Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Movies

I enjoy going to the movies. I especially love it in December. This year we saw Did you Hear about the Morgans, The Chipmunk's Squeakquel, Avatar and Sherlock Holmes. It was glorious and I hate to see it come to an end! Here's a cute pic of Victoria and Hosanna....

Life's Purpose...

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

5 months home with Eli

I was planning on writing some of my thoughts lately about parenting an internationally adopted child...about the frustration of feeling your way in the dark...and the satisfaction that comes from getting some direction, a plan. But alas, I've decided to ponder it in my heart a while longer. In the meantime -- I didn't want you all to miss out on this cute pic!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Eli's first Christmas

Well, everyone's been asking, "How was Eli's first Christmas?" At first I was gonna answer "uneventful" -- but that's not really it -- it was very fun and full with activity. However, Eli doesn't know enough about American Culture to be "excited" about a holiday. He doesn't speak enough English for us to explain and then to "anticipate" things he's never experienced before like getting up on Christmas morning and opening gifts. However, he is certainly learning our ways. He loved looking at Chrsitmas lights for instance! He could have done this over and over. Here's a house we went to a couple of nights ago! Can you tell it was snowing?
He's really enjoyed having the tree up and loves asking us to "turn on" some of the decorations. Not knowing about presents it didn't occur to him to be curious about them. He never touched them or tried to open them. He did, however, break a few ornaments! I think he'll be sad to see the tree go "bye bye".
We were all, Eli included, delighted by the Christmas Service at New Life...we all agree it's one of our favorite Christmas activities. Actually, it might be our families all time favorite Christmas activity.Eli couldn't decided whether to laugh or cry when i made him sit on the stage for a picture. He's yet to "smile" on command.

Eli opened about 10 gifts or so from us and the grandparents. He would painstakingly tear each package into 1,000 tiny pieces. He got shoes, a cute little bath robe, and toys. He got a new backpack, a baby cell phone and a TON of candy. He also got this...
Now, how did we enjoy our first Christmas with Eli? Most importantly, how did Mommy enjoy the time? I'm happy to report, we all have had a GREAT couple of days. Really, I don't think I could have asked for a better time. The kids were wonderful -- and all seemed to enjoy the festivities. They loved the goodies, time with friends, Christmas movies, decorating (my girls did a great job on the table).
Thanks to Billy's mom, we all enjoyed the food, the gifts and each other! Tonight we joined the thousands of other people at the movie theatre and laughed through the Chipmunk's Squeakquel. What more could a mother of five have asked for? Billy and I even enjoyed a date in Denver -- with NO kids!

We are looking forward to an even more relaxing week! My favorite week of the year infact -- between Christmas and New Year's -- when I truly have nothing to do (well...you know what I mean). Hope your family had a Merry Christmas! Looking forward to a New and Happy 2010!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Teenagers, Birthday Cakes and Purity Rings

This month our 2nd daughter turned 13 years old. Around this time, I like to emphasize (2) important things to our girls. Number one, despite recent upsets, they do have a Godly Heritage. On both sides of the family, they have parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. who have honored God and have therefore allowed a generational blessing to be passed down for them to enjoy. Number two, I like to emphasize the Godly Community that surrounds them. They have Godly teachers, leaders, mentors, friends, and friends of their parents all around them. Despite how they may feel from time to time, they do not walk the Christian journey alone. There are many others who walk it as well, along side them. There are many who are watching over them, encouraging them, hoping the best for them, and who are willing to pull them away from questionable situations. I joke (only slightly) that there are many "momma's" and "papa's" that are looking out for them in this city! On that note, we are so thankful to everyone who took time away from their busy Christmas schedule to spend the afternoon with us and were such a blessing to Hosanna.

At the Ramsdell home, our daughters origionally initiated the idea of getting a purity ring. In our family, the ring simply represents a Godly desire. We believe that the particular desire to stay pure until marriage is a worthy one to pursue and is definately worth our affirmation. I have emphasized with my girls, maybe all their lives, that their responsibility at this time in terms of male/female relationships is not to pursue a young man, nor is it to seek the pursuit of a young man -- even if it is a Godly young man. Their responsibility is to become the right young woman. If the principle that we "attract who we are" makes any sense, and I belive it does, taking the time to become Miss Right before attempting to land Mr. Right makes all the difference. When our daughters asked for purity rings, we realized it does not speak to what will happen over the next 10 years or so. It does however speak alot about the kinds of women my girls desire to become. We believe that the "becoming" must begin to take place before the "pursuing". When Hosanna finally reaches her wedding day, what sweet gifts, the gifts of her purity and loyalty, will be. How helpful to a marriage to already have done work in the areas of patience, perserverance, loyalty and waiting.

So...today...we presented our daughter with a purity ring as a symbol of our affirmation of who she is, who she desires to become and of the future relationship we pray she has one day with her husband.

Recently, she told me she didn't like the color blue. She told me this AFTER I'd bought her a blue ring and had it sized for her 3 3/4 finger! My reasoning on getting this blue ring was an old tradition. At least in the South, girls wear something Old, something New, something Borrowed, something BLUE. So, I thought that just maybe her ring may become her "something blue".

Our Christian community layed hands on her and prayed for God's blessing on her life. We ate cake and opened presents. It was a nice day...a sweet party and we are so happy God is allowing us to be able to raise such a sweet girl!

Christmas...even when I don't feel Merry

I look forward to the holidays. Around this time of year, I wish we could just take off of EVERYTHING and concentrate on only those things that bring enjoyment. Having unrealistic expectations seems to be a constant theme for me lately.

