Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I promise we haven't fallen off the face of the earth.

You are probably aware that we have been BUSY.
Almost daily I think of things I want/need to blog and try to figure out when I will get a chance to do so. Time Management and I are still getting acquainted.

Having four children isn't necessarily that difficult. It's not hard to care for four children (sometimes seven if the neices and nephew are here), physically. Other than taking a few minutes to feed, dress, bathe, squeeze each of them, it's not that hard.

However... my brain is MAXED OUT on all the other stuff: TEIS (and cleaning the house for TEIS), Vanderbilt for AG and Cale, IEP meetings, painting cabinets, re-listing the house, egg hunts, church functions, and Easter baskets, Easter clothes, dance, recital, baseball sign-ups, cooking club, clothes swap, gym, birthday dinners, Thank You notes, work, taking photos, editing photos, Girl Scouts, major autism tantrums, recovering from major autism tantrums ... and that's our two weeks.

In the middle of all that, we have managed to squeeze in some really sweet moments :)

Anna Gray felt grass for the very first time. EVER.

I thought it would be sensory over-load, but she loved it!

She has learned to reach- usually for us (she even wraps her little chubby arms around our neck and gives kisses!). She hasn't quite developed her pincer grasp- she's using more of a sweep-n-scoop movement, but it often results in something sticking to her hand. She doesn't always know what to do with it when she has it, but she'll get there!

For extra practice, I gave her a spoon covered in brownie batter. If anything was going to inspire me to practice picking something up and taking it to my mouth, it would be a spoon covered in brownie batter!

I'm not sure she really put two-and-two together, but we sure had fun trying!

Almost every night, Cale asks for "Anna Gray time". I'm not sure which of them enjoys it more.

Here we all are (Layla took the picture) in our blue and yellow for World Down Syndrome Day on 3/21. I saw Anna Gray's picture on probably 100 FB profiles- you guys were spreading awareness How cool is that?!

Saturday, AG had her first Easter egg hunt. And by "hunt", I of course mean Olivia carried her around for a few minutes while AG screamed for a bottle and then we gave up, but not before sitting her on the ground with an egg in front of her for an obligatory picture... but more on that later ;)

She was grumpy the whole time we were at my grandmother's.

She was super tired from all the running around without a proper nap and I have just about decided she is not a fan of the whole pass-the-baby-around-to-a-bunch-of-people-she-doesn't-know-game. Who would be, right? But the second we got home, she was sweet as can be! Even though she was still hungry and tired, she was all smiles!

Her favorite way to sit (is it bad that I want to stunt her so she stays just like this forever and ever?):

She should be starting physical therapy in the next week or two, still not exactly sure what that's going to look like. She has appointments with the opthamologist and audiologist coming up as well. Pretty sure her vision is great and fairly confident in her hearing, but we will double check to be sure. She is starting to either recognize her name or our voices- I'm not sure which, but she looks up!

Again, thank you all so much for reading our story (or at least the very beginning of our story!). We have been home six weeks tomorrow and we have literally not gone ANYWHERE in public that we have not been recognized. Even several towns over in the most random places. I can't believe our little AG reached so many people!  We learned so much from this experience, and I'm so glad we decided to share it. That being said, I think it's about time that I swap back over to the family blog. There are still things I have been wanting to put over there, but I felt like I needed to update here first. I will continue to blog the ups and downs and all the fun of being us! We would love for you to continue to follow our story at Growing Wests :)

(Her daddy loves a girl in overalls!)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Quick update!

Things have been a *little* hectic this week between the last minute doctor visits and Spring break. I suppose this is my new life :)

Wanted to take just a sec to update you on all Anna Gray's appointments this week...

Thursday was a long day, as expected. We saw six different doctors, but it did go rather smoothly. I was preparing to be overwhelmed with the process an all the info thrown my way, but it really wasn't that bad! I think maybe because I had been thru basically the exact same thing with Cale. Actually, we even saw some of the same doctors that we see with him, which was nice.

Thursday mostly involved questions and a few "let's see what she can do" moments. She seems to be developmentally similar to a 5-6 month old; which, according to them, is typical for a 12 month old with DS. If so, that means she isn't any more delayed because she spent the first 364 days of her life in an orphanage. Either way, she's doing really well. She's made a lot of progress since coming home already and even more in the last few days :)

Together, we've decided right now to focus on building core strength, signing, and lots of oral goals (like drinking water from a cup- which she did last night for the first time!).

