Keepsakes

I’ve always been a sentimental sap. Even as I increasingly desire to minimize and purge “stuff,” I struggle with sentimental items. Things from my childhood and the things that my children are creating and collecting now are important to me! I keep their hand tracings, first drawings, paintings, and more.

I believe it was our second day in Ladybug’s country that one of Ladybug’s caregivers offered us an invaluable gift: Ladybug’s keepsakes. She presented us with items that Ladybug has drawn and colored and created over the last year or so of her life.

When she handed me the pile, I gingerly leafed through everything. “We can take these things with us?” I asked, incredulously.

She shrugged. “Only if you want them.”

“Oh! Of course I want them! Thank you so much!”

So now, beyond the future we will create together with Ladybug, we have even more of her past to help her hold on to. Amazing.

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I wanted to photograph everything to document here and to have in case the originals are lost. Enjoy this precious two-year-old artwork :)

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Getting to know our girl

As much as I purposed to carefully record each day’s happenings and emotions, it didn’t happen. I think I will do my best to record our trip in potentially fragmented glimpses, impressions, and memories. I wish it were more polished, but this first trip was a whirlwind like no other!

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It’s still surreal to consider all we put ourselves and Poppy and Bumblebee through in that first day. Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe how we were feeling; we were remotely functional only because of the adrenaline and pure amazement. The grace of God carried us clear through our travels and, indeed, through our whole week.

As I remarked to someone in the moment: it’s always exhausting to meet your child for the first time. :)

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Napping a bit before getting our day started.

Because we had only a few hours to sleep before heading off to our official appointment, the girls slept in Chris’s and my arms the whole time. I think that we were all a little dazed with that first day of visits at the orphanage. I remember feeling like I needed a good night’s sleep so I could come up with a way to actually interact with Ladybug and not just smile at her and watch in wonderment.

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Headed to our appointment. Girls = OUT like lights.

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Our first visit was rather short – we got there a little later than would be our usual for the rest of the week, and we had to leave after only about an hour so she could take her nap. Our translator took us to a popular-for-adoptive-families restaurant for lunch. Poppy enjoyed a Nutella and banana, Chris had something I can’t remember, and Bumblebee and I shared angel hair pasta with herb sauce. Bumblebee quickly fell back to sleep after eating a little, and it wasn’t long before we were picked up to return to the orphanage for our afternoon visit.

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Our first lunch

 

We met all of the children in Ladybug’s group that afternoon, and we got to see more of Ladybug’s personality since all of our attention wasn’t directly focused on her. We had a nice balance of 1:1 time and group time all week which enabled us to observe and interact with her in a variety of ways. It also gave us a chance to love of the other little ones – three of whom have families now pursuing their adoption and many others who still wait.

I didn’t know how to anticipate how Poppy’s and Bumblebee’s presence would affect our visits. It was challenging because we remained in parent mode 100% of the time, no matter how much we wished to direct our attention elsewhere or how tired we got (kind of like parenthood at home, huh? :) ). However, there were unanticipated benefits: primarily that usually Chris and I traded off on parenting when the need was intense, which actually resulted in time for the other one of us to direct attention solely to Ladybug. Additionally, Poppy fell in love with a little girl there her age, and it was so sweet to see our oldest thriving in such a new situation.

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Our littlest on our second morning visit.

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A family who had adopted from Ladybug’s orphanage in October sent these awesome ZipZac mobility chairs. They only arrived a few weeks before we did, and Chris was so happy to have the chance to put them together for the kiddos!

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Sitting on Daddy’s lap

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Photography by Ladybug

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Afternoon visits – her “cheese” face :)

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Photography by Ladybug

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Happy girl on day three

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Joining in on the game Daddy and Ladybug started.

