Thursday, August 21, 2014

Little No More



            Our little guy is really not little anymore!  Today he turns three!  No more babies....I've said it before, but he's seeming really big these days so I think it's official.  No more early intervention....in just a week a bus will be taking this little guy off to school two mornings a week.  No more letting anyone feed him...he's got it, regardless of what the end result looks like.  Three also means he is officially done wearing his dobbs bar to bed at night (woohoo!).  I can't believe this big boy is the same baby we held for the first time just a year and a half ago.  We went on a walk yesterday and he chose to push a ride on toy rather than be pushed, as Caleb rode his bike beside us.  I watched him running...pushing....steering... and just marveled at how far he has come.



       He is such a sweet boy....so lovable.....still blowing kisses to every stranger, friend and family member.  Still offering a kiss if he hears you say the word "ow," regardless of whether or not he's caused the pain.  He's also stubborn and persistent....determined to be independent and keep up with the big guys!


He loves to have fun and is willing to try most things!  He was climbing these rocks all on his own as we took these photos.....such determination no matter how hard he has to work at it. 


            He notices the little things....the details.....he watches with focused attention and we often find him doing things and wondering how on earth he knew to do them so perfectly.  He find joy in the small things.... picking the sole dandelion, smelling it....sharing it....  He stopped to watch an ant hole on our walk yesterday...stopped to pick up sticks...stopped to marvel at the pine cones starting to fall.  My initial reaction is to hurry him along...to keep moving....and then I remember to slow...to fully enter each moment, and I'm so thankful for the way he reminds me.....


             He understands everything.  It may seem otherwise because he has such a limited vocabulary.                                                                            Don't be fooled.



He's pretty easy going most of the time.....put his hands on a tree limb, he'll hang there.  


Put him in a hole in a tree....he'll explore for hours if you let him.....


Sit him on a step.....boy the leaves and dirt are so much fun!


           I can't imagine my life without this precious one.....he is such a blessing in so many ways!
                                                Happy 3rd Birthday Levi Cruse!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Meet our Daughter!!!


      We are so excited to introduce you to our beautiful daughter, Keira Lee Cruse!!  Today was a whirlwind and we didn't quite accomplish all that we had hoped to in this short visit, but court was successful and we were able to spend time with our daughter, so altogether it was an amazing whirlwind.  Can I just say it feels amazing to be able to say we have a daughter!!!   



   Our wonderful facilitator was faced with the predicament of having two families with court at the same time in two different cities.  Since our case was a bit simpler, we had another translator accompany us to court today.  It made us slightly more uneasy I think, but she was very nice and all went well.  We arrived at the courthouse and waited for Olya, her aunt and sister to arrive.  We originally thought maybe her grandmother and cousin were coming as well, and really originally thought we'd be picking her up at her aunt's apartment, but the details were unclear until this morning.  Of course every time a car went by, we stared obnoxiously trying to see if it was them.  They finally arrived and it was so nice to be able to meet some of her family.  They were very nice, though her aunt still had some hesitations so we tried to answer her questions as best as possible.  They were not allowed to go into the courtroom with us, so they waited outside when we went in.  Olya was so sweet.....she wore a dress that had belonged to her cousin when she was young, with her crazy sneakers that we had bought on our last trip...she looked adorable.  We gave her the shoes we had brought and she eagerly put them on (with her bright striped socks :) ).  She was so excited when her caretaker arrived (the one we spent time with in Kiev) and we were really happy to see her as well. 

    Olya was asked to wait outside of the room, and we went in along with the prosecutor, social worker, caretaker who represented the boarding school, two jurors, the judge and the woman who assisted him.  It was just a small room, so much less intimidating that I pictured, and much more similar to the court setting in Russia.  We were asked several questions, documents were looked through etc., and Olya was asked to come in and give her consent.  I was holding together fine until she came in, and then I lost some control and could not hold back a few tears.  She was so brave...so certain....so confident and unwavering as she stood before so many adults and made it known that she wanted to leave all that she knows behind, to come to America with us.  They asked her to leave after hearing her consent, went through a few more steps and after waiting ten minutes for a decision to be made, we were called back in to hear that the decision was favorable!     

      As we left the courthouse we gave Keira a gift we had brought.  I had wanted to find something special...something meaningful and just recently as I cleaned out my jewelry box to find things that I could add to hers, I found the perfect gift.  I had long since saved some jewelry from when I was much younger, and came across two things I had almost completely forgotten about.  A gold chain and ring, both with a "K" on them.  I had hoped someday to be able to pass them on to a daughter, or to someone else if we didn't have a daughter with my same initial.  And as I took them out I was amazed that our daughter had chosen a name with my same initial, and that I could indeed pass them on to her.  She was so appreciative and put them on right away. 

