International Adoption Book

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Come on... Really? Has it come to this?

I read the following ( on It is a story about two guys who were fired for trying to capture an alleged shoplifter. The article also sites a few other stores who also fired folks for chasing shoplifters. Come on... Really? Has this what it has come to in America? When a person can get fired for doing a good deed? When a person can get sued for trying using CPR to help save a life? When a person can go to jail for protecting his family? Give me a break!!! I am so tired of all the political correctness and the sue happy people we live with. What happened to the "Land Of The Free"? I guess Sprint has the "freedom" to fire employees who are attempting to do a good deed... Those guys need to be given a raise!!! They should have been honored as heroes instead of fired as if THEY had been the ones to lift merchandise. And we wonder why our youth are getting away with so much bad behavior? We are modeling this behavior by letting criminals go free for lack of evidence and butchering a man's life for doing a good deed. What a sad state our country is in if this is what we are going to teach our children!!! Shame on you Sprint, Walmart and Best-Buy!!!

Two retail employees say they were fired last week after they chased down a suspected shoplifter.

Wait: The tale gets even loopier. The men – Paul Shoemaker and Mike McGee – apparently were on their break and chasing an alleged store shoplifter not in their store, but in an adjacent Apple Store.

The pair were heading out of the Sprint store where they used to work in Denver's Cherry Creek Mall when they came upon a frantic security guard in the hall. "[He] came right basically in front of us, and was like, 'Help me, Help me.' Out of breath. You could totally hear he was distraught," Shoemaker told Denver's 7News.

The pair pitched in to help capture the alleged shoplifter.

"It's the way I was raised as a kid," McGee said. "You see something that's going on wrong you step in and try to help whatever way you can."

The trouble started after the suspect was carted off. Sprint's corporate policy states that employees should not chase shoplifters, though the men argue they were on break and it wasn't even Sprint's merchandise they were seeking to retrieve. Sprint declined to comment, citing privacy concerns.

The firing isn't without precedent. In October Walmart fired an Ocala branch's loss prevention officer for chasing a man allegedly trying to steal golf balls. And in August 2009, two college-age Best Buy employees were fired from a Broomfield, Colorado Best Buy after tackling an alleged shoplifter. A Best Buy spokeswoman said all employees "are aware, and trained, on the standard operating procedures for dealing with shoplifting or theft – which includes ceasing pursuit of a suspected shoplifter once they exit the store." This, she said, was for the safety of employees.

So should you fire an employee for pursuing a thief? Only you can decide the "should," but legally you are able to do so.

Employment lawyer Frank Steinberg blogged about the Walmart case that the chain "was clearly within its rights to set a policy on how shoplifting incidents were to be handled and to decide that the guard's violation of that policy warranted termination."

In fact, having a policy about how employees should handle shoplifting or any crime they witness on the job is seen as a smart move legally, because it can protect you from liability in the event someone is hurt. Judgments in these cases are rare, but can reach into the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

In Texas, for example, a shoplifter – his lawyer says he admits to the crime – is suing Walmart for $100,000 over the dislocated shoulder he claims employees inflicted on him.

Separately, the Houston Chronicle reported the company paid nearly $750,000 as part of a settlement to the family of a 30-year-old alleged shoplifter who died of a heart attack as employees tried to stop him. (The items he was accused of stealing: a package of diapers, a pair of sunglasses, a BB gun, and a package of BBs.)

Whether the good Samaritans in Denver deserved to be terminated is another question; how you train your staff to handle loss prevention is one of those tricky matters you probably never considered when you first started your business.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Fallout Spreads...

I copied the following article from Rainbow Kids. It was written by adoption advocate Martha Osborne and clearly and concisely expresses the fine line that adoptive families must walk...

"Sad, sad news over the last week. There has been great outrage, anger, blame and finger pointing over the disrupted adoption of a 7-year-old Russian child and his abrupt return to Russia over this last week. Today it has been announced that Russia will suspend adoptions to the USA. During this time, I have wondered, "where is the outrage for the thousands of children who are housed in hopeless institutions with minimal care and daily abuse from the other children?"