 

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Our week began to develop a somewhat predictable pattern: we’d awake no later than 9:00 AM to be ready for our 10:00 AM pick up. After a 15 minute drive, either via taxi or via our driver and always with our translator, we’d arrive for our morning visit with Ladybug. We’d play and visit and get to know her until about noon when she’d go down for a nap and we’d head back to the city center for lunch and walking/sight-seeing – this city is known for its many tasty diners and cafes and has plenty of points of interest to find! We’d return to the orphanage around 2:30, where Ladybug would be waiting for us following her nap and afternoon yogurt snack. Bumblebee was usually asleep in the carrier by then. We’d stay and play for 2-2.5 hours, leaving when Poppy and Bumblebee began to melt… or when Chris and I began to melt. We’d return to our apartment, 1-3 of us falling asleep on the way. We’d make it into our apartment usually no later than 5:30 PM, and we’d crash for about 3 hours. Then, it was up and at ’em for a night stroll to eat supper before returning to the apartment for bed, anywhere between 10:30 and midnight.

It was not a sustainable routine.

I don’t think any of us really ever adjusted to the time change, and the emotional tax on our days was high! Yet, our days were peaceful and spent playing, dining, walking, and sleeping. It was no frills, and our priority each day was always our time spent with Ladybug.

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Bumblebee’s lunch-time nap

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More memories and recollections to come!

Meeting Ladybug

She exists!

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Per Ladybug’s country law, we can not show identifying photos of her until we have the adoption decree in hand. Please excuse our creative photography in the meantime :)

 

That was my first thought upon having my first glimpse of this little two-year-old we had been waiting nearly a year to meet. We had been welcomed into the orphanage and were taking off our shoes when I peeked around a corner and saw her waiting for us. She was sitting on a play mat, and my view was partially obstructed by a stairway banister; but my heart still lept! She really exists!

I remember a similar feeling upon the birth of Poppy. Except with Poppy, I was struck by how I expected to know her and didn’t. Upon my first look at Ladybug, I was struck by all the familiarity about her, even though I truly didn’t know her.

We quickly moved in to the room where we would spend the next hour or so playing and feeling each other out a little bit. She is brilliant and big for her age (bigger than Poppy in many ways, and Poppy is 18 months older). She is curious, cautious yet confident. She was incredibly curious about us, and yet we were all feeling a little awkward and unsure of ourselves. We just kept enjoying her presence ever so gently, and she got small reprieves any time a caregiver passed by. Ladybug kept joyfully demanding kisses from those she loves. It was hilarious.

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And even though she’s only two and still has to learn exactly what a mama and papa are, our hearts leaped when she exclaimed, “[Ladybug’s] mama and papa came! And my sisters!”

It really made the 30+ hours of travel, the year-long wait, and the knowledge of yet more waiting worth it. We had come for her, and we love her.

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Feeling fresh and excited as we waited in Denver…

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We left from Denver International Airport early on a Saturday morning and stopped over in Washington, D.C. for about 5 hours before leaving on our long flight. We enjoyed a yummy lunch while in D.C., and the hostess struck up a conversation with us. Why were we traveling? To be able to share little pieces of our story and God’s heart as we traveled along was really an unforeseen blessing.

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Lunch at Dulles

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The girls were doing great still when we loaded up for our long flight to Vienna. We even scored the perfect seats – bulkhead! Extra legroom was such a blessing. We didn’t sleep as much as we needed to, even though I’d say that Bumblebee really slept quite frequently in the airplanes. Poppy flew quite well, old enough to enjoy the in-flight movies and entertain herself pretty well. When we arrived in Vienna early local time, we were tired yet energized to see what our day would hold. We were at the front end of a 13 hour layover and really hoped to get to leave the airport to explore the city. It had been our plan the whole time, but when we checked our bags in Denver, we were told we would have to claim and recheck in Vienna. We assumed that would be a deal breaker, but were told the opposite in Dulles – “oh! They tell everyone that. Your bags will go clear through.”

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So, we maneuvered our way through the “exit the airport” path and ended up just within the airport. Before leaving, we were pausing a moment to consider how much money to exchange for our day when out of the corner of my eye I saw three lonely bags moving along the baggage claim belt. My first response was, “Praise God we saw them!” Truly, already at this point in our trip, only halfway through our travel to Ladybug, God had shown that while the enemy hated what we were doing, God was smoothing every wrinkle, and usually before we really had a chance to understand a wrinkle existed. It had happened upon checking in initially in Denver, again in D.C., and now this huge moment with our bags.

