Saturday, May 23, 2009

We Made it!

I'm embarrassed at how long it's been since I last wrote, but we've experienced our first Easter together, Andres' had his 3rd birthday (the first one to be with us!), I got to experience my first Mother's Day with 3 kids rather than just 1, and we've celebrated our Family Day as May 19 marked a year ago that we got them.  Easter was great.  The kids really enjoyed all of the baskets and egg hunts.  We had one egg hunt at home when the kids woke up that morning and another one later in the day.  Dre pretty much understood what to do from the moment the first one began started.  Maria, on the other hand, understood when we were at home, but when we got to an outdoor egg hunt, she slowly walked around to look at all of the pretty eggs and before long, most of the eggs were gone  Then tears came.  Hopefully she'll have better luck next year.  ; )  A week before Easter, I got a call from pre-school that Andres was running and fell, hitting is head onto the cross bar of a wooden fence.  So I left work to go see how bad it was.  When I walked into the pre-school office, the poor guy was covered with blood on his shirt, had an extremely swollen eye with an ice pack on it,  but he was sitting in one of the director's laps eating lunch with a smile on his face.   How apropos!  I don't know why I would expect him to be any different.  His eyebrow had been laid open pretty good so my doctor recommended that I come in to his office to see if Dre needed plastic surgery.  If he did, my doctor would refer us to the surgeon and we would head to the hospital.  If he didn't need plastic surgery, the doctor said he could save me the inflated costs of the emergency room and he could stitch up Dre's eye in the office.  Fortunately, even though the gash was pretty open, the doctor stitched it in his office.  Dre was incredibly brave!  He cried very lightly the whole time and did not move a wink.  The nurse kept saying that she had never seen a 2 y/o be so cooperative and so still.  Which made me, once again, question how much he has been through in his past.  What a sweetheart!  I was so proud of him.  I somehow knew, though, that this would not be the last trip to the doctor for a mishap.  
More goofing around than egg dying

Hunt #1 at home--Eggs from the Easter bunny

Gifts from Nana Judy and Papa Denny

Too funny!

Dre and Mami

Luke, Maria and Andres--1 year ago in Cartegena

1 year later celebrating Easter together for the first time

Maria figuring out the Easter egg hunt after the eggs were gone

But Dre got it from the moment it began

Easter bunny impression with a good shot of his eye after stitch removal

Papa Bill showing the kids domino tricks on Easter

Kids with grandparents and Andres pouting since we took him away from his Easter basket

Kids with Grandparents on Easter

The Jensen 5--one year ago in Bogota

The Jensen Family on Easter 2009

Maria loved this Easter gift--a shirt made by Nana Sharon for Princess Maria

Andres' 3rd birthday was on April 25th and it was so much fun.  When I look at him now versus when we got him, he looks SO much older and is quite a bit heavier---I think 10 lbs. heavier!  Becoming three continues to bring a lot of orneriness and curiosity with it.  He found a large, white, plastic object and shoved it us his nose--and I mean really shoved it up his nose.  It was so high up in there I couldn't reach it with tweezers so in one last-ditch effort to save us from another doctor's visit, I made him blow his nose harder than ever before, and thank goodness it shot out!  Whew!  The good news is that his birthday went off without any injuries.  We had to squeeze it in between Big Brother Luke's baseball games, but he didn't care one bit.  He absolutely loved his Elmo cupcake cake and his Elmo hat.  All of his gifts lit up his face as most were Diego toys.  He LOVES Diego.  Matter of fact, a side note, one day at pre-school, he was playing with one of his friends and told his teacher he needed to go potty.  When Andres went inside, his friend became quite sad.  His friend waited and waited and waited for Dre to return.  Finally, Dre cam running back out on the playground and his little friend went running after him with arms wide open saying, "Diego!!!"  So, often times around the house, not only will you hear us call him Andres, Dre Dre, or Dre, but you will also hear Diego.  Especially when he is playing with Maria when he is Diego and she is Dora.  For some reason, I am always Boots or Tico.  Not sure what that says about me.  : )  Anyway, he had a great birthday and we got him a motorized car to ride on.  He's in heaven!  

The infamous foreign object that went up the nose--notice the tear on the chin!

Dre--1 year ago in Bogota

Our beautiful 3 year-old on his first birthday experience with us!

