Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Christmas Card

I really wish I had more time to blog about our Christmas memories we created this year. We are very busy trying to get the Little Guy’s room completed and various other house projects done while I am off work this week. I did manage to upload some pictures to our family blog. I thought I would share the present with you that brought tears to my eyes on Christmas morning. There was a beautifully wrapped present with a card attached that read “Mama” on the outside. When I opened the card this is what I saw…. (you can click on the pictures to enlarge them – I colored out his name of course!)

I started to cry a bit – mainly tears of joy. Of course there was sadness that the Little Guy wasn’t there, but really I felt overwhelmed with how lucky we are to be chosen to be his parents.

Inside the wrapping was a framed picture that I can’t really describe but the caption reads “Faith doesn’t get us around adversity. It gets us through it.” And then underneath that is Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Such a perfect gift given to me on behalf of our Little Guy!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pass it on!

We are looking for pictures! If you can help us out we would greatly appreciate it. Also, please pass this post on to anyone else that you may know that would like to participate. We would like to put together some photo albums to deliver when we return to Vladivostok. Specifically we are looking for pictures of children who:

*Were adopted from Artem Baby Home
*Were adopted from Ussuriysk Baby Home
*Completed the adoption with Irina and Lana (CHI or World Links)

UPDATE: we are including pictures of children adopted from an baby home or orphanage in the Vlad region.

Our plan is to take a “That was Then – This is Now” album to our agency reps as well as the Artem and Ussuriysk baby homes. In addition, we thought we could combine the pictures and give one to the MOE. We believe that given how uncertain everything is with Russian adoptions, it couldn’t hurt to remind those involved of how blessed we all are by our children.

If you are interested in helping out, please email us a picture of your son/daughter before your adoption was final and a picture of him/her now. Please include the full name, date of your adoption, and the baby home he/she was from. Please make note also if Irina and Lana were part of your journey as well. We would like to have all of the pictures compiled by January 15, 2011.

We greatly appreciate any help you (or someone you know) can give us in making these projects come together. We truly believe that we need to keep reminding everyone that the trials and tribulations of the adoption process are completely worth it in the end!

Thank you again,

Justin and Heather Overstreet

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Blessings

We have so much to be grateful year around, but Christmas time is just a little extra special. We are geared up to celebrate the Jesus’ birthday, and my favorite thing about that is getting together with our families. We will be a little sad by the fact that Little Guy is not with us, but we will also rejoice knowing that we have met him and that he continues to grow in our hearts.

The to-do list remains long even though we have taken some things off the list (no Christmas cards will be sent; no baking and Christmas cookies delivered). But no matter what does or doesn’t get done on the list the one thing I am sure will happen is that we will have a great time with our family and celebrating the birth of Christ!

Merry Christmas to each of you!

(Here are the best Christmas presents a girl could ask for!)

Monday, December 20, 2010

The ticker…

I put the ticker at the top of the blog so that we could easily see how long it has been since we saw the Little Guy. I can’t decide if it is a good thing to see the days go by or not. On one hand, every day that goes by is a day closer to getting to hold him again. But with each day that goes by is another day that he has to forget our smell, our touch, our yummy treats, and our fun toys! We are using his name around our house all of the time now so it is hard for me to remember to call him Little Guy on the blog. I am not going to be surprised if I don’t slip one of these days. After school on Friday, Justin and I took the kids to finish up some shopping. We were in a department store having Brady try on a couple of pairs of jeans (the boy won’t stop growing!) and Madison and I found our way over to the infant/toddler section. We decided, given all of the measurements, that Little Guy is in 12 month clothing right now so we will buy 18 month items. The next thing I know all 5 of us are picking up various things saying “Ahhh look at how cute this is!” “He’s just gotta have this!” After looking at all of the items that were gathered, I came to my senses and told everyone that we could choose 3 things. We have several weeks to get through while we wait, and I have a feeling part of our therapy is going to be shopping for items for Little Guy. So after some negotiation we narrowed down our choices. I cannot wait for the first night we can cuddle with him in his new fuzzy jammies!

Just for a little sneak peak…take a look at that button nose and precious little hand. This is a tiny portion of one of my favorite pictures – the one that is my computer backdrop at work. He is so stinkin’ cute- even if I am a little biased!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When do you go back?

If I had a dollar for every time we have been asked that question in the past four days, I could get some more Christmas shopping done! It is very hard for people to understand (Justin and I included) how we can’t possibly know when we will return. We have to wait until we have a court date. We would love to be back in February. That would be the earliest we can expect. With Blake, we waited for four months and that was nearly impossible. Some people have been waiting for several months to return to court because their region is not back up and running from the April “return to sender” fiasco. And very sadly, I found out this week that a single lady who was waiting for court had her referral officially pulled by the MOE despite all of her efforts to be reunited with the little boy she had fallen in love with. So there are way too many variables to truly predict when we will return. I am doing my very best not to get my heart set on any one date.

We will send over a batch of documents next week so that they can be translated. That way when we have the medical and psychological information in January, over half of the papers will already be ready to submit. We will get blood drawn about two weeks before our doctor’s appointments so that the results will be back. I will have all of the forms on a flash drive so all the doctor has to do is type in the information and print it on their letterhead. I will also get a copy of the license that day. I have no intentions on leaving the office (after all I am sure we will have to pay for FIVE physicals) without our paperwork in hand.

Ok Justin is reminding me how many things we need to do and for some reason blogging doesn’t make the top of his list! Gotta go!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

We're Home and are working to get back ASAP

We made it home a little after midnight last night and finally went to sleep at about 2:30 a.m. It was so good to see Brady, Madison, and Blake and our bed! We got up and went to church this morning and about part way through the service Justin and I realized just how tired we really are.

When going through the mail, I found that we received both our state and FBI clearances in the mail so those will be good for another 6 months. We plan to get almost every piece of paperwork over to Russia for translation in the next couple of weeks. The doctors’ appointments are made for January. Their reports are only good for 3 months. Between the holidays and the wait for the database clearance letter to arrive from Moscow we think it is better to just wait a bit or else we would be paying for the medicals evaluations at least twice. We will be doing everything we can to get back to Russia ASAP and bring our little guy home!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

So hard to say Paka Paka (Bye-Bye)

Today’s visit started out the exact same as yesterday. Little Guy cried and cried. He would stop crying if I stood up and held him, but if I sat down at all he would cry. Eventually my back started to hurt so I decided it was time to show him who was boss :o) I sat on a bench by the window and he began to whimper. I let him whimper for awhile and finally he must have decided I wasn’t giving in. He pushed himself out of my lap and grabbed the little bowl of treats we had set out. From that moment on, we had such a great visit. He even showed us his sense of humor. Our visit lasted for about 2.5 hours. About two minutes before we had to leave he really warmed up and started to play with us instead of the toys. He would slide off a chair into my lap and smoosh his little face against mine. Then we discovered he loved to be lifted into the air. It was wonderful to play with him like this, but just as we were really enjoying ourselves we were told it was time for him to eat lunch and time for us to leave. We walked him back to his group and gave him two photobooks of our family and a stuffed bear. We left the other toys for the whole group to play with. I then bent down and said his Russian name and put my arms out. He came to me with the biggest smile and gave me a huge hug. At that moment I felt my heart starting to break. Then Justin did the same thing. He has taken a little longer to warm up to Justin since they never see any men around the baby home. Then he put a smile on his face again and gave Justin a goodbye hug. My heart could barely take it. The tears began to pool in my eyes so we turned to leave so that we didn’t upset him.

On one hand it is even harder to leave him than it was with Blake because we know how excruciating the next few months will be. Plus he is so little that we will miss out on many things that he will hopefully learn in that time. But on another hand because he is younger, we don’t think he fully understands that we will be his parents like Blake did. We felt by leaving Blake we were betraying him, and it is different this time. We can tell Little Guy is one of the favorite in his group and is well taken care of. We will have to take comfort in that as we wait to return on trip two.

God has answered so many prayers on this trip and I almost feel selfish asking for more of Him. I will be praying ever day for Little Guy’s well being and for a court date to come before his second birthday!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

December 8, 2010 – petition signed

Little Guy is not feeling well. His head and chest seem very congested. The visit today started out rough. He did not want to do anything. He just cried and cried. Various caregivers came in and tried to console him. What was sweet though was that he never once tried to go with the caregiver. He stayed right by my side. About 30 minutes into the visit he fell asleep in my arms. While I wish he was feeling better, it was so precious to have him laying his head on my chest and resting his tired little body. He stayed asleep for about 40 minutes or so until I had to stand up because it was time to go. When we returned him to his caregiver he started crying again. Poor thing! We gave the blankets to the director today. She seemed appreciative of them.

