Monday, October 29, 2012

One Year Ago - Transformation

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

We visited Carter in the playroom today!  The director saw us when we came in, and he handed us the key to unlock it.  So I went up to get Carter while Jake and Rachel waited in the playroom.

We had a really fun visit, once again.  Lots of laughs - not just Carter's, either!

We 'explored' a few things with Carter today.  We want to see how he reacts to certain situations in his environment.  There is a little sink in the playroom, and we've been wondering how he'll do during bath time at the apartment.  Jake took him over to the sink, and turned the water on slowly.  Well....I don't think bath time will be a problem!  He loved the water, and kept crawling back to the sink throughout the visit.  That's a good sign :)  We decided that once he's ready for a bath at the apartment, we'll just let him play in the water - and then slowly transition the playtime into an actual bath.

We also wanted to see him 'play'.  Yes - we technically play with him at each visit - but we wanted to see if he would sit at the little table with a few toys, and play with those toys.  Well...once again, he blew us away.  He sat at the little table for over 15 minutes...totally focused on his toys.  He tried very hard to mimic what his daddy was doing...whether it was stacking, spinning, matching - he tried it all....this kid is amazing :)

Carter gave us a few surprises during our visit.  He was getting very brave with his walking today.  He started out by walking a few steps, with me following very closely behind him.

Later on, he crawled over to the little table (with Rachel's shoe!) and got in the chair himself.  Since he was being so independent, we just had a hunch that he might try to walk on his own.  So glad I had the camera on!  This boy got up off his chair, and took several unassisted steps across the room.  He just blows us away.

Amazing to watch a little boy gain confidence & independence, isn't it?


After our visit, we decided to take Rachel to McDonalds :)  We sat outside (yes, it's cold out, but the natives don't care - so we don't, either!) and enjoyed our home-like meal!  And we laughed.  Boy oh boy did we laugh.  I don't even remember why.  But I do remember that this morning when I read my sweet Grannie's daily email, she said "find something to laugh about today" and we did.  Thanks Grannie.  I appreciate those daily emails more than you'll know!

Later tonight we'll go to Hillsong Church!  A taxi will pick us up at 5:15p - which, unfortunately, means no afternoon visit.  But we are so excited about experiencing church in a different culture.


Do you realize that you are watching a little boy flourish right before your eyes?  Just a few weeks of love, and look how far he has come.

From this....

To this....

Every child deserves a chance.  Every.single.child.  For this boy, it has made all the difference in the world.  

Has adoption ever crossed your mind?  Ever?  There may be a child that needs you.  Yes, you.  Don't start listing off reasons why adoption is not right for you.  If you've thought about it, then it probably is right for you.  And please, please don't turn away from adoption because of financial reasons.  There are grants and fundraisers that can & will help with that.  If you remember correctly, we raised over $20,000. It is possible.

Could you look this boy in the face, and tell him that he can't have a warm home and a loving family, because of money?  Or because it doesn't fit your lifestyle right now?  Or because you want to have biological kids first?  Or because adoption is too much work?

Please...if the Lord has ever, ever whispered 'adoption' to you...don't ignore it.  You'd be walking away from a beautiful, incredible, unimaginable gift.

And Carter agrees.  Because this 'family' stuff is pretty great :)

 If you have ever thought about adoption (special needs or otherwise!)...have questions...concerns...doubts...please - email me.  Right now - I'd love to chat!  Gibsons15 (at) sbcglobal . net :)  Don't miss out on this gift....

One Thing I Know For Sure: So glad we acted.  So glad we took the leap.  Never, ever looking back...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

One Year Ago - Court

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

We are finished with court.  It's over.....

Anton Oleksander no longer.

new name, for a new boy.

Carter Benjamin Gibson...he's officially ours.

We're parents!!!!!

