Monday, February 27, 2012

... a birthday...

This weekend we pseudo-celebrated a birthday.  I say "pseudo-celebrated" for 2 reasons:  1) It only involved a DQ icecream cake and a song, and 2) Our little dude wasn't here for it. 

I guess it really was a momentous day on several fronts.  It will be his last birthday inside institutional walls and more importantly, although he's now 4yo, he will not be transferred out of the Baby House since we've begun the in-country paperwork for his adoption.

Birthdays can be tough times for adoptees.  It's often a time to remember his/her birthmother and wonder about the "whys" behind her decision to make an adoption plan.

Yesterday I found myself wondering about our Little Dude's birthmom.  I'd be crazy to think she wasn't thinking about him... the joy and expectation she was feeling 4 years ago leading up to his delivery... the love she had for him as she felt him grow and kick... then the cold, hard reality that he has Down syndrome-- a chromosomal difference not well accepted in her country. 

In many ways her decision was already made for her.  Institutionalizing a baby with Ds is what you do.  There are no programs to assist you with his Special Needs.  Society and Tradition determined what the outcome would be.  And so, one tiny and very special little boy entered an orphanage while a mother left the hospital with empty arms and full breasts.

With an overflowing heart, I thank you-- our Little Dude's Birthmother-- for giving him life.  I pray that you've found peace and will know he is well cared for and loved.

Friday, February 24, 2012

"Our Story" button!

Thanks to the amazing Sarah-- orphan advocate extraordinaire-- we now have an "Our Story" button!
I opened my email this morning to find that she had created one for us.  Sarah is also the one who made Prayer Cards for us as well as my friend Robyn's adoption.

Check out Sarah's blog.  She's a teen girl with a heart for orphans and Down syndrome.  She and her best friend use their crocheting and sewing talents to fundraise and advocate for orphans... You just might find a hat you'd like to buy in the process!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Here's a little guy whose Mommy and Daddy need to find him before July.  Recently someone also felt this urgency and made a $15,000 donation to his Reece's Rainbow grant.  (You can read about it here.)  This generous donation will go a long way to helping his Mommy and Daddy pay the fees and travel expenses involved in International Adoption.

If you or someone you know is interested in adoption, please take a look at Arnold.  He's a little guy that will thrive with a family's love.  Won't you give him a chance?

Is it your first visit to our blog?

Over the past few weeks, Dave and I have been blessed to reconnect with friends from our past... people that we don't keep in touch with on a regular basis, yet will always consider friends. 

Since I'm not technologically savvy and am not quite sure how to make a blog button to link you to "Our Story", you can find it here.  This little gem will give you the background information on our adoption journey.  It may answer many of the questions we field when people first learn of our adoption...
... what made you decide to adopt?
... why [country]?
... why Down syndrome?

So if you're just learning about our Little Dude's adoption-- or even found our blog because you're considering a Reece's Rainbow adoption-- pop over to "Our Story".  We love  talking about adoption and our Little Dude, so if you have any further questions, just ask!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thank You.

...a HUGE thank you to those of you financially supporting our Little Dude's journey home...

In the past 24 hours someone made a sizeable donation to our Reece's Rainbow grant.  While these gifts help offset the hefty fees of International Adoption, it means so much more than that.  It speaks to the sanctity of life.  It tells us that you feel this little guy is worthy of being ransomed... that his extra chromosome was not a mistake... that he is fearfully and wonderfully made.

The truth is I'm continually blown away by God's provision at just the right time.  Today it was not so much about the dollar figure but about having people in our corner.  This morning started with me reading a blog of a family who just went through a really tough time in court.  Thankfully in the end, the judge ruled favorably-- although not until they produced many additional documents, answered days worth of questions, etc. 

There are times that I'm keenly aware of the unseen battle that's raging.  Spiritual warfare.  Satan is not giving up without a fight.  He will not acknowledge that these children are worthy of redemption.  He does not want them to become part of a family where they'll be unconditonally loved and taught about Jesus.