From the orphanage we headed to downtown Vladivostok to go to the notary. At the notary we signed the petition that states we would officially like to adopt the Little Guy. From there, we headed back to the hotel to thaw out our feet, have a late lunch, and take a nap. Justin is not feeling well either. He is feverish. But on a happy note, we celebrated tonight by partaking in our item that we gave up. In other words, I ate chocolate! This is the first time since March 21, 2010. I had my favorite Hershey’s Raspberry Bliss chocolate and then a couple bites of a chocolate temptation dessert. Yum!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Visit number 2

The 2+ hour drive to get to the baby home is grating on our nerves some. I think the biggest reason is that we (especially our feet) freeze the entire time. Justin says the cars aren’t insulated or undercoated or something like ours are. It took me hours after returning to the hotel to get the chill out of my body. I am sure by the time we return home we will be good and sick. Now I am done complaining!

Little Guy took more time to warm up to us today. It may have been because there were so many people in and out of the visiting room at first. He and Justin were trying to play while I spoke with the orphanage doctor through the interpreter of course. (We haven’t heard that he is allergic to red kiwi yet though –lol) He is not potty trained. So it looks like we are back to the diaper stage. YIKES! Then other caregivers walked in and out. The orphanage director, Tatiana, was in today and she came and spoke with us as well. As people came and went Little Guy was a bit agitated. It wasn’t until everyone left the three of us alone that he began to stop crying and settle in to play. Just like Blake, he has two favorite things. One is the little measuring tape that we brought. He loves to extend it and then push the button to watch it zip back in. And the second thing is the picture book we have brought to leave with him. It is so cute to watch him go through it over and over. Since he is so little it is just one of those squishy photo books which has 7 pictures I think. But the way he looks at those 7 pictures over and over is very endearing.

At the end of our visit, he is ready to return to his group. It is cute to see this little body walk so independently back to his room and knock on the door. Tatiana invited us in to see his group mates. We were told we could not take any pictures but that she would allow us in. We were very happy about this. Often times visitors are only allowed in the visiting room. Of course as soon as we walk in we see some of the most adorable faces staring back at us. But unlike in Blake’s group (he was a year older) none of them came and surrounded us. They just stared at us. Except there was one little girl who was closer than any of the others. She was an adorable little thing. She kind of looked like an Eskimo with gorgeous dark eyes and dark braids. She took to Justin right away. I so wish I could have taken some pictures. I wanted to watch the two of them interact, but I was drawn to watching Little Guy. It is obvious he is loved by the caregivers. He was so sweet to the other children too. He began to play ball with the caregiver who had a frail looking little girl on her lap. He seemed to be so sweet to the little girl. It was lunch time and we could see the meals on little plates ready to be served. It appeared to be mashed potatoes and stew of some sort and it seemed to be warmed up. It brings some relief to know that although the orphanage is struggling to have everything they need to take care of the children, they really seem to be doing their best with what they have.

Here are a few attempts to take some photos on the way to the baby home. I am taking them from the back seat and looking through the windshield since all of the side windows were frosted over!

We have seen a lot of this.

and a lot of this....

Self portraits

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Little Guy

It is 2:15 a.m. on Tuesday. Yesterday we woke up at 2:30 a.m. and were ready to start our day. The restaurant doesn’t open for breakfast until 7:30 so we were very thankful for the apple rings the Godard’s gave us! We left the hotel at 8:45 to head to downtown Vladivostok to go to the Ministry of Education. Traffic was bad as usual. When we arrived at the MOE, we met with Tatiana. She gave us a huge smile when we showed her a picture of Blake. She was kind to us, but told us to be prepared for court. We should expect several questions about finances in court because 4 children are a lot to raise. We were thankful for the advice and signed the book to go meet the little guy. We then headed back to the hotel and grabbed some soup for lunch with Irina and Lana. We had about an hour to wait before heading out because he wouldn’t get up from his nap until 3:00. Typically the drive to Baby Home 3 is 1.5 hours. The roads are very icy and so it took us 2.5 hours to get there and another 2.5 to get back. We finally arrived back at the Vlad Inn around 7 p.m. I was so tired from being up so early and the emotion of the day. We grabbed a quick dinner and then were off to bed.

Below is a two part entry. The first part was started before we left home. The second part is my reflection from yesterday.

Entry written before meeting the Little Guy

Back in August, before we were registered, we were sent pictures of an adorable little boy. At that time we were nervous about a few items in his medical evaluation and needed more information. We learned that we were not registered yet and couldn’t get more information. We basically set the thought aside that this might be our son and began the wait to get registered. When we blogged about that little boy in August, a blogger friend Liz (known in our house as sunflowerjax) left a comment on our blog stating that we should take comfort in praying for him because we may be the only people who have ever prayed for him specifically. I vowed to keep him in my prayers. I never really prayed that he would be OURS. I just prayed for his well being and for his future family. Over the past couple of months I have felt a twinge in my heart toward him. Then once we were registered I began to really get intentional with my prayer - that God would let us know in our hearts exactly what we were supposed to do. Our agency mentioned having another referral and I found myself thinking "but what about the little guy?". Then Justin and I thought we should make sure that before we went forward at all we should see if he was even still available for adoption. We sent an email to our agency at 11:00 at night asking if he was still available for us to meet. I then realized how disappointed I would be if we couldn't go meet him. The next day when we got the reply that he was still available. I was so relieved and excited. Because of those reactions, I knew that God intended for us to meet him. Let me tell you what, I love the boy that is in that picture and in my heart right now. I am praying that we don't meet a totally different little guy while we are there and that God will allow him to be the best fit for our family.

Entry on December 6, 2010 – meeting little guy

I am sick to my stomach over the thought of how close we were to not coming to meet the little guy. He is so precious, sweet, and smart! He is walking and saying words like give, take, and knock knock :o) He loved the Gerber Puff snacks and very quickly figured out how to open the container. He could hammer shapes in the holes of the toy work bench and track objects with his eyes. He reacted to sounds and even began to sing (in an infant sort of way) a song while he was playing. All of the things that we wanted to see if he was developmentally capable of doing, he completely blew us away and showed us that he was more than capable. Another fear we had was that even if he was cognitively ok that emotionally he would not be. Well guess what, he removed all of those fears as well. He cried when the caregiver left the room (good sign for attachment); he was nervous at first to play with us (knew we were odd!); he cried real tears; he laughed at the squeaky giraffe we brought; he smiled at himself in the mirror; he cried again when the caregiver passed through the room; he gave us big hugs at the end of our visit and waved paka paka (bye bye).
God is so good and we are thankful that He never allowed our fears to change the path He intended for us to take!

(For those new to this process, we won’t be able to share his photo or name until the court decree is final on trip number two.)

We do have one big problem though. Our hearts are going to break in half when we have to say goodbye to him on Thursday!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

We’ve arrived!

I really wish I were sleeping now as I feel a bit delirious from our travels. It is only 4:30 p.m. in Vlad though and Justin and I think we should at least try to wait until it is dark to go to sleep. I highly doubt I make it. If this entry skips all over consider it an indication of the effect jet lag is having on us.

To document our travels:

-We left for St. Louis on Thursday night at 9:00 p.m. and arrived at the hotel around 1:00 a.m.

-Flew out of St. Louis at 10:40 a.m. on a two hour flight to New York

-We had less than a two hour layover and then flew on a 10 hour flight from New York to Moscow. It was Saturday at 11:00 a.m. when we arrived.

-We had an 8 hour layover so we walked to a nearby hotel. You can rent a room for 6 hours. It was nice to get a shower, sleep for a bit, and there was free internet in the lobby so we were able to do a brief update on Facebook

-At 8:20 p.m. we flew on an 8 hour flight from Moscow to Vlad.

-We arrived in Vlad a little after noon on Sunday, December 5th.

It felt surprisingly comfortable to be checking to the Vlad Inn. Many of the same faces from two years ago are still here. We got to see one of our two favorite Russian faces today. It was so good to see Irina and catch up with each other a bit. We can’t wait to see Lana tomorrow.

We are very excited for tomorrow. At times the excitement is dampened with nerves and anxiety. We head out at 9 a.m. to see Tatiana at the Ministry of Education in downtown Vladivostok. She will give us permission to visit the little guy and we will be off to meet him. The roads are icy and there is more snow expected tomorrow so travel will be slow. We are not looking forward to that part at all.

We are grateful to be back in Russia and we feel God is still guiding the way for us. We miss Brady, Maddie, and Blake already, but we know they are in good hands.

