December 20, 2007

Michael's room is almost done so we are spending a lot of time at Menards lately. Caelia and Michael have discovered the Christmas aisle and are quite content to stay there. Caelia is now HO-HOing on command (she doesn't really have enough breath to get out HO-HO-HO!)and is trying to blend in next to the plastic Santas. I think of her as something of an elf anyway.

December 19, 2007

I've been thinking a lot about why we are adopting. I think this must be normal as we get closer to actually traveling. There are a lot of reasons. A companion for Caelia, a larger family, saving a child from a place that no person should ever go and even because its the right thing for us to do. All of those are part of it but my favorite reason is that I am so happy with my family, my kids, that I can't think of anything better than multiplying the size of my family.

We do get asked how we think Caelia and Michael will react to the new girls. Caelia's reaction should be something like this:

Lera is reportedly a little on the stocky side and a very tall girl. Caelia is pretty tall and definitely earns our name of "Chunky monkey" so Randy is predicting a clash of the titans occuring in our livingroom. I think they will eventually work out their plans for timesharing Daddy's lap.

Michael told me today that he will be glad when they get here for 2 reasons. One, he will have two more snuggle buddies and two, he has a new room in the basement to hide from them (in case they decide to band together and attack him). I wonder if he will let me hide there too?

Most of the time this is how I see him with Caelia. I keep trying to imagine him with two more... soon...

I can see! - December 14, 2007

We went shopping today. Caelia always manages to talk the bell ringers into letting her ring the bell. She loves every bell ringer she meets. She was particularly taken with the gentleman that she met today. Of course, she was equally taken with the stockboy that she tried to talk out of his telephone. She was full of smiles, so we braved the eye glass store without Daddy. Her glasses were in and Mom couldn't wait to see them on her.

When the eyewear technician put her glasses on, Caelia got this look of wonder as she stared into the mirror. She didn't touch them, didn't really budge while they adjusted them. Not until I put my head next to hers and she looked at both of us with glasses, did she move. She very carefully turned and looked at me and lifted her hands up to feel my face. I think her eyesight must have deteriorated quite a bit from the time they had said her eyesight was fine. She has since taken them off, every chance she gets, but I was told that this is normal until she decides that she likes being able to see.

We remarked early on that Lera looked startlingly like Caelia but with glasses and we were right. Check out the picture :) and then check the link on the side labeled "Our Girls". What do you think? I think she also looks alot like the famous Reece of Reece's Rainbow fame!

December 12, 2007

The annual Santa picture is done. Caelia LOVES Santa - always has. Michael is of the opinion that he is too old for Santa photos. He has been informed that until he is 13 he will be visiting Santa. This is our last year of Michael, Caelia and Santa. Next year, we hope to have Santa, Michael, Caelia, Lena and Lera. After that, in the interest to our son's dignity, we'll just have the girls in the pictures.

Our flight is booked for January 27th - arriving in Kyiv on the 28th with our appointment sometime on January 29th. We were going to stop over in Paris, but this way is quicker and Randy won't have to miss the extra day of work. He is trying to save some vacation days to spend with the girls when we get them home.

Winter is Here! - December 8, 2007

Okay, that is possibly the biggest understatement that could be said. At our house there is close to a foot of snow and our temperatures are hovering around the zero mark. We went out a couple of nights ago and had to unfreeze the doors on the van in order to get Caelia into her seat.

We do have HEAT in the bedrooms - thanks to our friend, Gary, who has been making sense of our duct work and putting it to rights. A little more drywall and some carpet and Michael will have his new room! I think I am more excited than he is.

I can't believe how quickly time is going. We have so much to do before we leave and it is making me so scatter-brained.

December 1, 2007

I was going to write about our weather, but that can wait until tomorrow when I have assessed the damage from our first "significant snow storm of the season".

I have great news! Lera and Lena are both still at the baby house, thanks to their excellent caregivers, and our Olena is WALKING!!!! She is now able to play with the other children. We are elated to hear this news. (In addition to down syndrome, Olena also has a heart condition has not been mobile until now.) I think that if this is not a sign that her health is better than we feared, I do believe that it is a sign that she is a very determined little girl.

YIPPPEEE!!! We have our appointment!

Our appointment is scheduled for January 29th!. Victoria called us last night and told us the good news. Alex (our facilitator) called her at 2:30am his time so that we could get the news as soon as possible. Thank you, very much, Victoria and Alex!!! We are thrilled to finally make plans to leave and can now breathe a sigh of relief that we won't miss Christmas with our children. We are looking into flights and trying to figure out what we still need to do.

