Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2009 Update

Happy New Year from the Istre family! We so enjoyed hearing from those of you who send us cards and letters year after year. We hope 2010 will be filled with blessings for your family.
We had quite an eventful 2009. Two of our biggest and longstanding dreams were realized.

Many of you know we have been waiting for an adoption referral since April 2007. Well, the call finally came in March, and we saw the face of our precious daughter on a computer screen.
After more paperwork and more waiting, all five of us traveled to China in late July to bring home Lilli Grace Istre, who turned two on August 4, the day after we met her. It was really the trip of a lifetime. We got to visit Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and got to climb a portion of the Great Wall. We were so thankful that the boys were able to come. The trip involved seven different flights and 15 days of travel. We were kind of a spectacle in Lilli’s home province, as it is an industrial area and not a place Westerners often visit. We were always stared at and often stopped for pictures. We were able to take in all in stride and enjoy it, even though it did get tiresome to not be able to communicate well.

The food was generally good, though Eli was disappointed at the lack of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The names of the food, however, were sometimes lost in translation. One of the funniest was bacon, which was translated, “Cigarette meat.” Mmmm, sounds yummy. We were thankful to be able to find a McDonald’s, KFC, and Pizza Hut in the last city we stayed in and get a taste of home. Of course, we had to go to Walmart while we were there!

Lilli Grace is such a joy to us and has blended into our family as if she’d always been with us. She has changed so much from the scared, skinny little thing we met in China. At first, she had trouble standing; now, she RUNS through the house. She is learning English rapidly and her vocabulary is growing every day. She recovered quickly from cleft palate repair surgery in November and has gained about six pounds and grown about three inches since August. She loves her brothers and they take care of and are very protective of her. It has been sweet to see their nurturing sides come out. No one can put a family together like God can!

Speaking of the boys, they are growing up before our eyes. Jacob will turn 13 this February and can almost look his mom square in the eye. He’s in seventh grade and still enjoys reading, reading, reading. He also made the middle school soccer team last spring, and was proud to represent his school. He is enjoying being a part of the youth group at church.

Luke got a nice tenth birthday present--he got a trip to China and climbed the Great Wall on his actual birthday. He’s in fifth grade and is still very much a sports guy, enjoying basketball, baseball, and soccer. He was part of a travel soccer team that played in and won two tournaments; Jacob also played on one of those teams.

Eli is eight and in third grade and has become a wonderful student and reader. His big sports interest is baseball, and this year he was the hero in a game in which he hit the winning run in against his team’s big rival. He was down to his last pitch, and we were so proud of him for being cool under pressure.

Eric finally completed his master's degree after two years of hard work. He is still driving a school bus and teaching math at the high school, and I am staying at home right now to help Lilli Grace catch up on all the development she missed. Funny thing, though; for a stay-at-home mom, I don’t get to stay home very much! There is always something to do and somewhere to go. I miss my editing work and my friends, but I know I am right where I am supposed to be and I love it. I'm hoping that I can begin teaching next year.

Our other dream realized was our new home. We had been planning an addition to our small house for about a decade, but we finally broke ground in the summer of 2008. We moved in on March 14 and it has been a huge blessing for all of us. The original plan was for the boys to each have his own room since they had shared a small room for many years; when we finally decided that we were going to adopt, Jacob and Luke decided to share a larger room and let Eli have his own, leaving a room for their little sister. That lasted about six months . . . then they all piled their beds into Eli’s room and use the bigger bedroom for a playroom. I love it that they like to sleep in the same room. I wonder how long it will be before Lilli Grace decides to join them!

It was an incredible year in so many ways, and its events changed our family forever. But this year, we’re hoping for a little less eventful 2010!
We hope that the rest of this year will be a wonderful time for your family! If you are ever in the area, please let us know. We'd love to see you!

the Istres

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Still Here!

Wow. Two months since my last post. The days have been full, to say the least. Mid-November was Lilli's major palate surgery, which went well, thank the Lord. But it did take a while to get back to our routine, and by then it was Thanksgiving and Eric's parents' visit, then just a few more weeks until Christmas, which is always hectic no matter how well you plan. And I usually don't plan all that well! But it was typical Istre chaos, loud and fun and exasperating, and Lilli finally got into the spirit by the end of Christmas morning, ripping paper with glee.

My mom came over early enough to see all the presents unwrapped, we had the traditional Christmas morning omelets, and just had a nice day. Josh was sick and also had to work and Joe and Lisa traveled to be with her family for the holiday. So we all met up on New Year's Day and had a second Christmas at my mom's. It was a great day.

And so now it's 2010, the boys and Eric are back to school, and Lilli and I are alone together once again. She has been home with us for almost exactly five months. I still wake up in the morning and think, "Is this real? She's really home?" But at the same time, it seems so normal that she's here, as if she had been with us all along. She is such a joy, and is learning and growing every day. When we met her in China, the 12-month size clothes we had brought for her hung on her spindly frame. Today, she's in 2T clothes and is chubby. Then, she could barely stand while holding on to something. Now, my favorite sound is the sound of her feet RUNNING through the house.

2009 was such a milestone year for our family in so many ways: We moved into our new house, the one we'd been dreaming of for a decade and constructing for seven months; Eric earned his master's degree; we traveled to CHINA! and met our sweet Lilli Grace. So many good things, so many blessings, and yet it was all so very stressful. I think we are all hoping for a less eventful year this year. But who knows what the Lord has in store? Our goal is to, day by day, rest in His provision and follow His will.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Harvest Party 2009

We had one Pastor Steve (our youth pastor), one Obi-Wan Kenobi, one Too Old to Dress Up Luke, and one really cute ladybug. Lilli enjoyed her first sucker and had fun walking around. Luke and Eli gathered lots of loot as usual, and Jacob was old enough to help with the games this year. A good time was had by all!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

One year today . . .

. . . since my dad left this earth. I have missed him more this month than I have in the past year, I think. Mostly because I know how much he loved his grandchildren, and I feel so sad that he never got to meet Lilli. He would have adored her, and she would have loved her Pa. He knew we were adopting and was happy for us, but we didn't see any pictures of Lilli until March, so he never even got to see a picture of her. I pray someday they'll get to meet face to face!

I wish he could have seen our new home, the one that he was so instrumental in us having. When we started the renovation, we decided to keep the foundation to the original home. It saved a little money, but it had a more symbolic meaning to me: my dad laid that foundation, and it is on that foundation that our new home rests. It is a comfort to know that at least some of the work he did to give us a home will remain as long as the house is standing.

But with the sadness I feel for myself and my family, I also feel great joy for him. He is free from the pain and suffering he endured his last few years, and can rest in the promise fulfilled. I would never call him back to this earth and take him from his new life with Christ. As the Bible says, we do not grieve as those who have no hope.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

One month ago . . .

. . . we were getting to know a very quiet, very somber little girl who could barely stand and who didn't know how to play with toys. We fed her everything she wanted and loved on her all we could. It was the end of one long journey, and the beginning of another great adventure!