Tuesday, October 25, 2011


October 25, 2011
We're Going to Disney World!!!

Well, not anytime soon. We need to get adjusted first; but we ARE COMING HOME!!!!

The medical visit is done, the passport is in our hands, the visa is in the passport and the flights are booked.

For people on EST this is our schedule (In EST)

We leave the apartment at 8pm EST
We take off for Germany at 10:35 pm EST
We land in Germany at 1:35am EST

We will leave Frankfurt at 8:20am EST
We will LAND AT HOME 6:20 pm EST

We are flying Lufthansa and would LOVE and WELCOME lots of PRAYERS for SAFE TRAVELS and SMOOTH flights! I am a PHOBIC flyer. It makes me physically ill and I cry the whole time. Even with my script on the last flights, I was still a mess. I know I will have Sterling with me, but Im already starting to freak out. We are VERY excited to be coming home and start our life as a family. I am so proud of myself for getting over here but I need help and prayers to get home...

All that being said, I have a WHOLE GROUP of people to thank...
During the 10 People in 10 Days Posts I purposely left out a WHOLE GROUP of people so that I could save them for THIS POST about COMING HOME TO DISNEY WORLD!!!

MY DISNEY FRIENDS!!!! My online group Liners :-) has been so INCREDIBLY SUPPORTIVE.
They were there when we first decided to adopt and have been there through it all. I am so excited to have been able to share our journey with them. I know of one family that is even looking into adopting through RR because of our trip! :)

So, to my Liners :-) THANKS SO MUCH!!! For the help, the support (donations, gifts, prayers, kind words!) and all of the love and pixie dust you have showered on us! This group helped raise over $1000 towards our FSP and made our trip and our adoption a possibility!  THANKS!!!!

The next time I blog we will be HOME!!!! <3

PS Thanks Carrie for the Bible verses: Brian has written them down so I can read them over and over on the plane!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Waiting

Thursday, October 20, 2011
More Waiting

I didn't get a chance to blog yesterday. I'll give you the short version here. We woke up (with Sterling's help) around 07:00. We got up, dressed, had breakfast and got ready to leave. We THOUGHT Nicolai would be picking us up in the morning but when we hadn't heard anything by the time 11:00 rolled around we called Tatyana. She told us Nico would be to Sumy to pick us up between 14:00-15:00. Well, that didn't happen either. Nico showed up at 16:40. We packed the van and we were off to Kiev! Sterling was asleep within 5 minutes of us leaving the apartment (we withheld his afternoon nap purposely) and he slept for two and half hours. Perfect! We woke him up at 19:30 (purposely) and he stayed awake - although VERY drowsy for the rest of the ride. We made it into Kiev around 21:40ish and asked Nico to drop us by TGI Fridays - we were both craving American food. I stayed in the van with Nico and Sterling (to feed him a snack) while Brian ran in and grabbed dinner to go. While Brian was in the restaurant Yulia (one of the facs) called me on Nico's phone. Bad news - no passport on Friday. The soonest we could get the passport would be Monday. So, they canceled our embassy appointment that was scheduled for today and we were to have embassy Friday and Monday. Bummer, but I trust God is keeping us safe. By 22:15 we were in the new apartment. Sterling was fed and put to bed - he was asleep by 22:40. No crying, no screaming, no refusal. He just passed out. A great day for him! He was a trooper and I'm super proud of him. He was so well behaved. :) Brian and I ate after he fell asleep and then we crashed ourselves (both exhausted).

Little man woke us up today at 8:00. That means he slept for 9 hours last night! YAY! We got up and got dressed. Little man played in the apartment and we just relaxed (since our embassy appointment had been cancelled). We wanted to go to TGI Fridays but they dont open until 11:00. Unfortunately - little man was tried and cranky by 11:00 so we fed him lunch and we put him down for a nap. Today was the first day he let me rock him to sleep. He hasn't been super fond of physcial touch so today was big. He was napping GREAT - until he fell off of the bed. He didn't cry - he barely woke up...but I picked him up to lay him back in bed and THAT woke him up (really??) So, we tried to let him go back to sleep but NO DICE. We were going to walk to TGI Fridays but he was still tired and we didn't want to push it. By 17:30 he was EXHAUSTED and C.R.A.N.K.Y but this Mama is no fool. We fed him dinner and managed to keep him awake until almost 19:30. That was a stretch even so who knows when we will be getting up tomorrow!

Luda called around 20:30 to check on us. We inquired about the NEW embassy appointment and Luda said she had no idea what we were talking about. PANIC! She told us she would call Yulia to find out. We were worried that the embassy appointment never got changed - but it turned out there was just a lack of communication. No big deal. We have embassy visit #1 tomorrow at 10:00.

Because we now know when our embassy visits will be, we have booked our flights home! We will be HOME Tuesday, October 25 @ 18:05. Praise God! From here, all we need is prayer for: 1) an easy medical appointment and 2) SAFE TRAVELS HOME!!!!!

We are so excited to be returning to the states but sad that we will not be able to go through London to see our friends one last time!

Sorry I havent blogged ! Its been busy with a toddler around!!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gotcha Day!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Gotcha Day!

This has been one of the longest days of my life…and currently I wouldn’t even come close to saying the best. Probably – if you were to ask me now I would say the opposite. But that’s because I’m annoyed, tired, hungry and incredibly emotionally spent. Go grab a cup of tea or something this one is going to take a while.

The day started out great. Tatyana and Valentin picked us up around 09:30 and we headed out for the day.  As we were leaving, Tatyana told us she got our court decree by train yesterday. Tatyana and Valentine took us to the Foreign Passport office in Sumy first. But, the guy she needed to talk to wasn’t there. So, we went to the Birth Certificate office instead. On the way there we noticed that it was snowing…it started out as flurries but pretty soon it was really coming down. This was the first time Brian has ever seen snow fall. J Tatyana told us this is really early snow for Ukraine. The first snowfall normally is in November.

