Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Year in Review

It's that time again - I can hardly believe it.

The year is coming to a close, and it's time to reflect.  I have so much to share - so much to be thankful for.  I'm just going to dive right in...grab your coffee and sit with me for a while.

Something is happening inside this boy that is so beautiful to watch.  He's not just growing - he's flourishing.  He's not just changing - he's being transformed.  So often, Jake and I look at each other - amazed.  We say that he's turning into a 'real boy'.  The way he talks (yes - he is starting to talk) - the way he communicates - the way he loves - the way he plays - it all resembles something like a real little boy.

 Growing - changing - flourishing - so very beautiful to watch.  So blessed to be a part of it all.  It brings to mind a verse we have sang many times over the past month....

"...wonders of His love, and wonders of His love - wonders, wonders of His love..."

Jake and I direct the Christmas program at our church each year - and this year we used a compilation of our favorite scenes from The Andy Griffith Show - and we turned it into a Christmas program.  Every year we love being a part of a new cast of people who are willing to sacrifice a whole bunch of time and energy around the Christmas season.

If you're not up on your Mayberry characters - you're looking at Otis Campbell (sitting), Barney Fife (stooped), and Andy Taylor (in background).

How do you determine whether your Christmas was successful?
Did you break your budget?  No?  Success.
Are your kids grateful?  Yes?  Success.
Did you spend loads of time with people you love?  Yes?  Success.
Was your heart filled with joy as you remembered the very first Christmas?  Yes?  Huge success.

Our Christmas was quiet - simple - mostly homemade - and filled with joy and love.

I have to throw this in here.  See these two beautiful girls?
Don't let their adorableness fool you.  They're both BRATS!
Turns out, sitting in front of them was a poor choice, because
Meanies.  Payback is coming.  When you least expect it, little girls!
Our gift for Carter was SO fun to give.  Jake has been working on it since Thanksgiving.  It started out like this:

And Christmas Morning, it looked like this:

We were a little concerned that with all the time we put into it, Carter wouldn't be interested at all.  HA!  He loves it.  He mixes, scoops, washes his hands, dries dishes, bakes, saut├ęs, and broils like a pro.  And when he gets tired of that, he sits in front of the little refrigerator and opens - closes - opens - closes - opens - closes a few hundred times.

Needless to say, mommy likes this kitchen, too :)  It keeps Carter very busy!

I'm sure you've seen things like this floating around Pinterest - we got our inspiration {here} and {here} and {here}.

Moses is sick.  It started the week before Thanksgiving.  He was not interested in food - SO unusual for this hog of a dog.  From there, he declined gradually until about 10 days before Christmas - he absolutely looked like he was on death's doorstep.  We called the vet and thought we'd be saying goodbye that same day.  They gave him meds and sent him home, assuring us that he would be just fine.

Just a few days later, we were back at the vet.  This time she was certain there was an obstruction, so she performed an exploratory surgery.  Guess what?  No obstruction.  Just gas - which led her to believe THAT was the problem.  For a good week, he was slowly improving.

Which brings us to today.  Again, he is declining - and I have such a heavy heart just writing this.  I don't know what our next step will be.  But I am finally trying to prepare myself for the worst.

And that's all I will say about that.

She has just weaseled her way into my heart - I can really say that I LOVE having her here each weekday.  She usually is here Monday - Thursday from about 11:00 to 5:00, and usually all day on Friday.  Haleigh and Carter are buddies - they play together, they follow each other around, and when Haleigh isn't here - Carter lets me know!

She keeps me laughing all afternoon with her silly sense of humor, and her ability to say just the right (or, wrong?!) thing at the right time.  My favorite?  When we're grocery shopping, and she pushes Carter in the cart - and she cups her little hands around his cheeks and says 'Hi little buddy' in the most tender way.  Or when they're riding in the double-cart at Target and I catch them holding hands.  Makes this mama's heart melt.

Rachel still comes to play with Carter - usually one afternoon a week.  I love the break, and I think Carter does, too!  She is such a sweet young lady - and we are so blessed to have her in our lives!

