Saturday, May 30, 2009

Not-so-great news

Yesterday was Emily's evaluation for her cleft palate surgery scheduled in June. She saw the surgeon, the ENT, the audiologist, the speech therapist, a psychologist, and a nurse (I think that was everyone!).

Most things look good. The speech therapist is thrilled with her interest in talking and her willingness to mimic expressions and sounds. She gave us a few ideas of things to work on at home and we're going to get a scrip from her pediatrician to start speech therapy as soon as possible (before the surgery). The psychologist said everything looks good and she doesn't see any reason not to have the surgery (they like kids who have been adopted to be moderately attached and comfortable with their new parents before they do surgery since the kids need so much comforting and are in so much pain afterward). The audiologists said mild to moderate hearing loss, but they didn't feel the test was very accurate. The ENT wants to put tubes in her ears for no good reason except that they put tubes in all of the cleft palate kids (not a reason I'm thrilled with, by the way).

Then there was the surgeon...

When I called and set up Emily's appointment with the cleft palate team, the nurse asked me if her cleft palate was "complete", meaning does it go all the way front to back. My response was no, it is closed in the back. She was a little confused since the palate closes in the womb front to back, so if a child has a cleft lip and palate it will be open completely, front to back. I thought I must have been confused or misunderstood what it would look like to be completely open.

No, I was right. It is closed in the back.

The surgeon believes that someone attempted to repair Emily's palate in the past. Something happened either during or after the surgery that removed the tissue that would have been used for her cleft palate repair. What he believes is most likely is that she developed necrosis of the tissue that had been used to close the palate. The tissue that was forming her new palate died and went away. What this means is that she does not have any tissue left that could be used to form a new palate as in a traditional cleft palate surgery.

Final verdict: At this point, Emily cannot have her palate closed in a traditional surgery. They are hoping to use her scheduled surgery date to put tubes in and take a look at her palate and explore the options. The options basically come down to this:

1) They can take a flap of tissue from the inside of her cheek. The surgeon has not had good luck with this in the past so we aren't very interested in this option. ;)

2) They can form a ceramic retainer that she would wear all of the time that would form a false palate for her. They don't usually give those to children as young as Emily since her mouth is still growing so quickly and it is hard to get the children to keep them in.

3) They can form a new palate using tissue from somewhere else in her body.

4) Our most likely option...They can cut a flap off of the back and center of her tongue. This flap would be sewn into place as her new palate but would remain attached to her tongue for several weeks until new blood vessels grew in the palate area. The flap would then be detached from her tongue and would form her new palate. Our surgeon has normally done this surgery on children much older than Emily (as in 12yo and up), but has recently returned from an international trip where he worked with doctors doing this surgery on children of all ages with very good success.

At this point we won't have any more information for closing Emily's palate until after her surgery at the end of June. We're hopeful that she will be able to have a normal palate some day!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I love having four kids

Honestly, I was a little apprehensive before the adoption. ;) Four is a lot (to me; no comments from those of you who have 8 or 12, 'kay? ;)), and I just didn't know if I'd be able to handle it--being a mom of four.

I love it.

I really, really do.

There are still a lot of challenges--language/communication being the biggest one--but it is so much fun to parent all four of them. Of course, it was not fun today when Dima threw two temper tantrums (which he hasn't done in months) and Emily threw a temper tantrum at bedtime. But hey, that's life as a parent, right? (Please say yes.)

We're still working on routines--figuring out who to get up in the morning first, who to put to bed first, etc. And we're doing 2+ hours of school every day which the boys definitely need and which Danielle and Emily will also benefit from. I'm still a little unsure what to do with Emily during this time. Today she worked on a wooden numbers puzzle. The pieces are large so it's good for her motor skills as well as the actual processing of how to position the pieces to get them into the spaces. Danielle is working on coloring, learning colors, and learning shapes. The boys are reviewing work from last year and continuing prep work for next year. Dima is really struggling with math so we're trying to decide the best way to help him learn. He's missing some key math skills so we need to back up and get him to the point that he can do the basics in order to get him to where he needs to be for next year.

Life is good. And if four is good, more would be even better, right? LOL

(Just kidding--I'm sure Mark will have a heart attack when he sees that sentence! ;))

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Right on target

I think 2 weeks is a good amount of time for a vacation. After about 2 weeks, I'm ready for home--familiar sights, smells, and sounds...familiar food...my own bed.

