Sunday, January 31, 2010

About our Kids

I wanted to go back to a few of the questions that were asked in the comments. I know my husband is an awesome blogger and he should be the one to always write, but I had this on my mind today. Someone had asked before about how old all of our kids were. If you guys are just starting to read I understand that a lot of you don't really know all of this.

Our oldest daughter is Faith. She is 12 years old. Then we have Grace who is 9, and Noelle who is almost 7. After Noelle was born we decided to adopt domestically. We adopted Dylan (10), Christian (9), and Haily (almost 7). They were a sibling group available through the state. During this adoption we got pregnant with Emma. She is now almost 4. The babies we just adopted are Elisa (almost 3), Elijah (almost 2) and Vanessa (almost 2).

Our oldest daughter went with Tony to the Ukraine to bring the babies home. She is such an amazing person. She loves the babies and loves to help out. I know God has so many great things in store for her life. She is the first one to respond when the babies cry or need anything. She has been such a great help to me.

I am so happy with the progress of the babies. Yesterday we had a baby shower for them. They did so well with everyone holding them and picking them up. They love to sing and dance. This has truly been an amazing experience that I recommend anyone do if they feel called to do so. I am so excited every time I look at Reece's Rainbow and see more babies finding homes. I am really happy about Vivienne and Laura finding homes. I tried so hard to see them when I was there. I believe she was sleeping in the baby bed beside me because it was her room I was in. They had her laying in a bouncy seat in her crib. All the babies there looked well loved and well cared for. I hope everyone reading this knows that the babies where we adopted from were all loved so much by their caregivers!!

Here are some pictures of before we adopted since I do not have current ones of all of us. This way you can see our entire family before that new babies.
Leah and the kids on our cruise (top right is Laura, our French exchange student)

The Whole Family (before the babies)

All the kids on the beach......

Faith (The responsible one and the second mother of our house)

Dylan (our big hearted boy)

Grace (the spunky one)

Christian (Our boy with a million questions)

Noelle (the sensitive one)

Haily (all smiles or all tears)

Emma (The spoiled one)

Emma on the beach

Friday, January 29, 2010

The sun is always shining......

Since many of you who read our blog are either thinking about adopting or are already in the process, I thought I would share some of my general thoughts while they are still fresh on my mind. First let me point out that our adoption was not the smoothest or quickest process. We began the process in Feb-09 and had along year of ups and downs. As we announced our exciting news to friends and family, the responses were less than supportive. People questioned our motives, our logic and even our sanity (well I even question that sometimes). We thought everyone would be jumping up and down to support us, but they didn't seem to understand. Then, one month after committing to Elisa and Vanessa, Leah called me crying after her medical evaluation. Her doctor would not sign the paperwork because he was worried about her health (bad back, arthritis, 7 kids, etc). We were devastated, but did not give up.

During this same time period, we decided to put our house on the market as we knew we would need more room when the adoption was complete. This was a huge step of faith for us as we knew there was no guarantee that the adoption would go through (especially after the problem with Leah's doctor). Additionally, I was in line for a promotion that would force me to leave San Antonio. Who in their right mind wants to buy a new house right before being relocated? We knew the real estate market was weak and expected the sale to take at least 6 months. So we listed the house and the first people through the door made a full price offer. Our first thought was "praise God", but the very next thought was "oh no!". We would have to move in the middle of the adoption process causing us to redo our home study along with many other documents (including the USCIS paperwork). Oh and none of this could be done until we found and closed on a new house which we were hesitant to do until I found out about my possible promotion.

Oh.... And in the midst of selling our house, we were throwing our one and only fundraiser dinner. We had invited hundreds of people to a benefit to help raise money for our adoption. We were so stressed and overwhelmed at this point in the process. Everything was up in the air...... the adoption, my job, our house, etc. But we did not give up. God was with us and we had His peace and His presence throughout the process. The fundraiser was a huge success raising a little over $7000. We committed to buying a new house and had our home study and other documents modified to reflect our new address. Leah and I (and our 7 kids, 2 cats, and 3 dogs) actually lived with our good friends for about 2 weeks while we were between houses.

Then, the day before we were to close on our new house, we got a devastating call..... my dad had passed away suddenly. There was no warning, no signs, nothing. This event eclipsed everything else going on in our lives including the adoption. So we moved into our new house
while preparing for my father's funeral. As we prepared to grow our family, we lost someone so dear to us. It was so hard to move forward after this event, but we didn't give up. Despite the circumstances and the delays and the frustration, we knew God had called us on this mission and we knew that only He could close the door on this adoption.

