Monday, August 15, 2016

What a Difference!

What a difference 2 years makes! A new language, 6.5" taller, 30 pounds heavier, needs glasses, grown 3.5 shoe sizes..... Mark's growing into such a wonderful young man!  He is even taking up cross country this year!

A New School Year

This morning both boys started at the high school! 
 Mark's first day of 9th grade.

Alex's first day of 11th grade.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Report Cards

I'd like to brag on my kid for a minute. Most parents we know have been celebrating their kid passing all of their SOLs, making honor roll, or having straight A's. I'm celebrating that our kid improved in all classes this year, went up a few grade levels in reading ability and, for the first time in his life, passed all classes on his report card! He didn't make honor roll (yet!), or pass all of his SOLs, or get straight A's. BUT, we are thankful for his hard work. It was tiring at times, and I felt like the homework warden but, it was worth it to see his face when he saw his grades! (I may have even cried!)  We are definitely celebrating his hard work!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Ready for Summer

And just like that another school year has ended!  Hard to believe that both boys will be in the high school next year!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Normal Was Never Our Plan

Most of you know that our adoption journey has been anything but "normal!" Usually you adopt, bring the child home and change their name. Not the Thurston's!  
17 months ago, our adoption from India fell through. God had closed the door. We didn't understand why, until a few months later when we were asked to take in Mark and Alex. We took the boys. Eventually, after 11 months, we were awarded full-sole custody. Our next step is to complete the adoption process, and then help make the boys U.S. citizens. One thing that the boys stressed was their desire to change their names. They wanted no connection to the couple that had adopted them from Ukraine. There was so much trauma from those few short months that we could plainly see how important this was to them to have our last name.
We sat down and talked about middle names as well (they both hated their adopted middle names). Alex asked for me to write down family names. We talked about the boys going back to their Ukrainian names. (Alex was Sasha in the Ukraine and Mark was Stanislav - but they called him Stas.)
In the end, they both decided that changing their first names would be too "annoying" now that they have settled into their schools and friendships. They both wanted part of our family names but also part of their Ukrainian names. So, we did both!
Yesterday, the Judge signed the order to change their names!
Alex is now Alexander Sasha Albert Thurston. Sasha is his Ukrainian name and Albert is Todd's middle name (and his Grandfather's name).
Mark is now Mark Walker Stas Thurston. Stas is his Ukrainian name and Walker is my dad and my brother Chip's middle names.
Tonight, we took the boys to dinner to share the good news with them and to celebrate another milestone in our journey as a family. They are both excited and nervous about having new names again.
We are thanking God for each step we take on this journey. And, we are trusting Him to get us through the rest of the adoption and immigration process.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Parenting is Hard, So I am Learning to be Proactive

I am going to apologize now for the long post!
Most of you know that Todd & I are pretty anti-technology. We don't have tv (well, just a tv to watch movies - no channels). We don't have smartphones (no internet or picture texts on our phones!). We only have 1 laptop and it has a password on it so there is always accountability for everyone in the house. Actually, I am the only one that even uses it!

Last week my cell phone started acting weird. It's 3 years old so I decided to go and get an upgrade. This actually caused me to have some anxiety, knowing that smartphones really are the only option now. So, 2 days ago I took the plunge and upgraded to an iPhone. I know, big deal. Almost all of our friends have smartphones and laugh when I text them and say, "Hey, I can't open your text!" But for me, THIS IS HUGE. I hate change. Seriously, I hate it. Like, a lot. (You get the point!) One of the things I spoke to the salesman about was my fear of my kids (or me!) seeing something on-line that they should not see. Yes, we shelter our children. Their lives before they became our children were more traumatic than anything you could ever imagine. No one should go through the crap they have gone through. So yes, I want to put them in bubble-wrap and protect them for as long as possible.
Anyway.... I got the new phone. Put a password on it. And had a talk with the kids about how it is not a toy. The next morning I went to actually set up and customize my phone (all the phone store did was transfer my contacts and my photos.). Imagine my surprise-horror-disgust-shock-sadness when I went to change my wallpaper picture and was given the option of 185 graphic-horrible pornographic images to chose from! Made this momma burst into tears and want to vomit. Where did these images come from and how did they get onto my phone?! I immediately called customer service and was told that there must have been some kind of problem when they transferred my info and that I should go to the store when they opened a few hours later. She implied that a worker in the store probably intentionally put them on my phone.  She asked me to look at one of the pictures to see when it was put on my phone. The day before, at 2:45 pm. The same time the store was setting up my phone.
Back to the store I went, as soon as they opened. I was ready to cancel my service and go back to the days of just a landline. The 2 workers in the store were not very understanding at all. They even acted weird that this would even offend me. Their attitude was like, People look at pictures like that all of the time, no big deal. Except that it IS a big deal. After a few hours of playing with the phone and resetting it multiple times, and doing some research, here is what we found out. Those images came from my old phone. Which is impossible since my old phone had no way of getting on the internet. And, the date on the actual pictures was from before I even put the SD card into the phone. Yep, the images were from the SD card that I put into my phone. BUT, when you would look at my images they would not appear. And, if you put the SD card into my laptop, those images would not appear. However, when we put it into an android phone in their store, the images showed up. I am not sure how those images got on there before the SD card became mine. But it makes me sad and scares the crap out of me. As a parent, this scares me. There is yet another way for children to be able to hide stuff from their parents. (For the record, I know my children had nothing to do with any of us since the images are from long before they came to America!) It makes me sad that we live in a world that hides things. We hide our true feelings. We hide our struggles. We hide true intentions. It makes me sad for the person that looked at those images while they put them on that card. I did some research and read that when you view pornography, your brain stores those images and they pop up at random times in your memory. I can attest to this. I have had to pray without ceasing to keep those horrific images from popping up in my mind. Lastly, I am sad for the people in those images. How lost they must have been to think that doing something like those pictures would give them love (or whatever it was they were looking for.)
I am so thankful that I discovered those images and not my husband or children.

