Monday, December 31, 2012

Gingerbread and Christmas Cakes

While we were away meeting Joseph, a very special family from our church was so thoughtful as to send a little gingerbread village set to our kids here at home.  We couldn't believe how sweet of a gesture that was!  Unfortunately, my mom was already pretty swamped with just watching over all the kids so it ended up being put up on a shelf till we got home. 

It worked out to be quite a blessing, though...when Dan and I got home and got incredibly sick, we really weren't feeling up for organizing any Christmas stuff with the kids so we were so thrilled to be able to take out the gingerbread set and have a fun activity for them all to do while Mom and Dad were feeling so ill.  It was perfect...thank you so much to that family...we are blessed by your friendship!

We also made our annual Christmas Cakes with the kids...usually we like to invite another family to join us in this tradition but with all the sickness going on we figured we better just make them ourselves this year.  Maybe now that we're feeling better we could make another batch during the Christmas season?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Feast of the Holy Family!

Happy Feast of the Holy Family!

Today is the day dedicated to celebrating the Holy Family...our family loves this feast day and it is so good to reflect on the relationship between Mary, Joseph and Jesus.  What an example to us in family life...

May your family be blessed today by the amazing example of the Most Holy Family!

Friday, December 28, 2012


We are not adopting from Rus*ia...but many, many families currently are...

To all those that are in the process of adopting from Rus*ia...and especially to the families that were just waiting their 30 day wait period after court to go pick up their children and bring them home...

Please know that we are heartbroken with you.  You and your adoptive child are in our prayers today and the days to come.

Praying that all christians will be storming heaven for you with prayers and that this anti-adoption bill can be overturned and you will be able to bring your child/children home where they belong.

I have no great words to say...we are just thankful for the Reece's Rainbow community and our hearts go out to those that are suffering from these recent political decisions.

Please know we'll be praying...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Some pics...

Christmas Day 2012

The kids working hard to smile and look nice for a picture for Mom...

A more accurate picture of what my kids look like...  :) least you can tell they're finally feeling better!

And another accurate picture...
No snow down here in the south...nope, its sunny and nice out for Christmas.  And of course I couldn't even get the chickens to clear the yard long enough for me to get a nice picture without them....aahh, farm life :)

The kids are standing with the creche scene that Dan made with all the kids last year.
He lights it up from behind at night and it's really quite beautiful.

And of course I can't post pictures of all my kids at Christmas without posting a little picture of Joseph, too... Here's one we haven't posted yet...

Merry Christmas!


Sorry things have been so quiet here the past week or so...normally this time of year is anything but quiet for us, since we are usually enjoying lots of wonderful traditions that our family has grown into over the years.  We love this time of year and the familiarity and comfort of doing these same things with the kids each year. 

But this Christmas Season has been quite different.  After the kids got sick, Dan and I ended up with some kind of flu that knocked everything out of both of us.  I don't think I've ever been so sick before...ever.   After such a long trip home, we just couldn't fight it off and we've spent the last week trying to survive.  We are finally starting to feel like ourselves again (thank goodness!) and have been trying to reclaim some of those traditions to get our family back on track during this Christmas Season.

As much as I love the traditions we've started with the kids, I am thankful that even if we didn't do a single would be ok.  Christmas is about Jesus.  Christ came to save the world and we are blessed...sickness and all, traditions or no traditions....we still have joy!

So, now that we're finally feeling better we're doing some of those special things with the kids and continuing to celebrate the birth of Our Lord.  I'm so thankful that its not just one day but an entire season!  I'll try to post pictures as I get a chance.

And whenever I get a quiet moment or two...when the kids are playing...I sneak off to the computer to watch a video of Joseph or look through some of our pictures of him.

 I miss him a lot and wish he were here with us already...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


After about 21 hours of traveling, we finally arrived home last night about 11pm.
Sadly, all but one of our kiddos at home is pretty sick...and some of our kids insisted on staying up to welcome us home even though everyone has been feeling so bad. we rally up the kids here at home and try our best to comfort them while they're sick.  Its been a rough week for them with Mom and Dad away.  Our littlest had an already belated birthday to celebrate today but he's just too sick to enjoy doing that today...hopefully tomorrow.