So we finally got Leah's medical paperwork signed and in late September we began preparing our dossier. There were also many delays in this process, but those delays turned out to be a blessing. See when we first committed to Elisa and Vanessa, Leah and I really wanted to adopt Arthur (Elijah), but we never considered 3 children. All of the delays in our adoption process gave us more time to think and pray about Arthur and when we realized he was still available, we knew we needed to add a third child. So at the 11th hour, we changed one simple form and added Arthur. While all of this was happening, deadlines were quickly approaching. We needed everything submitted and approved by the end of November or we were going to have to wait until March and redo most of our paperwork. On the very last Monday possible, our paperwork was submitted and we received our approval and travel date.

Our first trip was in early December and most of you were reading our blog at that time, so I won't repeat the details other than mentioning that everything went well. On the second trip, everything went well until the passport office shut down. For a few days we were told that we would not get the babies passports for approximately 2 months which would mean leaving the country without our children. We prayed and prayed until we found out that we were going to be able to get our passports. We were one of the only families in the country to get passports at this time so we knew this was an answer to prayer. Everything went smooth from that point on which leads us to where we are today...... one BIG happy family.

In closing I want to encourage all of you who are adopting or thinking about adopting. Hopefully your process will not be as long and difficult as ours, but you will have your share of problems. You will run into people who just don't understand..... you will have paperwork that has to be re-done over and over again....... you will have concerns about finances...... and you will have doubts about what you are doing. With all of this trouble, always remember why you chose to adopt..... always remember the beautiful children who are counting on you....... and always remember that God is in control!

It all came together for me as we were leaving the Ukraine to travel back home with our children. Our entire adoption process wasn't this bright exciting event..... it was riddled with troubles and uncertainty...... with clouds that often overshadowed the bigger picture. For our entire 5 weeks in the Ukraine, I don't believe that the sun came out once. Every day was overcast with clouds covering the sky, making for dreary days. As we ascended in the airplane, we lifted above the clouds and we took the following pictures while the sun was rising:

It was beautiful to see the blue skies and bright shining sun. I forgot all about the cold dreary weather we were leaving. It was truly a metaphor for our entire adoption process. No matter how cloudy it may seem..... or how difficult the process may seem..... the sun is always shining when you rise above the clouds.

Good Luck and God Bless!!!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Few Pictures....

Daddy, Emma, and Nessie (Vanessa)

Elisa in her playroom

Eli's adventure on the front sidewalk!

Faith and Elisa!

Emma on her swing!

I love Nap Time!!!

I have never done nap time with any of my kids, and I have never understood why it was so important to moms. Now I do. I can not wait until nap time anymore. This seems to be the only time I am able to get any of the cleaning done. The kids are doing really well to the adjustments. Eli came home sick and it has been passed around now. Two of my kids have it now, and Nessie is just now getting it. She seems to cry all day long because she does not understand why she doesn't feel well.
We are so amazed by Elisa. She has so come out of her shell. She is a totally different child than she was in the Ukraine. She is spunky and so so happy. She loves to dance, and loves to clap her hands. We are so in love with these babies.
Eli still just stares at his hands. He is such a handsome boy. He weighs 30 pounds, big big boy. Elisa weighed 22 and Nessie weighed 20 pounds.
I agree with Tony, He said to me last night that he can not believe that these babies had not been adopted before now, and that people really missed out. They are just the most amazing kids!!
We have got a lot of pictures for you, but I'm not sure how to download them. Tony's knee swelled up last night double in size. He has been in so much pain that he had to go straight to the Dr, today. They are going to have to drain a lot of the fluid from his knee today. When he gets home he said he will post the pictures right away. They already look so much better than they did before.
I have so many people ever day asking me how can I do this, this is to much, but each time we adopt, we follow where God leads us, In return I know God finds me these children that God knows will be perfect for our family. They are just well behaved children, Its not as much work as people think.
All in all, We are the ones that are truly blessed. We will post pictures tonight. Thanks for reading our post, and following along with our adoption!! Leah

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Adjustments for Everyone!

So we're home now, caught up on our sleep and it's time to get into a routine..... yeah right! The first day we were home, we took all 3 kiddos to their new pediatrician to get them checked out. Eli had a fever and cough, Vanessa had a very nasty rash on her backside (had it since birth according to the orphanage docs) and Elisa was very lethargic and not eating. In fact, Elisa has not been the same child we met in the orphanage. We weren't sure if she was sick or just having trouble adjusting. Needless to say, we were very worried about Elisa.

