Sunday, September 25, 2011

First day of Pre-K

Well, in the midst of the marathon fundraiser, the youngest member of the Appleton family experienced a very important "first." Our Anya Rashi began Pre-K, under the expert care of Mrs. R and Mrs. E, who also taught Aaron and Nathan.

She was very excited, and I was very nervous. Typically, Anya Rashi has not done well with new "group" experiences. Sunday school was a complete no-go for a long time, and we didn't push it. Many children who have been in an orphanage or institutional setting have trouble with group experiences, so we were in no hurry.

When she was 2 1/2, we decided to try again, and I volunteered all summer in her class, which helped a lot. Eventually, we found that she liked a particular teenaged helper, Miss Michaela, and then she was just fine. When she had to change rooms after her 3rd birthday, we went with what worked, and found a new teenaged helper to take Anya Rashi under her wing. Another thing that helped her was "helping" one of the teachers at the check-in/roll call table. Now, Miss Elizabeth is her special friend in the 4's class, and she goes with a smile on her face.

Wish I could say the same for Pre-K! After being very excited before arriving, she became clingy and tearful at the door. I thought it was just first-day jitters, and wasn't too upset. But now she's been there for 2 weeks, Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, and last Friday was the hardest drop off yet. One day, she ran and got a photo of me and Peter to keep in her backpack so she wouldn't miss us . . . but it didn't seem to help. There has been one day where she had no tears -- she was SO excited to tell her teachers about Daddy's marathon -- but all the other days have been teary. Once she's inside the room, she calms down pretty quickly (within one minute -- I am watching behind the one-way window!), except for last Friday. She was sobbing and it took her 5 minutes to settle in.

We will see how this week goes -- I hate seeing her upset, but I know we have to get ready for Kindergarten next year (not to mention the new sister in the mix!). I am hoping and praying that it becomes a fun, happy place for her soon. I think I will tell her teachers about Sunday school, and if they will let her be their "helper" right away in the morning, like she did at Sunday school.

Does anyone have any tips for making this easier for her? I'd love to hear them!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Marathon man

This is a long post, but it has a very happy ending, so bear with us!

I am pleased to announce that Peter successfully ran his first marathon! I am so proud of all the hard work he put in, and I fell in love with him all over again as I witnessed his perseverance and dedication. My sister Alicia joined him at mile 21 and helped make the last grueling miles a little easier. I have to say that he smiled a lot for someone running 26.2 miles -- he was smiling when we met him on the course, and other friends said the same thing.

Our relay team did their work without a hitch too, and everyone did a great job with the transfers (and clocked some pretty fast times too!). When our daughter is old enough, I hope she will be touched that Lisa, Colin, Aunt Mary and Aunt Alicia were willing to run for her.

My brother Matt joined the fun by volunteering for marathon safety patrol -- he and others rode motorcycles along the course to help watch for runners in trouble, or any other problems. So many people love this child already, even though they haven't even gotten a glimpse of her face yet.

But enough from me! Here are some observations from Peter himself:

First of all, let me thank Nancy and my kids for all of their support as I trained for this race. Their love, encouragement and gift of time allowed me to train slowly but surely for the race over the last 8 months. I will never forget how they cheered me on as I faced both success and set backs. Thank you, my love and my family, for believing in me.

It was a very satisfying race. I stuck to my game plan and only walked for 30-45 seconds or so at water stations every 2 miles, along with a few hills. Other than that, I ran -- albeit slowly! -- the whole time. At the last turn, Alicia and I were joined by relay team members Lisa and her son Colin. We crossed the finish line together at 6 hours, 21 minutes. As we crossed I shouted out "for our daughter!" and started to cry.

I talked briefly with a some amazing people along the course. There was a woman from Kansas in her 70s who was running her 110th marathon. Another man from Tokyo, Japan was running his 600th marathon. Wow.

Miles 16-21 were the most challenging for me mentally, and it was difficult to keep focused. I just kept thinking about our daughter-to-be, wondering what she looks like . . . her eyes, her smile.

It was very inspiring to see friends, people from our church, and family along the way, cheering me on from the sidelines. Thanks so much for supporting me and praying for me as I trained and ran the race. It was such a picture of what we should do for each other through all of life, all the way to the finish line. It made me think of Isaiah 40:31: "But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not grow faint."

And both of us must somehow try to convey the depth of our gratitude to everyone who donated to our marathon fundraiser. Too many times to count, we have been moved to tears by the generosity of our families and our friends. Your love for our child is humbling and so appreciated.

Friends from Oregon, Kenya, Chicago, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio joined with us in spirit as they prayed and gave from afar. Our families, and many friends from church who are passionate about caring for orphans also astonished us with their generosity. The teachers at our sons' school took up a collection, and a relative put out a donation jar at her workplace. Any words we can think of seem inadequate to express how much we want to thank each of you.

