Monday, August 25, 2014

the day i sent my homeschooler back to public school

most people who know anything about me at least know this.....
we homeschool. 
it hasn't been easy. 
it hasn't always been pretty. 
but it's ours, and sometimes that's all we have.

well, this morning i dropped my son off at the front door of his new school. 
he's in the 8th grade....the big wig.....the top dog.
the newbie.
and i tried to be strong. and i tried to be happy. and i tried to act like i could handle this.
he walked away and i fell apart.

we have spent the last two years talking about what it would look like if he returned to public school.
we've done it before (pubic school), just not ever sure we would do it again.
and he has always been the one to bring it up and ask about it.
he's curious. 
he's always anxious to see what's on the "other side". 
and here's his chance.

homeschooling the last two years has given our family lots of freedom. 
we go to bed when we want
 (cause we can get up when we want),
we have lots of extra daylight hours to do the things we like to do
(cause our school only takes a fraction of our time),
we can travel whenever we feel like it
(cause we can make up our time or take it with us),
we can have lots of animals
(cause we have the time to spend with them and learn about them),
we pray and talk about God A LOT
(because He's ALWAYS allowed in our school),
we have hour(s)-long discussions on any given day about how to better ourselves, about who we wanna be, about what makes us tick and what works for our family and what doesn't, and about how we can be His hands and feet
(because shorter school days allot for beautiful, amazing conversations),
and there are soo many other reasons.......
but most and best of all......
and this is the thing that would drive most people crazy......
we are ALWAYS together.
(with the exception of my coffee dates, Cole's work, baseball, football, ballet, Dic's work, etc, etc).

today this is what i'm missing most.
our together.

one big piece of my heart was missing today as i left my boy and he walked through those doors.
he was scared and worried and hasn't slept for many nights thinking about what it will be like.
i think he was maybe peeking into the dreams i've had for years where i stand in the middle of a bunch of strangers and no one will help me and i know i'm suppose to be accomplishing something super big.
his thoughts on the way to school were about not knowing anything...
 (and we're not talking academically here)
....not knowing what to do.
that made me feel helpless as a mom.
i knew he didn't want me to walk him into the building and show him the way, but as a mom i felt like i should hold his hand and guide him.
cause that's what i do.
i protect my kids and take care of their hearts when they need me.
today i felt like he needed me.

these may be things that most people would never think about as they send their kids off to school.
these may be things that many people would never think about their kids. period.
maybe it's only homeschool moms that get it....i don't know.
i think it's kind of like trying to explain what adoption is like before you've done it.....
what parenting is like before you've done it......
what marriage is like before you've done it.

i LIKE being with my kids and i have learned soo much more about them than i could have ever imagined because we were finally given the time. 
and they got a chance to see what I'M all about...
the good, the bad, and the ugly
 (cause it gets that way....especially when i eat gluten :)).

it's tough when our time is divided.
we see things happen when our family is divided.

tonight, as i was saying goodnight to him, he told me that so far (and it's only been this one day) the hardest part about going back to school is that he doesn't get to be with us and do the things that we're doing (i took the other 3 for donuts cause that's what i do when i'm sad, and tonight everyone else was watching a movie but he needed to get to bed to make the bus on time tomorrow). 

i told him that was the hardest part for me too.

and then my goofy, spirited, gentle-souled son sat up and hugged me and told me he loved me and that it's going to be alright.

i will get through my sadness and sorrow for him.
i am soo soo proud of him.
i know our sweet father is watching over him at all times and he will continue to answer my pleas and prayers for my babe's protection. 

most friends won't get this. i'm sure it's difficult to understand unless you've been in my shoes.
it's okay.
i have pretty stink'n awesome kids.
that's all anyone needs to know.

zachie your mama loves and adores you more than you will ever know,
and i'll do my best to keep telling and showing you.
your mama

Sunday, February 16, 2014

truth can hurt

I started writing this several weeks ago.......and then I left it. I'm ready to share now.

today i am thanking god for this child of mine.
i've done this more times than i can count over the last three years.
(it will be 3 years home on january 28th)
i am soo grateful that god chose me to be her mom.
but my heart is also hurting.
i have been feeling a pull and confusion.

 there has been more talk of international adoptions closing in ethiopia
(my child's birth-country).
and this is sad and scary for soo many.
it is sad because we all (or at least those of us who have seen) envision orphaned-children living in orphanages for the rest of their lives.
no one wants that.
we've all seen what institution-living does to the human body and soul.
and there are families willing and able to love these children with all of their hearts.
so why would anyone want to keep this from happening?

