Monday, December 12, 2011


Next by age comes my Abigail. My spunky little bit. I don't know how big she would be. I don't know what words she would know or what new tricks she would have. I don't know how she would look or what clothes or food she would prefer. I don't get to watch her dance her heart out in ballet. All I have left are my memories. Pictures don't do her justice. But both are priceless to me.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Malachi. My sweet, silly, hidden gem. This little boy was shy and got passed over a lot. He was quiet and cooperative. He didn't demand the attention Grace got. He didn't expect to be singled out or given love or affection. Oh, but how he loves it all now. My Malachi, that was afraid to give us a hug or sit in our lap, who was afraid to even look at us, much less speak to us, my Malachi how you have blossomed. You have become the most snuggly, chatty, affectionate little man. You bring me gifts all the time with your big grin. You love to climb into my lap and snuggle and love as long as I will sit. I never imagined you could have come alive this much in just 6 short months. And how you have brought joy to my heart.

In the orphanage, Malachi was serious. We spent most of our time in work-play with him--moving sticks or wiping down boards. He didn't come to us for cuddles and love. He didn't talk our ear off like Grace. He just quietly interacted. I know how shy he is and how hard that must have been for him. He is such a brave boy.

When we first got him out in Kiev, I thought he had lost his mind, lol. The overstimulation and nervousness made for lots of mad-scientist like giggling, hyperactivity, and running. Oh the running. The first thing we did when we got home was buy a stroller so we wouldn't lose him. How terrifying the world must have been. We still catch that giggle and know he is getting overstimulated or scared. We now know how to handle it fortunately. Those early days, I didn't know how we would ever be able to leave the house. The only activity he wanted to do when we got home was sweep. He swept and swept and swept. He will still go get the broom if he is worrying about something.

But now, my sweet Malachi knows how to play with toys. He will walk to the car by himself, where at first he was terrified to the point of screaming. He will play outside and upstairs with his siblings or alone, whereas those first days he would just sit on the couch giggling. And he will go in the back yard and play with our giant black dog, the dog he was so terrified to even see out the window. Malachi, what a brave boy you are to face these fears and adapt. To learn to trust us when you have no reason to.

We were told that Malachi was a picky eater. What we found was that no one had encouraged him to try food. His fear kept him from trying, but with a little encouragement, he will eat anything now and lots of it. We were told he was delayed in speech and learning. What we found was that he is so thoroughly shy that he probably didn't perform for those testing him. He is in fact extremely bright and just as chatty as Grace when you give him the chance.

And my sweet Malachi was living with eyes that were terribly farsighted and so different in prescriptions that the eye doctor was surprised his eye hadn't turned in yet. He now sports and adorable pair of eye glasses, which he is learning to face the world with and not hide in fear.

This little guy still has moments of fear. He still fixates on certain things like his jacket and he can't control his emotions when you take that item from him (say to buckle in the car), but he is working on it. If we are calm and patiently explain and reassure him, he adjusts and will calm down now. He no longer panics that food isn't available, but is in fact cooking. He knows how to wait and that the food is coming soon. He knows to run to me for help when he is overhwhelmed instead of the pointless running to nowhere he did in the beginning.

And wow this kid can talk. His English is age level now, despite an adorable, age-appropriate little lisp. He asks questions, he wants to learn, and he loves to show me his new tricks. He knows that he will get the praise and ackowledgement and he now knows he loves it. He now loves to play with Samuel and his legos or Anna Faith and her music. He isn't afraid of Nathan but loves a good tackle. And oh how he loves Eli. He tells him all day long and watches him with a huge, adoring grin. And of course, he still loves to play with Grace. I love watching them interact. They now argue in English instead of Russian, but she has always been his encouragement and his support. She has been the one he could trust through this whole process. This would have been so much harder without having her by his side to blast the way. And now she hides behind him when she is unsure and he gets a chance to be the strong one. He is learning to follow his protective instinct to take care of those he loves. He is breaking down those walls of fear. We love you too our shy little man. Our "angel boy" as your nannies called you.


I know I have been absent from the blogging world. My apologies. I have actually written a lot, and just not published them. I wrote a long blog post on Grace, but it disappeared, lol. I just haven't had the time to re-do it until now. So here goes. I hope I don't lose this one.

I have thought a lot about how to update on Grace. Since I haven't posted much since we got home (I'd rather interact with them, than try to tell you all how they are doing-sorry!), but that leaves a lot of changes to catch you up on. I think my best approach will be to try to tell you what we saw when she first got home, and the many changes (improvements!) we have seen in our little gypsy, but also to be real, I want to tell you the issues we continue to work on now.

First of all, I know I just write Grace, but I call her Gracie (or Gracie-bear, lol). For a time we were calling her by the name she was used to-Ira and Grace, but over time, she started referring to herself as only Gracie, and so that is the name that has stuck. Actually, at the orphanage, she was most often called by her old last name, and that just doesn't work so, Gracie it is. She loves to say her full name with her Ukrainian name, then Gracie, then our last name. So much pride on her face!

Anyway, my little lively one was the leader in her groupa. The nannies warned us repeatedly that she would get her way everytime, lol. We were also warned that she was a gypsy (to which I replied cool!), but that along with that would come sneakiness and manipulation (so, you are saying she is a kid?! yeah, I got that). We saw some of the behaviors they jokingly warned us about visiting her in Ukraine. She would simply raise her hand to Malachi and he would instantly hand her whatever it is that she wanted. When we first arrived home, she would pitch the most impressive fits. Unfortanately (fortunately?) for her, being the 6th child I have brought into my home, a fit, no matter how impressive, doesn't bother me one little bit. I would simply remove her from the situation, let her lay on her bed and get it out while I stood in the doorway. After a time, she would tell me she was all done (with signs at first and words to come). It was loud for a time in our house, but it didn't take her long to figure out things didn't work here the way she was used to, lol. She is also not one of the oldest here, so that has been a little bit of an adjustment for her, but we are getting there. I would honestly say those fits and the demanding have been the biggest issue we have faced with her and the most ongoing of issues we are still dealing with today. In the beginning, I was dealing with 6-7 fits a day and now, it is more like one a week. Big improvement, and not outside of the realm of normal for a 4 year old.

