Monday, January 28, 2013

Aaron was given the opportunity to speak at Toccoa Falls College during their chapel time this past Wednesday.  He felt God's leading to speak on our adoption journey.  You can watch it here   at Toccoa Falls College Videos. You need to find 1-23-13 (Aaron Santor).  He starts speaking at the 20:40 timecode.

The next day the Director of Spiritual Formation wrote about us on his blog
The Thursday Circle.  He titled it "In Favor of Life". It really meant a lot to us that he featured us in his blog and supported and promoted adoption.

In other news, Aaron has rerecorded some of the songs that were on the CD that helped raise funds to bring Andrew home.  He also recorded a few new songs as well. This time they were recorded in a studio and are a better quality and are all available for download.  Feel free to listen to the songs on the playlist on the right hand side of our blog and visit his www.reverbnation.com/aaronsantor page.  All these songs can be purchased through reverbnation, amazon, itunes, zune, etc.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

School, bike rides and Jesus

Quite a bit has gone on here in the last few months.  To start with Aaron transitioned over from being worship leader at Grace Fellowship for the last 12 years to being the pastor.  This past October our pastor and his family moved to Fargo, ND to start a church plant with 3 other families from our church.   Aaron is still doing his auto restoration job 4 days of the week and now working on sermon preparation 1 day a week (plus whatever extra time he can find mornings and nights).  It has been a pretty smooth transition and once again God has given us grace for this season in life.

Jen and the kids took 2 weeks off from school for Christmas.  It was so fun watching Andrew as the holiday season kicked in.  He knows our traditions now and is so excited about each and every one of them.  He knew as soon as Thanksgiving was over we would go and find a Christmas tree and cut it down.  Once it was up he kept asking what night woud we be sleeping under the tree. 

Andrew has made it over half way through Kindergarten and is learning to read.  He loves school so much.  He has a hard time with some concepts like above and below, but knows his numbers and can blend certain sounds together.  He also has a hard time memorizing sentences.  It seems like the hardest part is remembering articles and prepositions.  We're assuming this is a language barrier thing still. 

His siblings memorize scripture nearly every day with their curriculum, so Andrew wanted to learn a verse too.  We didn't think it would go well with his inability to memorize sentences, but Jen decided to plunge in since he wanted to so bad.  It has only been 2 days now, but he is learning John 3:16 and doing an amazing job with it.  He is a determined little boy and if he wants to figure it out, he will.

We do crazy things in our family like talk about when you will one day ride on the "magic" bike trail and learn to ride your bike without training wheels.  Andrew has been waiting for it to be his turn.   So, one day in September we took him to the bike trail, took off his training wheels and Aaron began the tough job of teaching him how to ride.  The wild thing is, it worked for the fifth time.  One way on the trail each kid has fallen down and cried and tried to ride and by the time we come back up the trail they are riding without falling and enjoying themselves.  Yet another big accomplishment for Andrew.

As we have stated in previous posts, we quickly realized after bringing Andrew home that we really missed out on so many foundational things during the first three years of his life.  For us the biggest concern was his inability to grasp the idea of who God or Jesus is.

We of course continued to train and teach him as we have done with the older children, but he has had a hard time dealing with the abstract.  As a parent, you just know when you child "gets it" and when the connection is just not being made.  So our only other option was to pray and ask God to break in as only He can do.

Two weeks ago while at church we had a communion service, followed by a fellowship lunch, followed by a family birthday party.  Andrew had spent most of the day playing with his siblings.  As we drove home that evening, unsolicited by anyone, Andrew spoke up from the back seat,"I drink the juice, I eat the bread, I talked to Jesus."  Interesting.

We responded,"What did Jesus say to you?" We weren't sure what to think, often times he is just goofing around.

"I asked Jesus into my heart." We were shocked. Where did this come from? He continued"that was my favorite part!"

We didn't know what to think. We're still not quite sure what happened, but we've(kids included) immediately noticed that there has been a sweetness about him that's different than before.  Also, in the past as we corrected him he would glance down at the floor in shame. No more. It's gone.

This past week he made this statement, "Jesus told me He took the sin out of my heart and that I should obey my parents."

Last night he asked us,"What's baptized?"

Again we're not really sure what has happened, all we know is that God answers prayer, and we have nothing left to say except "Thank you!"