I missed a call (cough, or two, cough) from TEIS while we were in other appointments. They will send someone out soon to assess her and see what therapies they can offer her. We'll go from there...

Friday was cardiology. I really didn't know what to expect- they just said "consult". Within minutes, they had her stripped down and were sticking electrodes all over my screaming baby. From there into a dark room, where they mentioned they needed her to go to sleep. She had slept the whole hour drive out there, so that wasn't happening. She laid pretty still though and soon Dr.D came in to tell us both the EKG and echo were perfect! No more visits needed :)

She was a trooper thru it all! I was SO proud of her!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bits and pieces.

There is still a lot going on. Too much to determine what our new normal is going to look like. I keep waiting for the honeymoon to end. I am not intentionally trying to paint a rosey picture of what post-adoption life looks like. I'm grateful that it's been relatively painless for us, but I don't want you to think that either 1) it's always this easy or 2) I'm not being truly honest. I am.

I think a LOT has to do with the fact that AG is so young. Babies are so much more flexible. I'm sure a whole new life is confusing to her, but she isn't going to show that in the same way some of the older kids are. Also, again, her orphanage was so good to her. Having someone show her positive attention and LOVE, isn't that strange for her. I do think that's playing a huge role here.

Here are a few bits and pieces of her new life:

Sorry for the craptastic picture, but it was such a sweet moment! She started out sitting up, facing him. She was crying and crying and squirming and squirming (so tired!) and he would NOT let us take her. He just kept patting her back until she fell asleep and then held her for another 20 mins after that :)

Anna Gray went to the park for the first time! We're park people. It was a beautiful day and there was no way we were staying indoors! We had a picnic and played forever. I think she liked the swing? No strong reaction - again, SO tired- and then she fell asleep in the sling (that's SLING, not swing).

Apparently, she was fussing while I was in the shower so the kids brought her every stuffed animal they could find and then Layla recorded herself singing an "opera lullaby" on her DS and left it for her. It was very... um, pretty... and it played over and over and over until I got out lol :) It really was sweet of them though.

When we got home yesterday, there was a package on the backdoor from our sweet friends with a note that said "time to teach little sister who to root for!"

 Shirts for all four! GO VOLS!
Thank you D family, they love them!

One more thing:
I don't know what the grace period is on Thank You notes. Whatever it is, please double it ;)

Q & A

We have been asked a LOT of questions over these last few weeks. I tried to make a list, but I may have missed a few. These are a little all over the place, but I wanted to answer them the best I could.

What did you like most/least about Ukraine?
There wasn't really anything I didn't like about Ukraine specifically. It's just different! It is not an easy country to adopt from and there were definitely some frustrations throughout the process, but the country and the people were very interesting and I loved the experience over-all. Living in a foreign country and being there alone was tough. Really tough. But that would be true anywhere that I didn't speak the language and wasn't familiar with the customs, foods, etc. I will (do?) miss it. Ukraine is such a huge part of our life now. It's my daughter's country, so I hold it dear to my heart and feel sort of protective of it in a way.

What do you wish you had taken with you?
More food. More entertainment. Really. You need to pack as light as possible, you WILL be carrying *everything* you bring up and down a bajillion flights of stairs, every time you move (five times for me), on planes, on trains, in cars. You want to have a little as possible for those reasons. I took books and tons of movies, but still... there is SO much down time. And we went thru our snacks rather quickly. Lots of eat and run moments or sometimes you need something to hold you over for a while. Other than sweets and fruit, you can't buy many snacky items in the stores, in my experience. Granola bars, trail mix, etc really came in handy a few times and I wish we'd had more of it.

What did you take that you didn't need?
We took towels, linens, and a blanket- none of which we needed. There were plenty provided for us. I sent some of my clothes home with Nathan. It's not fun to wear the same 2-3 things over and over again, but it's worth it to have more room in your bag for all the "extras". We also took converters, extension cords, power strips, duct tape, zip ties, ziplock bags and other odds and ends and used EVERY one of them. Also, we only packed travel size toiletries to get us there, bought what we needed in country and then left it there. Toiletries take up too much space! I left a huge bag of stuff (mostly clothes) behind that I didn't need/have room for on the trip home. At that point, as long as AG and I got home, I didn't care about anything else. Even our coats stayed behind!

