“…once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act.”
~Proverbs 24:12

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

We've Come a Long Way, Baby!

It was a year and a week ago that we landed at the cold, concrete-walled St. Petersburg airport. Walking through clouds of cigarette smoke while our tummies were in knots over simply knowing we were finally in the same city as our children, we knew we were in for the experience of our lives. And boy, were we!

After going through immigration one by one and picking up our bags, we made our way out the gate and into the crowded airport foyer to look for our driver. Andrei! Andrei? Andrei....? It turned out he was given the wrong flight information from our agency and wasn't expecting to pick us up for another hour. Needless to say, our first 45 minutes on Russia soil were a little nerve-wracking!

But! We had our babies to look forward to. We settled in to our hotel (THE best hotel in the world, I will now proclaim, thanks to their phenomenal service) took a look out the windows and took it all in.

(Notice D's lack of facial hair!)

We were so anxious to get to sleep, knowing the next day we would finally be able to hold our babies. Finally be able to tell them that they are so loved. Finally be able to have our family together for the very first time. We opened up our laptop and took a look at the pictures of our kiddos which we had found via Russia's online orphan database.

We've never shared these photos outside of our family, so this is a first. These are the earliest photos we will ever have of our babies:

Alim (Bennett) pictured in his orphanage, no more than 15 months old

Nargiza (Celia) pictures in her orphanage, no more than 3 months old

Beautiful even back then, weren't they? Gosh, we're so blessed to be their Mama and Papa!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

My New Favorite Thing

Since we've been home, it seems like I have a new favorite thing every few daysmost of which have to do with my two adorable kiddos.




funny faces, 



giggling snorts...

But my favorite as of late...? Bennett making Celia laugh. I've seen people make Celia giggle, and even I can get a good hearty laugh every once in a while, but NO ONE makes Celia belly-laugh like Bennett. No one. Sometimes all it takes is B looking at his sister with joy in his eyes from his car seat. Sometimes it's a cat and mouse game. Sometimes it's him peering over his crib playing peek-a-boo with his sister across the room. (Thank you Sloane for our video monitors!) Whatever it is, I can't even begin to explain what this sweet connection means to me. My late brother was my closest friend and I shared with him a relationship unlike any I've ever had. It literally brings tears to my eyes seeing that same connection between Bennett and Celia—brother and sister brought together just several months ago.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Beep... Beep.... Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep

That's the sound of my pitiful blog flatlining. It's been two months and I've failed to check in. I'm sorry friends. I have excuses up the whazoo, but the truth is I've just been putting it off.

At first, it was because I felt God calling me to resign from my office job and I wasn't ready to share that information with the world wide web until it became official in March. I can actually say it's been THE best decision I've made as a mother. Not only do I get to spend all my time loving on these two babies who are so new to the concept of family love, but I get to give the best of me to my family. No longer am I drained from a day of stressors and other things, coming home with little left of me. I now allow myself to be uplifted by people and situations around me and I'm revelling in it!

Once my resignation date came into effect, I kept telling myself, "Tomorrow. I'll get to the blog tomorrow..." A week or so of that, and I just didn't even know where to begin anymore.

The other day, as I was in the shower--one of the few times of day I get to take a minute and think in silence--I realized that I was not only letting myself (and possibly my readers) down by not writing, I'm letting my kids down. After we returned from Russia, I used my blog as a journal, chronicling family firsts and other memorable moments. I haven't done that in several weeks now. I owe it to my children to keep track of these special first few months. They have no written record of the first year, two years of their life. I want to make up for that.

So... I truly want to get back into the habit of blogging. I hope you'll see more of me...

Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy One Month Home!

Today marks one month since we arrived home as a family a four!

Thinking back to who I was and how I felt coming off the plane that night... it seems like a world away. I was so tired. (Traveling for 26+ hours will do that to you.) I was so hungry. (Loosing eight pounds while in a foreign country for a week and a half will do that to you.) I was so scared and insecure in my abilities. (Jumping in to parenthood head first by adopting a one- and two-year-old will do that to you.) I was so totally excited! (The occurrence of something you've been waiting for for years will do that to you!)

