Sunday, February 26, 2012

The 26th

Dear AJ,
It's 9:06pm and you're in your room, sleeping peacefully in your bed, surrounded by your stuffed animal friends, and of course the one, the only, Scout. You lay peacefully and quietly nestled in your Buzz Lightyear soft and cozy flannel sheets. Your sweet blonde hair sweeps across your forehead and I wonder what you are dreaming.

Two months ago today Little One, Daddy and I walked anxiously down a sidewalk and through iron gates painted a shade of green that reminded me of trees in summertime. We were led into a room we would get to know quite well and sat down. We met Tatiyana and showed her photos from home. Yulia said, they are bringing in your child soon. "Your child," those words will stay with us forever. You were dressed in blue jean overalls with a little bear patched on the front. You wore a heavy blue wool sweater underneath. I do miss that sweater actually. I wish we had it. It smelled like you and you wore it often. The nanny peered into the doorway. You were in her arms. You had been crying and were obviously so very scared. We were scared too. Would you fall in love with us the way we had fallen deeply in love with you? She sat you down on the couch and we knelt infront of you, tears streaming down our cheeks. I asked if I could pick you up and hold you. Yulia laughed a little and said of course. Daddy and I prayed over you and thanked Jesus for picking us- for calling us by name, outloud, and getting us to this very day. The very day that was already a part of His great plan. He knew this day was coming before there was time and the time had finally come. We hugged you. We kissed you. The dream of what seemed was never going to happen, what was never going to get here- we were there, in that place, and it was completely wonderful.  We already knew you were our son when we looked at your picture. Seeing you in real life, well that was the icing.

One month ago today, after many hours of walking, subways, buses, cars, visits to you, paper chasing, a court hearing, and a 10 day appeals period, we walked through those green gates, to go to that little room, to take our shoes off and wait for you to be brought to us, for the last time. We could hear you laughing as you were being carried through the hallway. Little did you know that this day was the day the Lord had chosen for your new life to begin. We changed your clothes. Stripping off the old. Peeling off the layers of exterior that we would leave behind. It was a part of your old life. A life that wasn't yours anymore. Reminders of an old life that you didn't need reminding of. You would never know that life ever again.

 The nanny that came to say goodbye to her sweetheart. Her "Antoshka."

It was bitter cold that day. We bundled you up in your coat, hat, and mittens. I held you in my arms and you melted into my chest. With your head on my shoulder, I followed Daddy down the corridor and through the front door of the baby house. We closed the door behind us. We walked down the front steps where Daddy held the gate open. Our car was waiting. None of us, including you, looked back.

The scared little boy we had just met one month earlier, whom the court decree stated " one had ever visited him or had taken an interest in his life..." was in our arms forever. Forever you will have someone to love you, care for you, and show you the world with arms wide open. Forever you will have someone who will lovingly take an active interest in your sweet little life. This is how our first night together in our apartment in Kyiv came to a close...

Again, all of that was one month ago today. Hard to believe it really wasn't that long ago. You are so much a part of our lives and our family that we cannot even remember what life was like when there were only 3.  And then there were 4. Yeah, we love that.

Sleep well and sweet dreams Antoshka.
To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy

Saturday, February 18, 2012

2 weeks home

Dear AJ,

We've been home for 2 weeks now. You fit with our little family perfectly. Daddy and I cannot even think of life without you being in it. To be honest, and as funny as it may sound- it's already hard to remember what our life was like with just the 3 of us. You add so much beauty to our lives.

What have you taught us about you in the last two weeks?
1. You love to eat and you're good at it too! (ham, turkey, chicken, beef, spinach, bananas, yogurt, oats, prunes, oranges, pancakes, bell peppers, avocadoes, chicken enchilladas ala Joani, chicken and veggies ala Nicki, meatballs and mashed potatoes ala Tracy, italian beef ala Lynn, pizza ala Annie.... you love it all!!) This is not an exhausted list of all that you will gladly fill up your tummy with!

2. You not only resemble Daddy, you share some of the same habits. You like to sleep with your arms above your head and you wiggle your socks off so they are hanging off of your toes. Your Dad does the same.

3. You love to show how strong you are by grasping my fingers and pulling to a sit then to a stand.

4. You love to go grocery shopping. You have lots to say on shopping trips and clearly want everyone to know where you are at all times! It's pretty wonderful to hear that sweet little voice.

5. You are getting much better at taking a bath and are not quite as panicked when we put you in the bathtub. I think you're starting to realize we are in fact, NOT trying to cause you any harm.