The pediatrician put Eli on an antibiotic and told us that Vanessa would have to have surgery to remove the inflamed area on her bottom. He was shocked that the orphanage doctors did not know what it was. We also showed the doctor some scarring that Vanessa had near her private area. He was puzzled by the scars and thought she may have had surgery to correct hip dislocations, but there was no record of this with the orphanage. When we got to Elisa, the doctor seemed concerned. She had been sleeping most of the time, wanted nothing to do with anyone and was not eating at all. He wanted to have her admitted to the hospital right away. After discussing our options, we decided that we didn't want Elisa's first weekend with us to be spent in the hospital.

We made it our goal to get Elisa to eat and get her to open up to us. On Friday morning, we had a breakthrough...... YOGURT. Elisa loves yogurt and ate and ate and ate. She ate so much food on Friday and this morning she was a different child. She was loving and playful and was smiling. We're still not sure if she had just been sick or needed food, but whatever it was is behind us now. The babies are adjusting well to their new home and the whole family is doing great. Our other children fight over who gets to hold, play with or feed the babies. I'm sure that will change in time, but for now, we are all closer than ever. As I sit here right now in the play room I am watching the babies play and am so grateful that we were able to adopt them. We picked them based on a picture and a feeling inside.... and a medical history that turned out to be mostly incorrect, but in the end, they are a perfect fit. They are perfect and they are ours! Praise God for choosing us to follow this path and to experience this kind of joy!

Oh and for those of you requesting pictures..... we are so sorry! We will post them as soon as we can, but honestly we just been enjoying the kids and have not taken many pics. We'll get some out soon. Thank you all for all of your encouragement......

Friday, January 22, 2010

Home Sweet Home!

Sorry for the delayed post, but we all had a little sleep to catch up on. We began our journey home at 2am on Wednesday which was 6pm Tuesday night in San Antonio. We had a short 3 hour flight from Kiev to Frankfurt and then a 2 hour layover in Germany. The kids did well on the flight, but when we got off the plane things got interesting. They all started screaming at once because they were hungry. We had food for them, but could not prepare it fast enough. As we weer struggling to get them all calm, we noticed people all over the airport staring at us. I wonder what they must have thought. After about 30 minutes, they were calm and so were we. We boarded the plane at 10am (2am in SA).

This next flight was the long one. It was a 10 hour flight from Germany to Chicago. Faith and Elisa sat in front of Brittany and I and the two babies (Vanessa and Elijah were sitting on our laps). One of the greatest delights of our trip home was watching Faith with Elisa. Faith is 12 years old and handled Elisa with such poise and patience. Elisa was the most difficult by far, but Faith had a way with handling her. Elisa definitely has some sensory issues, but Faith knew just how to work with her. She would pat her gently and help her get comfortable and even when she was screaming, Faith was calm. I was amazed at the maturity of my oldest daughter and she made me so proud to be her father. The kids all had their moments on this flight, but overall, they did very well. I got peed on twice and thrown up on 4 times (all by Vanessa), but that just helped us bond....

We were worried about what to do with our 5 hour layover in Chicago, but the long layover turned out to be necessary. We started at customs where the lines were long. We made it through relatively quickly and then picked up our baggage. At that point, we went to the Homeland Security area where we had to turn in our immigration paperwork. Although this process took about an hour, the people working there were great. Seeing us with all of the kids and baggage, they waved us through the customs security point and told us to have a nice day. After all of that, we had to recheck our bags and then take a train to another terminal. The Chicago airport is HUGE, so it took a while to get to our gate. By the time we got there, we had about an hour to get some food and feed the kids who were getting pretty fussy.

The last leg of the trip was a breeze. We left Chicago at 5:30pm (SA time) which was 1:30 am in Kiev. Needless to say, the kids were tired and they slept through the entire flight. We arrived home at 8:30 pm to end our 26 hour journey.At the airport we were greeted with yelling and cheering from our family and closest friends. I believe there were about 20 people there waiting for us. I was so tired at that point that I probably didn't look at excited as I was. We passed the babies around from person to person. They hardly woke up as people were kissing them and pinching their cheeks. This was just the start of all of the loving they are going to get from now on. We got home and went straight to bed.

It is such a relief to be home and to know that no one can take these babies away from us. Throughout the 2 trips to the Ukraine, there was always an underlying tension that something may go wrong; we may get denied, they may get sick, we may not get passports or may not get visas. There was always another step that we had to go through, but not anymore. When I laid them in their cribs I could finally breath a sigh of relief. We had completed the journey that we started almost a year ago and Elisa, Vanessa and Elijah are now home. Now it is time to begin the next phase of this journey.........

