We had a wonderful Easter this year with one more blessing to celebrate. God has been good to us this year! Vika is a living testament of His faithfulness in our lives.

We are loving this song this Easter:

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again!
Come awake! come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave

O death! Where is your sting?
O hell! Where is your victory?
O church! Come stand in the light!
Our God is not dead, He’s alive! He’s alive!
-Matt Maher

It’s been said that one of the hardest things about adoption is the ones you have to leave behind. I’d say this is fairly accurate. Vika’s story had a happy ending. She’s now  a granddaughter, a niece, a daughter, a sister. But there are dozens left behind in her orphanage, and thousands in her country, who will never know the love of a family. I think about them constantly.

One of the ones we left behind was Vera. Happy, beautiful, playful, funny little Vera. She stood out to me from the start. I was so happy when I realized who she was and that she had a family coming for her. While we were there I got to hold her, hug her, play with her, and take her picture. I left knowing that her family would be there very soon.

On Saturday I was heartbroken to learn that her family got to the orphanage and changed their mind about the adoption. Now Vera, who is almost 6 years old, will soon be transferred from the comfortable baby house that she’s always known, with caregivers who dote on her, to an institution. She doesn’t belong there. She’s smart, capable, and full of life. She deserves a family.You can read more about her here:

For the Love of Vera

Up until now I have used this blog only to tell our personal adoption story. But now there’s Vera, and she needs a family FAST. I can’t sit by and let her waste away in an institution. She deserves so much more.

Please, please, please join me in advocating for Vera. Pray for her, spread the word, repost the link to her blog on Facebook and anywhere else you can get the word out. I know her family is out there. I know they are going to be unbelievably blessed by her. Please help me find them!

To celebrate the lovely weather and the last day of Ryan’s winter break, we packed the kids up and drove to the coast. It was Vika’s first trip to the ocean and she LOVED it!

Noelle and Levi had a pretty great time too.

After lunch on the pier, we headed down to the beach.

Vika got to take her shoes off and go for a walk in the sand. Taking her shoes off was a real treat- she now wears inserts in her shoes to help her balance while walking and she hates them.

Some of us loved playing in the sand.

Others of us, not so much.

Daddy helped build a sand castle. . .

. . . and a few mouthfuls of sand were consumed.

All in all, it was a beautiful day.

We are so blessed!




About a month ago, it happened. Levi decided that this “big” sister we brought home for him is actually pretty cool. In fact, she’s definitely one of his favorite people in the world now. Vika and Levi, being only three months apart in age, are best buddies and there now seems to be zero resentment or jealousy between them these days. Whenever we pay any special attention to Levi- even something as simple as tossing him a ball or giving him a pony ride on the knee, he reminds us to “Do it to Vika!” He loves taking her off to the play room and the two of them will play in there by themselves for an hour or even more. I’ll often here him cooing “oooh, Vika!” to her in delight. It’s a beautiful thing to see and we hope and pray that the bond that has developed between them will last through their whole lives.

Here they are together, as they almost always are,  fresh from the bath!

Christmas was hard on Vika with all of the running around and crowds and noise and interruption to her routine. Between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we had three different family parties. She started out doing really well (she generally LOVES crowds and parties) and started melting down about halfway through the second gathering. We’ve tried to keep things quiet and “boring” since then and she is slowly recovering. We had made some gains with her last week that were lost, but I know we’ll get them back. It is hard to see her struggling even though we know this is a normal and natural part of the process.

One thing that has struck me in this past week is how we are dealing with two separate issues- adjustment and attachment. The attachment part is going very well. She seems to be bonding to us and we are very bonded to her. The adjustment part is where she is struggling. Her whole world has changed and it is taking a toll. The good news is that we know that she WILL adjust with time. Poor adjustment is much easier to overcome than poor attachment. The fact that the bonding is going so well is a huge asset for us and will really help her as she works through this.

In spite of all of this, it was a happy Christmas for our family. We feel incredibly blessed to have her home to celebrate with us. She was truly the best gift of all this year!



Vika has been home for just over a month now. It has FLOWN by! She continues to be a joy to us and we feel so blessed to have her in our family.

Last week I took her to the local agency that provides early intervention services for children with disabilities. They did a developmental assessment so they can determine which therapy services she will need. They said that she is definitely delayed (even considering the DS) but given her background, she is doing remarkably well and they are sure she will make dramatic progress when we start therapy. We have a meeting with her caseworker in a few weeks and hope to start therapy soon after that.

