Sunday, July 28, 2013


Siblings don't always get along. 

Anyone who has a brother or sister knows that. 

I remember that when my sister and I were younger, our parents won a cruise. When they told us about it, my sister and I begged them to take us, too. Being smarter than us, they agreed to take us on one condition: that we did not fight between that day and the day of the cruise (which was months away). Needless to say, we didn't make it past that day, if not that hour, before we were arguing. "Sorry," they told us, "guess you two will have to stay home." We begged for a second chance, but they could have given us lots of "second" chances and we wouldn't have gone with them. And we grew up very close. Like all siblings, we had our ups and downs, but through both, we had and, continue to have, each other.

For as long as I can remember, Benjamin has wanted a sibling. Every birthday and Christmas, a sibling was at the top of his list. Now that he has one, he's learning what exactly it means to be an older brother: the good and the bad. Sometimes he's awesome with Cava and at other times  - not so much. But it's difficult because Cava, who's never had a sibling, is having to learn to navigate being in a new family and all that being in a family entails; this is not an easy feat. 

One of the hardest things for Cava is understanding what it means to have and be a brother. He's grown up viewing other kids as competition and he struggles with this. If Benjamin tries to show him something, Cava often responds with, "I don't wanna'." Or if a song comes on the radio that Benjamin likes, Cava will get indignant and gripe, "Why do we have to hear that song again?" Even if it's a song we haven't heard in a long time. While Cava can be affectionate with Danelle and I, he often balks at giving Benjamin a hug or a kiss. Being affectionate, Benjamin's feelings get hurt at being rejected by this sibling he's always wanted.

After Cava was being particularly hurtful to Benjamin, I took Cava aside to have a talk with him. What came out was that Cava was extremely jealous of Benjamin, not only of what all Benjamin has that he doesn't, or what Benjamin's done that he hasn't, but, most importantly, because Benjamin was born to us and he wasn't. "Why couldn't I?" he asked angrily. 

"I wish you were, Cava," I replied. "While we can't change that, I am very thankful to God that you are part of our family now." Then I reiterated to him that it was Benjamin who was first to say he wanted to adopt Cava. I also asked him, "Did you ever stop to think that Benjamin could be jealous of you, too?"

He looked at me in that way I can see that this thought had not only never occurred to him but totally surprised him.

So I explained, "Think, Cava, before you became a part of our family, Benjamin had Mommy and I to himself. Now he has to share us. Often times, Mommy spends more time with you than she does Benjamin."

It's not always easy with Cava and for Cava.  

Awhile back, I read a novel called Room by Emma Donoghue. The story is told from the point of view of the  five year old narrator Jack. His mom was kidnapped by a man when she was 16 and she ends up pregnant and having his child. They have spent all of Jack's life in a small room and it's all he's known. When they end up getting rescued, the outside world becomes overwhelming and frightening to Jack, so much so he only wants to go back to that room.

As I read this heartbreaking story, I immediately thought of Cava. 

In many ways, he's like Jack. Cava's spent his whole life in a small, isolated world where he has had no choices to make. Everything was decided for him and was extremely regimented. Now that he has so many choices, he is often overwhelmed. He has so many choices and he wants all of them. At the grocery store, he will try to put items into the cart with, "I love this. It's my favorite!" (even foods that he doesn't like to eat).

Developmentally, Cava is a toddler. So he not only wants everything, he wants everything his way. So when he doesn't get his way, he voices his displeasure. This isn't easy to take, since he can go on and on and on about something or make things unpleasant for the rest of us. I tend to let the kids take turns telling me if they want to hear a certain song on the radio or my iPod, but Cava will often grouse and be a real pill when it's not his turn. 

Cava's having to understand that just because something isn't to his liking or doesn't go his way, he shouldn't make others miserable because of his actions and behavior. He's also learning that all actions have consequences (good and bad) and that if he makes good choices, then good things happen, but if he makes bad choices then he gets punished (such as going to the corner, not going somewhere that he wants to go or being unable to watch TV). 

Kids who've grown up in foreign orphanages often dream of having a family and coming to America. Cava had that dream come true, but now he's realizing that it's not exactly what he imagined. There are new rules and a new family that he has to navigate. The dream is now replaced by reality. This can be very hard for him. 