Unfortunately, our girls are not on vacation. I think the homesickness might have started in for Danielle today. Not so much that she's consciously aware of wanting to be back in Ukraine, and if you asked her, I think she would say that she wants to stay with us. But I think she's ready for the familiar. Soon, this will become the new familiar, but it will take a while and I know she's going to struggle for the next bit while she adjusts.

We didn't see so much of this with the boys--I think they really didn't miss very much about their former life and were pretty happy to transition into something new.

Thankfully (I think), Danielle's "tantrums" are pretty straightforward--she basically cries until she starts hyperventilating. This is much easier to manage than Dima's wailing fits which lasted hours and occurred 2-3 times a day for the first few months we were home. It was not pretty. I do think Danielle is happy here and wants to be here, so it shouldn't be too long before she's able to move past the homesickness, but we're probably going to be seeing some of this for the next few weeks or so I would guess.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A busy week

Tuesday night was kindergarten graduation. I'm not quite convinced of the necessity of kindergarten graduation, but it was fun and Dima had a good time.


Friday Zhenya's class led chapel as a sort of "graduation chapel" for their class.


And a discourse from the youngest member of the family. I can't wait until we can actually understand her--she has a lot to say (and great facial expressions to go with it)!

video

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Blame it on the cold

...or the Nyquil ;)

After I got a few comments regarding attachment, I asked Mark (without rereading the blog post) if I had said something about Danielle already being attached to us. Um, yes, apparently I did.

"Danielle is pretty firmly attached already and cries anytime she thinks we might be leaving her somewhere else (and also puts a death grip on our necks or whatever else she can get hold of)."

Sorry, not at all what I meant to say, nor what I believe is going on with Danielle. That fog of plugged sinuses apparently had me living several months in the future. :) :) In reality, Danielle is making great progress towards attaching with us, but it will be several months before I could even venture to say that she has solid attachment--maybe longer, depending on how things go. She is doing really well, but I would definitely only characterize her place right now as--at best--insecure attachment. After all, she's only been with us for 2 weeks, and part of that was still in Ukraine.

I apologize for not answering the questions about the girls' names earlier. We are currently calling them Danielle Bogdana and Emily Ivanna, and transitioning to Danielle and Emily. Danielle will already answer to just "Danielle" and if you ask her where Danielle is (in Russian) she points to herself and says "ya!" (me) with a big smile. Emily is slowly beginning to respond to her name, but she never responded to Ivanna (or Ivanka, which she was called more often) in the orphanage so we knew we'd have an uphill battle there. She's never been expected to communicate at all--she's been treated as a total mental invalid for the first 3 years of her life. Don't get me wrong--her orphanage and staff were great. But they never treated her like a normal child and her social skills (and life skills) have suffered tremendously as a result. She is now learning that communication--not temper tantrums--get you things you want and we are seeing marked improvement in her behavior and ability to communicate.

The question was asked as to why we changed the girls' names and not the boys. The boys' names were changed too--they are Alexander Dimitri and Timothy Evgeniy--but we continued calling them by their nicknames once we came home. In hindsight, I wish we had changed what we called them. I think it would have been especially good for Dima to put some of his past behind him. I'm hoping to talk to the boys some about it this summer and let them choose what they would like to be called, but at this point I think it will be strictly their choice.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Still here!

The end of the week got kind of busy, and now I've picked up Mark's cold and haven't felt much like posting. I still don't feel very good, but figured you might be wondering if we had driven our new van off of a highway or something and I better post. ;)

The girls had their first pediatrician appointment on Thursday and that went really well. I LOVE our new pediatrician! She is great and will be a great resource for us. She's actually never had a patient with cleft palate before and is excited to follow the process and learn with us. She was very impressed that we had already set up Emily's TEAM meeting and surgery.

On Friday I contacted the cerebral palsy (CP) department at Children's Hospital for Danielle but the woman I needed to speak with was out of the office. I left our information with someone else and they are supposed to be getting back with me. The process to be evaluated sounded very complicated over the phone so I'm hoping it's easier (and faster) than it sounds.