The exact conditions that may have traumatized this young child and greatly contributed to this situation, are barely mentioned. No one absolves the mother.She had options and chose to do something outrageous and selfish. But her actions are only one part of this. The unspoken rule is that those of us who work to find homes for these children must never, never criticize the governments that allow these wretched institutions to continue. Adoptive parents must be grateful...and silent, to insure that international adoption continues, and a few lucky children find peace in a family of their own. Volunteers must quietly work to make changes in the orphanages, for fear of offending those in power. Yes, this story makes me very upset, and sad for all of the children who will now continue to suffer. And for the families who have waited, longingly, to give their love to these children.

And now we wait, with our only hope once again in the hands of government policy makers. I suggest that the meeting scheduled for the 20th take place in the largest, most rural orphanage that can be found in Russia. Let our governments meet, and come to their decision, surrounded by the children's lives and futures that hang in the balance. --Martha Osborne"

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Political Posts

Okay, so I'm doing something I rarely do... I'm posting a few political posts. So, this is your forewarning; if you don't want to read political crap, then I suggest you not scroll down, do not read the following posts and stop reading now! ;)

I am not a Repulican and I am not a Democrat... But I am an AMERICAN and I am so tired of all the bickering and anti-work-together attitude that has been plaguing our politicians for the last 20 or 30 years. I am seriously tired of our politicians NOT listening to their constituants and moving forward with bills and plans that go against what we elected them to do.

And yes, before you ask... I am Anti-Obama! I just seriously cannot stand his views (personal or public). He's a fabulous speaker, as is his wife, but that's where my admiration ends. He's a scary man. And though I can't say that I believe all the rumors that are running rampant about him, there are many FACTS that have been (and continue to be) put out there for us to see (like his Health Care Bill that he just completely ignored dang near EVERY AMERICAN about) that SCREAM at us to take him out of office! And I don't care if I'm suddenly on a watch list. It's my job, as an AMERICAN CITIZEN to monitor all that our elected officials do and to voice my thoughts, concerns and opinions to all who will listen, especially to those elected officials.

I want my children to grow up in a FREE COUNTRY, and I'm truly afraid that those freedoms that our forefathers died for and that our men and women of the Armed Forces continue to die for are slowly being taken away from us. It's truly sad when my cousins in Italy tell us that this President is taking us down the same road they traveled years earlier when they became a communistic/socialistic country. And we aren't even noticing it's happening!

I am just TIRED of all the backstabbling politics; the inclusion of crappy laws inside bills that are meant to be great. A bill is 50,000 pages long (ok, so I don't know the true number of pages, but I've seen pictures of politicians reading the stacks of paper in just 1 bill). What is in all those pages? Well, let's see... It's promises to this Senator or that Representative for something specific for their state so they will vote for the bill. It's Bribery!!! It's passing a seatbelt law that also has an abortion law attached (okay, so that might be an exaggeration, but you get the idea)! Seriously... I'm tired of all the back-door politics that are slowly robbing our people of the rights that our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, brothers and sisters all fought and continue to fight for.

This next election I want a plain Joe/Jane to be my President. I want someone who will be honest and caring. I want someone who doesn't have specific political ties to a particular group and who will work willingly with congress and who CONGRESS will work willing with, too. I want someone who can put our country and our needs before his/her own ambitions. I want someone who will pay for his/her own vacations and who will do the job he/she is paid to do. I want someone who will pull out of a war zone if that's what he/she promises and who will demolish our enemies when necessary (no matter the cost) if that's what it takes. I want a TRUE LEADER who will follow through with his/her promises! Who is our next President?!?

Come on America... Show us what you've got!!!

"Our European arrogance in alphabetical order..."

