Where in the world did summer go?

It is August 16th, this summer was a blur, partially for the roller coaster of emotions we rode, partially because it just went freaking fast. There is so much to cover and truthfully I could drag this out to about 4 or 5 posts, but my days aren’t getting any shorter or less busy so this will be a mega post. K? K!

This summer we celebrated my 20th High School reunion. Ryan and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary and Ryan celebrated his 39th birthday- 

Penny visited an actual hair salon, instead of my bathroom countertop - 

We had a fun time finally getting back to our old neighbor and dear friends, Mike and Gail’s Epic Fourth of July Party - 

I had a Girls Night In, complete with taking several of my friends TPing for the first time. Nothing like a bunch of 4o somethings out at 3 am toliet papering and leaving notes for your friends to find. That will be the last time you miss a party at my house, thank you very much (you know who you are…) I will close with saying we also text the next morning asking if they needed help cleaning up – we’re not total social deviants.

Next, we got kittens. Our beloved Aliza passed in April and after 15 years it just felt wrong to not have a cat in the house. So our local Humane Society was having “Are You Kitten Me?” event and it just seemed perfect. We decided that we couldn’t live with out these little farts:

Meet Rosie (Grey) and Charlotte (Black and White). They weren’t from the same litter, but they are thick as thieves and equally as naughty. I had forgotten how fun kittens are and Charlotte is the most patient cat in the world. She will let you do ANYTHING to her, thus the American Girl bathing suit below. Rosie has an affinity for the dogs and she’s bound and determined to use them as her bed. The dogs are cool with the newest additions, but they’re not so sure about the whole bed deal. Both cats have wowed us with their mad ladder climbing skills and their ability find trouble where ever they go.

    

Next up is Back to School – this will cover a variety of new things going on at the Page Ranch. This year Jon is in 7th grade with a great team of teachers. So great he has said how much he likes all of his teachers. This is HUGE people. 7th graders generally like nothing so I am enjoying this marvelous little victory. Drew is in 4th grade and has the marvelous Mr. VonIns, who Jon had in the same grade. He’s just about the best teacher and it’s a blessing to have such a calm, patient, fun fella be your son’s teacher right when he’s about to embark on a period of time that I like to call (pre-jerk-ager). Not quite a moody teen, not quite a little kid, it’s an ugly period of time. That being said in school it’s going to be a great year for Drewski. Penny is in 2nd grade and is in Mrs. Harger’s class. Mrs. Harger is an incredible teacher, been there, done that and seen it all – Penny will also be working on advanced math this year and plays school for fun, so needless to say I don’t worry one bit about her success in Lu’s class. Drew was a member of a few clubs Mrs. Harger lead when he was in second grade and she makes challenge and fun so easy and seamless. I can not tell you how I thank God every.single.night. for the blessings of such amazing teachers in my children’s lives.

Two days before school started I was hired as a Kindergarten Instructional Assistant. I work with an incredible gal, named Becky. She’s new to the school, but a seasoned veteran. I liked her immediately and we can laugh together. When you have 25 5-6 year olds at your charge, you need to laugh. It is exhausting, but I love it and we have some incredible kiddos that make me smile each and every day. Plus I get a ton of hugs, which I love because let’s be honest you just never get enough hugs as an adult. Working in this classroom is also an awesome opportunity for me not only because I get to work with amazing kids each day, but because I get to learn so much from my teacher, Mrs. Clark. This is all so important to me because (insert drum roll here) I’m going back to school to get my Masters in Education. Yep, this old girl is back in college. I’m pursuing my degree, online, through Ball State and if all goes well will be finished in May of 2016. Just in time for Jon to enter High School, Drew to enter Middle School and for me to finally find a real, live job. I’ve thought about it for a while, but it never seemed like a good time. I’ve realized that life will never present a “good” time to do much of anything. So this was as good as any. If you would have told me when I attended school the first time that I’d go into teaching I would have told you to shut up or I’ll punch your face. The reality is that I find myself in school, working with kids and loving every minute of it. I feel whole and happy and complete when I’m there. It fills places in me that I didn’t know I had holes. So starting Monday, I start my first two classes. Oy -

Last, but not least Football and Soccer have begun – Jon is playing for the 7th grade team, which is thrilling because he’s finally a MILLER! I can not tell you how that gives me goosebumps. Drewski is in fourth grade tackle for the NEFL and Penny is playing soccer as a U8 Miller. It keeps us busy and honest, that is for sure!