This year Christmas has felt a little different. We are smack dab in the middle of our transition with Eli. It has been difficult for me lately -- in ways that I don't even know how to articulate very well. I run a small business...Billy is starting a large business...we have lots of children who love being involved in life (and rarely love cleaning up after life happens)...we have far less resources at our disposal than in year's past...I miss my extended family whom I haven't seen in a year and 1/2 (it's being at my Grandmother's during the holidays that gives me that "holiday feeling")...my little sis has had 2 children I've yet to meet...and I've even found myself revisiting the sadness of my father dying in a car accident almost 10 year ago. We feel alot of stress at the moment. Billy and I both feel tired. I feel fragile...much more emotional than I normally am. A sweet friend today said, "You sound like a first time parent." She couldn't have been more accurate as to how I'm feeling. My lack of confidence in parenting Eli has caught me off guard. However, this blog isn't about Eli.

This Christmas season has still seemed, well..."Christmasy". Not in a "merry" sort of way...but I've definately sensed God's sweet presence with us. Life this past year has not gone smoothly...therefore...I don't expect that Christmas go perfectly either. Infact, I know it won't. I'm ok with that. However, here's a short list of things I've just reminded myself that I know too....

- Christmas is about the night when God sent hope to the hopeless. I've been a Christian more than 1/2 my life -- yet I must confess that I still feel a sense of hopelessness from time to time when life's stress is more than I think I can bear. God sent Jesus that night for me...just for me. We couldn't have made it this far without a belief that regardless of life's circumstances, His love is sure and never fails.

- Christmas is a time to celebrate the love that lives inside you and me. Getting my mind off myself by giving this love away -- is a good idea.

- That quiet, calm night, God broke through the darkness with light -- dazzling light. He breaks through mine too...often when I'm "still, knowing He is God". I'm a lover of that moment. Really, I can't express enough how much I love a moment where God shows up and comes through. To have that moment -- I also have to have the experience that brings me there.

- "Doing" Christmas this year - with less resources than I've had in the past -- on top of everything else - has required a certain amount of courage out of me...I have proven I can be brave.

- My love language is "Quality Time" which means what I really desire this time of year is time to spend with the Lord and time with my family. To make this happen, there are other things I need to give up in the future. Next year, if I don't invite you over -- it's because my house is a wreck -- I'm making time to read my Bible instead of picking up. Next year, instead of getting a Christmas Card from me -- I'll be praying for you instead. :)

We have been in a time of stretching and growth. Those words are always bittersweet. BITTERSWEET. At any given moment -- in an emotional sense -- I look like I've just completed a hard, long workout. My faith feels truly worked out and it has felt like this for quite sometime. Actually, the faith of my whole little family is getting worked out. I can only believe that God is headed someplace in all that we are doing --- the words of this blog infact is proof of my trust and faith -- after all I'm still here walking the narrow road He's called me to walk...and I have hope.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Journey of Our Lifetime... at OneTrueMedia.com

I believe God's grander plan is coming true for Eli. Enjoy....

Eli's Eye Surgery

Today was a big day for Eli. As the Dr. did a surgery that basically saved his vision in his right eye, we experienced some of the enormity of what the American Health Care System can offer him versus what he wouldn't have gotten in China.

Eli had cataracts as a baby - in both eyes. At 1 year, 8 months, he had surgery in China to remove the cloudy lens from both eyes. Since the part of the eye that we use to focus is absent in Eli (the lens), he has very thick glasses. The good news is that he is a good candidate to have artificial lens put in when he's older. The other good news is that he has (4) older siblings to fight off mean, playground bullies. Bullies beware as the Ramsdell's have no wimpy children.

With the cataract problem being solved...Eli also has Glaucoma due to a birth defect in his eye. Glaucoma is simply high pressure in the eye. Prolonged high eye pressure can lead to damage to the optic nerve and eventually loss of vision. Since Eli is only 3, the concern is that he is looking at managing high eye pressure over the course of a very long life-time (vs if he got glaucoma at the age of 90).

After being sedated, Dr. Lee was able to get a very good pressure reading on Eli. Good pressures fall in the range of 10 - 20. Eli's left eye was a 14. Great! Enough said there. His right eye was a 30 --- with 90% damage to the optic nerve. Chances are he's already lost some peripheral vision in this eye (as we suspected even in China). The surgery came just in the nick of time.

All went well and as he heals we will be able to tell where the procedure has left him. Best case scenario, the surgery was enough to lower the eye pressure and nothing more will be needed.

The bottom line is...the boy has sight. He will be able to play, read, go to school and most likely drive. I believe God's grander plan is coming true for him.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Home three months...plus some....and still only the beginning

We have officially been home with Eli for 3 months plus an extra week or so! Sometimes it still all feels unreal. When I look at Eli I know it's possible for faith and courage to take a dream and turn it into reality. He used to just be a thought that tugged on my heart. Today, he stands in my kitchen literally tugging on my arm saying, "Mommy, Eat!".

We are doing well at this point. Very, very tired (hey, 5 kids is ALOT!), but we are alive and well for sure. We are daily seeing God's strength being made perfect in our weakness...after all, our strength gave out months ago.

Because we were in the adoption process for almost 3 years (and because of how old and tired we feel), it's tempting to think we've been at this forever...in reality though...we know we are just getting started. I'm so thankful to get to say, it's been a very good start.

