Category Archives: Vacations

Last weekend we made our first trip to Grand Lake.  And I am in love.  Maybe it was because we were there for one of the prime leaf-turning weekends of fall, or maybe it was all the wildlife, but whatever it was, I absolutely loved it up there.  We got a really good deal on a cabin rental (on a little lake!), and the big plus was we could bring our dogs.  Since we have recently moved, we don’t want to be too pesky of neighbors asking to have them take care of our animals…although we did have a neighbor watch the chickens (but they also kept all the eggs so they didn’t mind too much).  The kids also had a 4-day weekend for conferences so I took full advantage of probably the last family vacation we will have for this year.  And it was so worth it.

Here’s my photo journaling of the weekend:

The trees were so incredibly brilliant with color! 

It’s rut season so elk were everywhere (and I think Tom was drooling a bit over these bucks).

As much as I loved seeing the elk though, I REALLY wanted to see a moose…and we did!  On the last day there we were shopping in downtown Grand Lake and saw three cows just hanging out and eating the foliage.  Two ran off when a bus rumbled by, but this one stayed and even walked right past us (we were in our vehicle, otherwise this would have been taken at a much safer distance).

This made my day, even though Tom was chastising me for forgetting my camera at the cabin. :(

moose

She was so sweet, just meandered by looking for a yummy tree to eat.

our cabin, from the back.

our cabin, from the back.

morning on the lake (view from the cabin)

The cabin rental included free use of the boats connected at our dock. P was extremely excited about this!

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Tom taking full advantage of his minions.

Tom taking full advantage of his minions.

Just the boys, yikes! Fortunately Argish and Tom kept watch...

The boys went alone multiple times (yikes)!  But Argish and Tom kept an eye on them…

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Argish even got a turn.

with Argish even getting in on the action.

E didn

E didn’t care AT ALL for the boat (thought there were alligators in the water), so she was happy being on the shore and “fishing”.

We really had a great time, and it was so nice to get away from the plains and see the mountains again. :)

Adoption update:  We are now slated for October 30th for finalization of P’s adoption!  Tom has to fly back to L@tvia on the 27th, stay for court, and fly home.  Short and sweet stay, just enough for him to get some Latvian cuisine back in his system (which I am jealous of)!

We are still raising money to complete this leg of the adoption.  There are some final attorney’s fees to cover and then the two last trips we need to complete…this month and likely in December when both Tom and P go back for embassy appointments and a final visa.  We’re praying everything is complete and DONE by Christmas!

If you would like to contribute to these expenses, we still have a donation account HERE.  We also have a coffee fundraiser going on.  You can buy all sorts of goodies for yourself or as Christmas gifts! :)

Once again, thank you for all of your support!!

 

Happy 4th of July!!

We are so priviledged to be able to meet some of Tom’s relatives while we are here in Latvia.  Don’t ask me to explain the family tree, but the gist of it it goes back to Tom’s Great-Grandfather, who migrated to America in 1905 during WW1.  The relatives we had the honor of meeting here come from Tom’s Great-Grandfather’s brother’s side (his great uncle??  I’m bad at this stuff).  I’ve tried my best to follow this, but don’t know if I understand it all completely.  :-/

Anyway, the family we met this week include Daiga, who is from the Recke (or Rekis, as it’s know here in Latvia) side, her husband Janis, his son (Daiga’s step-son) Richards, and their two boys, Niks and Oto.  They live in Renda, a city right outside of Kuldiga, where we have been staying for a few days.  What a treat to have been to meet and hang out with them!  They are such kind-hearted and sincere people, we truly have enjoyed every moment with them.

The homestead (ca. 1930??)

Our “welcome” spread. So delish!

Niks showed us his (self-taught!) guitar skills. He’s good!

E has been obsessed with bunnies lately.

oh, and birds too.

This is Ahora. No idea if that is spelled right, but it sounded like the word “now” in Spanish so I’m going with it.

Chickens. Why are they more novel here than at home?!

E telling Oto how to drive the tractor…even though she has never driven one in her life.

P and Niks. They are both 11 and were fast friends. :)

Janis and Oto.

Daiga and the kids.

The whole clan!

Two days later we met again and this time we drove a bit around Renda, visiting Tom’s Great-Uncle’s grave at the cemetery where many other relatives are also buried. It’s a beautiful, tranquil place overlooking a large pond. Quite an emotional visit, particularly when Daiga said her relatives are smiling from their graves knowing that the Latvian and American families have finally been reunited. Backstory: Daiga had all but given up hope in finding American relatives when Tom’s Dad, with help from some missionary friends (in which I firmly believe was divine intervention), found Daiga & Janis on a trip here not too long ago. I don’t want to go into details here, but it really is a cool story about how everything came together with little more than a last name.