But there are days and moments when I hear Benjamin and Cava laughing together, enjoying each other's company, or they are both singing along to a song in the backseat of the car and, like any parent, it makes me happy. Once, when Benjamin spent the night at a friend's house, Cava was sad the whole time and he kept repeating, "I miss Benjamin." 

Whenever Benjamin gets frustrated with his new younger brother, I remind him, "You have to understand that Cava does love you in his own way. I know this isn't easy for you, but it will just take time." And it will.
Being a brother, as well as part of a family, is part of a long process for Cava. It's not going to come over night or come easily, but, in the end, it will be worth it because our family will be the better for it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cava & Seurat

As I've written before, I have been trying to stimulate, encourage, and open up Cava's imagination. He's told me that he never had access to crayons or paints or clay to work with back in Ukraine, so I have been trying to give him opportunities to use those in an attempt to give him other avenues to express himself.

Today I pulled out one of my art books on one of my favorite artists: Georges Seurat. While many may not recognize the name (as they would Monet or Van Gogh), they will probably know his most famous work entitled "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" (shown in the movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and the subject of the Sondheim musical "Sunday in the Park with George"). A copy of this painting hangs in our living room. Here's what it the painting looks like:

I brought out my large book on Seurat by John Rewald and Cava and I looked through it at his amazing paintings. As we did, I explained to Cava how he was known for working in what is known as "pointillism," in that his paintings were comprised of dots of colors. He loved this and was like, "Wow, Papa," and he wanted to look more closely in order to see the dots. 

Once we had spent some time studying Seurat's masterpieces, we decided to work on one of our own. Working together, this is what we created and Cava is really proud of it, so I thought I'd share our Seurat inspired minor masterpiece.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Vacation Bible School

This week our church had its vacation Bible school. The theme was Colossal Coaster World: Facing Fear, Trusting God. The verse that was the focus of this was 2nd Timothy 1:7, "For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment."

Benjamin was a guide for the first graders and it was Cava's first vacation Bible school. The first morning of VBS, I woke up to find Cava dressed and ready to go. He was disappointed to find out that it didn't start for a couple of hours. This excitement did not abate for the whole week and he loved going each day. I loved hearing him singing songs he learned as he worked on puzzles or was doing one of his activity workbooks.

Today was the last day of VBS and when I picked him up, as we were walking to the car, Cava told me, "I cried today."

Concerned about what happened, I asked him and, to my relief, he answered, "I didn't want Bible school to end. I want it every day."

When I asked him what he liked best, I expected him to reply "crafts" or "playing" but he said, "The Bible stories."

All of this culminated in the Colossal Carnival that they had, it was also a great outreach to the community.

There was free food, lemonade or water, sno-cones, games, and inflatables. Cava believes that the first should be last and he wanted to do the inflatables first. The bigger, the better.

First Cava:

Then Benjamin:

After moving on from a bouncy castle, Cava decided to tackle some food. First the hot dogs (he ended up having two):

Then nachos (again two):

Popcorn and sno-cones (three of those):

And then it was back to the inflatables:

He loved sitting in the firetruck, though he was disappointed they wouldn't let him turn on the siren.

And, last, face painting. Being the huge fan of Spiderman that he is, Cava wanted a spider painted on his neck and for it to look like it bit him just like it did Peter Parker.

As we were walking back to our car to go, Cava asked, "Will they do this again tomorrow?"  He was disappointed that they wouldn't until next summer. 

I'm glad he had fun, but even more so, I'm happy to hear him tell me that he likes learning about Jesus. While we read a children's Bible to Cava, I liked that vacation Bible school also gave us even more opportunities to share our faith and what we believe and why with him. I'm glad that he loves our church and that he feels the people there love him. That, to me, is one of the reason why it's important to be a part of the body of Christ.

And as Cava can't wait until vacation Bible school to come next year, I can't wait to see how he grows spiritually over this year as he learns more about Jesus as Lord and Savior. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Water Slide!

Since it was not raining today, we met some friends at a nearby public pool that's at one of our favorite parks. For $3.00 a person, you can swim in one of two time slots: 12:30 pm - 3:00 pm or 3:30 pm - 6:00 pm.

The pool has a water slide, lazy river, and a kids area.

Benjamin went for the water slide first, while Cava decided he wanted to just relax a bit in the water before he got started:

He wasn't going to have anything to do with the buckets that dumped water on kids, however.

