We are adopting two adorable girls who have a little something extra, Down Syndrome!
We are excited to add them to our family.
We will use this blog to update family and friends on our adoption progress and fundraising efforts.
Just joining us? Click on the 2011 posts in the archive to find out why we are adopting the girls.

Family Update!

Oh my goodness how the girls have changed!  They have been through so much in such a short time.  Here is the cliff notes version:

*Did a whole BUNCH of medical tests.  Discovered the her medicals from Russia were 100% bogus.  She does not have hydrocephalus, she does not have a heart defect, she is not current on her immunizations.  Also they said her eye sight was normal and we discovered she is legally blind.  They also said her hearing was normal but she has moderate hearing loss in one ear.  Basically threw them away because nothing on the Russian medicals were right!

*Discovered she had sleep apnea and was aspirating fluids.  Got her tonsils and adenoids removed and it solved both problems.

*She had chronic ear infections and so we put tubes in her ears.  It seems to have worked.

*She had surgery on her eyes and now she can see!

*She is now standing, cruising furniture, eating like a champ and loves to dance.

*She adores her family and we LOVE her!

*We had almost no medical history on her so there wasn't much to be wrong.

*Did an echocardiogram to discover that she had a massive AV canal in her heart that was repaired in Russia.  So grateful they did that!!

*Discovered she had sleep apnea so we also had her tonsils and adenoids removed.  Solved the problem!

*She had tubes put in her ears for chronic ear infections.  Not sure how well they will work as she has another ear infection right now :(.

*Had a ton of medical testing done and she is basically healthy!

*She has learned soooooooooooo much since coming home.  She knows a ton of English and American Sign Language.  She has learned the family rules and is such a good girl.

*She has bonded to her family, loves living on a farm and her family thinks she is absolutely adorable.

New Pics!

The girls are doing soooooooo great!  What a massive blessing they are to our family!  Look how much they have changed in just 2 months!

Our big beautiful crazy family of love!

Airport Pictures!!

My fabulous sister-in-law Jennifer came to the airport in the middle of the night to greet us.  She took these fabulous homecoming pictures!!


Fun Pics of Novosibirsk

I just had to share these fun pics of Novosibirsk.

This little fence in the park next to Lenin Square surrounds a small fountain in the warmer months.  If you can't tell, click on the pic to make it bigger, it is covered in locks.  Couples when they get married place a lock on the fence and then throw away the key representing their commitment to eachother. :)
In Novosibirsk, they do not shovel any of the sidewalks, parking lots or anything but the streets.  So strollers are impossible.  Instead you find these all over town.  Parents pull their children in sleds!  There are a wide variety of pull or push sleds just like there are a wide variety of strollers here.  Super fun way to get around town.

This was our room this time at the Sibir.  We decided to upgrade to the 2 room suite since we would have the girls with us.  It was soooooooooooooo much nicer then their tiny rooms and we got a great deal on it.  It was very cute and having the extra space was a life-saver!

What A Forever Family Looks Like!

All together at last!!



My cute girls on CNN!  We were interviewed in Moscow. 


Day 7: Flying home (cont)

The flight home was LONG.  The girls did great (better then the moms).  There is nothing more exhausting then 15 hours on a plane!

Day 7: Homeward bound!

We made it through Russian immigration!  We have sailed through every obstacle!  We have angels at our side.  Even little things have fallen into place. 

For example, at the airport, the girls both had bad diarrhea and before we even got on our flight, we had gone through all the baby wipes.  We still had hours and hours to go with no baby wipes!  What were we to do?  The out of the blue, a little old lady who does not speak any English suddenly handed Melinda a package of baby wipes.  How did she know?  Why did she have baby wipes?  Obviously she was an angel on earth.  We have had lots of these angels (both seen and unseen) on our journey.  Thank you to all of them!  Thank you to those who prayed for us, contributed financially, helped put on fundraisers, spread the word about our girls, and more!  We very literally could not have done this adoption alone.  Impossible.  But with God and His angels, ANYTHING is possible.  You have been part of a miracle!  And there are two little girls who are ORPHANS NO MORE!!

A special thank you to the Reeces Rainbow family! www.reecesrainbow.org  Without them we would have never found our girls.  Without them we would have never had the funds to adopt them.  Without them, we would not have had the courage, support and knowlege to complete this journey.  Thank you!

A special thank you to WACAP, our adoption agency www.wacap.org.  They are putting special needs orphans first and creating families and miracles every day!

And most of all thank you to those who supported our adoption and were encouraging to us.  We had so many people be discouraging and try to tear us down.  It is because of the love and support of dear friends and family members who believed in us that we were able to follow the Lord's call and adopt these divine girls!

They are HUGE blessings in our lives. They have the most amazing personalities and are such adorable additions! We cannot imagine our family without them now.  As a good friend once said, children with Down Syndrome are the sprinkles on the cupcake of life.