 Snow on the ground....

Yes, it stuck...

Ok so focus back on the birth certificate office – this is where the day started to go downhill.  They told us it would be a 30 minute wait… an hour later Tatyana decided that we needed to be productive while we waited. Tatyana and I got dropped off at the tax office while the men went and got the Adoption Certificate.   Remember how we left the birth certificate place because they were taking too long…well the lady at the tax office was clueless too. Apparently adoptions in this region are few and far between. Nobody we encountered today really knew what to do. After another 30 minute wait at the tax office trying to explain what the lady needed to do, Tatyana and I met the guys outside. Their story was just as interesting. When they left, Valentin jumped the curb instead of staying on the driveway.  They had to RUSH to the birth certificate office (they close at noon for lunch) and they made it with 2 minutes to spare. When they got there the lady gave them a hard time because I wasn’t with them and she needed my signature, so Brian took the liberty of signing for me.  In the end we got the new birth certificate with our names on it. We then RETURNED to the Foreign Passport office so Tatyana could ask them a question…no red passports. Luckily the passports from Sumy take only three days processing so we *might* have our passport in Kiev on Friday. But this set back in timing may have cost us…we will see.

After all of this we didn’t get on our way to Bilopillya (I can use all our city names since Sterling his now with us) to go to the orphanage until well after noon (BAD!). We found out then that it was going to be Gotcha Day. I should mention here that my stomach was in knots and nerves all day. This was the norm all day (and it still hurts.) On the way to Bilopillya, Valentin was pulled over by the police. The guy must have diplomatic immunity of some sort because he flashed them some card, told them he was transporting Americans and the policeman let us go (after rolling his eyes.)

We first went to the Foreign Passport Office in Bilopillya (don’t know why). Tatyana got out and went in. The three of us stayed in the car (Brian, Valentine and myself.) A police man came out and let a car through the gates and waved Valentin to move. Valentin pointed and said to us, “Policia…Mafia…HAHAHA”  That gave us a giggle.

We arrived at the orphanage and began paperwork central. Well, Tatyana began paperwork central. We were in a HUGE RUSH because the Foreign Passport office in Bilopillya closes at 16:00. The doctor had to get copies of his medical and shot records, Tatyana and Nina (assistant director) did bank stuff and release stuff. They asked us to give all of Sterling’s clothes to his nurse (Oksana) so she could change him. We did so. Close to an hour went by and we were told the director (WHOM WE HAD NEVER MET) had to sign off  on us taking Sterling today. Apparently, they were under the impression that we had to have the passport before they release him. In the beginning the director was adamant that we not take him today. Then there was a huge discussion over the bank accounts. Long story short, they wanted to know who was getting the money, the institution or the orphanage in Sumy.  They were under the impression it was there choice – which it is not. We found out too that you NOT obligated to return any of the child’s account money to the orphanages – you CAN keep it. We knew all along we were donating though and when Tatyana asked who we wanted to get the money we told them the institution. It’s the only place we know and they are so underfunded. After we said that the director eased up on the bank account thing. Then he went into this tirade about how kids with Down Syndrome are too much work, they are aggressive, they can’t learn etc. He questioned WHY (really … again?) we wanted a child with Down Syndrome (if I weren’t trying to be nice so he would let us take him I would have given him a piece of my mind, especially since he was already ours.) I humored him, promised to send him information on how to teach children with special needs and hook him up with an American contact. Only then did he stamp the release.  He then tried to talk our ears off and Tatyana pretty much walked out on him and told me to follow – leaving Brian and Valentin to fend for themselves. LOL. We went back downstairs to collect the bank cards, get jackets and get Sterling. But Sterling STILL hadn’t been dressed or delivered. OY! We eventually got him (with a haircut...butchered) – but it was a COMPLETE RUSH at this point (well after 15:00 – So no good gotcha day pictures) to get to the Foreign Passport office. We arrived, dropped Tatyana off to start paperwork and took Sterling to get his passport photo. The first round of passport photos. He was cooperative and although we made a lot of efforts – his passport picture didn’t come out so great. We rushed back to the passport office to drop off the photo just in time – Brian went in to meet Tatyana and Valentin took me to the bank. They wanted a picture of Sterling too…to close his account out. That took a while and he was starting to get tired there. Brian finally showed up and we left. Thank God!

Look at my face...I'm like, "Get me OUT OF HERE!"

Tiny little steps...Valentin is point to Brian telling him to put the diaper bag in the trunk.

The FIRST passport picture.

I had Sterling asleep in my arms within 5 minutes of us leaving. He slept the whole way to Sumy. I was assuming we were going home and they would let him sleep. But – I was wrong. We weren’t done. L

You can see how tiny he is in this picture. And I must say - so angelic...


Slept like a log...until the door was slammed....

 We had to go to the Sumy Foreign Passport office too (they close at 17:00 – we got there at 17:00.) Tatyana raced inside and we were good. Valentin opened his door and slammed it – thereby awaking our little angel. Commence the nightmare from a horror movie. Have you ever awoken a sound sleeping child and then expected them to be completely cooperative and sit still for yet ANOTHER set of passport pictures (WHO KNOWS WHY!?????) Well, let me assure you it was NOT pretty.  Commence meltdown of the decade. Seriously. Full on screaming tantrum. They were aggravated with us because, “we cannot make picture when he cries.” Well, I don’t know what they wanted me to do. It was now past 5:30 he was starving and exhausted. We finally got one picture (tongue protrusion and shading – they were not happy with us.) But Tatyana told them we were done. So, we left the passport office in Sumy at 18:15. Sterling was still in a MOOD and nothing would console him. When we got home Valentin told us we owed him $100 for driving this all day…I told him that wasn’t enough and we paid him $200. He was a sport and was so patient with an uber cranky toddler.