We weren't there 10 minutes before it started thundering (What? The weatherman didn't predict any storms for today - what's up with that?) and we all had to go wait in the bathrooms for it to stop. After 15 minutes, we were back outside and swimming (Thankfully, since there are no refunds).

Cava discovered the lazy river, which he rode using two noodles.

But it wasn't long before his big brother was calling to him. "CAVA! Come on! Let's go down the water slide!"

Next thing I knew, they were both in line waiting to go down.

First Benjamin:

Then Cava:

His favorite part?

The splash at the end:

Then it was back in line for some more.

While we were swimming, it began to sprinkle. Cava complained, "No! Not rain again! Now I'll get wet!" (This was said while in the pool). 

Still, despite the momentary storm, we all had a blast and Cava, in his usual style, immediately asked afterwards, "Can we go back tomorrow?"

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Looking At Orphans

Don't look at orphans as problems to be fixed, 
but as children to be loved.
- Elliott Blackwell

Monday, July 15, 2013

It's Coming!

Orphan Sunday will be upon us once again on November 3rd, 2013.

What can you do to become a part of this global event to help the plight of the fatherless?

A lot!

To find out how you can be involved, go the official website at:

There you can get the resources needed to build your own Orphan Sunday activities in your local church.

Become involved.

Jesus called us to defend the fatherless and to take care of the orphans. Are we as Christians willing to heed His call or turn away from Him? "Whatever you've done unto the least of these . . ."

There will also be a special broadcast on that Sunday from Ukriane where there is a great awakening in their churches to take care of the needs of orphans within their country. Having been there and met so many kids who desperately need a loving forever family, this news brings joy to my heart.

But what about the kids in other countries?

What about kids here in the United States?

What are our churches stepping up and doing for this cause?

Pray about what you can do to plead the case of the orphan.

Step up and bring this forward to your own pastor and elders. Make it happen in your congregation.

We, as Christians, should strive to make even having an Orphan Sunday unnecessary.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Success! And Now On To The Next Challenge!

One of the things that Cava has really struggled with is pedaling a bicycle. As strong as his upper body is, his legs aren't. He has had a hard time pedaling a bike forward, especially up any kind of incline.

Since we live on a very busy street, we take him over to a nearby office parking lot to let him practice. The routine is typically: he tries for awhile, it gets difficult, he gets frustrated, says he's tired and quits.

Well, today he was finally able to ride his bike. We are so proud of him for not giving up. No sooner has he accomplished this goal when he informs me that he now wants me to take the training wheels off. Oh boy, the next challenge has begun!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Shattered Places

We had been having a fun day together when it all came to a screeching halt as Cava got angry with Benjamin while they were playing baseball and he threw the ball at him. I happened to be outside with them when it happened so I saw him do it. This meant he had to automatically go to his time out corner. When I told him this, he began to hit at the plants and then at me with his plastic baseball bat, which I immediately took from him. Once inside, he went over to the corner, grabbed a globe Danelle had given me as a present from before we were married, and threw it. I watched as it hit the floor and broke into pieces. This was the second time that he had broken an object that had sentimental meaning to it and I was crushed.

This summer has had very little of these type outbursts from Cava, so it's always heartbreaking when one occurs. As he stood in the corner, he stomped his foot and shouted defiantly at me. It took awhile for him to calm down and be quiet. It took even longer for him to say that he was sorry for what he had done.

After he'd apologized, I told him that hitting someone with anything be it a baseball or any other object is just as wrong as hitting them with his fist or kicking them. "What those kids who hit and kicked you in Ukraine did was wrong, but it is just as wrong for you to do the same thing here. Cava, you're a good boy, but you're making bad choices. Did anyone ever tell you that you were a good boy when you were in Ukraine?"

"No," he replied.

"Well you are. And we love you very, very, very much."

To my shock, he then asked, "Then why did you leave me behind?"

"What do you mean?"

"In Ukraine. How come all of you left before Mommy came back for me?"

My heart broke. This little boy has been holding this pain inside of him for nearly seven months and had never said a word about it. When we left him, this was something all of us were worried about: that he would think we had abandoned him.

"Cava, do you remember the first time we met you?"