Eli was not old enough when placed in the care of the orphanage or when he was adopted to know what was happening to him. However, he was old enough to know that something was indeed happening to him. Most people do not give thought to the trauma a child experiences in this situation. Having been the adoptive parent in this case, what they go through seems overwhelming from my vantage point. God truly made these kid's to be some of the most resilent children on the planet.

Eli seems to be going through the bonding process with his new family very well. We have prioritized bonding as the most important issue on our plate concerning him. I still have a feeling that his attachment process is "fragile", but it's coming along well none-the-less. I don't mean "fragile" in the sense that I might make a mistake and ruin him forever. God didn't bless Eli with perfect parents. I mean that I believe Eli is learning to trust us -- which is good. It's great infact! Yet, at the same time, remnants of mistrust still obviously remain in his heart. I am praying that time, repetition of needs meet, and the Holy Spirit will continue to bring healing to him. We continue to work hard at reinforcing family relationships (whose who), proving that we can be trusted to meet his needs, putting him in an environment of praise & worship (and asking the Holy Spirit to knit our hearts together). I believe God said to us through His Word that He would "bring our son from afar" -- that means in his heart and emotions as well. I am claiming that as a promise. We continue touching, cuddling, playing and simply loving, loving, and loving in the ways an adoptive child needs to be loved. And...we are still only at the beginning.

Speaking of the beginning, I also believe that Eli is BEGINNING to feel safe and settled in our home -- which is wonderful! Again however, I sense that he is yet to feel COMPLETELY safe and settled. Thus, I give our current attachment and bonding situation a "fragile" description.

I'm certainly encouraged by the whole thing and can see how a year from now -- we could possibly look like a completely different family! Weekly, Eli changes. He has begun expressing true joy much more frequently. Not a laugh or smile because something acts on him from the outside...but a joy that comes from the inside...something he allows himself because he is indeed beginning to feel safe. Spontaneous smiles and laughter are a daily occurence.

His eye contact is improving. He more frequently rejects others outside of the family holding him and will avert his eyes and mumble when "strangers" try to have conversation with him. He may appear rude to others, but this is actually a good thing for him to do.

He willingly gives affection when it is asked for (as in "Eli, give me a hug!") -- at least to his family members. Occasionally, he is the initiator of the affection. He has opted to sit in my lap alot lately and will smile and rub my face. A good sign (and fun for me). I currently feel like he views me as a cross between what a mother might be -- and his favorite "nanny". Our social worker says I should expect this to be the case for a good while longer.

He is healthy and growing stonger. He sleeps very well. The peditrician puts his speech development at 20 - 22 months (which is excellent after only being in the country for 3 months). Physically, he is about a year behind -- but making great strides. I believe physical and occupational therapy would greatly benefit him, but bc of our efforts in the "Attachment" area -- we will put this off awhile longer and simply have him climb, jump, and run with all our other children. The Dr. sees no reason he will not "catch up" before Kindergarten (with or without therapy).

He has trouble holding a spoon/fork and feeding himself. Possibly because he had never seen an eating utensil before July. He holds his spoon like a chopstick as a matter of fact!

He wears pull-ups and will "go potty" as long as I remember to take him. A few times, he has told us when he had to go, but this is not the norm. We are resisting the temptation to focus on potty training at this time -- partly because we hate it, but mostly in an attempt to keep our forward momentum going in the bonding area and in the developmental areas he willing steps forward in.

His little googly eyes have become normal to us...even cute! Although, our children have already had to step inbetween Eli and the insensitive comments of some of their friends. I'm glad they are willing to do so! He is looking at at least a couple of surgeries (beginnging in December), patching and eye therapy...maybe even meds to bring down his high eye pressure. But all in all, he is not hindered by his sight.

We are surrounded by some of the best adoptive families in the country. Our friends and literally our next door neighbors work hard to keep us encouraged and supported. We have a sense that they won't let us fail if they can help it. We couldn't be the parents we've grown to be without these people. So thankful for them! They've saved me alot of money in therapy already!

And...believe it or not, Eli isn't all that's going on around here. Billy continues to work very hard at building a new cliental. He's as motivated and energized as I've ever seen him....purposeful...focused. After 15 years, it's still a blessing to be married to a Godly man...well, most of the time (who am I kidding?). I am teaching part-time and running our family with a passion. My teen daughters are beautiful blessings. They have grown into strong, mature, Godly young women -- surpassing anything we would have hoped for them. They have emerged as leaders in their school and youth group. Our choice to put them in the best spiritual environment that we were aware of has proven to be an AMAZING blessing. Our younger two are full of energy and learning to live with all their hearts -- and pointed in the right direction. For the most part, we love our home, our city, our church, and our relationships...and in the midst of intese, hard work -- we are simply enjoying the life God has given us.

So...there ya have it! A status report. A long, wonderful report card of how the Ramsdell's are really doing. As a matter of fact, I'd love to hear how your family is doing too! So -- give me a hollar when you can! As we begin the holiday season with a time of gratitude, know I'm so thankful for all of you!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Billy's Gratitude

From the statistics I have seen recently, nearly 40% of the people on the planet live on $1 or less a day of income. Then I consider America and the fact that even those in poverty levels live on much more than $1 a day. Then I consider my struggles over the past 20 years, both in family and finances and realize how petty they are in comparison. For me, I really do believe we are the most blessed nation on earth and that I am blessed more than I deserve. My home, my job, my amazing wife and wonderful kids. There is no way I could thank God enough, I mean really, I am totally and completely blessed and yes, Thankful.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Being Thankful

I say this to my friends every year, but it's so good it's worth mentioning again.