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

We're Coming Home!!!!

We got our visas today for the kiddos and are coming home in the morning! The whole process at the embassy took less than a few hours. We're so excited and can't wait to get home to the rest of our family. Please pray for a safe and quick flight home....... and that the kids sleep a lot on the plane!

Leah, Dylan, Grace, Christian, Noelle, Haily, and Emma...... We're coming home!!!!!!!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

More PIcs of the girls.....

As demanded by my wife (pics only)


A Newfound Respect For My Wife!

Shortly after getting off the train, we took the kids to their medical appointments. They only had room for two of us to go, so Faith and I took the kids ourselves and left Brittany at the apartment in Kiev. It was so hard taking 3 kids with just two of us through the ice and snow. The appointment was a joke. After waiting for about an hour, we saw the doctor who turned out to be an adult cardiologist.... not a pediatrician. She was asking us about the kids and what they did normal or not and we kept telling her that we had only had them for less than a day. We asked her a bunch of questions and she could not answer any of them. She kept saying that she works with adults and not kids. So basically, we were just paying to get medical release for the US embassy.

After almost a full day with the kids, we are exhausted. Feeding time has been crazy! Elijah grunts non-stop if we don't keep something in his mouth at all times. Elisa spits and throws her food and Vanessa is of course... perfect. She just eats and drinks and giggles. They are all down for naps right now and we are glad. I don't know what it is, but it is so rewarding to have them all asleep at the same time. I have so much respect for Leah! There are 3 of us and we struggle to keep up with the kids and I know when we get home she will have it all under control. She is an amazing mother and I am so grateful for her.

So tomorrow is our final day in Kiev. We go to the Embassy at 8:30am to do a bunch of paperwork and then go back to pick up the kids visas. If all goes well, we will be on a plane at 5:45am on Wednesday..... and home Wednesday evening. I cannot wait to be home with all 10 of my children. As I writing this, Elisa woke up and Faith brought her to me. She is sitting on my lap watching me type right now. So it's time for me to let you go so I can spend some time with my baby.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

We Have Our Kids!!!

Today we got our kids! We went to the orphanage at about 5:30 expecting a big send off for the kids. What was I thinking? We walked in the door, gave them our clothes to change the kids in to while we waiting in the lobby. They brought the kids out and hardly even said goodbye to them. We had gifts for the caregivers which they thanked us for, but there was very little emotion shown by them as the kids walked out the door. Were they happy that they were being adopted??? Were they relieved???? Were they sad???? Oh well, one thing I know for sure is that we were elated! They looked so adorable in their little snowsuits.... you know the kind that are so puffy that they can hardly move their arms or legs.

We took them back to the apartment and immediately Skyped Leah so that she could be part of their first day with us. We fed them dinner which was an adventure. It's been so long since I've fed a baby, let alone 3 at once. Food was all over the place, but Elijah and Vanessa ate great. Elisa hardly ate a bite that she didn't spit out or throw across the room. We never got the orphanage to tell us what they ate, so this is all trial and error for us. Tonight was all error with Elisa, but it will get better.

Right now, it's 11:30pm and we're on the train to Kiev. Brittany and Vanessa are asleep already, but the rest of us are wide awake. Elijah and Elisa are just looking around trying to take it all in...... and so are we.... our first night with the kids! We will have medical appointments tomorrow and them go to the Embassy for Visas on Tuesday. We are praying that all goes smoothly and we get to come home as planned on Wednesday. The only glitch so far is that Vanessa's birthday is different on her birth certificate than we were told. The only problem with that is that some of the paperwork has already been filled out with the old date and was signed by Leah. I'm sure this is common and we can simply make the correction, but it still concerns me a bit.

Anyway, I need to get back to enjoying my new kiddos. I hope we get some sleep tonight, but if not, at least I'm with my kids!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Getting Ready........

It's Saturday in the Ukraine and it's getting cold. Yesterday was a pretty quiet day. We were unable to see the kids due to the appointments that we had. We met with the inspector (social worker), the lawyer, and the orphanage Director to sign the final paperwork and arrange our "Gotcha" day. At the meeting, we received the baptism papers for each of the children. It seems to be customary for the children in the orphanage to be baptized at the age of one. Each of the children had a small booklet and a small cross necklace which they gave to us. This will be great for the children's memory books.