Mami and Papi thrilled to be spending Andres' first birthday celebration with him

Birthday boy with his Elmo cupcake cake

Maria "reading" the birthday card that she made for Andres

Help from Big Brother on the new motorized car

While Mother's Day was nice--church, breakfast with family and a soccer game--I really reflected a lot on Maria and Andres' mom.  It's so sad that she can't see what beautiful children they are, how happy they are.  She's truly missing out on so much and she just has to know it inside.  Hopefully, someday, if the kids want to, we can find their birth mother and she can see firsthand what tremendous kids they are!   They are both doing so well.  Andres is finally talking in short sentences that are sometimes even comprehendable!  YEAH!!!  He will be going to pre-school next year in our local school district for four 1/2 days each week and receiving services to help him get caught up with other three year olds.  I have no doubt he will be fine by kindergarten.  He goes non-stop and wears me out most days.  Maria is still working hard on her speech.  She still gets a lot of her sounds transposed and mixed up but overall, she has come miles.  Her speech teachers have decided it's time to place less emphasis on her pronunciation and start focusing a little more on her grammar.  As a former English teacher, you can imagine how happy that made me.  I try hard with her, but she's learning so much in such a short time, I think it's brain overload.  She will be going to full-day kindergarten next year which I think will be a perfect spot for her.  This will give her more time and more repetition to learn the basics.  She continues to excel in soccer and is now trying t-ball and loves it all. And she is really into fashion!  She got some money for her birthday and she took it with her one day when we went to Wal-Mart.  I expected her to buy a Dora toy or something like that, but instead, she bought a shiny pair of yellow sandals.  I had to laugh.  If I didn't know better, I would think she is a direct descendant of her Nana Sharon!  I just couldn't be more proud of these two, and of course, Luke as well.  He's about to wrap up 3rd grade.  We've had a lot of fun reminiscing about life a year ago and how much it has changed for him.  He is an excellent big brother ( as I think I say in EVERY posting) and he is tremendous student!  Between Maria's soccer and softball and Luke's soccer and baseball, weekends are definitely busy but fun.  I swear there are times when Luke runs out onto the baseball field and I just can't believe that I'm seeing what I'm seeing.  He has grown quite a bit this year (although still a bean pole with little muscles) and his feet have already caught up with mine.  Such a funny stage to see a boy with skis for shoes!  He's also been working really hard with Cub Scouts and is now a Webelo.  He and his dad have a good time doing the campouts together.  They'll have another one this summer the weekend of the CHI Colombian reunion in St. Louis.  So, while I hate that Luke won't be able to go and meet all the other Colombian children we have followed, I am planning on taking Maria and Andres to St. Louis.  Should be a fun weekend to finally meet people that I feel like I already know but have never met face-to-face. 

Finally, on May 19, we had our first Family Day together.  Since Matt was not going to be able to be with us on the actual day, we decided to take the kids to the Royals baseball game the Saturday before it.  It was a great family outing as we explored our new baseball field with an incredible amount of kids activities within the ballpark.  We only watched about an inning before taking the kids to explore.  As always, a little excitement must be thrown into the evening, and I'll given you one guess who always creates it. . .yes, Andres.  He was climbing on some metal bleachers and fell, smacking his OTHER eye and cutting the eyebrow open.  Now keep in mind, he just got his stitches out of his other eye approximately 4 weeks  prior to this.  Fortunately, he did not need stitches, but he got to visit the First Aid office of the stadium and getting a Royals pin for being so brave.  After that, we were actually able to go enjoy the last few innings of the game as Andres sat on Papi's lap.  

The Jensen 5 at the K

Pretty sure they just don't get any cuter!

Andres saw the A and excitedly screamed, "A for Andres!"

So you can see that someone else had to follow suit!

Always happy

Maria's big hit

Maria and Andres 1 year ago in Bogota

Maria and Andres 1 year later at their first Kansas City Royals game ( and minutes before eye injury #2)

All smiles in First Aid

What is this sticky stuff!!??  At least it got his mind off of his eye.

After enough excitement for one night, going home

For our actual Family Day, the kids and I sorted and packaged all of the donated items for our Family Service project for the CVI orphanage in Bogota.  We were able to collect over $200 and 4000 individual items to send.  Maria was so proud that she was trying to tell people what all of our boxes were for when were waiting in  line at the post office. . . "These boxes are for all the kids who don't have Mami's and Papi's."  Just a priceless time and I can't tell you how much joy I got out of watching the kids get excited about each and every item we package.  I never could have imagined how much gratification they would actually experience from donating items rather than receiving items for themselves, especially Luke.  He really enjoyed collecting items from his class and I was so proud of how he went into his classroom and led them in a service project. What a selfless gesture my kids have learned.  We ended our Family Day with dinner out at the place of their choice which is always Mexican food.  This time we actually splurged and ordered sopapillas.  Not something we normally do as we are always too full to eat our complete meals. But this time, who cared?  It was our Family Day and we deserved to celebrate!  