The boys are slowly adjusting to having their sisters here. We've been having some behavior issues from both boys that were happening before the girls came home that we're still dealing with. A good portion of that is coming because it's the end of the school year and their routines at school have been tossed in the trash. Every day is different and our boys really need routine to function well (as do most kids). The increase in behavior problems has been with their whole classes, not just the boys, but then those behaviors tend to spill over into home life which just doesn't work. We're trying to be as consistent as possible and weather this last week of school. Then they're home with me all day, which will be a rude awakening I think. ;)

Danielle is picking up English pretty quickly, and we're using lots of signs with Emily. She is picking up a lot and has several she does without prompting. She's got a good head on her shoulders but she's never been expected to communicate so we are starting from scratch with actual give-and-take communication. Emily is also our indiscriminately affectionate one and will go to anyone who will pick her up. Please don't be offended if we ask you not to pick her up or even touch her--we've got to establish some clear boundaries and bonding for her before she can spend time with anyone else. At this point, she still does not know that I am mama--if you ask her where mama is she will go looking all over the house, even if she started in the same room as me, and she will not identify me as mama. She is very affectionate with me and loves to be held by me, she just doesn't realize I'm any different than any other person. This is not unexpected and will just take some time for her to learn. She has been in the orphanage since birth and has never experienced a mama before.

Danielle is pretty firmly attached already and cries anytime she thinks we might be leaving her somewhere else (and also puts a death grip on our necks or whatever else she can get hold of). Both girls are starting to sleep better at night and we usually only have one of the other waking up once at night. Emily is doing okay with potty training, although we're still working on getting her to tell us when she needs to go. She does go in the toilet if she is placed there, so we're just working a lot on the communication aspect.

The dogs like Danielle's therapy stretches

Not all 6 of us, but it takes one of us to work the camera and the other to get all of the kids looking at it ;)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Our newest acquisition

If you've been reading our blog for awhile, you'll know we've been searching for a new vehicle for our family. In fact, we came home as a family of 6 and didn't have a vehicle that we could all legally ride in.

We've really been van searching for months but we hesitated to make a big purchase knowing we might need the funds for the adoption. We had hoped to find a van while we were back after court but didn't find the right one. We had found a used Toyota Sienna 8-passenger (for the 6 of us plus two grandparents, friends, etc.) that we both liked, but it just didn't sit well with me for some reason.

With all of the searching came a lot of discussion. What kind of car did we really need and/or want? What would we be using it for? Should we settle for something that will meet our needs now or plan for the future (not knowing what that might hold)? Along the way we came to a decision.

Eight is not enough.

And while I never in my entire life would have anticipated it, I am now the co-owner of a Ford Econoline 350 12-passenger van. We bought it today. It was beyond a great deal. Only one year old and a program car (meaning it was used by a dealership as a shuttle car or rental), still under factory warranty, and thousands of dollars cheaper than we were going to be able to get the Sienna for. It meets all of our qualifications minus the blue dashboard. It's sitting in front of our house and I just keep looking at Mark and saying "I can't believe we bought a 12-passenger van." Don't get me wrong--I have no regrets. I don't know how God plans to use this vehicle, but I am so excited about the possibilities.

Without further ado, here it is:

If you and a few (or more!) of your friends need a ride, let us know. ;)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Life is fun

I got a lecture today from Zhenya about making sure I put "cream" on his cupcakes for his summer birthday at school. I usually do a really good job about not laughing about the boys when they strike me as humorous, but he was so serious and adamant about the "cream" (known to most of us as frosting) that I couldn't help myself. I think he was a little confused as to why I was laughing. But the following conversation (with his very serious face) made me laugh:

M: Why do you need cream on your cupcakes?
Z: Because it's a birthday!
M: What is it if there's no cream?
Z (pondering): Well...it's not a birthday.

Emily has a new best friend:

video

My four little monkeys (in a cage):

Sunday, May 10, 2009

We made it!

Both home and through the first 24 hours or so of being a family of 6! LOL

The flights home went really well. The girls did pretty good on the flights, although Emily spent about 3 hours crying on the flight from Frankfurt to Chicago. She was supposed to be resting and had no real desire to do that. She didn't seem to be disturbing any of the other passengers so we pretty much let it go. By the final flight to St Louis, both of the girls were getting pretty loopy. Not too surprising since they had been up for 20 hours!

Waiting at the Kyiv airport
Waiting at the Frankfurt airport

The newest US citizens in our house (check out their cute bows!)