Are you involved in any kind of support group?
In a word, yes. I participate in several online forums for adoptive parents, parents who adopted from Ukraine, and parents who adopted thru Reece's Rainbow. We were also welcomed with open arms into a support group for parents of children with DS in middle TN. We have already met several of the other families in person (from one group or another) and have plans to meet many more in the near future. Already, these groups have been invaluable when it comes to asking our own questions and learning others' experiences.

What therapies does/will Anna Gray receive?
We have just started getting the ball rolling to figure out what specifically she would benefit from. Actually, there was a cancellation at the Down Syndrome Clinic at Vandy and we will be spending tomorrow there starting bright and early. While we are there, she will be seen by a geneticist, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, nutritionist, speech therapist, and behaviorist all in one day. It's gonna be a long one! And overwhelming, I'm sure. We will see how each initial assesment goes and go from there. Friday, she has her cardio consult. We are still waiting to hear back from TEIS (early intervention).

What were your total fees and were you fully-funded?
Our total fees ended up being about $22-23K and no, we were not fully funded.
We spent $7K of our own money up front. We fundraised our butts off , picked up extra shifts, and re-organized our budget to raise another $5K. We ended up getting a loan for the remaining $10K. THEN, while in country when we needed help getting home (and in gifts since then), you guys stepped up in a crazy loving way and provided another $4K+. We now only have a little more than $5K left to pay on our adoption loan. And let me just go on the record and say SHE'S WORTH IT!

How long did it take?
You can see the details on bottom right of the blog, but basically it was 7 months almost to the day from the day we officially committed to her to our appointment at the DAP. We were home exactly six weeks later :)

I know there are more and I plan to do a part 2. I need to get in bed so I can survive tomorrow, but please continue to send your questions. We don't mind answering them at all :)
Also, some fun posts coming soon :) I promise I'm trying to catch up! It turns out, having four kids doesn't leave a whole lot of extra time for blogging! Hang in there, friends!

Friday, March 9, 2012

First doctor appointment...

Shew. Gotta start somewhere, right?!

I took our favorite little buddy with me for extra hands.

 He was a dream, but his hands were busy taking 38 pictures of Dr.K (I counted.)  and 12 that all look like this:

He got a few others too :)

Basically, she's healthy.

18 lb 14 oz (not as much as we thought!) and 29" long.
That puts her in the 15th percentile on the typical chart but 90th percentile on the DS chart!

He gave us something to clear up her eyes and something for the reflux (we barely discussed it, but since she puked all over his room, he caught on pretty quickly). We are going to keep her on the Similac Sensitive for now- with a thickener- and then transition her to stage 2 formulas when her stomach stabilizes and she is able to get some vitamins and nutrients from more table foods.

The stressful part always comes in having ZERO medical history. The only thing we have is a shot record in cyrillic and we don't know for sure how accurate it is (The same doctor that told me she was walking and talking and eating vegetables, told me she was up-to-date on her vaccinations. She may be, we just don't know).

We were also given conflicting information about her heart. The orphanage doctor said no concern, her records say cardio myopathy (which could be anything, really). So... we are going to the cardiologist and an echo has been ordered so we can be sure.

We also have a referral for Tennessee Early Intervention Services (TEIS) and the Down Syndrome Clinic at Vanderbilt. The two combined will eventually provide the other services she needs: physical therapy, occupational therapy, and feeding/speech therapy as of right now.

Because she is so big (and a few other reasons), Dr.K felt we needed to check her for Hypothyroidism (common in people with DS).  He is also checking her blood count since leukemia is also prevelent in children with DS. Add those into the other lab work we needed to have a better picture of her health and previous treatment PLUS vaccinations that she most likely did not get in Ukraine PLUS what would normally be given at 12 mos. Poor baby was poked all over the place :(

Even worse, her tiny little veins and big chubby arms made it VERY difficult to draw blood. Over 20 minutes of digging with a needle in both arms. Even the nurses were getting upset having to torture this poor baby. It was just awful!

But they finally got out just enough to run the tests. Hopefully, we start getting all the phone calls necessary soon and get the ball rolling to make her the very best Anna Gray she can be :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Brynn (age 5) has been amazing with Anna Gray. She is very sweet and loving, there hasn't been any jealousy or anything negative. But it's very clear that Anna Gray's adoption has brought up a lot of feelings about her own.