Day 6: Embassy Appointment

Unfortunately, I didn't take any pics today.  We spent most of the day in the embassy and they take your camera from you as you enter.  But what an AMAZING day it was!  When we got through embassy security we found ourselves in a room with 12 other adoptive families.  We had all made it!  We were also told that 5 had made it the day before.  It was such a happy celebatory group!  We congratulated each other and hugged each other's children.  We all traveled on a wing and a prayer, not knowing if we would be able to get our children due to the adoption ban.  And we did!  We did it!  Even though most were discouraging and telling us not to travel, we did it!  Even the US Ambassador was shocked and told us that they did not think any of us would make it that far.  Sadly, many did not.  We were also told that several families were stuck in their regions unable to get the necessary paperwork. 

The embassy staff was wonderful and the US Ambassador took time to speak with each family.  They handled the sudden influx of family with efficiency and compassion. 

It was so nice to be in a room with Americans again.  So nice to be in a place of joy!

We only have one step left now, Russian immigration.  If we can make it through that, we will be home free.

Day 5: Moscow!

Our agency took all of our adoption paperwork to the embassy.  We will be having our embassy appointment tomorrow to recieve US visas for the girls.  So we had a day to kill in Moscow!  We decided to be tourists and go to Red Square.  It was a blizzard outside, but we didn't want to waste the opportunity.  I mean, how often are you in Moscow??

We dressed the girls all warm and snuggly.  That was exhausting for Hallie and she promptly fell asleep ;).

But it was soooooooooooooo cold!  Between the below zero weather, the wind and the snow I can honestly say that I have never been so cold.  We decided that it was not only too much for the girls but too much for the moms as well.  We got our obligatory pic in front of Basil Cathedral during a strange sudden calm in the snow and headed back for the hotel, all of us with frost bite on our faces.  So much for being tourists in Moscow!  At least our driver drove around for a bit so we could see the amazing buildings.


Just cute pic!

Just wanted to add this cute pic of Alisa newly bathed in Novosibirsk.  So nice to wash off the orphanage stinky!

Day 4: Flying to Moscow

We packed up the girls, all the stuff and headed to the airport.  We were super happy to make it to the next step!

We ran into some difficulty as they had no record of Hallie on the flight.  It took an hour to work it out, but we eventually did and had just enough time to change poopy diapers and make it onto the plane.
Hallie slept through the entire flight.  Alisa was very good but made a HUGE mess with her dinner!  I wish I could have left the cleaning staff a big tip.  The flight was long but was good and we made it to our hotel.
If anyone wants suggestions for a hotel in Moscow, I HIGHLY recommend the Rennaissance Monarch Center Marriot.  We got to stay there for free due to my Marriot points.  It is LUXURY!  It was also attached to mall so we did not have to go out into the bitter cold to go shopping.  The mall had a grocery store and pharmacy (major plus!).  And it is COLD so that is a big bonus.  It is also relatively close to Red Square and the Embassy and a short drive from the airport.  Perfect location.
It was 11:30 pm by the time we got to the hotel.  But the day was not over!  The doctor from the embassy came to do the girl's medicals at MIDNIGHT.  What service!  He diagnosed Alisa scabies (as we suspected--poor thing is COVERED in itchy spots) and wrote us a script.  Note: he will only take rubles (9,000!!) so make sure you have lots on hand. 

Day 3: From Bliss to Despair to Bliss

We woke today with terrible, horrible, no good news.  Several families have had their passports rejected, have not been given their adoption decrees as promised, and one family even had the officials try to take her child back that she already had custody of.  Our facilitator told us not to answer the door, she was afraid that officials may show up for the girls.  We became TERRIFIED.  I couldn't stop crying and worrying.  Would we get our passports today?  Would government officials come and take my girls?  I could not live through that!

The morning dragged at a snails pace.  I waited for the appointment in the afternoon to go get the girls' passports, unsure if they would even issue them.  It was the longest morning of my life.  I just kept hugging and kissing my girls terrified of what the future would bring.  We spent our time packing up our bags, half in anticipation of getting the passports and getting on our flight the next morning, half in anticipation of having to leave quickly with the girls and go into hiding.  I was soooooo scared!

Then the time left to go to the passport office. I left Melinda and the girls at the hotel (it has been sooooooooo helpful to have Melinda here, there is no way I could have done it on my own). My faciliator and I were both shaking with fear as to what we were going to be faced with.  We arrived and waited for our number to be called.  When it was, we went to the window and the official pulled out my girls' BEAUTIFUL passports.  I could have kissed her!  But instead, we acted naturally like we were never worried at all.  We left the passport office with the most precious documents on earth.  No problems at all!

We celebrated that night with desserts.  We were going to be ok!!

Day 2: Picking up the girls!! (Part 3)

FINALLY!!  My girls were together at last.  SISTERS!! 