Paka Paka

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Random thoughts

I have blogged about an interesting conversation with Blake on our private family blog. For those that have asked, we have been still blogging over there as time allows. Also a few months after our adoption is finalized we will end this blog and just keep blogging on the private one. I don’t mind sharing it with anyone that is interested in reading our day to day happenings (not sure it is that exciting). Just send me an email at and I will set it up for you.

I bet Justin and I could have made some money selling video of the two of us stuffing the blankets we plan to take in the Packmate our friend Jennifer let us borrow. If you don’t know what a Packmate is, it is like a package that you can vacuum seal without the vacuum. So we used the largest one and both of us were lying on top of it and smooshing the air out of it. We could only imagine what we must have looked like. It felt good to laugh.
Brady said to us the other night, “If this little guy is half as cool as Blake then he will be just fine.” I love that kid! He is getting so big and has a love for life like nothing I have never seen before.
Madison is excited but she is getting very emotional about us leaving. She and I cried at bedtime Monday night. She said she is happy for our family but she really wishes she could come with us. She wants us to take a netbook into the orphanage with us so she can see the little guy on the webcam. Oh, how I wish it were possible!

Blake is getting a little squirrelly with all of the excitement that is going on. He is so excited to have his Nana come and stay with him. And he can’t wait to be a big brother. Even though we have been telling him over and over, I don’t think he understands that we are not going to be bringing him home with us this trip. I think when we show up empty handed he is going to be very disappointed (of course we will be too)!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

We are ready…I think

Besides a few loose ends here and there, we are feeling surprisingly squared away. It is almost eerie though because we feel as if we are forgetting at least fifty things we are supposed to be doing or packing. I think I am more nervous than I realize though because physically I am not feeling well. Every time I eat anything I feel horrible afterward for at least an hour. While I appear to be calm and have it all together, my body knows that is not actually the case. Hopefully I won’t feel this way the entire time we are waiting to get back home from trip two. But if it is anything like the wait to bring Blake home, I think I may be in store for many upset stomachs and headaches. Thankfully I am surrounded in blessings that can at least temporarily keep me distracted.

Something that is cracking Justin and I up is the fact that both of us have mixed emotions about indulging in the ‘thing’ that we sacrificially gave up. As I blogged about here, I gave up chocolate on March 21 (a little over 8 months ago) as a way to remember to be in constant prayer about our adoption process. Justin and I agreed we would not have our ‘thing’ until we were in route to meet our referral. At times I have daydreamed about the first time I had chocolate again. Since we have been refraining for so long, it feels like we would be cheating or breaking a promise or giving in to temptation. So it will be interesting to see what my reintroduction with chocolate is going to be like. The hardest thing to resist right now are mocha flavored drinks or cocoas. I could live without an actual piece of chocolate, but chocolate flavored beverages seem to be calling my name. Ok, I need to be off to get a start on the day. I can’t give Blake, Madison, and Brady enough hugs. I am going to miss them so much!! Ohhh and Justin’s birthday is tomorrow! Such an exciting week for our family!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What does 21 months look like?

We are busy preparing to leave on Friday. Sometimes I find myself doing absolutely nothing because I am overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done. One way or the other everything will fall into place. I think Justin and I have both crossed the line of being cautious about allowing ourselves to get emotionally attached to the little face we keep looking at. If anything goes ‘wrong’ we will be heartbroken so we have decided to just embrace the joy we are feeling at this point. Honestly we were expecting to be referred an older child - perhaps a three year old boy. We are excited about the idea of a little one joining our family, but it does require us to shift our thinking a little bit. We keep asking “What does this look like?” Are we talking diapers? high chair? strollers? It is funny how quickly you forget what your children were doing at 18 months and two years. I would LOVE to be able to bring this little guy home with us after this first trip, but I guess we will have a lot to do to get ready for his arrival. Blake and Brady are excited. Madison was a little disappointed at first that it is a boy and not a girl. But when she heard how young he was she changed her mind and said, “I get to help take care of him the most!” Hopefully that enthusiasm will continue beyond our first week home with him. :o)

We are most thankful for our family that will watch the kids while we are away. And we are very appreciative for everyone that is praying for God’s guidance as we embark on this next leg of our journey!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Guarded heart or open the flood gates?

My mind won’t stop racing so I am having a hard time sleeping. I am hoping that blogging right now will help empty my mind a bit so I can get some sleep before our house is filled today with about 25 family members. It will be fun to have everyone here to enjoy Thanksgiving.

I want to write more about how our referral came about but it is best for us to wait until we return from the first trip to do so. I can say that this adorable guy is almost 21 months old and is living in Baby Home 3 in Ussuriysk. Blake was in Artem so we will be traveling a bit further each day and experiencing a new baby home.

I am really struggling right now with how much to allow my heart to soften. This is one of the downsides to reading blogs and having traveled down this road once before. Believe me when I tell you that I am already in love with the little guy whose picture is on my computer. No matter what happens he is going to have a place in my heart forever. I want to be joyous, thankful, and excited about that feeling. My heart and sometimes my head tells me to live in the moment and accept these overwhelming feelings of joy. But then there is my logical, cautious, subdued side of my head reminding me of everything that can go wrong and the excruciating wait that is ahead. Then I get annoyed with myself because I feel that shows a complete lack of faith in God’s plans for us. Ugh! Why do I have to think so much?!?! I want so bad to just put all my inhibitions aside and relish in the moment. I just can’t stop thinking of the families that have been a few days from traveling to meet their referral and something happens in which they are no longer allowed to go. Or even worse the people who traveled to meet their son or daughter and are not getting court dates in order to bring them home. Again one part of me says if it is God’s will it is going to happen, but I also know that there are people who interfere with God’s will all of the time and make this life much more difficult than it needs to be. And no matter what, even if everything goes smoothly, the process requires us to leave Russia without our child for a minimum of 2 months. I have been so excited and completely terrified to get to that part of our journey again. Of course it is a blessing but it is a very rough storm to weather as well.

I feel like this post is sounding negative on this Thanksgiving morning. Honestly there is very little negativity in my thoughts right now. Justin and I are amazed out how things have turned out so far. We are so excited to meet the little guy waiting for us in Baby Home 3. Brady, Madison, and Blake are so excited as well. My goal today is to stop stealing trouble from tomorrow and trust in God’s plan for our family.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One more thing to be thankful for! Could it be true?!?!

Guess what?!? We leave for Vladivostok, Russia on December 3rd to meet an adorable little boy. We are cautiously optimistic and feel very blessed with how quickly things have come together. We met Blake the first weekend in December in 2008 and are hoping for the same positive results. And just like last time, we are now in a frenzy trying to get all of the last minute details hammered out. I hope to update more when my head isn’t spinning in circles.

Praising God for his many blessings! Thank you all in advance for your prayers as we take this next huge leap of faith.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Inspired by a book - a splash of color.

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading a book entitled, A Boy from Baby House 10:  From the Nightmare of a Russian Orphanage to a New Life in America.  It was one of those books that changes you when you read it.  Early in the book I was thinking a lot about the lack of visual stimulation children have in some orphanages.  Even when toys are donated, often times children are not allowed to play with them because they will break them.  It was sad for me to read that the smallest change in a child’s surrounding would be of interest to them - perhaps an unraveling thread or a nail that had popped through a board.  I don’t feel like typing any more about the sad conditions.  I feel that the emotions are too raw right now for me to visit those thoughts again and again.  And we do know that many of the orphanages are well ran and do the best they can with the resources that they have available.   But I did want to share with you an inspiration that came from the book.  I asked my mom if she would make some blankets for me.  I looked for fleece that had color and patterns on it.  Justin and I will take these blankets on our first trip with us and donate them to the baby home.  I am hoping to not only to be able to donate them but I am going to ask if we could distribute them during one of our visits.  I figure it can’t hurt to ask.  If we could get them in a child’s hands for at least a day maybe it would bring a smile to their little face.

You can't get the full effect of the colors in these photographs, but you get the point.  On the ones my mom made, she used different stitching patterns as well for a little extra pizazz!

And while I am bragging about my mom, look at the sweater she crocheted for me! It is quite fashionable and I don't think it will be much longer and it will be cold enough to need this sweater.  Thanks mom, I love you!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

2 years ago - Nov 21

It was 2 years ago today that we received Blake's referral.  Rereading the blog entries from that weekend brings back a lot of memories.  We will be forever grateful that we trusted what God had put in our hearts and that we begun embraced the dark hair, dark eyed boy in the picture that changed our family forever - even with his crazy hair sticking up everywhere!

We are off to Justin's parents to celebrate Thanksgiving today.  We sure have a lot to be thankful for!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The good news trend continues!