Our other big adjustment issue with Grace was language. She is and has always been very verbal. In the process of learning a new language, little ones go through a period of losing their original language before they learn the new one enough to be fluent. For Grace, this period was difficult. She would actually talk in a baby babble to try to get herself understood. We tried to help her with her frustration with a mix of charades, itranslate, Russian, and English. Now, she is very fluent in English and her language skills are almost to age level. That time in between came at the same time that she was experiencing some heavy grief over losing her caregivers and the only life she had ever known. I don't think at any point she wasn't happy to be here. I expected her to be, I would completely understand if she was, but I don't think she was. She was always willing to find comfort from me, even would seek me out for comfort, but that loss is still a loss. I do know too much about dealing with grief in children, and her grief looked a lot like the grief my other children have been living with. I see less and less of it daily, although we do still talk about her friends, and look at pictures. They will always be part of her life, as will her Ukrainian culture.

There are a couple of physical issues Grace has had to deal with upon coming home. The first issue we had to deal with is that her hip was out of place. It had probably always been. Because it was so out of place, she couldn't pick that leg up off the ground, march, or walk up stairs properly. Our chiropractor has been amazing at helping get it in the right place, and we are working now on practicing using her leg the right way and strengthening those muscles. The second issue is that Grace didn't know how to chew properly. We noticed that she would either hold the food in her mouth till it dissovled, or would just roll the food around in her mouth with her tongue. She never chewed with her teeth. After seeing the dentist and ruling out dental problems, aside from a really bad thumb-sucking bite, and seeing the chiropractor to make sure her jaw was in alignment, we have been working with her on chewing. At first we manually moved the food to her teeth with our fingers and demonstrated how to chew with her teeth. Now, she does need reminding on occasion, but she can move the food over with her own tongue and knows how to chew with her back teeth.

Grace is tiny. She seems younger than her 4 years in a large part because of her size. She is shorter than Malachi and everything about her is tiny--hands, feet, everthing but her grin. That girl could charm anyone with her smile. The problem is that she knows it. Initially, we were dealing with a lot of indiscriminate friendliness, to use an adoption term. She would go to anyone, talk to anyone, hug anyone, and give that huge fake grin to charm anyone-to get what she wanted or to get out of trouble. We have worked with her these past 6 months on understanding who mommy and daddy are, who her siblings are, and who it is appropriate to hug or not. She is doing great. I was worried in the beginning that this problem would last a long time. I mostly kept her very close to me and turned her affection toward me at all opportunities when I saw her heading toward someone else. I also made sure all care for her needs came from Michael or I and that we didn't leave her. I have only left her now to attend my nephew's funeral, to take Anna Faith for surgery, and one night of Christmas shopping. She now clearly prefers me and will actually move away from strangers trying to touch her. I am blown away at how quickly this little girl has adapted. She is very affectionate and loves to touch my face gently and give me hugs and kisses. She will stretch her arms out wide and say "Gimme love Momma!" Oh, she has my heart.

With her siblings, our biggest concern was how the newbies would treat Eli. We had nothing to worry about. Grace mommas him like she raised him. She follows him around, gives him everything he wants, and tells him constantly how much she loves him. Abigail, my love, she is doing you proud in her care of your baby. She butts heads most thoroughly with Anna Faith, but they are finding common ground. She adores Malachi and Samuel, although she of course prefers to be in charge. With Nathan, she warmed up slowly. This was painful for Nathan, but now they are good buddies. If he is sitting on the ground, she will pounce on him and expect to be tickled and carried and swung around--all the things that big brothers are so good for.

When I think back to how new the world was for this little one, I am blown away at how well she is doing and has always done. She had not seen outside of her orphanage walls. She had not ridden in a car, eaten at a restaurant, slept in a big bed, been in a crowd. She has taken to life with all the spunkiness she was born with and that carried her through those first 4 years. We are working to not tame her, but redirect her liveliness. I love her fire and her will. I love her enthusiasm and her passion. She reminds me of my Abigail in many ways--and that brings a smile to my face and pain to my heart at the same time. But despite the fits and the screaming and the demanding, we adore her. We are all so totally in love with this little girl that pulled us across the ocean. Grace, we are so thankful you are home.

And, I will post pictures, but I'm making a separate post so that I can publish this one and hopefully not lose it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Our Christmas Project

Walking through an orphanage changes you. Seeing those kids reach out to you, call to you, beg you for any bit of attention-you just will not be the same. The utter lack in that institutional world that these children live their lives in is overwhelming and frankly hard to process. I am so thankful that Nathan and Anna Faith were able to witness this with their own eyes. I'm so thankful that their hearts continue to be broken for those left behind. My prayer is that their hearts are broken for the things that break Yours, Father.

As a family, we commit ourselves to working to help those children that remain. We intend to continue The Hope Project this spring to help families pursuing adoption. Our Christmas presents to each other will be donations to those still waiting. And this Christmas, we commit to help The Circle of Hope with their Christmas box collection, praying that this ministry can be expanding to include our orphanage next year. Please join with us!

This year we will be collecting shoebox and monetary donations for baby house 19 in Nikolaev, Ukraine. My friend brought her Sveta home from this orphanage, but they left behind 115 boys and girls from infant to 5 years old.

How you can help:
1) assemble shoe boxes or donate items to be used to fill shoeboxes
Please keep the contents between $5-$20
Label the outside "boy" or "girl" and rubber band close
Decorate if you wish
Include-socks-white (girl) or black (boy)
Sunglasses or hats for warm or cold weather
Small toys-barbies, legos, puzzles, crayons, action figures, dolls with clothing, etc
Children's gloves
Hair bows or barrettes for girl boxes
New or gently used clothing for infant-size 5
**do not include nail polish or candy

Please contact me at to arrange for drop off or pick up of boxes. I will need these on or before October 22nd to get them to Huntsville. That isn't much time!!