    We spent most of the day from then on with Keira and her sister.  She chose McDonalds for lunch so we spent quite a while there, trying to communicate.  Her sister spoke some English which was helpful but we had quite a few moments of thinking we possibly understood each other, but then again maybe not.  At one point, a girl and her mom sat beside us and after a few minutes of listening to us struggle, she came over and offered to translate.  She was probably the same age as Keira and was so sweet and helpful.  It was a great chance to throw out some questions we had and make plans for where to go next.  We ended up heading to an outdoor kids area which was actually pretty neat once we finally got to go.  On the way Keira realized that her dress wasn't exactly suitable for this, and we remembered that we'd packed some clothes to have her try on to be sure she'd fit in what we had at home.  She was so excited so we went back to McDonalds to change and then back to the play area.  On the way we met her aunt and her aunt's friend and then were able to spend some time together.  She was so cute, again excited about everything and enjoying herself fully.  There were bumper cars here too and once again she yelled "nyet papa" anytime Luke tried to bump her!   We spent the rest of our time there before taking Keira and her sister to the bus station to say our goodbyes.  It's so hard having to leave her here, but knowing Luke will return in just a short time helps some.  I can't wait until we are all under one roof at home. 





     We had some documents to take care of as I'm not returning, and were able to bring all of the gift bags to the orphanage for storage until Luke returns to give them out to the kids.  And then we drove right back to the airport where we are now waiting to return home.  It went by way too fast, but we are so grateful for the time we had...with our daughter, with her family....getting to know more of her history.....  One of her aunt's hopes is that we would love Keira as our own....not differently as an adopted child, but just the same as a biological child.  I know it is so hard for her to know us and who we are, how we feel etc. but I so wish I could convey how much that is already the case.....that we fell in love with her on the first day.  It's both so different and so similar to when they place your newborn baby in your arms....hard to explain and imagine if you've not been there...but we fell in love with each of our children when we first laid eyes on them.  They are gifts from God....He knew before time began that they would be our children...it doesn't matter how they've come to us.....


The bibles...thank you all so much again!!


                                              *                                        *                                   *


      After meeting our daughter we were asked what her new name would be.  We were taken off guard since she is older and we really hadn't considered this.  It was suggested that we ask her if she desired to change her name (and that we have some options ready just in case), so that night Luke and I were on google looking up names.  Of course Luke was fixating on all of the ridiculous names so I suggested we narrow it down in some way.  Maybe we were just beyond exhausted and overwhelmed, or maybe it makes sense, but I suggested we choose several names ending in "a" so it didn't sound so foreign to her (pretty much all Ukrainian female names end in "a"....at least that we could think of).  We picked a few and the next day tried to casually mention that she had a choice if she wanted to keep her name, which we thought was beautiful, or to have an American name.  We suggested that she just think about it before giving an answer and waited until the next day to ask again.  (we did need to know before leaving to go home as it was needed for court documents).  She seemed certain that she wanted to change it, but as was mentioned, she did not know what name she wanted.  We asked if she wanted to hear some names, she did, and we listed a few.  She picked Keira out of the list right away and seemed confident that was it.  We asked if she wanted Olya as her middle name and she said no.  Trying to think quickly, we suggested Lee.....this is Luke's middle name and one that has been carried on in his family for many years.  It is typically a first or middle name of one member of each family, and we had hoped to make it the middle name for our next child.  We thought it would be neat to have her carry on that family tradition, and as soon as we mentioned it, she said yes!  We had some hesitations about changing her name, especially at this age, but she seemed so certain and we felt this should be her choice.      


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bags and Bibles

      I mentioned recently that we were going to be buying The Jesus Storybook Bible to give out to the other kids at the orphanage along with some other small items.  I've been blown away by how many of you jumped on board when I asked if you wanted to join in.  We've already received enough to purchase 27 bibles and donations to buy some of these supplies!!  I am so excited!  Of all the things on my to-do list, this is the one I've been most excited to do.  Finally today, I laid out all 48 bags...............


        Then came the fun part.  I've so enjoyed finding good deals, both of things that they really need (toothbrushes, toothpaste etc!) and things that may be fun for them.  I tried to get some variety as well, in hopes that they'll be able to do more.....different games so they can enjoy more than the same one over and over.  It's hard to know what age child will receive these, but the real goal is for them to know they've been thought of, cared about, acknowledged.....and that they'll have the greatest book anyone could ever have.  I wish there was a way for us to know the name of the child who receives the bible you've donated, but since that's pretty much impossible, I hope you'll join me in praying for the one who receives yours....God knows who they are.