We are registered!!!  Thank you Lord for the answered prayer!  We have no idea how soon we can expect a referral.  It could come as early as later on today or it could be months from now.  That is the great unknown.  But right now we are celebrating this huge milestone!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving soapbox

We now interrupt this regularly scheduled program with a public service announcement (or Heather’s time to complain because she is annoyed!):

Do not do retail shopping on Thanksgiving Day. It is ridiculous! I am appalled at the increasing number of retail stores that are opening up during the day on Thanksgiving. What is the point? Employees should be given time to be with their families. If they do not have family to get together with then they should have the day off to celebrate with friends. If they do not have friends to get together with then they should have the day off to be thankful for living in a country that has so many luxuries and freedoms. Is there a need for retail stores to be open? What can you possibly need from *-Mart on Thanksgiving Day that you couldn’t get the day before or at midnight when the stores open for Black Friday sales? We have really lost sight of what the holidays are all about! In my opinion, any person that works in a grocery store until mid-afternoon is really serving in a ministry! It is an act of service for those of us that fricassee our turkeys or burn the rolls. The fact that some grocery stores are open is a saving grace to those of us that stink in the kitchen. But retail stores?!?!? Really?!?! There is a rumor (I cannot verify if it is true) that one particular large chain retail store has stated that any employee that is scheduled on Thanksgiving Day and does not come to work will lose his/her job. I really would like to think that there is no truth in that.

Ok – you can now return to your regularly scheduled program. Sorry for the interruption.

We are so happy for our friends Ryan and Sandy True. They are in Korea right now and will be bringing home their new son soon. We spent all of our second trip in Russia with them and visited them this summer. It is crazy to compare the Korean and Russian adoption processes. Sandy laughed because her dossier this time could fit in her purse. You need a sturdy piece of luggage to carry around the Russian required dossier. :o)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Can we keep the trend going?

Brady got baptized on Sunday! Our papers arrived in Vlad today! Can we keep the good news coming in?!?!

Praying really hard the regional operator reviews our documents and ACCEPTS them this week!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Coming up on some big anniversaries

Let me first start by sharing how befuddled I become when thinking about how different every adoption journey is. Emotionally the journey SHOULD vary every single time because feelings can never be controlled. But procedurally, you would expect a few things to be consistent. With international adoption, we have found that experiences vary greatly from which homestudy agency you use, what placing agency you use, what region you are registered in, what baby home or orphanage your child is in, which judge is assigned to your case, what new laws are passed by the government, whether or not someone puts their child on a plane and sends them back to Russia alone!, etc… Right now our most immediate focus is on getting registered in Vladivostok. We are praying that ‘the letter’ and the renewed license will satisfy the regional operator.

Let's take you back to an blog entry I made on December 8th, 2008

Lana - our interpreter, Irena – our agency rep, and Alec – our driver were supposed to pick us up at 10:30 a.m. to go to our MOE (minister of education) appointment. This is where we would officially be approved to see a child and be invited to visit an orphanage. Now, I didn’t post this earlier because I didn’t want our parents to freak out, but when we were picked up from the airport Lana told us that our documents had not arrived from Moscow yet. “Don’t worry Heather – Now is not the time to worry,” she said. Sure, sure I won’t worry a bit! Yeah right!!! So Justin and I were both sick to our stomachs that on Monday we would not be able to go see the lil guy. At 10:00 a.m. the phone in our room rings. Lana says to us the papers had not arrived yet, but they are supposed to be at the courier’s office by 11:30 so they are going to pick us up at 11 instead of 10:30. Again… “Don’t worry Heather – Now is not the time to worry,” she said. Ummmm I am thinking now is a great time to start to worry.

So at about 11:15 they arrived to pick us up. The city driving here is like no other. Different than Chicago for sure! It is best to just not pay attention. We stopped by the courier’s office and Irena came out with a huge smile on her face and said congratulations! Our papers arrived! We went to the MOE and answered some questions. We were told Tatiana was in a good mood today and we were lucky for that. When she saw the pictures in our homestudy of Brady and Madison she smiled and said beautiful children! Awww shucks – we sure think so :o) She showed us the picture of our lil guy and invited us to go visit him.

You see with Blake’s adoption we were never even registered in any region. Our papers were sent to Moscow on November 14th, 2008 and we received Blake’s referral information on November 21st, 2008. There was no chance for the regional operator to even review our documents. It seemed weird to us at the time, but we didn’t complain. And we now know that God’s timing was perfect. Blake was ready to meet us. So while this journey is so different than the one we took two years ago and is different from everyone else’s, I can’t help but get my hopes up just a tiny bit that maybe just maybe we could come close to having a similar timeline as the one below.

November 14, 2008 – Registration papers sent to Moscow
November 21, 2008 – Got Blake’s referral
December 8, 2008 – Met Blake for the first time
December 11, 2008 – Signed our petition to adopt Blake

I know, I know, I know. It is not good to get my hopes up. But I can’t help but dream just a little!

Monday, November 8, 2010

'the letter' arrived

YEAH!!!  The letter arrived in our mailbox this afternoon.  Justin in on his way to Springfield right now to get it apostilled and in the mail to World Links.  He dropped a copy off to me first and I have scanned it and emailed it to our caseworker.  She will be able to forward it electronically to Vlad so that the translation will be done by the time the letter gets there!  I am praying this is the last requested document to get us registered.

Check out this price tag (this is just for FedEx - not for apostilling or for US mail to get everything to World Links in PA):

Original Registration Documents to Vlad ~ $150

(Understandably the regional operator did not like that our Lifelink documents had some reference to Lutheran Chid and Family Services.  Lifelink became a subsidiary of LCFS midway through our homestudy.)

We changed all Lifelink documents to Lutheran letterhead and sent to Vlad ~ $150

(The LCFS office that our paperwork was redone on was one of the branches of Lutheran but not the main one where the state license is issued to. Regional operator requested verification they all operated under the same license.)

Letter stating the addresses were all for the same agency sent to Vlad ~ $150
(The regional operator decided she did not like that the state license is issued to Lutheran Child and Family Services and the letterhead said Lutheran Child and Family Service of Illinois)
Letter stating the two names are the same agency and sent to Vlad ~ $150.
So far we have spent about $600 in FedEx fees alone to get our papers registered in Vlad.  I am praying that the regional operator will accept this new letter and let us move forward with our journey!  Instead of dwelling on the ridiculousness of the mailing cost or the paper chase, I am celebrating the fact that we now have possession of 'the letter'!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Give a gift that REALLY counts

Wow, as soon as Halloween was over the Christmas shopping advertisements started bombarding us from all directions. I guess I should be thankful for the distraction as we continue to wait for ‘the letter’. Anyway, I was thinking this year that I should try to purchase as many of my gifts from people who are hosting fundraising parties. If you look at the blogs in the list on the right you will see that many have various ‘things’ they are selling to help raise money for their adoption. I love the idea of giving the gift with a note attached saying that 15% or whatever of the purchase was donated to help place an orphan with his or her family. I believe the gift receiver would also take joy in knowing that as well. So I just thought I would put the thought out there for you to wrestle with.

Don’t forget too that we are doing our t-shirt fundraiser. We are not using the funds to help with our adoption costs, but we are using those funds to make a donation of needed items to the baby home when we return on trip two. The t-shirts may make a great Christmas gift as well. They are a great conversation starter! If you are interested you can get more details here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

'the letter'

We received Lutheran’s renewed license on Wednesday. It is good now for FOUR years! We also decided to go ahead and get our fingerprints redone for the FBI and State clearances. These are only good for 6 months. We won’t send for the state clearances until we actually have travel dates for trip 1 but we felt it wouldn’t hurt to get the FBI ones sent out. Last time it took 12 weeks to get the clearances back and some people were waiting 16 weeks - plus we have no idea how the holidays will impact processing time.

So now to ‘the letter’. If you recall we need the State Licensing Agency (which I think is DCFS??) to issue a letter stating that Lutheran Child and Family Services is the same as Lutheran Child and Family Services OF ILLINOIS and operate under the same license. Our caseworker, Carole, emailed this information out last Friday explaining the situation. When she hadn’t heard anything at the beginning of the week she followed up with an additional email. She told us she felt she should give the agency a full week to respond and then she would try to make phone contact as well. So today was the one week mark and Carole made the call. The lady told her first that she had tried to get back with her earlier in the week (left no voicemail nor replied to either email). Then she insisted that there was no way that she could write such a letter and that it was a legal matter. Blah blah blah. Carole kept insisting that she was certain the letter could be written and that she was sure it had been done in the past. Well the lady kept sticking to her guns and was NOT going to write the letter. Carole pushed one last time and at that moment the lady’s supervisor walked by the door. She called her supervisor to the phone to verify what she was saying so that Carole would get off her back I’m sure. The supervisor listened to what the request was and stated that they absolutely COULD write the letter and both the person that needed to write it and the person that needed to sign it were in the office. She stated they would do their best to convince them to get it done today and in the mail. I am praying that it gets sent out today!