Billy and I hate unthankfulness, especially in our children. Of all the crimes you can commit in the Ramsdell household -- it is the one that will get you the swiftest, heaviest penalty. God hates it too. He dealt the children of Israel 40 years worth of punishment for the 'grumbling'. That's a stiff deal for something we might consider trite in America these days.

Barbara Rainey (whose husband Dennis hosts the Family Life Today radio broadcast) wrote a great book called Thanksgiving, A Time to Remember. The book chronicles the real life stories of the Pilgrims. It's an enjoyable read for school-age children, teens and adults alike. It also has short highlighted passages for those reading to preschoolers. It can be read in a 45 minute block of time OR it can be read over the corse of a few days in shorter time increments.

Finally, the book contains a journal for families to record from year to year those things that they are most thankful for. It's can become a great keepsake.

This is our 3rd year using this resource and I love it so much, I give it as a gift. Here are a few notes from our pages:

"I am thankful for a forgiving and unfailing Lord! Also, for the freedom of religion and for the gifts and talents to praise God with." Elizabeth age 12

"I'm thankful for my mommy cooking us dinner. And! I'm thankful no one died today!" :) Hosanna age 10

"I'm thankful that Shanna 'goes with me'. " Billy 2008

In November it's so natural to focus on gratitude. Here's too doing it deliberately!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Eli's 3rd, first bday, and Billy's last night as a 39 year old!

Yesterday was Eli's 3rd birthday. It was also Billy's last night as a 39 year old as today is his 40th birthday. Two very important milestones that we celebrated in an understated, quiet way.
It seems common to wonder about your adoptive child's birthparents...especially around their birthday. Are the birth parents thinking about them, still greiving their loss, or perhaps regreting their decision? Are the parents still praying for him -- praying that he'll find his way to the life they desire for him.
I have given thought recently to the parts of Eli's story we know nothing of. All the parts that occurred before he entered the orphanage at the age of 9 months old. I believe my thoughts are inspired by the Holy Spirit as one day I will tell this story to Eli. I'm still formulating the whole thing...and I won't tell him it's how it actually happened...I'll simply tell him it's how I imagined that it happened.

I do not imagine the people who gave birth to this wonderful child as terrible, heartless humans. The people of China have the same needs and reasons to put babies up for adoption as we do in America...however with far less support. Their government and culture simply do not make allowance for it. Therefore, creating a strategic plan to leave a child in a place where they are sure to be found becomes their "adoption plan".

I believe Eli's mother is a woman of faith and prayer. I imagine her to be a member of the underground church. I do not believe she just flippantly decided to leave her baby. I believe she was like Moses mother in Exodus chapter 2, "A man from the family of Levi married a Levite woman. The woman became pregnant and had a son. She saw there was something special about him and hid him. She hid him for three months. When she couldn't hide him any longer she got a little basket-boat made of papyrus, waterproofed it with tar and pitch, and placed the child in it. Then she set it afloat in the reeds at the edge of the Nile."

I believe that she loved and cared for Eli for 9 months. I think she understood that their was a calling and a destiny on his life. I think she struggled and greived with why God was not seemingly providing the necessary resources for her to care for him. And at last, with trust and faith in her heart, she made her plan to place her baby in a basket. And leave him in God's hands (literally) to be found.

Satan comes to most of us in childhood with attempts to destroy our lives. Eli's early years seemingly taught him not to trust -- and that the world is not safe. On the contary, Eli is as safe as all the rest of us. God's hand has been on his life since the beginning for a plan and a purpose. We trust that God has placed him on a path since birth to equip him with all that he needs to live out God's will for his life....just like he did for Moses whose Godly mother released him to be raised by another family. We hope to prove to Eli that adult's are trustworthy. We will fail on occasion, but we are absolutely sure that God will prove himself faithful to Eli.

I think Eli just may one day find himself as a missionary to China. It's not to far fetched if you've ever meet my other children. We all like the idea of going into all the world to share the gospel. We hope to do right by the woman who gave him birth and to honor her through out his life. We are so happy to be able to wish Eli a Happy, Happy 3rd Birthday. God didn't have to pick us to be his family. But we are glad he did.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

You win some, you lose some....

Today, I spent my second weekend convincing myself that Saturday night was really Friday night (for the sake of my sanity). I know...it's a little weird. We actually had a pleasant Friday night (the real Friday night). Our 3 oldest kids had sleepovers AT SOMEONE ELSE'S HOME. This doesn't happen often. That left us with only Victoria (whose bday is on Tuesday) and Eli so I decided to take her and a friend to a fun play place called IT'Z. Billy arrived home from work at 7pm -- just in time to walk out the door with us. While the girls played, we spent 2 hours trolling around, talking and enjoying Eli seeing things he's never seen before.

This morning though, Billy was out the door again bright and early -- or should I say out the door in the freezing temperatures. Rallying myself, I blared the new Desparation album and cleaned until my house was sparkly (I actually like cleaning if it does indeed result in a clean house). Then, me and Victoria braved the cold to stock the house with groceries. I normally don't buy groceries this early in the weekend -- but what the heck! If I'm gonna change it up...might as well go for broke! So, by 4pm the house was clean, pantry full, beef stew in the crock-pot and homemade hot cocoa on the stove! Beautiful.