And/or 2) monetary donation to help with shipping/gifts costs
All donations over $25 are tax deducible if made to Circle of Hope, PO Box 4921, Huntsville, AL 35815

All boxes will be hand delivered to orphans in baby house 19 by a group of volunteers living in the area. Pictures of those smiling faces should be up on after Christmas.

If you are out of town, please contact me and I can give you the address to mail your box or please consider a monetary donation.

Thank you!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Samuel is probably the hardest of the kids to write about and this is mostly because he has had the hardest time. It has been devastating watching my deep, thoughtful little boy wrestle with grief. He still has days where he is so consumed with it, or with anger, that he just can't pull it together. We are so thankful for the Amelia center and all the help that they have offered him, but this will be something he struggles with his entire life. He just misses her. His only wish is for her to come back and he can't process that this won't happen.

In the beginning , he was so desperate to be with her that we we were worried he would find ways to send himself to heaven. We are less worried about that these days, but he still has that longing. We all do.

Samuel is my ponderer. He is still and thoughtful. He is quiet, but when he speaks, it is usually profound. He always surprises me with the things he comes up with and the things he is thinking about. Ask anyone that has spent one on one time with him, and you will hear what a character he is. But you have to listen for it. You have to wait for it. It is easy to miss.

He is also a cuddler. That boy can not get enough of snuggles and love. He will quite happily climb in anyone's lap for a snuggle and he hugs everyone. I love his heart. He is very sensitive to other's emotions. I think because he moves slower and is super observant, he just catches more.

I thought his age would protect him with losing Abigail, but I was mistaken. No, he is far too bright for his own good. His intelligence has made him very aware of all that happened that day, and his deep nature has left him pondering it again and again.

He is doing very well with his new siblings. He was the only of the 4 children at home that did not get to travel with us in the adoption, and that was hard on him. When we first arrived home, he had a hard time wanting our time and attention, which was in short supply trying to get new kids adjusted. But after those first couple of weeks, he was getting caught up with lots and lots and lots of touch and the newbies were adapting. He is learning to play with them and is super proud and protective of them. He loves sharing a room with Malachi.

But his favorite always has been Anna Faith. He would move mountains for her. Their relationship is so incredibly special. I love that they have each other. He always stands up for her.

Samuel is a special, unique kid. Please continue to pray for him and his daily struggles with grief.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Anna Faith

My oldest daughter is a little momma. She knows how things work and is capable of running this house without me I think, lol. She is my helper in all things-because she wants to be. She likes to be in charge. Before I am fully awake, she will have 3 little people dressed and fed. She blows me away.

We haven't always had the best relationship. In fact, I would say, before losing Abigail, we would butt heads more often than had a conversation. She is incredibly strong willed and so am I. It can cause tension. But grief has a strange way of smoothing out those bumps. Anna Faith has gone through heavy grief and trauma at losing her sister. She has been torn down in ways no little girl should have to be. She still struggles with anxiety and fear of losing another sibling. And oh, how she misses her sister.

One of my best memories of those 2 girls is the morning I woke up and found them decked out head to toe in princess gear-sashes, crowns, jewelry galore-each holding a microphone, having a concert and dance party to taylor swift songs. I cling to that memory. Anna Faith and Abigail had struggled to find common ground at first, but that morning, my heart was so warm that they were finally clicking. They were finally the sisters I had prayed they would be. To watch Anna Faith lose that is equally heavy with my own loss.

She is a fighter though, my stoic one. She feels deeply, but doesn't let most see that side of her. I have held her weeping so many times over the last year. I know those depths of loss. But she goes on. She embraces her new siblings with a passion I wouldn't have expected from her before wrestling with grief. She nurtures and loves, and expects nothing in return from those 2 and her youngest brother.

We were also blessed to bring her with us on the second half of our adoption trip. She still has moments of crying for those left behind. I know the experience will shape her the rest of her life. I pray that she never forgets. That she remembers the desperation and the need. That she acts.

On of my biggest worries the first few months after losing Abigail was that Anna Faith and Samuel's relationship seemed to have
disappeared. Before, they were inseparable. They didn't know how to be apart. But the pain is very isolating. Now, however, they are back to being best friends. They adore each other and have the best time. They are a pair. As they get older, that relationship will change, but so far it is growing right along with them.

Samuel soon...and then the ones you are waiting on, our newbies...


I told you I would update you on the kids so here we go. I'm going to start with the oldest and go down. Nathan is my soon to be 14 year old first born. He was Abigail's best friend and protector. Basically she told him what she wanted, and then he did it. No questions asked. He was more than happy to be wrapped right around that little finger. I had thought he wouldn't be very interested in her when she was born. How many 10 year old boys spend much time with their baby sisters? But I was so wrong. She lit up his world from the first day. I don't think there is anything he wouldn't do for her and she knew it. It was a mutual affection.

Losing Abigail has crushed Nathan and has been so painful to watch. But God has used that tragedy to shape him into a young man. Did Nathan need to go through grief to become the mature young teen he is? Of course not. But it would have been so easy for him to become bitter, resentful, rebellious, angry. I struggle with those things myself. Instead, he has shown maturity and strength I didn't know he had, and maybe he didn't know either. He aches for her. He is lost without her bossing him, but he is letting his pain shape him into a thoughtful, strong young man. What a daddy he will be one day!

We were blessed to have Nathan with us during the first half of our adoption trip. He witnessed a new culture, poverty and wealth, and historical struggle, but most importantly, he was able to look into the face of hopelessness and see God bring hope. He saw into the belly of the orphanage and the desperation in those children's eyes, and he has watched our 2 come alive in a family. I pray that the things he saw will never leave him. That they will shape him just as grief has. That one day, he will do his part to make a difference in those little lives. He truly has such a heart for those children. I pray he never gets caught up in this world, as it is so easy to do as a teenager in our culture. What a battle he faces!