I would like to take a small photo album to give to the officials at the SDA of successful additions to families. Anyone who would like to add their pictures please email me at

I had hoped that having an actual date would relieve the stress (it did, briefly) and then I thought of at least a hundred things that I need to do before we leave.

For now, however, I am dancing a happy dance and dreaming of a houseful of laughing, shreiking, running children.

BRRR! - November 29, 2007

It is freezing here! But at least its sunny and at least I can think of this as preparation for traveling to Eastern Europe. I am thinking about those lovely ladies who are also waiting to travel. They are in Oklahoma, Florida... I wonder if they will turn blue when they step off the plane? The shock to their systems could be brutal! I'm thinking it may seem like spring by the orphanage to us. I've been told they don't really get snow there. I will try to write more later, I've got to give up the computer to Michael (he's using the K12 curriculum and going to Virtual School).

Oh and for anyone who is thinking it looks miserably cold where they are: Keep this in mind. (And no, this is not Minnesota, its Switzerland, but I keep it in mind when I think its cold here)

An update of sorts - November 27, 2007

Well, today is Randy's birthday! I thought I would call and see if there was any news to give him about our appointment and while I did have a lovely conversation with Victoria, no appointment date yet. Victoria did tell me that she expects to hear within a week or so what our appointment date is. I really hope so.

I am very happy to hear of about all the wonderful families that are bringing their children home. The Homecoming page on Reeces Rainbow is a great place to go when you're wondering why you are messing with all of this bureaucaratic nonsense.

Ok - so math isn't my strong point...

Still no word on our appointment. I am trying to be patient but it is very hard. I am looking forward to Thanksgiving. My cousin just had a beautiful baby girl. I remember changing HER diapers - how can she be married with a baby? If that time goes by so quickly, why does waiting to hear about an appointment take so much slower?


And more waiting...

We are still waiting to hear about our SDA appointment. I know the best thing is to wait until you hear and not think about it until then but its constantly on my mind. I don't stray far from either my email or my cellphone (just in case). I check them as soon as I get home. I have even calculated what day I expect to hear if all variables stay constant. Yes, I am a geek and my father would be proud of the logic I am trying to apply to this very illogical process.

The best part of waiting is that I know of three other ladies who are within a week or three of the date we submitted our dossier and I get the distinct impression that they are as impatiently waiting as I am. Misery loves company but I guess so does adoption anxiety. All of the ladies from the Reeces Rainbow group have been so supportive and they always have something positive to say, I'll never be able to thank them enough.

Oh and for anyone who is interested: I think we will hear about our SDA date on Wednesday. Now, I can only hope that my math skills have improved over the years.

Party Girl - November 17, 2007

A great time was had by all at the benefit for LeAnn and a lot of money was raised to help with the medical bills. Michael, Christopher and Matthew were all great helpers to the band. Randy tweaked his back bringing in equipment, so his team of roadies was much appreciated.

I wish I had remembered my camera. My daughter danced and danced. She slow danced with her daddy until he had to play guitar again and then she danced with her teddy bear. And in true party girl fashion, she swiped her dad's bottle of beer and tried to run with it. Once again (thanks to Randy's roadies) she was apprehended.

She is always in the center of things. The last party that she attended, it was pole dancing. Who knows what she will talk her new sisters into? These pictures are from this summer.

November 16, 2007

Today is the 20th business day since our dossier was deposited with the SDA. Ukrainian law says they have 20 business days to respond to us. But this is the Ukraine, so when we hear, we hear. At least when you wait for Christmas as a kid, they give you one of those countdown calendars with the treats inside. They should make one of those for adopting parents! Not candy, though, after this much waiting, I wouldn't be able to fit in the airline seats.

The Today Show this morning ran a piece on the institutions in Serbia. Unfortunately, these conditions are common in many countries in eastern Europe. It is not because the people are heartless, or cruel. They simply do not have the resources and the caretakers do not have the ability, time or authority to change the conditions these lost ones are forced to endure. It breaks my heart to think of the girls we are hoping to adopt in a place such as this.

Anyone who is interested in reading this article can go to the NY Times website or TIME website or the full report is available at

Please don't read the full report unless you have a strong stomache.