We have always spoken very openly and casually to the twins about their adoption.  Brynn has asked several questions over the last couple of years and we have answered honestly and age-appropriately. (Cale- who falls somewhere on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum- rarely acknowledges that he is adopted and either doesn't know how he feels about it or hasn't shared.) It's not something we talk about ALL the time.  Our family may be made differently than some, but we are still just a family. It isn't a big part of our every day life.

Until Anna Gray got home.

Brynn has had a lot to say. I asked her specifically about AG's adoption and she said she loves having her baby sister home, even though she is kind of angry I was gone so long to get her. Understandable. She seems to understand where Anna Gray came from, about the orphanage, and why we adopted her.  She wants her in our family.  She says only good things about the baby being adopted, but nearly every day Brynn says something about wanting to be with her own birth family. She wants her whole family together (including us). She tells me she misses her birthmommy because she hasn't seen her since she was born. At first, she said she wanted to go live with her but now she says she just wants to see her for a minute or see her picture. She wants to tell her that she loves her. She gets jealous when we are out and see families, especially black families, where everyone looks the same.  She wants more brown skin, more hair like hers, someone else who has to be oiled and can wear beads.

Every time she talks to me about it, I tell her it's okay to feel that way. I would be sad too. I've never been adopted so I can't even pretend to imagine what she feels. But I can listen. I can hug her tight. I can allow her to feel whatever she wants to feel about it, good bad or ugly. We make sure she know's it's okay for her to ask the questions she needs to and whatever else she needs to express.

I am more and more grateful that she has built-in support in Cale. Having a twin means that not only is she not alone as an adoptee, but she is not alone in being a black child raised by white parents. In addition to her brother, we hang out with a lot of adoptive families and several of them are transracial. We use to have contact with two of her biological siblings who were adopted by the same family. Now that we are home and getting settled, we plan on reaching out to them again. Hopefully, all four kids will have the chance for a relationship. None of that replaces being with her biological family permanently, but hopefully in time, it will provide an extra place for her to share her feelings and gain a different perspective.

Please pray for our sweet girl. I don't want to wish away her feelings, she deserves to have them. I don't need it to be easier for me. I just need her heart to be comforted when she is sad or angry or confused. We need God to provide the right words to answer her questions. She is happy! She has made it very clear that she loves being in this family, but there are a lot of emotions that come with that... and that's okay :)

Meet Anna Gray Day!

What a day!  And it already feels like a million years ago.

The morning started out with some real drama.... what the heck was little girl going to wear for her big day?!

I ordered an outift that didn't arrive in time. I had another made that I thought was too big. I went on a wild goose chase to find something  appropriate flawless, but we ended up putting her in a smocked outfit we already had. It was sweet on her, but the outfit I had made ended up fitting her great and would have been perfect. Kicking myself!

All of that to explain why we were so late to our own party :)

Not the Big Party... but before the Big Party, we were having a small birthday celebration with just our family. Partly because her birthday didn't get celebrated in the traditional sense while in Ukraine, but partly so that they could each have a little time to meet her before the masses arrived.

We sang 'Happy Birthday' to Anna Gray and she had her first cupcake! She was SO tired, so we didn't know if she'd be up for trying...

One taste of pink lemonade icing and she was hooked!!

After the cupcake pics, I set my camera down to greet some friends. I didn't move for two hours. Literally. Thus... no pics of her meeting all of you :( If you took some, please share!

We finished up just as the next batch of guests started arriving and just as Anna Gray fell asleep.

She slept thru most of it, but around 130 people came to see her over a three hour period :)

It was obviously a long, exhausting day for her (and us), but it was nice to get it all done in one time and place.  We were so proud to introduce her to everyone who helped bring her home! And I was thrilled to see all my people again!

Thank you all for coming to see Anna Gray, for your welcome home hugs, and for making me bring less than 100 of my cupcakes back home with me!  Thank you to Deda, Ba, and Sasha for putting together a lovely party in honor of our sweet girl!