This battle is real.  If you don't believe me, jump into an International Special Needs Adoption and I don't think it'll be long before you concur.

We covet your financial support.  We covet your prayers.  We are humbled by both.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

USCIS approval

I just today realized that I may not have posted that we received our USCIS approval.  That little gem was waiting for us when we returned from our travels late Sunday night.

What does that mean?  It's the official okay to bring an orphan (aka. Our Little Dude) to 'The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave'.

Foreign adoptions vary.  Some are finalized 'in-country' and some once you get back to the USA.  Ours will be finalized in our Little Dude's birth country.  That said, there is still the technicality that he will enter the United States on a visa.  The way I understand it... while he will legally  be our son when the judge pronounces it, he won't become an American citizen until he sets foot on our shores with the legal entry of a visa.

It's kind of a bummer that Immigration and Passport Control  bans the use of cameras and other recording devices.  I guess we'll have to wait until we pass through the doors to baggage claim for a photo op!

We found a Psychologist who has some experince in adoption requirements.  Our little guy's country requires a psychological exam (by a Psychologist or Psychiatrist).  The results of this exam as well as our other medical information will be presented as part of our court documents.  Thankfully, this woman will see us soon and is motivated to move us through this process as quickly as possible.
I'll have my bloodwork and chest x-ray done tomorrow (also court requirements).

Is it worth all of the paperwork and needle sticks?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Things I LOVE about our Little Dude's country... (an evolving list)

1.  Tea.  While staying with our host family, there was always a pot of tea on the table during meals and snacks.  Since our return home, I've pulled out my teapot (bye bye Keurig and microwave for making tea) and am enjoying the tradition as much as the beverage itself.

2.  Coffee and Tea are actually served hot.  I'm not talking about our litigious American idea of "hot" as in 'your drive-thru beverage will only be slightly warmer than body temperature since you may be a total idiot and put your coffee between your legs then sue me when you get burned'. 
The same goes for the temperature of the bath water.  I honestly think I've brewed tea with cooler water than is pouring from their spigots.

3.   PETA is non-existent.  All of you animal rights people can hate me for saying this, but there is really no denying the beauty and warmth of a fur coat.  Fur.  The real McCoy.  The number of full-length sables and minks being sported as part of everyday attire is astounding.  Even the trim on puffer jackets is gen-u-ine... none of the matted acrylic stuff here. 
disclaimer:  This is my own opinion.  You are free to have your own and voice it.  Just do so on your own blog.  Thank you.

4.  Chocolate.  It's good.  But I challenge you to find a place in the world that has chocolate that I wouldn't like.  Enough said.

(check back for future additions to this list)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Recap of Our First Visit in our Little Dude's Region

I'm guessing that some of you are wanting more details about our trip since the Traffic Feed shows people from all over the world looking at our blog each day.  Here you go.  This may end up being a lot of rambling interspersed with some photos.  As much as I'd like to think that I don't have jet lag and am totally coherent, this post may prove otherwise.

The majority of our past week was spent on a plane, waiting in airports, on the train, or in a car.  We had limited access to the internet.  We were able to Skype with family a few times, however our boys were too busy playing/having fun to say much more than "hi" on their way past the computer.  During the evening, we tried to spend our time visiting with our host family (the 2 nights we stayed with them) instead of holing up in our room and being on the computer.

While in our little guy's region, we had the pleasure of staying with a family.  They often do this for adopting families.  The family consists of Grandma (Nadia), Mom (Lena), 15yo son (Artyom), and 10yo daughter (Lada).  Artyom speaks fluent English.  Nadia, Lena, and Lada all understand English and speak some.  Occassionally we'd get hung-up on a word or two, but with the help of our phrasebook or Google Translate, we'd figure it out.