Day 2: Picking up the girls!! (part 2)

I left Melinda and Alisa at the hotel and left for Hallie's orphanage.  A great day just got better.  Hallie's orphanage is not far from the hotel (maybe 3 miles) but due to the horrible Russian traffic it took us 40 minutes. 

I had brought a slinky on my first trip to Hallie's orphanage and on my 2nd trip they request that I bring more as they had loved them but had searched all of Russia and could not find them.  So on this trip I brought 150 slinkies.  They were so excited!  I also brought gifts and cakes but Hallie's orphanage seems to be more used to adoptions, so there were not parties and celebrations.  Just sign these papers and you may take her! 

One really touching moment was the orphanage director took me to her office and showed me two pictures on her desk.  The first she said was of a little girl who was the first child from their orphanage to be adopted by Americans.  She told me how lovely she was doing in her family.  She was adopted in 1993.  Then she showed me a picture of Hallie on her desk and said that she was the last child to be adopted by Americans and she knows she will do lovely with us too.  This ban is NOT supported by those who actually love and care for these children.  They are just as devastated as us.  It was clear that the orphanage director was truly saddened by the state of things.

After, I was taken back to see Hallie and change her into her winter gear to leave.  She is such a squishable marshmallow that it actually really hard to dress her.  Then trying to carry her with snow gear on is nearly impossible!  But look how cute she looks.

Day 2: Picking up the Girls!! (part 1)

Today was the moment we have been waiting for, for over a year.  I tried so hard not to cry through the whole thing as I did not want to scare the girls!  I couldn't believe it was actually happening!  It all felt so surreal.  What a glorious day!

We went to Alisa's orphanage first.  The drive out to the orphanage was not bad at all, thank goodness!  I drove with two people who did not know how to get there, but I found my way just fine.  By trip 3, I have this place down! 

We had brought gifts for the orphanage, the walker donations and cakes to celebrate Alisa's freedom.  Her orphanage director had a tea party for Alisa to celebrate.  They were so excited to have their first (and sadly, maybe their last) adoption completed. 

Alisa left the orphanage with no hesitation.  She excitedly waived and yelled, "Pacca, pacca!" Which means bye, bye!  She took my hand and off we went, out into freedom, a family and a real life full of adventure, love and opportunity.  It was a powerful moment.  The start of our future together as a family.  In peace, she fell asleep in my arms on the long drive back to the hotel.  Peace in our hearts that we were finally together, never to be seperated again.

But as glorious as it felt, my heart was torn into pieces for the children left behind.  Knowing that they may never escape the prison of an institution for the rest of their lives.  Their only crime, being born with Down Syndrome. 
Especially difficult was visiting my friend's daughter while I was at the orphanage.  They let me love on her for a good half hour.  She is 5 but at best wears 2T clothing.  She needs her mother so desperately!  And this stupid ban has them seperated.  She is the most delightful little girl, so full of life and joy and yet she is so ill and neglected.  It breaks my heart.  Why are we so blessed to make it out, but others are not?  Please pray for these children!  Please pray that this ban is removed.  There is absolutely no future for the disabled orphan in Russia.  None.

Day 1 (evening)

Last night I spent the evening assembling walkers for Alisa orphanage.  We had them all taken apart so we could fit as many as possible in the lugguge.  We also had some adorable walker bags sewn by some amazing women in Melinda's Relief Society so the children could carry their supplies around with them.  Think about it, if you are holding onto a walker, you have no hands to hold anything else.  These generous women put these together for us during the crazy holiday season, angels on earth!

The orphanage was so grateful for these!  You should see the condition of the ones the children were using, truly sad.

I also spent the evening picking our my girls take home clothes.  An important ritual for all mothers.  I didn't sleep a wink, I was too excited to love on my babies!

Day 1 of Gotcha Trip

Today was our first day back in Novosibirsk.  Things went VERY WELL. Most importantly, we encountered no problems at the passport office and the girls' passports are supposed to be done Wed morning as previously planned!  We get to pick the girls tomorrow!!

My dear and wonderful friend Melinda is traveling with me this trip so that Kevin could stay home with the kids.  Today Melinda and I decided to brave the frigid air and take a stroll through town.  We stopped at a lovely cafe for lunch, went shopping in the tunnels under Lenin square (I bought presents for my kids if they are good! as well as a beautiful angora hat for me) and were delightfully surprised to discover that the park next to Lenin square was full of gorgeous and amazing ice scultures.  They were huge and truly works of art.

Traveling on a Wing and a Prayer

Our agency was able to pick up our completed adoption decree (the document that says we are the legal parents) today!!  This is HUGE.  Our adoption went into legal force on Dec 30th (two days before the ban).  So we are traveling on Saturday.  We pray that we are issued passports and exit visas to bring the girls home.  These are the only things now standing in our way and we need to be there to get them.