6. You are getting used to the idea that whether you like it or not, your teeth will be brushed two times per day. Sorry kid- no negotiations on that one. Your sweet little face twists into the most pitiful of expressions when you see me holding your Lightening McQueen toothbrush. You will open your mouth up nice and big for me when I say "AHHHHH!!!!"

7. You suck on your thumb and giggle to yourself while rolling onto your side when you're sleepy.

8. Your smile lights up the entire house when you wake up in the morning. You're so happy when I come to get you from your bed. That smile speaks volumes to my heart. That's a smile just for Mommy and Daddy. I can't even put into words how it feels when you dazzle us with that smile and reach your little hands out to us to be picked up. We will always pick you up. You will never have to worry about being ignored or hushed or passed by.

9. One of your favorite things is to snuggle with your big brother when he gets home from school. You've even fallen asleep with your head on his chest. And he will in turn fall asleep resting on the top of your head. You're both way to good at hearing the camera come out. I have yet to capture one of those moments. I will get one. I'm sure of it, because I know there will be many many many more of those precious moments to come.

10. You are figuring out how to play with toys one by one. You are very curious and inquisitive, but cannot be pushed or rushed. Those new found wonders are best enjoyed on your terms. And that's fine with us. Scout is still your favorite. We've changed the name that Scout says now. It's been Anton (which unfortunately wasn't spoken with a Ukrainian or Russian accent) to AJ. We call you AJ. I still sneak in an Antoshka here and there, but you are definitely an AJ.

Today is Saturday and it is a beauty of a day. The sun is shining and it's calling us to come outdoors and enjoy it. Daddy woke us up this morning with pancakes with real maple syrup, bananas, and fresh raspberries. Delish!! All of my men, big and little and canine under the same roof. Before I was just happy to say that soon we would be on the same continent. Nothing is proving to be better than a good Saturday morning kiss from your Dad and hearing you and your big brother's giggles. My cup runneth over and over and over and over and over... time to get bundled up a bit and enjoy this sunshine and fresh air.

Happy 2nd weekend in America!
To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

Dear AJ,
It's a bit surreal writing to I look at your sweet face and watch you play with YOUR home, surrounded by YOUR family, YOUR things, YOUR dog. Were we really in Ukraine for 45 days and now you are home with us forever? Yep, we were. And yep, you are.

Grammie and Grampa Carroll, in thinking of their grandbabies and especially your first Christmas at home with your family, put their Christmas tree up on New Year's Day. It's been up and decorated and waiting for us to come home. Today is the day we celebrate being home with you, being home with your brother, and the birth of the One who made it all possible for this sweet little family to grow. Happy Birthday Jesus.

We remain in awe of what You give and how You love. I still ask, "Why us, Papa? We surely don't deserve to be the parents of two awesome, gorgeous little boys. And, I, surely don't deserve the dear husband that You gave to me. So, how come?" You already know that I used to openly say how much I hated You. I don't believe in You. I cared more about the things of this world and thought even if You did exist, You were useless to me and my all important needs and wants. That entire sad time of my life, You patiently waited at my door. You stood at the door and knocked. Not obnoxiously, just softly and patiently. You called my name and told me how much You loved me through that door that I kept closed to You for so long. The day I made the choice to hear Your voice and open the door, You were still there. You were not tired, not bored, not angry that it took me so long to answer. Instead, that day, You let this confused, tired, sad little girl fall into Your arms and say I'm sorry. You took me anyway- in all my busted up broken-ness, in all the guilt, in all the shame of many bad choices, in all the hate, in all the anger, in all the lies- You spoke Your truth and made me new. Not only did you speak truth into my life and tell me with Your words of Your never ending, unconditional, never giving up, never tiring love for me- You poured out Your blessings into my life- a loving husband and leader for my family, the endurance to be the mama I needed to be for my precious Anthony, and now another perfect little son. I'm on my knees in awe of You. I will never understand Your ways as they will never be my own, but thank you. All I have and all I am, is Yours alone.

So, AJ- today is Christmas in February. We will watch Ralphie and It's A Wonderful Life, we will open gifts, the Christmas lights will be glowing on the tree, we will feast, we will laugh, snuggle, and nap. But most importantly, AJ- we will remember the One, who from all blessings flow. We will remember the One who came to our rescue to save us from ourselves. We'll remember the One who humbled Himself to become a man and live on the Earth- knowing He had a ransom to pay. We'll remember and praise the One who made the choice out of love for His babies- that He would get what He didn't deserve, so that we would not get what we so clearly did. Happy birthday Jesus. Happy Birthday. We love You.

It's almost time to go to Grammie's and Grampa's, AJ!! Let's get this party started!
To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Day 45

Dear AJ,
How cool is it to be watching your Daddy talk and sing and laugh with you while he changes your clothes this morning? Answer: pretty cool.