He adores his newest siblings. He is the first to jump at any chance to help with them or play with them. At first, they were a little afraid of him, and that was hard. He is so used to children just loving him. He is learning about being patient and loving and sacrificing and caring for someone with no affection returned. He is learning to give of himself without the reward of even a smile. What a beautiful, but so hard, lesson. But now, at 2 months home, I can honestly say those 2 children adore him as much as his bio siblings. They have learned that he is always up for playing, and he will keep them safe. They are learning to trust him, and he is learning to be patient with them. In a couple of more months, I imagine he will be wrapped around their little fingers as fully as he is wrapped around Abigail's. Does this make losing Abigail any easier? Definitely not. He will ache for her the rest of his life. But my prayer for him is that he becomes an active person in response. That he allows God to do a work in him and instead of curling up and giving up, which would be so easy, that he focusing on and points others to what is right and true.

I love you my first born. You taught me what a joy this thing called motherhood really is. I will be thankful every day of my life for you. Even on those days you drive me crazy. I can't wait to see where life takes you.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bad blogger

It has been too long since I last posted. Sorry about that! I've been lazy, and a little busy, lol. Things continue to go crazy well here. I know you want a full update so I am going to work this week on getting caught up (with pics!). But for now...

Today we walked for Abigail. I can't express how much I love having the baby steps 5k memorial walk. It feels good to DO something to actively remember her. We are so blessed with good friends who will get up early with us on a Saturday morning to walk or run in this heat. Thank you.

Homeschool starts back the week after next for us. I can't wait. Yes-a little terrified by the thought of teaching 8th, 3rd, 1st, 2 preschoolers, and a 1 year old-but I am just so thankful that I will have them home and we can learn together. And the chaos of summer will settle down into the routine of the school year. It is nice to break, but good to get back to work.

The kids are thriving. I never imagined they could so smoothly transition into our home. No, it isn't always easy or perfect, but it is good. They are learning English so fast, learning boundaries, how to be big siblings and little siblings, how to swim, how to play with toys, and most importantly how love works. They are learning empathy and how to share. They are thriving! They are such blessings here. More about each of the soon.

I have been told by parents ahead of me on this grief walk that the second year is harder than the first. I get that. The pain is just as fresh and real to me today as it was last year, but the world around you spins on and people forget. It is so important to us to not gloss over her. She is real and a part of us. Meeting new people is impossibly hard and I probably scare most of them away, but I'm not leaving her out. She is my treasured daughter, just like my daughters you can see. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we continue to grieve and plod through this life while longing for our future reunion with every breath we take.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Sitting here rocking my newest son...praying for God to heal his deep scars...they are so deep...and I am so overwhelming saddened that we have let this crisis develop. We, the Church, the hands and feet of the creator of the universe, sit by and let these kids suffer and wait, for years. How does that happen? How do these very real children sit and suffer while we debate politics, culture? While we complain about not having enough time, or money, or patience, or not having the "calling"? When we have been commanded to take care of them. The fatherless. Those who can't care for themselves but have been forced to live in a state of hyper vigilance for years for their own survival. Those who have to be taught what security and safety is. That it is ok to relax and play. They have to be taught to play-sweet babies.

You see, my kids were in a good place. And they are doing so good. And yet, they have suffered without families. Without love. Without touch and security and safety. Oh how they have suffered. Why are we not screaming? Protesting? Demanding life for these kids? Why do we put the problem off on someone else and give a hundred excuse why we don't go? Is adoption easy? No. Is it worth it? Oh yes.

But beyond that, no matter how little money or time or patience you have, it is far better than what these kids have now. They have nothing. If you don't go, who will? How is nothing better than a family? Can we even comprehend nothing in this country? Even those in the best places have nothing. Oh how my hearts hurt for them, and for those in the not good places. I can't even think about it. We think, now is not a good time for me. We need to save money or we need a better job or we need more space. We can't deal with their needs. Someone else will go. In the mean time, the kids sit. They wait. They are real. I have seen their faces. I have held their hands.

Thinking to my time in orphanage around the world and the most overwhelming thought is the poverty. These kids truly have nothing. Even the clothes of their back-as too small, and old, and so very out of style those outfits are-even those things aren't theirs. They are labelled with a number. They are communally shared. They own nothing. I look at my son's feet deformed by wearing shoes too small for him for years and I hurt for the time he waited for me. And he didn't even own those blasted shoes. Nothing.

And here we sit in absolute luxury in this country. And we wait till it is convenient to us if we do anything to help. We give excuses and we say not everyone should adopt, when in fact we need to just step up and do something.

God show me how I can make a difference. Don't let the trappings of comfort and money block me from doing Your work. Abigail has taught me so well how this world and all those things we are concerned with every day just Do. Not. Matter.

Watching my newest son violently rock himself to sleep every night reminds me again and again of those still waiting. Babies with such hope and such pain. Where are we church?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Home again!

I know you are probably wondering-yes we made it home, yes I'm still here, and yes things are going crazy good. I've just been a bad blogger. I'm trying to soak it all in, remembering the important moments this first week, and work out the quirky parts of my new kids' personalities. I honestly never imagined it could be this smooth of a transition. I am not sitting back though. I'm being proactive. We are working on attachment, behavior, and how to be a part of a family. But all in all, the kids are thriving, the original kids are welcoming, and everyone is getting along. Praise God!

Ira Grace continues to be the little firecracker she has shown herself to be. She spends her days dressing up in every princess dress and piece of jewelry she can find. Her favorite English word at the moment is beautiful! Which she loves to shout every time she catches a glimpse of herself in the day's finery. We celebrated her birthday with hibachi, family, and cake-all of which she is a huge fan of and she is so proud now to tell everyone she is 4.

Malachi continues to be timid and fearful of new things, but he is really coming out of his shell with our family. He is a poppa's boy, but is also quite found of Samuel (or Lo-man which they call him...?). He is a Lego-loving, dog-hating, ball of nerves lol. His new favorite game is asking momma for kisses. All. The. Time. Love it! He is finding his inner snuggle bug and how much fun it is to climb into momma's bed for morning smuggles.