Tom’s Great Uncle’s grave site.

E was putting acorns she had been storing in her pockets on the graves “for Jesus”. <3

After that visit we headed over to a different pond / lake (Tom and I differ on what it was) to let the kids swim a bit. We hadn’t brought swimsuits so we did it old-school in underwear. :)

Yeah, I stayed out of this water. :-/ Daiga just laughed and said, “crazy Latvians!”

Finally it was on to visit another relative, Marta, who is Daiga’s Aunt. She is 90-something and still a firecracker! She lives by herself on an old 1924 farm with really basic electrical and an outhouse (inside which my FIL inscribed “Al was here”…something they still chuckle about). I wish I spoke Latvian, Marta was so incredibly affectionate and sweet. I could have picked her brain about the old days for hours!

Marta’s house

Another Latvian meal. These folks know hospitality! :)

Tom & Marta

Marta and her four-wheeler! The kids all took turns riding it around her old orchard & loved it!

I wish we had big trees at home so we can have a rope swing.  So fun!

Daiga was trying to help get P to jump while I take a picture…a la some internet sensation. I don’t know, it was Tom’s idea. And clearly didn’t work.

We returned to Riga yesterday, after a difficult good-bye to people we’ve come to love this past week. I hope it’s not too many years before we can return for a visit.

Thank you Daiga, Janis, Richards, Niks, Oto, and Marta for an amazing visit. You all are the best!

Hard to believe it’s already been 2 weeks.  It feels like at least three. ;)  I think we are now entering the official “boredom” stage where the newness and excitement is wearing thin.  The first week had a lot going on and now we are into the “let’s just figure out what is cheap and fun and time-consuming” phase.  I am remembering Hungary quite vividly right now…

That’s not to say we are not enjoying our time here though!  We love it here in Latvia.  It’s truly a beautiful country and it’s steeped in rich traditions and national pride.  The people are great too.  It just takes some adjustment to the non-use of “excuse me” when pushing by or the lack of smiling back when you smile at them.  It’s not that they are rude, I think it’s just a cultural (European?) thing.  I noitice this about formerly occupied countries, it takes awhile to warm up.  So I’m not taking it personally…anymore. ;)

On to adoption news…which isn’t much.  We had our first and second social worker visits the last 2 Thursdays and they went really well.  The SW looked at our apartment, chatted a bit with P (formally “J”), and talked to us about what to do while we are here.  And of course Tom, being Tom, had to get their opinions on changing their primary currency over to euros next year (for the record, many say they see at as a good thing, but are conflicted about it too).  We will have one more social worker visit our last week and then 2nd court the day after.  And then the home stretch!! :)

Here are some photo highlights…

church by our apartment

Bubbles off the balcony.  How come all bubble makers don’t attach the wand to the lid? It’s so convenient!

Love their caramel latte here. mm-mmm.

Lido! Kind of like the Casa Bonita of Riga, but with waaaay better food!

Hand-carved carousel in the park near us. Very cute.

We went to Jurmala twice, once to visit Majori Beach (lots of Russians there), and the waterpark where C reveled in being more courageous than P on a ride I affectionately call “the toilet bowl”.

Jurmala

Ligo / Jani Celebration occured last week. We had to check it out…even though the crowd was crazy big.

This coming week we will make a trip out to the country, west of Riga, to see some of Tom’s relatives.  It will be nice to get away from the “big city” for awhile!

Finally!  Hard to believe.  We had an pretty uneventful flight, except for the fact that airlines seem to not care to seat families together these days.  I had to work the charm to get people to switch seats so I could at least be close to my small children.  Small price to pay I suppose since all flights were overbooked.  Flying = blech.

Anyway, we are here!  We were met by J at the airport, a surprise that wasn’t a surprise since he told me ahead of time. ;)  His great caretaker had brought him and he had made a sign and everything.  So special.

Afterwards we headed to our apartment in central Riga, and very decent location thankfully.  We spent the rest of the afternoon getting our bearings, finding a market within walking distance (4 minutes asway!), and getting money changed to Lats.