Billy came in with the hankering to play a game of Yahtzee. I love playing Yahtzee. However, playing games with my kids is another story. It's loud...it's crazy (and I don't mean in a fun way)...people telling each other to shut-up, stop cheating, etc. Basically, we yell at each other to say, "Stop yelling!". Hosanna got a Yahtzee. However, the game really wasn't enjoyable. I refuse to lose heart though. You win some, you lose some. In the case of this game, I lost. Literally, I had the lowest score. But I'm determined that we learn to play family games in a civilized fashioned. So...next go around...I'll put a little money on the table. Seriously, maybe $20 to the most quiet kid or best all around??? Maybe I'll give'em all $5 to play with me -- then take $.50 away everytime they get loud (in which I'd probably make money by the end of the evening).

Sometimes the strategy for raising a big family....raising a good family...is simply being persistent with trial and error. I heard today that "IMPOSSIBLE" was just fear's excuse not to try. Right now, I seem to have an uncanny ability to make "light and momentary trials" bigger than they really are...so...when it comes to Yahtzee...I will CERTAINLY give it another try!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Debt-Free Living, College Savings, Investments and more!


Shanna and I trust that you and your family are doing well!!! Changes are many in the Ramsdell Home.

* Adoption this summer. Eli, www.usandeli.blogspot.com
* Launch of New Business, www.edwardjones.com

We are deeply grateful to have such a wonderful group of friends and clients. As I sat and talked with a couple of parents last night I realized that it would be good to let Shanna's clients/friends know what we were doing.

First, I want to thank some of you for doing business with Shanna. I'm sure you agree with me in saying she is one of the best Music Teachers in town, of course, I am a little bias. While she has gone to daytime lessons only, we remain blessed by the great students and families she works with.

Second, on behalf of our family and the new business, I wanted to ask for a favor. I would like to ask for the permission to introduce you to the new Edward Jones Investment practice beginning this month, and ask for permission to call on you later for personal conversation about financial planning and goals, possible referrals, and feedback.

Third, and lastly, I would deeply appreciate you checking us out at, www.edwardjones.com and sending me a reply email to confirm you took a second to consider my request and confirm that you don't mind me reaching out to you later in the Fall.

Personal Comment: We will eventually have an Open House or Grand Opening and would love invite you and your family. I'm sure you know by now, Shanna and I have the heart of a pastor, love to teach and love to see families built up, successful and thriving. I believe this will be a powerful expression of these same elements. One of the reasons I agreed to work with Edward Jones is the fact that they are a Full Service Firm who has the best partners, tools, research and practices in the Industry, useful for helping any family meet their financial goals, along with the personal touch of a local Personal Financial Planner, meaning, I can trust them and so can my clients. We have NO proprietary products to sell. We have thousands of local offices, but you get "one" State & Federal Certified Advisor to help your family build and leave a financial legacy as well as accomplish short term goals. Full Service means, retirement, college saving, checking, saving, CD's, insurance, stocks, bonds, annuities and more, delivered through the personalized, high touch and convenient service of your own Advisor. My focus on individual families & small business, along with non-profits, will allow me to pay special attention to each client.

I will love to call or drop by to pay you a personal visitl, but until then, let me say a very special and sincere THANK YOU, for being a great part of Shanna's Music business over the years and great friends. THANK YOU for considering being a "foundational friend" to the new Edward Jones family I am beginning.

Have a great and wonderful Fall. Feel free to call or email anytime. Blessings on your home.

Billy Ramsdell
Cell 290-2449

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A different kind of Sunday

This has been a different weekend for our family. Billy has been working on Saturdays for a little while -- and probably will be for quite sometime. I've been feeling a little sorry for myself as my "weekends" have not been going as I planned. I like to be finished with work and have a sparkly clean house by Friday night. I'm far from a "neat freak" but I relax and enjoy my time better when the WHOLE house is clean (you can imagine my children's delight)...and this doesn't happen often.

By Friday evening, I like to relax and enjoy dinner together. In my mind, Saturday is a day we should be doing something different and fun. Usually, Sunday comes and we enjoy church -- but afterwards the house is a wreck and I'm kinda at a loss for what to do next. I feel like I should be getting ready for the week ahead, but frankly, I don't want the weekend to end so I definately don't want to be spending 1/2 a day getting ready for the week ahead. I usually end up going grocery shopping (one of my least favorite activities). Sundays aren't my favorite day of the week to say the least. Friday NIGHT is my favorite day of the week.

However, with Billy working on Saturdays...it kinda throws a wrench in things. I'd be lying to state I don't have pity parties...I do. Sometimes, I have intense, dramatic ones. But, always the good sport -- I eventually decided I needed to be done grieving this "life change" and accept my new reality. So...Saturday, while Billy worked, I cleaned the house. I ran errands. All the while, I was PRETENDING it was Friday. Are you scared yet? Anyhow, my good imagination worked well for me. By Saturday night, I was ready to sit down to steaks on the grill and a good movie. Then, today after church (house still clean) we decided to head up to the mountains for a day of fun. If we had any luck, we might see some fall leaves (lots have already fallen off).

We made it to Woodland Park, Colorado in about 20 minutes...what can I say...Billy drives fast. We stopped at the Doughnut Mill for a treat. This is a great mom-n-pop doughtnut shop...with HUGE doughnuts. It's the kind of place my Florida friends would imagine a doughnut shop in the mountains to be. Then we jumped into the car and headed to Decker, Colorado where we found the most beautiful place on the river to spend a couple of hours. It was a cold day, but the fly fishers were out in huge numbers. The kids enjoyed playing near the water and climbing the steep cliffs all around.