We're totally exhausted...and we miss Joseph terribly...but we're home and our kids here need us.

We hope to post more once the kids are back to their usual crazy selves :)

Thank you for all the was a difficult trip home and it was so good to know that people were praying for us.  Thank you, too, to those that are donating to our Reece's Rainbow fund...we are incredibly thankful.


Saturday, December 15, 2012


Our flight takes off in six hours...after a life-changing week for Dan and I, we now have to head back home to our other children.  We miss them a lot, of course, but we are not happy to be leaving.  Even though we haven't seen Joseph since Friday, we're still here.  We haven't left him.  But now we have to go. I think I'll probably have my little break down moment on the plane this afternoon as we fly out...I'm sure all the other passengers are going to get a little worried about the hugely pregnant american woman sobbing her eyes out in the aisle next to them... ;)

I am so appreciative for my dear friend, Michelle, who knows what this is like and will understand my heartache when we get very few people we know will truly understand this.  I am also so grateful for the few Mamas that are adopting from this area in Eastern Europe and who have commented and emailed throughout this process...its so nice to touch base with others that understand.

God has been teaching us so much throughout this process.  We are blessed beyond measure.

This is a great opportunity to be reminded that this is not about us.
I am so thankful to be living for Him and not for our own selfish desires in a world where people often seek their own comfort and happiness at the expense of doing God's will.

 My constant prayer...Not my will but Your will, Jesus.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Our last visit with Joseph

Today was our final visit with Joseph.  It's hard to believe that our visits are already done and that we will be here until Sunday afternoon and won't even be able to visit him while we're so close and still in his country.  The orphanage is even more under staffed on the weekends and does not allow visits during those times.  As much as we want to get home to our other children, it is going to be very hard to get on our plane on Sunday afternoon knowing that we leaving our little boy in another country for so long before we can come back for him.

We're looking forward to sending packages for him during the months that we are separated...our agency in-country and the staff at the orphanage said that they would make sure that Joseph gets whatever we send to him.  We're already trying to think of some really interactive toys that can be strapped to his crib rails...if our little guy is going to spend a lot of time in a crib, I need to at least try to send some things to help engage and stimulate him while he's in there.  At least it gives us something we can do for him while we wait.

We have had such a busy and full week.  There really is no way to put into words how thankful we are for the gift of becoming Joseph's parents.  He is really amazing and we know he will bless all those that are lucky enough to be around him.

We'll be posting about all the other experiences we had in Joseph's country this weekend and next week...we have lots of photos of his village, the city, a beautiful Cathedral and lots to share about the history and culture of his country.  It will be nice to get all that we've seen and learned about down in writing so we won't forget.

Thank you for all the prayers and financial support!  We appreciate every single prayer and donation.  Please continue to pray for Joseph while we are away as well as for safe travel for us as we head home Sunday and Monday.

Pictures from our last visit today...

We love you, Joseph.  We'll be back just as soon as we possibly can.

Dan and I with Joseph and our attendant Svetislava...we really enjoyed having her with us this week!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

another day with our little boy...

We had a very busy fourth visit today with Joseph...we had to meet with the director as well as take Joseph for his first taxi ride to get photos done that are necessary for the next step of our adoption process.  We were really worried he would get carsick but he did wonderfully...he sat on Daddy's lap the whole way and enjoyed looking out the window at everything and having the sun shining in on his face.  He even fell asleep on Dan on the taxi ride back to the orphanage :)

  We had been requesting all week to go see Joseph's living quarters...where he sleeps, eats, plays etc.  When you come to the orphanage, they always take you somewhere to play with your child.  They do not like you coming into the areas that the children live.  Today they finally decided to let us take a look at where Joseph really lives.  I wish I could say I was happier after having seen it, but I wasn't.  It broke my heart, actually.  I'm not sure what to say about it at this point. I am thankful that the workers allowed us in to see where he spends all his time but I am now longing for the day that he can come home and be free to roam and explore and play and develop in the ways we know he can if he's encouraged to do so.

