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