Monday, June 29, 2015

Four years ago today, A Little Ray of Sunshine Entered our Life.

It was four years ago today that we met our little Sunshine, Soliana for the first time.
We first saw her in a photo about four months before we actually met her and that photo is all we had for those first months.
Here is what we first saw in that photo:

Much the way that expectant parents fall in love with an ultrasound photo, so we fell in love with this precious face.
The time went slowly as we waited for the day that Courtney, Paul, and Tizita would go and bring our Soliana home.
The wheels turn slowly in the adoption process and patience is needed.

Finally, the day came.
The Van Auken family spent about a week in Ethiopia with Soliana and then they brought her home.
This is the girls waiting in the DC airport on their way home.
This is the best sight.
Our first glimpse of Soliana getting off the plane in the loving arms of her family.
What a wonderful feeling.  
They are all safely here in America.
They are all together as a happy family.
The long awaited day had finally arrived.

This little lady has lived up to her name.
Soliana means Sunshine and Soli is our little Sunshine.
She is always happy, always smiling.
We love her so, so much.
Families are built in many different ways, ours was built through adoption and we could not be more in love with these little girls no matter what.
We are truly blessed by them.
God is good.

Happy 3rd Soliversary, Soliana!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Recap of our Vacation on Emerald Isle

John and I got home today.
We had a wonderful, memorable vacation.
Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of some of my favorite moments.
This was our first night on the beach.  I love seeing the excitement in the little girls' eyes as they watch those big waves.
Our beach was just gorgeous.  A little piece of heaven, for sure.
After a morning walk, we always enjoyed a diet coke on our beach.
 Tiz loved riding the big waves with us.
In light of recent shark attacks, I was always nervous out there, but Tiz said we should not worry about that.
Everyone having fun in the sea.
Soli even enjoyed it.
We celebrated Soliana's third Soliversary while we were on vacation.
We had a Pirate themed party for her.
She loved it so much.
She loves her Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
Pirate sisters!
 We visited the North Carolina Aquarium on Emerald Isle.
We all enjoyed the aquarium very much.
This above photo is from a hiking path at the aquarium.
So glad that the only sharks we saw were in the Aquarium.
 The Van Auken family on a turtle.
Soli loved petting the stingrays.
 John and I on our back deck overlooking the sound.

 The swimming pools were wonderful, the water was as warm as a bathtub.
We always swam after our morning dip in the ocean.
The landscaping around our condo was so pretty.
And everyday ended with a beautiful sunset off our deck.
The week went so quickly, but we do have lots of happy memories.

On the way home, we stopped at Sherri and Jeff Browning's house in Charlotte.
Sherri and Jeff are two of our very good friends from college and we don't get to see them very often so this visit was a real treat.
We enjoyed a wonderful meal, great drinks, and good conversation.
It was a great way to end our vacation.
Sherri and I, we were known as the Sherri Sisterhood in college.
I cannot wait to go back to the ocean again.
There is something magical about it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Good byes are always so hard, why is that?

Today is Friday, June 26.
John and I are leaving Emerald Isle in about 15 minutes.
We have had a wonderful vacation and I will share photos and details about that when we get home, but for now I just wanted to document a few thoughts.
Why is it always so hard to pack up and leave after a wonderful vacation?
I spent months planning this trip, finding the perfect home away from home, and checking out local attractions for us.
I spent weeks planning what to take, what food we would need, what swimming suits and sand toys we would need.
I spent days packing up all the things to make this vacation a good, memorable one.
We drove for hours and hours to get here.
Then, in the blink of an eye, it is time to leave.
We took in one last sunset, one last walk on the ocean, one last beer on the deck.
We have committed this area to memory and if that fails, we have about 1000 photos to help us recall all the good times we had here.
Courtney and her little family left yesterday.
That was sad, too.
I missed my little girls who shared our bed and our lives for four days and nights.
I don't want to leave, but leave we must.
I think we have island and ocean in our blood.  It is really the most magical place on earth and I hope we can return many, many times in the future.
We still prefer our beloved St. George Island, but an Island is an Island.
So, with a sad heart, I bid this sweet part of God's earth "Good bye."  
You have been good to us and we hope to see you again soon.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Vacation - Part 1

John and I left on our road trip on Friday, June 19.
Final destination:  Emerald Isle.
We left at 4:45 A.M.
Drove via Bloomington to avoid Chicago.
Had an uneventful trip ending up in Beckley WV for the our first night.
We had a nice Super 8 in Beckley.

Left on Saturday and drove through the beautiful mountains of WV enroute to NC.
There were two big tunnels under the mountains.
That whole highway system is an engineering marvel.

We met up with Courtney, Paul, Soli, and Tizita in Burlington, NC
We arrived just in time to have lunch at Five Guys.