We've had so much more going on and so much more we want to be able to blog about but its been hard to fit it all in. We really wanted this week to be focused on our experiences with Joseph.  We have so much more to share, but tomorrow is our last visit with Joseph and then there will be plenty of time to share everything else that we hoped to share here in this space.  This has been a wonderful trip in that we have fallen in love with our future son...but it has also been an incredibly challenging trip as well.  In fact, up until this afternoon, we had had our return flights canceled and had no way of getting home to the US.  It seems to finally be resolved, but it has been a constant strain while we have been here.  Not to mention the heat and power going out in the hotel and the inability to adequately communicate with our children at home.  Wow, its been quite a roller coaster.  But we refuse to let this get in the way of us spending time with Joseph.  We hope to blog more about these challenges and share how seriously we feel that God loves adoption and how very much the evil one hates it.  More on all of that later...

One thing we wanted to make sure we did today was to say a huge thank you to everyone that has been donating to our Reece's Rainbow is so wonderful to see that fund growing!!  We sincerely thank you for your help in bringing this amazing little boy home to our family.  We couldn't do it without your support.

And finally....the part you were probably waiting and videos of the little man :)

Joseph and his Baba

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our third visit...

Some pictures from our visit with Joseph today...I wish I had taken so many more but it was quite an emotional day for us with him.  We came to see him and the orphanage hadn't really prepared a place for us to visit so we kept bouncing from one waiting room or hallway to another.  We'd made some good progress with Joseph the day before but he seemed very distracted/overwhelmed/zoned out when we first arrived today.  After bouncing around from space to space we were finally able to return to the same room we had been in the day before.  Once we were able to really sit and hold Joseph and make some good eye contact with him, he focused right in and that amazing smile and laughter started right up.

He was back...and he did even better today than he had done yesterday.  This little boy is amazing and his ability to handle orphanage life and still "come back" from it and respond to us with such joy and love just amazes Dan and I.  The orphanage workers are kind and they do occasionally stop and say their little hellos to Joseph but there isn't a deep personal connection simply because there isn't enough time for them to do that.  They are very short staffed most of the fact, today there was one woman who was in charge of all that needed to be done around the entire orphanage.  When  he came to us today, he was in his own little world.  It was hard at first to get any eye contact from him.  He didn't respond to being touched.  He was there in body but not really present.

Then we got him one-on-one and really engaged with him and he completely came around.  And then some.  In the beginning of the week we were so surprised that he really didn't like being tickled.  He would recoil away when we tried to tickle him.  Today, after we got him back engaging with us, Dan had him wrestling on the floor, flying around like an airplane and tickling him so much that the sheer joy that was coming out of him brought us both to tears.  It was just such an amazing transformation.  By the end of our visit today, He was reaching out to be held and hugged by us.  He wanted to be held, squeezed and loved on more than anything else.

Dan and Joseph together today made me sob...I tried not to, but I just couldn't do anything but cry when I saw my amazing husband give this little orphan boy the kind of love that could take a vacant stare and turn it into more joy than I have ever seen in such a little boy.  I am blessed to be married to a man that would cross the ocean and give this kind of life changing love to someone he's never even met till this week.

We definitely love this little boy and it was heartbreaking to strap him back into his stroller today and watch him roll back down the hall.  He needed a diaper change...and this mama wanted to change him and make him more comfortable.  But I couldn't.  He needed to be held, not sat and rolled everywhere in a stroller because its more efficient...because as soon as he was strapped back in, he seemed to go vacant again...the smiling and laughing was gone and he was zoning back out into his own little world to comfort himself.  It hit both Dan and I today how little time we have left with him and how horrible it is going to be to wait 4-5 months to come back and bring him home.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Second visit & pictures of Joseph

We had a really great second visit with Joseph today.  Yesterday was great to finally meet him but today he really settled in with us from the moment we arrived.  Yesterday was more of him wiggling from toy to toy and today he enjoyed sitting with us, holding our hands in his and making a lot more eye contact.  It was just so much more relaxed today...Dan and I both felt so encouraged with how well he seems to have settled in with us.  What a blessing!  And he's not just playing...he's interacting and looking to us throughout the visit.  