Let me start at the beginning of our day!  A different driver, Eugene (who we also like very much!) picked us up at our apartment around 11:30.  Which was about 20 minutes after he called us.  So, we threw our stuff in our bags and got dressed for court.  That's how it goes here - you just have to roll with it!  So we did.  We moved in to our new apartment and left for court.  We got there about 50 minutes early, so Eugene took us to a cafe for some coffee.  He gave us an excellent history lesson about this city and the Russian language.  We learned many things that we would never learn on wikipedia :)

Right at 2:00p, Yulia walked up and away we went, in to court.  Originally, Yulia thought Rachel would be able to stay in the court room if we just said she was a 'relative' - well, somebody said no, that it was a closed hearing.  So we had to have Rachel sit in the hall!  This made me so nervous!  She's 100% our responsibility, and she's sitting in a hallway with a bunch of people awaiting their court hearing!  All I remember saying was "stay put - do not move!!".

Just before the judge came in, Yulia said "All you need to know, is stand when the judge enters.  At the end, you say that you want to move forward with the adoption, you want to change his name, and you want to be put on record as his parents."  So we both started immediately reviewing these 'rules' in our head.  We actually never had to say any of that.  My point?  Don't panic during court.  It will all come to you when it's supposed to :)

In the court room was us and Yulia, the prosecutor (who was wearing sweatpants and ugg boots...), the judge, two jurors, the orphanage director, and the child services representative.  When the judge walked in, we stood.  At this point, I was feeling good.  She asked Jake basic questions like our address, place of birth, etc.

Okay, easy stuff.

And then the real questions started.

Why are you adopting a child when you don't have your own biological children yet?

Why are you adopting a child with special needs?

Why don't you adopt from America?

Are you unable to have kids?

What do you know about kids with Down syndrome?

Why will his life be better in America?

How will you take care of him?

When will you have your own children?

How can you love this child as much as your biological children?

Okay, now we started to panic a bit.  Yulia seemed to be a bit nervous, too.  I think that's what made me panic.

Then they started asking about our house.  How big?  How many rooms?  A yard?  How many bathrooms?  Wait - we have a book with photos of our house!  We passed the book over, and as the judge flipped through, she paused on the photo of Carter's bedroom.

"Is this...the boys' room??"  She seemed shocked.

"Yes - that's his room."

This is when the doctor winked at me.  And I knew we were golden.

Then it was the doctors turn to speak.  He talked about our first meeting - and he told the judge that Anton  immediately hugged me, and made eye contact.  He told her that he hugged and wouldn't let go.

And the judge and jurors lost it.

They all three broke down crying.  One of the jurors continued crying through the rest of the hearing.

And the doctor winked again :)

The the doctor said "Anton?  Picture?".  Well...we didn't have a picture of Anton with us.  Luckily, Jake had the iPad - so we got it out and showed the judge and jurors photos of our first visits.

More tears.

The judge had a few more questions about Anton's biological family.  She directed most of them to the orphanage director.  He explained that they haven't visited in 6 months, and they have signed away their rights.  He told the judge that Anton's grandparents came to visit every birthday, and the judge seemed concerned that they would come this year and wonder where he was.  He said no - they wouldn't come again.

They wouldn't come again, because his parents found out this week that Anton was being adopted by an American family.

And in his words - "They were very - very positive.  They want an American family to take their child.".

It made me emotional to know that they've been informed.  They know their boy is going home.  To a family.  In America.  It was hard to hold back the tears.

So - after the doctor explained this all to the judge, they went to deliberate.

This is when Yulia told me that this judge has never done a special needs adoption before.  Ever.

I'm so glad she waited until now to share this!  I would have probably been a nervous nelly!

They all came back into the room, and told us that they were in favor of this adoption.  They all agreed that this boy would have a better life in America.  And they agreed to record us as his parents.

I cried.  They cried.  The doctor hugged us.  And that was all.

It's officially official :)  He's ours.  Our boy.

Carter Benjamin Gibson.  :)


Since we were able to move before court, we had time to make it to our afternoon visit!  We were so glad to be able to see our boy!

We arrived and he was sleeping.  Well this time, I was able to snap a photo :)

They brought him out to us about a half hour later...and for the first time, he was excited to see us.  He was laughing and smiling, and reached right out for me. Oh how that does this mama's heart good!