"Well, we had only been there an hour before they asked us if we wanted to adopt you. We told them, "Yes," and if we could have, we would have taken you home with us then, but we couldn't. Ukraine has a legal process that we had to follow." I explained as simply as I could the system we had to go through in order to legally adopt him. I told Cava how we desperately wanted to do nothing more than to bring him home to live with us, but that, even after the judge declared him part of our family, we still had to legally wait 10 days before he could come to the United States. I reiterated again and again how it was not us but Ukrainian law which kept us from doing so.

"Ukraine bad," Cava said.

"No, those laws are there to protect children," I said, "and because we followed all of them, you are now legally ours and are American. Even if you went back to visit Ukraine, you are still ours and still American. No one could take you back. Not even if you went to visit the boarding school where you were. We have documents stating that you are forever ours."

"They couldn't read them because they're in English."

"No, we have them in Ukrainian and English so, yes, they could. Cava, you are part of our family and will always be a part of our family. We would never send you back and they can never take you back. All of us love you and would be extremely sad if you weren't part of our family." I then told him about all the people who had been so excited about his coming here (family, friends, people at church) and Cava liked hearing all of this. He needed to hear all of this. Once more, he struggles with the fear that he could be sent back and this was, yet, another opportunity to explain to him that he never will.

As much as I hated to see that globe broken on our living room floor, I count that loss as worth it if it has helped Cava to understand that we did not leave him because we didn't want or love him. It was worth it if this moment has helped him to further understand that we will always love him no matter what. Despite the loss of the globe, I think it was worth it since this provided an opportunity for Cava to express his fears: fears he has never mentioned before and I got to explain to him why things happened the way they did back in Ukraine.

Once more, I am having to learn patience, forgiveness, and to seize even the worst moments as ones that can be used to show my son that he is loved and accepted.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rain, Rain Go Away . . . We'll Have Fun Anyway

After 16 days straight of rain, not only do we get a little stir crazy but I know I wonder how Noah was able to do it, especially since he was cooped up with not only his family for all that time but two of every animal. I guarantee that it did not take long for each person to get on each other's nerves. So, to help break the monotony of being stuck inside, I've had to get creative with our activities.

One way they've had a blast was by my allowing our entire living room to become a maze of blankets and brought our small pup-tent inside.

Here is Benjamin and Megan putting up the tent:

And here is the final product, which became their own underground mine and a haunted house. 

Crafts! Crafts! Crafts! It's amazing how long they can stay at the table when you put out paints, popsicle sticks, straws, glue, paint, brushes, pipe cleaners, construction paper, colored pencils, and other crafty items.  And to see what they can make with them. 

Play games - lots and lots of games! Board games:

Video games (both on the Wii and the Playstation 2):

The kids made their own short movies.

For Cava, it's been puzzles, of course.

And working in his math workbooks:

He's also doing the summer reading program that our local library sponsors. He typically reads for at least 10-20 minutes every day.

And when we got too stir crazy being stuck in our house, we took a short drive to one of our favorite places: The Catawba Science Center.

All of the kids enjoyed their new exhibit "Imagine, Design, Play." All of them started with the sand table:

Then Cava moved on to the large K'Nex table.

He ended up building a helicopter:

It was interesting to me that he can build something if he has a picture to go by, but later, when we went to another area of the science center that had Legos, he got all excited until he saw that there weren't any photographs to show you what to build. When I told him that there weren't any pictures because they wanted you to build whatever you wanted using your imagination, he was disappointed and walked away. Kindling his imagination has been something we have been working on this summer.

While Cava was at the K'nex table, Benjamin and Megan tackled the ropes maze:

They enjoyed racing each other to see who could get from each numbered post first.

Once we were finished with that exhibit, we moved on to the butterfly area. You could either get sprayed with a nectar or put your finger in mashed fruit to attract them. Cava was thrilled whenever one would land on him and he would cry out, "This is so cool!"

Megan, however, tended to attract the most:

One even landed on her foot:

This was about the closest the butterflies got to me:

No matter how much nectar spray and mushed fruit I used, they still preferred the flowers - and Megan. 

Because of the rain, there were a lot of different kids groups there, so we tended to move to whatever room was the least populated at the time.

Here Benjamin and Megan did an experiment in static electricity:

Then another involving creating sparks using a plasma tube:

But easily, by far, the most popular exhibit was the aquarium where the kids can touch live sharks and stingrays. 

Despite all the rain, we've still managed to find ways to have a lot of fun together.