my heart hurts because i am learning more truths than i knew before. 
i am all about knowing the truth.
there are truths everywhere and unless we seek to find them we don't truly understand.
i didn't understand.
i couldn't understand why, when we were in ethiopia to bring aregash home, the US Embassy would hold us there and not allow us to bring our child with us.
i was angry. i was confused. i was in denial.
they all of the sudden decided that they needed more information about our case.....
about whether our child's story was truth. or not.
i didn't get it and all i wanted to do was bring my baby home....
the baby we had waited for for a year.
we had gone to court for her. she was declared our child. she had brothers and sisters at home.
and then by the grace of God our case was cleared.
the documentation they requested was provided by our agency.
but today i wonder.........
is her story the story we were given?
is her story what we see on our paperwork?
is her story truth?
truth is what i seek. 

we all know there is corruption in adoption. there is corruption in just about everything.
we have heard the stories about how adoption agencies persuade birth families to give their children for a better life, for a guaranteed education, for money.
and we choose to believe that it happens less often than not.
i know i chose to believe that. up until yesterday i chose to believe that.
i chose to believe that we adoptive families followed a calling by God to enter the adoption world and bring this child home.....that this child would complete our family......that this child may not have a family if she didn't have us.....that this child could live her life in an orphanage.
and i still believe those things.
but now i know more truth.
and i know that truth because God told me to open my eyes.

and when i did, my heart broke. 
it breaks for the children.
it breaks for the adoptive families.
but mostly, it breaks for the families who called my child their own. first.

and in the time it took me to write the previous notes, we have bypassed our "family day" of 3 years...the day we arrived home with aregash......
we have completed our investigation into her story in ethiopia.....
we have learned more about the ugliness and unethical practices of agencies,
and several people have rightly been arrested in their wrong-doing of adoption in ethiopia,
hopefully to set an example that corruption is not tolerated.

the last few weeks have been a roller-coaster of emotions as there are conversations everywhere i look on Facebook. adoptive families who have gone through the process, and those who are still in it are emotional and angry.
we are all affected.
 i have had some people ask me what good it does to investigate aregash's story.......

THIS is the good it does........

when our daughter is old enough to try to understand where she came from and how she came to be a part of our family (a heart-felt, mature interest),
when she reads about ethiopian adoption and the corruption that cost soo many children and their birth-families, and their forever families so much heart-ache........
i want to be able to say......
that we didn't understand the level of unethical practices at the time......
we prayed about and believed that our agency was one of the best and we weren't overly concerned about this. 
our eyes were closed.
i want to be able to say......
that when we learned of these lies and money-ridden decisions,
that we did everything we could to find the truth for her.
that we pushed and pushed.
we questioned and questioned.
and then we went there to see for ourselves.
and even then.....we may never know the FULL truth, very unfortunately.
but that we did our best to find her truth.

to the best of our knowledge her story seems to be legitimate.
many many many families are finding differently.
and these families will have to deal with the hard of it all.
and i've also been asked what happens if we find untruths.

and my response.......
we will give this to our child when the time is right.
when she is old enough to understand.
will it be hard?
well, what about adoption is easy?
would it be better for us to avoid it all to make it more comfortable for ourselves?
or should we present our God-given daughter with the gift of knowing about her past whether it's the truth or not?.......
the chance of having a relationship with her birth-family based on truth rather than lies?
our child will be given this gift of knowing, to the best of our ability what her real story is, and she won't have to go looking for it as an adult on her own, 
when time will have passed and family may not be around to tell her what really happened.
i consider this a gift.

agencies have lied to the adoptive families of these children.
agencies have lied to the birth-families of these children.
government officials have allowed corruption because of the money.
the american-side of these agencies have continued to process adoptions even when they learned of corruption.
no agencies are in the clear.
not even our agency.....the one we trusted.

birth-families have lied to place their children for adoption.
reasons for this are many, but mostly because they felt that they could not properly care for their children under their living conditions......
one or both of the parents are deceased.......
because they believed they would receive monetary compensation.....
because of the misunderstanding that their child would be educated and cared for and then returned....
and by revealing the truth now, they face the penalty of imprisonment, or worse.
and so they continue to lie.
it's heart-breaking.