On a more postive note: Serbia is one of the most affordable places to adopt from, travel time isn't that bad and Andrea has some lovely little ones on Reeces Rainbow who are in need of a forever family! Check out Jovan from the Christmas Angels page - he is very bright and considered a joy to be around. And with a smile like that, how could you doubt it?

FAQS - November 15, 2007

Okay, so this is shamelessly lifted (with permission) from another blog, but it is one of the best explanations of the fate that awaits our girls if we don't move quickly to get them. The obvious answer to those asking why we rush is: Wouldn't you be in a hurry to get your babies home? The not so easy answer is that the orphanage system that they are apart of is taxed to the breaking point. The funds are given to the babyhouses and as an orphan gets older the conditions and the resources get worse. If you are a child with special needs, such as down syndrome, your conditions are frequently the last to receive funds for improvement. Having said this : here is the FAQS lifted from a friend's blog.

Q: Why did you decide to do an international adoption and not adopt one of the kids available here in the US?
A: This seems to be the 'doozy'. The one noone wants to answer and yet it's asked all the time. Here's my stab at making sense :) We originally weren't sure what we were going to do. We thought that international adoption was way out of our league financially, but I opened a conversation line with Andrea at Reece's Rainbow anyway. After looking at a few available kids world wide Mike and I had a conversation that revealed a few important things for us. 1) we definitely wanted to (and felt called to) pursue a child with special needs... Down syndrome if possible. 2) there aren't many kids with Ds in US foster care (interesting, isn't it?) 3) there are children around the world that need homes, but a LOT of kids with Ds in other countries that are available. 4)kids in the US even in foster care are always treated humanely (ok, ALMOST always... but the gov't at least says it's supposed to be humane). 5) kids overseas are often neglected and have no hope for a future, especially kids with disailities 6) children as young as 4 are put into mental institutions overseas and often die by age 10 because of the conditions of their care.

So we quickly realized that adopting a child with Ds from a counry where the child faces a VERY early death was what we wanted to look at. Not just looking for another child for our family- although that is a big part of it too- but looking for a child that would likely not survive if we didn't step in. And no, we didn't want a hero mission. We wanted a rescue. These kids are my heroes.

Now to add a few more questions and answers, specific to us:

Q:Are you crazy?
A: Somewhat, but not because we are hoping to adopt two girls with down syndrome. Every person that I have ever met with down syndrome - no matter what age - are the sweetest, friendliest and most innocently happy souls I have had the pleasure to meet. Raising a child with down syndrome has its challenges but raising any child has challenges. (I'll post ten reasons why you should adopt a child with special needs another day) We are familiar with health issues, developmental milestones and all of the other reasons that people invariably list as arguments for why we shouldn't want to adopt a special needs child, but all the things that they list are just apart of life to us. We wouldn't trade our children for anything in the world. What others see as work, I see as life with my kids.

Q: You do realise that you will have THREE 5 year olds?
A: Yes, we did the math and realise that we are multiplying our little tornado by 2 more and it will seem like there are 5 of them running in opposite directions, but somedays, I will have THREE little helpers. We have alot of support from our family and friends, we are familiar with community resources and we have tag team babysitters lined up.

I'm sure I will think of other things to add, but for now, that'll do.

If there is any questions that you want to ask, please feel free to email me at I would be happy to hear from you.

LeAnn - November 14, 2007

There is a benefit for LeAnn this weekend. Randy is going to play (with the rest of the band). She is a wonderful woman and I have always been inspired by her life and vitality. I could go into all the details but, if you'd like to read about this amazing woman, Colleen (my sister-in-law) has set up a website for her, that has her complete story. Colleen is a much better writer than I am. I added the link under Great Links on the sidebar. It's called LeAnn's Light.

Thomas - November 12, 2007

Thomas passed away last night. He was a great cat with tons of personality. He will be missed alot.

There are so many wonderful stories about Tommy. Even the way he became part of our family was unique...

I was taking my husband to work one morning and we heard a meow. Michael was small, still in a carseat, and a little in love with cats and sometimes acted like a cat, so we told him that was very good and finished our commute to downtown. I heard him meow a few more times on the way back home but didn't really think much about it until I got home and realized that Michael was not meowing. I searched the inside of the caravan before coming to the scary conclusion that there was not a cat IN my car but UNDER it. I crawled under and plucked a 5 week old kitten from the plate above the muffler. His nose was burnt and so were his paws and as soon as I got him loose, he sank his claws into my chest and began to meow in earnest. The vet told us that he had probably damaged his hearing but he would live. And it was determined that anything that was that determined to come home with us, just had to stay with us.