We've been waiting for this time with you and it's still a bit surreal that we have it now. We were just saying the other night- remember sitting at home asking the Lord, when?? Then, when we knew "when" asking the Lord, please bless it....and make it get here faster please!! Now you've been with us for 6 days. And you are every bit of the taste of sweetness we thought you would be- and more.

So, I know I haven't written since January 15. Not much was going on between that time and January 24. We had passed court, which was held on January 13. We had to wait 10 days to get the court decree, so it was really a lot like the movie Ground Hog Day around here. Get up- walk to the subway- ride subway for 30 minutes- walk to our bus stop- ride the bus for about an hour- get to orphanage- visit you for a couple of hours- reverse order- eat- shower- sleep- wash- rinse- repeat.

Then, finally January 24 came around and we had in our hands the official court documents stating that the country of Ukraine recognized us as your Mommy and Daddy. Never in my wildest dreams would I think that a piece of paper, typed up in Ukrainian, stamped and sealed could ever look so precious and beautiful.

The next day, January 25- we left early in the morning for your birth city- Volodarka. We needed to pick up your birth certificate. The women in the Birth/Death registration office were very helpful to us and we didn't have to wait very long...well, what we have decided is not waiting long. We have learned that not everyone in this world lives by the American "microwave society" standard. Which, actually- looking back on some of those long 10 hour plus days of paperchasing- was a bit refreshing. Don't get me wrong- at the time, nothing was more irritating.  The ladies in the office told us your birth mom's name was Svitlana. They said you have 2 brothers somewhere in the world but they wouldn't or couldn't give us their names or whereabouts. Then again, it is very possible they just didn't know. We found out that your birth mom died in a traffic accident when she was 35 years old. (Feb. 4, 2008 is when she died.) We did find out some other information about her as well, but we'll save that for you, just for you and only if you decide you want to know. We left that placed after sharing some video of you laughing and giggling and the office ladies asking us to take care of the little boy who was born in Volodarka.

January 26, 2012. The day we will celebrate for years to come for sure. GOTCHYA DAY!!! (or GOTCHA DAY!!!...whichever) We got some time alone with you and changed you out of your orphanage clothes into a pair of Guess Jeans and a Hawkeye football jersey. You looked amazing and Daddy was so proud to have his little man represent his fave team on the other side of the world.
Our favorite nanny came into the visitation room to say Good Bye to you. She held you for a little while and we took your picture with her. Even though we didn't understand what she was saying to us- the mutual love for a child speaks volumes which language barriers cannot pierce. You've lived in that orphanage since you were 6 months old. You had never been to the visitation room or outside the four walls of your groupa until we came for you. That one nanny, was the only one who said Good Bye.
I could go on a tirade about how hurt I was for you or how angry I was at the people you counted on to keep you alive. But, that's for another day. Not this one. I will just say that stepping out into the crisp winter air, surrounded by a freshly fallen snow, and walking through that orphanage gate with you in my arms will be what needs to be remembered about that day. That- and I would be lying if I didn't tell you, whispering "Dasvidanyia Baby House, it's time to go home!" in your ears while leaving, I think, was really the Lord speaking through me to you. Redemption- He came 2000 years ago and again on January 26, 2012. Jesus Rocks!!

Fast forward to today- February 1, 2012. You've been with us for 6 days and you're teaching us a lot about you. You are scared to death of taking a bath. You loathe having your teeth brushed. Your favorite toy remains to be Scout. You will tolerate drinking sips of plain warm water. You like caramel candy. You like muffins. You like apple/rice cereal made with apple juice and really nothing else. You like trying to mimic us saying "silly silly silly" by saying "illy illy illy or gilly gilly gilly." You have the sweetest smile and your face can light up this entire apartment. You flop like a fish when you sleep and use your head to help flip you over. You're a great sleeper and your interal clock says 8pm is lights out- and you mean it! You don't cry very often, but it does hurt my heart when you are playing and then stop to look around and start crying out of nowhere. It makes me wonder if you are missing the comfort of your groupa. I'm sure you are and I'm sorry for that. I wish I could make this whole thing easier for you.  You get a look of pure disgust on your face when we bathe you, brush your teeth, and feed you something you don't like or want- almost as if you are positive we are trying to murder you. I promise we are not. You have not pooped for us yet- and being a GI nurse, your mommy desperately wants to see some poop!! Please feel free to oblige us at any time. Although, I must be honest with myself. I fully expect you to have a major blow out on one of the flights home.

And these next two sentences are perhaps two of the best sentences that will ever be said. You received your visa today. We are going home.

You are snuggled up in bed and asleep right now. It's been a long day. Sweet dreams my little Antoshka. We love you to the moon and back.