Not that I have it all together now. Oh my goodness! Not at all. But parenthood is becoming more natural. I don't question every little thing I do or say and how it might impact our children's cognitive, emotional, physical and confidence development. Sure, I think about those things day in and day out. But the secure feeling of KNOWING that I am their mother—and mothers truly do know best—helps give me the fortitude to trust my instincts and keeping going as I have tried to do.

We received a pleasant surprise in the mail today. The US Department of Homeland Security sent us Bennett's and Celia's official Certificates of Citizenship! (And a little "Uncle Liberty" coloring book for Bennett!)

What better day to receive this than our one-month anniversary home?! My, how their faces have changed in the short time they've been home.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Catching Up

My! Motherhood is work! hee hee... It may not be as stressful as my office job, but it definitely is tiring! I've come to really value "down-time" more than ever after spending each day running around playing with two adorable kiddos. Because of that, I haven't spent much time on the computer. But I miss blogging. I miss writing. So here I am!

We've started Bennett on his medication and it seemed to be going okay... We knew, after reading every word on the information sheet that accompanied the huge bottle of orange-flavored liquid, that it might upset our poor boy's stomach. Well, unfortunately it has. He has been tooting/boo-bah-ing/blowing buttons/insert-your-cute-flatulence-term throughout the last few days. His dirty diaper changes are... well... they're not pretty and often are cause for a wardrobe change. Since he really doesn't enjoy being dirty (unless he's intentionally choosing to play in the dirt or eat with his hands), he makes the most pitiful face once he's... well... done. From someone who used to suffer from stomach aches every day of my life, I just hate this for him. Especially since he has 8.5 more months of it. This morning was the first morning he really faught taking the 12.5 ml. I wonder what the next few days will bring.

After hearing me rave about the Impressionist exhibit at The Frist in Nashville, Derek decided he had to go see it. I had the fortunate opportunity to see many of the pieces at The Louvre, but enjoyed them when I visited our local museum back in October as well. So we decided to take the kids and all go, hoping for the best but expecting some difficulties. Believe it or not, we all had a wonderful and completely tear-free time! Baba (my mother is "babushka" to our kiddos, "baba" for short; and my father is "dyeh-dushka" or "dedu" for short) and I walked the kids in their double stroller through the exhibit while Derek took his time with the audio tour. Of course, we were not allowed to take photos in the exhibit, but did snap one as we entered the Visual Arts Center:

After Baba, the kids and I made our way through, we ventured upstairs to the children area where we played at some hands-on stations. Later, Derek joined us and helped Bennett bring out his creative side by making his own lithograph and sketching on an art easel.

I really think the attachment that has been forming among the four of us is strengthening more and more each day. On Friday, Bennett walked up to me with one arm in his favorite jacket (my late brother's army-green jacket that he wore when he was Bennett's age), smiled, said "buh-bye" and leaned over and gave me the sweetest kiss on the lips. I don't know how I held it together. Sure, Bennett had given me kisses before. But they were more playful than truly sentimental and I probably asked for most of them. I can't explain the feelings that went through me. Most likely, that was the first time he ever smooched anyone out of love and by his own accord. Bennett is such a sweetheart. He truly is such a good boy. We are so lucky.

The bond between Celia and Derek is growing as well—especially now, after D decided to grow a goatee. You see, for whatever reason, C has a "thing" for facial hair. She seemed to love the mustached pediatrician who saw her in Moscow and was entranced with the random, bearded Ukrainian gentleman seated next to us on the plane. Never having had facial hair in his life but desperately wanting to make a closer connection with his daughter, Derek took the plunge. Personally, I think it looks good on him! Sorry, no photos at this time. But I'm sure you'll catch it in pictures in the future.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

We're Still Here!

Yes, we're still alive! With my husband going back to work full-time, I'm still trying to get my legs about me when it comes to being a full-time mom (at least for the next several weeks). Stay tuned friends! I plan to post a true update in the next day or two, which will include heartwarming firsts, trying tantrums, cultural excursions and more!

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Scar Explained and a "Diagnosis" Made

Wednesday was B and C's first trip to the pediatricianand Mama and Papa's (as parents) too! Many international adoptive parents choose to take their children to an "International Adoption Pediatrician" and a specialized international adoption clinic. There is one in Nashville. I'm sure it's absolutely wonderful. However, we didn't feel the need to go that route. We knew once we met our kiddos that they arethank the Lordhealthy and not too far behind physically or developmentally. So, after receiving a recommendation from another adoptive family and doing our own research, we decided to go with Dr. S and are so glad we did! Dr. S has adopted internationally, so it's wonderful to have someone that canshed some insight.