10 year old Lada is learning to knit-- which formed an instant bond between us.
Dave and Artyom hit it off.  They spent one evening exploring many of Artyom's interests on the computer as well as walking the dog.
Nadia is a wonderful cook and spent much of her time preparing meals for us.  She often had a pot of tea and a snack waiting for us.  We enjoyed visiting with her during these times.
Lena works long hours as a sales manager but we enjoyed talking with her during her brief times home.

Our first trip to the orphanage was with our adoption facilitator Anya.  The second day, we had a hired driver and interpreter.  Our interpreter's name was Katie.  Surprisingly enough, she had spent 5 months working in the Wisconsin Dells as part of a university exchange program.  She owns a cafe and is mommy to two boys-- ages 3 and 5-- so we had lots to talk about.  This was Katie's first exposure to a child with Down syndrome.  She was amazed how little the differences are between our little dude and her own "normal" children.
  (insert "We're More Alike Than Different" discussion)

While at the orphanage, we met the director (one of 3 physicians).  She spent time reviewing our little guy's entire known medical history with us as well as encouraging us to ask questions.  The questions were to be directed toward our little dude's history, schedule, etc.  After our meeting, she went and got our little guy from his nap.  The way she handled him was very loving and you could see he's comfortable with her.  We met in the "Music Room".  This particular orphanage has music classes for the children and our little guy loves music.

We never saw or heard any other children while visiting.  It's a quite large baby house with several wings.  It has space for 120 children up to 4yo.  Currently, there are only about 50 children residing there.  While orphanages often don't like disrupting the child's schedule for visits, our little guy was allowed to miss part of his nap for our visit on Tuesday.  Our 3 hour drive each way to/from the orphanage made it difficult to time our visit during free-time.  Our little guy usually naps from 12-3pm each day (can this really be my child??!!??-- yay for good naps!).  On Tuesday, we arrived at 12:30 for our visit.  They allowed us to visit until 2pm.  At that time, his nurse came to take him for his nap.  We had a great time playing during our visit, but he was ready for a nap and willingly went with the nurse.  Both the director and his nurse seems to be caring well for-- and maybe even love-- our little dude.  We are very thankful for this.  But no matter how much they love and care for him right now, it would not change the fact that he'd have been transferred once he turns 4yo.  Although our little guy will turn 4 in a few weeks, they will now keep him at the baby house until we come for him.
One of the physicians from the orphanage will be at our court hearing.  We're praying that it will be this kind, loving woman (Dr. Leanna).

The train ride from Capital City to our little guy's region and back again went well.  Both were overnight trips (about 13 hours).  They were smooth rides with many stops along the way.  Often the stop/start was so smooth that we didn't even feel it.  An almost full moon allowed us to see some of the landscape along the way.  Were it not for the Cyrillic script on the roadsigns, we may have often mistaken the rural scenes for Northern Wisconsin.
We were blessed to have a private sleeper during our train rides and were able to rest comfortably.

So what's next for us?  More paper work.  LOTS more paperwork.  Now that we've made our first trip, we can gather our time-sensitive court documents.  This is my mission over the next few weeks.  Once gathered, they will be notarized, apostilled, and sent to our little dude's country.  Upon receipt in-country, they will be translated and delivered to the Minister of Education and Science in our little guy's region.  The MOES will then assign us a court date.  We'll then get visas and tickets for our 2nd trip.  We'll arrive in our little dude's region the day before court, visit him, and prepare for court.  Court will probably be about 7 hours long.  During that time, we'll give our background info, why we want to adopt this little guy, the orphanage director/doctor will present his medical history, the orphanage's Social Worker will speak, etc.  We can expect a lot of questions during this time as he's the first Down syndrome adoption (for our agency) from this region.  Things we take for granted here in the US-- Special Olympics, Easter Seals, day programs, classroom integration, etc.-- are unknowns in their country.  They are very eager to learn why we wish to adopt such a child and how we will provide for his needs.  The comment we received many times during our last visit was "I don't understand your decision (to adopt a child with Ds), but I respect it".