My mom and the boys picked us up at the St Louis airport. We got the girls home and the biggest problem was getting the boys to leave them alone! We fed the girls a small dinner then put them to bed. Bedtime actually went pretty well, all things considered. The past few nights with the girls they had been doing a lot of rocking side to side. We had been hesitant to try to correct this because it is common for children who have been institutionalized to do these types of self-stimulation/self-comfort behaviors, but this didn't seem to be the type of rocking that I had read about and seemed to be more designed to keep them awake. So our first night home, when the girls started rocking, I went in and told them no. When it continued, Danielle was disciplined and then a little later Emily--twice. Not only did the rocking stop, but tonight when they went to bed Danielle did not rock at all and Emily stopped after one verbal reminder. I think my hunch was right that this is not a subconcious behavior. We'll see how it plays out as things go on. I don't want to expect them to change behaviors that they literally cannot, but I also don't want to allow them to continue behaviors that they can change. We're just playing it by ear right now to see what they need.

Today we went to the playground twice and the girls had a really good day. We had a couple of meltdowns but very mild compared to the boys' after we brought them home. I seem to remember that the boys' tantrums increased in intensity after a little while home as they started testing more boundaries and that may be the case with the girls too. All of the kids have been playing together really well which is great.

We'll be staying pretty close to home and not entertaining any visitors for the first month or so home just to help solidify our relationship with the girls, in particular Emily. That girl would gladly go to anyone who would pick her up--not because she's searching for a new mom but because she loves to be held! We're encouraging her to do a lot of walking. Both of the girls have very low muscle tone and need a lot of exercise and play.

Tomorrow I will be calling the pediatrician and hopefully we will be able to get in this week or next to get things started. We've already scheduled Emily's team meeting (end of May) and cleft palate surgery (end of June) and we need to get a jump on Danielle's strabismus (crossed/lazy eye). We don't think her strabismus is too severe but I think it may be giving her problems with her depth perception, which also increases her difficulty with walking. One thing at a time, right? :)

Oh, for Mother's Day one of my presents from Mark was the movie "Cheaper by the Dozen." I asked him if that was a hint... ;)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Clearing up confusion

There have been several people that have asked about the girls' names so I wanted to clarify.

The girls' given Ukrainian names are Bogdana and Ivanna.

The girls have never been called or named Dana and Eve. Dana and Eve were nicknames given to the girls by Reece's Rainbow to protect their privacy.

As we did with the boys, we gave them new first names (Danielle and Emily) and kept their Ukrainian names as their middle names, so we have Danielle Bogdana and Emily Ivanna.

Now, if you really want the nitty-gritty on our family and keeping everybody straight, check this out...

Our boys are alphabetical all around--no matter what name you use...Alexander Dimitri (Dima) and Timothy Evgeniy (Zhenya). Dima is older and comes first alphabetically. He is also blonde versus Zhenya's brunette (again, alphabetical).

Our girls are also alphabetical all around no matter what name you use...Danielle Bogdana (Dana on RR) and Emily Ivanna (Eve on RR). Danielle is older and comes first alphabetically. She is also blonde versus Emily's brunette (again, alphabetical). Not only that, but their diagnoses are also alphabetical--cerebral palsy for Danielle and cleft palate for Emily.

Just trying to make things easy for you all. ;)

Adoption costs for the girls' adoption

We started the process for the girls in September 2008 and brought them home in May 2009. Because we did not need to update many documents as our process went so quickly, that helped cut down on our costs a lot compared to the boys' adoption. Here is a breakdown of our costs:
  • Homestudy--$1000
  • Passport renewal ($75 ea)--$150
  • I-600A--$830
  • Marriage license--$55
  • MO background checks--$66
  • Medicals--$48
  • Apostilles--$100
  • Shipping dossier to UA--$28
  • Facilitator fee--$10500
  • Travel to/from Ukraine #1--$4000
  • Lodging in Kyiv #1--$360
  • Travel to/from region #1--$250
  • Lodging in region #1--$475
  • Travel to/from Ukraine #2--$2315
  • Travel to/from region #2--$120
  • Lodging in region #2--$105
  • Lodging in Kyiv #2--$210
  • Girls' medicals--$220
  • Girls' visas--$800
  • Girls' flights--$1170
Obviously the list does not include food while in Ukraine or other souvenirs (although we really didn't buy much!).