She is more than a 'babysitter' - she's a true friend.  We sure do love our Rachie!

Everyone tells us how much bigger Carter looks.  We don't see it as much, of course, because we see him every day.  It wasn't until I looked at his Christmas photos from last year that I realized the AMAZING changes that other people are seeing!

Last year:

I can still see some hopelessness in his eyes & there's still some orphanage grime (or actually, at just 6 weeks home, a LOT of orphanage grime!).

Last year:

Such a little baby!  So unsure of his surroundings!!

This year:

Big boy!  In love with life!

This year:

He looks like he's a well-loved, cared for, cherished & adored SON, doesn't he?

God sets the lonely in families, indeed.  Praise Him!!

I had so much fun making our Christmas Cards this year - I have to share them here!

Praying your 2013 is filled with much joy - peace - revelation - blessings - hope - and loads & loads of love.

One Thing I Know For Sure: Reflection - good stuff!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Leftover Kids.

We've been home one year, and it's been so good in every way.  The progress that Carter continues to make is astounding.  I promise to do a big update post in a few days, but right now, there is something so much more important that I want to share with you.  


Not a day goes by that I don't wonder about those kids who still wait in Carter's former orphanage.  The leftover kids.  Not one single day.  I wonder.  Pray.  Sometimes cry.  Every single day.

Carter has had 370 family dinners.  Every night, he gets tucked in to his cozy bed - and is covered with kisses from a Mama and Daddy who love him dearly.  Each morning when he wakes, a huge smile spreads across his face as he sees his Mama.  We rush downstairs, and he signs 'banana' and 'milk' the whole way.  Once breakfast is served, he starts begging for school.  'Guk-guk' (backpack)?  Yes, Carter - today you will wear your backpack and go to school.  Yes, you'll see your friends.  Yep, Mrs. K will be there too.  Yes, Carter - your friend Haleigh will be here later.  Yes, yes, yes.

Carter loves his life.  He loves the people in it.  It's obvious.

In the rush of our morning routine, I pause sometimes - and wonder.  What about Dennis?

In the past 370+ days, what has his life been like?  Nannies in and out.  Cribs.  Play pens with no toys.  Wounds that don't get kissed.  Tears that don't get wiped.  And my heart breaks.  

All of our family outings, walks to the park, morning smiles and bedtime snuggles, books on laps, hugs, kisses, hugs, kisses.....

...and what about Dennis?

Since we have come home from Ukraine, I feel as though I have a responsibility.  I know things that many people don't know.  I've seen things that many people will never see.  And what am I going to do about that?

I could feel sad for the orphans we met.  I could cry for them.  And then what?  Go about my day to day activities just like I did before?

What if I did something?  What if I prayed?  What if I did what I could to raise money?  Even if I did it for ONE orphan.  Wouldn't that be better than 'feeling sad' for them?

So here I am.  Working to raise money for Dennis.  Working to get his sweet face out there - so maybe someone will see it, and feel called to be his mama.

I have some fun things planned, and I'd love for you to join me.

1} Cherish, Ink'd - I opened a little Etsy shop.  I'm creating personalized photo Christmas cards, with all proceeds going to Dennis.  You can visit my shop HERE, and take a look around.  I also will gladly do custom orders for anything you can think of: thank you notes, holiday cards, wall art, invitations, adoption announcements, prayer cards....anything!  I hope that you'll consider using my shop to purchase your own Christmas Cards this year - as it's something that most of us do anyway - and this way, the money will go toward such a worthy cause.  If you don't do photo cards for Christmas - that's okay!  You can still share with friends via email or Facebook!  I also made a Facebook Page to promote this Etsy shop - you can see and 'like' it HERE.

2} ThirtyOne - a sweet friend who adopted 2 boys from Carter's former orphanage has offered to donate her commission for my ThirtyOne party right to Dennis!  ThirtyOne makes cute, fun, incredibly useful organizational products.  Flip through their online catalog - and I guarantee you will be able to cross a few items off your Christmas Shopping List! If you'd like to order through my ThirtyOne party, click HERE.  Share with friends, and invite them to my Facebook Event HERE.

