Archive for the ‘Adoption/orphans’ Category

She’s home

Don and Amina arrived home on Saturday, the 7th, after an arduous ordeal (getting up at 4 am for their ride to the airport, finding their first flight cancelled, having to re-do their itinerary, leaving Ukraine seven hours later than originally scheduled, Ukrainian passport control failing to stamp their passports on their way out of the country which caused problems when they arrived at the airport in Frankfurt, credit card machines being down at the airport restaurants, going through US immigration, and spending the night in Chicago before their final flight home).

I wish I could post a “sunshine and rainbows” post, but it wouldn’t be honest.  The last several days have been quite stressful.  After four weeks of having their dad gone, our three biological kids are all adjusting to having him here again, as well as having a new sister.  We have a “blended family” dynamic going on, since Don has been parenting Amina for the past four weeks, while I was parenting the other kids.  We’re all still working out our roles in this new version of our family.  For three of the four nights since Don and Amina came home, I’ve been awakened during the night by a child in distress; having my sleep interrupted certainly hasn’t helped my ability to deal with it all.

Amina has been the easiest child to deal with; she seems very happy to have a family and to finally be home.  She’s a picky eater who prefers meat and is very put-out when required to eat a few bites of vegetables.  However, unlike Don’s experience with her in Ukraine during the weeks they were waiting for the paperwork to be done, she has been going to sleep easily and sleeping well.  I think it’s probably due to a combination of jet lag, exhaustion with all the new experiences and being immersed in a different language, and a feeling of relief to finally be home, instead of in a temporary place.  She has basic bike-riding skills but will benefit from some practice; apparently the orphanage had a bicycle for a while in the past, then it broke.  She is very motivated to learn English and enjoys the lessons I’ve been doing with her.

Our schedule has been busy.  Amina saw our family doctor on Monday, had a dental exam yesterday (Tuesday), and went in to have blood drawn and give a urine sample today.  The children’s hospital requested so many tests that they couldn’t all be done today; they drew as much blood from her as they were allowed to draw in one day, based on her weight, and she will have to go back next week to have the rest drawn (and have an x-ray).  Next week, she’ll also be going back to the dentist for a cleaning.  Her bad tooth is a baby tooth that is nearly ready to fall out; the dentist wants to keep an eye on it in the hopes that it will fall out soon, to spare her the trauma of him extracting it.

I know that things will settle down; I just hope it happens sooner than later.


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Amina’s Ukrainian passport has been printed and mailed to Lviv.  Don and Amina traveled to Lviv yesterday and should be able to pick up the passport on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.  They expect to spend Tuesday running around, getting the stamps in the passport that she needs for emigration, and making a final visit at the orphanage.  Then they will return to Kyiv.  Because the US embassy is closed on Wednesday (the 4th of July), they are hoping to have her final embassy appointment and get her visa on Thursday.  If all goes according to plan, they will fly out of Ukraine Friday morning, spend Friday night in Chicago, and fly home on Saturday.  That means it will be a four-week trip for Don.

Peter left for Boy Scout camp today.  He’s due to come back (with the troop carpool) right around the same time that Don and Amina are supposed to fly in, so I’m not sure how that’s going to work out.  One way or another, we’ll get everyone home.  It’s less than a week now until our whole family will be together!

Here are a few pictures of Don and Amina out entertaining themselves and cooking in the apartment where they stayed in Kyiv:

bunnyskatingMaidancooking 2cooking 3cooking

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After many months of encouraging people to donate to our Hearts for Valentine adoption fundraiser, I finally ordered the photo collage poster last week so that it would arrive before Amina came home.  It showed up this week and I hung it on the wall in Amina’s room.  Now all is ready for her arrival.

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(Note that there were three photos I had to split up because I couldn’t get all the people/pets from a rectangular original into a square on the poster, but I did get everyone in somewhere.)

Hearts for Valentine poster

Just look at all that love!  Thank you again to everyone who donated and sent photos!

(If you’re so inclined, you can still make US tax-deductible donations towards our adoption expenses through Reece’s Rainbow until Don and Amina come home.)

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Don and Amina are in Kyiv, waiting for her passport so they can leave Ukraine.  The other kids and I are at home, waiting for them to join us.  It’s been over two weeks since we said good-bye to Don and will likely be another week before he and Amina come home.

It’s been challenging to be the only parent here, running the show.  I’m trying to do all the things I usually do, plus some of the things Don usually does (like mowing the lawn, which takes a ridiculous amount of time), plus communicate with him and Amina (often on Skype), which requires time and attention, unlike just chatting while we eat dinner or do other normal life things.  The fact that a certain 13-year-old has been less responsible and helpful than he could be has been adding to my stress.