Communication is going well. We are excited as they are learning more and more english, but we are also so thankful for iPhone translator apps when we need to communicate something a little more complicated (especially to prevent a Malachi panic attack lol)

But continue to keep us in your prayers. Our absence was particularly hard on Samuel. Also, those of you who know grief will know that the happiest times are also the hardest. I am so thrilled to have these babies here, but the aching absence of my missing daughter is overwhelming. It feels like a punch in the gut at the best of times. My arms still ache for her. She is so real to me and less and less real to the world and that knowledge causes so much suffering. We still talk about her all the time. Even Grace and Malachi know her name. But, grief is an isolating beast. It deceives you into feeling all alone in your suffering. Abigail, I long for you. I see you, smell you, hear you at every turn. I am desperate for the day where we will all be together.

And I'm hurting for the ones we left behind. The beautiful faces of the fatherless on the other side of the ocean haunt me. I hear them cry for mommas and poppa's. I see their eyes hungry for love and family, attention and touch. I am so thankful for the women who take tender care of them while they wait, and for the facilitators and drivers who work tirelessly to help them find families. But their eyes haunt me. The HOPE shining in their eyes when they reached for me each day-please Lord let that hope live until the day their families come. God raise up families to be bold. To step out of their comfort zone. To step into the crazy ride of adoption. To sacrifice to fulfill Your clear command. If they could only taste this blessing. They would know that the reward is far better than the sacrifice. They would know that these children are so much more valuable than the vacation, the tv, the comfort they are giving up. Give them courage.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On to the last step!

Today we had our first embassy appointment and medicals for the the kids. Tomorrow is the last step before we can go home! Pray this step goes off without a hitch and we can get on a plane early early thursday morning. We are so incredibly thankful the whole process has gone so quickly. Adoption is stressful enough without the added stress of problems arising that so many people have to deal with.

The plan is to be picked up at 3 am (Ahhh!) on Thursday morning. We will be traveling a long long time with kids who have only seen the outside world for a few days now and a baby that is awfully fond of screeching right now. But we can not wait.

I can not wait to see my boys at home and to introduce Samuel to his 2 new siblings. I can't wait to show these kids their home, and their dog, and their clothes, and their very own machina (car).

It will be an exhausting trip but we are just ready to get on with it and past it.

Tomorrow we will take Anna Faith to see a little bit more of this city before we leave. She really wants to see inside one of the beautiful churches and ride the metro. At 2, we go to our appointment at the embassy. Then we will come back to the apartment and pack and clean and get ready. Can you tell I'm excited? We will be home just in time for Ira Grace's 4th birthday on the 12th.

And please pray for us to have peace as well. Being exhausted and sleep deprived makes dealing with grief that much harder. I am missing my Abigail something desperate.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

New lessons

Everytime we leave the house, these sweet kids run to frantically pack up everything screaming airplane! in Russian. Lol. We have put into our translator that we are going on an airplane, but not now-later and they are not getting it. They are just so excited!

They are learning that they don't have to wear house shoes-barefoot is ok. They still aren't too sure about this one.

They are learning they are allowed to walk up and down stairs without holding handrails and they are allowed to alternate feet.

They are learning how to watch after and take care of Eli. If he is out of my sight, they run to get me screaming Eli! and dragging me to wherever he is. They share food and toys with him and they both say "gentle, gentle" and pet his hair when he is close.

They are learing so many English words. Malachi intentionally practices the words he has learned. He wants to sit and review all the time. Ira Grace parrots everything, but has a few words she actually uses. Their favorite English words..."good job!". Both run around all day saying good job with huge grins. Ira Grace wants to be taken to the potty every few minutes just so we will tell her good job lol!

And they are learning that they love being cuddled-especially Ira Grace. Put her and Samuel in a room together and there will be blissful cuddling. The life of a cuddle bug at an orphanage has to be difficult. Sweet baby loves me to hold her hand, rock her, rub her hair, and cuddle with her. You should see her grins. Malachi is quite the poppa's boy. He follows michael around wanting to help whatever work poppa is doing. He is reminding me so much of Samuel in that way. But he is stiff and not cuddly like Anna Faith. He is warming up to the idea though. They are opposites in just about every way just like Samuel and Anna Faith.


Sorry it has taken me so long to post! With no wi-fi and having the kids out now, it just wasn't feasible to walk to the mall to blog. We are back in the capital now as of an hour ago. 3 kids are napping and 1 is walking with her daddy, so I am taking advantage of the wi-fi to blog!

Gotcha day was Friday and went wonderfully. We went with our facilitator in the morning to the orphanage to pick of the kids bearing gifts of chocolate, champagne, and cookies to celebrate. We brought new clothes for the kids. Nothing there belongs to them. There were no bags to pack, no special things to grab, not even the shirt on their back belonged to them. We brought new clothes, clothes with no groupa numbers marked on them, and shoes that fit! The kids were a little giddy. One of the nannies asked Ira Grace if she knew where she was going and she said, yes! To ride in the car and then on an airplane! They might not understand the full implications of it all, but there were lots of giggles! They made their rounds telling everyone there goodbye. There were lots of tears, but none from the kids. We promised to send pictures and we were out. They marched out the gates of that orphanage for the 2nd (and last!!) time!

The car ride was smoother, but Malachi is still very nervous. When we made it back to the apartment there were lots more giggles and a lot of exploring. We had lunch and naps, a short walk, and bedtime. I can't tell you how smooth it has been in so many ways. The kids are telling us when they need to potty, letting us know if they get hurt, being so gentle and sweet with Eli, and generally quite content. Bedtime and naps have been no more challenging than any pair of 3 year olds would be. Both are being snuggly more and more and both are doing their best to process all this change.

Saturday was spent playing and getting to know each other. They LOVE baths! Oh my-that's and adventure! They had their first mcdonald's. Ira Grace loves chicken nuggets and Malachi loved the fries. They were very impressed with the fountain in the mall. I'm so glad they have each other. I love listening to their little conversations in Russian as they talk through the things they see. They can both be so animated. Imagine seeing the world for the first time. They have seen so many things in books, but to see things, to go places, to make choices, all that is new. They are making that change so much better than I imagine I would. They have to learn how to be a part of a family, how to trust us, how to just be 3 and not rely on their own survival instincts. Keep praying for their little hearts. I know they will heal. It just takes time.