Mommy and Daddy

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I know a little peanut who loves...candy.

Our little Antoshka,
What a great visit with you today, really not unlike all the others. You greeted us with one of your ultra fantastic grins when you came into the visitation room this morning. You are really showing that you indeed know who we are and maybe, you might even like us a little bit.

Daddy and I brought you a piece of candy to try today. It was soft and gooey and rich and sugary and melt in your mouth- everything a kiddo could want in a piece of candy, I think. You were playing intently with Scout when you heard me undoing the wrapper. Your sweet brown eyes grew large with excitement and anticipation. Your face lit up the room- such a dazzling smile you have! You happily tossed Scout aside and while never taking your eyes off of my hands, you began to reach for them.

Your sweet little face filled with wonder as you watched me take a tiny bite off the end of the candy. That of which I bit in half one more time. We really didn't want to take any chances that I was going to have to give you the heimlich during our visit. (FYI- please make a mental note, AJ- Mommy and Daddy would prefer to NEVER have to do such a maneuver on your peanut body- ever. Thanks.)
You were like a baby bird in waiting. You knew full well the candy was for you. You opened your mouth and sat patiently waiting for that piece to hurry its way in.

The first little taste on your tongue and you...well, really no other way to explain it. You. Went. Nuts. Oh AJ, you squealed and squealed with such a delight and excitement. Surely your little cheeks had to be sore from all the smiling. You laughed and laughed and opened your mouth wide when you were ready for more. Daddy and I had to attempt to keep you from laughing so hard, afraid you would just choke on your own saliva. You did not care. Not in the least bit. You had a little piece of yumminess that was all yours and you had zero reservations about letting everyone know. It was, completely wonderful. If I didn't give you more fast enough, you were reaching for my hands. I thought you maybe wanted to feed yourself and let you have the gooey treat, but as soon as you realized I had let go, so did you. That was fine, we're more than happy to give you another bite and another and another.

I got the camera out to take a video of how incredibly awesome this candy eating experience was for all 3 of us, but of course, in true AJ fashion- the camera came out and you subdued your feelings a tad. We still got a few seconds of your beautiful smile and infectious laugh. Unfortunately, the last time I let you take the candy out of my hand in hopes you would try to feed yourself- it dropped....on the dirty carpet. Sorry kiddo, 5 second rule doesn't apply here, on this carpet. Ick. So, we said, "All done!" and washed you up. You knew I had it in my hand and I felt a bit heartbroken for you because I know you saw me throw what was left away. We will bring you another piece tomorrow my darling Antoshka. Trust us when we say, there will be MANY MANY MANY more days of treats to come.

On Sundays, during our visit- there is a Mama and Papa who come and spend time with a little boy named Danyl, their son. We aren't able to speak very much other than hello and goodbye due to our huge language barrier, but no words needed to be spoken to know how much this sweet little boy is loved by his parents. They come and bathe him, change him, play with him, feed him, give him his medicines, etc. Since you are so very much in love with your Scout and could really care less about the Paddington Bear we brought, we decided to give it to Danyl today. I walked over to them as Danyl was nestled in his Papa's arms and tucked Paddington under his little hands. Danyl's parents smiled at us and said thank you. It's clear that Danyl is very delayed. By his eye movements, I wonder if he may have some sort of cortical vision impairment. His body language told me he had CP, but it could be something else affecting his movements. Danyl's mother left the room and came back shortly after with a woman who spoke English. The woman introduced herself and said that Danyl's parents wanted to speak with us. They had figured out already that we were Americans and adopting you. They told us that Danyl was 5 1/2 years old and they wanted to know how to get him adopted. My heart ached for them to have to say those words, let alone be reaching out to complete strangers for help. They told us that Danyl's care, medicines, and supplies were very expensive and time was running out because he would be sent to the mental institution soon. They simply did not have the means to take care of Danyl at home and did not want to see their sweetheart be sentenced to hell on earth because of his age. We immediately got on the phone to Yulia and asked her to speak with their friend.
Rules rules rules. We knew what they were. We knew what would be said. We knew his special needs would not matter because of his age, but Ukrainian law dictates that Danyl would need to be on the adoption registry for one year- allowing Ukrainian families first chance to adopt or foster him. Then and only then, (along with Danyl's parents signing the necessary documents to terminate all parental rights to the boy they so desperately loved) would he be available for international adoption.
We cannot fathom being in that place. Knowing in your mind and in your heart that it would be far better to take the chance of never seeing your child again, out of pure love. We cannot fathom living in a place where families have no choice but to be torn apart because the system and the society do not deem your child to be worthy of life.
Danyl's parents did not seem upset over the details of what Yulia brought to them on how the system works. Which to us only says, they KNOW this is the only way their good and perfect gift can have any kind of chance, any at all. In Ukraine, there are no chances.