There will certainly be more to follow as mom gets her act together.

In the mean time I’m finishing up two paintings, finishing Drew’s room make over, trying to tend to our garden, designing a few t-shirts since my friend Kim and I have a joint venture on a heat press and I am getting us purged, organized and ready for our busy fall! Thanks for all of the kind comments, letters, cards and hugs we’ve received since my last post. We are well, everyone is well and for that I am grateful. Stay tuned, I’ll try to post before finals!

I had to throw this picture in, it’s me and our dear friends Gail and Mike’s newest, Alex. He’s a doll and I’m a baby hoarder, so it was a match made in heaven. I’m grateful for my baby fix. Congrats sweet friends, he’s perfect!

Thanks!

Jen Barney - August 18, 2014 - 8:54 pm

OH ANNIE! I am so very excited about your new adventure in education! I often tell people that teaching is who I am; not what I do! If you ever need any help, please let me know!
Jen

End of these Days

I’ve been dreading this post. I’ve been busy, bogged down, tired and worn. I don’t want to write, but as the summer draws to a close and we’re nearing school starting I find that I must. If for no other reason to eliminate some questions, curiosities and redundant story telling.

I’m going to try and make this short. It’s all a bit overwhelming and emotionally charged.

At the beginning of this summer we graciously accepted an offer of respite. If you are not sure of that tale, check here for that post.  The summer has been a good one, relaxing, a time to reconnect, breath and plan. I have enjoyed it with an apprehensive heart, knowing that at some point the summer would draw to a close and decisions would need to be made. You can read here all about the wonderful home that Miss has been spending her summer. How she’s thriving and growing in this wonderful host families home.

After much discussion, therapy, meetings, prayer and thought it has been decided that Miss will be staying permanently with her host family. They have not only opened their home, but their hearts to our daughter. She is doing wonderfully, she will heal, she will become the woman God designed her to be, she will have a great story of redemption. It just won’t be with us. It was an agonizing decision, knowing that we just can not provide what she needs to move forward. It has been heartbreaking, disappointing and a dark sort of surreal. We are, however, beyond blessed to know that where she is, is truly where she should be. It is not without it’s struggles, we’ve let her down, we’ve hurt her with this news, but the trauma of us not being forever, is much less I think than the trauma of arguing, fighting and sadness each and every day of your existence.

There is so much to share, but frankly we’re all a bit weary of it all. It’s so raw and fresh.

You will see that I have altered our daughters name and removed many of the pictures – to respect her privacy and the privacy of the host family. Each of these changes is like a kick in the stomach, knocking the wind out of us a little more. A year ago we were preparing to meet our daughter, never would I ever imagine a year later we’d be saying good bye.

At the end of it all, we can not fathom God’s plan in all this. We obediently answered a call. Put our blood, sweat, tears and resources behind it and yet here we are in the end. I will not pretend to make sense of it all – we’ve tried to “logically” explain it all out. At the end of the day this hurts, we hurt, she hurts, but we will all heal. We will continue to obediently serve, regardless of the sense that it makes to us. What I have learned, along the way, is that I do not take my family for granted. I do not let the sun go down without saying I love you as many times as I can. I do not go to sleep at night without counting all of my blessings, even the ones I don’t understand. God is faithful.

The 6 Pages are back to 5. What a journey it has been.