3} Donate - Of course, if you don't need anything from my Etsy shop, or ThirtyOne - you can always make a donation to Dennis' grant by clicking HERE.  It's all tax deductible, and benefits one very special little boy.

4} Share - Just by sharing this post, and Dennis' profile, you are getting his face out there!  You NEVER know who will see it, or share it - and all that sharing just may land his picture right in front of his mama's face.

That's it.  That's all I've got.  No huge giveaways.  No big ticket items.  Here's what I'm asking: please, don't leave this page without doing something.  Anything.  Not even for me, but for Dennis.

One Thing I Know For Sure: Together, we CAN make a difference!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Day We Came Home...

"Hold on - before we walk out there, let's pray - the four of us."

So we stood before a gracious God, and thanked Him.  This was it.  The journey had come full circle.

Carter was home.

I remember like it was yesterday - hugging Niko, as he said "now - give some hug and some kiss, and go be a family".  Waiting in the airport in Kiev, knowing it would be the last time that our feet would touch the ground of Carters homeland for a very, very long time.  Wishing we could stay, but knowing it was time to leave.  Even today, my heart aches for Ukraine.  But this is for another post....

Walking around the Frankfurt airport with a screaming 3 year old - who was not yet able to be comforted by his mothers soothing touch.  For hours - I walked.  I walked, I prayed, I cried - with a screaming stranger in my baby carrier.

Sitting.  So much sitting on that long flight back to the states.  Nobody slept.  Not even Carter.  He didn't make a peep.  He sat.  He ate.  That was it.

Fluffing hair and changing outfits in Chicago, preparing for our very special, long-awaited flight home to Appleton.

Then - all of a sudden, we were home.  The feeling was indescribable and even one year later, my words fall so short.  The village welcomed us home.  They welcomed us from one chapter of our lives into the next.  Carter walked, and as we swung him in the air, he laughed his best laugh.

A year has come and gone.  365 days.  How did this happen?

Today, Carter is home in every sense of the word.  He is at home in our family.  In our arms.  One year ago, he didn't know the meaning of 'home'.  Today, he knows.

I will be honest.  Year One = hard.  Adoption is not easy.  Anyone who says so is lying.  Attachment is hard, and most people don't understand it.  Disciplining a 3 year old who has lived in three small rooms for his entire life is hard.  Loving a child who doesn't know how to be loved is hard.  Did I ever think I would have to teach my 3 year old how to be held by his mother?  Where to put his arms, and how to wrap his legs?  No.  But we did.  If you had told us that we would need to teach this boy how to get silly and wrestle with his daddy, we would have thought you were crazy.  Because every kid should know that.  Guess what?  Kids who are raised in orphanages don't know much of anything about having fun.  So we've taught him.  And along the way - he's taught us.

We have so much to learn.

Adoption is not easy.  But I'll tell you what it is.
Adoption is a blessing. The biggest, most beautiful blessing.  Yes, even when it's hard.
Adoption is choosing to love.  In the beginning it's hard, but we choose love every day.
Adoption is freedom.  Freedom to love and be loved.

REDEEM: to buy back; to free from what distresses or harms; to free from captivity by payment of ransom; to help to overcome something detrimental; to change for the better; repair; restore

Adoption is redemption.
Adoption is redemption.

I still stand amazed as I think about where Carter would be, had God not rescued him.  Look what God did.  Look how He makes all things new.

And then, the more I think - the more I feel like this 'adopted boy' is just our son.  He's just ours.  He's a Gibson.  Adoption will always be a part of him - and we will always celebrate that.  But more than anything - he's just our son.  Plain & simple.

Last night, Jake was at church and I decided to snuggle Carter to sleep.  This is something we haven't done in many months, but it was a special night - and I wanted him close to me.  So I held him, and maybe cried a little, and tried to muster a holy prayer - and all I could come up with was 'Thank you.  Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU....'.  What a gift we have been given.  What a blessing.  We are undeserving in every way...


If you're still reading along with this 'One Year Ago' series - I thank you.  This is the end.  Because there's nothing more to say.  He's home.  Right where he belongs.