So today, Chris, AJ, and I reach out to anyone reading this. We ask you to humbly go to the feet of Jesus and pray for sweet Danyl and his parents. Pray for grace to be over Danyl's parents. Pray for mercy for Danyl's beautiful little life. This little boy is literally living on borrowed time. If Chris and I could take him with us along with AJ, we would. Unfortunately there are many many bureaucratic mountains that must be scaled first. So, we do what only we know we can. We do with it what we do with all things big and small- we let it go and leave it with our Papa. Please keep this family on your hearts and pray for them. Thank you.

And for now sweet Antoshka, we will be seeing you tomorrow.
To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy

Saturday, January 14, 2012

One Less Orphan in the World Today (January 13, 2012)

Dearest AJ or as I have learned the sweetest name for you, Antoshka, (my darling Antoshka)

Happy Court Hearing Day my Love! It was a chilly rainy morning. Daddy and I walked to the subway station to meet Yulia who would take us to pick up the social worker from the Child Services office and then on to the courthouse.

Now, normally, our walk to the subway station is no biggie. We do it everyday. It's 15ish sneakers. Today, in the rain, I was wearing 4 inch heels. My nice tall black pointy toed boots, I reserve for "getting dressed up" for date nights with Daddy...and apparently court hearings. How hard can this be anyway? Ukrainian women wear boots like these everyday and walk much further I'm sure....navigating themselves with ease over 1000 year old brick and cobblestone paths as well as the cracked all to hell and severely uneven and potholed asphalt. I could do it too. The real question was not whether or not I could accomplish this feat but rather, could I accomplish this feat without tripping, falling down, rolling an ankle(s), breaking an ankle(s), etc, etc...
This morning I had curled my hair, makeup on, jewelry in place, ready to go....donned my ultra ugly Columbia parka and out the door we went. At that very moment I had wished I owned one of the many very beautiful fur coats I saw on every other woman that I passed on the street, or at least a pretty, long, streamlined coat with the big fluffy fur collar, instead of covering my court outfit with Iowa ski attire.  Ah well, I held my head high and tried to exude an air of confidence. In all reality and honesty, I'm quite sure I embodied the human form of a hippo on stilts in a Columbia parka. Better luck next time, Putz. (Oh, by the way- the walk to the subway took 20ish minutes and I made it, ankles and pride intact.)

Yulia called us to let us know that traffic was a mess and she was not going to make it on time to pick us up at 8:50AM. We decided we would just sit in the McDonald's and wait for her to call. Yulia made it to us at 9:15AM and we were on our way. She assured us that the judge is never on time and would most likely not be there when we got there, so it would be ok if we were late. (Daddy and I were still a bit nervous about that- but before we left that morning, we prayed and said no matter what- we KNOW this day is ENTIRELY in the hands of Jesus. So be it, whatever happens, we will rejoice in the Lord.)

Tatiana, the orphanage director/attorney from your orphanage met us at the court house. We made it inside at 10:03AM. So, we were late. Our hearing was scheduled for 10AM. Yulia spoke with a few people and let us know that the judge was not even in the building yet, so we were fine. Whew! Fine with us.

Daddy and I were ushered into an empty courtroom. It was 10:15AM. The room was old. Peeling layers of paint decorated the walls. The symbol for the country of Ukraine was stenciled and painted above the judge's seat on the wall we faced.  Bare lightbulbs, dull lightbulbs, hung from the ceiling, some sockets were missing their companions. Grime streaked all of the windows. The linoleum was bubbling up from the floor and appeared as though it had not been scrubbed in years. We sat on the covered plywood benches and waited for instructions. It was silent. I could hear the tick- tocking of my watch and I became somewhat hypnotized by an older man standing in an open window in the building across from where we waited. I could see him clearly through many seasons of dirt left on the window. He looked tired. The lines on his face and the salt in his pepper hair said times in Ukraine, they are not easy ones.  I watched him smoke a cigarette, and maybe for a minute, I wished I had one too. I was jolted out of my own little world I'd created out of necessity when Daddy asked me what time it was. Surely, it was almost 11:00. I looked at my watch and with a heavy sigh, I told Daddy it was 10:20AM.

Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock....

Daddy and I spent time trying to make eachother laugh, alternating with prayer, alternating with words of encouragement to eachother, alternating with complete silence. Tatiana came in to check on us and gave us candy for sustaining nourishment. Though she doesn't speak much English, she said: "This is crazy." Shaking her head and saying too, "I vant to eat. I vant to sleep, but....vell, ve vait." Yes, yes we most certainly vill vait all day if we have to. As long as this day ends with a judge deciding in our favor that you would become our son. I would sit on that bench and wait for as long as was needed. We've come this far, we're not leaving this country without you.

Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock....

I shifted back and forth from taking my coat on and off. It was quite cold waiting in that dimly lit, bare bones, rather sad room. Tatiana came back in, "Maybe time now?" And she motioned us to follow her. We stood outside the courtroom and face 3 closed doors. The only word I could make out was the name Tatiana on the middle door. None of the other words came to me as easily. Yulia was in that room. She walked out and immediately made a phone call. I watched her every step as she spoke rather quietly and paced back and forth. Daddy rubbed my arm to let me know everything was ok. Tatiana must have felt my anxiety starting to rise. I didn't realize I was standing board stiff, shoulders up, hands clenched, knuckles white. Yulia concluded her phone call and spoke to the social worker and Tatiana in Russian. Tatiana motioned to Yulia about how I was standing. Good pick up, Tatiana. Good pick up. Yulia smiled at us and let us know everything was ok. This particular judge was the only one who took adoption cases and seemed to enjoy making parents wait...and perhaps sweat a bit. She was late in coming and took all of her other cases ahead of us simply because, she was the judge and she could. We were told that she does not smile and will have a very flat affect when we speak to her. "Don't be scared," Yulia said, "You'll be fine. This is normal procedure for this judge. It's just the way she is, so we deal with it. It will be all worth it when it's done." Fine by us. As long as her last words were, take your kiddo home or something to that effect, we were good.

12:30PM. Two and a half hours after our court appointment, we watched a raven haired beauty step out of the judge's chambers. Tatiana's chambers. Our judge's name. Her chambers. That's what was hidden behind door number 2. "Pootz?" Yulia, Tatiana, and the social worker stepped forward and ushered us into the little room with them. Judge's chambers? It was more like a principal's office. But, then again, I guess I didn't really know what to expect. As we entered, the judge looked me up and down as I took the seat nearest her but kitty corner to where she was seated at her desk. She cracked a quick smile at me when our eyes met, then turned away toward her papers. Her smile back to an expression of all seriousness and authority. Yulia began translating a lot of judicial language to us. We heard a lot of  "The court" and "This petition...." Daddy was asked to stand first and answered questions, simple ones. His name, year of birth, address, yearly salary, why did we want to adopt from Ukraine, and what our motives were to adopt you. My turn came and I was asked my name, date of birth, place of employment, other available resources that we have available to care for you and give you a proper life. Very easy. The social worker stood up when asked and expressed how she felt our petition to adopt you was reasonable as you had been registered for adoption for the required length of time and that no one had previously inquired about fostering or adopting you, including Ukrainian families. Tatiana then stood and said that you were a true orphan as your birth mother had passed away and according to her words in the maternity records, your father was unknown. She said that you had lived in the Boyarka baby house since you left the hospital as a baby and no one had ever come to visit you. No one had ever asked about you. She also said that it was nothing short of amazing to her to see how much you had already bonded with us and were opening up to us. She never expected to see this happen between the 3 of us in such a short period of time.  All of those words, though working in our favor to become your parents, cut right through us. But, to survive this game and come out breathing, you have no other choice than to save those wounds for debridement and bandaging at a later time. For right now, we had to tie them off in the far recesses of our brains to stop the bleeding and wrap them up the best we could with the dirty rags of what we knew. Daddy and I were asked to stand before "the court" and state we both were completely aware of your medical diagnosis. "Yes." We were asked what we were petitioning the court for? "We ask the court to allow us to be named the parents of Anton Anatolyovich Kremanchuk. We ask the court to allow Anton's patronymic name to be removed from his birth record and that his name be legally changed to Anton John Putz. We ask the court to keep Anton's known birthdate and place of birth. We ask the court that we, Christopher John and Leann Carolyn Putz be named parents of Anton John Putz." The judge said at that time, Yulia translated to us, "At this time, the court will recess and will reconvene with decision of this case." As she was stating this, we were being shooed out of her chambers with a rather wanton wave of her hand. She did not look up. Tatiana smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up. "Is that it?" I whispered as I stepped through the doorway. I really don't know why I felt it necessary to whisper that to someone I knew full well did not speak English. Yulia was grinning from ear to ear when we were back in the waiting area. "Congratulations! That's it. You wait 2 and a half hours for 10 minutes." The social worker and Tatiana were beaming at us. I couldn't contain myself. In 4 inch heels, I jumped up and down a few times, clapping my hands excitedly but softly, and whispering "YAAAAAAAAAY" with much exaggeration. If it would have been okay to yell "YES!!!" from the top of my lungs, and throw in a few fist pumps, I would have. I decided against it. Daddy had the biggest, proud Papa smile spread across his face. His entire face was glowing. His eyes, and mine as well, were hot and reddened. We linked arms and followed our fearless crew out of the building. Stealing quiet glances from eachother, marked with knowing grins, I heard Daddy say, "Thank you Jesus. Thank you."