You know it wasn’t all that long ago that I would have attributed the supervisor walking past the no-lady’s office to coincidence and considered myself lucky. Now I know that it has very little to do with luck or coincidence. I truly believe that God intervened on our behalf today. It was not coincidence that she walked past the door at that exact moment. It wasn’t coincidence that the no-lady felt compelled to call her supervisor to the phone. Nor is it coincidence that we have a great caseworker who is just as invested in our journey as we are! God knows the plans he has for us. And I am very grateful He spared us the heartache and headache today from hearing that we couldn’t produce ‘the letter’.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blogger’s guilt

I always have a twinge of guilt after I vent/whine/complain on our blog. I get frustrated with setbacks, unnecessary bureaucracy, and with my lack of patience. It really does make me feel a little better to type out my feelings. But ultimately within a few hours of making the post, I feel bad for complaining. There are so many people who have much more of a reason to be complaining than I. We truly are blessed in so many ways and God reminds us of those blessing often. Am I disappointed about our setback? Yes! Am I annoyed that we found out the letter we need can’t be written by our homestudy agency and that we have to wait for someone at the State licensing office to write the letter? Definitely! But what about these people….

The sweet lady that emailed me that was adopting as a single mother and met her son in Vladivostock. She was waiting for court when the lady sent her son back on a plane by himself. Now the region is shut down to singles and she has no idea what to do from here.

What about the couple who meet their son over 6 months ago and the judge in their region won’t even consider hearing their case or any case for that matter until an agreement is signed between the US and Russia.

Then there is the lady who has been waiting over a month for Lutheran’s license to be renewed after she has had to redo her paperwork because of the addition of two little words…”in Illinois”.

There is a couple who began to feel unsettled with their placing agency and just as they are up to get their referral they have to change agencies at the last minute.

I could go on and on about the trials and tribulations of the adoption process. I really don’t try to dwell on the negative and sometimes this blog sounds so negative because I use it as an outlet to vent my frustrations.

On a happy note I am excited about some great news for family and friends. My sister that is pregnant with twins is still doing well and the babies are developing and growing! My best friend from high school is following her heart and took a huge leap of faith that has lead her to St. Croix. And one of my best friends from college, after years of infertility, gave birth last week to a healthy baby girl!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I really don’t like being told no…  but it does happen.  We were not allowed to register and it wasn’t because of the soon to expire license – yet anyway.  The license issued by DCFS is for Lutheran Child and Family Services.  The agency uses the name Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois.  The operator wants a certified letter stating that these two titles are for the same agency.  Again, I am finding my frustration rising but surprisingly not so much targeted at the operator.  We are a little annoyed because does the letterhead really have anything to do with us parenting a child?!?  But the one thing we know for a fact is that Russia is very picky and finicky about paperwork.  Why does Lutheran Child and Family Services use a title that is not reflected on their state license.  Obviously here in the States this isn’t that big of a deal, but if we go outside of our own corner of the world it is a big deal.  We are not the first person to have to deal with this issue.  I just wish ‘we’ could learn from those that have had issues before us instead of making the same mistake and have to spend more time waiting while it is all fixed.  I would hope that the letter that is requested could be done in one day, but at this point we might as well wait for the renewed license because by the time the letter arrives the license will indeed be expired.  So as a minimum, we are looking at an additional two week set back in the process.  Typing two weeks and hearing two weeks sounds like no big deal in the big picture scheme of things.  For this family that is waiting so anxiously to have God reveal the little one He intends to complete our family with – two weeks sounds like an eternity. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Maybe Thursday…

In the game of waiting I am a loser every single time. Because I set a personal goal of improving my patience and ability to be still and wait, I was trying very hard not to call World Links to see if we got registered or not. I know that our case worker would tell us the moment she knows anything. When we didn’t hear anything yesterday I was disappointed. By today at noon I was at my waiting limit. I caved in and picked up the phone. I was trying so hard to be patient! Failed – again….

Here is what we have been told. The regional operator still did not have time to look over our documents and Irina is supposed to return on Thursday. So back to holding my breath. I am trying really hard not to be a pessimist, but I am a realist. Lutheran’s license expires on October 26th. If I put myself in the operator’s shoes would I let our paperwork go through or would I want the new license on hand first? Ugh! I know the honest answer to that question. And as far as we know, as of today, DCFS has still not issued the new license. Keep in mind that they aren’t withholding the license for any particular reason from what I understand. They pretty much just haven’t printed or certified it yet. I have recently ‘met’ another blogger who has been waiting about a month for the new license because her region would let her register until they had the renewed license. Having been through the adoption process before, I know that this is just one of many many times that we will be frustrated by waiting. I really thought I would handle it better this time around. Unfortunately, I think I am making it harder because I am aware of all of the hurdles yet to come. I have been good at giving other people advice about being patient – God’s timing will be perfect – but applying that to myself is hard. Maybe I will have a breakthrough in the near future. There has to be hope for me still :o)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Holding my breath!

As I type this post, it is Tuesday morning in Vlad. This is the day we are hoping to find out that our documents have been accepted. In the meantime we have an answered prayer... The crops are out of the field!! God blessed us with a safe and speedy harvest! Now we are ready to go meet our son or daughter! Let's go!!!!!!!!

Friday, October 15, 2010


International adoption messes with your mind! I try to be a positive person most of the time, but I also like to be honest and share all aspects of our journey in order to help others who travel down the same road. Today I realized how messed up I am as people around the office were so excited that it was Friday. Friday in our minds means it is Saturday in Vlad which means no one is working to get us one step closer to being registered. Of course I realize then that on Sunday they are back to work because it is Monday there but you get my point…

I don’t think I have mentioned that there is this small window of opportunity here for us to get registered until the next roadblock happens. Lutheran’s license expires on October 27th or somewhere right around there and they do not currently have the renewed license from the state in their possession. YIKES!

Update: Just as I was typing this post I got a message that the Regional Operator got our documents on Wednesday but did not have time to review them and asked Irina to leave them there. Irina will be at the Department of Education on Tuesday so she is hoping to find out then if we are registered or not.

On a side note, I got the sweetest Boss’s Day card today and in the card was a donation to the baby home fundraiser! Such big hearts they have!!! I am thankful to work with such great people.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Registration documents version 2.0 arrived

Well we really have no new update.  I was watching our paperwork travel to Vlad on the FedEx website.  Just for fun here is the route our documents took:  10/5 Pittston, PA; 10/6 Indianapolis, IN; 10/6 Stansted, Great Britain; 10/8 Moscow, Russia; 10/11 at 1:25 p.m. delivered to Vladivostok, Russia and signed for by one of our miracle workers there.  I am hoping that she takes the documents to the regional operator this week.  Hopefully we will hear something soon.  In the mean time we have been praying for the regional operator.   Specifically our prayer has been that she would not see letterheads, dates, signatures, and print on the paper but that rather she would see a loving family ready to meet the missing child that will complete their family…

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Busy time of year.

Things are insanely busy right now between work, harvest, church, birthdays (Blake – Sept 30; Brady – October 3; Madison – October 9).  We received the letter we needed that stated why there was more than one address for Lutheran Social Services.  I took a personal day from work on Monday to drive to Springfield to get the letter apostilled.  Then the second version of our dossier was overnighted to World Links.  It made it to them and back out to Vladivostok on Tuesday!  We are now praying that will satisfy the regional operator and we will be officially registered and ready to receive our referral.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Odds and Ends

Happy 5th Birthday Blake! Pictures from his party on Saturday were posted to our private blog.

Check this out. This is great if you upload your pictures to Walgreens. Today and tomorrow (September 30th & October 1st), you can get a FREE 8×10 Photo Collage! Just login and create the collage. Then, use the code FBColl to get the free offer. Don’t forget to select in-store pickup and you’ll pay absolutely NOTHING! You can only use this once per account. I shared my albums with Justin and we created a second one under his account. Completely free!

We are still waiting to hear exactly when we can expect the letter that says that the address on the letterhead works under the same license as the address that is on the official license. Why do we have to make things so complicated?!?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Yes and No

Here is what we found out today….

