We’re Back (For a While)

In geek terms, our web hosting provider is having issues with “unlimited bandwidth”. It’s not that our website uses that much bandwidth! But it seems that we’re under an old hosting package that never got upgraded and the tech support is, shall we say, challenging.

Anyway, we’re back online (at least until the end of the month).


borrowing for chocolate

Warning, this is an embarrassing post. If any of my colleagues are reading this, please don’t hold this against me. If any of Zach’s colleagues are reading this, please remember that we are only related by marriage. And Monica, if you read this someday, I hope you don’t forget how profusely I apologized to you afterwards, or the wonderful and inspiring story I told you about my 8th grade algebra class, but I do hope you forget how I taught you to borrow numbers when subtracting. You are right. I was wrong. And good luck on your test tomorrow. I hope you rock it!

. . . I asked Monica to pick two easy pages of her homework packet to complete while I put Kelly to bed. When I came downstairs to check on her, she was happily coloring an elephant and told me she had finished the page with the clocks and a page of subtraction. As I checked her math work, I noticed that she had done four problems incorrectly and asked her to erase them and try again.

She buried her head in her hands and shook her head. “Mommy, I have a test tomorrow!”

I said, “It’s ok. You’ll do fine. You have the right concept. You’re just using the wrong numbers. Math is very specific and you have to have the exact right number. I’ll help you.”

I walked her through the steps of borrowing and said she had to remember to go back one number before adding a 1 in the ones place. She sighed and redid all four problems my way. Then I said, “Do you want to try three more problems on the back for extra practice before your test tomorrow? I’ll give you a piece of chocolate.”

Of course, she wanted SIX more practice problems. She is a hard worker. As she was working on the last problem, I was mentally adding the numbers to check her work because something just didn’t seem right.

“Wait a minute honey. This isn’t right. These answers don’t add up. Wait a minute. I need to figure this out.”

That’s right. Mommy taught her wrong. She had done it correctly the first time, without my help.

We had a good laugh over our chocolate. Hopefully, lesson unlearned.


I Wish We Were Rich – Rambling Thoughts on Money and Choices

Monica wants – has wanted – a Nintendo DS for nearly two years. This has not happened, mainly because Ren and I are uncomfortable with yet another electronic gizmo (especially such an addictive gizmo) in the hands of our video game loving daughter. While we would approach such a purchase as (another) opportunity to teacher all things in moderation, that particular lesson gets taught on a regular basis with the iPad. No need to add battles.

This week Monica again mentioned her desire for a DS. We politely told her it wasn’t going to happen. And then, somewhat wistfully, she said:

Awww, I wish we were rich.

I’m still chewing this over 5 days later. To some extent, it felt like a familiar, cliché moment. What person doesn’t fantasize from time to time about a world where money is no longer an obstacle to whims of desire? To entertain the “what would you do if you won the lottery” thought.

On the other hand, her statement also felt a bit surreal. Because, let’s be honest here, we are rich when compared to all the world standards (a particularly poignant fact made clear after catching glimpses of hard poverty in her home country).

We’re certainly not limitless wealthy. Raising a family is a constant lesson in economics (one that warrants future posts). Scarcity, especially time and money, is always a factor. There is only a finite amount of you to get things done. And there’s only a finite amount of dollars to use towards any given goal. One of the blessings of the middle class is that you have choices. But you still need to make a choice. For example, Nintendo DS or gymnastics for the month?

I suppose that’s why I’m still thinking about this days later. I let her comment slide (I think I even laughed). “We don’t have money for that” is, sometimes, an easy way out (especially because it’s rooted in some truth). Explaining why we spend money on some things over others is a harder conversation, usually because it involves morally gray areas and uncomfortable truths even for adults.

Not to mention if you’re a follower of Jesus, there’s a whole extra layer of complexity when it comes to wealth. Because, you know, He had some things to say about poverty.

Much of parenting (or, arguably, much of life) boils down to getting my children to ask some variation of these questions:

  1. What are/were my choices/options?
  2. Why do I want to make a particular choice?
  3. Is that choice wise?

Question three is the hardest and requires experience, be that experience from others or personal experience (which requires age!).