And we keep on being surprised -- today, the day after the race, a few more people have given a donation. We are thrilled to announce that the total funds raised so far are an incredible $10,063.60.

Originally our hope was to raise $9,000 and that seemed like a pretty lofty goal at the time. I wish we could find some way to describe how much you have blessed us. Your generosity is a huge help meeting our upcoming adoption fees and travel costs.

Thank you. In the end, that's really all we can say. Thank you.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Almost race day!

Like the photo? Sorry to disappoint, but it's not Peter. Earlier this summer, Peter and my sister Alicia ran a half-marathon called The Cheesehead Half -- and one runner wore a cheesehead for the entire race. Now that's some Wisconsin pride.

Just doing a quick post to say that this is the weekend Peter and our relay team will run 26.2 miles! We will post photos from the marathon, along with our fundraising total. I truly can't begin to tell you how overwhelmed we are by the support of our family and friends. I'm tearing up just typing this . . . thank you so much, everyone.

Please keep Peter, Lisa, Colin, Mary and Alicia in your prayers as they run!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Snakes & stuff

Aaron and Nathan helped make a dirt cake, in keeping with his party theme. The finished product is pictured below.

We have a birthday boy at our house. Aaron turned 11, and celebrated with a snake party. He has always loved anything that crawls, flies, swims, or slithers. And we happen to know someone who has a steady supply of pet snakes, so a party theme was born!

One of my 40+ cousins (my dad is one of 11 siblings!) is a member of the local Herpetology Club, so he and his wife were the "entertainment." They are reptile rescue people for the humane society -- they house lizards, snakes, and other critters that the humane society isn't equipped to care for, until a new home can be found. The kids had a ball holding snakes and lizards, and learning about their habits, diet, and life cycle.

For a few years now, our sons have chosen to collect for a charity instead of receiving gifts. This year, Aaron chose a charity called Feed My Starving Children, that ships meals for hungry people around the world. Each meal costs 24 cents, so Aaron's friends all brought quarters instead of gifts -- enough to provide over 274 meals! The kids were all cheering each time the total went up -- they are a sweet bunch.

If you noticed, Anya Rashi is nowhere to be found in the outdoor/snake photos. After eating cake, she and her friend Sarah decided snakes weren't their thing, and went off to play with dollies and other more civilized things!

And just in case we hadn't gotten our fill of creatures, a neighbor gave the kids a monarch chrysalis. We waited several days, then watched the butterfly break out. We walked down to a nearby prairie planting at our neighborhood school and set it free. It was magical!

Happy birthday, Aaron! You are such a gift to us. We love your curiosity, your keen mind, your sense of humor, your compassion, and the wisdom you have that belies your years. Our eleven years with you have been a joy.

* * * * * *

In other news, Peter ran 20 miles this weekend to prepare for the marathon! I am amazed by that number! He's ready to go . . . please keep his run, his health, and his stamina in your prayers.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Run, Peter, run!

Here's Peter running the Cheesehead Half-Marathon last weekend. Aaron joined him for the last 50 yards to the finish.

As some of you already know, Peter has been training since spring to run in our city's marathon. For those of us (including me) who are not runners, the obvious question is why?? Why put yourself through the agony, heat, and pain of training for such a long race?

The short answer is that Peter is a wonderful, dedicated dad. He is running in the marathon to raise funds for our next daughter. He already loves her, even though he's never even seen a picture of her and doesn't know her name. He tells me she's the inspiration each time he increases his miles, and she's the thought that pushes him through the pain.

The longer answer is that we knew we would have to be creative to fund this adoption, our second adoption from India in 5 years. He dreamed up the idea of fundraising by running a marathon, and then he got to work.

Along with Peter, we also have a dedicated relay team running for our daughter. My sister Alicia will be doing 2 legs of the relay, and Peter's sisters Mary and Anne will be taking a leg. Our friend Lisa and her son Colin will each be running one leg of the race as well. We are so moved by their desire to help bring our daughter home.

Now the marathon is a few weeks away, and we are inviting friends and family to consider supporting Peter and the relay team by pledging any amount. You can use the "donate" button on our sidebar if you feel led to do so. All funds will go toward upcoming adoption fees and travel expenses. We have been so moved and overwhelmed by those of you who have already responded -- thank you so much!

What makes your support even sweeter is how encouraging it is at this stage in the adoption process. We began this journey 2 1/2 years ago, and it's easy to have your spirits flag when you're waiting on invisible officials on the other side of the world. Our next "deadline" is September 30, when we must submit another batch of paperwork in hopes of being matched with a child later this year.

Rest assured, we will post her photo as soon as we find out who she is! In the meantime, thank you for praying with us and supporting us as we wait -- and thanks for cheering Peter on!