He was absolutely wonderful with our babies! We weren't expecting things to go so smoothly, especially after our experience with Dr. Boris in Moscow. (Maybe it was the moustache, maybe it was the lazy eye, but there was something about the Russian doctor that Bennett didn't like. Celia, on the other hand, loved the guy!) Taking into consideration the fear and insecurities B and C were most likely feeling anyways and the fact that they each received four shots, one TB skin test and three blood draws, the kids were great! Less than 60 seconds after her shots, Celia was smiling and making silly faces at the nurse. The sweet nurse later said she has "never" seen such a happy babyand she's obviously seen a lot. Bennett, true to form, was all strength. He held it together so well and when he felt he was in a safe place againback in his Papa's armshe let out the cries.

We noticed once we brought Bennett home that he has a scar on his upper left arm. I greived a bit for my little guy over thinking we'd never know how he got it. Derek was ready to help him come up with fun and exciting stories to ease the loss. Much to our surprise, our pediatrician educated us on what most likely it was from. Bennett received a BCG vaccine when in Russia. It's common for a child his age raised in a Russian orphanage to have this shot so as to prevent childhood tuberculosis. Dr. S indicated that his scar is most likely from where he was injected with the vaccine. He warned us that there was a good chance that B's TB skin test would come back positive due to his receiving the vaccine. We were told to come back on Friday to have it checked out.

Dinner on Wednesday was amazing! I was looking forward to giving our kiddos soup, as we were told they had soup each day for lunch in their baby homes. Bennett devoured the vegetable and beef concoction. Celia didn't do as well, but the transition we have been trying to make from baby food has not been successful.

Thursday's dinner was so wonderful that we scarffed it down before taking any pictures. Sorry Nate and Kelly! Your food was just too good!

On Friday we went back to the pediatrician's office to get B's TB skin test looked at. We knew after monitoring it for the last several hours that it didn't look good... After two physicians took a look at it, it was decided. B did indeed have a postive reation.


Even though he most likely has never come into contact with someone with TB and the result was simply caused by his earlier vaccine, he will have to be treated. We took hom to Vanderbilt's Children's Hospital for a chest X-ray to completely eliminate the chance of him having an active case of tuberculosis. Thank God everything came back great and he doesn't have it. Nevertheless, the CDC requires that people in our situation go through the proper treatment anyways. So... poor Bennettafter everything he's already had to go throughwill be taking the TB treatment every day for nine months. However, we are so thankful that our babies are perfectly healthy other than this. Bennett is in the 50th percentile or above on all physical charts. Celia is also above average except for weight, but I'm sure that will improve the longer we are home. We are so blessed!

That night we were treated to another fantastic mealone which I had before and requested from this amazing cook. Chicken and dressing and homemade mac and cheese! Mmmmmm!!


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fun in the Snow ...and on TV?!

I feel I may never catch up on blogging. I love writing so much, but find it difficult to make the time to put my thoughts and experiences down. Bear with me over the next few weeks as we continue to adjust and grow as a family of four.

Everyone asks me, "How is it going?" to which I normally reply, "Pretty good... We definitely have our hands full!" Why do I do that? In reality, things are WONDERFUL. Truly amazing. I'd say we have the family we've always dreamed of, but all this is so much more than anything we could have imagined. I think there is just something in some of us that feels we should down-play the really good things that are happening in our life.

Is it easy? No. Is it perfect and frustration-free 100 percent of the time? Of course not. But it's been the best few weeks of my life. I know that. We definitely have tantrums (some that probably have to do with their grieving process, some that are just regular toddler tantrums). We struggle off and on with our confidence in the attachment we are trying to cultivate with the kiddos. But really, things are going great.

Monday brought snow. Quite a lot for Tennessee, but a measly amount compared to Russia. Bennett didn't seem too impressed. "Six inches of snow? I'm used to six feet!" The five of us (Lexie included, sweet Bella is still at my parents' house) ventured out into the snow.