I climbed too. Going up was very slippery -- which made coming down even more of a challenge. Benjamin felt sorry for me and suggested with "slide down". This worked great and was lots of fun. However, it was a little like a rock slide as I was coming down below and he from behind me. He said, "Mom, I'm the one who's gonna take care of you when your old." :)

We ended the day with dinner at the Mason Jar. Another local, mom-n-pop place. They served what I'd call Southern Food -- "Chicken Fried Steak" with white gravy. One could think a long time on what exactly "Chicken Fried Steak" is.....

Anyhow, possibly, this is how all Colorado families should spend their Sundays!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cataracts, Glaucoma and other things....

Today, I took Eli back for his second eye Dr. visit. He has quite the glasses prescription. Infact, he looks just like chicken little! I've told my four bio kids that that's why I had them first -- so they can beat up all the playground bullies that may pick on him later in life! As a baby, Eli had cataracts in both eyes. They may have been congenital or they may have come as the result of some sort of infection he may have had. In China, to save his vision, they removed the LENS from both of his eyes...which explains the coke bottle glasses. The lens is the part of the eye we use to focus...so without it...one can only imagine what he sees. He also developed Glaucoma. Glaucoma is simply high eye pressure. The pressure in Eli's eyes should be "20" or less. The pressure in his right eye today was "40". As with high blood pressure, the Dr. will try and bring the pressure down with medications. Specifically, we will begin with eye drops. If that doesn't bring the pressure down significantly by December, the Dr. will take the most common, sure approach and operate. Since Hosanna will be having her surgery to remove the hard wear in her foot in December -- maybe they can share a hospital room! Sigh. Anyhow, once having the surgery some kids need nothing else, but many still need meds to keep the pressure low. Glaucoma in children can be likened to diabetes...it doesn't go away, but is something that CAN be kept under control and managed so that Eli sees the bright, exciting future God has instore for him -- with BOTH eyes!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2 months home!!!

We have officially been 2 months home with Eli. In those two months our four bio kids have started school (one in highschool, one in Jr. high), Hosanna has undergone extensive recovery on her foot, and Billy has begun a new job. We've just begun to add "after school activities" into our schedule and yet EVERY DAY is brimming with things-to-do. Life is never boring...and it's never idle!

Eli is changing every week. Currently, he is as animated as we've ever seen him. He's laughs a lot and talks all the time. He has about 20 American words/phrases that he uses regularly and at the right times. The other morning when I went to fish him out of the crib, he said, "Good morning. How are you? Good." He has entire conversations memorized as a matter of fact! He uses the names of family members and certainly recognizes his own. He's enjoying a weekly story time at the library and loves playing outside. He's certainly has become interested in his environment, toys and tentatively delights in his new found freedoms.

Eli eats everything...and I do mean everything. Just a few minutes ago he yelled from the kitchen, "Mommy, Eli hungry! Eat!" We'll work on his manners.

As far as "bonding" and knowing there is something special about the 6 members of his family...and knowing there is something special about his parents -- he continues to come along. It's a slow, steady and fragile process.

His glasses have done wonders for his sight and his enjoyment in looking at things. We actually do not feel like we deal with his "special need" on a daily basis besides keeping up with where we put his little glasses. Friday he will go to the eye Dr. to have the glaucoma that's in his left eye checked. Glaucoma is "high eye pressure" -- you can liken it to high blood pressure. If it's high enough he may need a medication or procedure to relieve it. I'll keep everyone informed.

For now...the Ramsdell's are alive and doing well!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

More cute pics of Chicken Little

These were too cute not to post!

Good use of a Saturday!

I like to paint things. I love wearing paint overalls! Paint under my nails at the end of the day probably means I spent time doing something I think is worthwhile. Actually, I like to slap paint on. I like to jump right in on a project, before I'm totally prepared (that means I don't tape up), and just get it going! I appreciate finger paints, water colors, collage materials and sidewalk chalk. I'm the mom who keeps playdough on a low shelf for easy access -- and I think playing with moon sand is a great use of time as a matter of fact. I'm a messy painter, but I have fun doing it.

Today, I did my front door. Since I was basically left uniterrupted for the most part...my arms are tired, but my brain feels like I've been on a mini vacation! With no less than 11 children in and out of my house...that's pretty amazing. Here's to a good use of time on a Saturday!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Father's Heart - The Epic Unfolds (from Billy)

The Bible says that men should not presume to be teachers. I agree with that and in the life experience of adopting ELI I have found myself, even though I have fathered 4 other kids for a while now, becoming a student of life, parenting and child development all over again. As a good student I listen, discuss, object and then attempt to adjust my understanding according to new found truth or facts. Through the intensity of the past 2 years surrounding this adoption, including this very day, I might add, I feel like I have swallowed a river worth of living waters full of refreshing and energy. There is something special bottled up inside that little boy we have all so naturally begun calling Eli.

I say that to say, I am not a teacher, but rather a student who likes to teach. Truth is, I really like to tell stories, to recount moments in life when something powerful, funny or special brought attention to some interesting fact. One example would be, and follow me here as I change decades, the time when I was around 7/8 years old with blood all over my face from a backyard brawl. The setting was the backyard of a small suburban home playing beside a new possible step brother named Scotty, don't ask, and his sisters. We were playing in our cool tree house on stilts when the 6th grade bully from the next lot over came to play. He played but he also bullied Scotty's sisters. So, as we had discussed, with the precise planning of a special forces operation, we stepped in and defended the ladies. The perfect example of chivalry and bravery, with honor at stake, we lured the unsuspecting bully up the stairs of our tree house then attacked. For the sake of our family name and with every ounce of "scrappy" we could muster up at 4th grade and 78 pounds, we attacked. The battle included tackling down the stairs, rolling on the ground, hitting, kicking and bloody noses. There is a secret picture to prove that Scotty and I, were both laughing and crying as the medical staff treated our bloody faces while the bigger, tougher and now defeated Goliath of a 6th grader ran away, jumping the fence in fear to never return again. It was fun, memorable and perfectly executed, teamwork at it's best. It was a story that 33 years later still makes me admire my friend and almost step brother Scotty and makes me wish we had more opportunities to defend more innocent ladies of Tidewater Lane.