As soon as we got here I fed him and he was much happier. Mood change. Until we gave him a bath. NOT A FAN! HATED it! Screaming, crying, flailing – absolutely hated it. Still, I forced a hairwash (the orphanage stench HAD TO GO) and bathed him FAST. Then into PJs (3T bottoms way too big – super droopy). He was very tired – rubbing his eyes and CRANKY. I tried to put him down but NO DICE. So, I’m thinking that nap was just enough to ruin his bed time. ;)  

So, it is 8:30 he is exploring in his PJs and is SO HAPPY right now. Smiling, toddling everywhere just happy with FREEDOM. Today was not my favorite day. Everyone was pushed to the limits including my 5 year old…who did NOT need that today.  I’m so glad he has calmed down and is happy again. Hopefully he stays like this for tonight and can get some sleep.

Whatcha doin'?


I'm NOT tired...no way!

I have one thought for you: BEING A PIONEER IS NO FUN! Today would have been so much better if everyone knew what they were doing. Since we were the FIRST people to adopt here – it was a nightmare of a day. Brian and I haven’t eaten all day.  Nikko is picking us up tomorrow to take us back to Kyiv. We are needing LOTS OF PRAYERS now that our passport will be ready by Friday since we stayed well past closing today. We would also appreciate prayers for us as we settle into our “new normal” and begin our life as parents.

Tomorrow, the 5 hour car ride should be interesting…LOL.
But I hope we can get some GOOD pictures for you!

Thanks for all of the prayers and well wishes! It is SO GOOD to have him OUT OF THERE!!!!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Quarantine is OVER!!!

Monday, October 17, 2011
The Quarantine is OVER!!

We were so HAPPY to see our little man again today! And, we are happy to report that he was just as THRILLED to see us!

We were so afraid that we would see some regression after not being able to visit with him for a week, but much to our surprise he was his charming little self. We missed him so much and it was AWESOME to be able to love on him again. We missed him so so so much!

Um, yea - I'm not attached or anything...

He was SO HAPPY today. You can see from the pictures we got lots of smiles.

This is my FAVORITE Sterling face BY FAR. It totally melts my heart!

And when he giggles he just throws his head back....

And lets it go...absolutely precious!

He has figured the Bumble Ball out - we think!

And he now loves books! But he still has a short attention span!

He still explores everything with his mouth. Today Brian put Sterling's hand on his goatee so Sterling could feel it. His vision isn't great and he is still very much a toddler so he learns about things by putting them in his mouth. He has never been around men much - so he has never seen a goatee. Much to Brian's surprise (and so glad I got a picture) this is how Sterling "explored" Brian's goatee. And YES that tongue landed! It was NOT a kiss and it was HILARIOUS!!!

As we neared the end of our visit we started putting things away. Brian zipped the backpack up so Sterling couldn't take everything out. Sterling then decided it was time to get his back and go...only he couldn't lift it. Imagine in this picture the sound of much grunting and groaning!

Yes - his shirt today said 9-12 months (and yes for the most part it fit fine...) Don't go out buying clothes this little. He fit into our 2T and 3T shirts fine.

For those wondering this is what "boy's tights" look like. They are standard over here. And SUPER cute!

Daddy was so surprised (and excited) he was wearing a pair of Air Jordan's today! LOL!

Our hour visit flew by and before we knew it, it was time for us to return him to his caregivers for lunch. We THINK tonight is his last night in an orphanage EVER!!! Praise God!

According to one of our facilitators our day tomorrow should go something like this:

"So, my understanding of your schedule for tomorrow is as follows:
your first step is to get court decree from the court. (probably Tatiana is going to pick it up without you on the way to Sumy - I do not know).
Then you go to Vital Record Office to change original BC for post-adoption BC.
Then you need a Notary to certify the copy of new BC.

You need to go to Tax office to change identification number for post-adoption name.
Then you go to the orphanage to submit court decree and a copy of new BC, to sign lots of papers and pick up the boy. (The child is staying with you from then.)
You go to Passport Office to scan the picture of the child and submit the paper-work.

On Wednesday Nikko will pick you up and bring to Kiev. Then you may move your Embassy appointment or to submit all the documents on Thursday and wait for passport in Kiev.

All mentioned above is the prospective schedule for tomorrow, and you need to realize that it may be changed or delayed depending on different circumstances. I really hope you will be able to fulfill this plan tomorrow. Good luck to you!"

As you can see our day tomorrow will be pretty packed! We are pretty stoked about the part in green!
You can also tell from her response that there is no guarantee our passport will arrive on Friday for us to be home on Sunday. We will need lots of luck and prayers for that to happen.

So, tomorrow you SHOULD see pictures of our Gotcha Day!!!

One funny thing for today, we finished up our chocolate shopping. Now that we are done I can tell you we are coming home with 82 bars of chocolate. I'm sure it's a record of some sort, but we won't be able to get it again (unless we ask people who are coming!) Here is a picture of our stash!

I promised another top 10 today. Today Brian and I collaborated on what we mill miss most about being here.

The Hinz Family Countdown of the Top 10 Things We Will Miss About Living in Ukraine!

10) Having a Cleaning Lady - it's been fun for sure, but it won't be happening at home...sadly

9) Celentano's Pizza - Seriously it is very good and the toppings are fresh.

8) Sleeping In - Yea I'm pretty sure that life is over. Brian is a great husband though so maybe he will let me pull it off every now and then.

7) The Inexpensive Cost of Food - Being here made us realize how much we spend (and waste) on groceries. We will be much more mindful at the grocery store now.

6) Having the Ability to Walk Everywhere - We have missed our cars. But it is nice to not need one. No gas. No distance constraints. If we wanted to go somewhere we just walked. I like the end result of the weight loss too. Life here is so much "simpler" than back home. We really do take a lot for granted.