Thank you to all of our closest friends and family, who’ve walked this journey with us. You have been a blessing and I know that we could not feel more supported or loved. It is amazing to me, in retrospect, to see the wonderful, unfailing love you’ve all provided us with.

catherine - July 21, 2014 - 9:42 am

I love each and every one of YOU, Pages. I love your obedience in answering God’s command to care for orphans. Had you not adopted Miss and brought her to the USA, she never would have been able to connect with the host family that God now has her in. You all were the vessel that God needed to ensure this young woman’s chance at life. I am certain He will honor your obedience. I am certain that He will use Miss’ life as a testimony to others. At the same time, my heart is heavy for y’all.
Love,
Catherine

Jennifer Dronet - July 21, 2014 - 2:11 pm

Oh, Annie and Ryan! What an agonizing decision you have had to make! My thoughts and prayers are will all of you during this time and going forward. Maybe God used you as an instrument to bring Miss M here to meet the family in which she connects. All of you have learned from this experience and will be different, better people for going through it. Much love to all of you and, as always, if I can help you in any way, I am only a phone call or email away!

Kelly Monnin - July 21, 2014 - 8:18 pm

I can’t imagine how hard this decision has been for you and your family. While God’s plan can certainly be hard to understand, I like to think that He knew He could count on you to take her hand and bring her to where she belongs. He knew you would make the hard choices and do what was best for her, no matter what. I’m proud to call you my friend.

Rhonda and Craig - July 24, 2014 - 10:53 am

Ryan, Annie and family,
Our hearts break for you and our prayers are with you. May the God of all peace and comfort be your strength and healing balm. We love you and will be praying for you, We can’t imagine the pain you have been and are going through. We are a phone call away. Love to all!

Midpoint

I thought it was time to post a little update at our midpoint of summer. I’ve had the blessed opportunity to see several family and friends in the last few weeks due to gatherings, weddings and reunions. However, since there are several people who do actually read this blog (when I find the time, energy and inclination to write) and I feel as though I owe it to them to provide a little insight into our world, right now.

We are on week four, the midpoint if you will into our respite this summer. Not sure what I’m talking about? Check out this post for details. We are well, in fact, everyone is doing amazingly well.

We fell immediately back into our comfortable patterns and routines. The lazy days of summer – sleeping in, hanging out, swimming, riding bikes and the endless arrangements of sleepovers and playdates. For me, it was an immediate weight lifted, the stress and tension of how each day will go, the flurry of ideas to keep people entertained and busy so idle minds wouldn’t wreak havoc or allow for chaos to ensue, was gone. It has been a bittersweet reminder of life as it was 7 months ago. Easy, happy, relaxed. Now before you think that we don’t have endless arguments over X-Box time, chores, technology breaks and bedtimes, let me assure you that the legislation that goes on each day at the Page Ranch is nothing short of bill negotiations on the House floor. My children can argue, and generally have a damn good argument to support their cause. I like to believe I’m fostering positive negotiating skills rather than the irritating filibustering of smallish politicians.

Most importantly, Miss is THRIVING. She’s doing great, and by great I mean amazing. She is happy, she is active, she has found purpose and anonymity in her host home. It is again bittersweet to see all things she is doing with and for her host family. She is an amazing caregiver and loves the company of her peers – when you are one of 6 teenagers and four of those are Ethiopian – you have a recipe for success! We are happy to see her doing so well and reminds us of what drove us to adopt Miss in the first place. We felt called and drawn to her – whether you are spiritual or not, that is the only way I can explain it. We fought for her and rallied with other families to get her and other older children’s files processed as quickly as possible so that they could be freed from the institutional environments they were living in. We wanted to provide her hope and purpose and a chance at life that would not be possible otherwise. We don’t get a choice on how our lives are brought into this world, but it sure is nice when something sees value in us and allows us an opportunity to chose how we get to live it. Purpose, choice, love, joy, hope – these are the feelings and emotions we wanted to provide, guide and teach Miss.