After the meeting I was taken to Vanessa's room so they could show us how they applied medicine to her "backside". She has perpetual inflammation in that area and they wanted to show us what they used on it. It looked pretty bad, but they said it was not painful to her. Evidently it's been that way since birth and she has never been able to where diapers. We will take her to a doctor as soon as we get home to see what they say. When we left the orphanage we went to the pharmacy to buy the ingredients for the medicine. Yes.... I said ingredients. The medicine they use has to be mixed at home which our facilitator will do for us tonight.

Later in the day we went to the bank to withdraw the money the children had in their bank account. These accounts are created by the government for all orphans and it is customary for adoptive parents to donate this back to the orphanage. It was a much larger sum of money than I expected. We were actually given the option to designate the money to the care of a specific child and we chose to do so for a small boy who has lung cancer. We must have been at the bank where all of the "welfare" accounts are held, because there was a long line of elderly people all the way out the door.

As we waited and watched the people come and go, I was overcome with both sadness and gratitude. These people were so old and worn down. They had clearly lived hard lives and were continuing to do so..... many of them shivering due to the cold. I helped several ladies down the steps as they were too fragile to get down on their own. Several things occurred to me as we stood there for about 30 minutes. First, my grandmother is from this region and was fortunate enough to get married to my grandfather and come to America as a teenager. I saw her face as each of the elderly women walked by and I was so grateful that she was living comfortably in America now. I also thought of Elisa, Vanessa and Elijah and how blessed they would be to come home with us. Not only are we taking them away from the orphanage, but we are taking them away from a very hard and difficult life. Oh how blessed we are........

So today we are getting ready to pick our kids up. Tomorrow (Sunday) is our "Gotcha" day and we are so excited. We're picking out their clothes (actually, the girls are picking out clothes) and setting them aside for the big day tomorrow. It's taken so long to get to this point... where we will finally have them in our care. Tonight we will go buy diapers and formula and all of the other things we will need to care for them at the apartment. We finally feel as if we're nearing the end of this very long road. At this time tomorrow, we will be together.... FINALLY TOGETHER!!!!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What's Going On......

OK, so here's the scoop on what's going on over here in the Ukraine. As you know, we were suppose to get our passports this week and then travel straight to the US Embassy in Kiev to get visas for the kids. Well, at the passport office we found out that passports are not being issued at this time. There was no explanation... just that they would keep us updated. After doing much research online today and chatting with other families in this same predicament, I have a little more history on what is going on.

Evidently the company that produces the passport books has not been paid or is in some court dispute with the Ukrainian government. On top of that, there is a huge national election taking place here on January 17. It is a presidential election and several other key offices. Many believe this passport issue is tied to the elections which tells me that this is all political. If so, the results of the election may or may not resolve the issue. There is a whole bunch more information on this issue, but the bottom line is that we are caught up in dirty politics where passports (and now adoptions) are being used as political fodder.

In researching this issue, I've stumbled across many families who are here in this country dealing with the same issue; many of whom are in the same city as us. With all of this bad news, I know that God is in control and that He has a heart for these children. God wants each of these children to be home with their new loving families and we know that He is faithful! As I said in my previous post, God answers prayer and I know there are a lot of people praying for us right now. I would like to ask each of you to pray for these other families as well in hopes that we will all be home with our families soon.

With that I will leave you with some more pictures to help us remember what we're doing this for......

God Answers Prayer!!!

One of the Psalms says that in the morning we should lay our request before the Lord and wait in expectation. I can't remember which Psalm it is, but it has always stuck with me..... the fact that we can ask something of our Father and not just wish for it, rather we can wait in expectation...... we can expect it! As you know, we've been praying about the things going on over here in hopes that we will not be delayed in bringing our kiddos home. I can't share much detail right now, but I will tell you that GOD ANSWERS PRAYER. I'll share more detail when I can, but for now, know that God is faithful.......

Thanks you all for your prayers and encouragement! You are a blessing to us! Tony

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I have 10 children now... but can't bring them home yet!!!!

Wow..... what a roller coaster of emotions. Yesterday (Tuesday) was a long and awesome day. We got off the train at 6am and came to our apartment to drop off our luggage. We were then whisked away to begin the process of getting birth certificates for Elisa, Vanessa and Elijah. We were in the car for 5 straight hours going from place to place.... signing one document after another. The girls slept through most of the trip. At about 2pm we signed the final document and I was presented with 3 birth certificates showing Leah and I as the legal parents of our new babies! I was overwhelmed with joy! It was like being in the delivery room and being presented with your new baby..... except my babies weren't here yet.