Getting back on topic, I would like to write about my personal experience with becoming the Father of our newly adopted son, Elias Zhang Wei Ramsdell. For the longest time we were just doing paperwork and getting ready to adopt. Eventually we got pictures of Eli. I thought he was cute, I showed them around to friends and prayed over them, but never felt any real confirmation or connection, they were just pictures. Eventually, I was beginning to feel like we were not being decisive, mainly me, and that something needed to happen to confirm we were headed down the right path. This was Spring of this 2009. In pursuit of greater confidence in the matter, I ditched work to spend a day, the first official day of Spring actually, hiking up Stanley Canyon behind the Air Force Academy, seeking God's heart on the matter. As I hiked, still feeling the pain of a recent ACL reconstruction on my right knee, I prayed. Sometimes being physical helps me pray more focused and more intense. I stopped along the way to rest, drink water and read scripture. I was also listening to some kicking praise on my iPod. At one point I was wondering if I should just turn back. I was weak due to fasting, tired due to being out of shape and breathing hard due to the cool rain and altitude. Pressing on, however, proved to be just the right thing to do as I eventually found a great spot to sit and to pray. It was there that a normal prayer for God to speak turned into a life experience worthy of retelling. In the following moments, as I drank water, rested and really began to focus in on the heart of God, that a miracle happened. With no words and with no visions, and during a normal moment of quiet time before God, my heart began to break. The more I prayed the more my soul began to become torn and twisted inside of me. The heart of Father God, especially the heart of God for Elias, deeply penetrated my own heart and broke me like a baby. I cried, I sobbed. For a few minutes upon that mountain side, I fell apart. Easy to understand though was the reason for the breakdown. It was, like I have said, God's heart, the Father's Heart, reaching out through me to one of HIS dear sons, stuck in an orphanage thousands of miles away without a family, father or chance in the world. God's brokenness over Eli's situation broke me. I pictured him going to sleep at night, cold, uncomforted and alone. I felt the feelings of abandonment, I felt the feelings of deep sorrow and I felt the passion God has for this little ones. After this short time, I didn't have to pray for God to speak or to show me, I knew, like a Father knows, this boy was mine. I had felt both his pain and the pain of his Heavenly Father and was now fully vested as his Earthly Father.

As if that is not cool enough, there is another piece to the Father's Heart puzzle. It has to do with our Baby Dedication just 2 wks ago, 2 months or so after we actually brought Eli home. Without anyone in the world knowing about the above experience we went forward for Baby Dedication Sunday morning. A pastor was assigned to us, to pray for us and to symbolically receive the child from our arms and we dedicated him to God and God's Purpose. We went through the routine and the prayer with a sizable group of family and friends around us for support. A group we are very thankful to have with us, by the way. Following the dedication the pastor standing with us gave me a word about an impression he received while holding Eli. He said that God had shown him that Eli DID IN FACT have a place in our family, a place made by God and that the place was near The Father's Heart. Say what, The Father's Heart? Did he really say that, why yes he did. So, you know what I thought of...that day on the mountain. It was a confirmation that God had been involved in every step of the way and that HE had placed Eli in our home and that He had given us the right amount of space in our home and heart for Eli.

I do believe that Eli is my son. I know he has biological parents and I believe that his birth dad is his dad. But, he will never be his Father and he will never be the kind of Father I can be to him. There is a special bond between us already and I appreciate the way God has breathed into our lives through this young man. I look forward to writing about it and talking about it in the days to come. The first year of experiences with Eli at home have already started with amazing growth and surprise. I can only imagine what he will be like 6 months from now. And without being a teacher I hope to share more about the parenting we have engaged in and practiced in response to this unique experience.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Determined to make homemade lemonaide while it was still summer (at least technically), I went to the grocery store to buy lemons. They didn't have any...but limes were abundant. So...we squeezed 25 limes and made Cherry LimeAide. Summer isn't over until Tuesday people!!!

Book Signing...

Last Saturday, we went to the Barne's and Noble where Paul McCusker (who we know best for his Adventure's in Odessey series, loved by kids and adults in our family) signed a copy of his newest book for us! His book, TSI: The Gabon Virus, is an excellent read if I do say so myself!

Happy Apple Farm

Last weekend, my family (including my in-laws) went to Happy Apple Farm. It's quite a cute place...just what you'd think. We rode in a hayride of sorts down a lane lined with sun flowers to be dropped off in an over priced apple/pumpkin orchard.....you pay for the experience. The kids had a blast and so did I! We left with 30 plus lbs of apples and 85 lbs of pumpkins! Hope you enjoy the pics.....

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Can I Have This Dance?

Last night, my oldest daughter Elizabeth and her friend Taylor Parsley ended TAG's $10 Homecoming service by singing "Can I have this Dance"? They were amazing. It's such a joy to parent this child! Thanking God today for a large, busy, hectic and totally worth it life! Enjoy!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Indian Summer

Today, as I get my studio ready for students to return tomorrow and put out Fall decorations -- I secretly go over my T.T.D. list for the summer and am aware that I did several things on my list...but not all of them. Instead of lamenting about not finding a "Hawaiian Shaved Ice Stand" (or even having one snow cone for that matter)...I'm going to give myself the grace of an Indian Summer. The weather is still warm here...the days are just beautiful. Actually, it STILL IS SUMMER!