If you'd like to read my post from one year ago, you can see it here.

One Thing I Know For Sure: "God sets the lonely in families...." Psalm 68:6a

Sunday, November 11, 2012

One Year Ago - Exploring With Carter

{This post was originally published one year ago, when we were in Ukraine adopting our sweet Carter}

Today we walked to Independence Square - Carter did great!  Mama, on the other hand, found out just how wimpy she is.  I'm so not used to wearing a 30+ pound child while I walk!  I'm sure I'll be seriously feeling it tonight!

When we got to the Square, we let Carter out of the carrier.  Yes - he was crawling around on the ground.  Yes - all the natives looked at us like we were killing our child.  No - we didn't care.  He's a 3 year old boy - and in America, that's what boys do!

And remember how I said that this boy started to give kisses?  Here's the proof!

LOVE that pucker!
After exploring for a bit, we decided to go back to the 'native' buffet for lunch.  There are several locations in this city, and so we wanted to try a different location in hopes of getting some hot food :)  We went to the one closest to the Khreschatyk Metro station - and we were so glad to find that the food was hot!  Woo!  I kept Carter in the carrier as we went through the line and he did so great.  He enjoyed looking around - but didn't seem nervous or overwhelmed.

We brought a jar of baby food just in case he didn't want the food from the buffet.  Ha!  He loved it.  He ate almost everything we offered him, without any fussing.  He tried borsch, another vegetable soup, bread, potatoes, and some mashed meat.  He even got a little bite of chocolate dessert at the end :)  Rach & I tried the borsch - it was about the only thing that wasn't hot enough.  I thought it would be creamy - but it was more like a broth soup.  Good, though!

So - we walked home, and of course the 'plaster & paint' lady was working in front of our doorway.  Have I talked about her yet?  Well - it goes without saying that they just HAD to fix the plaster while we're here adopting.  Of course.  Which means there is dust all over the stairways.  The stairways are narrow, and they have these handmade platforms so they can reach the ceilings with the paint & plaster.  Well, the platforms take up the whole landing, so if they're working on your landing - you can't get in your apartment.  And it would be way too much to ask them to move for you, so you just stand there and wait while they finish that whole section.  Today is the longest we've had to wait - but it was probably at least 10 minutes.  I was so glad that Carter was sleepy - he just laid his head down in the carrier and chilled out until the lady moved.


When we got inside, around 12:15p, we knew it was definitely nap time.  We've learned that it works best if we snuggle Carter for 5-10 minutes, and then just put him in his bed and leave the room.  Today he was asleep in about 15 minutes.  We felt bad doing this at first - but we know that he wasn't being cuddled to sleep at night by his nannies.  He's used to going to sleep on his own.  We feel like snuggling him before we lay him down is good for him, but trying to 'rock' him to sleep would probably just start bad habits. Anyhow...he slept until 3:15...woo!

Niko came here to pick Jake up at 2:30p to pick up the passport!  Yep - we got it!!  Which means we just scheduled our flights home for Tuesday.  The embassy told us not to schedule anything until we get his visa - but Niko says the visas are never a problem.  So our flights are 'scheduled'...just not officially booked.  We'll let you know what we end up booking!

After a yummy dinner - we gave our boy a bath...his favorite part of the day.  We actually have to keep the bathroom door closed at all times - if he even sees inside, he throws a fit because he wants to take a bath :)  And after bath time is over, this boy throws a fit to end all fits.  He would stay in there all day if we let him!!  We did some coloring, too :)

Tonight there is a Ukraine vs. Germany soccer game at the brand-spankin' new stadium just a block or so away from our apartment.  There has been nonstop commotion outside our window for over an hour...the game starts at 9:45p...we were saying that it would have been fun to go.  But I guess we'd be out a little bit past Carter's bedtime :)