The Gibson Family :)

Ok, guys - can we quit taking photos?  I'm so ready to go home...

I finally have my own family!
Thanks, Rachel - for taking all the sweet family photos :)

Shortly after they brought him out, one of the nannies came back with his puppy :)  We were so glad to see that he still had it.  She motioned that he slept with it.

Sometime during the course of our visit, little man pottied on me.  He was wearing a diaper - but like everything else, it was too small for him.  So - I took him back to be changed, and I had to laugh as the nanny tried on 2 different pairs of tights, and 4 pairs of shorts before she found any that were big enough for him :)

Our only photo of Rachel & Carter together.

Let me just say - Carter is obviously feeling so much better.  The nasty cough and congestion is gone.  And when the cold left, the sassiness came.  This boy is a little dickens.  We saw a side of him today that we've never seen before.  He was loud, and laughed at everything...especially when mama & papa told him 'nyet'.  I think I've got my hands full!

Yep - you've got your own family, little man.  Life is sure going to change for you!


So that was our day in a nutshell.  Afterwards (around 7:00p), we went to Friday's to celebrate (this was the first meal of our crazy day!).   Jake & Rachel played table hockey on the iPad :)  Rachel won :)

And to celebrate this exciting day - we had dessert!!

Look - Horner Family!  I won out this time!!  Apple Crisp!!

One less orphan in this world tonight...amazing, isn't it?  What a blessing this boy is.  Thank you, Lord.

"God sets the lonely in families"
Psalm 68:6

One Thing I Know For Sure: God is so, so good.  What an incredible gift.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

One Year Ago - He's Stolen Our Hearts

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

Around lunch, we met up with our friends, Bryan and Alecia - they were in the city just for the day, and it was SO good to spend time with them again.  We laughed about all kinds of things - like apple crisp vs. brownies, kids growing up and moving out, bubblers, sparkly headbands and puffer vests...and it was just, good.  So good.  And I learned something about myself today...apparently, I have a Wisconsin accent :)  I'm not too happy about that!

Keep praying that God would work out their situation.  It's so cool to watch them seeking God and His will for them!  They are such an awesome couple, and we know God is honored in their lives!

One of the cutest stray dogs we've seen yet :) He looks like just a puppy - and he was so hoping that someone would buy him a happy meal :)  No such luck!

I ordered a Mocha at one of the 'coffee trucks' - it was so, so, so, SO good.  And it only cost $1.50!!
And this picture has brought to my attention an important packing tip for the next trip.
BRING A COMB!!!   :)

Us and Bryan & Alecia...At Friday's :)  We even ordered dessert this time...who knows when we'll see each other again!  

We knew that we'd hear sometime after 4:00p about our potential court date.  So we went to our afternoon visit as usual.  We were a bit early, and Carter was sleeping again when we got there, so we took advantage of the sunshine and snapped a few photos of his orphanage.

Soon - very soon, we can break our boy outta here.  

There are many birch trees around the orphanage - in fact, the name of his orphanage means 'birch' in Russian.

Inside the orphanage.
This is for Alecia!  Butterflies!!
Today, Carter was so ready to ditch that little couch in the hallway.  This boy wanted to explore.  As he gets more comfortable with us, he tests his limits.  It's good - it shows that he feels safe with us, I guess.  Today, we explored the ramp up to the second story.

I know it's blurry, but I just had to share it.  LOVE this little tongue sticking out.
 We didn't take many photos of Carter today, because much of our visit was Jake and I discussing 'should we do this' or 'should we leave this day' or 'what if we leave this day...'.  Not an easy decision to make!  But it was a good visit, regardless.  We got a few snuggles, gave lots of kisses...and walked around a bit with our boy.


We spoke with Yulia around 5:00p.  She said that we will have the adoption friendly judge - which is wonderful.  However, we won't know our actual court date until Monday.  There is a slight chance that we could have court a week from Monday (the 24th of Oct), but again, we won't know until this coming Monday.  There is also a chance that court will be farther out than that.