I make "lists" of these things because I believe we always need something to look forward too...whether it be a simple, patio picnic with our kids, a nice vacation or a Starbux with Billy. My lists are my way of making sure I stop and smell the roses. So, along with my review of those activites I had planned to do in May, and before I make a list of all the wonderful things to enjoy this fall, here's what I hope to do with my last few days of SUMMER.

from post on May 25, 2009

1. Fly to China and adopt a little boy whose life will be forever changed. Ours will change as well...and we can't wait! This we did! And it was profound, wonderful, scary, overwhelming, incredible, etc. We are enjoying the adjustment period at the moment. Praise God!

2. Send Elizabeth off on her second international mission's trip, Germany! Try not to cry and act anxious every day she's gone. This was an incredible trip for Lizzie. Thanks to all our friends and family who helped her go! I'll just say...I missed her alot!

3. Find a Hawaiian Shaved Ice stand and frequent it often; Settle on a snow cone if I must; As a last resort, there is always the ice cream truck, but I'm a little grossed out by that. I didn't even do this once! I do however find contentment in the fact that I did eat a strange looking ice-cream thingy from the seven-eleven in China.

4. Walk to the park with the kids and lay by the fountain until I get sunburn on my cheeks. Feed the ducks even though the sign says not too. This we did several times...and with great friends I might add!

5. Make the drive to Denver and lay by the wave pool in Six Flags at least 4 - 5 times; Ok, I might have to settle for standing in the kiddie pool. Hard to do with Hosanna's broke leg...but we did...the last time was the best....Hosanna's cast had just come off the day before! The sun and pool were glorious!

6. Camp. Even if it means sleeping in a tent. Choose a camp ground close to the movie theatre so we can go see Transformers. Transformers, I saw twice! Camping...not even once!

7. Grill and Eat the most spectacular burger on the planet. We grilled ALOT! We had some GREAT ribs! "Most spectacular burger on the planet" -- didn't happen.

8. Nuture the few plants in my yard and hopefully eat some home grown lettuce and tomatoes. A vicious hail storm destroyed my first crop! Not one to be defeated, I sowed a second. There is still hope that I MAY harvest some tomatoes yet!

9. Spend a few lazy mornings reading my Bible as long as I want. This is certainly a luxury for me. I did spend a few mornings doing this very same thing....I'm gonna spend a few more mornings doing this too!

10. Remember to kiss my husband and hug my children more often. Do this after crushing them in a game of badminton in the back yard! The kissing and hugging went well...the badminton...only once!

My days of Indian Summer will include....

One batch of Homemade Lemonade, a few more lazy days of reading my Bible as long as I want, one more game of badminton, and one good try at kite flying! It's not over til it's over!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The First Day of School

Today was the first day of school. It was infact, the first day I've EVER been alone with Eli. The house was quiet. Very quiet. My brain enjoyed it. I could feel myself slowly begin to unravel - just a little - from the profound and busy summer we've had.

So...what did we do today? The weather was so beautiful...just the right amount of "summer" left in the air. So we went for a long walk. I took a route I normally don't take. We enjoyed the sounds of dogs barking, the wind blowing, and Air Force Academy Cadets jumping out of airplanes over head...all things new to Eli. We walked along side walk paths and detoured onto the thick grass without our shoes for awhile. We picked wild flowers.

I enjoy my relationships alot. But I can't live without some quiet time. Really, if I go too long without quiet stints of time to think -- I sorta go crazy. Just ask ANYONE in my family. So this thinking time was good for me. What does Eli need right now? What does my family need right now? What do I and Billy and I need right now? All very good questions to ponder. My conclusion was that my family just came through a summer that was...well, profound...and we feel a tad bit tramatized over it. Elizabeth went on a long, international missions trip and has begun asking herself and the Lord all the big questions of life; Hosanna broke her leg and needed more help than she wanted, she grieved and she learned the lessons of contentment and perserverance; Billy took the series 7 test...twice and began a new career he's never even dreamed of having; We left our children in the care of others for 16 days -- and flew 1/2 way around the world to gather Eli....and from this whirlwind we are all still spinning. This summer was profound...blessed...and it made us very tired.

Having been home only 3 weeks, people ask us daily how we are doing. The last couple of days I have begun to answer, "We feel like we've just gotten our legs back under us...we're standing, but shakey...ask me again in 6 months when hopefully by then we'll be walking". I don't expect to run for sometime. It sort of feels like we've been holding our breath for a long time and have just recently decided it was ok to breathe again.

So...what do we all need right now? My thoughts today were that we need to continue doing what were doing....taking things slow...quiet...a pace and dynamic we're not used too. I believe that the next 6 months hold in store for us refreshing, renewal and regeneration --- and we will make it back to full speed eventually.

We weren't ready for this particular First Day of School. We all desparately wanted...needed more time....more summer. But it's ok. Today we took a few more baby steps towards slowly figuring out a new normal as we make Eli a part of our family and help him lose his instutionalized mindset....and even though we step slowly, we do step forward...with great peace.

Oh Glorious Day!


Last Days of Summer

One of our last days of summer we went to America the Beautiful Park and sat near the fountain for awhile...Hosanna was 2 days from cast removal so she even got a little wet. We also went to Prospect Lake and Uncle Wilbur's....yes, all on the same day.