We traded around a couple kids for the night and got everyone home in one piece. Nathan, Leslie, and I waited until all the littles were fast asleep and then opened (and oohed and aahed!) over each gift with a glass of wine :)

It was SUCH a good day and we are so happy to be home to celebrate it!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

We're still here :)

I am being chastized (kidding) for disappearing so abruptly! It was not intentional, I assure you. Who knew we would be so busy when we got home!? Oh, right... everyone but me.

I have started this post three different times now and never get around to finishing it!  I think a lazy (mom of four who needs to cook dinner and has a ton of clothes to put away kind of lazy) Sunday evening may actually allow it.

Things are going great :)  She is *slightly* adored by everyone in this house.

I think Anna Gray and I are finally functioning on the same time zone as everyone else. Yesterday was Meet Anna Gray Day and we are all pooped (separate post on that coming at some point). (I mean the party, not poop).

We've had LOTS of firsts in the last week!
I had to get everyone dressed and out the door on time by myself for the first time.... CHAOS, but we were only 5 min late. Anna Gray had her first trip to Walmart ( should I be embarrassed that I just documented that?).

 Either Grocery-Grabber (Brynn) or Cart-Driver (Cale) actually got a pic while playing on my phone (it was also the first time I used her new cute diaper bag).

Welcome to Tennessee, little girl.

She had her first pancake (loved it). I went back to work for the first (and second) time. My first time to leave her, which means it was Nathan's first time with all four kids by himself. I may have gotten a "How do you do this?!" text. Or two.

AG met Oakley for the first time. Neither of them were too impressed.

She had her first (second, third, and fourth) walks around the neighborhood in the stroller, also a new favorite.

For Meet Anna Gray Day she had her first birthday party with her first cupcake and met most of her family/friends for the first time!

She also went to church for the first time today! We purposefully showed up late to miss some of the music. We were afraid it would be too loud for her. It wasn't, she danced the whole time. She babbled and raspberried her way thru the service with lots of snuggles from her church family afterward.

The plan is to post here until the newness has worn off and we are pretty well adjusted. Then I will start posting exclusively on our family blog. Feel free to continue following us!  I will leave this blog up so that it is available for those with interest or questions about adoption.

Speaking of... I have gotten lots of questions about all kinds of stuff! I am working on Q&A post now to answer them. If you have any questions about adoption, Ukraine, Down Syndrome, Anna Gray, our family, Reece's Rainbow - anything!- comment here, FB, or email me in the next few days and I will do my best to answer them in the upcoming post :)

Monday, February 27, 2012

What day is it?

Thank you all for the sweet congratulations! You continuously make me blush :)

And THANK YOU for understanding our need to hunker down for a while and establish attachment. It's such an important part of this process.
I remember a few days into our orphanage visits seeing the way she looked at me, thinking "She loves me! She knows I'm her mama!".  And then I saw her look at every other person who held her the same way. She's sweet as pie, but this little girl has no idea what a Mama and Daddy are. We have to teach her, to show her. In order to do that, we have start with the basics including holding her, feeding her, changing her, bathing her and minimizing confusion.

We're still baby-mooning!

I keep thinking the excitement will wear off or it will get harder at some point.
It's only been four days, but I'm still waiting....

Don't get me wrong, we are All-American sitcom over here.  Tripping over a toy while trying to make dinner and answer the phone while answering homework questions over a screaming baby. Just the way it's supposed to be!

So far, the hardest part has been adjusting to the time difference. AG and I have woken up between 3-4am every day, ready to party. The first couple of days, she mostly slept to get caught up. I didn't have that luxury of course, so I'm struggling to keep my eyes open by dinner time.

The last couple of days she's had MUCH longer periods of wakefulness and we sort of started easing our way into a schedule (maybe?).

She's eating great. She transitioned from Ukrainian formula to American Similac quite easily and hasn't had a problem with any of the bottles we're using (Still spitting up though...). She's eating mostly baby food, with a few other soft options (yogurt, applesauce, oatmeal) thrown in. She even had her first taste of ice cream last night! That's been the only thing that she didn't mind being cold (EVERYTHING else has to be warm or she is not happy!).

Update: She actually ate some bananas at room temperature this afternoon! That's a first :)

Layla is holding on tight to her "Best Big Sister Ever" title. She has to because Brynn is giving her a run for her money. Their roles have actually surprised me! When Layla is into it, she's all over Anna Gray. She coos and sings and kisses. But the rest of the time, she's doing her own thing. If AG starts crying when Layla is holding her, she'll typically offer to give her up.

