Friday, August 16, 2019


Hello my name Sasha and i will be talking about the Kazapalooza trip. The Kazapalooza trip is where every year people from Kazakhstan meet up with each other and hang out. they also get to know each other better each year. they have been doing this for over ten years and this year was our first year going. We don't usually go because its usually on the west coast near Maryland, But this year it was in New Mexico it was only a two hour plane ride from Utah so that's how we got to go Kazapalooza.

Before we left to Kazapalooza there were a couple things i was looking forward to for when we went. One was that I would know that  wasn't the only one adopted from Kazakhstan. That I would make some  new friends I could hang out with. also that I would have a ton of fun being there with my family. It all came true after the Kazapalooza trip and even more happened then I was hoping for, it was so fun.
This was a picture of my family on the porch of our Hotel Room wearing our Kazapalooza shirts for the year so people could recognize they group of Kazapalooza  people in the day.

This picture is with me and all the other kids that were born in Kazapalooza [editor's note: she means Karaganda, the city her baby house was in] with a blanket that was knitted for the bidding they have each and every year and the age of kids is 2 to 18 of people who were adopted from Kazakhstan in all the city's not just Karaganda.
This is a picture of me my dad and my sister all swimming in the hotel pool which had a water slide and a deep pool that you could do tricks in. the pool was like 100 steps from our hotel room and me  and my sister both went into the pool every day.
This is a picture off me doing a archery class with me doing the form to shoot a arrow the class was super fun we got to shoot a turkey and a  target which i was so close to hitting the bullseye. my dad and sister both did the class with me.
This picture is a class my brother took it was basically making rings and necklaces and bracelets out of metal and making a design on it. my brother enjoyed the class because he was trying something new.
This picture is of me and my mom and sister renting bikes and going on a nice bike ride in the forest behind the hotel. 

This is a coyote that crossed the path why we were biking on the path it was so cool to see a baby coyote in new Mexico. 

this is me on my rental bike turning a corner it was nice and shady so fun to bike in a nice forest.

this is a picture of my mom and siblings doing a horse back riding lesson even though i wasn't there it was cool to know that they had fun together.

This is my next favorite part to talk about it this picture of me my dad and sister in front of meow wolf which inside looks like a normal house but when you  open something like a refrigerator it has a secret passage way which leads into a alternate universe. 

this picture is of my sister going down through the washing machine to  get to the alternate universe the washing machine is basically a slide tunnel.

this is me inside the washing machine and basically there are socks and clothes all over the inside of the washing machine.

this picture is of my sister playing the laser harp which is basically when you put your hand through the laser it made  music not like a normal harp would it was super cool.

those pictures that you just saw were the most fun things that happened while we were in new Mexico while we were at Kazapalooza. All of the activities we did were so fun me and my whole family had so much fun. That is why hopefully we can go to Kazapalooza next year and if we can it will be a super fantastic fun trip no matter what.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Home Renovations Part 3: Our Little Girls' Room No More

Sigh. Double sigh.

The nightmare of any home renovation set aside, it was a bittersweet experience painting over our sweet little-girl decorations. Dreaming of our little girl's room decorations with my moms during the long, slow wait for Sasha is a memory that will always be with me.

The circles are gone and it's a boy's room once more! But we'll always have the adorable toddler photos to remember it by!

Sasha, 2 years old
The room, now with bunk beds. all ready for WanYing to come home

Unsurprisingly, Ben's tastes tend toward the austere. His goals in the room redo were:
  • Hardwood floors, so he could unicycle easily on them
  • Minimal furniture, for more unicycling space
  • A sit-stand desk, so he could sit on his unicycle (or a chair) to do homework
In honor of the rather obvious theme, we decided to also go with unicycle decorations. Our friend had the fun idea of painting Ben's tires and letting him ride over the canvas to make his own art. We all thought it was a great concept.