We’ve gotten a number of things worked out in preparation for Amina’s homecoming.  She has doctor, dentist, and optometrist appointments scheduled, some sooner than others (the optometrist isn’t until the end of August, but she doesn’t seem to have any vision issues, so I think that’s okay).  Because she has a tooth that is hurting her (and looks pretty bad in the photo Don sent me–she said she’s never been to a dentist), she has a dentist appointment the week after she should be home.  She also takes medication and the supply that the orphanage gave Don isn’t enough to last until her appointment at the children’s hospital in early August, so we’ve had to figure out how to get her a short-term prescription to last until that appointment, at which time they will probably be changing her medication.  She also has an appointment with our family doctor the week after she should be home; the children’s hospital sent her a list of tests they want done, so we’ll need to get some blood drawn.  We’ll be busy with appointments for a while after Amina comes home, but then things will settle down.

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This is the post that many of you have been waiting for!

  1.  Meet our new daughter, Amina Noelle.  Amina was her name before adoption; we kept it as her first name and gave her a middle name that we chose.  She is 10 years old and will be 11 in August.  Amina pic 1Amina pic 2Amina pic 3
  2.  Peter, Simon, Clara and I survived our trip home from Sault Ste. Marie last Saturday.  We drove our RV there on Friday (7 hours travel time), had dinner with friends who live there, played at the playground, camped for the night, then took Don to the airport in the morning.  He flew from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, to Toronto, to Munich, to Lviv, Ukraine.  The kids and I stayed to see him board the airplane and watch the plane take off, then we made the long trip back home with no adult to focus on caring for Clara (since I was driving).  Clara didn’t nap as well as I would have liked and Peter wasn’t as attentive in caring for her as I would have liked; however, the trip overall went pretty smoothly. It took 9 hours and 15 minutes from the airport to our house (including border crossing, a quick grocery run, buying gas, and stops for lunch and dinner).
  3.  Several weeks ago, I came across the daily decalogue of Pope St. John XXIII.  I printed it out and have tried to make a habit of reviewing it daily.  It struck me on our trip that traveling with children is a very good opportunity to practice living “only for today,” especially number four: “Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.”
  4.  “Come on already, tell me more about Amina!”  Okay, okay.  Don arrived in Lviv on Sunday and traveled to Amina’s town on Monday.  He visited with her in her orphanage Monday afternoon/evening.  On Tuesday, he and the facilitator couldn’t make much progress with the “paper chase” because the woman who had to sign something for one of the first steps was out of town, so Don spent most of the day with Amina, walking through town with her and bringing her to the hotel, then returning her to the orphanage in time for dinner and bed.  Wednesday, he and the facilitator spent the whole day dealing with paperwork and bureaucracy, so he didn’t get to see Amina much.  However, they accomplished what they needed to do, so Wednesday night was Amina’s last night sleeping in an orphanage.  They picked her up yesterday (Thursday) morning and headed to Lviv to finish her passport application (she doesn’t become a US citizen until she lands on American soil, so she needs a Ukrainian passport to travel home).  Don and Amina are spending a couple days in Lviv doing touristy things before heading to Kyiv on Sunday.  Amina has to do medical and US embassy appointments in Kyiv, but the passport is the real hold-up.  They can’t go to the final embassy appointment to get her visa until she gets her passport.  Don was told that it should take about 18 calendar days, so we’re looking at an early July homecoming.
  5.  This week has gone well on the home front.  Simon has been going to Totus Tuus (basically, the Catholic version of vacation Bible school) during the day with the elementary-school-aged kids, and Peter went in the evenings with the middle-school- and high-school-aged kids (elementary kids are Mon-Fri, older kids Sun-Thurs, so Peter’s done now).  They were only home and awake at the same time for about three hours a day, which made the atmosphere in our house a lot calmer.  All the parishes in our area combine for Totus Tuus and the location rotates from year to year.  The parish hosting it this year is 11 miles away.  They hire a school bus to drive around and pick up the elementary-aged kids from the various parishes in the morning and drop them off in the afternoon (which gives homeschooled Simon the opportunity to ride a school bus and it means I don’t have to drive as far for drop-off/pick-up), but there’s no bus for the older kids.  Fortunately, our parish set up a carpool this year, which was a lifesaver for me.  It’s meant I’ve only had to make three trips a day instead of four to get kids to/from Totus Tuus and I’ve been able to get Simon and Clara to bed more or less on time (it’s still tricky to do bedtime for both of them by myself).  I’ve been busy, but I’ve been keeping up with everything so far.  Next week will be more relaxed and we’ll start getting into more of a summer mode, though we haven’t completely wrapped up our homeschool year yet.
  6.  Amina’s room is ready and waiting for her.  We brought over four paint color samples when we traveled for court and let her choose which color she wanted for her room.  The rest of it, we decided (keeping the existing carpet and curtains).IMG_9092 smallIMG_9098 smallIMG_9099 small
  7.  Sunday is the deadline to send in photos for the photo collage poster that I’m going to have made for Amina’s room.  If you’ve been meaning to participate in our Hearts for Valentine fundraiser and haven’t gotten around to it, now is the time to act!