Friday, May 08, 2009

Last post from Kyiv

A few pics of our last few days here:

Leaving the orphanageIn Independence Square:





Kyiv in bloom! (we've never seen it this way before)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Change in plans

Alternative title: "I Am A Big, Fat Liar"

Wednesday was the great paperwork chase. And that it was. We started out at 7:30am and we literally went either 0 km/hour or 200 km/hour (yes, that would be 124 mph) all day. And I do mean LITERALLY.

We survived. :) :)

The most interesting event of the day was being told at 7:30 in the morning that there was a chance we might be able to get the girls' passports in one day. Um, what?? As the day went on, it went from being a small chance to 30% to "if we're lucky" to 80% to "here are your passports; we're picking up the girls and going back to Kyiv tonight. Go pack."

Yeah, it hit us probably about like it just hit you. So as I'm typing this--from KYIV--we are completely done with our adoption process except for picking up the girls' visas, which will happen tomorrow morning at 9am. We have already changed our flights and will be leaving on Saturday morning at 5:30am on Lufthansa. We'll be home Saturday night. Can you believe it? Neither can we, and we're living it. ;)

Our time with the girls has been good. Danielle is already very attached. She's been waiting for a mama and papa for a long time and she gets concerned anytime one of us goes somewhere without everybody (into another building, out of the apartment, etc.). Emily is behaving pretty much as I expected. She was the pet of her groupa, and anytime she cried they gave her a cookie or a toy or whatever she wanted to get her to stop. Let's just say she's not receiving the same treatment now. ;) We had a long episode this afternoon that lasted for a couple of hours and was not pretty. Lots of self-stimulation behaviors--hand-flapping, hitting herself in the head--and just general disdain for doing what I wanted her to do (which was put her slippers on). Funny thing though, I asked her if she wanted to put her slippers on or go to sleep (neither of which she answered) and she continued with her behavior. As soon as I started to get her sleeping pallet out, she reached out and took hold of one of her slippers and put it on. ;)

Emily was pretty much an angel the rest of the evening and had lots of hugs and kisses for me before bedtime. She was not happy about having a bath but I bathed the girls together and she had decided it was okay by the end. Danielle is pretty self-sufficient in the bathtub--she does better than our boys do! They both had a hard time falling asleep tonight which is not a surprise. They are so over-stimulated just from all of the changes of the past few days. It took our boys a few months to really settle into a good sleep pattern, and I'm sure the girls will have a similar adjustment to make.

We are thrilled to be coming home so early; I had really anticipated that if we needed to change our flights it would be to extend our trip. We've got internet in our apartment in Kyiv now so I should be able to blog over the next couple of days. Sorry for the lack of pictures--we haven't had time to take any!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

First day back


We visited the girls twice today. They were thrilled to see us and Emily was none too happy about going back to her room after the first visit. I think she thought we were there to take her out for good. Not yet, but hopefully soon.

Unfortunately, we were not able to do any paperwork today. The main person that we needed to get started on everything was out of the office today. Completely understandable, as they just had a 4-day weekend. I probably would have extended it too! But it did cause us to lose a day. Mark and I picked up our court decrees on the way to the orphanage this afternoon to help speed things up tomorrow, and we're starting at 7am tomorrow on the great paper chase (mainly birth certificates and passports). Please pray that we are able to get both completed quickly and without incident. The region we are in does not do one day passports so we know we will have a few days' wait on those. But it would be great to get them by the end of the week.

So today, we walked 9.4+ miles, ordered pizza correctly (and without mayo), and ordered desserts at a place we'd never been to (Winnie the Pooh, Mom). I watched a lot of dubbed TV (90210 and Melrose Place, anyone?) while Mark took a long nap this afternoon. Tomorrow will be mostly sitting in the car so it was good we walked so much today.