5) The People - Really they have been so nice. The ladies at McDonald's, the restaurants and the stores have all been pleasant and have tried to communicate with us. The ones that do speak English (broken) have been really patient with us.

4) More Specifically We Realized That We Will Miss Alexei - Despite his not speaking English and his (at times) crazy driving, I almost cried today when I realized we might not see him again. He has kept us safe and delivered us diligently to our son. We wish him many blessings.

3) Spending Time Together - Being together 24/7 has its challenges but it really has helped us to grow closer. When we started this process we, at one time, talked about Brian going back during the 10 day wait and me staying. We are so beyond happy we didn't do that.

2) Having Time to Read Devotionals and Really Grow Closer to God - I'm sure some will argue that this should be number one. But we CAN do this at home. It's been nice readin devotionals daily and reading the Good Word. Without the hustle and bustle of life going on it made it easier to focus on taking time to do this.

1) Being Sterling's Birth Country - It really nice that we have had this time to explore and take pictures to share with him when he gets home. I want to take some pictures (With the good camera!) of him in Sumy tomorrow or Wednesday before we leave. They belong on his walls.

I'm all teary eyed after writing this. We so badly want to come home but at the same time we are sad to be leaving here. It is a beautiful country with an amazingly deep culture and history. You can't often point to a building and say it's over 1000 years old. And you can't do it in America at all. I am so very glad we got to have this experience and that God chose us to be Sterling's parents. It really is too much for words.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Little Humor

Sunday, October 16, 2011
A Little Humor

I skipped writing a blog post yesterday - and despite the guilt I had over not providing fodder to my readers, It felt great. I had written over 30 blog posts consecutively since we left the USA. I like writing the blog - but I really enjoyed the break.

Today, Brian and I are going to humor you. We are giving you several top ten lists....for fun. They are not meant to be serious...I warn you because someone is going to tell me I should miss my family and friends. We do miss our family and our friends....but...there are other things we miss as well.

Without further ado I give to you....


10) An Oven - Do you know how annoying it is to make the same foods over and over? I can't wait to be able to have a little variety in my cooking! We have an oven...but we don't know how to use it and when we turn it on the whole apartment smells of propane...Yeah - we dont use it!

9) Target - For when you want out of the house and you don't know what you want to do or where you want to go.

8) A Sink - We have sinks. But we can't drink the water, can't brush our teeth with the water, and can't wash fruit with the water. Enough said.

7) Starbucks - I could really go for a decaf non-fat, no whip Grande Salted Caramel Frappuccino right now.

6) My bathtub -  Bath is my detox/destress time... I miss HOT water too.

5) Warm Days - I miss wearing shorts, sandals and tank tops. Last night it was -2* C. Yea that's like 28*.

4) My truck - I miss being able to get in the car and go somewhere. Anywhere. We walk everywhere here. My legs look great. But, I miss being able to get out and about.

3) TV in English - We have now seen: ALF, South Park, NCIS, CSI, CSI NY, Family Guy, Kill Bill, Terminator, Hawaii Five-0, Biggest Loser and many other shows in Russian. I have a new found respect for ESOL students.

2) Milk - I am a HEAVY milk drinker. A quart a day....its a wonder I'm not huge. I get this milk drinking habit from my father. I have a love affair with milk. The milk over here is different. When I get home I want a glass of milk.

1) Tijuana Flats - If you aren't from Central Florida this won't make sense. This is a Mexican restaurant chain in C. FL. With a HOT BAR and amazingly delicious food. I've already told our ride home we are stopping there for dinner before we even go to the house. 'nuff said.


10) The Dryer - Having clothes hanging around your house is not attractive. Looking at underwear while eating dinner is strange. We have a drying rack outside...but its too cold for that.

9) Menchies and Jeremiahs - Again if you aren't from Central Florida you dont know what these are. Jeremiah's is italian ice....honestly the best italian ice ever. And Menchies is one of those Fro Yo places where you can decorate your own yogurt and pay by weight. Delish!

8) Chick-Fil-A - Brian loves to stop for Chick-Fil-A breakfast in the morning.

7) My Radio - Lets just say there is no Mike and Mike in the morning here and they certainly don't have any country stations that we can find...

6) Survivor - He's an addict...seriously...and Brian is devastated that he is missing Coach, who is back on Survivor this season.

5) Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper - If you know me well, you know I don't drink soda. I don't like soda. It's too sweet and I'm not a fan of bubbles. Brian is the complete opposite - it's an addiction. He is so over Coca-Cola I'm not sure he will touch one for a long time once we get home.

4) NFL/NCAA Football - That is self-explanatory. (I should mention we have seen basketball, ping pong, tennis, and hockey...all in Russian.)

3) Bacon and Steak - or how about a filet wrapped in bacon! We eat chicken...lots of chicken. Brian is craving other meat...

2) Tijuana Flats - See note above. (I literally could drool right now.)

1) ESPN - Sad since he can read it online that he needs to list it as his number 1. When we stop by Flats on the way home - he can watch us eat. HAHAHAHA....

OK...I hope that helps you understand the serious withdrawls we are going through. I read on someone's blog (before we came) that they missed Mexican. No kidding. I didn't know I could miss an entire type of food this much.

As we were compiling the lists of things we miss about home, I nonchalantly said, I'll tell you what I WON'T miss about this place. And that started a whole new Top 10. I should say, that just because we have OPINIONS doesn't mean we don't respect this country. Someone said something to that effect last week. It's not true. Until you have been in these shoes (and walked the obligatory mile) you cannot even begin to FATHOM what it is like to be over here. The culture shock is huge. Just because families in country VENT and offer OPINIONS as to what it is like to be over here, does not mean that they don't RESPECT the culture or that they won't raise their children with a deep fondness of their Mother Land. Brian and I have already discussed how we are going to do this. Now that that warning has been stated I give you:


10) Being 7 hours ahead of home - I'm way past "jet lag" and into something else. My laptop time is home time and because of that - I haven't really adjusted. It isn't odd for me to go to bed at 02:00 and wake up at 13:00 (which I do at home too btw - not anymore since I'm now a mother) but I'm pretty sure it has to do with the fact that I want to talk with people at home and to do that I have to stay awake long enough to speak with them.