so what do we do about this???
it's a LOT to digest.
we do what's right.
we find the truth for our children.
and if/when we adopt again (because there will ALWAYS be children who NEED to be adopted)......
we do what we need to to find TRUTH.
we DON'T sit in our little, happy bubble and pretend that nothing happens.
we DON'T dismiss the red flags that have always been there and we chose to ignore.
we get on the ground...and we spend the money....and we think about the children instead of thinking about ourselves and our happiness.....
and find the TRUTH, to the best of our ability.
and then.....when our children come to us when they gain an understanding.....
we can say that we did our best. 
we don't wait until we have our children home and the feel the regret of not doing more.
adoptive families in process need to take what they are learning NOW and do something about it.
cause if we aren't in this for our children, then we shouldn't be in it at all.
i have questioned myself lately, especially as i look at the orphan adoption shirts that i designed to raise money for our adoption.......
and i wonder......
have we been CONTRIBUTING to the orphan crisis????
if there are soo many children who have been trafficked through adoption, then did we ADD to this problem rather than SUBTRACTING from it???
if children were placed for adoption when it wasn't necessary, if they were stolen from loving families so that we would adopt them, if our children were adopted based on lies.....
then we weren't really helping to solve the world orphan crisis like we thought.
and just because we didn't know then (and that truly wasn't our fault),
we can't say we don't know now.
and we can still do something about it.
i believe we need to do something about it.
and if we don't?
well, then that's on us.
and we have no one else to blame.

Once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we don't know what to do.
God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know and holds us responsible to act.
~Proverbs 24:12

we adoptive families have all used this scripture to explain our hearts for adoption....
to do what we were called to do because He asked us to.
now we need to use this same scripture to do right by our children and their first families.

we owe this to her.
she deserves it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Matsiko in our Hearts

dic was going through some videos and pictures on his phone tonight and he came across this one.
i was immediately brought to tears.

(pause my blog music in the upper-left corner to play video)

we miss those faces....those voices.
ya know, it's just like anything.....
the feeling starts to fade as time goes on.
but we think about them constantly (luke even asked me today if i missed them),
and talk of our time together a month ago.

fun day at Watiki Water the GOGGLES!

we aren't soo naive as to think that we are/were the only family that touched them and loved them.

a little bedtime arm-wrestle match with Diego (14) Sunnie (12)

we only know that every single time another group of kids come here through matsiko we will love them.

love....our first time hosting boys......Jeremiah, Diego, Sunnie....we adore them.
we have hopes and dreams for them.

a sweet reminder of why i love to do this every year. a precious bunch.

 they are a light that can't be put out.

FAMILY doesn't mean you have to live in the same house.....FAMILY comes from the heart.

we know that they will return to their countries in november, after being in the states for 10 months, and they will be changed forever.

all our the Matskio boys. there were only 6 this time.

they will have an experience that none of their friends or family will ever have.
they will have a hope that they never dreamed of before.
they will know they are special.
 they will return to their country and be a shining example of HOPE that everyone longs for.

our last morning together. a few tears shed, per the usual.

we are soo proud of each one of these young people and those who have held them tight along the way 
(thank you Don & Jennie Windham, for your vision of wanting to do more
 and following your heart and God's calling).
 i'm sure it wasn't an easy journey for any of them.
but they have/will make it.
they are the light and love......
of Jesus Christ.

you have blessed each and every one of us with whom you came in contact.
we will talk of this experience for as long as we live.
God placed our family right where it needs to be.
each time you visit us, we become more aware of the need in this world,
which is what this is all about.

we will pray for sponsorship of every child until every one is educated....
...until every orphan has a family....
....until every belly is full...
...until every child feels God's love...
...until every one knows Christ.

we will pray.
we love you all.
sweet blessings to you, Matsiko Family.

the chiolis fam.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


       i look at this garden.....
over-grown, messy, tired, unorganized, disappointed, sad, confused, heavy-hearted.
                                                         this is how i've been feeling lately.


i see these weeds and strawberry plants that have taken over
and i feel like i could just lay down there and they would cover me up in a day,
 and my troubles would just go away.

and then my 10 year old boy wakes me from my self pity to tell me that i'm pretty.
"even though you're standing outside taking pictures in your bra and underwear", he says. 
(at 7:00 on a sunday morning)
and i am forced again to see my blessings.

Monday, August 12, 2013

MATSIKO WORLD ORPHAN CHOIR comes to Rapid City, SD!!!!