Not Brynn. No matter who has her, Brynn constantly says, "Just give her to me." Screaming or not.  She wants to do everything for her! Brynn is our wild child, so I've been a little surprised by her desire to just sit and hold her. She has been so, so precious with her though.  She asked me why AG doesn't look like "us". I wasn't sure which "us" she meant, but she said none of us. A little bit like Sissy, but not. Before I could answer she said, "We are all different and God put us all together in a family! That's cool. I like that."  She also told me she wants to teach Annie to "feak Fanish like Dora" haha

We knew Cale would have the hardest time. He has a lot of anxiety about change.  But really, he's been awesome. The first full day, he barely left my side. He had a meltdown or two about being away from me (even chose to go run some :"boring" errands ALL day just to be with me). He got very upset about going to bed because he didn't want to leave me. But since then, he's been fine!  He loves to make Anna Gray laugh and he is so gentle and tender with her. He just stares at her.

They all do, really. If I'm feeding her, they all just stand around and watch. If she's playing on her mat, they all just stand around and watch. If she's getting dressed... they watch. They are in awe!

Nathan thinks she hung the moon. I mean it, he may actually believe that. He's worked all but one day since we got home and he wants to know every single thing she's doing :) I've gotten "send more pics!" every day lol. He's a GOOD daddy.

She's a perfect fit.

She just wiggled into our little family so easily. It doesn't feel overwhelming or any more busy. She's just here. Finally. Maybe God is giving us a little break after everything we just went thru!

I get a lot of messages about what we're doing/did.  I guess from the outside it looks like this huge thing, but for us it's very simple: God showed us our daughter and told us to go get her. That's it. She happened to be on the other side of the world and happened to have DS. It happened to take a lot of work and money to get there. But really... all WE did was bring our daughter home :) 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Homecoming pics!

My friend, Jordan, surprised me by asking her friend, Brittany, to photograph our homecoming :)
It was SO thoughtful of Jordan to do that for us and Brittany is insanely talented. 

The pictures are absolutely beautiful.
I love every detail.

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to B.Burkey Photography!
I showed the kids and thought they would all like the pictures of themselves... nope, their favorite is the one of Annie smiling :)  Such sweet babies.

One of my best friends (also an incredible talent)  also took pictures for us at the airport, so hopefully I will have more to share soon  :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

All's well that ends well!

"You're my baby sister! Yes, you are!"

Yesterday got off to a rough start and never got much better... until the end.

I can't remember the last time I didn't partake in Lent. Those 40 days are usually tough, but effective for my spiritual growth. I couldn't really get my head around it this year and was going to write it off. This morning I realized that my time IN country, not counting travel days, was exactly 40 days. Consider me tested. And grown.

I didn't sleep at all the night before. Niko was supposed to come at 2:45am. At 3:30am, I still hadn't heard from him.
Finally, my friend Kate called to say they would be there in 10 minutes. She had called and woken him up. We made it to the airport just an hour before our flight. He helped us getting our boarding passes and bags checked, put us on an elevator and wished us luck. We had no idea where to go. Figured it out, but I'm so glad we were together!
Security was fine. The lady at passport control tried to make things harder than they had to be, but we got through.
We had a 2 1/2 (?) hour flight to Frankfurt. I cried the entire time.

We were in Frankfurt for a couple of hours, giving the kids (and moms) some time to stretch out and burn some energy before the long flight ahead.
When we got on the plane, we were all separated (Kate had a friend there to help). Kind of by chance, they ended up moving the friend and Kate and her kids, and we all ended up together in one row with bulkhead seating (the greatest thing ever). Annie spent most of the flight in her bunk. I really wanted to get her out and hold her a few times, but she was happy so I left her.

When we started to take off and the screen showed the map of the plane and the little red dots leading to the U.S., I started sobbing. The flight attendant (who was AMAZING for us) looked at me so pitifully. I mouthed to her that I was excited!
Again, SO SO glad Kate and I were together.
The flight itself wasn't that bad. It's just that we had three kids who were exhausted and confused. They didn't know where they were, where they were going, or when it would be over. It was hard on us, of course it was hard on them.
We both cried off and on the whole flight. Or rather, I should say we ALL cried off and on the whole flight.