He was really Michael's cat. He adored Michael, and tolerated anything any child dished out with such good nature. He was never cross, he purred so very loudly and I don't believe I heard him ever hiss. He was truly one of a kind.

November 9, 2007

Not much new on the adoption front for us personally, but wonderful news from the Ukraine in general. The 1st adoption ever took place at the special needs orphanage in Torez! This is wonderful news. Here is the blog address for those of you who would like to read more about this monumental event.

We are still waiting for our appointment date. I am hoping for something this year but everything moves at a different pace in the Ukraine.

In the mean time, we have put in a privacy fence in our backyard (Thank you, Gary!) Caelia had begun to scale her way over the chain link fence that was there. It is the hardest part of having a child like Caelia - she wanders, doesn't recognize dangers and is very determined to see the rest of the world. We have to figure out a new lock for the back gate - she figured it out. This is always tough, because it has to be accessible for other people but not for Caelia. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Caelia has also taken to playing hide and seek. Sometimes, its really hard to find her - she can fit in the most unlikely places. So I ordered this thing called a "gigglebug". Its a cute pin that looks like a ladybug that you attach to the back of her clothes and a key fob that you keep and if you want to find her, you push the button and it chirps. Kind of like the find handset on the cordless phone. It might be cheating for hide and seek but it will certainly make life a little easier.


Randy was very surprised by the work and by the fact that we kept it a surprise. Even Michael managed to keep the secret. Maybe we can finish the basement before we travel. No word from the SDA yet, however.

Tonight is Halloween! The house is ready and Michael and Caelia are dressed for the occasion. I couldn't get a decent picture of them both smiling but they still looked awfully cute.

This is the house tonight. It is intimidating to some but we get about 300 kids every year. Some of the kids are bigger than me. I like watching them pluck up the courage to come up on our porch. Sometimes I have to walk down the stairs to give the little ones their treat - most of them quit looking scared when they see the glow necklace and a (reasonably) normal looking person.

October 30,2007

It has been a long couple of days without Randy. He gets back tonight and I will be so happy to see him.

First of all, I need to thank everyone that helped with the beam. My neighbors showed up, my inlaws showed up, my dad even arrived to help (Brandon had to work late and Ryan just wussed out). 17 and 1/2 feet of beam went into the house perfectly. The last 6 inches required jacks, 2x4s and a dodge dakota. However, the operation was a success and the patient (and all of the team survived). I wish we had gotten this on film.

October 28th, 2007

Okay - he's gone. I took him to the airport and headed for the hardware stores. We have 2 poles that stand in the middle of our unfinished basement - yuck! While Randy is gone, with the outstanding help of friends and family, we are removing the poles, putting in a laminated 18 foot beam and starting the drywall. My brother Brandon picked up the supplies and between us and my baby brother Ryan (six foot and 200lbs and still the baby) we wrangled 20 sheets of drywall downstairs. Randy's Dad showed up and started the laminating of the beam. They will all be back on Tuesday to slide it into place and in the mean time, I will be insulating and starting the drywall. I hope Randy likes the surprise. I know he hates home improvement projects - unless its a lighting project. He loves to add lights!

Dossier Accepted! - October 22, 2007

Our dossier was accepted at the SDA. Now we wait. We spend alot of time waiting it seems. It reminds me of the end of my pregnancies when it seemed like I had done nothing but wait. The SDA is the agency in the Ukraine that sets appointments to go view the children that meet the criteria that you outline in your request for an appointment. I wonder if the person who reads our letter requesting 2 children with down syndrome will think we have lost our minds?

Randy is leaving on a business trip this October 28th and returns on October 30th, so we are not going to have our annual party. We probably need the break anyway. I have big plans for him while he's gone. I plan to journal but not publish until he gets back - so it really is a big surprise.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Our Dossier is in the Ukraine! With any luck it will be submitted to the SDA on Monday. It feels so good to have it out of our hands.

We are turning our attention to finish up the renovations on the house. We have also decided to not have the Halloween party this year. It is expensive and so much work to put on, plus Randy has to leave on business the day after when the party would be. It would be too much for me to tackle on my own.