Sorting all of the donated items

Dre excited to find a Diego toothbrush

Mailing donations at the post office

Family Day dinner

Friday, May 8, 2009

Preparing for a Memorable Family Day

As our first "Family Day" approaches, we have thought a lot about what we want to do to celebrate.  But when it gets right down to it, not only is the day about us being together for a year, but it's also about honoring a country who trusted us to take care of their children.  On May 19, we will be celebrating our first year together as a family of five.  We are eternally grateful to Colombia, South America, for Maria and Andres. The sad realization is that we have learned that on the streets of Bogotá, Colombia, there are approximately 13,000 children without a home and most have no one to care for them. In Maria and Andres’ honor, we have decided to help the Colombian children still waiting for their “forever” families.  In order to do this, we have teamed up with Children's Vision International, an American-based organization, that has heard the cries of those homeless children.  CVI helps to provide safe, loving homes to these orphans.  (For more information, you can go to  Currently, CVI has built three homes for these children and are currently in the process of building a school all in Colombia, South America.

From now until May 18, 2009, our family will be collecting monetary donations or items for children between the ages of 0-18 years to take care of Colombian children just like Maria and Andres.  The items include toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, combs, hair brushes, ponytail holders, bandaids, cotton balls, Q-Tips, lotion, shampoo, soap, clothing, socks, underwear, shoes, blankets, clocks, calculators, pens, pencils, books in Spanish.  

On our May 19th Family Day, we will package these items and send them to CVI. We are so excited to teach our children the value of serving others and helping those in need.  To see how our Family Service Project is progressing, we will update the side of our blog showing what all has been collected. Thanks to all of our family and friends for continuing to support us through this incredible journey.  And a special thank you to the students and staff at my high school as well as  Luke's teacher and 3rd grade class for their selfless donations and excitement to support this project. It is so wonderful to see our future leaders jump aboard and get into the spirit of giving to others!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Finally, "It's my Happy Birthday!" and much more

Well, a lot has happened as you will see below. But mostly, for the past 6 weeks, we have been fighting colds, ear infections, bronchitis and then crazy weather changes that induce allergies. I had to take a week off of work when the kids were sick, and then two weeks after that, I went in for "minor" surgery that ended up making me miss two more weeks of work. Thankfully, I am finally starting to feel like I am recovering! That will be the last time I translate "minor" surgery as meaning short recovery period! So, I have not had a lot of time to update. Anyway, as I mentioned, Maria and Andres were pretty sick at the beginning of February. Here is Dre, as always, with a smile on his face. He was a real trooper enduring three weeks of these breathing treatments, three times a day!

Before all of the sickness began, Luke participated in the annual Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. For all who have never done this, there is a LOT of fretting and stewing (mostly by Matt) as to what the car should look like, how it should be shaped, where the weights should go, etc. More than I'm sure I can understand. Also, Matt has organized this event for the Pack the past two years. So kudos to him as well for pulling off the event. Andres especially loved it due to all of the cars racing in front of his eyes.

This kids are really enjoying spending time with their grandparents. It is so fun to see these relationships deepen and all of the great times they are sharing together. Maria is constantly asking us if she can go stay the night with the grandparents, and most of the time they oblige which makes her sooooo happy! Here are a few picks with the "Papa's" and the kids.

Dre loves Papa Ronnie!

And Papa Bill is extra special, too!

We've also had the pleasure of continuing to introduce our kids to various people. Most recently, we were able to get together with another family from Kansas City who just brought two kids home from Colombia--the boy is Luke's age, the girl is Maria's age. We had a great time with the Bond family and hope to continue building that friendship.

Our first Valentine's Day together was wonderful! Maria and Andres really enjoyed it. Maria mostly due to the fact that she adored her heart dress, earrings and necklace that she got to wear. Andres loved the Valentine's bags that their gifts were in. I don't even know if he knew there were gifts in them, but hey, his enjoyment helped me to get my money's worth out of the bag. ; ) After going to Luke's basketball game, which is always fun, we were fortunate enough to be able to take the kids to Border's to pick out a special book for each and then to the Cheesecake Factory that evening. It was a very special day and so much love was shared by all!