Yes, Thank you Papa. What a glorious day You've given to us. We are forever humbled that You chose us. From before time began, You already chose this for us. And we are forever grateful for this most good and perfect gift.

To the moon and back we love you, AJ.... finally,though always in our hearts, but now on paper, our son.
Mommy and Daddy

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Dear AJ,

Mommy and Daddy received the sweetest telephone call a little while ago. Yulia called to tell us that we officially have a court date for you to become our son! Our court hearing is this Friday, January 13, 2011 at 10:00 AM. We won't be able to come and visit you that day sweet love, but we will be back to you on Saturday for sure!

To the Moon and Back,
Mommy and Daddy

Day...I seriously don't even know right now. (January 11, 2012)

Dear AJ,

Well, Little Darling- Daddy and I have finally made it to the other side of sleeplessness and horrible snotting colds. We saw you again for the first time in 4 or 5 days, on January 7- Christmas Day in Ukraine.

We were very much afraid that you would be afraid of us again and not remember who we were. Just the opposite really. You have been showing us more and more of your HUGE personality everyday. Laughing and smiling at us. Jabbering away to us- happily filling us in on all of your smiley secrets. You are very ticklish and we are learning all of your sweet tickle spots. You like it when Daddy reads the book, Are You My Mother? but always start to get a frowny face when we read, That's When I'm Happy. You don't like it when we say Mama and Papa, it has so far, just made you cry. (Really makes me wonder what has been told to you in regards to those two words.) So, we only call ourselves, Mommy and Daddy.

We've brought you some watered down apple juice to try- it's become clear to us that you are being spoon fed your liquids. I've tried to give you sips with a cup and am trying a bottle now. You're not digging either one. We have snuck you in a little bit of chocolate muffin and yesterday, a vanilla muffin. Both of which, you were more than delighted to have nibbles of.

You have a fond attachment to your big brother's LeapFrog puppy, Scout. You have grown in leaps and bounds from just staring at it, not even trying to touch it, to squeezing it, biting it, chewing on it, smiling at it, and smiling to yourself when you make it sing and light up. So proud of yourself- and we are so very proud of you! You're at the point now, that when you are brought to us, you will stare at Daddy's backpack until we get him out. We love that.

We work on stretching out your legs and hips everyday. You seem to enjoy doing some range of motion exercises and having your hamstrings and calves massaged. Your little ankles are moving better too now. You are very strong and love showing us how big and strong you are everyday. You like to sit on the floor between my legs and stretch forward to grab your feet. I let go of you every time, and there you sit- completely unassisted.

At today's visit (Jan 11)- you were stretched out on the couch with Daddy lying beside you. I was working with your legs and hips, while you laughed and merrily jib jabbered away. Daddy and I kept telling you how silly silly silly silly you came back with a big smile, shaking your head from side to side saying, "Illy illy illy illy illy illy!" It was completely awesome. You were in quite the talkative mood until two other families came into the small visitation room. When they came in, you grew very quiet. You stopped looking up at us as much. You stopped smiling, except for a couple tiny ones here and there. You stopped talking to us. You stopped laughing. I don't know if it was just too much going on then with all of the other activity and you were getting a bit uneasy with it all, or what it was exactly. Maybe getting a tad overstimulated with the little girls running around. I guess it may be something we'll have to be careful with when we get you home, for a little while anyway.
When the two families left and before another family came in, you started to emerge once again from your frail little shell. I looked at your dumpling face and said, "There you are!" You cooed at me and smiled.

Here are some photos and a video clip from over the last 4 days.

Unfortunately, we did not get a picture of you from yesterday. The nanny brought you to us wearing a pepto bismol pink stocking hat, complete with flowers to match the pink and purple snowsuit you were stuffed into. (not to mention the too small footie jammies, tights, 2 pairs of wool socks, and not one, not two, but THREE shirts under the jammies.) We had to call the facilitator to translate for us because being dressed in a snowsuit and such, we wondered if you were leaving or had just come back from somewhere. (Daddy and I waited in the visitation room for an hour for you to be brought in to us- which was very strange and truth be known- made us very anxious.) But, This is just how you were dressed for the day- girlie snowsuit and all. I think we are finally being trusted a bit. We were asked to bring you back to your groupa by ourselves when we were done with our visit. We were pretty excited to see where you spend your days and nights. But, alas...the nanny came back for you before we were done, so you had to go with her. Today, we got the opportunity to at least see where your groupa was and made it only steps away from the door, but interception by way of nanny occurred before we made it to goal. Dang. Better luck next time.