          For now, I've bundled them up, ready to be added to suitcases and then filled with the bibles once there.  Because our girl is currently staying with a family member, I think we'll have to wait until Luke goes to pick her up to give these out.  Which means I'll likely have to miss out on this too, so I'll have to live it through pictures with all of you : )


         We aren't placing the bible order just yet, so if anyone else wants to join in, please let me know soon!  And thank you all so much again!  I'm also praying there's no obstacle in giving these out....but we do have a backup plan if we run into any issues....and they will still go to orphans there.  <3

         
          

Monday, August 4, 2014

Two More Weeks


           We have been eagerly awaiting our court date and heard today that it will be Monday the 18th!  Just two more weeks!  We cannot wait to see our girl and to make this official.  Just praying that all of the paperwork is ready and there are no obstacles.  We will have to return home again for the 10 day wait before it will come into full legal effect, and then Luke will return to bring her home.  We're not entirely sure how long he will have to stay, but hopefully by the beginning of September we will all be home together...for good!  
      
             In the meantime we are busy continuing to prepare for her arrival.  Her room is just about ready, and now she even has a full closet!!  Friends of ours have so generously been giving us girls clothes for a while now...I think I have more bins of girls clothes than I do boys in our attic!  We know that between adopting, future plans to foster, as well as potentially having another baby, we will put these clothes to good use...and they will save us a fortune!  Most of the clothes were smaller sizes, but the other day our friends came over with more BAGS of clothes...most in O's size!  I never imagined that her closet would look like this before she even arrived home and we went shopping.  We are so blessed!!!   


              The dress hanging below still has the tags on it!  It's adorable and exactly her size.  We thought it would be perfect for court!  I wanted to find some shoes to go with it so we went to the mall the other night and found the ones in the photo.....$9.99 and I had a store credit from ages ago for $10.20.  Perfect!  



Family of five, here we come!!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Reminders


    My best friend just gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl....so tiny, so perfect and precious.  She's also incredibly smart.....she arrived a bit early, during the few days we had returned from our first trip.....perfect timing for an aunty who had to meet her when she was born and before we left again!  Throughout her pregnancy, I realized how much I so quickly forgot from my own experience.  She'd describe a feeling and I'd think...ohhh yeah, I forgot all about that!  You know, like feeling like you can hardly breathe anymore, or when you're trying to sleep at night and they 're ready to let you feel how much they can move.  BUT after, once you have that beautiful, precious child in your arms, you really almost instantly forget any of the discomfort, or pain it may have taken to get to that point.  Lately, I've found that I keep having those moments...... it's just a little different.......

 

    I was SO, so excited to finally leave... to know the child(ren) God has for  our family, to really be moving forward. And then we got on the plane ..... and I remembered how much my body does not agree with long flights ..... and the second plane ..... and the guy across the aisle sympathized with how purely exhausted I must be ... was it that obvious? 

 

    Then, we are finally there ..... so happy to be, walking around, taking it all in. And I start to feel it .... and I realize I'd forgotten.... the feeling of being so torn...pulled in two opposite directions, across an ocean. Those two little boys that I spend all day, every day, with just tugging on my heart, and all the while feeling so happy to finally be here, so ready to meet our daughter! And knowing that when we do .... the pull will be even greater. Leaving will be as desirable and undesirable as one thing could be.

 

  And I realize how I'd forgotten just how surreal this all feels.  I'll never forget being asked..."do you like him?"  "YES!"  "Okay, sign here."  And this time, waiting outside on a bench, for your name to be called .... to go into an office and look through pages in a book ..... to select a child to be your own. "Yes? Sign your names here."

 

   The anticipation of that moment when you meet your child ...... the uncertainty .... how will they react? What will we say? She will not understand our words ..... how can we show her who we are ..... show her love.

 

     Back on a plane....heading home to see two loves of my life as the tears fall for the one being left behind.  And it feels like yesterday that I was here....on this same plane, looking out the window as everything faded away.

 

     Home again as a family, but now it doesn't feel complete.  Amazed again at how much love you can feel for a child you've only known for days....and how much their absence is felt. 

 

    Wishing there was a way to let them know you're thinking of them....to reassure them of your promise to return.    

 

     Praying day and night for their safety...that they're cared for...that nothing will hinder that promise.....

 

                                            Counting down the days.....

  

     And we half-jokingly say that's the reason we'd do it again....because you forget all of the hard when you're on the other side.  But really....it's the beauty of these precious lives....that remind you of what it's all about and why there's no question that it's worth every discomfort, sacrifice and challenge.  There is nothing like holding your newborn child, reaching out to hold your infant son for the first time, or having your daughter fall asleep with her arms wrapped around you on the second day. 

 
    And when I think of these moments ..... I think, Who Am I? ..... Seriously this person who really does not like to travel, and likes a neat, orderly, planned out life .... who used to be so shy .... so afraid to step out of her comfort zone. ... who worried everything to pieces.  And I cannot help but smile ..... because that is the ultimate reminder I need .... That is maybe the greatest gift out of each step of the journey ...... reminders that on my own I 'm a mess, that I'm not writing this story ..... but God chooses to let me be a part of something greater ..... to step out in faith, knowing He is the one in control....to allow Him to push all of that mess aside and do something beautiful despite it ... and life is so much Fuller. And God is so good.