Today we took a 6 hour train ride to the capital city to get ready for our embassy appointments and coming home! The train was oh so much fun lol. 6 hours in a compartment with a drama queen 7 year old, a busy busy 1 year old, 2 3 year old newly adopted kids who have just discovered that they can go potty whenever they ask, and a sleep deprived husband...we made it. That's about all I can say. Eli is the only one who bled (small injury-all is ok) and we are safely in our new apartment and napping now so it is all ok.

I forgot to mention our grand adventure on gotcha day. Anna Faith and Eli managed to lock themselves in a room at our apartment. Michael couldn't get in, so we called our landlord who came and struggled and after about an hour stuck and a whole door dismantled, they were finally out. These new kids must think we are completely crazy. I imagine it is a bit Alice in Wonderland for them.

Pray for us that our passports come back tomorrow and our embassy appointments are smooth on Tuesday and Wednesday. And pray for our travels home Thursday. So ready to get home to my 2 boys!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Gotcha day is tomorrow

Please be in prayer for us all and a smooth transition as we break these kids out of the orphanage tomorrow!

First car ride

Well it is Thursday morning. Yesterday was....ummm...interesting...?! Lol! My 2 newest children had never been in a car before yesterday when we took them briefly to get their passport pictures made. I had to pick Ira Grace up and put her in as she was more than a little reluctant to get in. As we started driving, she started screaming. It was so cute and sad at the same time. Poor thing. There is a whole world out here she has never seen. Malachi had been ok up to this point but as she started screaming I'm frightened, he started crying and never calmed back down. About half way there she decided this was ok after all. She was still tense, but was dancing to the radio and waving at the people. Malachi was terrified!

In the passport office they did great. We had a bit of waiting to do but they were mostly content with the toys and snacks I brought. And then it was time for the car ride

Ira Grace was fine this time. She didn't want me to hold her. She was content with my arm around her and she was bouncing along to the bouncy car ride. Malachi was panicked. Even getting him into the car involved screaming. He relaxed about halfway through when the facilitator gave him to me. They both told her that they wanted momma. Love! But he still asked a million times if we were almost back. Poor little guy. The capital city is going to terrify them and oh that airplane ride home. Please be praying for their little hearts to be calm and trusting as they meet this whole new world. My Ira Grace who is taking it all in, but it is so much more than her little brain can even begin to process and my Malachi who is terrified of everything outside those concrete walls. And pray for them to get over car fear. To be fair, the driving and roads here can scare even me more than a little lol.

And then last night we had an interesting experience at the grocery store here. The store here is a bit of an adventure anyway. Most everything you want to buy can be bought unpackaged. There are bins of pasta, flour, rice, frozen veggies and meat, produce, bread, cookies, and snacks, which you scoop up, bag, weigh, and label yourself. Most of these things are also available pre-packaged as well. Anyway, we have found everything we need and have had really no problems shopping or cooking. We are used to the european selections and buying bags and their cashiers wanting correct change. Although there are some differences here than in England, the store we go to here reminds us a lot of tesco. Anyway, michael's philosophy at the store is just don't talk to anyone. That way, they have no reason to talk back and the language barrier is a non-issue. Yesterday, the sweet employees were not cooperative lol. It started with one whom I'm assuming asked us if we needed help in the stuff part of the store. After a lot of charades, I think he finally understood we don't speak the language. Then the very sweet cashier wanted me to find 5 cents so she didn't have to make change. I understood that much, but as I was digging the change out of the bag, the manager came over and there was a lot of discussion going on. We tried to tell them we didn't understand but that just led to further explanation in Russian. I understand about 5 words. That's it. Further explanation of the issue won't help lol. We were contemplating calling our translator to interpret over the phone for us but it was pretty obvious that they were not upset. All the body language and tone of voice were friendly and the cashier smiled at us several times, but we were a little concerned when we were being clearly directed to follow the manager and he had our receipt. We couldn't figure out what was wrong lol. In the long stream of words I didn't understand from the cashier I thought I had heard discount card, but I wasn't positive. After being escorted across the store to another desk, the manager told us it would be 2 minutes. We once again though about calling our translator but he came back and handed us our receipt and a discount card! I'm not entirely sure what it does or why we got it but they were so excited to give it to us, so we just told them thank you several times and acted excited and left lol. The card apparently offers discounts to several stores in the mall. Too bad we will only be here a few more days!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Court decree day

Today was such a big day. Today Irina Grace and Artyom Malachi officially become Dahlens. Today we are listed as their parents on their birth certificates. Today was the day we have been praying over for months. Praise God that this process has gone smoothly and quickly up to this point!

Our 10 day wait was up Monday. Finally! If you have been through this process, you know how nerve wracking those days are. Your kids are not really yours until you have a court decree in your hand. During that 10 day wait, any number of problems are possible. It is like holding your breath for 10 days. Everything had gone well up to this point, but until that document was in hand, we just prayed nothing would change. This morning we could breath again. With our court decree officially in hand, we started the 2nd half of this process-getting the paperwork to get OUR kids home! On the agenda today-lots of driving, lots of waiting, and birth certificates, tax ID numbers, and passport applications. It was a never ending stream of visits and officials and paperwork. Fortunately, all went well. Tomorrow we will take the kids out of the orphanage to get pictures made for their passports, and then we wait. Their passports will hopefully be ready Monday, we will go to the embassy on Tuesday and wednesday, and then we will go home thursday! At least that is the plan at this point. Pray that all the details work out as they need to!

Today was also the day we visited the kids for the first time since the day we had court. We had no idea how they would react, but wow to see their grins when they saw us! Both of them were so excited! Ira Grace insisted that I pick her up! The orphanage director told us they had been asking when we were coming back since we left. I wish I had enough words in their language to explain to them all the changes about to happen in their lives. However, even if I had the words, I know they wouldn't understand. Their world has been within 4 concrete walls for their entire lives. They are about to enter the world. Just a few more days!