The regional operator did not say “Yes” to registering the documents that Irina has shown to her, but she didn’t say “No” either. She told Irina that she needs to see the apostilled originals to give an answer and regarding the address she said that the home study agency should write a letter that the address on the letterhead is the main office and the address on the license is an actual address, or something like that...

So hopefully we get that letter ASAP and then one of us will have to run it to Springfield to be apostilled and sent off to World Links. I have decided that I am taking this as good news. At least we didn’t get a No……….for now.

A HUGE thank you to Jodi (see below). This is one of the main reasons I took to blogging. The power of networking online is amazing!

(Dave and Jodi)

The comment below was left on our blog last week.  If you are reading this entry I would LOVE if you would email me.  We need to produce the same letter ASAP and it may be helpful for our caseworker to be in touch with yours.  Our email is

"We are using Lutheran Child and Family Services in Illinois for a Russian adoption. Our agency had them write a letter that they use both names and that it is all the same agency. Our social worker wasn't surprised by the the request as they had gotten it before. Our social worker got the letter for us pretty quickly. It was notarized and then we got it apostilled."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

To Apostille or Not to Apostille

That is the question.

Well we should be excited. The last document that we needed to arrive so that I would have everything in my hand before Monday came in the mail today. I will now be able to get everything apostilled in Springfield over my lunch break from my work meeting that I have on that day. This is exactly how we had hoped it would have worked out. BUT…..

There is always a but isn’t there?

Earlier this week our placing agency, World Links, had me scan everything that I had and email it to them. There is some question about the silly letter head again. It is hard to explain, but in a nutshell there are some mailing addresses that don’t match up because there are different branches of Lutheran that all operate under the same license. This SHOULD not be a problem as the license number is all the same blah blah blah but they feel that they should check before sending everything over to Vlad. They are hoping that one of the girls in Russia, Irina, might be able to ask the regional operator if this will work and let us know by Monday. World Links suggested that we wait to have the documents apostilled until we know for sure. Justin and I decided that since there are 6 documents that have the letterhead (there are several others too that have to be done) and it only costs $2 in Illinois for apostilling that we will go ahead and get it done on Monday. The most we will be out is $12. Now I am praying that the Regional Operator is in a good mood when she sees our documents and lets us register.

As a side note, tomorrow afternoon we will have a party to celebrate Blake’s 5th birthday. His actual birthday is Thursday. He is so excited and we are so pleased with the progress that has been made in the last year. I will share pictures and details on our private blog next week!

Monday, September 20, 2010


This past Sunday’s sermon at church left me with mixed emotions. On one hand I have come a long way with regards to this topic, and on the other I have so much work to do. The main point of the sermon was to be grateful in all circumstances. It encompassed the idea of patience and entitlement. One particular illustration was about a funeral precession and how in our culture, out of respect, it is tradition that people in their cars would pull over and allow the precession to pass by. Today IF people still pull over you can look at the mannerism of the onlookers you can see that they are annoyed, impatient, and inconvenienced. Instead of being prayerful for the family and friends that have lost a love one or grateful for the blessings in their own life, they are worried about the appointment they will be late for. I could go on with the other illustrations and such, but the point is we are of a generation and culture who feels entitled. We especially feel entitled to instant information and instant gratification. I have come a long way in the past few years with my feelings of gratefulness and recognizing my blessings. But I have a long way to go in the area of patience and my sense of entitlement to the things I want done. The entitlement I feel isn’t really toward material things it is more toward MY timeline and MY plans. I know that God is trying to beat this lesson into me with leading us into a second international adoption. I must say though I am a slow learner!
A little update on paperwork – we have the approved homestudy back from DCFS. So today we mailed off a packet of information to USCIS or Immigration to update our I600 to reflect the new agency name in the homestudy. I thought that was the only paperwork we were waiting on to get back from the State, but I was wrong. We need Lutheran Family Services’ letter of good standing from the State. It has supposedly been sent…. One week from today I will be in Springfield for my work meeting. I feel ENTITLED to have all of the documents in my hand so I can stop by the Secretary of State’s office that day and get the documents apostilled. I just don’t see why MY timeline doesn’t line up with everyone else’s ALL of the time! (I told you I am a slow learner.)

Daily prayer continues to be for a safe, productive, and speedy harvest!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Targeted date

Our reprinted homestudy was forward to DCFS on Friday. I don’t think this step is required in all states, but in Illinois all homestudies have to be approved by DCFS before they are ‘valid’. Supposedly they are fully aware of our situation and understand that there has been no changes to the homestudy other than the letterhead it is printed on. We are hopeful for a quick turnaround time. There is an ideal date in my mind that all of the reprinted documents would be in my hands. On Monday, September 27th I have to go to Springfield for a work meeting. I could leave over the lunch hour and have the documents apostilled and sent off to World Links that day. If I don’t have them on that day, I will have to use a personal day from work to take the papers to Springfield. And as you can imagine, personal and sick days are very valuable right now since we will be need to be gone for both trips one and two. In theory there really isn’t any reason that everything can’t be to me by then, but we are talking about the adoption process after all – expect the unexpected!

On a side note, this is Justin’s second day harvesting. I have never been more interested and motivated by harvest in all of our 18 years together. I pray every day for a safe, productive, and SUPER fast harvest!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

T-shirt fundraiser

We are very pleased with how the t-shirt fundraiser has gone so far. We really haven’t been ‘pushing’ the idea much. We figured the month after we get home from trip one we will really try to promote the fundraiser. In the meantime, I thought I would share the initial post about the t-shirts again with everyone.
If you are interested in more information just leave a comment with your email address (we can't reply without you entering your email address) or you can email us directly at

Friends and family,
Some of you may or may not know, but Justin and I will be returning to Russia one last time to complete our family. We have not been given our referral yet, but we do plan on going back to the same region, Vladivostock, where Blake was born. We feel compelled to make a donation on our second trip to the baby home (aka orphanage). We will not give them a cash donation, but instead we plan to take additional money with us and then have our facilitator take us shopping for items that are needed for the children once we are back in Vladivostock. We feel this is the best way to ensure that the children are being helped in some way.

After being given very special t-shirts from our friends, Ryan and Sandy True, we got the idea of trying to raise money for the baby home instead of attempting to do it all on our own. Many people have asked how they can help out with our adoption, and we feel that helping us help the children is a great thing!

T-Shirt Details:
You can specify your size and color of t-shirt (all text will be white). The dark grey color in the photo is not available.

Front: Я верю (The means I Believe in Russian)

Back: The geographic outline of Russia. Running through the graphic is Psalms 68: 5-6 which reads: "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families." This is in both Russian and English.

Youth sizes available...S - 6-8 M - 10-12 L - 14-16; no toddler sizes; adult S-XXXL

Colors available in adult and youth...Red, Orange, Gold, Lime Green, Kelly, Brown (not in youth sizes), Purple, Pink, Hot Pink, Maroon, Black, Dark Gray, Light Grey, Marlin, Light Blue, Royal, and Navy

T-shirt with text on front only: minimum of $15 donation

T-shirt with text on both front and back: minimum of $20 donation

$2 more for 3XL
Shipping will be added to any orders that can't be hand delivered. We can figure the cost of that out via email :o)
~Justin and Heather

Thursday, September 2, 2010

We will try again

First of all our visas have arrived and are valid until September 1, 2011. That is surely going to be long enough for us to complete this adoption right?!?!?

As I mentioned, our dossier was submitted to the regional operator for approval on September 1st. And as we thought, she did not accept them. We have to have all of our papers redone on new letterhead and sent back to Russia. I was completely braced for this news. This is just how things work with this process. So we will jump through these hoops and get back on track. Now I have no doubt that this new found patience I have this week will disappear in the days to come, but for now I am ok with what is happening. So as far as I know this is what must happen:

  • Our homestudy has to be reprinted on new letterhead.
  • It then has to be sent to DCFS for an approval signature again
  • We have to get a letter of good standing from the State for Lutheran Social Services
  • A whole slew of documents that accompany the homestudy have to be done with the new name
  • We will drive all of the accumulated documents and reapostille them. Thankfully in Illinois the cost is $2 per document unlike CA which is $20 I believe and $15 in PA.
  • Then World Links will send everything back over to Vladivostock. Last time the FedEx bill for that was $152.
  • Then we pray that the regional operator is head over heels for our newly printed documents and lets us register.
 In the meantime, on Tuesday our caseworker will come and do a quick home visit so that we can resend our new homestudy (ok new paper – no new information) to USCIS aka Immigration so that we won’t have any trouble bringing our child home.

