I was looking forward to September being a bit calmer and more focused after the chaos and stress of our summer. It wasn’t.

At the beginning of the month, we went to Denver for Bekah’s Run. It was a beautiful day– Bekah touched so many lives and seeing everyone come together for this day was incredible. Such a beautiful community of people coming together to remember Bekah and support Love Without Boundaries.

Aaron and I spent that weekend kid-free, so we did lots of hiking. We had a great time. 2015-10-04_0002

This is probably one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. It was on our drive back home from Colorado.

We visited the sunflower field again. I love this place. 2015-10-04_0005

The next week, my mom came out for a garage sale. She spend the whole week organizing donations. It was a huge project. Between the two days of the garage sale, we made $600! 2015-10-04_0009

I felt relieved to have the garage sale over. And, as I was returning borrowed tables one morning, someone pulled out of an alley and hit our van. Fortunately, Gus and I, the only ones in the van at the time, were totally fine. The other driver was very apologetic. Gus yelled at him, saying “You crashed-ed our car! You shouldn’t do that”. Despite the fact that it was a very minor accident, the damage on our van was enough for it to be “totaled”.

Ugh. We knew we’d need to replace ours soon due to the age and high mileage, but this wasn’t a decision or expense that we wanted to take on during our adoption. It’s been a very consuming and daunting task to find a new van that is a good fit for our family. We bought one this weekend. It was a tremendous relief to have that figured out. 12045772_10100241340059440_3540642541905264486_o

The day of the accident was also the day that our homestudy review was supposed to be done. It ended up taking a few more days, but OUR HOME STUDY IS DONE. Our i600a application is mailed, and will arrive on Monday!

Now we wait on USCIS and fundraise and fill out grant applications while we wait.

We have been majorly blessed by our family and friends this month. I will not tell you that the adoption process is easy, but we’ve been surrounded with the help and prayers of friends and family. We have a community that loves Luda already and keeps me going through doubt and frustration.

Come check out our auction!

Speaking of how wonderful our community is– a friend of mine is putting on an auction for us– there are tons of great items available! It runs until 9pm on October 7. Please check it out!
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Adoption Questions Answered

I asked for questions about our adoption and you all gave me some good ones! I’ve done my best to answer them below.

Rosemary asked: How long have you kept this ginormous exciting secret???

Short answer: a few months if you consider from the time that she first expressed a desire to be adopted. Days from the time we actually started the paperwork.

Long answer: Luda first started talking to me about adoption a few months ago, but I was very cautious to jump in. I felt like I, personally, had just come to terms with not adopting her and… she decided she wanted to be adopted! We wanted to make sure that she was very serious this time. We also wanted to have some conversations with her about how things would look here once she was adopted and some of the boundaries that we would have in place for her.

We considered keeping the secret a lot longer, because we didn’t want to go through telling everyone we were adopting her and then something happen (again). But, a couple of things forced our hands a bit, and enter in the video announcement! All of the clips from the video were taken just a couple of weeks before we shared it publicly.

Erin asked: What changed her mind, if we may know?

Without going into too much detail, Luda has strong ties to Ukraine. As much as she has enjoyed time with our family, I think it’s hard for her to say yes to forever and leaving her life there behind. Partly, I think that she felt that she needed the blessing of certain people in Ukraine, and I also think it helped her to realize that she was basically out of chances. That we wouldn’t and couldn’t keep hosting her if she was uncertain about what she wanted.

Amanda asked: Do you know yet what the timeline might look like for the process of bringing her home?

We are praying that our dossier will be completed by Luda’s birthday in mid-October. A realistic timeline would be to have our dossier completed by November or early December. From that point, it would be 3-4 months, waiting for our invitation to Ukraine, travel and lots of waiting in between trips.

Amanda asked: How can we pray for you and support you during this adoption?

Currently, our specific prayer requests are for the remaining paperwork for our homestudy. Some of it is crawling! We are well on our way with dossier documents, but before we can finish our dossier and send it to Ukraine, we need to send our home study off to immigration and get their approval. This can take MONTHS, or it can be much quicker. Right now, most people I know in process are saying it is slow going. :(

Please pray that Luda remains committed to be adopted and that she does not feel discouraged with the waiting. That is the biggest challenge– she is ready for us to be there and like any child, has a hard time understanding how lengthy and complicated the process is.

We have just a couple of fundraising opportunities– photo sessions this fall and I will be selling prints. If you are interested in either, please let me know. We also have a link for tax deductible donations through Project Hopeful here.

Chrissy asked: Do you guys have a PO box or anything set up for gifts?

No, you are so sweet, but we do not. I have looked into it in the past when we have done fundraisers and such, but they are too expensive for us to use.

moxiedoesit asked: With much respect to however much you may like to share, what are some things you are thinking about with adopting an older kid? Going into it, what things do you think will be different than adopting younger? 

I think that everything will be different! It’s hard to anticipate the exact challenges, but I imagine we will have more issues like helping her get the support for school, learn English and make new friends here. I am guessing that a lot of our challenges will have to do with helping Luda find her place in a new family, culture and community. We are all excited to have her here, but there is always some adjusting as far as fitting a new person into your life.

Adopting younger kids, we had more challenges as far as having ANY way to communicate– with Luda we can always use a translation app or call a translator. With our kids, physical care, sleep deprivation, sensory needs, etc. were a much bigger factor.

With adopting any child, I would anticipate pushing of boundaries until that child has a strong understanding of exactly how far they may go. I will not be surprised if we have the typical teenage parenting disputes– internet access, cell phones, staying up too late, boyfriends, etc. Obviously, finding those limits looks very different with younger children.

moxiedoesit asked: Will she be attending school, or is “homeschool” for cocooning an option?