Being completely unprepared for a snow day with small children, we improvised with a plastic bin we had in the garage.

If you look closely, you'll notice I put Celia's boots on the wrong foot. Way to go, Mama!

This about sums up B and C's relationship as it stands right now:
Bennett: Why is sister sitting on me?
Celia: Weeeeee!
Bennett: Seriously, can she get off now?

A dear friend braved the weather and the roads and brought us yummy chicken and dumplings.

On Tuesday we had some more excitement--the kind Celia loves. News Channel 5 stopped by. I guess they read the article in our local paper about our homecoming and wanted to interview us. Showered but not "made-up," I reluctantly went along with Derek's invitation to have them come in. I just hope people give some slack to new parents when it comes to how they themselves and their house looks... Later that night, we watched ourselves on TV! Bennett loved seeing him and Papa on our big screen!
We enjoyed a delicious dinner that night, thanks to the Nichols.
Unfortunately, the green bean didn't make it any closer to C's mouth...

B was definitely a fan, though!

Coming up in the blog: the kiddos' first pediatrician visit and B's unfortunate "diagnosis."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Papa Goes Back to Work

Things are coming along! Each day, I feel that the four of us are learning more and more what it means to be a family. Though I've loved them immeasurably for for so long, my love for our two babies continues to mature and expand.

Derek went to work on Sunday, attending two morning services, while I stayed home with the kiddos. Since coming home from Russia, Bennett has been very attached to Derek. His baby home director and the judge both talked about how he yearned for a father-figure. Chances are Bennett never had a male in his life in any capacity before Derek. So once B got a taste of what it's like to have a Papa, he's been hooked and Mama just doesn't cut it. I understand that. It's difficult, but I understand. So when Derek left that morning, I was praying that God would comfort my little son and help him to feel safe with me.

Other than when Derek said "bye-bye," there were no melt downs. Parting from us in any way can be rather frightening to them. Understandably so, considering their past and how abandonment had played too much a part in their lives. But once I comforted him (of which Celia wasn't a fan), the three of us got along real well and had a great time playing!

We were able to make our way from the playroom to the kitchen for "snack-time," an English phrase Bennett is completely familiar with now. (I say the magic words once and he gets up from whatever he is doing and makes his way to the playroom gate and waits for me to walk him to the kitchen for a yummy bite to eat.) After a healthy snack of raisins (just for B) and Greek yogurt, we headed back to the playroom and turned on the tiny TV. While I'm not a huge fan of having the kids watch television, I find it helps during Celia's morning nap when I'm alone with the both of them. On our tiny gray couch, Bennett lays on my right side watching "Duck Tales" with his right thumb in his mouth and this left thumb tucked into the waistband of his pants while Celia makes herself comfy on my left side and snoozes for a half hour or so. I have to admit, I was quite proud of myself when I noticed not only was my princess asleep

but so was my prince!

Once they awoke, we read a bit from "B is for Bear," Bennett's new favorite daytime book. (They have other favorites for bedtime) By the third time through, I started once again with "A is for apple." Bennett surprised me this time by saying "apple!" Add that to his list of English words: Mama, Papa, and bye-bye. I love witnessing these milestones--small as they may be.

When Mama needed a potty break, I was reminded again of their fear of being left. The bathroom door is just inches from the playroom and still both children went into hysterics. I have learned the differences in some of their cries. I can tell their "scared" cries from their "fake" cries. Unfortunately, anytime I leave, their deep-rooted scared cries begin. I wish they didn't experience all that they had to make them so uncertain and fearful. However, we are here now to mend those scars as best we can.

After Papa got home, we had lunch and played. Both of the kids love legos. Well, Celia loves anything Bennett loves. Recently, it just so happens to be legos. They'd probably enjoy them even more if Papa learned to share...

We were blessed with friends who brought us dinner. Baked spaghetti, garlic bread and brownies. Yum!
THANK YOU JERILYNN AND EMILY!!! It was so good to also see Ashley and Amber!

Emily was also sweet enough to bring each of our kiddos a Build-a-Bear. Bennett and Celia love their stuffed animals!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

First Full Week Wrap Up

I have every intention of getting "down-and dirty" with the real life, day-to-day events that come along with raising two adopted toddlers. However, this has been one heck of a week! Though the adjustments are many (for all four of us!) and the sound sleep may be lacking, it has been one of the most fulfilling weeks of my life.