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Andrew's 6th birthday and October neurologist visit

This July we celebrated Andrew's 6th birthday.  This year we were unable to do his traditional "crazy" hair picture since he prefers his hair cut so much shorter so that he can look like his daddy.  He is doing so well and we are so proud of him.  He is half way through Kindergarten and is learning how to read short vowel, 3 letter words.  He loves school. 

Andrew was born with hydrocephalus, water on the brain, and at the young age of 6 months they did surgery in Bulgaria to put in a shunt to control the extra fluid made in his brain. 

September of last year, Jen noticed something different about Andrew's valve and the tubing that runs from it.  We called the neurologist to see if we should be concerned.  They asked if there any signs of dizziness, nausea, or disoriention.  We told them that there were none and they told us it was probably something normal that we didn't notice before.  We were welcome to come in for an appointment if we were concerned, but we weren't and considering the 2 1/2 hour trip to their office, we opted against a visit.

We went to our normal scheduled appointment in April.  They did a CT scan and x-rays.  The neurologist looked over the scans and told us that the shunt had malfunctioned and that everything looked normal on the scans.  He then scheduled an appointment for this October to check and see if anything had changed.

Sure enough the shunt was still broken and his scans still showed everything was normal.  The neurologist then scheduled an appointment for a year from now where he will check one more time and then schedule surgery to remove all the parts of the shunt.  He told us it appeared that he had outgrown hydrocephalus and that keeping the shunt in could cause problems in the future.

A year and a half ago during our first visit to the neurologist, we asked whether Andrew would ever outgrow his hydrocephalus and we were told not to count on it.  He said it was a 1 in a 1,000 chance that he would and that there were only 2 ways that we could tell.  One would be that he removes the shunt to see, but he won't do that because he ends up having to put them back in because the patient did not outgrow it.  The other way would be if the shunt malfunctions. 

Looks like God wanted to really make a statement.  He healed our son.  The main reason we were able to adopt him was because he had a special need and now here he is without this need.  Our son is the 1 in a 1,000 and we are so thankful to Jesus for His work in our son's life.

Bulgarian Reunion 2012


At the end of June we drove to Cincinatti, OH for a reunion of families who had adopted, or are in the process of adopting from Bulgaria.  It was a great weekend for both us and the kids.  We were finally able to meet many of our online friends in person and see the children whose stories we had followed. 

During the day there was a splash pad for the kids, minute to win it games and plenty of play time to meet new friends.  At night there were pot luck dinners, traditional Bulgarian music and dancing, and time spent listening to each other's adoption stories.  This was a great weekend to learn Bulgarian culture, talk to other adoptive families and simply spend time together as a family.

The kids spent most of their time together in the cul de sac of cabins.  They were different ages, nationalities, backrounds and special needs.  The thing that really impressed us was that the kids were so well behaved. They were all polite and respectful and there was not a single incident or fight during the entire weekend.

We stayed a couple days longer to visit the Creation Museum.  We all enjoyed it but it was a bit much for our 8 and under kiddos.  Lots of reading, and while some of them can read, they didn't read a full priced ticket's worth. But they all loved it and we're glad we went.





We can't wait to go to the reunion next year.  We look forward to time with our new friends and meeting the new family members that have come home from Bulgaria (and other countries) since June.

We are so thankful to Yvonne and Viviane for their hard work in making this reunion such a great success.

On  our way home we stopped in Kentucky to meet other online adoptive friends, the Waggoners.  We met them way back when we were in the Albania program before the agency closed the program.  The Waggoners adopted their 2 kids from Albania and are in the process of raising support to move to Albania as missionaries.  We were so glad to have met them in person.  They are an amazing family and we are looking forward to spending some more time with them when they come through Georgia on their support raising venture.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Finding Joel a family

This past Spring we were made aware of a little boy named, Joel.  He lives in an orphanage in Albania and needs a family to call his own.  He is just over 2 years old and absolutely adorable.  Our friends, Nathan and Cydil Waggoner, adopted 2 of their children from Albania and are in the process of raising the funds to move to Albania as missionaries.  They were able to meet Joel in 2010 when they went to bring their son home and again in February of 2012 when they went on a scouting trip for their missionary journey. The primary caretaker of the Waggoner's son has now made it her mission to find Joel a family and has asked the Waggoners to help in this mission.  For more information and pictures of Joel please vist the  The Waggoner's blog

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Spring Happenings

The first half of the year went by without any other major incidents like what we had in the previous post.  In March, we went to Gatlinburg for the weekend. We stay at a timeshare but Andrew always calls it "the big house".  Our kids enjoy exploring and learning about "the olden days" so visiting the settler's houses is always a must, second only to swimming in the pool.