THIS is why we're adopting such a child.

Hang on little buddy.  We're coming back soon!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

HEY!  I have something to shout about...

I'm getting a Mommy...

... a Daddy...

 ... and 2 brothers!

and  I  CAN'T  WAIT !!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

And now, the post you've all been waiting for...

Today, we met the most adorable and amazing little boy...

He's silly.

He's talented.

And oh so very busy!


The list of things that really aren't funny unless you're sleep deprived... then they're HI-LAR-I-OUS!

#1.  Your husband answering the train lady's question in Spanish.  "Si" would have been totally  appropriate if we were in South America instead of Eastern Europe.

#2.  Your husband praying at dinner and thanking God for safety driving to/from the orphanage today and knowing Anya's driving would put most Nascar drivers to shame.

#3.  The literal translation of a menu from native language to English.  eg. "Soup-noodles with a hen"

---  stay tuned for more!  ---

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Our first few days In-Country

Oops!... Saturday evening I had just finished typing our update and didn't get it published to the blog before we lost our internet connection.  We had only paid for an hour of use at the hotel as we figured that would be enough time to Skype with family and update emails/blog.  Well... we got cut off just as I hit "publish".  I'll tack on the rest now then jump over to a more recent post-- about our first visit-- since I'm sure that's the part you're dying to hear about.

After a night on the plane, we have arrived at the first destination of our EE adventure.  With connections that took us to JFK before heading acrosss the big pond, we've spent the better part of the past 36 hours either in an airport or on a plane.  We arrived in the Capital City about 1:30pm (local time) on Saturday.  Our connections, flights, and entrance into the country went smoothly.  The trans-Atlantic flight was as pleasant as could be for being packed in like sardines.

Getting through immigration was a non-event (for which we are thankful).  Our driver (Dima) met us and took us to our hotel.  The staff was very kind and upgraded us not only to a nicer room, but also gave us access to a hospitality lounge which included snacks and breakfast.  After getting settled in our room, we did some damage to the cookie stash in the hospitality lounge before heading out to exchange money and go grocery shopping.  We picked up a few essentials for dinner (their equivalent of Ramen Noodles), bread, chocolate, and water then headed back to our room.

The grocery store was 2 levels.  There was and escalator-ish thing that accommodated both people and grocery carts when going from one level to the other.  There is really no pattern to the traffic flow in the grocery store.  It seems to be each man for him/herself.  Watch out if someone's headed your way because chances are they are not going to stop for you.  Add in the fact that all 4 cart wheels pivot and it becomes an evening of entertainment for the Americans.

We slept well, "strapped on the feedbag" in the hospitality suite, then headed out for a few hours of sightseeing.  We braved the metro by ourselves.  We even switched lines without incident!  The biggest problem we found was that the print on the metro map was almost impossible for aging eyes to read.  Thankfully, Dave brought along his magnifying reading glasses... what a lifesaver!

After a few hours of wandering around Capital City's most famous sites, we headed back to the hotel to meet our driver. 

Our driver (Mark) took us to the train station and got us situated in our cabin before our 8:16pm departure.

The train was a great experience and after 13 hour and some sleep, we arrived at our stop--- the end of the line.

Our in-country adoption representative (Anya) met us at the train then took us to our host family's apartment.  We ate breakfast then got in the car for a 3 hour drive to our little guy's orphanage.  The drive there and back... well... let's just say Danica Patrick has nothing on Anya!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I'm Leavin' on a Jet Plane

The packing is done.  We managed to get everything into our carry-ons (we'll each have a backpack and small carry-on).  In addition to our clothes, we have some small gifts for our little guy as well as those who will assist us along the way.  We also have more Clif bars than any two humans can eat in a week's time.

We'll post as we are able.  Much of our time 'in-country' will be spent either on the train or driving.
Here we go!

oh!-- and Sarah, I did have room to pack both  my knitting and my undies... Glad I wasn't forced to choose between the two!  ;o)