Yesterday we celebrated a month at home by taking her to the pediatrician today for a full check-up. She started out with the doctor, who ordered a bunch of tests and made a lot of referrals for specialists she will need to see in the coming weeks. We’ll be visiting a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a geneticist, an opthamologist, and an ENT- looks like we’ll be busy!

After we saw the pediatrician, Vika got a couple of vaccinations that are not given in Ukraine, then we went down to the lab for a bunch of blood work. The next stop was radiology, where she had a chest x-ray and also a few of her legs. She has a history of rickets and her bones need to be checked. By then she was starting to get pretty worn out, so we stopped for lunch in the cafeteria before heading up to cardiology for an EKG. This proved to be quite a challenge as she had to hold completely still. The staff was wonderful and very patient in working with her. They even took her back during their lunch break because by the time the break ended, it would have been Vika’s nap time and they didn’t want us to have to come back. Finally after about an hour and a half the test was successfully completed. (Update- the cardiologist’s office called me today and the EKG is 100% normal- Vika’s heart is healthy! Praise God!)

Lunch break in the cafeteria - are we done yet?

It was a LONG morning for Vika but she was quite a trooper. All things considered, she tolerated it all better than we could have hoped. It makes me sad to think that she will likely have many more days like these in the coming years, but at the same time I am thankful that she will have access to good medical care.

So . . . how it’s going. That’s hard to say. Overall I would say Vika is still doing well. She is generally an easy child and seems to be attaching well to us. But at the same time, she is clearly struggling. Her emotions are very fragile and she just has an aura of sadness about her much of the time. There are moments when she is completely inconsolable, and then suddenly she’ll just stop crying and start sucking on her tongue with big tears streaming down her face, as though she’s just given up and is resigning herself to things. It is obvious that she is grieving the life that she’s lost. It is heartbreaking to watch but we know this is all just part of the process. She’ll get through this and I know her joy will be restored.

With three kids, three and under, getting a decent photo of everyone is a daunting task.

Either the little one tries to escape. . .

no one looks at the camera. . .

the little one escapes again (and big sister is starting to get annoyed). . .

expressions are crazy . . .

and the floor is way more exciting than Grammy, who is jumping up and down trying to get a smile.

Finally everyone is sort of looking and smiling . . but yeah. Is it Christmas card worthy? I think not.

As a friend suggested, maybe by Ukrainian Christmas (January 7) I’ll have something worth sending out. But don’t hold your breath.

We’ve been home for 11 days and I’m afraid I’ve been a very bad blogger- not a single update! The truth is, after our 30 hour day traveling home, we hit the ground running and life hasn’t slowed down much since. I’ll try to do a quick recap on the topics I am asked about most.

Ready to leave Ukraine!

The trip home: Perfect. Vika was an angel and it couldn’t have gone better. She didn’t cry AT ALL and was happy and sweet and charming the entire way. Even on our 10.5 hour flight from Frankfurt to Seattle. By the time we landed, she had every flight attendant on the plane wrapped around her little finger.

Vika playing in the galley on our Frankfurt-Seattle flight

Sleeping like an angel!

Our reunion with Ryan and meeting her new siblings: Again, perfect!! After being up for about 28 hours straight, I was pretty delirious, but it was a sweet, happy time. My parents and Ryan’s dad all came to the airport to welcome us. Our older daughter Noelle (3.5 yrs) was thrilled to meet her and immediately asked us to go back and bring her a baby brother too. She has been such a good sister and tells me many times a day how much she loves Vika. Not an ounce of jealousy from this one.

This is how I found my girls on Vika's first morning at home

Levi (22 mos) is a bit more hesitant. He missed me quite a bit so he was really happy to see me but he’s still not too crazy about this new sister I brought home to him. Honestly Vika seems to care even less for him at this point. They do have their good moments and all things considered, it is going as well as any of us could have hoped. It’s going to be interested to watch their relationship develop. If anyone has any good ideas on fostering love among toddler siblings, I’m all ears!! This is our first experience with this sort of thing.

Sleep: Vika is a GREAT sleeper! She sleeps from about 7 PM to 7 AM and then naps from 1-5PM. I rock her for a few minutes before putting her down (which she loves!) and there are usually no tears. Bringing home a 2 yr old (vs. a newborn) certainly has its benefits!!

Food: Vika LOVES to eat. She will eat pretty much anything I give her, so long as it’s not cold (she’s not used to cold foods at all) or too difficult to chew. She can handle very soft, moist meats (like chicken or beef cooked in soup), pasta, oatmeal (her favorite!), well-cooked veggies, etc.  She doesn’t feed herself at all, unless it’s something like a piece of bread. I’ve tried finger foods but she seems pretty clueless about what she’s supposed to do with them. She eats a LOT for such a little peanut- usually as much or more than I do. I’ve been told this is pretty typical for kids from orphanages, and as time goes on she’ll start eating more normal toddler-sized portions.