During March and April the boys played ball.  Unfortunately, due to their birthdates Tobin had to be put on a prep-ball team and Andrew was put on a T-ball team.  The good news was that their younger cousin, Sadie could be on the team with Andrew.  Andrew was so excited to play T-ball and cannot wait to be on a prep-ball team with his brother in the Spring.  The boys games were on the same night, one after the other with about an hour in between games, so we packed dinner every night and enjoyed it together as a family at the baseball field.  Some people ask how we can afford to go on vacation and one of the reasons is because we hardly ever eat out. 

One night a couple of the girls and Andrew were bored at Tobin's game, so they found an empty warm-up pen and tried to play with a bat and ball.  Next thing you know, Jen hears Andrew's scream and knew something was wrong.  Andrew came running over and by the time he got to Jen(only seconds) he had a bump in the middle of his forehead between his eyes the size of an egg, no exagerating.  Turns out he walked right into the aluminum bat as his sister was swinging.

Jen scrambled around trying to find someone with a cooler so she could put ice on Andrew's enormous mound.  Andrew ended up being completely fine except that for the next week he had a bump with a bruise, which then turned into a scab for several weeks. To this day it is a faint red spot.  He keeps asking when his bump will go away.

Living in the middle of the National Forest, 2 miles in, on a dead end road has it's disadvantages.  Apparently, people think it's a great place to free their unwanted animals.  Being a family with many kids in a neighborhood of not many kids, most strays find their way to our yard.  In May we picked up 3 sweet little German Shorthaired puppies playing in the road, obviously malnourished from being recently dropped off.  Animal control would not come since it was a Friday, so we kept them for the weekend and of course, the kids fell in love.  We have one Alpha male dog already, so we decided to keep the female.  We brought the 2 brothers to a foster home for dogs sponsored by the Humane Society. 

Even though we were keeping one of the puppies, our kids were really upset about giving up the other two.  It may seem strange, but we were really encouraged to see Andrew grieve over this loss.  To us it showed that he was in a good place emotionally.  Just this past week, our puppy(4 1/2 months old now) unexpectedly passed.  Again, we got to see him process his sadness with many tears.

We went camping in June with family and friends.  We went to our favorite spot in the woods, a small hike in to a campsite surrounded on 3 sides by a creek. It doesn't have a strong current so its perfect for children of all ages to wade in.  It's full of rocks and wildlife so it makes for a kids' paradise.

The creek turns into a waterfall that flows into the Chattooga River.  There's a small beach area by an edy for the smaller kids to play. Some of us swam out with the older kids and explored the rocks across the river.  Andrew absolutely loves water, so again another great trip for him. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Long over due



In real life we often tell people we meet or long distance friends not to worry if they don't hear from us, we're just low maintenance kind of people.  When we meet again, we'll just pick up where we left off!  So here we are picking up where we left off- January 2012!

The above video is Andrew doing school. It was halfway through the school year and shows a sampling of his progress in speech and learning.  As we mentioned in the previous post, we had decided to post pone school for him, but he insisted.

About this same time we had some guest speakers come to our church. We had them over to lunch on Saturday. They were great. As soon as they entered our home, they jumped right in with the kids playing on the Wii and really took time to make them feel important.  At this point we felt Andrew had attached very well and were not at all concerned about him interacting with strangers.  As Aaron left to bring our guests home Andrew asked to go with him. No big deal.  One of the speakers sat in the back with Andrew and let him play with his cell phone.  Andrew showed no signs of past behavior that would alert us. 

The next morning after our service ended, we saw Andrew sitting in the same speakers lap, playing with his phone! Aaron discreetly called Andrew to him and held his hand until we headed home.  We felt we had averted a relapse.  However that afternoon we decided to watch a movie together as a family for some down time. All the kids piled on us on the couch except Andrew. We said,"Andrew, come cuddle with your family."  Shockingly, he responded,"You're not my family. I want to go back to Bulgaria."

We had never heard anything remotely close to this.  Having no idea how to respond, Aaron replied, "Well go ahead, go back to Bulgaria."  Andrew shook his head no and immediately climbed up on the couch with us all.  We have never dealt with anything like that since. 

We have found it helpful before coming into new situations that might trigger similar responses to ask Andrew who his family is.  We specifically ask ,"Who is your mommy?,Who is your daddy?", etc. and have him answer us. We're not sure if this is the key to anything, but again we haven't seen this behavior since.