Not as much as we did when we landed in Chicago though!!  By the end of this flight, I was covered in tears. And formula, orange juice, water, snot, spit up, and some Indian food from an aluminum tray.
I held my breath thru customs and immigration (while carrying the extraordinary packet that made EVERYTHING official). It was a breeze and suddenly, I was holding the cutest little American citizen!!
 Chicago got a little complicated after that. Kate and I had to split ways quickly when she nearly missed her flight. I was still arguing with two different airlines over where my bags were being sent. I cried (again), just asked that they eventually send them to Nashville, gave up and headed to my gate. We waited two hours before finding out our flight was delayed and possibly cancelled. Guess what I did?

Initially, all the people standing around me thought I was nuts. Then they realized I was desperate and were trying to help in any way they could. At this point, we had been traveling for 24 hours. I hadn't slept in more than two days. Anna Gray was screaming. I was out of formula.  
I just wanted to go home.

There were four flights and enough people to fill four flights standing around the gate. When they *finally* said they were boarding for Nashville, the crowd parted like the red sea to get me on that plane. Not exaggerating even a little bit.
Once on the plane, they moved me three times for various reasons. Annie and I were both in tears. DONE. Absolutely done.
Once we took off, AG passed out. Hard. It was 2am in Ukraine. Her eye looked TERRIBLE and was clearly bothering her. She was sleepy, hungry, probably sore. Poor baby :(
I was an absolute zombie. I didn't move. I didn't speak. I didn't cry. I just stared.

The flight attendant put a bottle of wine in my backpack.

I thought I would sob when we started our descent. I didn't. I was numb.
But when that plane hit the ground "I did it! We did it!!" just sort of erupted out of me.

Again, the other passengers got me off the plane and brought my bags to me. I loaded up... baby on the front. Backpack on the back. Carry-on rolling behind. Blanket dripping off the side. I couldn't even see where I was going.

Next thing I know, there's a beautiful brown blur coming at me screaming "Annie! Annie!".
I think I collapsed.
I thought I was all dried up by now, but I cried. HARD.

I really don't remember much after that.

Thankfully, there were cameras everywhere to catch it so I can see it later. We were surrounded by family and friends, all of whom felt every emotion we did throughout the entire process. I touched all of them, I think. I even hugged a stranger.

My father in law tracked down my suitcase, which made it to Nashville afterall. We eventually trickled out of the airport covered in flowers and gifts and happy tears.
I know it sounds dramatic, but I could barely get myself out of the car when we got home. I hadn't slept in 2 1/2 days and every bit of me ached. It really felt like I had just run a marathon.

We got in bed around 11pm. We crashed. All SIX of us.
I was in the shower by 4am for no particular reason. Anna Gray got up around 5:30. Her eye looks much better this morning after some rest and a warm washcloth. God bless my sweet husband who drove to Starbucks to get me a coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Not long after he left for work, my big kids starting making their way out. I'd love it if he hadn't had to work today, but I'm really glad to get some alone time with them :)

They were so excited.  Everything was so chaotic when we arrived last night, they hadn't really gotten a chance to just sit and take her in (or her, them).  

Layla held her for a long time. She told me she would like to read the Bible to Anna Gray every night, starting with Genesis. "I want her to know where she really came from."
She can't wait to get to Luke, because it's her favorite.
When did my first baby get so big?!!?

Brynn was up next. As expected, she had AG (and me) laughing in no time! She is just "so way way way happy" to have her sister here. She thinks she's perfect and wants to teach her "everything I know... which is everything."

Cale got up and went strait to her. He rubbed her back and kissed her hand. I asked what he thought about having a baby here and he said, "It's kind of weird and kind of great." Not long after, it was "This is a rotten baby, put her in the bath!"  So we did! A 5 minute bath took 20 minutes with all the extra hands. Everyone wanted a turn brushing her hair and they all worked together to decide what comfy outfit she would like to wear.

She's asleep now. Cale has checked on her four times so far. He just touches her gently and comes back out.

Anna Gray seems to be adjusting well in these first hours. Eating, sleeping, playing, smiling.
My big kids have so much to tell me and I am soaking up every bit of it! I can't believe they changed so much in (the) six (longest) weeks (ever).

My heart is so full.

Four amazing children. The husband God made for me. Family and friends I couldn't live without.
Nothing else really matters.