Monday I had to run into work. I was planning on stopping by HR within the first several days at home to add the kiddos to our insurance. The events of the previous day expedited that, however. Instead of me leaving the kids and Derek for some time, we thought we'd take them along to continue to try to get them used to car seats. Derek dropped me off my workplace and I filled out the necessary forms while he drove circles around the parking lot. The kids were snoozing. After that stop, we swung by Derek's office to pick up his work laptop and then—feeling very adventurous and confident—we ran by WalMart to pick up some needed items. The kids did great! We ran into some people who commented, "those are the babies from the news!" and "My goodness! Your children are adorable!" I'm sure most parents experience this, but I have to say it's such a wonderful feeling to have people say such things about our kiddos. We literally have not taken then anywhere in public without at least one person positively commenting on them. What proud parents we are! Later that evening, my parents swung by to bring us dinner. They ended up staying and eating with us and later watched the kids open the Christmas presents from their Babushka and Dyadushka.

On Tuesday, Derek went into work for a staff meeting, leaving me with the kiddos for about two hours. We did pretty well. Only one boo-boo. Bennett threw my coffee thermos at Celia, resulting in a good scratch near her eye. Papa cam back in time for lunch and we spent the rest of the afternoon playing in their playroom and eating in the kitchen. Is it me, or do toddlers just eat and play all day? I feel like we spend and hour or so in the playroom and then it's time to bring them back to the kitchen for a meal or snack. Derek and I are both enjoying eating breakfast every day though—something we've never made a habit of. Tuesday afternoon we went for a walk up our street.

We also began dog transition #1 with our standard poodle, Lexie. It started off horridly, but got better once we showed the kiddos that all three of them share a love of Cheerios.

Wednesday, we received a package from a sweet friend and her family. They sent the most adorable outfits and two amazing books. Since receiving them, we have read each to B and C every night before going to bed. They are most definitely favorites!

Celia and I ventured out that morning to get another sneak peak at what will be our town’s most beautiful and impressive event venues: Westbury House on the Square.

Derek went into work again on Thursday and I stayed home with the kids. I wasn't sure how snack time and morning nap time would go, but we made it! Each of us had a small but healthy snack in the kitchen and then we cuddled on the skinny couch in the playroom as "Beauty and the Beast" played in the background. C caught some Z's and B and I just chilled. It was a nice morning. That evening we actually ate out for the first time in the U.S. We enjoyed Logan's with some friends and their to little girls. I hate to admit it, but I fear B is a ladies' man...

After dinner, we needed to run by Target to pic up some more things. (Shopping lists NEVER cease with two kids, do they?)

Friday continued Bennett and Celia’s rise to fame. A reporter and friend came by to interview us for the local paper. I am not much for all this publicity when it comes to private matters. However, I feel lead to share our story and the blessing that is international adoption. I am fully aware that some people who don’t know any better look down upon our choice of adopting from another country. I truly hope our story inspires others to stand up for orphans—both domestically and across the world. After that excitement, one of my closest friends stopped by to drop off some homemade Italian Wedding soup. It was DELICIOUS! Celia also had the chance to meet her future boyfriend (when she’s allowed to date at age 30) and Bennett his new friend!

Bennett and Celia both loved the soup!
Perhaps Celia liked it a little too much...

For dinner, another very close friend dropped off dinner. Mexican. Mmmm… I missed it so much! And Bennett it proving to be a wonderful eater!

 Today was a relaxing day. We all stayed in our PJs until early this afternoon. Papa put together a shelf that we bought at Target during our previous trip. Hopefully it will help a bit in keeping the playroom more organized. The kids horsed around while their Papa was working on the assembly.

Dear friends dropped off a delicious Chicken Pot Pie for dinner. We were so thankful! Even better than the main course was their specialty, fruit salsa and homemade cinnamon and sugar chips. Call us bad parents, but we didn’t share with the kiddos.


I’m off to bed now. I hope to keep everyone better abreast of the ins and outs of what now is the life of the Hunters. Thank you all for your support and encouragement! You all means so much to us!


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