That is my 7 Quick Takes post for this week.  You can find other bloggers’ 7 Quick Takes here:



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I’m sorry I didn’t get a 7 Quick Takes post up on Friday.  With being busy and being tired and fighting back the panic of knowing that in less than a week, our current version of “normal” will disappear forever, it’s been hard to find the time and energy to write.  If only I could dictate blog posts from inside my brain to a computer while changing diapers and making lunches, you’d get lots of posts, but since I am required to find the time to sit at a computer and type everything out, you get only a small fraction of what I compose in my head.

Realistically, I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up writing 7 Quick Takes.  Although they’re supposed to be quick, by the time I write seven of them, edit them all, and usually add some pictures, it actually takes up a good chunk of time.  I fully intend to keep blogging regularly, at least through the summer, but I think I may need to let go of the pressure of producing seven well-written takes with a weekly deadline.

We leave Friday morning.  “We?” you ask.  “I thought Don was going alone to pick up Noelle.”  That’s true.  However, you might recall that we live in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan, far from any major airports.  We flew out of Detroit on our first trip to Noelle’s country because it was the cheapest of the airports near Don’s parents’ house (we left Simon and Clara with them).  Chicago was the cheapest airport to fly out of for our second trip, when my mom came here to stay with our kids.  This time, flying from Toronto is significantly less expensive.  So we are going on a family road trip to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where Don will board a plane on Saturday morning to fly to Toronto, from where he will fly across the Atlantic Ocean.  Then I get the joy of a five-hour drive back home with three kids.

I’ll be holding down the fort myself for three weeks or so until all the paperwork is done and Don and Noelle come home.  We’ve already decided that, no matter the cost, they will fly into Chicago so that they can fly to the small airport near our house (Chicago is the only place they fly to/from).  That way, Noelle won’t be subjected to a long car ride to get home after all her plane travel.

The first week that Don is gone, the boys will be going to Totus Tuus (basically, the Catholic version of vacation Bible school).  If you think that will give me a nice break, you are sadly mistaken.  They are in two different age groups–the elementary-school-aged kids go during the day, and the middle- and high-school-aged kids go in the evening.  That means four round trips daily to drop off and pick up kids.  It was challenging last year, when Don was here to help.  Now I get to do it all by myself.  Woo-hoo!

Besides Totus Tuus, we still have homeschooling to keep us busy.  This adoption disrupted our schedule so much that we aren’t ready to wrap up for the year yet.  I’m planning to go until the end of June, or when Noelle comes home, whichever happens first.

Noelle had her last day of school on Wednesday, May 30th.  I’m sure she is now very anxious for Don to come, since she doesn’t have school to distract her anymore.

One final piece of news–I got an amazing surprise on Thursday when the woman who runs the local “Mom Prom” contacted me and asked if she could meet me sometime that day.  They gave us another grant, for $3500!!!  I couldn’t believe it!  That will help enormously with the travel costs for this final trip.

God is good.  I’ve heard so many stories of families beginning the international adoption process without the necessary funds and how the money came when they needed it.  Still, it’s hard to have the faith to start such an arduous journey when you can’t see a clear path ahead of you all the way to the end.  Back when I started feeling a strong urge to pursue adoption again, in December 2016, I prayed and told God that if He really wanted us to adopt internationally, we would need His help to pay for it.  He has definitely come through.  This has not been an easy process, but I’ve never doubted that it’s what God wanted us to do.  He has helped us make it this far, and I trust Him to see this through.

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Okay, so I wrote all of the following and then went to link up and realized that 7 Quick Takes isn’t happening this week because of Memorial Day.  Oh, well.  You, my dear reader, get a list of seven supposedly-quick takes anyhow.  Enjoy!