Okay, so if you get carsick DON'T watch this video. This was taken on our drive to Khmelnitsky yesterday. But I have good news--they repaired one of the streets in Khmelnitsky today! They scraped off and then relaid all new asphalt. It is beautiful and super smooth. Anyone heading this way, be sure to stop by the courthouse to check out the new road. I took pictures. ;)



video


Monday, May 04, 2009

We're here! (again ;))

Updates on the last three days:

Saturday: Mark had a base ball game so I left the boys with him and ran a few errands. I picked up a few things we needed for the trip and went to work to finish some things I didn't finish on Friday but needed done before I was gone on FMLA. My mom came up that evening and we all stayed up way too late. Between doing laundry and overwhelming my mom with information it was a very short night. ;) Thankfully we didn't have to get up too early. I also spent several hours on the phone with AT&T, who still hadn't connected our internet. Grrr...

Sunday: Mom and the boys drove Mark and I to the airport at 8am. The boys did great with us leaving (at least the part we saw). Mark and I made it to Chicago without any problems, although we had to wait to board our plane while they fixed a broken overhead bin. We had about a 3 hour layover in Chicago, and we still almost missed our plane! We were sitting next to our gate but at the next gate over. We were checked in, had our boarding passes, and had actually already gotten new boarding passes as they had switched our seats. We were waiting and waiting and waiting...I knew they were supposed to start boarding at 3:15 (for our 3:45 flight), so at 3:25 I looked up and noticed that the large crowds of people were gone from our gate. Just then we heard:

"Final boarding call for Lufthansa flight ... to Frankfurt"

Aahhh!! We jumped up and ran over to the gate and made it on just in time. There was no one else in line when we went through--everyone else had already boarded (although a couple of people did get on after us). How we missed all of the previous boarding calls is beyond me. I'm just thankful we heard the last one!

The flight was good although neither of us slept much. There were a lot of kids on the flights; 2 of whom were seated on either side of us in the four middle seats. They both did great but Mark and I spent most of the flight watching movies instead of sleeping. We haven't been to the theatre in awhile so it was a great "date." We watched "Last Chance Harvey" and "Inkheart", both of which I enjoyed (Mark enjoyed "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" on the previous flights more ;)).

Monday: We arrived in Frankfurt for another 3 hour layover (except we arrived early so it was longer). We didn't have to take a bus to our terminal which was nice. We hung out in the McDonalds until our flight had a gate assignment then headed to the gate. We did get bussed out to our plane for the flight to Kyiv. The last leg was good and both of us slept. I woke up long enough to eat a few bites of "breakfast" and then went right back to sleep.

When we arrived in Kyiv, we went through immigration and customs without any problems and were thrilled to see Nikolai waiting for us on the other side of the glass doors. He took us to a spot where we met up with a guy to drive us to Khmelnitsky. We slept pretty much the entire 4 hour car ride as well (except when I was taking pictures of random scenery while playing with the camera settings). We're in the hotel now and Mark's thrilled since we have a room with a balcony overlooking the soccer stadium. ;) We've already been to the market to pick up the essentials--chocolate, Nutella, cheese, and Sprite.

Oh, and our home internet is fixed! Yay! While we can't enjoy it yet, it will make things a little nicer for my mom while she's home all day by herself. :)

We'll be going to see the girls first thing tomorrow morning! :) :)

Friday, May 01, 2009

Supported on all sides

One of the things that many parents who are adopting kids with special needs struggle with is lack of support from friends and family. Sometimes it's not intentional, but people asking questions like "Why would you want to do that?" or commenting "Glad it's you and not me." don't help support a family as they are in the process of bringing their children home.

Thankfully, we have never encountered any comments or questions like that although I know of many other adopting families who have. We have had nothing but support from all of our family and friends, which I am so grateful for. And thank you that even if you do not support us that you haven't said anything to our faces. ;)

But today I received one of the sweetest notes of support from a co-worker and I wanted to share it with you. I hope she doesn't mind since I didn't ask permission, but I'm not sharing any names. :)

"Courtney-
My whole family has been praying for the girls and the rest of your family. D picked out these clothes for the girls. He especially liked the watermelon skirt! :) We have been using this as an opportunity to teach him about families and how they are all different, but the important thing about families is the love in them. He is understanding this more every day and often asks about "Mommy's friend from work who is going to get her babies." I hope the next phase goes smoothly for you all! God bless!"

This simple note of encouragement brought me to tears and is such a great reminder of how many, many people we have praying for and supporting us.

Thank you to all of you who are such an encouragement to us and to other adoptive families. It is a big, scary journey at times and it's so nice to have the love and friendship that you share with us.

We leave in 2 days to bring the girls HOME!! :) :) :)