So happy to be met by these smiling faces.
They have been on a family vacation for a week already with two more weeks to come.
On a sidenote, they were in Charleston SC at the time of the shooting of nine black people in a church.
The church was only a few blocks from their hotel and the college where they had been while the shooting occurred.  The killed was on the loose for the next day and Courtney and the girls had to stay locked in their hotel room.  Paul was at meetings at the college.
Thankfully, he was captured the next day.

On another sidenote, there have been two shark attacks right off the coast of North Carolina where we will be staying in the beach house.  Ugh!
Killers and sharks, hope that is all the excitement for this vacation.

After lunch we all headed over to Leigh's house and had a wonderful, long overdue visit with her, her new husband Andrew, and our three sweet nieces.
I wasn't sure what to expect, we hadn't seen them for at least ten years due to a nasty divorce situation.
It was such a great visit.
The nieces, Natalie, Holly, and Katherine are the most lovely ladies.
All three will be in college this fall.
Natalie majoring in Parks and Rec.
Holly in Graphic Design.
Katherine in Dance Education.
The three big girls were so sweet to Soli and Tiz.
Leigh ordered pizzas for dinner before we headed back to our hotel.
The three big girls even came over and swam with Soli and Tiz for a bit.
I am so glad that I actually contacted Leigh and set up a visit.

Lights out in our room by 11:00.
Tomorrow on to the beach!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Updates on my Businesses

Mrs. Damman's Summer Scholars is in its second week.
I have 12 students who range in age from 2 - 7.
It takes me quite a bit of planning time to make sure that I am doing all I can to help each child with their individual needs.
I meet four of the students in my classroom and I go to the houses of the other eight.
So, far I am really enjoying it and the kids tell me they love when I come to teach them.
I think my biggest challenge will be the two second graders who need help with their reading and writing, but really don't care too much for either reading or writing.  Lots of creativity needed there
The easiest student, so far, is a little boy who just finished Kindergarten.
He loves to read and write and cannot get enough of it, so that makes my job easy.
Here are a few photos from my tutoring yesterday.
 A 4K student working on letters

 A first grader working on his money skills.
 A three year old practicing her cutting skills.
 A three year old counting.
 My youngest student, age 2 water coloring a chameleon.
 That same little girl decorating her initial.
As you can see, I do lots of different activities with the kids.
The parents pay me a good amount for this service so that is why I put so much into it.
So far I am enjoying it.

Sherri's Shots
I am pleasantly surprised that anyone would actually want my artwork hanging up in their homes, but apparently they do.
I finally made a DAMMAN for us and today I made a blessings collage.
I am working on an order for two collages, one that will say FAMILY and one that will say FAITH.
I really enjoy looking for the letters and I have found some nice frames on Amazon.
Just comment if anyone who reads here is interested in a collage.
So far, I have been able to deliver all the ones that I have made, but I am willing to ship them out if necessary.
 In closing, I will say
on your day!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A weekend full of my two favorite girls

Courtney brought the girls to our house on Friday to spend three nights with us.
Paul is in Norway on business and Courtney was going to Chicago to visit a college friend.
We were more than happy to take the girls.
We started our Friday night with Schuett's followed by a walk to the park where the girls put on a performance and played on the playground.
We came home, had a campfire. 
The girls made a fairy garden in one of my flower beds.
We watched TV and turned in early to get ready for our zoo day on Saturday.

On Saturday we left nice and early for the zoo, but best laid plans, we had gotten almost to Oconomowoc when we realized we had forgotten the zoo passes.
We waited for Courtney to bring them to us on her way to Chicago.
At least we were able to wait at the beach in Oconomowoc.
The girls did enjoy that.

Courtney arrived with our passes and we were on our way, yet again.
We decided to park in the zoo parking lot which was a good decision to save some of the time we had lost, it was well worth the parking fee to be so close to the entrance.
We had a great time at the zoo as usual.
We rode the train, the merry go round and the zoo mobile.  We actually were able ride the zoo mobile for free because we are US cellular customers, who knew?
We all enjoyed the zoo mobile very much and we learned a lot about the animals.
We had our picnic lunch and then took off to see the animals up close and personal.
.There was a special exhibit of movable, lifelike dinosaurs there, too, they were awesome.

Other than this brain freeze, we had another memorable zoo day.
We had pizza at Marty's on the way home.

On Sunday, after church, the girls wanted to go to the pool so badly.
It was cloudy and rather chilly but we finally decided to go and what fun we had.
The girls spent two hours in the water.
Tiz loved the diving board and the big slide.
Soli found a friend from Preschool who just happened to be wearing the same suit as her.
They had so much fun together.

 After swimming, the girls had fun in our swing.
Tiz did her hair all by herself after her shower.
On  Monday, Courtney came to get the girls but not before we had some fun with the slip and slide.
It was a great weekend.
Next time we see the girls will be in North Carolina on our vacation.
John started his new job.
It is going.
I am back to tutoring today, tomorrow, and Thursday.
It is going.
Until next time...
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