Our European arrogance in alphabetical order:
1. The American Cemetery at Aisne-Marne,
France.. A total of 2289

2. The American Cemetery at Ardennes , Belgium.
A total of 5329

3. The American Cemetery at Brittany, France .
A total of 4410

4. Brookwood , EnglandAmerican Cemetery. A total of 468

5. Cambridge , England .. 3812

6. Epinal , FranceAmerican Cemetery. A total of 5525

7. Flanders Field, Belgium .. A total of 368

8. Florence , Italy. A total of 4402

9. Henri-Chapelle, Belgium . A total of 7992

10. Lorraine , France . A total of 10,489

11. Luxembourg , Luxembourg. A total of 5076

12. Meuse-Argonne. A total of 14246

13. Netherlands , Netherlands . A total of 8301

14. Normandy , France . A total of 9387

15. Oise-Aisne , France . A total of 6012

16. Rhone , France . A total of 861

17. Sicily , Italy. A total of 7861

18. Somme , France . A total of 1844

19. St.. Mihiel , France . A total of 4153

20. Suresnes , France . a total of 1541

Apologize to no one. Remind those of our sacrifice and don't confuse arrogance with leadership. The count is 104,366 dead brave Americans. And we have to watch an American elected leader who apologizes to Europe and the Middle East that our country is "arrogant"!
I hope you remember this when election time comes around again...

"Truly Remarkable!"



Friday, April 9, 2010

A Reality Check

In my previous post, I pasted a news report about a little boy who was adopted and "returned (as if he were a dress that didn't fit properly) from/to Russia this past September. I felt that there is an important topic that rarely gets attention burried within the piece...

It is a sad reality that the children we adopt will come home to us with psycological issues. These are children who have experienced things that no child should be required to endure... Abandoment by or death of a parent, abuse, neglect, molestion, just to name a few! And we, as adoptive parents, cannot get past the ideals that we envision, no matter how much education is presented to us.

I can remember the course we took (PRIDE) when we adopted our first child. We adopted through Foster Care, so we were given this idea that any child we brought home would need extra patience due to the extremely difficult life the child had lived to that point (and boy did M put us to the test).

Truth be told, we listened to the instructor but we didn't "Hear" her. I mean we didn't truly hear what we were being taught. We thought "That won't happen to us" or we believed that we could deal easily with whatever was thrown our way because we wanted kids so badly. But we didn't have a true sense of what we would truly be dealing with...

How bad are withdrawls in a 2 or 3 months old? How desperate can one get to have some semblance of normalcy with your new child? How hard could it be to adjust? And, if I were to be brutally honest, we thought that the child who was "given" to us would actually have to adjust to us. How stupid could 2 adults be?

Ignorance is not an excuse, though. Adoptive parents can get true joy from their children. But it's not an easy road to traverse. These children are precious and they deserve to be loved and taught how to love. They need to be given a chance. And 3 months, 6 months or even 24 months may not be long enough to teach the child trust... Because that's where an adoptive parent needs to start... Teaching trust! Until your new child learns to trust you then you will not be able to bond with that child and that child will not be able to bond with you.

That's another difficulty that adoptive parents don't understand: When you adopt a child, you, as the adult, must teach your child how to love you... And you should be prepared that it could take years! There is no syrum that will instantly make your child love you. And there are some occassions where you must learn how to like or love your new child. It's not easy! It takes time and a lot of hard work by all parties.

Needless to say, I feel terrible for the little boy who was sent back to Russia. The route that was taken was awful. I trust WACAP (the agency that is involved) would have done all that they could to resolve this issue had they been made aware. But, as the grandmother states, the boy did not start showing signs of behavior issues until this past January... How sad that the mother couldn't work with her son longer than a couple of months. And how sad that she chose to dissolve her son's adoption in this horrific manner. I do not judge others for dissolving their adoptions because, again, adoption is difficult in the best of times, and we can never know what is happening behind closed doors. Besides, I also believe that a child should be placed elsewhere if the placement is not working out... He/She has teh right to have a loving and solid home and family. But I DO have a problem with the manner in which she "returned" the boy. It was almost as if she sent him back with a request for a refund because it was not what she had purchased. This child is not a commodity (no matter how many entities recieve money during an adoption). He is a human being with the right to have a loving family that he can enjoy and depend on. I only wish this mother would have taken the time to call WACAP and request help! Hell... I would have taken the boy!!!