  1.  Last week, Kelly Mantoan mentioned me on her blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum.  That makes me almost-sort-of-a-little-bit famous!  Of course, it was the week that I decided to skip writing a 7 Quick Takes post because I was still recovering from jet lag (I was sleeping through the night by then, but hadn’t slept past 6 am yet, and I wasn’t getting to bed early enough to make up for my early rising times).  The thought crossed my mind that I should put together a welcome post for visitors to my blog who found me through her blog, but tiredness-induced laziness struck, along with rationalizing that it was already the end of the day by the time I realized my sort-of fame and so I had probably already missed much of the possible great onslaught of visitors.  Anyhow, if you’re new here, the best quick summary of our adoption story is probably to be found on our Reece’s Rainbow page.  If you’re interested in orphan hosting specifically, you can read about our experience last summer in my series of orphan hosting reports (I apologize for the fact that some of the previews are messed up, but you’ll get the right text when you click the links).
  2.  I’ve been tired of telling our story lately.  I went to the dentist last week and the dental hygienist, who cleaned Valentine’s teeth when he was here, asked about him.  I just didn’t feel like telling the story all over again about how we tried to adopt him and it didn’t work out and who we’re adopting now.  Since the weather has finally warmed up and we’ve emerged from hibernating for the winter, we’ve caught up with our next-door and across-the-street neighbors whom we haven’t talked with in months and who haven’t been following our story on social media, so we had to update them also.  Fortunately, by now, most people we interact with reasonably often know what is going on.  It’s helpful to blog and to share info with friends and family on Facebook; we only have to write something once and many people can read it, so we’re not repeating ourselves as often.  I’ve been making a point to share our story, both because I was inspired by reading many adoption blogs over the years before we started our own journey and in the hopes that it might help our fundraising efforts by giving people a greater feeling of connection with our story, but it does take a lot of time and effort to write and it can be tricky to find the right balance between sharing and maintaining privacy.
  3.  We (mostly Don) have been working hard on Noelle’s room.  We brought four paint color samples for her to choose from on our last trip and she chose pink.  Now the trim in her room is freshly painted white, the walls of her room are pink, and the closet doors, the inside of the bedroom door, and the doors to a storage closet in her room are painted a brown that the paint company recommended as an accent color (the carpet is a brown berber, so we figured that brown would work).  Although we have an unoccupied twin bed in Clara’s room, we needed a dresser for Noelle.  When researching dressers, Don talked himself into ordering a bedroom set, with a bed, dresser, and bedside table.  They’re not top-of-the-line or anything, but they all match, which is more than you could say of the furniture in any of the other kids’ rooms.  Plus the woman at the furniture store gave him a pink lamp when he went to pick up the bedroom set and he told her about Noelle.  I’ll post pictures once we get the room done–we’re waiting on wall decals and haven’t bought bedding yet.
  4.  Our Hearts for Valentine fundraiser will be ending soon so that I can get the photo collage poster for Noelle’s room printed and hung in her room before she comes home.  The deadline for sending me your picture to include is Sunday, June 17th!  If you miss the deadline or just don’t care about sending a photo, you can still make a US tax-deductible donation to our Reece’s Rainbow FSP account up until Don and Noelle come home.
  5.  We won’t know for sure when Don and Noelle will come home until just before it happens.  It depends on how long the paperwork takes, particularly getting Noelle’s passport.  (She has to travel with a passport from her native country because under US law, she won’t be a US citizen until she lands in the United States.)  Based on the recent experiences of other families, we’re expecting it to take 2-3 weeks.  Don starts the paper chase on June 12th, when he picks up the court decree and goes to get Noelle a new birth certificate listing us as her parents.  Thus we are expecting them home in late June or early July.
  6.  On to non-adoption-related matters…  Clara has started using two-word phrases.  These have included, “in pocket,” “pants off,” “shoe-shoes on,” and the endearing, “Daddy home!”
  7.  The weather here is rather ridiculous.  We still don’t have full leaves on all our trees; a week ago most trees had nothing more than buds.  Yet, it’s been in the 80’s (Fahrenheit, of course) for the past several days.  This heat feels foreign, like there’s some kind of mistake.  We had a late, cold spring and now we’re fast-forwarding to get to summer.  My brain isn’t quite ready for summer, especially because we’re behind in our home school year due to adoption-related disruption so we’ll be homeschooling pretty much until Noelle comes home.

And that’s my update for this week!  Thanks for reading.



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