9) Being with Brian 24/7 - I love him...really I do...but everyone needs breathing room (and a break!)

8) Walking Everywhere - I mentioned I miss my car right? (I do like these new legs though - and I have vowed to walk with Sterling everyday after school!)

7) Stomach Aches - Nerves, food, stress - who knows what is causing them. My whole family has stomach issues but over here my stomach aches have been worse. I'm sure it's a combination of stuff - but I will not miss them.

6) Wearing the same clothes every day - seriously I'm leaving a lot of my clothes here. I need new jeans anyway and the shirts I brought (I packed smartly) are just solid colored Gap long sleeve tees for layering. Won't miss them. I'm coming home with less than I brought here. I never want to wear these shoes again either. And I mean NEVER.

5) Walking up 4 flights of musty stairs - enough said.

4) The gas stove - I LOVE gas stoves. Any cook will tell you they are SO MUCH BETTER than electric. But, not this one. It's 15 inches wide and it won't heat at a simmer. And I've already mentioned we can't get the oven to work. I miss my dependable electric right now.

3) Cold Weather - I was born and raised in the Orlando area. I am a rarity - not many natives exist. That being said, I did my stint in cold weather. After college I  moved back to Florida to avoid the cold. Sure, I love visiting it and I love snow. But if its cold and its not snowing then the cold is pointless. I want my sunshine back.

2) Eating the same food over and over and over and.... - you get the idea. I can pretty much guarantee I won't touch McDonald's, pizza, grilled cheese or an omelet for weeks after getting home.

1) Lady Gaga - Our neighbor (he/she - we don't know!) plays Lady Gaga CONSTANTLY. Brian joked that they only had the single of Poker Face because thats ALL we heard for the first week. Then it was Bad Romance. Now it's Poker Face again. Seriously - I'm not a Gaga fan to begin with and this hasn't helped.


10) McDonald's - In Brian's words, "I like McDonald's but not this much." I should say that they only reason we were going to McDonalds in the beginning was for free WiFi. Well, they did something and we can't get WiFi there any more. I only go now for the fries. And the coffee. The coffee everywhere else is either really weak or really strong.

9) Lady Gaga - Seriously...enough is enough.

8) Wearing the same clothes over and over and over and.... - We pretty much want to burn everything we brought with us.

7) Being 7 hours ahead - It's hard to talk to your friends and family when you have to wait until 1 am for them to get off of work.

6) The Wahl - When you plug it in and turn it on it's like a herd of elephants is taking over the apartment. It is literally the loudest thing I have ever heard. - rock concert loud. We should take a video of it...I'm not sure it would do it any justice. Sterling needs a haircut and we were planning on Wahl-ing him before we left. Not going to happen. I'm sure it will scare the pants right off of him. So forgive me if both of my boys come home looking a little shaggy.

5) Being Followed Around the Supermarket by the Policemen and the Workers - I should say this only happens at our little corner market. At the bigger markets they leave us alone. But at the small one, they know we are American and they aren't very fond of us. This one guard literally stalks us from when we walk in the gate until we pay. Annoying.

4) Our downstairs neighbor's constant home repair - This is the lady who yelled at us in the stairwell. We really wish we knew what she was doing. But there is CONSTANT drilling and banging. With walls paper thin it gets old fast. And its ALL DAY - even around 23:00 we will still hear drilling. UGH!

3) Seeing fresh fish (and I mean FRESH fish) sold everywhere - It's a little disconcerting to have fish eyes stare at you while you're buying meat from the deli. It's also a little strange to be at the fruit stand and have: a bushel of apples, a bushel of grapes and oh look a bushel of whole fish.

2) Not being able to read the menu at a restaurant - This is so tricky! We either resort to pointing (if the menu has pictures or the food is on display) or taking a pictures of what we want to show the workers. If we can't do either, and they don't have a menu in English, we leave.

1) The cold weather - No, really. It's cold. He may not be a FL native but he has lived in FL since he was 6 months old. Last night to bed he wore: 2 pair of pants, 4 shirts, 2 pair of socks and his gloves. Our apartment doesn't have heat...


Hope you got a laugh...it's about time for a little lightheartedness up in here!

Friday, October 14, 2011

10 People in 10 Days: Day TEN - Benny Factor

Friday, October 14, 2011
10 People in 10 Days
Sterling’s Celebrity Benefactor

We received an update on Sterling today from our facilitator. Fortunately it’s the same update we have been receiving all along. For now, Sterling is still chicken pox free (praise God!). We will be able to visit him on Monday for the first time in a week. I cannot wait to see him and love on him. I’m sad that, to him, we just disappeared. I hope it doesn’t affect the progress we have made so far.

Tatyana will be here early Tuesday morning to pick us up and in her words, “we will be doing paperwork all day.” If it means I can get my boy out of that mental institution on Wednesday then let’s go! I was originally going to leave him in there until the last possible minute, but seeing as how the place gets shut down and five days of quarantine start over every time someone breaks out in Chicken Pox – I want him out of there so we don’t get held up in country.  Hopefully, we will be able to get his passport QUICKLY so we can head to the capitol and head home!

Today is the last day of our 10 day wait! Normally the family would be SUPER EXCITED; but, since our 10 day wait isn’t officially over until Tuesday when we get our court decree, Brian and I are still practicing patience.

Because it is the last day of our 10 day wait – today is the last day of the 10 People in 10 Days feature. I really did save the best for last. Without this person, this adoption would have never happened.

Today, Brian and I thank:

Sterling’s Celebrity Benefactor

(This person wishes to remain anonymous, so I will call them Benny Factor to make writing easier.)