Wll, my point in writing this post was to make people (who are interested) aware of the difficulties one WILL face during an adoption. It's not just the lengthy waits or the massive amounts of money that get doled out or the constant hoops one must jump through at, what seems, someone else's whim... But rather, it's the teaching of a child and the durress one must endure when trying to help your child understand all that has happened to him/her and the never-ending reassurance you must give to your child that they are truly loved and the facts that you learn over time about the time your child has spent in the orphanage that can be wearing.... BUT OH SO JOYOUS!

Sending prayers to this child in the hopes that he will, inevitably, be loved and cherrished by a family and he will grow up to be an amazing and well-adjusted adult!

Sadness in the World of Russian Adoption

The following was copied and pasted from this link regarding the "return" of an adopted Russian boy:

Russia furious over adopted boy sent back from US

By NATALIYA VASILYEVA and KRISTIN M. HALL, Associated Press Writers Nataliya Vasilyeva And Kristin M. Hall, Associated Press Writers – 2 hrs 57 mins ago

MOSCOW – Russia threatened to suspend all child adoptions by U.S. families Friday after a 7-year-old boy adopted by a woman from Tennessee was sent alone on a one-way flight back to Moscow with a note saying he was violent and had severe psychological problems.

The boy, Artyom Savelyev, was put on a plane by his adopted grandmother, Nancy Hansen of Shelbyville.

"He drew a picture of our house burning down and he'll tell anybody that he's going to burn our house down with us in it," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "It got to be where you feared for your safety. It was terrible."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the actions by the grandmother "the last straw" in a string of U.S. adoptions gone wrong, including three in which Russian children had died in the U.S.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, Dmitry Medvedev said the boy "fell into a very bad family."

"It is a monstrous deed on the part of his adoptive parents, to take the kid and virtually throw him out with the airplane in the opposite direction and to say, 'I'm sorry I could not cope with it, take everything back' is not only immoral but also against the law," Medvedev said.

The cases have prompted outrage in Russia, where foreign adoption failures are reported prominently. Russian main TV networks ran extensive reports on the latest incident in their main evening news shows.

The Russian education ministry immediately suspended the license of the group involved in the adoption (the World Association for Children and Parents, a Renton, Washington-based agency) for the duration of an investigation. In Tennessee, authorities were investigating the adoptive mother, Torry Hansen, 33.

Any possible freeze could affect hundreds of American families. Last year, nearly 1,600 Russian children were adopted in the United States, and more than 60,000 Russian orphans have been successfully adopted there, according to the National Council For Adoption, a U.S. adoption advocacy nonprofit group.

"We're obviously very troubled by it," U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in Washington when asked about the boy's case. He told reporters the U.S. and Russia share a responsibility for the child's safety and Washington will work closely with Moscow to make sure adoptions are legal and appropriately monitored.

Asked if he thought a suspension by Russia was warranted, Crowley said, "If Russia does suspend cooperation on the adoption, that is its right. These are Russian citizens."

"Child abandonment of any kind is reprehensible," said Chuck Johnson, acting CEO of the National Council For Adoption. "The actions of this mother are especially troubling because an already vulnerable, innocent child has been further victimized."

The boy arrived unaccompanied in Moscow on a United Airlines flight on Thursday from Washington. Social workers sent him to a Moscow hospital for a health checkup and criticized his adoptive mother for abandoning him.

The Kremlin children's rights office said the boy was carrying a letter from his adoptive mother saying she was returning him due to severe psychological problems.

"This child is mentally unstable. He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues," the letter said. "I was lied to and misled by the Russian Orphanage workers and director regarding his mental stability and other issues. ...

"After giving my best to this child, I am sorry to say that for the safety of my family, friends, and myself, I no longer wish to parent this child."

The boy was adopted in September from the town of Partizansk in Russia's Far East.