We also purchased some drawings for very imaginative and impractical unicycle patents from the 1800s for his walls, which turned out great.
Ta dah! The finished room - new floors, new paint, minimal furniture
Ben demonstrates his sit-stand desk, with ChenXing's help
Ben's art, framed and hung high enough that he can still use the wall for support while (you guessed it) unicycling.

We're thrilled with how the room turned out and even happier that our year of remodeling is complete! A bathroom and two bedrooms' worth of remodeling and redoing is more than enough for one year!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

More Home Renovations - The Kids Swap Rooms

We try to learn from past mistakes. Really, we do. But after only just recovering from the dreaded bathroom remodel, we signed up for another round of punishment. The summer of renovations continues!

With Sam headed to college, we decided it was time to swap the girls to the bigger bedroom. Which meant new floor, walls, and furniture in the two upstairs bedrooms and moving Sam's stuff downstairs.

The boys are pretty flexible and undemanding in their room decor. I mean, they've been living with Curious George on their walls for 16 years. And don't think I didn't ask if they wanted an "updated" (read: non-toddler) theme over the years. They just didn't care enough to put up with the pain of repainting. They were proven wise, because the length and chaos of this room swap stretched even their easygoing attitudes.

After a massive empty-out-the-room effort, it was goodbye Curious George

We went with a slightly Caribbean theme, complete with swirly walls
Walls and floor done!
Next stop: Ikea. You know it's a successful trip when there isn't even room to sit in the van
So. Much. Assembly.
In goes the area carpets

And just like that (except that the entire project took 2 months), it's done! We're all really happy with the results. It's fun, fresh, and so far the girls have succeeded in keeping it clean. WanYing got her wish of getting her own hidey hole.  Sasha got a desk and cubbies under her new bed, so both girls ended up with more personal space to call their own.

It was so. much. work. We're thrilled with the results, love the new hardwood, and looking forward to another 16 years before any more home remodels ;)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Sam goes to Bosnia/Croatia

Much like last years trip to Vietnam, this year I went on a school expedition to Bosnia and Croatia. It was a blast!

Day 1
The trip went off to a challenging start. Our first flight ended up being delayed by about 6 hours. Now this sucks on its own, but it's made FAR worse by the fact that we had a connecting flight with a 4 hour layover. This meant that we missed our flight to Istanbul (not Constantinople). :( We decided to take the flight anyway, and got a new connecting flight. This left us with a nearly 20 hour layover in at the JFK airport
Day 2
The flight left at 10:00, so it landed very very early in the morning. Fortunately the airline got us some rooms at the swanky TWA hotel, built into an old terminal from the sixties. Our flight from JFK wasn't until the evening, so we had the opportunity to explore NYC for a few hours. To be perfectly honest, we didn't get time to see much. NYC is a huge city, and a few short hours cannot do it justice. We left that night for Istanbul
Day 3
This day was basically all travel. After a very long transatlantic flight we continued to Sarajevo, and landed just in time to go to bed. 
Day 4
Finally the trip could begin! The first day in country was a very sober one. The group took a trip to the memorial of the 1995 genocide. A very grim chapter in Bosnia's history, where tens of thousands died. I don't really have any pictures from this day. It just didn't feel appropriate
Day 5
This day was spent travelling to Mostar from Sarajevo. We made a lot of stops on the way. My favorite of these had to be a place called Tito's bunker. Back when Yugoslavia existed, Tito wanted to build a nuclear bunker for all the generals of the nation. So we went into this giant bunker that could have held 300 soldiers plus a ton of generals. It was a very impressive structure. My favorite part of it has to be how it is currently used. What do you do with a giant, hard to maintain, isolated bunker? Turn it into an art museum! Many of the rooms contain exhibits, and it's a very interesting place to see.
Day 6
Mostar is a very beautiful city with a very famous bridge. We got some great shopping done in the old city.
Day 7
We spent this day travelling to Dubrovnik. We got to see one of the largest cave systems in Europe. We also stopped by a very old Necropolis(Graveyard)
Day 8
Dubrovnik is an extremely beautiful and old city. It's on the coast, and has a massive and ancient fortress with some of the most interesting history of any of the areas my group visited.
Day 9
This day was spent travelling to Split and shopping in Split. It's a great city with a beautiful old town.
Day 10
After leaving split this day was spent largely on the road. The hostel we stayed at on this day was SO COOL. It was in the middle of the woods in cabins and they were very rustic. The floorboards had gaps, there were spiders in every corner, and it was SO AWESOME.
Day 11
Again, a lot of travel on this day. This time back to Sarajevo. We stopped by some museums n stuff
Day 12
Our last day in Bosnia. We did a quick tour of the cool parts of town, then did some last minute shopping.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Bathroom Remodel (or: Home Improvement Never Again)