Those of you who know me know that this organization holds a very special place in my heart.
This will be their 3rd time to Rapid City and we've had the pleasure of hosting and organizing each time.

And they are coming next week.....a whole new group of kids.....but with the same concept. 
They are raising awareness and dollars for their brothers and sisters a half a world away.
Their performances will allow people to actually see and touch a child who has been through the despairs of a third-world country. So many of us think that if we can't see them, they must not exist....or they don't matter. It's the reason people who travel across the world want to do something bigger than what they did before.
It's such a perfect link the people of  HERE to the people of THERE and know that we are all ONE. 
Kudos to Matsiko (which means HOPE in Uganda) and ICN (International Children's Network) for loving on the people's of the world.....on all of the edges and the in-betweens. 
From front-to-back and side-to-side and ocean to land. 

THIS year's group

from Peru, South America & Liberia, Africa

12 girls & 6 boys

our family with our girls from last year

 this year our boys begged to host boys.....we've had girls the last 2x. 
Aregash isn't as excited, but she's had her girl-time.
 in fact, those girls placed a burden soo heavy on her daddy's heart that he said YES to adoption after they came in 2008.

our girls in 2008....a start of something beautiful

i'm sure that everyone who has come across Matsiko has their own special story......
and now we will have three.
the choir and the work they do will always be something we're passionate about.
i think the misconception at first glance is that the purpose of their journey is to create opportunities for these chosen children who are traveling the United States, when in reality, they symbolize everything that we CAN'T SEE across the world.
the money that is raised during their trip across America will provide sponsorship for their neighbors and classmates and siblings so that they will have the SAME educational opportunities as these few chosen children in the choir. it's an amazing cause and something i'm proud to be a part of.

if you can't come to Rapid City, SD to see them, look on their Facebook page for more information about where you can.....and how you can be a part of it all.

every time they reach another city or town they reach hundreds more people who just didn't know....or didn't care.....or didn't think there was anything they could do.
and now they'll know how to love someone who isn't a part of their family, or a part of their circle, or town, or country.
these children are not forgotten.
thank you, Lord.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

a note to my husband

i tried this yesterday on facebook and decided the whole world didn't have to see my message to you. today i've decided that i don't care who sees how much i love you. 

thank you for taking time out of your last few days to give me and our marriage what it needed. 
thank you for putting up with me and all that i can sometimes be. 
it doesn't have to be your birthday or our anniversary for me to tell you that you are an amazing, godly father and husband. 
that your giving heart is something that will make your kids want to be better people.....
like it makes me want to be a better wife and mother and friend. 

thank you for working soo hard to make it possible for me to be home with our family,
for us to always be together. 
i know it's not easy. forgive me for questioning that. 

you are my rock and my best friend. 
i've been a mess and you still hung with me even when i know you wanted to run.
 and now that i'm back, i'm soo happy for the reminder that you are the man i want to be with for the rest of my life.

i believe that god gives us these times to make sure that we come back and lean on him, laying it all down in trust. 
these are the times he gives us to make us grow and gain strength.
i know that this won't be the last of the hardships we endure, but i am grateful for this one more chance to see that you won't give up on me.

 i appreciate and adore you, dic chiolis. 


Saturday, June 22, 2013


i am praying today for things as little as baseball games and as big as forest fires..... 
to things as small as obedient children to things as big as a baby being born.
 today i will pray for my relationships....with our families and with each other and with friends.
 i will pray for broken promises and hardened hearts and resentments built. 
i will pray that love is found in a place of despair and anger and loneliness. 
i will pray and praise for the lost who are found and the children in families and the endless kisses given.
it feels like a great day to pray....

you know my heart, you know my needs,
you know every part of me.
so even if it's just to speak Your name.

lifting my hands......

i'm gonna pray.