To be clear, I’m probably over thinking Monica’s comment (she really wanted to play some Mario). But her comment provided an opportunity to reflect.


Thank You (So Much)

Tonight I felt very blessed. We made a fire (it’s been spitting snowflakes all day) in the backroom. Monica and Kelly were showing off gymnastic moves. Diego was playing with stuffed animals. We peppered the girls with occasional homework questions. They jumped around like popcorn – shouting vocabulary words and days of the week (a particular rough spot for Shmoe). Today we did church for the first time and were surrounded by our faith family, all happy and excited to meet the little man in person.

When feeling blessed, I’ve a tendency to want to give thanks. And a thank you post is long overdue.

Adoption is a rather large, sometimes daunting, event. Ren and I are acutely aware of the many hands that helped bring this family of incredible Colombian kids into our arms. Here are the shoutouts.

Mom and Dad (Martin)

First and foremost, we want to thank Sam and Karen. Not only have they always been an incredible source of support, but they stepped in as guardians to girls when we traveled to Colombia (a large task in and of itself). Simply, they are wonderful grandparents. The girls were/are well loved.

Our Family

We also felt the love and prayers from the Vander Veen/Martin clans. Thanks to my mom and dad for watching our “other” kids, Lena and Kenzie. For Mom’s help the first few days with the kids (and the thankfully brief adjustment period). Thanks to Jeff and Kristen and nieces and brothers. Diego was so very excited to give Victor and Jesus big hugs. Thanks to Dalmans, Petroeljes, Joel and Kynnie and all the Skype sessions and humorous asides. Thanks to the Lohrstorfers (family by adoption) for the prayers and clothes! We love you all and are so very happy to be in families where adoption is just second nature.

Many thanks to extended family clans as well. Facebook comments were like gold.

Our Friends

We’ve many friends who’ve prayed this journey through. Thanks to our CHPC small group – chaotic and irregular as it is (we’re all having and adopting children!) – for hundreds of prayers the last 5 years (and for the gut checks). Thanks again to the Rozells for picking us up at the airport and serving some real American food as we waited for our connection flight. Thanks to Jen and Todd, Robs, Tim, Aaron (lunch while waiting for Visas!), Derek and Jenny, T and T, and many more for the prayer, support, and (especially) laughter. Thanks to the Walters, our other family from Holland. Thanks to the many work friends who pitched in with paperwork, stories, and occasional meals.

Our Church

Thank you College Hill for everything – for loving on our girls, prayers, and hugs. It was so good to be home today, surrounded by people sharing in our joy. Thank you 14th Street/Young Crew for continuing to be family.

Children’s Hope International

And the most excellent Nichole Deal. We’ve a wonderful adoption agency. They’ve got their hands full – what with international adoption constantly changing (and occasional immoral presidents – see Russia – shutting doors) – but we’ve always felt blessed to have an incredible (and transparent) agency. Given the odd situations of both our adoptions, they did an excellent job.

Olga Elena, Sorany, Lucia and David (and Andres)

These are the people who made the adoption in Colombia happen. They are professional, humorous, always willing to help, and exceptionally qualified. Going through the process twice, Ren and I feel a bit like they’re family.

Our Jobs

Ren and I are very blessed to work for organizations that supported us leaving for a good while to make this adoption happen. Thank you Milford Exempted Village School District, Hamilton City School District, and (to some extent), Oak Hills Local School District.


So yeah, I still am thankful to governments of Colombia and the United States. The USA is easy. They set up a clear process for adopting internationals in a manner that protects the rights of children (and their biological families). They also have a tax code that takes (some) of the sting out of the (large) costs of international adoption. Likewise, I’m thankful that Colombia has a pretty decent system of pulling their children out of dangerous homes and getting them into foster care. I’m not happy about how freaking long it takes to make these children adoptable (there are so many families waiting for them), but it is what it is.

There are more. I’m sure I’ve missed some. Thank you all.

It’s good to bring a family together.



many blessings

[slideshow_deploy id=’1422′]