All three kids are doing so well. Luke really enjoys teaching the kids new things and reading stories to them. I constantly hear him working with them on how to say words correctly. He is such a great age to be a big brother and Maria and Andres adore him. We would have missed out on so much of Luke's compassion if he had remained an only child. Maria continues to grow like a weed. The other day, I was looking at pictures from when we got her in Colombia. She looked so little then, but there are still days where I see glimpses of that fragile little girl who longs to be loved. She follows me every where I go just because she likes to be close and give me hugs. Not a day goes by where she doesn't tell me that she loves me at least ten times, and she constantly seeks approval. We are so proud of how well she has done with learning English. While she doesn't speak it 100% clearly due to her speech issues, she has an amazing command of it in such a short time. Andres is really beginning to take off with his speaking, finally. He is much more difficult to understand as he has many speech issues, but he's really beginning to get the cadence of syllables and emphasizes the right parts of words. He has even said some 3-4 word sentences which is HUGE! We are so proud of him! As Luke continues to have interests in his sports, Maria loves her dance and soccer. And Andres, well, he loves everything and will participate in whatever anyone wants to do. Most recently, though, he has become infatuated with dressing up in hats, gloves and snow boots. This can cause problems at times as we are potty training! After Andres was really sick, the doctor requested that we take him off of dairy, and what a huge difference it's made. He's been going "popo" (the Colombian word, not ours) in the potty for about two weeks now. So while we've been on Spring Break, I have had him in underwear running around the house. I think I pressed my luck yesterday when we went out to run errands. As we stood in the check out line for our final errand, he had an accident. But each day brings a clean slate, and so far today, there have been no accidents. So this story will be continued. . .nevertheless, we are proud of him!

Dre in potty training mode

One of the most exciting things to happen over the past month was Maria's 5th birthday on March 14th, and what a day it was! For the month leading up to her birthday, she was constantly going around telling everyone--us, her friends, teachers, grandparents and strangers--that, "It's my HAPPY BIRTHDAY on March 14th!" I tried to teach her that we leave out the "HAPPY" when telling people, but she kept doing it, and honestly, it's just too darn cute to change it. She is really into princesses right now so we went with a princess theme even though she is a real tomboy at times!

Soccer princess

So we went with it! I thought she'd have fun dressing up in a pretty dress and I surprised her with some princess accessories before her party which included--sparkly shoes, a tiara and a princess sash. She LOVED it! She also loved her cake that I made. We watched the video on how to make the cake over and over again on and she could barely contain her excitement each time. It was a very special day that brought so much joy. However, at the same time, I was a little heavy-hearted because there was no doubt in my mind that her foster family had to have been missing her that day. After they spent her 2nd and 3rd birthdays with her, they know how special Maria makes the day with her smiles, squeals and laughs. I can only imagine the hole that they felt in their hearts that day was equivalent to the fullness that mine felt by being a part of her special day for the first time.

She made a beautiful princess and insisted that she be called Princess Ariel since that's her favorite one

What a hit this "princess" birthday card was from Nana Judy and Papa Denny. Maria took it to bed with her the first three nights so she could listen to the music as it played over and over again. And even more precious, she still dances to it over and over again with such heart-felt movements. Truly priceless!

What a beautiful little girl--how lucky are we!!??

Ok, I have to admit the princess thing was taken way overboard, but oh did she eat it up!

And this may have been her most prized possession of the birthday party. You would have thought that I gave her the moon. She continues to tell people that her birthday was fun, that she's five now and, "My mommy made me a princess cake!" SHe even seems to think in her mind that BECAUSE I made her a birthday cake, she turned five. ; )

The only other member of the family I tend to leave off in the updates is our 15 1/2 year old dog, Max. He has been so good with the kids and they went from being scared of him to loving him. Unfortunately, he is really starting to show his age. (Wouldn't we all at 108 1/2 people years?) In the past year, his vision has begun to fail as has his hearing. It wasn't until about a month ago when he started randomly losing full function of his back legs. It doesn't happen all of the time but he is clearly getting to that stage that I have dreaded. After all, before Matt and all three kids were here, Max was in my life. So say a few prayers for him (and me) as it will be a difficult day when he has finally had enough. The only comfort I find is knowing that my grandparents will be there to scoop him up when he arrives in heaven.


Finally, to end on a positive note, I once again, have to point out what an incredible journey adoption is. It has profoundly changed my life in ways that I can not understand or express. However, I occasionally take a picture where I sit back and say to myself, "This is how adoption enriches." Without God leading us down the path to Colombia, I never would have had the honor of feeling the joy that events like this bring to me. Thank you for continuing to follow us through this AMAZING blessing!

Brothers forever