We know that hand feeding is an important part of bonding with a child and we were so lucky when one of the workers from Joseph's groupa brought us his lunch and allowed us to feed him before we left for the day.
It was very nice of her and I think she did this because I had asked her some questions about how tiny he is now and about his weight...I think she was trying to let me see that he does eat.  She was very helpful and tried to answer any questions we had about Joseph's size and weight, what he eats, what he likes and dislikes etc.  She said he hasn't lost any weight...but I'm guessing he probably hasn't really gained any then since he's so tiny and thin.  Basically their meals are blended up potato and meat with a lot of water added to make it a thin soup.  He also had another thin soup with bread mushed up in it and a liquid blended apple drink.  It was good to see what he usually eats and I am definitely looking forward to getting him home and making him up some high calorie, nutrient-rich baby food until he is able to handle bigger foods.

Playing with the ball

We also had another worker stop in and talk with us a bit...he is kind of like a physical therapist but does not work with the kids as much as an actual PT would here at home.  I got the impression that he just tries to assess where each of the special needs kids are physically and then works to keep them progressing in their abilities.  He said that Joseph's progress physically tends to improve in a spurt and then plateau.  But eventually he gets it.  He said he's really working on proper crawling with him since he hasn't really mastered a proper crawl and he feels its important for his future development (and he's totally glad he's working with him on that!)

Some things we learned about Joseph today:
He has 9 kids in his groupa (group) and 5 of them have special needs. 
Only one other child in his groupa has Down Syndrome like him...we've learned that this is his little buddy and they seem to talk to each in their own little way.  They enjoy each other so much that when the workers move cribs around, they always put their cribs side by side so they can see each other and touch each others' hands.  My little boy has his own little buddy :)
He's not very picky about food...he likes most things, though he didn't seem to like the apple liquid at lunch and they said he absolutely hates the traditional tea they have here in his country and will cry if he know their going to try to make him drink it!
He has a baba...which is basically a grandmother program for kids in orphanages.  An older woman in the community is hired to come and spend time with a particular orphan and help to give them that personal interaction and love that orphans are greatly missing in orphanages.  It is amazing to know he actually has one...we really didn't expect him to have one and I'm hoping we'll bump into her again during a visit so we can ask her more about how often she gets to spend time with Joseph.  It sounds like the adoption agencies here try to help donate to this program for the kids that are listed for adoption so that they will have a better chance at developing and being able to integrate into a family if chosen for adoption.  
He does have one main self-soothing activity that he does, which is to rock back and forth quickly to zone out and calm himself down.  According to the worker in his groupa, he does not self harm, chew his hands, bang his head or any of the other self-soothing things he could do.  Basically he just we just try to engage him and help him to re-focus on us instead of the rocking.  Its usually pretty quick that we can get his attention and help him to re-engage.  
He loves holding your hands...he'll reach out to grab your hands just to play with them and hold them...and it will melt your heart.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Our first visit...

We met Joseph today! Unfortunately, we needed to have some official paperwork signed before being allowed to take pictures of him so we don't have any pictures from our visit today :(
We should be all set to take whatever pictures we'd like for the rest of the week so check back tomorrow for pictures of him! I promise we will post some :)

 Joseph is very, very sweet....that I can tell you!  He is very tiny...smaller than I expected him to be and he seems smaller than the pictures we have of him from 6 months ago.  He's three months away from turning 3 years old and I'm guessing he's probably about an 18 month size in clothing.  He had layers on so it was hard to tell, but his face was much thinner than what we've seen in pictures.  We tried feeding him a banana, but he wanted nothing to do with it.  Not a banana fan!  He also has the craziest cowlick in the front of his hair!

   We were amazed at how focused and interested he was in the toys we tried using with him.  We were kind of expecting him to have a very small attention span and maybe not be interested in toys, but he giggled and engaged with things and loved it when Dan mimicked the banging of the toys in the same way he was doing.  It was very sweet.  He didn't seem to want to be  held for the first half of the visit, which didn't surprise us, but I especially liked the second half when he settled down and snuggled up next to me a bit as he was getting more tired and more used to us being there.