What we have learned on this journey is that none of those are things we can teach her. We were mistaken. Those things, those feelings and emotions are learned, absorbed and occur because we FEEL them. How do you teach a feeling? Sure you can use that darling chart with all those faces to help someone associate their feelings with a word or a name, but I can’t teach someone to feel hope anymore than I can feel your toothache or your stubbed toe. I can talk about what hope feels like, I can provide stories where characters find hope, but I can’t actually teach a person hope. Some may disagree. But to live amongst hope, to see it in action each day, to see people, with backgrounds just like yours to live it. Well that my friends is a powerful tutorial, far deeper and more concise than any chart or story. We are thrilled that Miss is learning and growing by her environment, but there is still so much growth to be had.

We are still seeking tools, therapy, and guidance during this summer respite, but it is discouraging and heartbreaking. As we hear about her successes, it is clear there are somethings we can not be. We can not be Ethiopian. We do not have multiple teenagers and nor will we in the time that she is a teen. We do not have any children that require special caregiving or nurturing. We have younger children that require a different level of care and discipline that is contrary to what Miss needs as she works through her history and works toward her future. There are things that we as a family just do not and can not possess.

So we ask that you continue to pray, thinking of us, as we continue on our respite. We ask that what is best, what is right for all of us continue to be revealed. We appreciate everyone who has walked and continues to walk with us on our journey. I am grateful for the support, it matters more than you can understand.

Thanks!

Erni - July 17, 2014 - 2:38 pm

I am so happy that all of you Pages are doing well and having fun rejuvenating with one another. I am also happy that Meseret is thriving where she is at. Hopefully she has gained an understanding of what your family has given her and can continue to give her. You are right, feelings cannot be taught, but your family certainly provided her plenty of opportunities to feel joy, love, purpose and choice. I believe that she has felt those feelings because of the opportunities you have already given her, and I know that you will continue to provide those opportunities if that is the path that is decided upon. While I know that it is possible that you may not be all together at the end of the summer respite, it is my hope and prayer that you are because I believe that you are the family for Meserat and that your efforts will be rewarded in many, many ways in the years to come. Sending my love and keeping all of you in my heart and prayers.

Backwards: Father’s Day

I’ve been blessed the last few years to celebrate Father’s Day not only with my husband and father to our kiddos, but my dad as well. This year was even better because we shared it with my brother, on his first Father’s Day and my sister in law’s dad, Bob, as well. We spent the day sitting on the deck, visiting and hanging out. Enjoying the kids and the time together. Couple that with some Big Hoffa’s BBQ and you have a wonderful, nearly perfect day.

Then you realize you have no pictures of your husband and said children. Trust me he was there – his day started with breakfast in bed, heavy on the bacon, showered with gifts and then more grilled meat and sweets for grazing the rest of the day. It was a happy day, and I for one could not be happier that Ryan, my love, is our father to celebrate. Thanks for making it easy!

A kitchen and a grandmother

In my down time I had a the delightful opportunity to paint a canvas for a friend from High School’s new kitchen and for my dear friend Janel’s sweet grandmother’s birthday. 

 

LOVE this quote – I have it on one of my chalkboard cabinets in my kitchen. It’s a marvelous daily reminder. Michelle contacted me and asked for me to pull something together based on the palette of her newly updated kitchen. I love when people give me complete creative freedom. I’m happy with the result and it’s looks great on Michelle’s fresh, new kitchen. I pray it is a wonderful reminder for her and her beautiful family as they sit down each day and enjoy time together at the dinner table.

Janel is one of my most favorite people to do paintings for, first because she always seems to have something for me to do, and second she just trusts me – which is an awesome compliment. She mentioned to me late in the spring that her grandmother’s birthday was in June and wondered if I could think of something that would work for a woman with a strong faith and a large legacy of love and family at the center of it all. I came across this verse earlier this year and just love it. I tried to make the verse the focus, while adding a bit a delicacy to keep it pretty. Well, grandma loved her painting and it’s one of my favorites too. It’s something I keep committed to mind when I take for granted all my blessings.

Thanks ladies for the opportunity to create something for you and your family!