So as we drove back our facilitator called and explained that we would be going to pick the babies up and take them to get passport pictures. I had been praying all day that we would get to see them and not only would we see them, but we were taking them with us on a ride. It was a small sample of what the trip home might be like. Brittany was holding Vanessa who was smiling and cooing the entire time..... of course. Faith was holding Elijah at first as Elisa was being a little fussy. After a few minutes in the car, Elisa warmed up and I passed her to Faith so I could hold my big boy Elijah. Elisa was just looking around, really observing the buildings and cars we drove by. I wondered if this was her first trip in a car since leaving the maternity home. If so, I'm glad it was with her new family. Elijah decided to lay down across all of our laps and stare at our faces for about an hour. It was so fun and the kids did awesome!

So as we're waiting for passport pics, I got a call from our facilitator telling me that they would not be processing any passports at this time as there was some sort of political issue (a strike-type situation). She was not clear on the implications of this, but was certain that it would cause delays for us.... just not sure how long of a delay. We went ahead and took their passport pictures and applied for their passport so they would process when things resumed. It was so fun taking pictures with them and trying to get them to smile or at least look in the right direction. It almost made me forget about the bad news I had just received.

We dropped my new children off back at the orphanage and came to the apartment for dinner and rest. I had such mixed emotions last night as I thought about my three new kiddos and how long it has taken to get to this point. I also thought about the passport delays and couldn't help but think of the worst. What it the delay is not just days or weeks, but months? That's when I started praying. I know this is all in God's hands and that He is in control. I don't know what His plan is, but it will be perfect. Please pray for some quick resolution to this issue. I
really want to pull the kids out of the orphanage and bring them to the apartment,
but our facilitator is advising against that until we know more about the passport situation. Maybe I'll do a little research tonight to see how I can bring kids home without a Ukraine passport. Oh well, I can't be discouraged when I've just adopted these three beautiful children.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Travel Day (going to see my babies)

This post was written at 11am on Monday, January 11........

We're on our way to the Ukraine to get our babies. Currently, we are stuck at the Dusseldorf as our flight has been delayed by about 2 hours. We're sitting on the floor at a crowded gate listening to people complain (at least that's what we think they're doing, but we can't really understand what they're saying). We really don't mind the delay as we have about 5 hours to kill in Kiev before we hop on the train to Odessa. So here's a quick update on our trip.

Yesterday was another nice day in Paris. Laura and her friend took us to the Eiffel Tower where we traveled up to up to the second floor. The top was closed, but the view from the 2nd floor was still amazing. After that, we took the subway down to the Sacred Heart Chapel (not sure how to say it in French) which sits at the highest point in Paris. The chapel was beautiful, but unfortunately they did not allow any pictures to be taken inside. We spent the evening with Laura's family, having dinner and hanging out and also saying goodbye to Marie who flew out last night. This morning, Laura's dad picked us up at 5:45 and dropped us off at the airport. We got to the airport on time, but stopped at one of the shops at the airport to buy a few drawings of Paris to take home to the kids. The man took so much time wrapping the pictures up that we almost missed our flight. Seriously, the check-in lady came into the store and began yelling at me that they were going to leave us behind.

We made it on the plane, but I did not have time to put the drawings in my bag as we were boarding the plan and, like and idiot, I left them on the plane when we got off here in Dusseldorf. SO, in summary, I almost missed our flight in order to buy some drawings that I ended up leaving on the plane. Sorry kids, but I'll get you something in the Ukraine.......

When we arrived in Dusseldorf we were greeted by Marie and her sister at the airport. As it turns out, Dusseldorf is Marie's home city. They brought us a genuine German breakfast that we sat down and ate together. It was very nice of them to take time out of their day to visit us at the airport. So that brings us to where we are right now..... still waiting. We have about 30 mire minutes until we leave for Kiev, so I guess I will pack up my computer. I can't wait to get to Odessa tomorrow and visit my babies. I hope they remember me......

Saturday, January 9, 2010

It's All About Family.....

Today was another cold and snowy, but amazing day in Paris. We spent the day traveling by subway to see the rest of this beautiful city. The highlight of our travel today was Notre Dame. We spent several hours touring the church and the architecture is just stunning. I ran across several people who were in tears purely because of the beauty and how moving the experience was for them. For me, the beauty of the church along with the sculptures and stained glass that depicted scripture reflected the glory of Christ and a reverance towards God hat I simply did not anticipate. I was moved!