And today was the day they met Anna Faith for the first time. They had seen pictures of her since we first started visiting her and both immediately recognized her. Ira Grace immediately went and took her hand. Malachi warmed up to her in a way I have never seen him take to someone. Both were following her around, talking to her, sharing with her, copying her, and smiling at her. If she did something, they had to do it too. I can not wait till they can meet Samuel too. Thank you God for bringing these 2 home finally. It feels like they have always belonged with us. We will always be missing a piece. We will not be complete without our Abigail. Even when they are home, our family will not be together or whole, but we are so happy to welcome these 2 little ones. It is bittersweet.

Today was the day we have been waiting for. The day we have been journeying toward. All of you have been such a huge part of this for us and these kids. I can't wait to post our gotcha pictures this weekend!

Friday, May 20, 2011

They are ours!

We passed court! The experience was a little nerve wracking but God is continually amazing me on this journey. Even on the way to court, our driver happen to tell us the name of one of the roads we turned down-in English-trust avenue. Ok God, I'm listening. We had court in the judge's chambers. It was hot and a little overwhelming, but an actual court room would have been worse. Thanks for that little mercy. There were lots of questions and we really had to assure all involved that we do in fact want these sweet children. They were very thorough and concerned with the welfare of the kids. I can really appreciate that although it was stressful. It was so bittersweet listening to the testimony. We listened to them again and again saying these kids had nothing, no one. That they had never had a single visitor. That they have no family. They have no legacy. No possessions. No one wanted them. Malachi was actually named after the street he was found on as an infant and his birthdate was assigned to him by the state. My heart broke again and again. But then to hear the orphanage workers talk about how happy the kids were with us. To listen to testimony after testimony saying that our adoption was in their best interest. There were no objections. The kids would thrive with us. Praise God! Yes they will. They are loved now beyond their wildest dreams. They have brothers and sisters, grandparents, friends, a home, love, happiness, and a family. All that nothing had been before. Now God had united us in this journey and all we have is theirs. They are wanted. Needed. Loved. Praise God for the beautiful gift of adoption and love that he has given to families. Thank you for my newest 2 blessings. Born in my heart and forever united with my family. By birth order they are 4 and 5. By order of being part of us theynare 6 and 7. Irina Grace Dahlen and Artyom Malachi Dahlen welcome home!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


We were told today court is scheduled for 10am Friday morning as long as all our paperwork comes in! Pray that this happens. We are ready! Things continue to go well with the kids. Malachi is coming out of his shell and is more and more trusting. Grace continues to be quite the spitfire. They are warming up to Nathan well. Grace is doing well with Eli but a lilttle rough. We are working on gentle. Eli seems to freak Malachi out a bit lol. Keep praying for us and that th process continues to go smoothly!

We met them!

What a day! The day we have been waiting on blew away my expectations and biggest hopes. I'll start from the beginning. The train ride was pure misery for the first hour or so. We left after 11 so we were all pretty tired by that point, and Eli was completely exhausted. He was also apparently freaked out by the train moving. There was lots of screaming and pleading and rocking till he finally gave it up.

We were met at the train station this morning by our amazing facilitator and our awesome driver. I can't say enough good things about this pair. They are efficient and get it. I really appreciate their hard work today. We were shown around our perfect little apartment and how to get to the mall and all the restaurants and the we were left for about an hour to get ready to go.

When we were picked up it was a flurry of activity. We went first to meet the social worker. We had heard that she can be a bit difficult somedays and we had been praying about the situation. Turns out, she was out of the office today on an emergency and her assistant, who happen to take a liking to us, filled in her place. Thank you God for that small mercy. We then went to the orphanage and met with the doctor. It is clear that both our children have been well taken care of over the years.

Then the big moment came and the kids walked in. I can't even describe that moment. It was beyond anything I even thought it could be. Grace is a firecracker. She walked right up to both of and started charming us right away. She was saying hi mamma like she says to all unknown adults. The moment was priceless though when she realized something was different this time and she started to say Grace's mamma (but using her given name of course). Wow. Malachi is more cautious and reserved. He is very comfortable with me and completely fascinated by Michael although he won't really go near him yet lol. Soon.

We went back to visit this afternoon. Bubbles were a huge hit for both of them and Malachi really relaxed then. He was chatting a good bit by the end of the visit. Leaving them was really hard and I am sure it will only get harder. Grace was so sad. I should also say she is quite the parrot. She will be speaking English in no time. Malachi reminds me so much of my nephew. We brought both kids a little photo album of home and they were mesmerized. Neither wanted to put them down. We talked and talked about each picture. I have no idea what they understood but we could hardly get the away from them to put up. Malachi in particular seemed to be processing the my momma and daddy idea this afternoon. Both made great eye contact, wanted to be with us, didn't run off with friends or other adults, and were very open to hugs and touch. It is just the first day I know but it was a great start.

In between visits, we finalized paperwork to start the process to get a court date. It can't come soon enough! Our schedule now is visit the kids twice a day and wait on that court date. Pictures coming!

This is what you've been waiting for...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Worth it

There is a certain level of depression you go through being in a new place when you don't know anyone. That isn't helped if you add in a language barrier and a feeling of dependency because of lack of transportation. I know all of this. I was ready for the culture shock and the adjustment. It doesn't make it easier. I didn't quite realize the emotional exhaustion of leaving the kids each day. I expected it would be hard but not as hard as it is. I did expect how hard it would be to leave the others at home. Skyping with them both helps and hurts. I am so thankful that I have part of my family with me. I am thankful I have access to email and facebook and connections from home. And I'm thankful we are here doing this no matter if it is hard.