So parents, learn from my mistakes. Be proactive. And be involved.

If you are one of those people that struggle with looking at pornography, check out the work that PROVEN Men is doing. It is a battle you do not have to fight alone.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Virginia!  As 2015 comes to a close, we wanted to take some time to share all that has happened over the last 12 months.

As most of you know, in 2014, we were working hard to raise funds for our adoption.  We were adopting Mahesh, from India.  Things were moving along and we had decided to go visit him for Thanksgiving in 2014.  A few weeks before we were set to go, we got a phone call letting us know that someone in his family was blocking us from adopting him.  We felt like our hearts were breaking in two.  We allowed ourselves some time to grieve and to try and mentally process all that had happened. 

In the meantime, we had met a family that was in the process of adopting 3 children from Ukraine.  We got to spend a lot of time with this family and sort of became their respite family for the 2 boys, Mark  (13) and Alex (16).  We would spend time with them and loved getting to know them.

Since our adoption fell through, we contacted the agency we were working with to be matched with another child.  After looking at what seemed to be 1000s of profiles, we chose a sweet little boy, only to be told another family had just locked him in.  Then we chose a second boy.  We were told that our home study was good for every country in the world, except for the one he was from.  And, it would cost $2500 to update our home study for his country.  Yikes!  We definitely felt like God was closing the door for our adoption, even if just for a little while.

We had been house hunting for over 5 years and had just found our dream home.  A 3 bedroom, 2-½ bath home on 24 acres, sitting at the end of a gravel road.  We decided to put adoption on hold for a little while.  We figured that we would buy the house, fix it up, move and then start the adoption process again.  Our offer was accepted on the house and closing was set for the end of January. 

On January 12th, we received a phone call asking if we would temporarily take Mark and Alex.  There were some things going on and it became clear that it was not safe for the boys to remain in the family that adopted them.  We immediately said yes and we picked them up within a few hours.  The next few days were crazy as we heard what the tentative plans were for them.  Group home, foster care and then, eventually, possible deportation.  We sat in church that Sunday, listening to our Pastor preach about serving others (generosity) and stepping out in faith.  We came home knowing that we were meant to be Mark and Alex’s parents.  We told them a few days later and they were excited to be able to stay with us forever.

We recently were granted sole custody of the boys.  We now have to wait for the adoptive father’s parental rights to be terminated so we can adopt them.  Then, there is the grueling task of immigration to make them U.S. Citizens (yes, we will be doing more fundraising!).

Has it been easy?  Nope, not even close.  Each day we learn how to parent better.  And each day they settle more into being part of a family (growing up in an orphanage did not teach them about family!).

What happened to Mahesh?  He still lives at the Jackson Mission School.  He knows that we love him and pray for him everyday.  And he knows that God must have some pretty big plans for him in India to keep him there!  Our friends at Big World Project send teams to India every few months.  We are able to send letters with them and hear updates on how Mahesh is doing.  He is growing and doing well.  His picture is still on our fridge, a daily reminder to pray for him.  And we hope to one day take Mark and Alex there to meet him.

God has blessed us more than we ever could have imagined in 2015 and we are excited to see what He has in store for 2016!  We invite you to follow our story:  And we appreciate all of your prayers as we continue to work on the house and settle into being a family of four.