Many of you may not know that Sterling had a celebrity benefactor. Benny donated over half of Sterling’s adoption costs. Before we had even committed to adopting Sterling, Benny had donated $10,000 into Sterling’s adoption grant. When we committed, we had no idea where the money in Sterling’s grant came from. We were just incredibly grateful that the grant was going to help us bring him home.

Once our paperwork was turned into Reece’s Rainbow, I received an email from Andrea Roberts (Director of RR) regarding his grant. She told me who Benny Factor really is and requested that we respect the request to keep Benny’s true identity private. We were granted permission to tell our families and a few close friends, but other than that, we have not mentioned Benny’s identity to anyone.

We asked Andrea to get a message to Benny thanking Benny for the incredibly kind gesture. We explained that we were teachers and without the financial aid of the grant, Sterling’s adoption would not have been a possibility for us. We heard nothing back from Andrea – but I know that she did pass the message on.

We went on with the adoption process - home study updates, paperwork, fundraising, etc. We never forgot about Benny Factor and we were struggling with a way to honor this person for their gift of a family. One day after our dossier was submitted to the government here, I checked my email at school. In my inbox was a message from Andrea – letting us know that Benny had capped off our FSP and that we were fully funded. I’m glad I eat lunch alone because I started crying right away. I immediately emailed Brian who was just as shocked as I. Benny had already done SO MUCH for our adoption. The last thing we expected was another donation!

In August, Brian and I figured out how to honor Benny. My hands are tied in explaining how, but once Brian and I decided how we were going to honor Benny we sent word to Andrea and asked her to pass it on. Imagine our surprise when we got a forwarded response from Benny thanking us!  That was definitely not what we were expecting! The response was very personal and I am SO HAPPY that we made the decision we did.

At times I wonder if Benny understands exactly how much that grant meant for us. Without that money, we would not be here. We would not be gaining a son. Sterling would not be gaining THIS family. Actually, the likelihood that he would have a family at all is slim. He would have been transferred to the older child page and his status would have eventually changed to reflect the fact that he was institutionalized. The children on that page need families so very badly. So many families look at the younger children – that a lot of the older children go unnoticed.

As I was reading my devotion last night (I read Our Daily Bread) the reading for the night was Psalm 37 v 23-26. I took note of v 23-24 especially. They say, “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

I have said all along that I know this adoption is God’s will. After reading these verses I was even more sure of it. EVERYTHING fell into place for us. Paperwork, apostilling, family responses, timing and, most importantly, money. There is no doubt that God sent Benny to us. We will be forever grateful. Words CANNOT and DO NOT do our gratitude any justice. I truly hope that one day our family can meet Benny and offer our thanks in person. I would LOVE for Benny to get to meet Sterling so that they too can see what an amazing little gift he is to us.

I wish I could tell you who this person is. However, I am respecting his/her wish to stay ANONYMOUS. This means, even if you ask, I will not tell you. There are a few people who know already. If you are one of these people, please respect the benefactor’s wish to stay anonymous and do not name them. It is the least we can do.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

10 People in 10 Days: Day Nine - We're All in the Same Boat

Thursday, October 13, 2011

10 People in 10 Days

Other Families in Country

Today is day 9 of our 10 day wait! Hooray! After tomorrow we won’t have to worry about the possibility of anyone contesting the adoption.

The timing of everything here has really stunk for us. Having court on a Tuesday in this region is HORRID. This is because your 10th day falls on a Friday and your 11th day on Saturday. There is no court on Saturdays, Sundays OR Mondays here so we will not get our court decree until our 14th day. This also gives us less than great timing (barring a miracle) for the embassy. Assuming we can get all of our paperwork done on Tuesday, we can have Gotcha Day on Wednesday and PRAYERFULLY receive our passport Thursday (long shot) or Friday. Either way we will not be able to do any of our embassy stuff until the next week. If we can do embassy appointments on Monday and Tuesday, we can leave this country Wednesday the 26th which means we won’t be home until the 27th. This means we still have 2 weeks in this country.

Mind you, all of this is counting on the assumption that Sterling won’t get chicken pox. If he does, who knows what our timeline will look like. L I read A LOT of blogs before getting on the plane to come here. I noted that most families were in country between 31 and 37 days – right around 5 weeks. Right now, our best case scenario (noting that today is day 27) is that we will be in country 40 days – closer to 6 weeks. To be honest, I am less than thrilled about this. But, I also understand that everything happens for a reason. I TRUST that God’s plan is perfect.

Today Brian and I stayed busy. We got up, walked to the bank (closed for lunch), walked to Celentano’s Pizza for lunch, shopped at the Billa Market, walked back to city center and went to the MTC Store to add minutes to our internet modem, and went back by a bank to exchange money. While at Celentano’s we managed to tap into the free wifi and download 6 episodes of Royal Pains to hold us over until we can download some more (hopefully at that bakery we discovered) tomorrow.

Anyway, that is the status update for today. As promised yesterday I want to talk about each of the families that we have been in country with…briefly! I hope you enjoy reading about our new “friends!”

We’re All in the Same Boat

At last count, we have been in country with no less than 9 families (not counting ourselves) and two more are landing here this weekend. I have to say, while in country, there is nothing better than having someone walking in the same shoes you are, that speaks English (yay!) and that understands what you are doing and why. Having someone to talk to, whine to, cry to and celebrate little successes with is so important.  If you are coming here PLEASE reach out and find out who will be here with you! It is one of the little things that will keep you chugging along. I promise! Here is a little bit about each family we have been in country with!