Bath and Potty: The bathing has been SO much better since we got home. As I mentioned before, Vika screamed through her entire first bath in Kiev. I hoped that having Noelle and Levi in the bath with her would help. Thankfully, it did! Her first bath at home was so much better. I got the other kids in first and then put her in. She screamed hysterically for about 20 seconds and then looked around at her siblings. Then her cries stopped immediately and she began splashing and laughing. Now bathtime is one of her favorite things!!

I have also discovered that she is mostly potty trained. The orphanage trains the kids quite young. She still wears diapers all the time but if I take her potty often (at least after every meal) she will stay mostly dry. This has been a blessing because I had heard that kids with DS can be very difficult to PT and had expected to be diapering full-time for several more years.

Development: We haven’t had any formal assessment done but it seems to me that she is functioning on the level of a 12 month old baby. She babbles, enjoys baby toys, cruises around, crawls very well, and is taking a few small, unsteady steps. If you forget that she is 2 yrs old, it is also easy to forget that she has Down Syndrome. She does everything that a typically developing 12 month old does.

Vika loves the swings!

Language: Having spent the first 2 yrs of her life hearing only Russian, she understands pretty much nothing of our English. I know a few Russian words that I use with her and she responds very well to those. Of course she is mostly hearing English now though, so I hope she will pick up on a few things soon. She doesn’t speak (except for one time that we think she may have said “paka paka”- bye bye) but maybe if we spoke more Russian we’d discover a few more words that she can say.

Adjustment and Bonding: It’s hard to say on this one. She definitely knows that we are her parents and prefers us to others. Her first week at home, she cried little and smiled a lot. This week has been much harder. I think the novelty of the it all has worn off and she’s grieving the loss of her world as she knew it. There have been a lot more tears this week and she needs her Mama a lot more than last week. Many times a day, she’ll lie down on the floor on her tummy and just weep . . . great big tears and her pathetic little cry. It’s the most heartbreaking thing. I think part of it is exhaustion- all of this adjusting is hard work for her and it’s wearing her out. But she’s sad too. The good news is that she allows herself to be comforted by me, which is a really good sign. It’s hard sometimes to balance the needs of the other two with her great need for comfort and closeness. We’re relying heavily on meals from our church and my freezer, and pretty much letting the housework go. I’ll be honest . . it has been very overwhelming at times. I’m exhausted and can barely keep my eyes open past 8 PM. But I know that God’s grace is enough. We’ll get through these days and there will be better ones ahead. And in spite of it all, I know how very blessed we are to have her and haven’t lost sight of that. She is a gift to us and we tell each other that many times a day. . .not because we need to be reminded, but because it is so very true.

Health: Overall she seems to be in very good health. Of course all three kids have snot dripping off their chins these days but that’s to be expected. She has some small patches of eczema on her face – fairly typical for DS. We are working on getting her added to our health insurance so she can get completely examined as soon as possible. The orphanage gave her a clean bill of health but I will feel better getting a full check-up from our pediatrician too. We also want to make sure her heart, thyroid, ears, and other DS “problem areas” are all healthy.

One last thing- A lot of people are unsure how to pronounce her name. We say it “VEE-kah,” which is short for her given name Viktoria, which they pronounce as “VEEKtoria” with a nice roll to the R. Our pronunciation of her name and her nickname both lack the Ukrainian intonation but if we copied that, we’d be in for a lifetime people rolling their eyes at our supposed pretentiousness. =) So VEE-kah it is.

A small band of musicians to serenade me as I cook- how blessed am I?

WE ARE DONE!!! We visited the US Embassy this afternoon one last time to get Vika’s visa (try saying that ten times fast). Our facilitators seem to have a “be the first in line” philosophy and that has worked out for us quite well. We arrive early everywhere (SDA, medical clinic, embassy, etc) and we are the first ones to be seen.

There was a bit of a panic today, though. On Monday this week I realized that I had overlooked 1 form that needed Ryan’s signature. We had already had him sign and notarize some others and I had them with me but for some reason I had missed this one. Thankfully I realized it just in time. Before Ryan woke up on Monday morning there was an e-mail in his inbox asking him to print the document, sign it, get it notarized, and Fed Ex it to the Embassy by the end of the day. Amazing husband that he is, he dropped everything and got it done. It was guaranteed to arrive today by 6 PM. I needed it by 3 PM. After a few anxious days of online tracking, it was delivered yesterday at 2 PM. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and thought that everything was going to be okay.