**Separate post coming with homecoming pics!**

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day 41


Done with the paperwork. Done with the medical exam. Done with visa and passport. Done wearing three layers of clothes. Done with carbonated water. Done boiling water everytime I need to make a bottle. Done converting money and weight and distance. Done guessing what I'm eating. Done slipping on ice and dodging falling icicles. Done washing every dish by hand. Done hanging my clothes to dry. Done sitting in the shower bathing with one hand. Done with FB/blog being my only form of communication. Done squishing my baby into her snowsuit. Done wearing the same clothes over and over and over and over. Done watching Russian television. Done with converters. Done with no seatbelt. Done with a ton of stairs. Done entering a code to get into my courtyard, a security key to get in my building, and another key to unlock both of my doors. Done with wet boots. Done with hard mattresses. Done waiting.


It's DONE! We are free to leave the country :)

Obviously, it's been hard. SO hard. But I am going to miss it.
I'm going to miss these amazing buildings. I'm going to miss walking. I'm going to miss the underground. I'm going to miss the chocolate and the promodoro pizza. I'm going to miss the simplicity. I'm going to miss learning a new language. I'm going to miss my new friends.

I NEED to leave... so that I can miss it later.

I kind of can't believe it. I don't think I will until I am in the States (and thru customs/immigration... do NOT let anyone open the packet, do NOT let anyone open the packet).  I want to be home more than anything, but it's almost like I don't know how to not be here. I don't feel like a mom of four. I feel like a mom of three AND a mom of one. I do think it will be an easy transition, but I can't picture it at this point. It feels like a dream.

I think we are pretty well prepared for the trip home. I don't think it will be much different than the six hour train ride (except not miserably hot) or the eight hour day we had today and AG did great on both. I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to feed her, since hauling around loads of baby food just isn't practical for us like this. She did try several new foods today (yogurt, cabbage rolls, olives, tomatoes) and did great with them so I think we'll be okay.  I'm very excited that three families will be on the first flight together and even more excited that two of us will be on the second/long flight together!

We had one last celebratory dinner tonight.
Our last night.

Betrothed: Anna Gray and Cooper

Right now, I am purging our suitcases (they weren't kidding when they said you won't want to bring a lot of it back- coats, clothes, toiletries...trash! So not worth lugging around the world). Anna Gray is rolling around on the bed, stretching her legs and telling me stories of her grand adventures. She's pretty pumped for tomorrow. It's 9:30pm now and our ride to the airport is coming at 2:45am. We will arrive home 24 hours later. If you are coming to the airport to see us arrive, know in advance that we will not be fresh :)

We will not be fresh but we will be HOME!!

I am bringing home gray hair I didn't have when we started, some pretty substantial bags under my eyes, eyebrows that could pass for bangs and MY DAUGHTER.

We are praying for safe travel, smooth flights, and "no adventures", as the orphanage doctor wished us. We are also praying the pediatrician comes thru on eyes drops for little missy's eye infections sooner rather than later.

I want to say again...
Thank you. Each and every one of you. You have given your time, your talents, your prayers, your cares, your worries, your love, your money.... you are bringing us home. You are bringing HER home.

I'm going to steal something another RR friend wrote because she said it better than I could:

God is awesome. I love his people and what we look like when we follow him. Friends, this God-thing we are doing, well, it's not just for crazy people, or really nice people, or gifted people. We are none of those things. Not even crazy, though people do tell me that all the time. It's for GOD'S people. We are all called to follow him. That means he will totally change you, your plans, your family, your comfort, your wallet, your everything. And it's good. It's worth it- the only thing actually worth doing.
Don't waste your lives. Spend them totally and completely and you will not be sorry.

I have no illusions that the next time in our lives will be easy. We left easy when we said "I do". But, God will be there. Suffering is not to be feared, and is the place to find the purest joy. Because He is there.

I can't wait. I can't wait to see my kids. I'm CRAVING them. I need to feel them in my arms, I need to see their faces and hear their voices. I can't wait to see Anna Gray and her Daddy together again. I can't wait for her to learn her name. I can't wait to see new siblings bond. I can't wait to show her the world that she gets to be a part of now. I can't wait to see her live a LIFE. An unrestricted, promising, hopeful, celebrated LIFE.

Your mommy and your sister are coming!!!!!!!!