Sounds like fun huh?!?!? I have complete confidence in our caseworker, World Links, and the gals in Russia that they will do all they can to move this right along. Our problem is going to be the folks who sit at a desk and have no personal connection to any part of the adoption process. They will be our biggest challenge. My prayer every day is that God will move in the hearts of any person that touches paperwork related to all adoptions. That he/she will have a stirring within their soul that they too are affecting the life of a child and those waiting to welcome them home.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Now what?

The infamous question… now what? So here is what we ‘know’ or anticipate to be happening now. On September 1st our dossier is supposed to be submitted to the regional operator for registration. We are fully expecting there to be issues with us registering. Our homestudy agency had a name change in the middle of getting our dossier ready. They went from Lifelink/Bensenville Home Society to Lifelink International Adoption which is a subsidiary of Lutheran Social Services. The likelihood that the papers will suffice given the differing names is about slim to none. So we need to find out exactly that the regional operator requests so that we can begin to get this whole situation fixed. We would much rather get it all worked out now instead of between trips one and two when we are anxiously awaiting court.

We also need to clarify that we aren’t putting everything on hold until harvest is over, but we have asked that we get registered before getting any more information on potential referrals. It is just better for us to get through the registration process and then move forward. For my city slicker friends (heck for my country friends like me that were clueless), I know how hard it is to understand that one week (actually it ends up being 10 days) away from something could be such a big deal. I have had numerous people ask why we couldn’t find someone else to help out or why the crops can’t wait until we get back. Ohhh if it were only that easy. During harvest, Justin will often times get home at midnight and be back out by 6 a.m. for days on end. The window of opportunity to get the crops out of the field is rather small. And guess what? No crops = no money = no travel to Russia. I am totally downplaying this in order to spare you the details, but believe me when I say the timing has to be perfect in order for us to travel in the next couple of months. And I have already warned Justin that I will be pushing hard for him to get finished as early as possible. During harvest, I usually welcome a day of rain just so I can see him. Or I will try to get him to stay home an hour or two longer so he can get a bit more sleep. Not this year! I am going to be setting his alarm FOR him and giving him caffeine like it is going out of style! Lol

The final thing on my heart today is a comment from a dear sweet fellow blogger. I will forever have the picture and information of a little boy born March 6, 2009 from Vladivostock, Russia in my heart. At first this was not sitting well with me. But I now have a new perspective after this amazing insight. It read: “I know God is in control, and maybe He needed to "introduce" you two into this little boy's life so that you could pray for him...maybe you're the only ones praying for him specifically. Just HAVE taken this boy are praying for him, and sometimes that's better than anything else!” Thank you for the peace you helped me find Liz! I am grateful!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Thank you note to my husband.

Dear Justin,
You know exactly what is best for our family! I was such a mess last week wondering around the house aimlessly. I wanted to get so much done and had no energy to do any of it. I felt like a rug was pulled out from under my feet. When you insisted that we go away for the weekend and take the kids camping, I was so annoyed. Camping?!?! We are so new to the world of camping. I didn’t want to pack up anything and definitely didn’t want to deal with the mess when we got home. But you insisted that we needed to do something fun one last time before you got in the fields and the school year craziness got in full swing. You took care of all of the details and made sure the only thing I had to do was pack my own clothes. You stocked the refrigerator and cabinets and had everything loaded up. You set the stage for a family weekend and made certain I had nothing to complain about. When we got home everyone helped with the unpacking and we were done in record time. And guess what???? It was exactly what I needed. I was forced to relax. I was forced to reflect on all I am blessed with instead of the inconveniences and disappointments the week brought. You said all of the right things and helped restore the happiness that I was feeling just a week before. Thank you for knowing exactly what I needed! I love you! ~Heather

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It’s ok...

Excitement, relief, stress, curiosity, nervous, apprehension, these are just a few of the emotions we have had over the past few days. On Friday afternoon we received word of a potential referral for us. There were some concerns that we had with the medical information and sent it off to an IA doctor. It was determined by Saturday morning that there were a few bits of information that we need to gather before any type of decision could be made. We had a great phone call on Saturday afternoon with our agency rep. We still have to have our papers officially registered in Vlad. She also mentioned that she will have information on two other little ones. That information may be available as early as today. In addition she agreed she would pass along the questions we had about the little boy and try to get answers for us….

So here is the deal though with the timeline, we either travel on September 3rd and be back by September 12 or we have to wait until after harvest is over (or close to it) which is more like November. There was a chance if everything aligned that it was going to work for us to leave a week from Friday. For about 4 days it was actually looking like that might happen. We were overwhelmed with the idea that we would have to get everything together so quickly, but in terms of farming it would have been the best situation.

Today we found out that we needed to wait. The regional operator that does the official registering won’t be back until September 1st and lately she has been requesting additional documentation. There is just no way for us to get over there before harvest.

A small part of me is relieved. Today is the very first day of school for Brady, Madison, and Blake. We have tons of back to school routines to establish and such. But there is also a huge feeling of disappointment as well. We have asked our agency not to see the information on the other two referrals until we are officially registered and are closer to being able to travel. We can’t stand that we have a little face in our head and can do nothing about it. As for the referral that we received on Friday, we will continue to pray over him and his situation. Honestly I never dreamt when we sent our dossier to Russia that we would make it over there before harvest, but then much to our surprise, it seemed like we may have been wrong. Now we are back to what we expected. We know that this is the rollercoaster journey of adoption. Of course there are bumps, turns, and flips. That is the way it works.

So what now??? Tonight I will crash. The emotions of everything going on around us has worn me down. Then we wait until the regional operator returns to see if she registers us or requests more documentation. In the meantime I have written this scripture in a number of places. Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

PS. I NEED (ok maybe want) CHOCOLATE!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Looking ahead

Monday – opening ceremonies at work welcoming back the faculty and staff. Brady and Madison have to be dressed and ready to go on the stage by 7:30 a.m. as they will perform with other students and sing for us. Also the t-shirt transfers are in and I have some orders to get placed. I can’t wait to see the shirts done in different colors!

Tuesday – I have to speak in front of the entire faculty and staff – I never get used to that! Brady and Madison start piano lessons. We have back to school night at Madison’s school that evening.

Wednesday – Brady’s first day of 4th grade and in a new building. Madison’s first day of 2nd grade. Blake’s first day at his new school/day care center.

We also have reason to believe that this week will be a pivotal week for us on our adoption journey! We are full of excitement and nervousness! Hopefully we will have exciting stories to share as the week unfolds.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I don’t believe I have shared this on the blog yet. I will do my best to put my thoughts into words, but I know that I won’t be able to explain my intentions well. So if you do not ‘get it’ or ‘catch my drift’ – no worries…

Justin and I both decided that we needed something to help us remember to be in constant prayer about this adoption. We are both very busy people and day-to-day life often gets in the way of the things that we want to keep as a priority. We decided that we would give up something sacrificially. We had never done this before and so we thought we would give it a try. I chose to give up chocolate (Justin will have to blog about this if he wants to share what he gave up). So I made a promise to God that until we travel on trip one to meet our son/daughter I would not eat chocolate. Now I must tell you that I am not one to sit down and eat an entire candy bar. BUT I am one that would have a handful of M&Ms or two Hershey Kisses after a meal. And when I am stressed I love to gnaw on Tootsie Rolls! So I couldn’t decide what constitutes chocolate and what doesn’t. Just to make sure I don’t mess this up, I have sworn off all chocolate flavored things too – like hot chocolate; oreos; etc… This all started on March 21. So what are the results 5 months later???

Each time I want chocolate, I remember to pray. Pray for God’s guidance, for His hand in the mix of this adoption. It really works! I do have to admit one slip up though. About a month ago I noticed that I was focusing a bit more on how long I, ME, MOI had gone without chocolate. I was patting myself on the back. While we were in Colorado, Justin came out of a shop with a delicious looking coffee drink. Without a second thought I took it from him and took a sip. As soon as I swallowed tears filled my eyes. I couldn’t believe what I had just done. I just swallowed some mocha chocolate something or other! My heart broke. To some it may seem so silly, but to me it was devastating. I had a hard time letting this mistake go. I felt like I had disappointed God. Then I realized that part of my frustration was also in the fact that I couldn’t any longer brag that for X number of months I have had NO chocolate. What a reality check that moment was! This sacrifice has NOTHING to do with ME or MY accomplishments. It is a constant reminder to speak to God continually – to pray without ceasing. So I have moved on from my slip up even though the disappointment is still there and I am trying my best to keep my promise.

Now that I am back to work and getting stressed to the max, I am praying about our adoption constantly. I would love to have some stress relieving chocolate around 3:00 p.m. each day. For now, I am getting a great dose of prayer – and for that I am thankful.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Great present!

