day trips to the local parks, the play museum and the zoo.  It's not easy to get out with all of the kids but it is so worth it! 

Jason and I are still figuring out our "new normal."  We still have some doctors appointments to tackle and we'll be glad when we're down to just routine visits.  Our house had not been clean in over 7 months and the laundry and dishes are never ending but things could be so much worse!

As you can see, it's not all sunshine and roses but we take things a day at a time and count our blessings.  Things have gone so well and could have gone a lot worse.