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?!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

One Year Ago - Reality

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

Today we woke up late - and headed out to finish up our souvenir shopping.  Our goal has been to get it all finished before Gotcha Day...and today, we're officially finished :)  We even managed to get a few Christmas gifts, too!

We came home after shopping, and Jake wasn't feeling well - so we rested up for the trip back to the orphanage.  When we realized it was getting close to time to leave for our visit, we decided to call a taxi :)    It was just one of those days!

When we got to the orphanage, we heard crying coming from the potty room.  We knew right away that it was Carter.  The good thing about this, is that we recognized his cry.  We knew that was our boy.  When I peeked in, I saw him scooting his potty chair, and the nanny using her foot to shove the potty chair back. Carter's head banged into the radiator....more tears.  What she didn't know is that this boys mama was standing by - watching.  I stepped in and crouched down and said 'Anton....' - he looked up, knew it was his mama, and stopped crying.  The nanny looked like a deer in the headlights.  Pretty sure she was ticked that she got caught.  Did she try to calm him?  No.  Did she check his head to see if he was okay?  No.  Did she even care?  No.  That's orphanage life.  Sobering moment #1.

After taking their dandy time getting him ready, he came out - dressed for outside.  Okay...I guess we're going outside :)

We walked around for a bit and he seemed to enjoy it more this time, even though it was practically dark out.  We saw two kids from his groupa come outside - with who we assumed to be their moms.  Both kids, we assume, have HIV - a boy and a girl.  Both as sweet as can be each time we come into the groupa.

We headed inside, back to the couch.  A few minutes after we came in, the little boy and girl came in with their moms.  The boy was crying and it seemed like he didn't want her to go.  They went into the groupa, and came out a few minutes later with the nanny.  She was holding their hands, as their mothers went to leave.  The boy was really, very upset.  We can assume that he was saying 'no - don't go! don't leave yet!' - the mothers just smiled and waved.  Expensive boots.  Luxurious coats.  Probably off to 'enjoy' their weekend.  As they left, we heard them laughing in the stairway, as their children went back into the groupa, crying.  The next ten minutes or so were hard.  Really hard.  All three of us shed tears for those kids.  Kids who may never know the love of a family.  Sobering moment #2.

This is not day care.  This is not 'like' a family.  This is not right.  Not right, at all.


Our visit was good.  We tried a few different things with Carter, today.

First, we brought a sippy cup filled with watered down apple juice.  We know that he's never used a sippy  cup before - he went straight from a bottle to a regular cup.  But it's just not going to work to have him drinking only out of a regular cup at home.  We brought two kinds of sippies here - and he seemed to like the one we brought today!  I showed him how to use it one time...and he totally figured it out.

He does pretty good - he's not getting tons of juice out, probably because he doesn't have the sucking motion down yet - but he'll get it soon enough.  At least we know that he'll be able to get some liquid out by using this cup, and won't be dehydrated in the first few days.

I know...really, is there anything cuter?!

We also brought the baby carrier to try again.  We brought it last trip, and tried it once, just for a minute.  This time, we wanted to see how comfortable he would be for an extended period.  We learned that he did not care to have his arms strapped down, so we pulled them out over the top, and he seemed much more comfortable.  I know - it's not the correct, 'safe' way - but it works.  I don't feel like he's going to tumble I think we're okay.  I'm sure he's on the higher end of the weight it's probably not meant for kids quite this big.  But it will work!

On our walk home, we noticed that some of the storefronts are '...beginning to look a lot like Christmas...'!  We were hoping to see some of the Christmas decorations while we were here...we heard this city is beautiful around the holidays.  I'm sure all the stores back home are totally geared up for Christmas...I can't even imagine!

We saw this crazy music guy in the street - and we just had to give him some money to see him perform!  He was so - so - SO still, it was amazing!

We also started our 'chocolate collecting' - between now and when we leave, we decided that we needed to buy out the Billa each day in order to have as much as we want to bring home.  It's NOT all for us, please....believe me :)  We have some big plans for these chocolate bars!

This is today's purchase...35 bars!
As these videos were uploading, I enjoyed dinner with my Grampie :)  Okay, well - we skyped during dinner - but it was just like eating dinner with him at home :)  His phone rang during our dinner date - it was my mom (she sent some kisses) and it made me realize something I missed from home.  When my Grampie answers the phone, he does it in his own special way.  I wish you could hear it.  Instead of 'hello' it's more like 'yeallow!'.  It's so good to have little memories like that - you know?

So - now it's movie time, and soon - bedtime!  Tomorrow we'll go to our morning visit so that we can go to church tomorrow night!  Just a few more days, and that boy will be HERE, with us!!  Oh, LORD - I can't wait!

One Thing I Know For Sure: Rachel may or may not be swimming in a pile of Milka bars right now...  :)

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