These kids needs families. They need families willing to go through the stress that is international adoption. They need moms and dads who will fundraise and paper chase and fly across the world. They are worth it. I look into so many little faces each day hungry for their turn. The kids at our orphanage are loved and taken care of. Their nannies really care about them and do their best. And still these kids need homes. The best that they can do at the orphanage is not a substitute for a family. It isn't good enough. Each little pair of eyes seeking mine. Each little hand reaching for me. Each little voice asking momma? My heart breaks for those we will leave behind. The hope in their eyes each day tears my heart to pieces. I think of my children at home. Of Abigail. Of Eli. What if they were here? What if it were their sweet little face filled with hope and anticipation again and again-watching other children being picked. If I could take them all I would. How do we sit by and let these kids wait? How did I for so many years?

All of that and I think I am trying to say it is worth it. It isn't easy. But it is all completely worth it. Temporary discomfort for me. A lifetime of reward. For Grace and Malachi, I would have swam here. They have no idea of the life and love waiting on them. They are just thrilled to get a little special attention and extra playtime. Neither ever knew it before. Neither ever had a mother in their life or a relative visit. The others deserve to be picked, love, wanted as well. Be courageous. Be willing to sacrifice and step out in faith. Do you part to end this crisis. Even if just one remained, this would be a crisis. It means everything to them, but it will change you as well. For those of you on this path still waiting to meet your little ones. Hang in there. It is worth it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

So far...

The last few days have been nothing short of amazing. The only things missing are my other kids. It is hard to leave them and we are longing for Abigail more now than ever in so many ways. I could never have imagined things would be going this well with the kids. Our days for now consist of 2 visits a day with the kids (one time with Nathan and Eli and one without). Then we walk to the mall and use the Internet. We won't get to visit them tomorrow so we are going to try to explore a bit more.

Some things here feel very European and comfortable for us. Some things are very different. We are having a good time remembering all those European cultural things we had forgotten over the past 10 years and learning the specific features of this culture. We have found the people here generally friendly and proud. They don't smile at you like in the south, but don't let that fool you. They are warm and friendly. We have felt very welcome. Our biggest difficulty is the language/alphabet. Since the letters are different we can't even really guess as to what signs say etc. We can pick up quite a few words now in conversation but we have a hard time trying to learn more because of the alphabet. We are communicating with the kids really well regardless.

The kids. I know that is what you are really interested in, but first for my friends. You are cracking me up with the wardrobe comments. I do in fact own clothes that aren't t shirts and blue jeans. I just don't in general wear nice clothes to the park or playdates or the places you usually see me lol. Expect t shirts and jeans when I get home.

Things continue to go really well with the kids. Grace the parrot is really smart. She repeats most of the English words we say. She remembers everything. And she is terrified of bugs. Terrified. She distinguished between another little girl's momma and her own today. That is huge. She makes great eye contact, checks to make sure I am following her around, loves to give hugs, hasn't tried to leave to play with the other kids or adults, and is just doing really well. She plays with michael's beard and can point to her nose when asked in English. She loves to be pretty. And I hear she is opinionated with her clothes. Love it. She cries when we leave her. It breaks my heart. And oh the squeals when we come back.

Malachi is a worker. He really reminds me of my nephew in features and mannerisms. Even his ears are like my nephews. He is now grinning and running for a hug when we pick him up. He doesn't cry when we leave him but he stands and stares and waves. He has become quite the daddy's boy and is much more chatty. He is calmer and loves to do his work-whatever that is at the moment. He can focus on one task for a long time. He is repeating english words too now and is checking in while he plays. He has become a hugger although he wants less touch than Grace. And today he kept wanting to touch my face. Today I was talking to him and mentioned Nathan and Eli and he lit up. He remembered! He started saying Nathan, Eli, Anna Faith, and Samuel.

Nathan and Eli met them for the first time yesterday and it went really well. Both kids were really cautious at first but by the end of the visit, both were playing well and having a great time with Nathan. Grace kept rubbing Eli's head. Malachi didn't seemed overly interested in Eli but he watched from a distance. He would tell me if Eli needed me every time. We are showing them pictures of the others and that is their favorite thing to do-look at pictures of home. They love all books, but especially those picture albums.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More pictures

Got our letters!

Got our referral in hand! And we brought our passports this time-ha! Michael fortunately caught that they only gave us a letter for one as we walked out the door and we had to run back in to get the other. I'm so thankful he noticed that! This basically givea us permission to meet the kids.

Today was good. We took the metro in and walked and saw the sights. We visited a beautiful church and I bought a cheap scarf so I could go inside. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but wow. I don't even have words to describe the beauty of this cathedral. Then we walked to the adoption center and waited...and waited...We met several families there adopting from all over. After we finally got our referrals, we stopped and ate and hit the metro back to the apartment to rest for a minute. Michael is having so much fun ordering in a language we don't speak much of ;). And here we wait until about 9:30 my time when we will be picked up to head to the train station. We will arrive in our city at about 7:00 tomorrow. I will post again from there as soon as I'm able!

Pictures from today coming. I took pictures of all kinds of normal things just for you Kathy. Please keep praying for a fast court date!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Today's appointment

Well we just rode the metro home to our apartment. Interesting experience. And super cheap which is always good.

Our appointment went very well this morning except for the fact that we left our passports at home. Oops. The lady was really nice even though she must have thought we were complete idiots. We were asked a few questions and then were read bits of the files on the kids. They told us what little information they know on their history. We will find out more about their life after arriving at the orphanage when we arrive in their city. We also got to see baby pictures of each and a toddler picture of Malachi. Oh my heart. We were told we could trade out for these pictures soon.

As of tomorrow we will be able to pick up our official permission to meet the kids and we will take the overnight train to their city. We have elected to stay at an apartment closer to the orphanage so we can just walk instead of having to pay a driver each day. The downside is there is no wi-fi in the apartment. We will be able to walk an get internet access though so I will be keeping up this blog as much as I can. The apartment is also about half the cost as well, so it seemed like the best choice.

We are headed back out to get lunch and see the city!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Today's pictures

Pray for us tomorrow. Our appointment is early. I will post when we get home from it. One of these pictures took me by surprise. We were just walking through the streets of city and this word was right in front of me glowing in red. I have no idea what it says in this language, but I know what it said to me.

Few more pics