So you can imagine my disappointment when I arrived today and no one knew anything about this package. They explained to me that all of the Embassy mail goes to one central mail center for sorting and inspection, and it could be at any one of four locations around the city. They’d do their best to find it but if they couldn’t, we’d have to stay here in Kiev until Monday. (!!!!!)

They asked if I had the tracking number and said that would be the only chance of locating the package. I did, but it was on my yahoo account, and there was nowhere there that I could access the internet. Then I remembered that I had some recent e-mails downloaded on my iPod, and it was possible that this one was among them. I had to go back outside to the security office in another building where all of my electronic devices were checked, but sure enough, the e-mail was there. I copied the number down and ran back inside the main Embassy to give to the workers.

After about 45 minutes, they called me up and said that the package had been found on someone’s desk right there in that office. The lady was out sick today so no one knew it was there. Praise God. They apologized profusely but I wasn’t the least bit mad. . . just relieved it was there.

After that I signed some forms, swore my oath, showed them Vika so they could see she was the same child as was pictured in all of my paperwork, and then waited for my forms to be processed. Thankfully Pat was able to take her to a separate playroom they have for adoptive families right there in the next room. She had a great time with all of the toys and other kids, and I enjoyed getting to meet several other families who were also there waiting for their paperwork. There’s an amazing camaraderie among adoptive families here. It’s fun to get to talk to other people who have just gone through the same process as you and have similar hearts for these children waiting for families. In that little waiting room were the families of more than ten children who will never be orphans again, some teenagers, some deaf, and others with Down syndrome just like Vika. The kids were all beautiful and their parents were so thrilled and ready to bring them home!

Now we’re back at the apartment and in another hour or so we’ll go for one last dinner with Nina. Vika is just exhausted and as I type this, she’s sound asleep on the bed next to me. I hope she gets a good nap and does well this evening. All of this change has been hard on her, but she’s a trooper. I am so proud of her and can’t wait to bring her home. I miss Ryan and the kids so much and can’t wait to be all together as a family again.

We will head to the airport in the morning at around 2:30 AM so this will probably be my last post from Ukraine. Thanks to all of you who have followed along with us. It’s been a beautiful journey and we feel incredibly blessed to have so much support from everyone.

Many thanks to those who have helped make our journey such a sweet one. To Michelle and Alisha, for originally “introducing” Vika to us back in July. To Nina and Masha, the best adoption facilitators in Ukraine, for all of their patience with my endless questions, for guiding us through this process so smoothly, and for their friendship. To Haley and Hollie, for the many days of loving Noelle and Levi while we were away. To all four of our parents, for donating their award miles to us for BOTH of our trips here and for helping so much with our kids. To my mom, who spent countless hours on the phone with the airlines, getting us the best available flights and connections. To Pat, who made this trip back here with me and has been such a help and support with Vika.

And most of all, thanks to God for opening our eyes to the needs of the many millions of fatherless children in this world, and putting it on our hearts to do something about it. Next to me is one sweet baby who will never again be an orphan. She is an indescribably precious gift. Thank you, Jesus!

“God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing” Psalm 68:6


We are having a very informal “Welcome Home Vika” open house this Sunday, November 21, from 4-6:30 PM. We’ll provide pizza but don’t expect a clean house! =) No gifts, please. Just stop by and meet our new daughter. Comment here if you plan to come with the number attending so we can make sure to order enough pizza.

Our 2010 Ukraine Adoption Timeline

March 26 - Begin gathering homestudy and dossier documents
March 31 - Sign contract with homestudy agency, begin filling out paperwork
May 7 - File I-600a (without completed homestudy)
May 21 - Second homestudy interviews, turned in all documents
July 12 - Decided to add Down syndrome to our homestudy
July 16 - Third homestudy interview to approve us for a child with Down syndrome
July 26 - Homestudy finalized and overnighted to USCIS!
July 31- Received USCIS fingerprint date of August 26
August 13 - USCIS Fingerprinting (walk-in)
August 19 - USCIS I-600a approval
August 20 - Commit to adopting Vika
August 28 - Receive I-171h
August 30 - All apostilles done, ship dossier to Eastern Europe
September 2 - Dossier arrives in EE
September 16 - Dosser submitted
October 5 - Receive appointment date of October 25 to get Vika's referral!
October 22 - Leave for EE
October 25 - SDA appointment
October 28 - We meet Vika
November 4 - 1st Court hearing
November 5 - Court decree read- Happy Adoption Day!!
November 17 - I take custody of Vika
November 19 - Receive Vika's Visa at US Embassy
November 20 - HOME!

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