Laurie and Bryan Maddex – The Maddex family was finishing up their stay as we were settling in. Their stay was FAR FROM NORMAL. Because they were the first case after the law changes there were more than a few hiccups. Their initial request to adopt Zeke was denied and they had to appeal. In the end they were here for over 50 days. They have been home, with all 4 of their boys, for a week or so now and everyone is doing just great! Laurie gives me the strength to keep going each day – if she can stay here for 8 weeks, I can handle my 6. I love talking to Laurie now that she is home. She gives lots of encouragement and she is always willing to answer questions and give advice.  To read the Maddex Family Story you can visit their blog here: http://addingtothemaddness.blogspot.com/

Cara and Doug Layne – The Layne’s have had their fair share of hiccups too! Cara and Doug are adopting two boys from this country. The little one, Eli is still an infant and will be heading home soon! Max is a teenager and he may have to stay through April. We are PRAYING that Max gets to go home with his family and join Eli and his sisters at home. Doug is coming back this weekend to get Eli (and hopefully Max.) . To read the Layne Family story and see pictures of Eli and Max you can visit the blog located here:  http://laynejourney.blogspot.com/

Rachel and Scott Center – The Centers just got home! The Center’s story is a great one! No hiccups and a great trip. Rachel and Scott were brave enough to bring their whole family with them – this trip hasn’t been easy on Brian and I – and the Centers did it with their 3 kids! Amazing! They have added Zeph to their family and everyone is happy and doing well. Rachel was great fun to talk to and she is always willing to give advice and encouragement. To read the Center Family story and see pics of Zeph you can visit the blog located here: rilysilyfamily.blogspot.com

Matthias and Lindsay Handrich – The Handrich family is adopting Emory. What a cutie! They brought their little one, Emerald, with them as well. I really enjoy the Handrich blog and I love looking at pictures of Emory. I was so happy to see him on the My Family Found Me page and I’m even happier to see him with a family. To read more about Emory and the Handrich story you can visit: beautifulthings2011.blogspot.com

Jeremy and Laura Lunnen – Oh how I love Laura Lunnen. She keeps me sane here. We talk to each other nearly every day. She is the one I go to when I just need to vent. Of all the people we are in country with, the Lunnens are in a situation most similar to ours. They too are adopting from an institution that has never had an adoption occur until now. Despite getting here before us, they are several days behind us in process. They just won their court case (hooray!) and are now in the middle of their 10 day wait. They are adopting Seth, who has CP, and I LOVE looking at the pictures and watching the videos of their little man! He has made so much progress since they have come here. Thanks Laura for all of our little chats! To see Seth and visit the Lunnen blog you can go here: bringinghomeonelittleboy.blogspot.com

Christie and Shawn Taylor – You read about these fine folks yesterday! An update – they received Jadon’s passport today and should be traveling home this weekend! They adopted from a region without a 10 day wait so are currently the envy of everyone here. J I can’t wait for them to get home so Jadon’s new life can begin and they can be reunited with the 3 little boys they had to leave at home. You can read the Taylor family blog here: www.taylorvillethree21.blogspot.com

Erika and Mel Rogers – The Rogers family is also adopting 2 little ones! They are adding both a son and a daughter to the family. Ironically, I had originally inquired about “Oscar” (now Malachi) when I inquired about Sterling. I was so happy to find him on the My Family Found Me page! They are also adding Clare to the family. On top of these two little ones, Erika and Mel have many children at home. They have big hearts and I am so happy to see these two little babes head to a home where they will be loved and nurtured. To visit the family blog and see pictures of the little ones see the blog located here: http://arainbowfamily.blogspot.com

David and Stephanie Barnett – The Barnetts are pulling the hat trick! They are adopting 3 little ones from this country. They are adopting two boys, Teague and Trenton, and a girl - Maclayne. The Barnetts are currently in country for the last part of their adoptions! All 3 courts are done and all 3 Gotcha Days have occurred! Hooray!  You can visit the Barnet blog by visiting: www.obedient2HisCommand.blogspot.com

Jake and Ashley Gibson – This is the most recent family to get in country. I wish I knew more about them and their story! Jake and Ashley are here adopting Carter, who is really darn cute! They have a lot of their journey left and we really wish them the best! To read the Gibson family story you can visit:  HomeIsWhereItsAt.blogspot.com

Coming this weekend:

Shawn and Sarah Basile – The Basile family is on their second adoption journey through Reece’s Rainbow. In 2010 they adopted their daughter, Zoya.  I have been in chat with Sarah several times and I know that she is thrilled to be adding another little pea to their family. Like the Woods family they arrive this weekend and could use prayers for save travel. To visit the Basile family blog visit: www.hopefulheartadoption.blogspot.com

Anna and Jerad Woods – You read about Anna and Jerad yesterday. They are leaving tomorrow. Please pray for safe travels for them. I am so thrilled to see Blake find a family. I really cannot wait to read the Woods family blog and watch them bond with Blake. They are REALLY BLESSED to have lots of new pictures of Blake since they are adopting from the same orphanage that the Barnett family adopted from. To read the Woods family blog you can visit: homeonthekansasrange.blogspot.com

You can tell WE ARE NOT ALONE! 12 families (I hope I didn't miss anyone) in country at the same time is a testament to the amazing things that happen when God is involved. Despite the little ones that will be going home with these families there are nearly one hundred thousand orphans in this country. To learn how you can help or, even better, how you can adopt one of these angels, visit www.reecesrainbow.org

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

He Makes Me Smile!

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10 People in 10 Days: Day Eight - My Reece's Rainbow Family

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
10 People in 10 Days
My RR Family                     

Ok, we have a small update on the chicken pox issue. What we learned today is:

1)    Sterling has never had chicken pox
2)    Sterling still does not have chicken pox
3)    The ENTIRE institution is closed until Monday

That’s it, now you are caught up! Brian and I have been playing a lot of Uno and we spent nearly 2 hours at McDonald’s today doing nothing. The WiFi there will no longer work on our devices…any of them. Luckily, on the walk back to the apartment we found a little coffee shop/bakery that has WiFi and what look like really yummy desserts. So, we will start substituting the bakery for Mickey D’s. Thank goodness.