That's just how it goes.

We have decided to leave tomorrow, and we'll wait to hear our court date.  If we have to come back in 8 or 9 days - that's just fine.  Of course, the sooner the court date, the better.   We plan to stay 4 - 5 days around court, and then come home for the 10 day wait.

For now, that's the plan.  It's not concrete.  It might change.

No - it will likely change.

And we'll just roll with it.

Because that's what we do :)


Needless to say, leaving Carter was hard.  We typed another note to the nannies.  It said "We are going back to America tomorrow.  We will miss Anton very much.  Can he keep this puppy with him?  We will be back in a few weeks.  Thank you!".  They seemed to understand it when they read it - but we noticed that as we left, the nanny was holding the puppy.  So who knows :)  We specifically didn't leave a 'special' toy with him - because we know we might never see it again.  It's just a puppy that my mom had, and had given it to us to bring with us. I've been sleeping with it, so hopefully they'll let him keep it, since it has our smells on it.

We said 'paka paka paka' - because that's what the nannies say when we leave.  And we walked out the door.

And Jake cried.  And then I lost it.

This little boy has stolen our hearts.  In one week.



So - in 7 hours (3:00a)...we will meet Niko downstairs, and we'll be on our way to the airport.  We should be home around 4:00p (home time).

And that's that.

One Thing I Know For Sure: I never, never, never thought I'd be sad to leave.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

One Year Ago - He's Comfortable

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

Another rainy day....but today was also windy.  Super windy.  Bummer :)

Our second visit of the day was perfect!  Carter was a little snuggly at first, but he seemed to be feeling better!  Keep praying for that cough to be GONE!

We decided that since he snuggled so much with me during the last visit, this visit was Jake's turn :)

Then - out of the blue, this boy just perked right up!  He was crawling all over the place and we had him laughing so, so hard.


We brought a few animal crackers along today, just to see what he would do (shh...don't tell the nannies!).  Well - we were surprised to see that he wanted nothing to do with it.  We tried again toward the end of our visit, and again, he didn't want it.  We put it in his mouth, and it was like he didn't know what to do with it.  It just sat in his mouth.  Eventually I took it out, but it was like he had no idea it was even in there.  I'm not going to jump to conclusions yet - and maybe in a few days we'll bring a banana. 


Several people have asked if we love Carter.  It's a complex answer, I guess.  There have definitely been some supernatural connections made.  There is no doubt about that.  The first time we met, emotions were so strong.  This boy that we've prayed for - cried about - struggled to get to - is now in our arms.  There's something amazing about that - and also completely overwhelming.  Then on our first visit, I'll be honest - it was difficult.  Difficult because of unrealistic expectations that we had.  Do you hear that?  It was US that made it difficult.  We have pictured Carter being like 'this' or like 'that' for over 6 months.  Our first actual visit was nothing like we had imagined.  He was scared.  He was skeptical.  And we just wanted 'our' Carter.

Today's visits, however, have made all the difference.  He is comfortable with us.  He looks happy to see us.  He cries when we leave.  It's clear he desires to be with us.  He laughs with us.  And THIS is how we had imagined it would be.

Do we love him?  Yes.  Undoubtedly, yes.  Not because he now 'fits' our expectations - but because we have chosen to love him, DESPITE our expectations.  We know there will be difficult, awkward days ahead.  That's okay.  Love is a choice, we believe.  It's not an emotion or a feeling.  No - it's an ACT. And we'll choose to love him - hard or easy, fast or slow, up or down.


And can I just say, I'm a pretty lucky girl.  Jake has been so sweet to me this whole trip.  When I was homesick, he made me feel safe.  He tells me how 'great' I'm doing (ha -right!  I'm a mess!).  He makes dinner - AND cleans up!  He prays for our boy every day before we leave.  He's great.

And today - he's missing a Packer game....and he's not even complaining about it :)

Just sayin' :)

One Thing I Know For Sure: I can't wait until we get this little boy HOME!

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