We're not big on home improvements. It's odd, because we really like projects and are reasonably handy people. But when it comes to our home, well, we tend to be pretty content with what we've got.

Take, for example the kids' bathroom. We "updated" it approximately 15 years ago, which honestly only meant painting it and removing the linoleum and re-tiling. And so it stayed for the next decade and a half!

[pause for adorable photo of Ben simultaneously washing his feet and double-fisted toothbrushing. I found this photo when searching for "before" photos. Note that this is the last time he's been spotted multitasking]

This is the bathroom we've been living with. Honestly, it's been more than serviceable. But then we got it into our big dumb heads that we should redo the bathroom. Because we're idiots and we hate money, free time, and marital harmony.

So we went to Ikea. And we bought all. the. things.

We thought that if we hired somebody to do the tiling it would make the experience less terrible. It didn't.

All joking aside, I'm super happy with the results. The pegboards and double sink were my brilliant husband's idea. Since we have a hundred children, it's really nice to have two places to brush teeth and wash hands. And the pegboards are awesome for reconfigurable storage to hold all the paraphernalia of self-care.

Now to take on swapping the kids' rooms. Which means... more flooring, organization, dust, arguments, late nights, painting...

Pray for us.

And, why do people take on these home improvement projects more frequently than once a decade? Those people have deep, deep issues.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Mexico Memories

Our friends at the Hogar de Amor orphanage in Colima, Mexico have become a part of the fabric of our family; our annual trip to Colima an expectation and requirement on the family calendar. Over the past seven years, our brothers and sisters in Colima have truly become family.

And many of our friends, neighbors, coworkers, and community here in the U.S. have been a part of God's work in Colima by supporting us and this trip. We wanted to take a minute to report back to you the impact that you're having on the kids and caregivers of Hogar de Amor.

I know that describing our trip is destined to fall short - the only way to get it is to go (for sure, come with us!)! But photos are probably the next best thing, so here's a quick video summary of our 2019 visit to Colima. You can also read all about our adventures and see a day-by-day photo summary in our team blog at

In May we had the honor and pleasure of giving an extended presentation about the trip and its deeper meaning and impact at CenterPoint Church (our home church). This video includes an interview with my co-leaders about the trip and also about 15 minutes of me sharing the impact of our time at Hogar de Amor:

This year, we fundraised hard for Hogar de Amor to raise money to build a new home for the adolescent boys. The current teen boys' home is a rental and is poor repair. This winter, a plot of land was gifted to Hogar de Amor to build a new boys' home, and we've been working hard to make sure they can build a home the boys will be proud to live in.

Thanks to your gifts, the new adolescent boys' home is now fully funded! Here's a photo of the construction that we took in early April:

And here it is in mid-May!

We can't wait to see this home completed for the boys. Here's a photo of the boys who will move into the new Adolescent Home just as soon as it's ready for them. Your gifts, prayers, and support are making a difference to these kids and to over a hundred more just like them at Hogar de Amor.

Thank you for your support for Hogar de Amor. The outpouring of love from our community to theirs has been such an encouragement to our family and is impacting these kids for a lifetime and beyond.

If you'd like to stay even more connected to Hogar de Amor year-round, they have an excellent sponsorship program. The kids write frequently, you're encouraged to write back, and you get to stay really connected to their lives. If you're interested, just fill out the form at and the staff will contact you with next steps.


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