So if Notre Dame was the highlight of our day, dinner with Laura's family was absolutely the highlight of the evening. Laura's mother cooked a genuine French meal for us and it was wonderful. They didn't just throw the food on the table and say "dig in" like we often do in America...... the meal was presented as it would be in a restaurant. Bread.... then salad... and then our main course. Laura said that they always eat their meals this way which really impressed me. So we sat around the table talking about our day and our new kiddos and our lives..... As we talked I watched Laura and Faith kidding around with each other and reminiscing about when Laura lived with us..... I watched Brittany and Marie do the same, remembering their times together. Laura's mom shared her experience growing up in a big family on a farm in Southern France.

After the meal, we were presented with a truly unique French desert. As they brought the desert to the table, they also brought small paper crowns. While they served the desert in slices (similar to how we would serve pie), they explained that one of the servings would have a surprise in it. They were so giddy as they explained the "game" and even brought out little treasure chests of "surprises" from past deserts that they had with their family throughout the years. We all laughed and joked as we eagerly ate our desert and waited to see who would get the prize. A few minutes into it, Faith pulled out a small ceramic piece that had been baked in the desert. She was the winner and got to wear the crown. It was fun and it felt like we were with family.

Our time in Paris has been made so wonderful not just because it's a beautiful city, but because it's like a reunion. We spend the days with Laura who is like a sister to Faith and a daughter to me and the evenings with Laura's parents who have welcomed us in like we're part of their family. As I reflect tonight on the past few days, I realize that even here in Paris, it's all about family....... As I think of Leah and the kids at home, it's all about family....... and as we prepare to pick up our new babies, it is all about family.

I've realized on this trip that families go beyond parent and siblings, and biological children and even beyond adopted children. Our family is comprised of people who we share our lives with. People who we love and care for and who recipricate that same love. It extends to foreign exchange students and their family who lives 4000 miles away and it even extends to the daughter of a friend who gives up 2 weeks of her life to help us adopt. No matter what we experience here in Paris, who we experience it with will always be more important that what we experience which confirms that......... IT'S ALL ABOUT FAMILY!

Friday, January 8, 2010


After 12 hours in the air, we arrived in Paris at about 6:30am this morning (Paris time). None of us slept very much on the flights, so we were quite tired when we got off the airplane. That all changed when we stepped out of the airport and began to flag a taxi. The temperature was in the teens and the wind was cold. We were wide awake now and ready to take on the city. That was a good thing since we could not check in to our hotel until 2pm and Laura (our exchange student/ tour guide) did not get out of school until about 5pm. So we left our luggage at the hotel and did went to the first place any tourist in Paris would want to go........ McDonalds! Sorry, but we were cold, it was close and we really just wanted a cup of coffee before spending several hours on our feet. BTW, McDonalds in France is NOTHING like McDonalds in America. The menu is different, the decor is different, and the food is very different.

So at about 9:30 we worked up the courage to venture out into the cold and tour the city. The area we are staying in is a small but wealthy neighborhood on the edge of downtown Paris. The area is full of open markets, shops and restaurants. Knowing we would tour the major landmarks with Laura over the weekend, we were just looking for the closest thing we could find to help kill time. The closest monument was Champes Elysee so we pointed ourselves in that direction. On our way, we stumbled upon a beautiful Catholic church. Partially out of curiosity and partially because we were freezing, we walked over to the doors to see if they would open. With one tug, the doors opened up to reveal a beautiful domed sanctuary with massive stained glass windows along an entire wall. We spent a few minutes touring the church and were greeted with only smiles and polite comments from the few people we ran into within the building.

Now back in the cold to find our monument. After much effort weaving in and out of the streets we found the Champes Elysee or Arc de Triomphe and it was beautiful. It rested in a central area where no fewer than 10 streets intersected at one of those confusing "roundabouts" like the one in European Vacation. Thank God we don't have to drive while here. As we arrived, we discovered that we could not possibly cross all of the traffic to get to the monument. The only way to get there was through an elaborate underground tunnel system that also serves the downtown subway system. It was definitely worth the hour long walk and the numb fingers and toes.

So we headed back towards our hotel with a plan to stop and eat lunch to kill the final few hours before checking in to our hotel. For lunch we found a quaint little local cafe where we met a nice english-speaking waiter who translated the entire menu for us. Faith and I played it safe, but Brittany decided she wanted something authentically French. Despite several warnings from the waiter she ordered something he described as a French delicacy. As it turns out, it was stomach wrapped like a sausage. The smell was horrible and although I did not taste it, the flavor didn't appear to be much better. But like a trooper, Brittany ate most of it and did so with a smile..... The creme brulle we had for desert would help redeem the term "French delicacy" in our mind.