Last night we watched 'The Wizard of Oz'...which is my all time favorite.  How fitting...'there's no place like home...'.  Well - we're not 'home' yet, but Carter doesn't know that.  For him - right now - this is home.  This apartment.  Actually - we are his home.  And he is so comfortable - so at ease - so 'at home' with us.  We are overwhelmed with how he has adjusted.  God's hand has been all over this adoption - and this area is no exception.  We prayed for the best - but we definitely believed that there would be some issues once we got him back to the apartment.  We didn't want to be so naive in believing that our situation would be perfect.  And who knows?!  Maybe those issues will sneak up once we get back to the states.  But the Lord has given us blessings and favor once again.  We are so, so undeserving...really - He has been so good to us.  But......I'm not going to lie - today was hard.  He was 'so' comfortable that he felt completely at ease to test every single limit.  Every single one.  It's not that he was 'naughty' or 'bad' - he was just a typical toddler boy.  The problem is this apartment - there is nothing for him to do.  And can I just say...I'm stinkin' exhausted from hauling that boy around all morning in the carrier.  Add to it all the chasing around we've done all afternoon, and - makes for a bit of an emotional night.

As I put him to bed tonight, for a split second - I thought 'phew...glad it's finally bedtime....'

And then as soon as he shut his little eyes, I was wishing it was morning so I could wake him.

That's parenthood, I suppose.

Well...he's in bed - fast asleep...and I'm heading there soon.  Just two more days of trying to corral our boy in this tiny apartment....and then we're homeward bound!  Ohhhh Lord...Tuesday can't come fast enough!  Sorry for the mega-long post....I get wordy when I'm sleep deprived.

One Thing I Know For Sure: All those stairs...30 pound kid...walking all over Eastern Europe (okay...slight exaggeration...) - this girl is gonna have buns of steel!

Friday, November 09, 2012

One Year Ago - GOTCHA, BABY!

{This post was originally published one year ago, when we were adopting our sweet Carter}

Today was indeed the day - Gotcha Day!  We met Niko at the orphanage around 9:00a, and got our boy dressed and ready to go!

Little does this boy know...he's going home for good!
 His 'American' outfit :)

We also got some photos of Carter with some people that we've grown to love!

We like this nanny very much!

And this is the man who said "I very glad you're here.  Beautiful."
We had some paperwork to do at the orphanage...just basically saying that we understand all of Carter's medical needs, and we are prepared to care for him.  This is what Carter thought of the paperwork :)

 We headed out to the van, and spent the next 2 hours or so there :)  We took Carter to the passport agency, and sat in the van to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  But Carter did GREAT!  He was very quiet, and very unsure of what was going on.  But he didn't fuss, he just sat quietly and looked around.

He liked looking out the window while we were driving :)  Nope...they don't usually use carseats here :)

For the first 20 minutes or so, Carter was pretty skeptical, and he just squeezed on to his little birdie.  He slowly started to open up...he drank some juice from his sippy, played with some toys, and started to chatter a little bit.

When it was finally time for us to go into the passport agency, I signed two documents, they took his picture, and that was it.  2 hours of waiting for 5 minutes of paperwork :)  But, it's done!  And Niko says we should have our passport by Friday for sure.

On our drive back to the apartment, we had one tired guy.  I'm sure it was the car ride, and the craziness of the day.  We got back, and tried to feed him some stage 3 baby food.  He has never taken food from us before.  Never.  So we thought that it was very possible that he may not eat until tomorrow when he's reeeeally hungry.'s the evidence...

Yep - he ate like a pro!  A whole jar of baby food!  He wasn't hesitant - he wasn't skeptical - he just ate it right up, and drank about half of his sippy cup, too.

We tried for a nap afterwards - but there was just too much to take in!  He couldn't possibly be expected to sleep when there was a whole apartment to explore!  It may come back to bite us tonight...but it's okay.


It's officially official...Carter Benjamin is at home, with his family - right where he belongs.  As I type this he's getting crazy with his daddy on the floor.  He's laughing more than he's ever laughed before - and I wonder if he knows.  I wonder if he gets it.  I wonder if he understands that this is a new beginning for him.  A new life.  A hope and a future!

Nothing better, people.  Nothing better.

One Thing I Know For Sure: New beginnings...beautiful, right?!

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