Nancy Hansen, the grandmother, told The Associated Press that she and the boy flew to Washington and she put the child on the plane with the note from her daughter. She vehemently rejected assertions of child abandonment by Russian authorities, saying he was watched over by a United Airlines stewardess and the family paid a man $200 to pick the boy up at the Moscow airport and take him to the Russian Education and Science Ministry.

Nancy Hansen said a social worker checked on the boy in January and reported to Russian authorities that there were no problems. But after that, the grandmother said incidents of hitting, kicking, spitting began to escalate, along with threats.

She said she and her daughter went to Russia together to adopt the boy, and she believes information about his behavioral problems was withheld from her daughter.

"The Russian orphanage officials completely lied to her because they wanted to get rid of him," Nancy Hansen said.

She said the boy was very skinny when they picked him up, and he told them he had been beaten with a broom handle at the orphanage.

Joseph LaBarbera, a clinical psychologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, said adoptive parents are many times not aware of the psychological state of children put up for adoption.

"Parents enter into it (foreign adoption) with positive motivations but, in a sense, they are a little bit blindsided by their desire to adopt," said LaBarbera, who specializes in the psychological evaluation of children and has worked with a number of children adopted from Russia and other foreign countries. "They're not prepared to appreciate, psychologically, the kinds of conditions these kids have been exposed to and the effect it has had on them."

Russian state television showed the child in a yellow jacket holding the hands of two chaperones as he left a police precinct and entered a van bound for a Moscow medical clinic.

The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, said he was "deeply shocked by the news" and "very angry that any family would act so callously toward a child that they had legally adopted."

Anna Orlova, a spokeswoman for Kremlin's Children Rights Commissioner, told The Associated Press that she visited the boy and he told her that his mother was "bad," "did not love him," and used to pull his hair.

Russian officials said he turned up at the door of the Russian Education and Science Ministry on Thursday afternoon accompanied by a Russian man who handed over the boy and his documents, then left, officials said. The child holds a Russian passport.

Rob Johnson, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, said the agency is looking into Friday's allegations, although it does not handle international adoptions.

Bedford County Sheriff Randall Boyce also said Torry Hansen was under investigation, but he hasn't interviewed the Hansens because their lawyer has advised them not to talk.

Lavrov said his ministry would recommend that the U.S. and Russia hammer out an agreement before any new adoptions are allowed.

"We have taken the decision ... to suggest a freeze on any adoptions to American families until Russia and the U.S.A. sign an international agreement" on the conditions for adoptions, Lavrov said.

He said the U.S. had refused to negotiate such an accord in the past but "the recent event was the last straw."

Pavel Astakhov, the children rights commissioner, said in a televised interview that a treaty is vital to protect Russian citizens in other countries.

"How can we prosecute a person who abused the rights of a Russian child abroad? If there was an adoption treaty in place, we would have legal means to protect Russian children abroad," he said.

Stephen Flanagan, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the strong Russian reaction should not be a surprise.

"It's another sign of their incapacities at home, so when they see a former Russian citizen overseas mistreated or perceived to be mistreated it's something they try to use politically, but I can't see it leading to a rupture in U.S.-Russian relations," Flanagan said. "It's an unfortunate thing but it's in a different category."

Despite the uproar over adoptions, placing children inside Russia remains difficult. There are more than 740,000 children without parental custody in Russia, according to UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund.

Previous adoption failures have increased Russian officials' wariness of adoptions to the U.S.

In 2006, Peggy Sue Hilt of Manassas, Virginia, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of fatally beating a 2-year-old girl adopted from Siberia months earlier.

In 2008, Kimberly Emelyantsev of Tooele, Utah, was sentenced to 15 years after pleading guilty to killing a Russian infant in her care.

And in March of this year, prosecutors in Pennsylvania met with a Russian diplomats to discuss how to handle the case of a couple accused of killing their 7-year-old adopted Russian son at their home near the town of Dillsburg.