After lunch, we checked in, took a nap, and waited for Laura to get out of school. When she arrived, it was so good to see her. She truly is like part of our family. After a little discussion, she walked us to her flat (apartment) which was only about 10 minutes away. Oh and as we were leaving, Marie (the German exchange student who had lived with Brittany) arrived. We checked out Laura's apartment and then road with her father downtown for dinner. He took us on the scenic route which allowed us to see the Champes Elysee (now at night) and the Eiffel Tower. We got out for a few minutes to take pics of the tower, but only lasted about 15 minutes due to the weather. We got some beautiful pictures though.

Dinner was at a fancy restaurant in Downtown Paris. The food was wonderful and the company even better. We spent our entire dinner remanicing and laughing about the times when Laura was staying with us and Maria was staying with Brittany's family. It was a great evening with great people in a beautiful city while on our way to pick up our beautiful new babies from the Ukraine. The only thing more I could ask for would be to have the rest of my family here with me, but I know they are all back home preparing for our families growth. As I go to sleep tonight, I can't help but think that we are truly blessed. WE ARE TRULY BLESSED!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

They are on there way!!

Tony and my daughter, and my (adopted) niece! left today at noon. The last I heard at 4 they were in D.C. heading to Paris.
The exchange student we had named Laura has the entire day planned for them to explore Paris in 2 days. I have to admit I am a little sad that I did not get to see what they about to see.
Tony will then head to the Ukraine to pick up our babies.
I am running around the house trying to do all the last minute things. I am having to by three of everything!! Highchairs, toys, bounces. A friend of mine is throwing me a baby shower once they get home. It will also be a time for all of our Friends to meet the babies.
Tony promised to start blogging as soon as the plane lands, so I will following along with all of you as he goes across the country to bring them home!!
Tony If you are reading this in Paris, I love you and Miss you. Cant wait to see you back at home with 3 babies strapped to your back!! Love you , Leah

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Heading back to the Ukraine

Well Tony Faith and our friend will head back out tomorrow at 12.00 I'm so excited for their journey. They will going to Paris first to visit our exchange student, then to the Ukraine. In the Ukraine they celebrate Christmas on Jan.7th. After this they still have big parties for another year. I guess they said the entire country shuts down and they just drink and have a lot of fun. Tony is trying to avoid as much of this as he can, But I thought it would be neat to see how they do things there. He should be there for about 11 days. There will be one person to help care for each baby.
I guess Tony will be writing for the rest of the trip since he will have the babies. It will be hard being the one on this end this time. I want to be there and be with the babies!! I can not wait to have them all here and at home with me.
Well, Id better go make sure he has what he will need on this trip. We are all getting so excited. Its so real now, they are almost home. What an adventure this has been!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

De JaVu.......

So we've been home less than one week and we're packing again. In about 4 days, I'll be sending my husband and daughter to pick up our precious new babies. He leaves on January 7 and will come home on January 20. I cannot wait for him to walk off of that ariplane holding our new little angels. It almost makes me cry as I think about it right now. The timing worked out to where they will get to spend a few days in Paris with Laura, our exchange student who lived with us last school year. Laura truly became part of our family when she was here, so it will be so special for them to spend some time with her.

Brittany, the girl that will be travelling with Tony is the daughter of our very good friends. They also had an exchange student (Marie - from Germany) living with them last year. It looks like Marie will be flying to Paris to meet up with them, so it will be a wonderful reunion for all. So my husband will be in Paris with my 12 year old daughter and 3-18 year olds. This should be good preparation for when all of our girls are teenagers :-). Now that I htink about it, Paris might be more exhausting for him than brining our 3 babies home.

I just looked back and noticed that our fist blog was on February 20, 2009. So when Tony gets back on Janaury 20 it will have taken us exactly 11 months to get our babies home. What a long journey, but it will be sooo workth it. We've been working all weekend on sorting their clothes and finishing up their room. We also tore apart our formal dining room and made it into a play room for the babies. We put padded flooring throughout and will put child gates at the entrance to keep the kiddos safe. So these babaies have already taken over our house and they're not even here yet.

Well, I better let you go so that I can go buy some winter clothes for Faith to take with her. I jsut can't wait to get my babies home in my own house....... in their new house! Leah