We changed our plan for the moment, and worked on getting our bags to where they needed to be. Amazingly, we were able to check them 12+ hours before our flight would leave, but by then, the girls were showing that they were melting profusely, and we just lost our willpower to attempt a day on the town. After stepping outside to breath fresh Austrian air, we settled into our day at the airport well enough. Eating, sleeping, playing games, finding an indoor play place for the girls, etc… 13 hours just seemed to pass, and soon it was time to find our gate for our final destination.

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See! We were in Austria. Kind of. Note Poppy’s expression and Bumblebee’s sucker… we wanted to stay put.

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The Vienna airport had the coolest couch things that really made getting a few moments of shut-eye manageable.

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Chris, Poppy, and Bumblebee eventually all slept, but I couldn’t really. I got caught up in talking to a drummer from LA who had been hired to work a music tour for a Persian pop star (the only time Chris and I were seated apart – though it was supposed to be the third time already), and my anticipation for finally arriving was through the roof.

Arrive we did, and while our day started off with an unexpected delay, we pressed on, knowing we were mere hours from meeting out little girl. We could hardly wait! We made it to our apartment, slept a few hours, and were picked up for our first official appointment. There, we picked up our primary approval document (yay!) and sought permission to meet Ladybug.

Granted. We were on our way.

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To be continued…

 

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Emotional (and prayer requests for our warriors)

“Tremendous” is the word a fellow traveling adoptive mama used to describe what we’re about to experience, and I can think of no better word. 

I don’t even know how else to describe the emotions… Perhaps incredible excitement, anticipation, trepidation, and maybe even fear. 

We can’t wait to meet her!

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Prayer Requests

-Please pray for all things travel and health related: no lost luggage, no missed flights, happy girls, sane parents, compassionate flight mates, healthy tummies and ears and noses, etc. 

-Please pray for our interactions with Ladybug: pray for peace and ease and beautiful memories; pray for useful visits; pray we know the right questions to ask; pray we are sensitive to her needs; pray we can love others well; pray our girls handle all the new situations as well as possible

-Pray for the other children still waiting for families

-Pray for the progress of our adoption from this point forward: pray that it will not be long before we can return to Ladybug’s country for court and to bring her home forever; for for the other families in process, with whom we’ve developed friendships

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See you on the other side!

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Build-a-Bear for Ladybug!

This was Chris’s birthday weekend, and we really tried to have some fun. However, so many things went awry that we abandoned most of our plans just to get back home. 

Still, we accomplished the one thing we needed to accomplish before visiting Ladybug: we made it to Build-a-Bear! We get to take a few small items to leave with her, and we were excited to build her her very own stuffed animal to keep when we have to return home without her. 

Introducing Hearts Full of Love!



She’s a cute little pink kitten with a cotton candy smell and stuffed, “not too firm and not too soft.” We recorded our own message to put in her paw so Ladybug could continue to hear our voices after we have gone. And she has four hearts inside, one from each of us, all with the wish that Ladybug would come home soon!

I wish I had thought to take photos of the process, but alas, we were in survival mode by then. I can’t wait to take Hearts Full of Love to Ladybug!

LADYBUG! HERE WE COME!

We have had a very exciting morning – we received our invitation to travel to meet Ladybug! It’s really happening!!

Not every family gets much notice before they have to be in country, but we are blessed to have about 2.5 weeks’ notice. We have booked our flights, and we can’t wait to get over there and see her! Hug her! AHHH!

Chris called me once he got to work, and I figured he was going to tell me about the bad roads he drove on this wintry morning. But, all he said was, “check your email right now.” I barely read the email before I screamed and burst into tears. It freaked Poppy out a little bit, and so I quickly composed myself to explain what was happening!

We’ve spent the rest of the morning working with a travel agency and looking for a good flight. Now that we’ve found one, I don’t know what to do with myself! I guess I need to go dig the suitcases out of the closet!

Six families received their invitation to travel this morning, and a few of them have to be in country much sooner than we do. Please pray for us all! This is a very exciting and yet somewhat stressful time as we rush, rush, rush to prepare for the moment we’ve been waiting months for!

AHHHHHHHH! :)