Tag Archives: adoption

Celebration recap

We had a fun day celebrating Daniel and celebrating family.

Tradition dictates (at least in our family) that when it’s your Gotcha Day, you get to choose everything.
So Daniel made his selections! We started the day with Nutella toast and cheese eggs.
Then we were off to the ‘bowling area’ – Daniel’s name for the bowling alley.

Next up was eating McDonalds in the park.

We walked around the city and visited the Tivoli (carnival).

 

Then it was back home for dinner.
One of Daniel’s favorite foods is mussels. He is really the only one who likes them, so we enjoyed salmon while he feasted on a seemingly endless pot of his fave.

 

We had a fun day celebrating five years with our funny guy!

 

Five Years of Forever Family

Five years.

In some ways the time has flown. There are moments when I feel like it has not been that long at all. And yet, there are also moments when it seems like Daniel has always been around.

Five years ago today, very early on a Saturday morning, we drove one last time to Solnetchko detsky dom. We changed our tiny little man’s clothes and said our good-byes. And 25 minutes later, we hopped in the van with our facilitator and her husband for the drive from Mariupol to Kyiv.

That’s a long drive in and of itself. But add in a very anxious and rambunctious child who had likely never been in a car for more than 30 minutes, and you can maybe begin to imagine the “fun” we had.

I add this next photo, knowing it is extremely blurry. But it was also a good image to represent that first day: a complete blur, with some of us forcing smiles and others showing our true feelings. Beauty all around us (the sunflowers were amazing). Success in that we were now holding our newest son in our arms. And yet, what you can’t see lying behind the cameraman was one of the nastiest black clouds I have ever seen in my life. Seriously, a fitting metaphor. For the day we were maneuvering, for the night that awaited us in Kyiv, and for some of the days ahead.

We endured the drive. It was long and exhausting. We got the boys back to the apartment in Kyiv and bathed them. Surely they would sleep well after such a tiring day. Right?

Right?

This was one of the many phases of that 9 hour
car ride: putting playing cards between your
toes & putting your feet on the window.

Nice thought anyway. William did crash quickly. Daniel did not. Everything was new and exciting and he did not want to miss a minute of it. Including running constantly, throwing things, eating anything in sight, and trying to stick his hands in the one oscillating fan we had (it was summer and it was HOT!). Zack slept with William and I took our new little man with me. I finally got him settled and he slept for probably 6 or 7 hours.

First night as a family of four

We made it through that first day and first night. Thanks to love. And through a long flight across the ocean with a little man breaking out in chicken pox. We made it through some rough first days and weeks. We made it through chicken pox, his first broken bone, six schools, moving to Canada, and then moving to Norway. Thanks to love.

Gotcha Day 2011 – one year home

Five years later. That first day still stands out vividly in my mind. Removing his clothes and giving him clothes that were just for him. Calling him by his new name. Attempting to calm him and console him as he physically rebelled against anything and everything that came his way. Watching the joy (and maybe a bit of apprehension!) of a big brother who finally had his little buddy with him.

Gotcha Day 2012 – two years home

God was good to us when he allowed us to bring each of our boys into our family. He was good to us when he walked us through every difficult step of their adoptions. He was good to us when things just seemed to fall into place. He was good to us when things seemed impossible. He was good to us in the good and the tough times. And He continues to be good to us, in all things. *Good does not mean easy. But knowing that He is with us and that we are never alone: that is a very good place to be.*

Gotcha Day 2013 – three years home

If you ever watch an adoption story unfold, you will see that it is really a redemption story. I don’t say this as a way to pat ourselves on the back, but simply as truth. Watching hope come into someone’s life is a beautiful thing. We saw it with our boys. We’ve seen it with the children of many friends who have adopted. Watching what love can do is exciting. And watching what love can endure is encouraging.

Gotcha Day 2014 – four years home

I’m thankful for the way that God built our family. It may not be traditional. And at times it is far from pretty. But it is always beautiful. Because it’s about love. And despite the obstacles and the difficulties, love wins.

Happy Gotcha Day to our loving, joyful, energetic Daniel!

One of my all-time favorite photos of Daniel, from 2011
 
1 Corinthians 13:7-10
(taken from The Message)
 

 

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.
So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Four years a family of four / National Gremlin Appreciation Day

Four years. 48 months. 208 weeks. 1,461 days of adventure.