Only part of adopting through RR is the adoption part. RR does so much more – from advocacy and grant funding to providing resources and support. My FAVORITE part of adopting through RR is the connections I have made. I have made some amazing FRIENDS on this journey and I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

So, today for the 10 People in 10 Days blogs our focus is on:

My Reece’s Rainbow Family

I think I mentioned before that when you register with RR you gain access to the forums and the chat features. These are, by far, the most valuable assets one can have. It is through these forums and these chats that I have been blessed to make some really good friends! These are people I talk to DAILY about EVERYTHING. They are all going through what we are going through and I love having them there to support me!

Jessica Whiteaker

It’s crazy to think that just 5 or so months ago I didn’t even know Jess existed on the planet. Today, I would refer to her as one of my closest friends. Weird, considering we haven’t even met. But, for the past 4 or so months, we have chatted nearly every day (that’s been hard over here!) about our situations.

Jessica contacted me when I started the necklace fundraiser. She wanted me to make necklaces of the little man she and her husband, Wes, are adopting. Known by Danny on RR, the Whiteakers are adopting a little guy with Down Syndrome too. What really made her easy to talk to is that our stories are very similar. Jess and Wes also had trouble conceiving and Danny will be their first child.

It was great having someone who has struggled with infertility to talk to. We could gripe and complain and know that the other person knew where we were coming from. We’ve also shared ideas on bedroom d├ęcor, toys, clothes, strollers etc. I love having someone to bounce ideas off of.

Jessica and Wes live in Texas. They are devout Christians and God loving people. I love that Jess and I can also share our needs and prayer requests with each other. It is amazing that God brings people into your lives when you really need them.

Although Jessica and Wes are adopting from a different country than we are, the processes have been very similar. It’s been nice to have been able to help Jess out since we have always been just a few steps ahead. This week, Jessica and Wes are finishing up their dossier and sending it off to Danny’s country! I’m sure they can use any prayers you have to offer for their process. They will not be able to travel until after Christmas – so they have a long time to wait before they get to meet their son!

Meeting Jessica and having her “by my side” every step of the way has been an amazing GIFT. I can’t wait until they are in country and I can follow their blog and their journey as they bring Danny home!

Anna Woods

I can’t believe the Woods family is leaving so soon!!! On the 14th they will be flying out of the USA and headed HERE! I am so excited!

Anna and I met on the forum (or in chat…) Ironically, Anna and her husband, Jerad, are adopting a little boy that I inquired about. We had already committed to Sterling when I inquired, I was interested in whether he would be adoptable WITH Sterling but when the RR people told me, “Only if you want to do two of everything ,” I knew it wasn’t meant to be. I prayed for little Blake to find his family and just a few days later his little chubby cheeks were on the My Family Found Me page! YAY!

 Anna and Jerad live in Kansas and they have two amazing precious little girls at home already, Autumn and Leah. Both are as cute as can be.

Meeting Anna was a Godsend too. Since she is adopting from the same country we are in, we were able to talk each other through tons of paperwork. We have bounced ideas off of each other and shared both successes and frustrations with each other as well.

We have always been one step ahead of Anna, so I have done the very best I could to keep her apprised of her next step. We used to be a lot closer in the process, but when the government here shut down because they were waiting on an appeal, the Woods family was stalled and we were not (because of the boys’ ages.)

Anna and Jerad are also devout Christians and I love having the ability to talk to families that are like minded. It’s great to always have friends who can help pick you up when you are down and who can celebrate successes with you.

I cannot WAIT until the Woods get here! We were SO hoping and praying that we would be able to meet them in the capitol city but it isn’t looking like that will happen. L Regardless, I cannot wait to see their first meeting with Blake (in pictures) and watch their journey with him. Just thinking about it gets me all teary eyed! Please say a prayer for Anna and Jerad’s travel to this country and also one for the girls they are leaving at home while they travel. It isn’t easy to leave your family behind  - even if you are adding another member to it!

To read Anna’s blog on their adoption journey you can visit the blog here:

Christie Taylor

I think it’s fair to say that Christie has had hurdle after hurdle thrown at her during her adoption. I can’t go into detail (and even I could I wouldn’t because it isn’t my story to share) but trust me when I say that she and her husband, Shawn, have shown amazing strength, faith and courage on their adoption journey.

I’m not even sure when I met Christie. She is always just there. She is one of the most vocal people on the forum and in chat. She is willing to answer any questions that get posted, offer advice to anyone who needs it and lift people up in prayer anytime someone hits a wall. She is amazing.

She is also a crazy researcher! She is the one who helps people find out information that they need during the process. If she doesn’t know the answer off the top of her head (which she does most of the time) she WILL find the answer. She is definitely someone to have around when you need help.

Christie and Shawn’s journey began long before ours; but, like I said they hit nearly every obstacle possible. We THOUGHT that we would travel with them to this country – but God had other plans. Brian and I came alone. Christie and Shawn traveled with the Rogers Family. Despite arriving here nearly 10 days after we did, they are lucky to be adopting from a region WITHOUT the 10 day wait.

So, I am more than PLEASED to announced that Christie and Shawn gained custody of Jadon Andrew yesterday. (Pictures of their Gotcha Day can be found on the blog – link below.) This is GREAT for them because they left three little men at home while they came here to adopt a 4th. Jadon will be joining big brothers Jared, Jackson, and Joseph when he gets home.

I know Christie is going to have her hands full but I hope we can manage to stay in contact!

To read the Taylor’s blog and to see really adorable pictures of Jadon visit:

These are only three of the many families I communicate with on a DAILY BASIS! For some more insight come back tomorrow…we will be focusing on a few more families.  Tomorrow’s theme is “We are all in the same boat!” I will be BRIEFLY talking about the families that we are in country with and how it takes a community mindset for us all to stay sane!