Today is my birthday and it started out with my three sweet children and amazing husband singing happy birthday!  I love them soooo much.  We have also already received word that our documents are in the hands of our interpreter in Vladivostock!  This is fantastic.  Now we have to pray that: 1) The interpretation goes fast 2) we are not asked for any more documents before registering 3) God has the information for our son/daughter in the right hands to be passed along to us in the next couple of weeks.  Wow - that's a lot isn't it?!?!  Harvest is going to come early this year.  That is typically a good thing, but we are so nervous about the timing of our referral.  Justin will not be able to travel in the middle of harvest, but we have no control over timing... Ok - I refuse to go into that whole struggle today.  Today I am celebrating and the great gift of knowing that our documents didn't get lost any where and they are safe in the hands of a lady that we adore and trust! 

Ohhh - we were having trouble getting the transfer for the back of our t-shirts made for the fundraiser.  Last night a friend rescued us with some great photoshop work.  We are hoping to hear later this week that the transfers were made and then we will really kick off our fundraising for the baby home!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Now that was fast!

Much to our surprise we received our Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Application for Advanced Processing of Orphan Petition – otherwise known as I-171H today! Without this approval letter no one is allowed to bring an adopted child into the country. So obviously we are excited to have this in our possession. We just had our fingerprint appoint last Tuesday. This was a much faster turnaround than with Blake’s adoption. Justin and I have both read it over like 3 times each just to make sure it is the real deal!

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
—Psalm 92:1

Ohhh - and happy 34th wedding anniversary mom and dad!  We love you guys!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Visas, Sleepless nights, Day dreaming…

The home study agency license arrived today in Pennsylvania for a quick stop just before heading over to Vladivostock with a hundred (ok may not that many) pounds of other papers with our names on them!

It was suggested to us that we apply for our Visas now. This is a new way of doing things for us. With Blake’s adoption we just did a tourist visa. We had to pay expedited shipping each time and worry about it not arriving on time. Well this time we are applying for a multi-entry visa and it will be good for one year. So at first I was a little shocked at the price, but when I calculated the tourist visas plus the expedited shipping we paid last time, we would actually be saving a little bit of money. And a HUGE bonus is we will only have to send out our passports through the mail one time! Yeah for that! We should have the visas in our possession on August 31st.

We also ‘know’ in our hearts that there are some little boys in Russia – probably over the age of two who are just waiting for some visitors. :o) We are open to either a boy or girl referral, but we are fully expecting a little boy referral. I won’t say anymore, but needless to say my hopes are up for a quick referral! Justin will not be able to travel right in the middle of harvest so we need God to intervene here on our behalf. All of this new scurrying around has created a whole lot of excitement and nervousness. On top of that I started back to work yesterday. This is my busiest time of year. Usually around this time, I have dreams at night that I am late for an important meeting. Or I show up to train our new staff and have a vital piece of clothing missing. But already I find that I am getting consumed with thoughts of ‘the email’ - the one that Justin and I will open and see the little face of our future child. It consumes my thoughts already!

I do know that I need to chill out. I need to focus. I do know that so many things can go wrong. But for now I am going to relish in this new giddiness, anticipation, and in the fact that for at least a couple of days we have zero adoption papers we have to complete.

Reminder to self: Breath!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Just in time!

This morning I emailed our homestudy agency again to see if they had gotten the new license yet. Much to their frustration and mine, as of noon they had not gotten it. A little after noon I had an email from World Links, our placing agency. They wondered if we would want to go ahead and send over all of our other documents to be translated and then when the license came they would send it. I had replied with a yes, please send them. Any movement forward keeps us happy. But as soon as I hit send, I had that feeling in my stomach – the one where you know you need to rethink something. I could just imagine the drama of getting the license to meet up with rest of our packet. And if the license is separate would it be under extra scrutiny – some i not dotted correctly or t not crossed? I was unsettled about the decision for a whole 5 minutes! Then Justin came in and told me he just heard from Carole, and the license arrived this afternoon! I quickly called and emailed World Links and told them not to send our documents. We will get the license apostilled and in the mail to them Monday morning. So next week all of our documents will make their way to Russia together!

Of course I am back to work full time beginning on Monday, but those license will get to Springfield to the secretary of state one way or another. We are so relieved. And the pit in the stomach feeling is gone!

Monday, August 2, 2010

So true!

Check out this post on another blog.  It is ohhh sooo true!

We are heading out this afternoon to Naperville so that we can be at the immigration office bright and early for our fingerprint appointment tomorrow.  I love that it takes us like 4 or so hours to get to an appointment that takes 15 minutes (a little sarcasm).  I wonder if they will determine that Justin or I have committed any crimes or have falsified our identification since the last time they ran our prints????

Saturday, July 31, 2010

No license…

We are back from a fantastic vacation in Colorado (pictures uploaded to our private blog). We emailed back and forth with our case worker a couple of times about the agency license. Much to our disappointment it has not arrived. According to the State the license was mailed on July 19th. Well as of July 30th no one from LifeLink has seen it, and of course a faxed or emailed copy does no good because it has to have an official seal. Ugh! So we continue to wait. On the bright side, at least the license WAS renewed! God must know that I still need to be put through his patience academy cause each semester I FAIL!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Heading east to go west.

We are heading out today for our family vacation to Colorado in 1 hour. I have to get going!!!! We are super excited. But first we are actually going east to Peoria to have lunch with Justin’s brother for his birthday and then on south to Springfield to have all (but one) of our documents apostilled and mailed to World Links. We STILL do not have Lifelink’s new agency license. I am choosing not to be totally stressed and freaked out by this. Their current license expired last Sunday. It is my understanding they have been issued the new license by the state but they have not been given the actual piece of paper – which of course is what we need. I guess they are running 1 week behind on issuing those. I will withhold my comments on what I think about that! So our sweet caseworker who we adore and trust implicitly suggested that we send off everything we have. As soon as she gets the license she is going to personally drive it to Springfield – apostille it – and send it to World Links. Sooooo maybe – just maybe our dossier will be headed to Russia before we make it back from vacation.

It has been fun lately to hear the increased talk around the family about child number four. We have four stools at our kitchen counter and both Brady and Madison have said on more than one occasion that their brother/sister (depending on whose talking) can sit next to them. Then of course Blake pipes in with a “nuh-uh they sit by me!” They are such amazing children. They think it is completely normal and common place to add members to one’s family through adoption. We love them soooo much!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

T-shirt fundraiser

After hearing such positive feedback, we thought we shouldn't wait until trip 1 to get the t-shirt fundraiser underway.  Here is a copy of the email we sent out this morning.  If I can get my act together, I will figure out a little badge or something to keep on the side of the blog for people who want to donate/purchase a t-shirt.  Anyway if you are interested in more information just leave a comment with your email address (we can't reply without you entering your email address) or you can email us directly at

Friends and family,
Some of you may or may not know, but Justin and I will be returning to Russia one last time to complete our family. We have not been given our referral yet, but we do plan on going back to the same region, Vladivostock, where Blake was born. We feel compelled to make a donation on our second trip to the baby home (aka orphanage). We will not give them a cash donation, but instead we plan to take additional money with us and then have our facilitator take us shopping for items that are needed for the children once we are back in Vladivostock. We feel this is the best way to ensure that the children are being helped in some way.

After being given very special t-shirts from our friends, Ryan and Sandy True, we got the idea of trying to raise money for the baby home instead of attempting to do it all on our own. Many people have asked how they can help out with our adoption, and we feel that helping us help the children is a great thing! We plan to send this message (or one similar) out when we return and have some pictures of the baby home to share with you. But we thought we would go ahead and get started on our efforts. If you are interested at all in making a donation or purchasing a t-shirt please just reply to this message and we can give you more information.

T-Shirt Details:
See the attached pictures for an idea of what the shirts will look like. If you can't open the attachments just let me know.

You can specify your size and color of t-shirt (all text will be white). The dark grey color in the photo is not available.

Front: Я верю (The means I Believe in Russian)

Back: The geographic outline of Russia. Running through the graphic is Psalms 68: 5-6 which reads: "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families." This is in both Russian and English.

Youth sizes available...S - 6-8 M - 10-12 L - 14-16; no toddler sizes; adult S-XXXL

Colors available in adult and youth...Red, Orange, Gold, Lime Green, Kelly, Brown, Purple, Pink, Hot Pink, Maroon, Black, Dark Gray, Light Grey, Marlin, Light Blue, Royal, and Navy


T-shirt with text on front only: minimum of $15 donation

T-shirt with text on both front and back: minimum of $20 donation

$2 more for 3XL

Shipping will be added to any orders that can't be hand delivered. We can figure the cost of that out via email :o)


~Justin and Heather