On July 10, 2010 we arrived very early in the morning at a place we had come to know very well the past few weeks. We made our way into the building and found our little guy, still quite sleepy headed and looking a little uneasy. We dressed him, gave gifts to all the kids in his group, and said our final good-byes. And with that, we walked out of the gates of Graceland and officially became a family of four.

 

When I say it has been 1,461 days of adventure, I mean it. This guy certainly keeps us on our toes. But he has also come such a long way. He has a joyful spirit and contagious laugh. He tests boundaries. Constantly. He can bring encouragement just when you need it. He is clever and witty. He is mischievous. He loves his family and adores his big brother. He is artistic and creative. And he has so.much.energy.
He is a lot of everything in a concise little package, our little stick of dynamite. He has stretched us and challenged us, and taught us so much. We love him big, and look forward to seeing him develop into the man God wants him to be!

Here are a few fun photos of our dynamite guy, in no particular order…

 

 

 

 

 

One year away from a teen: Happy birthday William!

He is growing up so fast. The boy loves his family. He enjoys football (soccer), biking, reading, going to school, posting (too many?) photos on Instagram, and being outdoors. He is patient, kind, sarcastic (like his dad and mom), pensive at times, and a natural-born leader. I enjoy watching the way he looks out for his younger brother, and the way he also doesn’t put up with his antics too much. I look forward to seeing God’s plans for him as they begin to unfold.

Happy 12th birthday, William!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day: not always a joyous occasion

Several years ago, I was a writer for Examiner. I wrote as the Atlanta Adoptive Families Examiner. I shared stories of Atlanta families who had adopted, local and national adoption news, and tips and recommendations for adoptive families or those who know an adoptive family.One article I shared in 2010 expressed my thoughts on Mother’s Day. At the time I was mom to one little cutie (hard to believe he’ll be 12 in two weeks!).

With American Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday, I thought I would share the text of the article here.You can read the original post HERE.

For a number of years, I avoided Mother’s Day like a plague. I was perfectly content to remain holed up in my house, blinds closed, eating chocolate and waiting for the day to be over.

I found myself skipping church almost every Mother’s Day. I couldn’t bear another year where I remained in my seat while the pastor asked all of the mothers in the congregation to stand and be recognized.

I so wanted to be a mother. But for me, Mother’s Day served as a harsh reality check.

You see, my dream wasn’t to be pregnant. My vision had nothing to do with maternity clothes. I battle my weight enough as it is, thank you very much.

I wasn’t one to “ooh” and “aah” over newborn clothes. I never longed to go through the birth process.

No, my dream was to wear the hat of cheerleader, chef, housekeeper, chauffer, referee, nurse, and general multi-tasker. I longed to put our child to bed, read him a story, sing him a song, say prayers together, and tuck him in.

I looked forward to nights of being frazzled and exhausted, realizing that I didn’t get half the things done that I intended to… but happy knowing that I spent time with him instead.
I dreamt of teaching him new things, watching him learn, and taking him new places. I longed to fix his boo-boos, calm his fears, and wipe away tears. I couldn’t wait to tickle him and hug him, and remind him over and over that I love him.
Our firsts weren’t about teeth or steps. Instead, we beamed the first time he called us Mommy & Daddy, the first time he saw the ocean, the first time he told us what he learned in Sunday School, the first time he sincerely said ‘I love you’.
My dream wasn’t tied around the idea of a baby. My dream was to be a mom. And in late 2007, that dream came true. Mother’s Day 2010 will be the third I celebrate as my son’s mother.
I look back to just a few years ago, and remember how hard Mother’s Day was. I look at it now with delight and excitement. God allowed me to become a mother in HIS timing. We arrived in our son’s birth country at the exact time we needed to in order to add him to our family.
As we approach Mother’s Day, consider those ladies close to you that might be struggling. Perhaps infertility haunts her. Maybe she is stuck in the seemingly endless paperwork of adoption. Whatever their struggle, it’s likely not an easy day for her.
On a day like this, extra attention in the form of hugs or conversation might be the opposite of what she desires. But you could take the time to buy a card, write a thoughtful note, send some flowers, or give her a give certificate for a spa service. Find a way to let her know you care!

 

Pray for Ukraine

My heart is breaking for my sons’ birth country. People trying to achieve freedom. But on the brink of war.