With all the waiting and preparing to get here, I think Dan and I were just totally exhausted by the end of our visit...its just been a lot to take in and process.  We're looking forward to getting an early night's rest tonight and get back to seeing him tomorrow morning!

Here's a little bit of thoughts from Dan...

I'm so grateful for my wife and the opportunity have her with me when we finally met Joseph.  I was happy to see how he reacted to and played with us, given how we're complete strangers to him; while for us, this moment has been almost a year in the preparation.  I can see him as part of the family; how his sister will take to him, how his older brothers will deal with another mischievous little brother :).  I'm looking forward to the rest of this week, as challenging as it's been.  I'm grateful for the experience that God has set before us and I'm know His Grace abounds when we say yes, even when we are not sure what that yes fully entails.

Joseph's Orphanage.  Soviet era  building that was most likely originally some kind of hospital or medical facility re-purposed as an orphanage.

another outside shot of Joseph's orphanage
Picture from our hotel window of Joseph's town

Another picture from our hotel room

Saturday, December 8, 2012

We're here!

Just wanted to let everyone know that Dan and I finally arrived safely to Joseph's country this afternoon!  It was a really, really long trip but at least that part is over and now we can figure out how to make our way around in his country.  Our attendant (a hired person from our in-country agency doesn't arrive until tomorrow afternoon, so we're on our own until then.  Tomorrow morning will be busy since we need to get a taxi into the city to get to Mass, find a place to change our Euros into a more local currency, meet our attendant and also try to find a different hotel.  Our hotel is...well, not quite what we were we're hoping to switch to somewhere else.

So excited to finally visit the orphanage on Monday morning.  We will post pictures of the area and hopefully pictures from our visits as soon as we can!  Say a prayer that the orphanage lets us take pictures on Monday...getting permission to do that varies from orphanage to orphanage and we would be so upset if we couldn't take lots of pictures of him this week :)  

Dan and I on our 6 1/2 hr. layover in Washington, DC.

Waiting to take off on our flight to Vienna, Austria...

From the air flying over Vienna...lots of snow

A picture of our Euros to show the kids...

We are so thankful for all the prayers that people are offering for us and we're looking forward to sharing more of our journey this week.  Please keep the prayers coming!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Flying out in the morning...

   Its been a long day of settling my mom in and preparing our kids for our trip away.  It's really hard to leave them since they're not used to us ever going anywhere without them.  We're hoping that being able to skype with them every single day and planning some fun trips for them while we're away will help make the days go by faster for them.

Still scrambling around and preparing to leave early tomorrow morning.  Hoping to post some pictures of Joseph's country and the city's he's in sometime on Saturday.

Anyone notice what a big jump our Reece's Rainbow fund made?  We are so thankful!!  All the thanks go to our generous parish priest who so thoughtfully spoke about our adoption at church and also found us some donor money.  We are so grateful for his letting our church family know about our adoption and inviting them to help bring Joseph home.  We're hoping our Reece's Rainbow fund keeps growing!

Need to get ready to leave tomorrow...we'll post as soon as we can!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Preparing to meet Joseph...

Just a few more days till we head to Joseph's country!

My mom is coming to stay with the kids...this is going to be a lot of work for her so we're running around trying to get as much done and prepared for her as possible.  Lots of shopping, meal planning, cooking and freezing, list making, things for her to do with the kids...

And it's also Advent and soon after it will be Christmas.  Lots to do and prepare before we leave since Christmas will be soon upon us when we get back.  Normally I'd have a hard time managing this time of year just being pregnant like I am...nevermind adding an international trip to the mix!

Well, this is all God's work so He'll be sure to work out the details, right?

It's another great opportunity to put aside our own desires and plans and focus on something more important...obeying God's command to care for the weakest among us and do all we have to do to give this little boy a family.

I'll be checking in again soon...and we plan to try to post pictures and videos while we're in-country so our kids back home can see their little brother so check back regularly next week!