We are still figuring out school. She will likely need to go to public school for awhile to get the English as Second Language support that she needs. However, the exact timing of how soon she starts will depend on when she comes home and how she’s doing. Middle school is hard for a kid who has had a stable life and already knows English, so we will be cautious about enrolling her in school until we agree, Luda included, that she’s ready for it. While I have no plans for homeschooling long term, we may homeschool temporarily, working with a translator to build up her English confidence and help her get some basics down.

Jenna asked: Will you continue to host?

No, at least not for awhile. Hosting, even the best experience, is tiring. There’s a financial cost and also a time and energy cost for our whole family. We will take some time to get settled with Luda. I won’t say that we won’t even host again, but we will definitely need some time to focus on our family. However, I will continue to be involved with Project One Forty Three as a volunteer.

Chapter by Chapter

One year ago, I watched Luda walk through security at the Newark airport, ending our summer together. It was hard, but I also had the hope that we were starting her adoption! I put my hope in that.


It’s so strange to look back on, because those few days were a rollercoaster. So many goodbyes… and we started her adoption paperwork. It was sad, but full of hope. And then, she told me that she didn’t want to be adopted… and that changed everything. What seemed to be a fairy tale until that point suffered a major plot twist that day.

We are getting ready to say goodbye to N on Saturday. There is a general consensus in our house that this is not a sad thing. N herself is excited to go back, see her friends and start school.

N’s story in our family is so different than Luda’s. With Luda, it was always easy to see the impact we were making and where this journey might take us… with N, not so much. We will not be adopting and/or re-hosting her. The clarity of that sometimes feels like a failure– if only we were better parents, we could, right?

It’s a doubt that nags at me, even though I know it isn’t true. We simply aren’t a good fit for N. She needs a family who can offer her firm structure and constant individual attention… and with three kids younger than her, there is just no way that can be us. But, when we find her that quiet, steady family, she will thrive.

While I might like every story to have an immediate, happy ending, they don’t. Some stories have sequels, or trilogies, or even a whole series. Sometimes, you can’t see the whole picture until the epilogue. And, not every story has the resolution that I hope for as I am reading– very often, the ending is so much better than anything that I could have imagined.

Luda’s story is one that I cannot put down at the moment. I eagerly flip through pages, wanting to know how it will end. N’s story is one that I struggle to pick up each day. I am praying that her next chapter holds something beautiful.2015-08-28_0001

Will you join me in praying for N as she departs and starts a new chapter?

The Highlight of Our Summer

We really enjoy spending a chunk of our summer in Pennsylvania with my family. Even though it’s been almost 10 years since I lived there full time, it still feels like home in many ways. I love that my kids have strong bonds with my side of the family, even though we live so far apart.

The highlight of the summer for the kids is going to our huge family reunion at the end of July. It’s been going on since 1953. We went often when I was a kid and this is the third summer my kids have gone.

First of all, this year was extra special because we got to meet my newest niece for the first time.

Reed and Lena fell in love hard. And, I think the feeling was mutual. She thought Lena made a great pillow and Reed was hilarious.

Even though it’s a family reunion, the closest relations to me there (apart from my sisters, nephews, niece and parents) are usually second cousins. However, this year, one of my cousins came… the second reason why it was extra special. Reed thought my cousin Tim was the coolest… which he pretty much is.

I expected N to be bored, bored, bored at the reunion, but she was pretty happy to grab whatever she wanted to eat and have lots of space to run around.

Gus wasn’t quite as sure about his new little cousin as Reed and Lena were, but he ended up enjoying her company.

My dad came to the reunion this year, too.

N really enjoyed the square dancing. She was the only one of us to square dance this year and I could hardly get her out of the barn when it was time to go.


Another fun year with lots of memories made.

Give Me Your Questions!

Hopefully, you’ve seen our announcement by now. If not, you need to take 5 minutes to watch this before you read any further.

We are thrilled to be sharing this news. Most people were surprised by it and have (expectedly) drilled us with questions. So, I’m opening here for your questions. Leave a question in the comments and I will address it an upcoming blog post.

However, please note that I will NOT be answering questions about Luda’s personal history that we aren’t a direct part of. That’s her own story and hers to tell, not mine. :) 

N’s Birthday

N turned 9 years old a few weeks ago. We celebrated twice– once in a small party with my family and once on her actual birthday at home.

My mom baked these fantastic cupcakes. I stood and watched her, trying to soak up some of her cupcake decorating skills.

We surprised her by celebrating with my family. When she realized what we were doing, she asked to call her chaperone. The chaperone said she was so excited and wanted a photo of everyone together. 2015-08-09_0001

A simple request, but clearly it meant something to her. 2015-08-09_0002

She showed a ton of appreciate for each card, reading them carefully. I really don’t know that I’ve ever seen a child express so much gratitude.


My niece picked out this stuffed dog from her collection and gave it to N. 2015-08-09_0004

One of our gifts to N was a pair of sneakers. It’s a truly practical gift– have something of good quality to take back with her and wear for the fall. Sneakers because this girl is so active! I thought it would be a boring gift, but it turned out to be one of her favorites. She even wore them to bed! 2015-08-09_0005

We celebrated N’s birthday the second time on her actual birthday. We arrived home from Pennsylvania that day, so we just had store bought cupcakes and gave her one gift.  2015-08-09_0006

Celebrating N’s birthday was a lot of fun! I think she truly appreciated