Please join us in praying for a peaceful resolution, and that these people will be able to experience the freedom they desire. Pray for the new/interim leadership to act with wisdom. Pray for Russia to back down and remove their troops. Pray for people there to be able to discern the truth amongst a lot of propaganda and lies.
Pray for peace.
(pictures from 2010 in Kyiv)

 

 

19 Years Cancer Free

How did you spend your senior year of high school? I would imagine that most of you would say finishing projects, waiting on college acceptance letters, skipping a few classes, making memories with friends, and looking towards graduation and new chapters.

©Billy Howard Photography
(1994) from the art show & book
Angels & Monsters: A Child’s Eye View of Cancer
(find it HERE on Amazon)

That’s how I thought I’d spend my senior year, too. But sometimes life throws you a curve ball (for my European friends, it’s a baseball analogy for something difficult or tricky). And that’s exactly what happened to me.

It started with strange pains in my right leg/hip. Multiple doctor visits, blood work and a biopsy resulted in an appendectomy and exploratory abdominal surgery. Turns out, my appendix was fine. What didn’t seem fine was a lymph node the size of an egg. It was sent off for testing, but the results said it was benign.

That was October/November 1993. By January 1994, I was in excruciating pain. I couldn’t stand up straight unless I pulled my left leg up towards my chest. I was frequenting the chiropractor who, through x-rays, could see what he called a ‘gas pocket’. Most nights as my family slept, I would toss and turn, trying to make myself comfortable with stacks of pillows and piles of ibuprofen, or attempting to soak in a hot bath to relieve the pain.

©Billy Howard Photography
follow-up photo for the book
(@2001)

By the beginning of February, I found myself in the hospital with a diagnosis of Stage IV Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. That ‘gas pocket’ was a large tumor pressing on my spine.

And thus began my life of living with the C word: Cancer.

There were times where I laid in a drug-induced coma, the doctors telling my family that the chances were slim and they needed to pray. Sometimes it was because of the cancer. Other times it was because of a gram-negative infection or meningitis, brought on when my immune system had been weakened by the chemo.

But through it all, God gave me peace. Looking back, I can’t remember a single time that I thought I was going to die. I guess others must have thought it, but it never crossed my mind.

Yesterday, February 28, 2014, I celebrated 19 years since I finished chemo. 19 years since I was declared cancer-free. It hit me that more of my life has been as a cancer-survivor than not.

©Billy Howard Photography
Billy graciously took
family portraits when we
first brought William home
(2008)

During my treatment I was invited to participate in an art project, which was later turned into a book (Angels & Monsters: A Child’s Eye View of Cancer). In the project, I shared about a dream I had shortly after my diagnosis. You’ll have to read the book to get the whole story, but one of the lines I wrote at age 18 was “It then occurred to me that perhaps I hadn’t yet fulfilled all that God planned for me.”

I’m thankful that God chose to heal me this side of heaven. And thankful that all of this is part of my testimony. Thankful for the way he led me to a husband who loves me, even when I’m moody and difficult (I still blame that on the chemo side-effects!). Thankful for the way he built our family across continents. Thankful for the opportunity He has given us to work in a new country and culture. Thankful that He is patient with me when I don’t get it right.

Nineteen years later, I have so much to be thankful for. This anniversary reminded me of that, and reminded me not to forget the journey God has allowed me to take.

 

*Special thanks to my friend Billy Howard (Billy Howard Photography) for capturing some special milestones of my our journey. Billy, you and your camera are quite a pair! 

 

Two Starfish #adoption #ramblingthoughts

I was looking back through our pictures from Malaga. When I found this shot of Daniel, it brought to mind the Starfish story. (Never heard it? Read it at the bottom of this post.) And it got me thinking about our two boys.

We are thankful that our minds were opened to the concept of making a difference for one. Thankful that our hearts were opened to James 1:27.

Our boys didn’t necessarily win the lottery when they joined our family. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing. Okay, most days we still don’t! We are flawed, far from perfect. We mess up. Often.

But we are children of a Father who forgives. And each day we are learning a deeper meaning of the word family, what it means to be forgiven, what it means to forgive, and what it means to help each other through life. We are discovering the power of striving daily to take our focus off ourselves, and place it on the One who gave the perfect example of earthly living, and the ultimate example of love and sacrifice. If we can help them to understand and embrace this, what more could we want?

 

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27 (NLT)

The Starfish Story
A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.
As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water.
The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied,”I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen. “But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.”
The boy smiled, bent down and picked up another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied “it made a difference to that one.”