The next day was court day.  We had to head out to J’s orphanage to talk with the nurse about J’s health issues…most of which we already knew about.  J showed E and C around while we talked to her, at one point they were jumping with all the other kids on the trampoline.  Can I just pause a moment and tell you how hard it is to visit an orphanage, particularly with older kids, who know why you’re there and look longingly at you as you pass by?  Those eyes.  The eyes of grief and heartache.  I had to be the one to break a stare with a child whose intense gaze made me want to cry.  My heart just breaks for these kids.

Ok, compose.

After the orphanage we went to the orphan court where we sat in a room with a judge, our attorney, a translator, and some other official personnel.  They asked us if we knew about J’s situation, they talked about his behavior, and they asked us why we were looking to adopt J.  Tom had to answer as I would have started crying in telling them all the reasons why.  All in all it was painless and lasted less than 30 minutes.  They agreed to let him live with us here in Riga for the next few weeks and informed us that a social worker will be visiting us periodically to make sure everything is going smoothly.  This part is much like our adoption from Hungary so we are old hat at this. ;)

On to the pictures!  Most of these were taken yesterday after orphan court when J was now with us and we could fully start to appreciate being here.

The “courtyard” outside our apartment

Breakfast before court

This is a Russian Orthodox church. I just love the architecture. :)

Old buildings, so pretty.

Tour boats. May have to go for a ride!

City scenes

We ate at the “Steak House”, there on the left.

Bruschetta. Loved the presentation.

Spaghetti…with ketchup. Kids love their ketchup here!

Lots of outdoor eating. It’s so beautiful and quaint.

My cup runneth over.

feeding the ducks.

My son, the handwalker. ;)

This is the Lock Bridge in Riga Park. Tradition is that newly married or engaged couples inscribe a lock with their names and date and lock it on the bridge. Families adopting from here have taken to having locks inscribed with the date of the adoption or a quote and attaching it as well. Tom and J will do this on the 3rd trip. :)

Latvia’s Freedom Monument. It is inscribed “For Fatherland and Freedom”. I so appreciate this kind of statement and pride in a nation.

Stay tuned for for updates and photos! :)

With school back in session I finally feel like I can breathe…and blog!  It was a whirlwind summer, but our highlight was quite easily our family trip to Montana to visit Tom’s Dad and Stepmom.  J was here for it so it was even more special. :)

First we headed up to Great Falls (where Tom’s parents live) for a one-night stay and to shop for supplies to take up to Glacier Park, where they have a cabin.  Once we arrived in Glacier we settled in, had dinner, and made a campfire (something we could finally enjoy this year since Colorado banned them last time we camped!).  Oh, and we can’t leave out…

Yum, my favorite s’more is made with peanut butter cups instead of chocolate. :)

Here’s some other sweet moments…

E enjoyed some classic games from Tom’s childhood (I SO remember playing with these!)

And C and J enjoyed the “vintage” bike up there…(banana seats!)

View from the cabin. Glorious!

Each time we make it Glacier we take the “Going to the Sun” road up to Logan Pass where there are spectacular views of the mountains, and wildlife.

Yes, that’s a black bear in there!  We actually had one meander through the property and captured some great shots.  I think my hands were shaking so the photos are pretty blurry…but you get the picture! :)

We also made it to Johnson Lake, which was absolutely gorgeous.  I would love to go up there again and stay at the resort which was very “Swiss Chalet” feeling.  Might have to save up for a trip like that though!

That middle picture of J cracks me up, the water was very cold!

The last day we spent the morning at a Ham Radio Expo for Tom and his Dad to check out equipment (fun!), but then rewarded the kids for their patience by going to a fun park where we did go-karts, bumper boats, and a huge (hard) scavenger-hunt-type maze.  I had to stay on the walkways above to guide everyone to the stamping stations, otherwise I think we’d still be there.  It was challenging but the kids had a blast.

One thing Tom has been trying to do for awhile now is get his maternal Grandfather’s 1940’s fire-helmet from his Dad’s house.  There has been some confusion as to whether it had been sent and Tom misplaced it, or if it was still up there.  Lo and behold the guys found it!  The kids had fun trying the hat on and sitting with posing with Grandpa (these are his photos)…

Thank you Grandma & Grandpa for a wonderful vacation!

Totally off-subject, but C started his second grade year last week!  Hard to believe he’s been with us almost 5 years now…

He doesn’t look much different than he did last year though! ;)

Also off-subject, we are doing great on the adoption front.  Homestudy is moving along!  We also have had some very generous donations, so a BIG thank you goes out to those who have supported us!!

If you are interested in helping us bring J home, you can find our donation link HERE.  Prayer is also coveted! :)