Friday, June 14, 2013

God's story.....a leap of faith from Sweden to America.....and the in-between

 i truly believe that god places us in situations to test our test our commitment to him.....
to see if we will do what he wishes of us.

this is a recent story that began in a mcdonald's late at night after a baseball game. 
my family has learned to really dislike mcdonalds, for apparent reasons, but i felt this need to go there.
 i even made the comment, "let's just go grab some cheap burgers".
i NEVER say that. 
but this night i felt drawn to ronald mcdonald's house.
a god-thing?
now i truly believe it was.

 on this night we met daniel. he had a little "set-up" at his table, which was very close to ours.
it was about 10:00 pm so the only other people there were some cute little grandmas sitting behind us talking about how their grandchildren never send thank yous for anything.
i felt like maybe THIS was the reason we were here.....
i was suppose to be learning a lesson from them....
but i almost always have my kids send thank yous to people.
so i'm good.
must be something else.

and then dic did what he usually does.....
he struck up a conversation with daniel.....a 20-year-old swede who found the desire to see the U.S. 
the kicker? he chose to see it on a bicycle. 
beginning in new york city and traveling across the country to san diego, ca.
lucky for us, he chose to ride through the coldest parts of the country (and even a little into canada).
he said he had wondered after a bit if it was a wise decision to possibly head south after he came across rotten, snowy, cold weather in new york. he actually said that there were nights he was soo cold he wasn't sure if he'd wake up in the morning.
when he had done his internet research, it appeared that new york would have descent weather when he started his journey in april.
not soo much.
and he HATES the cold.
he's such a positive person, so i could tell that he meant this when he spoke of the cold.
we are alike in that respect!

anyway.......we asked him where he stays when he's done riding for the day.
he tent camps. that moment he was in an area of our little town where there isn't much tent-camping (none), and the motels aren't much to speak of. but, he did say that someone had referred him to x-place.
x-place where someone was stabbed-to-death (or shot) last year.
not a nice place.
and then the words came out of dic's mouth.....
"would you like to sleep in our camper?"
i was a tiny bit stunned for a second
 (not sure why, as i have a heart for "strays"....but i've never brought a "stray" human home. :)

1st morning.... bugs

and now i realize that he wasn't a "stray" at all.
he was EXACTLY where god wanted him.
and us.
and so once the translation of "camper" came through and was understood, he shockingly accepted our offer.

and so our story begins.
and so GOD'S story begins.

taking time out of weeding the flower beds to play

loud and crazy dance party

daniel's first s'more

he took our boys on a couple of bike-rides across the city.
WE have never left from our house on bikes because of the highway traffic, yet we trusted our new friend with our kids.
they had a blast.
and came back very tired.
22 miles later.

little one didn't get to go this time, but she sure looks good on her new bike, huh?

he had planned to ride his bike through the Black Hills.......he hadn't experienced hills yet.....
or mountains.
we asked if we could take him. 

he's waited a very long time for this.

he was amazed and excited to finally be here.

i love this picture. i thought i had moved far enough away from his shot. guess not. 

is HE our 5th child i've been wondering about???

hiking up to Harney Peak

at the top
we were above the clouds....soo cool!

daniel had NEVER seen a baseball game. 
he told us about a sport in sweden that would be closely related to baseball and would translate to english as "smash-ball". you use either a skinny bat or a flat bat and a tennis-like ball.

he stayed an extra night to watch zach play baseball--zach is playing 1st base (shown behind daniel)

chairlift to the presidents slide in keystone

ready to go!

crazy horse monument

Sylvan of our favs. places. soo beautiful


 and then it was time to say goodbye.
daniel had intended to stay in rapid city for 3 days. 
he stayed for 8 full days.
because of rain and wind he was held up a little longer than he'd anticipated.
(oh, and because he LOVED us!!!)

mapping out the roads of the big horn mountains and yellowstone

dic had a great time having daniel here.....we both did.

dic drove daniel into the big horns to make up a couple of days he had lost.
his goal is to meet his parents in san diego (flying in from sweden) to continue on to Hawaii for vacation.

i was disappointed we didn't all get to see him off, but seeing pictures, i'm pretty sure my tears would have been flowing.

all ready to go!

this was an experience we will never forget.
and hopefully God brought daniel into our lives to KEEP him a part of our lives.
we all talked about having him come back next summer to stay and work and hang out with us.
(hopefully our next house will have a spare bedroom so he will have his own space).
he loved it here!
we loved him here!
here is the video dic took of him riding away. *sniff sniff*

we love and miss you daniel!!!

hands from across the world.....from africa to sweden to the u.s.

god's story is the greatest story.
and from this time on i will remember that even when things seem a little bit silly and crazy,
if i am feeling led to something,
 i will continue to take that leap of faith and go with it.

...even if it means eating gross burgers at mcdonald's.....
...even if it means taking in a "stranger" at the drop of a hat....
...even if it means taking an entire week off of normal weekly activity to play......

FAITH is so important.
FAITH makes us grow.
FAITH is fun.


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