See you in the morning Sweet Love. To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 17 (January 3, 2012)

Dear AJ,
My mommy heart hurts today. Daddy and I are both sick- headaches, achey bodies, scratchy throats, runny noses, congestion, yuck. So, we won't be able to see you today. Hopefully if we rest up all day today, we will feel better and able to come see you tomorrow. You're starting to feel better so we don't want to pass thing back and forth.

I feel so badly that we can't see you. Daddy and I both feel like we were making some progress with you and you were just starting to trust us. Now, we can't help but ask ourselves- does this mean you'll be wondering where we are? Why we didn't come? Will you wonder if we are going to come back? You've started to respond to and want to hold the stuffed musical toy we brought for you, now you won't see him today either. I'm sorry, Love. I really really am.

Ugh. I hate this. I just hate it. Why did this have to happen now? And really, you may be really indifferent to us being there, I get that. This may all be in my head. I get that, too. We've waited so long to see you and be with you and now we can't. We'll call one of the facilitators today and ask her to call the orphanage and let them know why we are not there and to tell you why as well. As soon as Daddy and I are feeling good again, we'll be right back to our daily morning routine, promise.

We love you to the moon and back.
Mommy and Daddy

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 16 January 2, 2012

Dearest AJ,
What a blast we had with you today sweet boy!! You are feeling better, that's pretty obvious.
I wish Daddy and I could say the same. We think we caught your oogies. We still both feel alright, but can tell something is in the works. We are praying that the Lord would heal us up and stop whatever this is in its tracks so we don't miss any time with you!

You made our day today with this:

THAT is the little boy, we've been missing the last couple of days because of your horrible cold. Prayer certainly does work though- you had one heck of a horrendous cough and were having a heck of a time breathing well. You were a little raspy yet today, but much better overall. Thank you, Jesus!

Daddy and I just spent a lot of time watching you smile and listening to you laugh. Such sweet sweet music to our ears and our souls. You have a smile, AJ, that could light up the dimmest of rooms and warm up the coldest of hearts.

We left when a nanny came to get you for lunch time. It was about 12:45pm, so we got about 3 hours and 45 minutes with you today. 3 hours and 45 minutes of a little piece of Heaven for us. We can't wait until the day comes that this little piece of Heaven happens all day long, everyday!

Have the most wonderful night. Think of us, we'll be sure to do the same. See you tomorrow, Love.

To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy

Day 15 (January 1, 2012)

Dear AJ,
Happy New Year Sweet Little Love! You are the best part of our day and today it's been one week since we met. And what a great week it's been.

We so look forward, with eager anticipation, for the morning to come so that we can make our way to you! You are doing very well and seem to be feeling better. You're not coughing as much, if hardly at all, and when you do it doesn't make you cry out in pain anymore. You're still congested and your nose is runny, but I believe you're feeling better. Daddy and I were able to get some smiles and laughs from you today.

We're are pretty sure that when the nannies bring you to us each morning, it is the first time you're up and out of your crib since the day before. Everyone always feels yucky in the morning time when sick, you're clearly no exception there. It takes a bit of time for you to get the gunky junk out of your nose, throat, and chest and you're tearful during that time. Afterwards, you seem pretty relieved and start warming up to us rather quickly.

Here is how you were brought to us today:

Daddy was not too keen on your knitted hat. I, on the other hand, thought you made it look good. You were also wearing your standard issued attire- 3 shirts, one heavy sweater, tights, socks, slippers, and head covering. You were pulling at your cap today so Daddy took it off and I had removed your slippers while I was stretching and doing some range with your legs. Note to self: Self, DO NOT and I repeat, DO NOT FORGET to put cap and slippers back on before one of the nannies comes back in to retrieve AJ for lunch, lest you get scolded by a hefty little Baboushka in Russian. Whoopsies. My bad. My bad.

We were able to get a few more pictures of you today. We didn't the last couple of days since you were really feeling miserable, the last thing we wanted to do was shove a camera in your face. You really showed off on how big and strong you are! During tummy time, you had no problems raising yourself all the way up on your arms over and over again. You are such a big, strong, handsome, strapping, little boy!

Here are a few videos we were able to take of you on this Happiest of New Years! (If only your big brother were with us. We miss you Anthony!!)

And before I forget- here are a few pics of the orphanage:

Have a wonderful New Year's Day, Little One! We'll see you tomorrow.

To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy