Sunday, October 7, 2012

One Step at a Time

It's hard to believe that we have been home for almost 2 months now with Allison.  We have received our USCIS clearance to return to Latvia to finalize the adoption. Of course, on the same day that we received our I-797 in the mail, we also received an e-mail from Latvia stating that one piece of paperwork had her name spelled wrong and had to be redone before the courts would accept it.  They gave us 20 days, which may seem like a long time, but the document has to be notarized, apostilled, mailed to Latvia and then translated into Latvian. Oh, yeah...and Bill was in California all week.  So, he got home Thursday night, we had the documents (because you need to send a bazillion copies of everything) notarized Friday morning by a good friend (we owe him big!), I made a flying trip to Augusta so the Secretary of State's office could apostille the documents (a process which basically just states that the notary is indeed a notary certified by the state of Maine-for the soft price of $10 PER DOCUMENT!), back to Auburn to photo copy and scan the documents, then to have them mailed.  The documents are now in the hands of DHL!  I sent them off with a prayer and a kiss that they would make it swiftly to Latvia.  Once our attorney can resubmit to the courts then we will hopefully know when Bill will be returning to Latvia for the final court date.

We are very grateful that Allison has been able to be home with us during this care and supervision period.  In most countries, we would have had to leave her in the orphanage while returning home to await the final court date.  Latvia and the US have a special agreement to allow the children to stay in the homes of the prospective adoptive parents while the paperwork is being finalized.

She has made some great strides and is definitely part of the family now!  She still has some major hurdles to overcome, but I have to keep reminding myself that it's only been 2 months and we have completely disrupted her world as she had known it for the past 5 years of her life.  She is doing less rocking and finger sucking.  We find that if we put a glove on her right hand at bedtime it is enough of a deterrent that she doesn't suck.  Easy fix!  She still rocks to comfort herself when she is upset but those episodes are getting much less and she can usually put herself to sleep now without rocking.

She definitely does not like to be disciplined (what kid does, right?).   That is one of our most challenging areas right now.  She can be quite destructive at times and we have to remind her not to be so rough.  If we even think about raising our voice at her she goes into an almost catatonic like trance and it's like she's looking right through you.  I then have to wonder if she is hearing anything that I am saying.  Somehow I doubt it.

It takes several times for her to grasp a concept, but once she does she finds comfort in knowing what is expected of her.  Example, we have a bench at our dining room table.  Well, every meal time she would happily come and plant herself right on the end of the bench.  It didn't matter that she was always the first one at the table and then everyone else had to climb over her.  I tried to explain to her to "scooch" down towards the center so that the other girls didn't have to climb in.  I bet we had this "conversation" 20 times (no exaggeration). I had almost given up hope when one night last week I called them to dinner and I heard Allison saying "scooch, scooch, scooch to the middle" while happily moving to the center of the bench.  That is now where she happily sits during most  meals (as she is always the first one to the table).

The kid loves to eat. Oh my word!  Every 5 minutes you will hear, "Eat?  Eat?"  Oh my stinking word!  You'd think we were starving her!  When we spoke to the orphanage staff they said that she would overeat if they would let her.  We did not see that phenomena when we first had her, but within the past month we can now definitely see what they meant.  She routinely asks for seconds and thirds at meals, and is constantly asking for snacks throughout the day.  I'm wondering if it is partly due to her language development and her comfort with us as her "caregivers" now.  We keep lots of fruit on hand and she is usually happy if we send her off with a banana, so that works for now.

Her speech is a tricky area.  We had been told by our dentist that she had relocated her jaw due to her severe finger sucking.  We are now wondering if this has impacted her speech as she can be very difficult to understand.  Plus, she is very soft spoken so that makes it even harder.  It doesn't make much sense to take her to a speech therapist yet as she doesn't have enough of the English language, but I definitely see that in our future.  (Not to mention some severe orthodontia!)

The rest of us are settling in as well. The fall school schedule always comes with a bang and we start out running.  Add to that a new school curriculum this year and we have barely been  muddling our way through, but I think we are now getting into a routine.  I am hesitant to say that all is "well" as I am  much too keenly aware that the first year is the most difficult.  We have just had our 2 year anniversary with Hannah and Anita, and I vividly remember how depressed and miserable I felt for the first 10 months with them.  I know that the road ahead is long and hard and paved with many tears. But I also know, from experience, that we will make it step at a time.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Holding Time

My heart is sad and heavy. It aches for my child who, at the age of 5, has never been held, never been rocked to sleep, never loved with an unconditional love by another living being.  At 5 years of age she doesn't even know HOW to be held.  You may think that is foolish....everybody knows how to be held. It is not true.  As babies we learn how to be held and how to receive love.  She never spent countless hours in her mother's arms as she sang sweet lullabies, looked her in the eye and told her how beautiful she was or how she was a dream come true, nursed her and rocked her to sleep.  As a result of this, my child has learned how to self-soothe and to put herself to sleep.  This involves some pretty severe behaviors.  She rocks!  And I don't mean a slight gentle rock or even a small sway back and forth. I mean her entire body flails from side to side, quickly, and violently.  All the time she is rocking she chews her fingers...not suck...chews!  She has bite marks on her hands.  We went to the dentist yesterday and he told us that due to this behavior she has completely re-aligned her jaw and will need extensive corrective therapy to repair it.  You can see it in her smile. I thought it was a nervous behavior of chewing on her right lower lip, but it is actually how her jaw is now aligned.

Last night I held her while she flailed, kicked, screamed and pinched me for an hour and a half!  It was not easy, but it was necessary.  She kept wanting to get into her bed and have me leave. I knew why. She wanted to resort to the only way that she knew how to calm herself down and to fall asleep.  She was angry, but I know that it will take time to teach a new behavior to a child who has lived for 5 long years only knowing one way.  We have to teach her how to be loved, how to be held, how to trust.  It is tough. It is exhausting. I wanted to give in...many times.  I found myself angry. Angry that a mother would give her child up knowing that she would never be swaddled or consoled when she was frightened, or sad, or hungry.  I was angry that I never had the chance to have a baby to love on and that God keeps giving us the tough assignments of teaching love to these vulnerable, previously unloved children.  It was a long night and I have to admit I'm not proud of some of my thoughts. But, we persevered by the grace of God. I felt His love flowing through me when my own was insufficient (which was most of the time).

We are going to be doing lots more holding, and touching, and showing love through our actions to this precious child, just as we did with the previous five girls.  If you think about us please send up a prayer, especially at bedtime, which should be a peaceful, quiet time of reflection on the day, prayers and book reading.  It will be a while before we have that scenario in our house again.  It is hard for the other girls to watch and listen to as well.  It has brought up many emotions in them.  But I will save that blog for another time....

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Busy week!

Sorry that I haven't written in over a week. It has definitely been busy!  We stayed at our lake side cottage for 3 nights.  On our first day there we actually had to travel back into the city for Allison's doctor's appointment with the Embassy doctor. This was a quick, "meet and greet" kind of meeting.  She listened to her heart and lungs, reviewed her medical information and spoke to her A LOT in English.  She told us that Allison understood a lot of English and not to let her fool us!

The next day was a gorgeous day so we headed to the Baltic Sea.  There was practically nobody there and we had the place to ourselves so we settled in and had a great time.

The next day was a bit overcast so we headed to Sigulda, an ancient city with tons of history and lots to  do.  There were castle ruins from the 13th century, tragic love stories and deep caves.  We finished the day off with a ropes course and ziplining for the girls. They had a blast!  I was so proud of Sarah and Dee. It was their first time and they did great.  Bill took the Littles on their own mini version and they all had a great time.

We drove back into Riga Friday night and Edgars put us up in a new apartment.  This place is even bigger than the first one.  It has massive 12 foot ceilings, windows from ceiling to floor, rooms that are 20 x 20!  It is in a building that is over 100 years old but has all of the modern conveniences....including a bidet (some funny stories go with that!)

We didn't go anywhere this weekend.  We spent Saturday getting caught up on laundry, as we hadn't had a washer and dryer at the cottage, doing Anita's hair, playing games, and watching movies.  Sunday was more of the same but included a venture out to the park for some playground time with some friends from Alli's orphanage.  That night was hard for her as she was very sad at bedtime. I think seeing her friends had been hard for her and she was probably mourning the only life she had ever known.  These girls had all been together at their previous orphanage, before moving to the one where we picked them up.  So they had ultimately been "sisters" all of their young lives.  

Monday morning we had our final social worker visit which only lasted about 45 minutes and went well.  Tuesday we had to return to court, where we met with 3 different judges than we had seen previously.  They had to rule on 2 different petitions.  The first one was to prolong the care and supervision period and to rule that pursuing adoption was in the best interest of the child. The second ruling was to allow us to take Allison out of Latvia and to keep her in our home during the remainder of this period.  The second and final court hearing won't be until mid-November  most likely.  This is a huge blessing to be able to bring her home with us.  In other cases this part of the adoption process would mean either staying in country for 4 months, or returning her to the orphanage while we return home to await the court ruling.  We are so happy that Latvia has approved this special situation to allow these children to start integrating into our family as soon as possible.  They truly do want what is best for these children and for that we are very grateful.

Today we had to go to the US Embassy.  We had a brief interview where we had to state that we realized that Allison will remain under the guardianship of the Latvian court system until the adoption is final and that we promise to return to Latvia for the final court hearing as well as for the final US Embassy hearing.  Our 7 month travel visa was approved and we will get that tomorrow.  Then, we fly home Friday!  

We are all very ready to be home!  The older girls are getting "bored", but they have been troopers through all of this...helping with dishes, laundry, babysitting while we run to all of these different meetings, even running to the store downstairs for whatever is needed. We have seen so much maturity in both of them and we are amazed every day at how far they have come.  They are a true blessing to us!  Hannah continues to waffle between "good" and "bad".  She is having a hard time figuring out if she should look at Allison as an ally in making bad decisions or if she should be the "good" girl and help us out by showing Allison what is expected of her in this family setting.  Allison continues to make small improvements every single day.  She is an amazing little girl and we are all slowly falling in love with her.  She definitely has taken to Bill easier than me this time, which is a switch from all of our other girls who took time to warm up to their new daddy. Bill is eating it all up and I am trying to not take it personally.  I take it as a small victory when she will come to me now and we have seen improvements in this area in the short time we have had her in our custody.  Anita has regressed in some areas...thumb sucking, potty accidents, screaming instead of using her words...good times!  I am hopeful that returning home will reset all of our clocks and that we can get into a good groove of "normal"!

Well, that should get you all caught up with our adventures this past week.  Tomorrow we will walk around Old Riga in hopes of tiring everyone out for one last good night's sleep before flying home on Friday. Tonight we wrap up laundry and packing!  Thank you all for joining us on this journey.  I think it has just begun...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Half way!

We are more than half way through our trip here in Latvia.  I think it is safe to say that we are all very ready to be home.  (Except for maybe Allison who doesn't know where "home" is).  This has been a very trying trip for us.  I think the lack of sleep from living in the city has finally taken it's toll on all of us, so when our attorney offered us a chance to get out of the city for a few days, Bill all but jumped on the chance.  You see, our little "leak" in our bathroom, which caused our ceiling to fall in, left them all feeling very bad so they gave us the chance to get out of our apartment.  God works in mysterious ways I guess.

So, yesterday Bill left the apartment around 10:00 to get a rental car.  It's a really cool Volkswagen Transport, which is a 9 passenger van.  I wish we had some of the cool cars that they have in other countries in America.  In the good ol' USA there is nothing in between a minivan and a passenger van. I mean, I just need a little extra room...I don't need a 15 passenger bus to transport my kids to soccer practice, but a little extra room would be nice.  I mean we are not the Duggarts (yet)!

While he was out I took the girls to Hessburgers (local McDonald's type restaurant) for lunch, then we headed out. Thankfully, Edgars lent us his garmin so we could have some help getting out of the city.  We arrived at our cottage around 2:00, settled in, took the girls to the playground, visited the bunnies, then they watched a movie while mama took a nap!  After that, we packed a picnic lunch and headed to the beach.  How many times in your life can you say you ate supper on the Baltic Sea?  It is quite an amazing body of water.  It is shallow forever (it seems) so the girls can just play and play in it without worry of ever getting over their heads.  Sarah and Dee had to walk out about 1/4 mile before they were even at their hips!  And, the neat part is that it is less salty than the ocean...Bill had to taste it to make sure that was true.  (Sometimes he can be such a goob!)

I think everyone did sleep a bit better last night, except for me.  I was too hot and was wide awake at 4 am! Ugh! I give up! I finally relented to God that He was ensuring that I was trusting in Him completely on this trip and not on my own merits.  OK!  I GET IT!  Now, can I please have a full night of sleep?!?

We were going to go back to the sea this morning but it is now overcast, so we may just lay low, play at the playground and take naps.  Allison has to go back into town this afternoon for an appointment with the US Embassy doctor.  Originally, Bill was just going to take her but now we all may go if the weather remains blah.  Please pray for her as she is quite afraid. She associates the doctor with shots and blood work.

Overall, she is doing very well.  She is able to make herself known (most of the time) by taking us by the hand and bringing us to what she wants, or by pointing.  We also have become familiar with some of the important words "bathroom, hungry, drink".  Last night she became quite weepy when it was time for showers.  She definitely DID NOT want to take a shower, but this was nothing new to us as Anita still freaks out at showers!  (We've walked this road before).

Bill and I have been doing a lot of processing on this trip.  We are both very tired and weary.  I don't even think I can do an adequate job of explaining it right now. Please just continue to pray for us. Pray for strength. Pray for rest. Pray for patience as we parent our 5 children. Pray for each of the girls.

Sarah-she is doing an awesome job being the oldest sister to this brood!  I am so proud of her!  If you know her at all you know that she has always struggled with communication.  She has a hard time expressing her feelings and she often "stuffs" her emotions until they come out in some unforeseen and unexpected way.  She has at least been keeping herself open and keeps her quirky sense of humor at the forefront, which is a sign to me that she hasn't shut down yet.  I pray that she can keep herself open and that Bill and I can be sensitive to her needs and not take her for granted.

Dee-overall has been doing very well.  She was the one we were most worried about before the trip.  Dee struggles with a lot of anger issues and that has come out a couple of times on the trip, but God was able to turn it into a great moment, as I was able to share my angers with her as well.  Once she saw me open up about my hurts and anger she was able to open up a bit as well.  It is so painful to be vulnerable (especially in front of our kids) but God really used this opportunity and I can now see that this is what Dee needs and I pray that I will be more sensitive to this in the future.

Hannah-oh Hannah!  If you read my first blog post about the plane ride over here you know that she has been the one to push my buttons on a regular basis. It's almost like she is taking every opportunity to show Allison all of the things that we DON'T want her to do!  She has continued to "toe the line" this entire journey, but thankfully she also has the ability to be a very sweet and sensitive child.  She is trying to figure out how to incorporate her new "twin" as a buddy.  Pray that she can see the benefit of showing Allison all of the fun that can be had in a family setting when you obey the rules instead of all of the trouble that you can get into when you double up.

Anita-my sweet Anita.  She definitely has a sweet, sweet spirit about her and she can just melt my heart in an instant.  She seems to know when I am low on reserve, and it doesn't take much for her to run up to me, pucker up her lips and put her arms around me for a hug to turn my moods right around.  Thank you God for this fresh breath in the storm!

Allison-pray for her in all of the transitions she is going through right now.  She doesn't understand our language, our traditions, our family ways.  We are as foreign as you can get to what she has known her entire life.  Pray that she would feel safe, protected, loved!

Thanks for walking this journey with us.  We definitely could not do this without the love and support of family and friends back home.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

When we first arrived in Latvia we were pleasantly surprised at the refreshing cool breeze that greeted us as we got off the plane.  Then our guide, Edgars, tells us that it was terribly hot today and we began to worry that we were going to be terribly cold here!    I mean, if that was hot to them, then what was a "cool" day going to be like?  Never fear, God has blessed Latvia with a heat wave the likes that they haven't seen in quite a while apparently!  Last night they broke their all time record for a high temp.  I believe it was 36 C (97 F).  Definitely warm, but not unbearable.  Today was also very warm, but there is a pleasant breeze that blows through the window which makes it quite nice.  We took a walk to the park and sat in the shade, eating our picnic lunch (cheese and butter sandwiches, apples, chips, and some cookies that I picked up at the local "convenience" store (Narvesen)).  

With this "good" weather that we have been blessed with comes tons of tourists here in Riga.  This makes for some very loud nights for us. Anita seems the most affected by it.  She is awake well past midnight every night. This has thrown a wrench into our routine as everything seems a bit "off" because of it.  The heat also brings out some of the most scantily clad women I think I have ever seen. My poor husband is inundated with outfits that leave very little to the imagination!  Wow!  I think I wear  more clothes to bed than some of these women wear on the streets of Riga! BAD!

Now for the ugly....a few days ago we noticed a leak from our bathroom ceiling. We promptly reported it to Edgars who came and investigated.  He notified the owner upstairs and we thought that would be the end of it.  Well, the next morning the drip remained and things seemed to be progressing quite rapidly!  We left the apartment for the day and came home to THIS...

Needless to say, Edgars was less than impressed and we are now awaiting the cleaning crew to come and clean our mess, while the tenants upstairs deal with the wrath of Edgars!!!!  Thankfully, we have two bathrooms in our apartment so we have temporarily wrapped crime scene tape around this disaster zone and now direct all of the children to our room to use the potty.  Good times!!!

Friday, July 27, 2012


OK, so be forewarned...this post isn't going to be exactly "warm and fuzzy".  I feel myself getting angry just thinking about all of the well intentioned people telling me what a wonderful thing we are doing, how lucky our girls are, and what a wonderful, "normal" family we have.  None of these things could be farther from the truth.

You see adoption was not God's plan for children.  God's original plan for children was to live in a family comprised of a mom, a dad, and their children.  It is only because of sin and brokenness that we have orphans, who now require the care of other adults when their birth parents can't or won't take care of them any longer. Each orphan comes with a story....the reason why he or she isn't with the birth parents.

Each of my girls have a story.  A story that would break your heart.  As I sat in the orphanage on Monday hearing Raimonda's "story" I felt myself tearing up at what this child had been through at such a young age.  I will not share it, or any of my girl's stories, as they are personal. They are their stories to share, if and when, they feel led to do so.  They are each very personal and heart wrenching; a piece of them...their history, their past, their tragedy that led them to become orphans.  It is a part of them forever and when they reach a certain age they will each have to deal with what that story means to them.  They will experience pain. Pain at the loss of their birth family. Pain at the loss of a culture. Pain as they process the questions of why they were abandoned.  This is a painful process for all orphans and it causes GRIEF!

Bill and I have our own story.  One that includes the pain of infertility because all we wanted was to be a mom and dad, because that is how God designed us.  Every month for 6 long years we grieved the child that would never be.  Finally, we had to come to terms with our own loss; the loss of never giving birth to a baby who would carry our DNA, our looks, our moods, our little idiosyncrasies that make us who we are.  GRIEF

Our own story became saturated in more grief when we had to bury Grace.  The worst kind of pain I have ever experienced in my life and one that I would never wish upon anyone else EVER!  More GRIEF!

The addition of Hannah and Anita to our family 22 months ago was a wonderful thing, but it was a difficult transition as our little family of 4, who had worked very hard to redefine ourselves after Grace's death, experienced more growing pains.  We again experienced the pain and agony of loss...the loss of our intimate circle that had comforted all of us after the death of a sister and daughter.  We had become very close and I cannot describe adequately the intimacy that we shared.  Losing someone close like that forces you to share a bond that nobody else can enter into. Yes, they can walk beside you in your pain, but they can NEVER fully enter into it with you.  Even more GRIEF!

So, here we are again. Entering into the adoption mode.  I guess I had never fully understood what happens every time we add a child to our family through adoption.  I am slowly beginning to understand what a painful process it is. (OK, I'm a slow learner. It took me 3 times to figure it out!)  Looking back at the first 2 times I can now see that it is a slow transition to add a child to your family in this way.  There is nothing natural about it.  We are not "normal" in any sense of the word.  

The process itself is a slow and painful process. Anyone who has gone through it or walked through it with us knows the amount of paperwork, hassles, running around, waiting, more paperwork, and waiting involved to even get to this point.  There is a reason for all of the mundane work that you have to go through to adopt.  They want to make sure that you are serious about wanting to go through with it.  Even though we have "stuck it out" through this process three times now I don't think we are ever fully prepared for the addition of a new child into our family.  

Now, here we are adding a 5 year old child who has only called an institution her "home" and has never known what a family looks like (other than a 5 week hosting period last winter) into our family.  This is difficult!  We know that a family is so much better for her than what her future held in an orphanage but she doesn't know that and won't know it for a long time.  She doesn't know what a loving touch is. She has never received them on a regular basis, so she doesn't know how to receive them or how to give them.  She doesn't know appropriate boundaries for play, volume of her voice, who she can trust, who is a stranger, how to allow others to love her and care for her. She has only ever known herself and the coping mechanisms that she has developed to meet those inner needs that she may never even recognize.  This all leads to much frustration. For her. For us.  We want to lavish her with the love that we know she needs, but she's so resistant to it because of fear.  Although the orphanage is no home for a child it provided her with the comfort of consistency and that is now gone.  GRIEF!  

Our home has been disrupted.  Our routines, our ability to come and go as we please, the ability to reserve one hotel suite instead of 2 separate rooms, our ability to have one of the girls bring a friend with them in the van....all disrupted. GRIEF!  I know that some of these things seem like simple things, but when you compile them on top of all of the other layers then it causes deep, deep pain. Pain for all of us. GRIEF

So, when you look at our family from the outside, you may see a happy, "normal" family, but please remember that we are anything but "normal" and although we are happy to have had the privilege of adding 6 daughters to our family it is not without a cost.  For all of us, but most importantly for each of our girls.  So, please don't ask them about their stories.  They will share them if they want, in their time. We all have a lot to process and each time we bring a new member into the family it opens up sores for each of us in different ways. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Aahh....FINALLY!!!!! I think last night was the first night that we ALL SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT!  Praise the Lord!  Yesterday I was really beginning to feel the effects of not having had more than 4 hours of unbroken sleep since last Friday.  I was a mess!  Jet lag is bad enough but add that to  being in a city where the noise and music are constant, plus the sun doesn't set until 10:30 (try getting little ones to bed when it's still light out) and then it rises at 5:00 am!  That doesn't make for very many "sleeping" hours.  We also did some rearranging of beds as Anita was sleeping with Sarah on the noisier side of the apartment and would inevitably wake up at 12:30 every night when the music started to get really loud.  Then she would run into our room, jump on me and proclaim, "Mama, I'm awake!"  And that is how she would remain for the next 3-4 hours!  Ugh!  We finally decided that we needed to just make adaptations to our "schedule" and realize that things were just going to have to be different here in Riga.  So, yesterday we opted for no naps for Hannah and Allison (which we'll probably regret when we get back to America) in hopes that they would fall asleep easier at bedtime (the first night they were both wide awake until 11:00 giggling and laughing and "talking" to each other-you gotta love kids and their ability to communicate on a totally different level).  We also only let Anita nap for 1 hour in hopes that she would stay asleep through the night.  We moved her bed into our room, which tends to be a bit quieter, as well.  Thankfully, our strategies all worked.  It is now 10:30 am and Anita and Dee are still sleeping!  I've given up on trying to have any semblance of "routine" while here so I figure let them sleep while they can!

The first day in the apartment with Allison went fairly smooth.  She was a bit confused as to why we weren't going to America right away and wanted to keep her bag packed.  She kept saying that she wanted to get in the "machina" (car) and go.  She would get a little weepy when we told her we weren't going yet, but was easily distracted by puzzles, play dough, coloring, etc.  She ate very well for us and somehow always had a way of making herself known....lots of pulling us where she wanted to go and pointing!

Yesterday, we decided to go for a bit of a walk in the morning. There is a playground not far from here which the girls loved.  They also have lots of bounce houses and trampolines so the girls were able to get rid of a lot of energy on those.  On the way back to the apartment we decided to stop at McDonald's (the social worker wasn't too happy about that. She probably thinks that all Americans feed their kids on McDonald's 365 days a year.)  We had good intentions of cooking a chicken for lunch but at 1 am (when we were both wide awake) it dawned on us that we don't have an oven. Ha! So, we went with "Plan B".  She seemed pacified with this.

By the time we got home it was time for the court appointed social worker to come for a visit.  I dug out the nicest dishes I could find (i.e. 6 matching plates and tea cups/ saucers) which was no small feat, cut up some pastries that Bill had bought at the bakery, boiled the water for tea, and put on a spread that I'd like to see Martha Stewart accomplish with what meager means I had.  Then, I prayed and lectured/ warned gently reminded all the girls that the social worker was coming to see how we were all getting along!  I really didn't need to as they have all done very well, but I felt it my duty to give them my  motherly warning!  She stayed for about an hour, asked lots of questions and said she'd be back on Monday. Phew!  Step 1 down!  I'm not really sure how much "bonding" she was hoping to see in the first 24 hours, but hopefully our answers were satisfactory to her (other than the lunch at McDonalds!)

After she left we went for another walk and a boat ride along the Daugava River.  It wasn't anything spectacular but it killed some time.  Allison started to get a little rowdy and Bill had to really hold her to make sure she wouldn't throw herself around too much.  She also didn't want to hold my hand on the way home but I had to be firm with her as she is not used to walking in the city and I was afraid to let her get too far away from me.  I had to get down on her level and make her look me in the eyes to get her attention, but she seemed to respond pretty positively to me after that and took my hand for the rest of the trip.

Bill has taken her for appointments today.  It could be a very long day for him!   This morning they have to meet with the doctor to review her medical history and then go get her passport, as hers will expire in October and it needs to be good for another 6  months in order to travel to the US.  We have been warned that this could be a very long process.  It actually reminds us a lot of the passport experience we had in Romania in 2002 for Grace, Sarah and Dee.  I'm praying that it's not quite that bad for Bill's sake.

The other girls and I will do some laundry, get some groceries and maybe go for a little walk.  I'm actually looking forward to not having much to do today.  I'm emotionally exhausted after yesterday so relish the idea of a break from Alli.  It is slowly hitting me that I am now the mother of 5 children and all that that involves.  Just trying to meet all of their emotional needs is daunting.  I am realizing that I am going to need to ensure that I am emotionally fit myself.  I know that I cannot do this myself but need the strength of God. I know that this adoption was His plan and I need to cling to that truth in the days ahead which will be filled with trials and tough times.  Thanks for joining us on this journey.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Care and Supervision Period

We had our court appearance this morning here in Latvia.  It went very smoothly.  It is always tricky to talk through a translator as you're never quite sure if you're supposed to look at the translator or the person you are speaking to (in this case a panel of 3 judges).  Thankfully, the "main" judge (the one asking all the questions) was very kind and on occasion would even show some expression which helped a bit.  You never quite know the "tone" being used when everything being said to you is through your attorney/ translator.  Overall, I think it went well and within half an hour we were granted permission to take our little girl into our custody for the "care and supervision" period which will last from today until August 7th. During this time a court appointed social worker will come and visit us up to 3 times  to ensure that there is bonding between us and the child. Her first visit will be tomorrow at 3:30.

After court, which only Bill and I attended, I rode back to the orphanage to sign some paperwork and get Raimonda.  She came into the room, grabbed hold of my neck and wouldn't let go.  It was priceless!  She even had some luggage!  It was the bag that her host mama had sent back with her from when she came to America last winter.  She insisted that she roll it herself, but eventually let  me help her with it over the cobblestone streets (which make everything more difficult).

She got a bit upset when we returned to her building to hand out gifts to the other children in her group as well as her teacher.  She couldn't understand why we were going back there and weren't leaving right away!

She also got upset when we entered our apartment building and kept saying "No, no!"  She doesn't want to stay in Latvia and can't understand why we aren't getting on an airplane to go to America right now!  She was a bit weepy after lunch and wanted to leave!  Some play dough therapy helped to calm her down for a bit and then we were able to get her to take a bit of a nap.

I need to go rouse the gang so that we can hopefully get over this jet lag. We were all awake at midnight last night! I have very low expectations for the evening; a snack, some games, mac & cheese with tiny sausages for supper, a short movie and the bedtime routine to get through.   Let the bonding begin.....

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hannah...oh Hannah!

We have made it safely to Latvia!  This was, by far, our least eventful trip so far.  I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about traveling half way around the world with a 4 children, ages 3, 5, 11 & 12!

Sarah and Dee, true to form, came through for me!  They always amaze me at how well they travel. I still remember my first trip to Romania and how cranky, miserable, tired and gross I felt. I was NOT a great travel partner (can I get a witness Sarah, Bill or Michelle?) and I was 26 years old!!!!  These 2 girls have already traveled more in their short years than I have in my entire life!  Just watch them go through a security check point at any airport in the world and you will see that they know what they are doing.  As I turn around to get ready to tell them what to do I find them standing there holding their shoes, belts and jackets, already depositing their purses into the plastic bins and hauling their carry ons onto the belt!  They walk through the metal detectors with ease, collect their belongings, help the Littles with their shoes (which depending on which TSA agent you get they do OR don't need to remove them at their age) and are on their way to the gate before I realize what's happening!  I should have known that we had prepared them well when I went to help them pack and saw that they had put everything they would need for a 3 week trip into their carry ons!  I LOVE THOSE GIRLS!!!!!

I was a little concerned about how Anita would do. She is 3 and a bit busy!  Thankfully, our first flight left Boston at 11 pm so she went right to sleep and slept most of the way. We only had a 2 hour lay over in Paris, which most of it was spent walking through the maze of terminals to get to our gate so there wasn't much time for her to get into trouble.  Thankfully, we thought ahead and spent the whopping $15 to buy a new umbrella stroller before we left so she was easily confined and easy to keep track of.

Hannah...oh are another story!  As they say in the South, "Bless her!"  Which I've come to realize is a kind way of saying, "What the heck were you thinking?"  Let's just say she has years to go before she can put herself into the same category with Sarah and Dee. She's got some work to do!

Case in point....before we got on the plane in Boston she asked me 17 times (no exaggeration) if she could "please, pretty please, please, please, please watch a LITTLE movie when she got on the plane". to which I replied 17 times "No, when we get on the plane it will be bedtime and you need to go right to sleep."  So, we get on the plane, wrap up in our blankets and pillows, pop on our eye masks and Bill and I promptly fall asleep.  Aahhhh!!!!   Apparently, little miss Hannah had other plans. She was NOT going to miss out on the opportunity to watch her "little movie".  So, Bill wakes up 2 hours later to find her sitting straight up in her seat, headphones on, movie blaring, full plate of food in front of her!!!!  You can imagine the conversation that ensued after that as Bill blurry eyed and sleep deprived tried to figure out how this 5 year old managed to all but get herself bumped up to first class by the well meaning flight attendants of Air France who had apparently helped this poor defenseless creature, with slacker parents, figure out how to open her plastic utensils to eat her beef wellington and get the TV to play all night cartoons!!!

I wish I could say that was the end of her "brain cramp" (as we are calling it for now) but she has unfortunately continued to amaze us with her attempts to "one up" her parent's authority on this trip. I'm chalking it up to the stress of meeting her new sister, travel and jet lag.  We'll keep you posted......

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Matching Grant

 Dear Family and Friends,                                                                         July 11, 2012

“A father of the fatherless…God sets the solitary in families…” - Psalms 68:5,6

Some of you already know that we are adopting a 5-year-old girl from Latvia! We met her this past Christmas when she was in Maine as part of a hosting program.  Project 143 offers orphans from Latvia and the Ukraine a chance to experience being part of a family.

God used some amazing and extraordinary circumstances to connect us with the host family that cared for our daughter.  It is a testimony to His amazing purpose and plan in all of our lives.  The host family was making plans to share their home with this child long before we ever met them.   A soccer injury brought their Ethiopian born daughter into the emergency department where Bill just “happened” to be the one to treat her.  A conversation started as “your family looks a lot like ours” which led to pictures being shared and ultimately a very close friendship being formed. 

We had begun to consider pursuing another adoption but had our hearts set on a baby boy from Uganda. We had contacted our Ugandan attorney and she told us that she would “get back to us after the New Year”.  Over the Christmas holiday we met Raimonda.  The hope was to find a family that was willing to adopt her but all options seemed to be failing.  We were praying one night about what God had in store for this little girl.   God turned the light bulb on for us and it was as if He was saying, “How much clearer do I have to make this for you?”.   We never heard back from our Ugandan attorney and here was this little angel right in front of our eyes, eating fajitas and nachos in our kitchen!

In January we started the paperwork to bring Raimonda home!  We are now two weeks away from traveling to Latvia as a family to go get her.  The first trip will require us to live in country for approximately three weeks.  We will be able to bring her home with us at that point, but we will have to return to Latvia two more times to finalize the adoption before she can officially become Allison Rae Legere. 

This is our third adoption and the biggest challenge for us is not opening our hearts and home to another child but it is in finding the finances to make this happen. We are still recovering from Hannah and Anita’s adoption, which required a 9-week stay in Uganda in 2010. 

We estimate our total cost for adoption fees, document preparation, home study, airfare, travel, attorney fees, etc. to be $32,000. We know God is faithful and is leading us to trust Him. We have been able to fund our first two adoptions entirely on our own. God is now asking us to swallow our pride and reach out to others who may want the blessing of being part of the adoption process. Honestly, it’s a little difficult to make our needs known to the Body of Christ around us but we also know it’s very Biblical to do so. We appreciate your friendship very much and would like you to pray & consider helping us in our adoption. There are two ways you can help:

1. Prayer – Please pray God would tenderly care for Allison in Latvia until we are able to bring her home, that God would prepare Sarah, Dee, Hannah & Anita for the upcoming changes to our family, and that God will give us wisdom, discernment, and insight as we raise all of our girls to know Jesus Christ.

2. Financial support - Will you please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help us pay the remaining $5,000 in legal expenses and post placement evaluations plus $15,000 in travel fees, to bring Allison home?
Lifesong ( has graciously given a Matching Grant of $5,000 to help us in this endeavor.  If you would like to be a part of God bringing Allison to Himself through our family, you can send your tax-deductible gift between now and September 12th  to the address below. Lifesong is a trusted organization administering the funds on Allison’s behalf, and will pay adoption expenses out of funds received. 100% of the money raised will go directly towards our adoption. Lifesong keeps no money for administrative costs!

1. Please make checks payable to: “Lifesong for Orphans”. You may preference how the donation might be used by writing Legere #2891 Adoptionin the memo section of your check.

*Note:  In following IRS guidelines, your donation is to the named non-profit organization. 
This organization retains full discretion over its use, but intends to honor the donor’s suggested use.

2. Mail checks to:
Lifesong for Orphans
Legere #2891
PO Box 40 / 202 N. Ford St
Gridley, IL  61744

Thank you for investing in the Kingdom through prayer and finances – it will be an investment with an eternal return! (Matt 6:20) We’ll give you an update with a picture of Allison and details as we receive them. Please pray this entire process will glorify God and fulfill His purposes!
In Christ,
Bill, Teresa, Sarah, Deanna, Hannah, Anita & Allison Legere

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

OK, so I've been wanting to jump back on the blog band wagon for a while now, but I've been out of it for so long I was waiting for the "right time" to post my first entry.  I have had several instances that probably would have been a good time but I never seemed to be able to find the time to sit down and, as Nike says, "Just Do It!"  I don't know what came over me today (maybe being awake at 4 am at my in-laws house and I'm trying desperately to be quiet so as not to wake everybody) but I feel like today is the day, so here goes....

Holidays have become difficult for me.  This one is probably the worst. But, let me back up...

When I was growing up my family made a HUGE deal over holidays.  It was always a time to dress up, eat lots of good food, spend time together, eat some more, give gifts, eat again, and, oh yeah, pretend like we were one big happy normal family. The truth is, we were far from normal. And, most days, far from happy.  But, on holidays, we turned into the family that you saw on the 50's TV shows.  So much time and energy was put into preparing for these special occasions. Everything had to be "perfect".

Fast forward from childhood to adulthood....I graduated nursing school, married my best friend, bought a house, and continued on the journey of my "perfect" life.  In reality, my inner self was in constant turmoil. My "perfect" life had been interrupted by an unforeseen circumstance....infertility!  Not exactly dinner time conversation for most people...uncomfortable to say the least, misunderstood at best.  It is one of those issues that nobody knows how to talk about so it remains the elephant in the room. Everybody knows it's there but nobody talks about it.  Holidays became completely miserable. I would sit quietly and watch while everyone else around me celebrated life and happiness when I felt neither.  I tried to pretend that life was "perfect" despite something missing but it all just felt very fake. I began to resent holidays. To resent people. I did anything in my power to avoid both at all costs.

Mother's Day was the WORST!  They just don't market a Hallmark card for the "mom who has everything....except a baby"!  I avoided church with it's carnations being handed out to all of the smiling moms wearing corsarges and fruit loop necklaces made with love by little hands.  Churches that present a Mother's Day message for mothers only.  As if the rest of the female race isn't able to participate in this sacred day.  It is a secret club and I didn't have the club fees to "get in".  So, I stayed home and curled myself up into a ball in my bedroom and cried. And cried. And cried some more.  YEAR. AFTER. YEAR. AFTER. YEAR!!!!!

I was finally able to celebrate my very first Mother's Day as a Mom in 2003. We had become the parents to the three most terrific girls anyone could ever ask for.  My life was now "perfect".  Again, go back to my childhood where any good holiday could wash away all of the dirt and scum of every day family life.  We cleaned up pretty good on any given holiday. Soap, shampoo, trimmed finger nails, new dresses, matching shoes and purses can make the worst of sinners look clean enough.  We became the "perfect" little family.  I'm not saying that our life was horrible, but we are real people with real problems.  Life with a 2, 3 and 4 year old was difficult, to say the least.  Any mom of little ones knows the drudgery of every day life in the trenches.  IT. IS HARD!  And anyone who says it isn't is a LIAR and you should run far and fast from that "friend".  But, we "looked" good on the outside so life must have been grand!  And, it wasn't too far from that for 5 wonderful years.

Then, one fateful day in June 2008, our "perfect" world was shattered into a million pieces.  We lost a piece of our family puzzle. God called our oldest daughter home with Him at the tender age of 9.  Life became surreal.  Nobody shows you how to live out this.  This was  not part of my "perfect" family plan. We could try to dress it up, like on holidays, but how do you dress up a family member who is no longer there?  We were again faced with a difficult life path. One that not many people felt comfortable joining us on.  Once again, we had become "that poor couple" that nobody knew how to talk to, so they either avoided us, or awkwardly tried to make conversation because they just didn't know what to say.  Once again, I retreated back into my shell. I couldn't completely pull away as I still had two other girls to take care of, but I barely kept my head above water for their sakes.

In the months and years after Grace's death we have found that holidays have a very different meaning now.  Our every day lives have a different meaning for that matter.  We no longer take anything for granted on a day to day basis.  We don't wait for holidays to show each other how much we care.  I am experiencing a complete paradigm shift from the way I was raised to the way that we now live life.  It is difficult. Because we still live in a society that places so much importance on certain "days" of the year.  I still battle with wanting everything to be "perfect" on special days, but I realize now that that was just a show.  I don't want to live a show anymore.  It isn't real. It is fake. I am not fake.  Anyone who knows me knows that what you see is what you get...the real, raw, unedited version of me.

So, as I sit here at 5 am alone in a dark house I am thinking....this isn't how Mother's Day is supposed to look.  And I could very easily let my mind deceive me into thinking that the day is lost. We aren't going to church. We aren't going to get dressed up. We aren't going to have a "perfect" day.  We are away from home, visiting Bill's family and we are going to a science museum for goodness sake!  Not exactly how this day is "supposed" to be. But, I am thankful that I have learned over the years that this is EXACTLY what I need for today.  My husband and children around me. We will celebrate life. I will cry a little that Grace isn't here with me. I will probably bicker with my in-laws for a bit.  I will most likely have to avert a crisis with one of my pre-teen girls.  No fancy dresses with matching shoes. No perfectly home cooked meal. No carnation being handed to me as I enter church.  But I wouldn't trade it for the world because it is just what we do now...we celebrate life and happiness together as a family. Not because it is what you are supposed to do, but because this is what we now try to do every day of our lives.