Hall reported from Nashville, Tennessee. Associated Press writers Travis Loller in Nashville, Joshua Freed in Minneapolis, and Foster Klug and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

What A Week

This past week was really enjoyable. We went on vacation yo visit Matt's mom in Missouri, so MJ got to ride on his 1st airplane. He did great, even though I was having issues... I strongly dislike flying, but what makes things worse is when the flight has lots of turbulence, medical emergencies or delays. Our 4 flights (two each way) had all 3 issues at one point or another. On the 1st leg of our trip (to Minneapolis) the flight was super bumpy. The kids all slept through it, though, so I didn't have to worry about them. Then, about 1/3rd of the way through the flight, one of the attendants got on the loud speaker and made this request: "We have a medical emergency. Do we have any doctors, nurses or EMTs on board?" Great!!! Just what I needed to worry about. I didn't know how bad the emergency was, so I prayed for the person's health and a swift landing if he needed additional monitoring. Someone stepped up to the plate and was rewarded for her effort by sitting in 1st Class with her patient (he was a 1st Class passenger, so I was grateful we didn't upgrade this time). When we landed, the entire aircraft sat patiently waiting for the EMT's to come on board and get the young man off before they even attempted to stand up. I was surprised at the patience of people... Our society seems to implement what I call "The ME Syndrome" more often than not, so this show of humanity was a relief and a joy to see. Thankfully, the young man was able to walk off the plane of his own accord. I'm hopeful that his recovery was swift and permanant. Anyway, the 2nd leg of our journey began with an hour long delay due to an engine malfuntion... Just the thing to make me relax!!! ;) I'm patient and don't mind delays too much, but the idea of flying on a plane that had a problem was quite scary. But we made it safely, so I was pleased. The trip home was just as awful: The leg to Minneapolis was turbulent, which had my hair on end. It was also delayed a bit, though we didn't mind since our connecting flight wasn't for nearly 3 hours. But that second leg was enough to nearly give me a heart attack... Seriously!!! It started out being delayed about an hour due to weather. Many of the planes taking off from Minneapolis were being rerouted and we all had to wait for the new information to be delivered. When we took off out of Minneapolis it felt like our plane was going to be torn out from under us... Literally!!! When the head flight attendant is giving her initial take off speach (in this case, it included warning about the severe turbulance that we would be enduring for the majority of the flight) and SHE starts gasping and saying "Oh god" on the intercom because of the severe drops we wwere enduring.... Then you know IT'S PRETTY BAD!!! The captain and the flight attendant both kept warning us that the decent into the Seattle airport would be even worse that the take off from Minneapolis, so I was terrified the entire trip. Thankfully, the captain did a fabulous job of keeping the plane in the air and helping to make the turbulence far more endurable than it might have been. In fact, he was even able to turn off the seat-belt sign for the middle part of the flight. But, the did inform us that they would be cleaning up and seating everyone (including the attendants) far sooner than they would normally do so due to the forseen turbulence. Thankfully, though it was bumpy, it was far better than the Minneapolis take off. We did do some drops, but I think dropping out of the sky during a landing is far easier and less noticeable than the drops when taking off and ascending.

Okay, so I know I bored you all to death with my lengthy novel about our flight, so I'll stop my ranting now and move on to how the kids did... MJ fussed for a good portion of the Minneapolis-Seattle flight. I think his ears were finally bothering him. The 1st flight he fussed because his ears were bothering him and he wouldn't take a bottle. But once he figured out that the bottle and pacifier would help in this area then he did really well. In fact, he slept for 3 out of the 4 legs of the trip. M also slept for the entire trip out to Missouri, as did C. The big kids are great travelers and they proved this on the 2 flights home... They were quiet and polite and both made sure they kept their legs and feet to themselves and didn't kick the back of the seats in front of them. MJ, though, fussed for a good portion of the final flight home. I think his tummy was gassy and his ears were bugging him and he was likely bored. Nothing would satisfy him. So when we landed I appologized for his fussiness to the passengers around us. I got the biggest compliment... Nearly everyone around us complimented all 3 of our kids on teh great job they did. M and C both got tons of praise for their good behavior. In fact, the couple who were sitting in front of them turned around and said that had they not seen them when they boarded they wouldn't have known kids were sitting behind them!!! They all said that even MJ, who was squealing and fussing, was a dream. Since we didn't have a connecting flight, we waited until most everyone was off the plane before we disembarked. As people passed us from the rear they also complimented us on our kids. Several people gave us a double take as they passed and said... "Wow! He was a great baby... I had no clue that there was an infant on board!" Since we were sitting smack dab in the middle of the plane I guess that was a good thing!!! I was nearly glowing by the time we finally got off the plane... I AM SO PROUD OF MY ANGELS!!!

As for our trip to visit Matt's family... Well, the only thing I can say about that is WOW!!! We were stunned at how well Matt's mom was doing. Yes, she is not doing so well that she will survive for much longer, but considering what we were expecting she looked great. She's still smoking like a freight train, but who cares... These are her last days and she deserves to enjoy them as she sees fit. She is eating well but her sleeping habits leave much to be desired, which puts a strain on the family who stays up all night with her. But, they all have a great technique worked out. We couldn't express how proud we are of the brother, sister and grandmother who are taking care of Mom. They all do a GREAT job and sacrifice so much. But I know they will get so much joy from being able to do this for Mom. It's been hard on them, but the memories they are getting will be something that they can cherish and is something their siblings will never have. I wish I could express myself better about how I feel, but I can't. All I can do is cherrish this feeling of love for them and all they are doing in my heart. I will carry that with me for life.

As we got ready to leave on Thursday afternoon, Mom said her good-byes. Those good-byes felt so final and were very difficult for Matt and me. Okay... They were more difficult for me than for Matt, I think. But I've never had to leave someone who is living out their last days. I've always either been around for their final days or I went home after they were already gone. I've never had to say good-bye like this. Matt hasn't either, but he did tell me that he had already said his good-byes to his mom a few months ago (just in case). He did have tears welling in his eyes as we talked on our way to the airport, though... But those were out of pure joy that he got to see his mom once more before she passes away. THAT was a blessing for us all, most especially for Matt and his family.

We also got to see Matt's brothers and one of his sisters along with his grandma and a very special aunt uncle and cousin!!! In addition, we got to see a niece and nephew and a very precious and rambunctious great-niece (holy cow am I feeling old)! Everyone looked very well and we totally LOVED seeing them all. The only thing I regret is not being able to stop in to say good-by to Aunt S and Uncle W... Sadly, Matt and I were both feeling a bit caught up in the good-byes we had with Mom. I know they'll understand, but I'm feeling lots of regrets now.

Since we couldn't go to Mom's house too early (since she stayed awake so late, everyone else slept in or went to sleep early in the morning, so we arrived around 11:00 every morning) we took the kids swimming before we got there. M loves to swim but is semi-afraid of the water. But, at least he is trying and enthusiastic about swimming. C, on the other hand, is finally starting to enjoy swimming and actually relaxes her body enough to be able to start some natural movements in the water. M is still working on relaxing and making natural swimming movements. He struggles, though he loves it. C is better at it, but doesn't normally enjoy swimming. MJ, on the other hand, just about swam out of my arms!!! He is a natural and seems like he'll actually be a good swimmer... Well, that's one thing I got to pass along!!!

It was fun to hear how much MJ looked like Matt and his brothers. In fact, we got to hear some stories about how Matt was when he was a baby... He, too, was loving and active. Matt and his 2 brothers actually told us a story about how they played bottle rocket tag, which is bad ebough... But, Matt actually used a 500 gallon propane tank as his hiding spot. Mom said she ran out screaming at the boys. They had, apparently, nearly given her a heart attack over that stunt. I'm learning more and more from everyone one on each of our trips home. It's funny to hear these stories because Matt's dad and step mom never had any stories that they wanted to share about Matt. What was truly amazing was to hear and see Matt's mom, grandma and aunt and uncle's reactions to how alike MJ and Matt are!!! My family all calls MJ "Mini Me" because he looks so much like his daddy... According to the stories from Matt's family that's an accurate description!!!! ;)

Needless to say, we all had loads of fun and were thrilled with the visit!!! We hope you enjoy the photographic journey as much as the lengthy story...