On a happier note: Caelia and Michael have their costumes ready for Halloween and I will not be sewing last minute this year. Caelia is going to be Bugs Bunny this year. She wanted to be a fairy but Minnesota being what it is, we're going with warm and cuddly. Michael is going to be Link (from the Zelda games). He likes to be the same thing most years but usually with costume upgrades!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Today we worked on the house. Its almost time for our annual Halloween Party. We're scaling it back this year, but the outside decorations for Halloween are pretty much the same and they take forever. Here is a picture from last year.

On its way... October 11, 2007

The dossier is complete and on its way! It took all day to get everything notarized, apostilled and a new notarized letter of employment. Its so complicated. Everything needs to be notarized and then you must attached a letter, swearing that is is a true notarized original that you are sending and then you must have that letter notarized and THEN, you have that Apostilled.

We sent the dossier to the Ukraine via FedEx International Priority. This is the quickest and it means that the package should arrive on Tuesday in the Ukraine.

We are frequently asked how much it costs to adopt. Well, here is a breakdown so far:

Homestudy $2400
I-600a $ 545 (this has gone up)
FBI Fingerprints $ 140
Passports $ 240
Apostilles $ 90
FEDEX $ 118
Certified copies $ 145
Translation $1000

TOTAL (SO FAR) $4678

There are still travel costs, visas, passports for the girls and translator/facillitator fees. Its not cheap but it should end up being less than my hospital fees when I had Caelia.

HOORAY!!!! October 10, 2007

It came today! Finally, our I-171h arrived in the mail! Tomorrow we will have everything apostilled (a seal put on the documents at the Secretary of State's office. We also need to get a different police clearance. I guess city police, county police, state Adam Walsh and FBI clearances just don't do it for the Ukraine.

Once all of that is completed, we will send our dossier to the Ukraine for translation and submission to the SDA. And then we wait to hear if they accept the dossier and give us a travel date. Oh, I hope its soon!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mail came today but no good news. So I will be re-emailing my requests to both Senator Klobuchar and the USCIS field office in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Perhaps they will answer soon. On the upside, the Minneapolis Tax Assessor's office is wonderful; Denise was wonderful and promised the papers - signed and notarized - for pick up right away. Oh, if only everyone was so cooperative!

I entered a photo contest for the best Halloween House at I would love to win this. I plan on taking tons of pictures through the adoption process.

I guess I should talk about our plans to adopt.

Randy and I have two great children. Michael (age 11) who was diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome and Caelia (age 5) who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth.

Michael is a little different but not so different that we thought he had a SYNDROME. To us, he was stubborn, imaginative and picky about clothes, noises, lights and temperature. Issues at school led to an evaluation, which led to a diagnosis, which led to a syndrome.

Caelia adores her big brother. She is an escape artist and has a wicked temper when thwarted in her attempts to escape the yard to go visiting. We have a system of gates, locks and alarms to keep her safe and us sane.

Our current family was what was on our mind as we considered adopting. We wanted to adopt a child that would need us and would probably be passed over because of a "dreaded syndrome". We wanted a child with a condition that we were familiar. We chose to adopt a girl with down syndrome for two reasons: one, Caelia would have someone to play with even after her current peers had matured beyond her and two, because Michael would not willing share a bedroom with anyone.

We decided on adopting from eastern europe because of the lack of resources that are available for orphans in general. Orphans with a disability are even less likely receive these resources.

Columbus Day and Waiting...

Today was a difficult day. I am fed up to my teeth with waiting. I have tried on numerous occasions to contact the USCIS field office to check on the progress of our I600a application (basically asks permission for us to adopt) without success. I am beginning to believe that this place only exists in books and legends. There is no telephone and email must be for those with top secret clearances. You can't make an appointment to speak to someone without a receipt number. (The receipt number we were given won't work) So, I contacted Senator Amy Klobuchar's office for help and after filling out and signing information releases, our issue was assigned to an assistant. A few days later we received a receipt number.

Its the wrong receipt number.

To say that I am at the end of my patience would be a kind thing to say. So after much begging and pestering on the 800 number for the USCIS, we were given a receipt number and the email address. I tried making an appointment to speak to someone but there are no available appointments for the month of October. Its been 5 days since I sent them an email (which is supposed to be replied to in 24 to 48 hours) and I still haven't heard a peep. No mail today which means I am even more frustrated. I think I'll put up spooky Halloween decorations and pretend that they are there to frighten away evil paperwork monsters.