Tuesday, February 19, 2013


We are home...

Photo collage by my dear friend and talented photographer Rita Merrick.

And he is feeling the love of a family for the first time...

He has a new haircut...

And has already picked out his favorite toys...

His smile says it all: "life is good, mama."

He's still testing his boundaries-dumping food, the cat water, putting things in the toilet.  But I can see his little mind figuring out that mom has rules that keep things orderly and peaceful, and he likes that.  He is making progress in so many areas, and being a champion at easing into this new life.  I can only imagine the shock to his senses the past few days have been, but he has taken them all in stride.

Our other kids have done amazingly well also, accepting Gabe into our family like it's just another day.  Maybe all of the craziness of the past month has helped them realize that no matter what is going on around them, being home, together makes it all okay.

This was the first time the kids spontaneously invited Gabe to play with them.  He loved it!  They raced their "cars" back and forth across the floor, and with each lap I felt more and more that everything was going to be just fine.

He found that shirt in Jake's closet and insisted on wearing it.
This morning before school, Jake told me, "mom, I'm so glad you're back, and Gabe.  Gabe is the cutest brother ever."  Sweet Jake.  Jake has had fun with Gabe following the cat around shouting, "koshka! (cat)", but Gabe prounounces it "Geeza!"  It cracks me up how my kids are mimicking Gabe's Russian and vice versa. 

We ended our first full day at home with a movie night, watching Disney's Cars.  What little boy doesn't love Cars?  Finally, my "triplets" are all under the same roof.  Boy is this house going to be busy!

And of course, it just wouldn't be a full welcome home without Jake & Leah showing Gabe how they just love to put on their swimsuits every day, "just in case" it gets warm enough to swim.  They make me laugh so hard; I send them out onto the back porch so they can see if it's warm enough to swim, and they always come running back in, "brrrr!!!  Not yet, mom!" 

So far Gabe doesn't know how to open the doors, but we're getting them all latched up for when he does finally figure them out. When we got home from the airport we set him down on the side walk and he immediately took off running! Imagine the freedom he felt: no fences, no restriction, just a dad following along with him to make sure he was safe. It was a beautiful sight. I see many walks in our future.
My favorite, from our local newspaper the morning after our arrival.  Thanks to my sister-in-law Amy for the American flag!

**For those who read the Idaho Press Tribune article today and were as surprised as I was about the "hundreds of thousands of dollars" comment, please be assured that was a typo.  An AP reporter in Russia mentioned to me, "it must be costing you more to have to stay here longer than planned," to which I replied, "yes, hundreds TO thousands of dollars more (for hotels, food, and transportation)."  This was a comment made as an aside and I had no idea he would include it in his story. I honestly haven't read many of the stories that were published while we were in Russia-too busy working to get my son home, so I don't even know if the error was with our loca paper or the original AP story.  I would hate for anyone to be discouraged to adopt because of the cost, or for anyone to think you have to have an abundance of disposabe income.   Be assured the cost to adopt was nowhere near that number!  We felt that this was something we needed to do in our lives and for Gabe's life, and we were blessed to have many family and friends feel the same way and support us.  We champion those who help kids anywhere in the world.  I believe strongly that we each have ways that we can make this world a better place, and we should do what we feel led to do, whether it be in our own neighborhood, community, and country, or half way around the world.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Day Four

Day Three

I've had these photos on these posts for a while now and decided to go ahead and pubish them even though I need to come back and write about these days.

Convinced the chef he was worthy of his own hat.

Just playin' in the hote room with a balloon.

Making pasta in the coffee pot...genius!

Our gourmet spaghetti dinner.

Hey mom, are you done getting ready, yet?

Ready for a nap.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Jeana and I were up until 2:00 am this morning doing some last minute work for some adoptive families back home. We have accumulated quite the list of contacts in Moscow and wanted to use every last resource we could while still there to help those behind us. We are very encouraged by what is going on and I continue to believe that those families who would like to finish their adoptions will be able to. Yay for hope!

We finally slept for about five hours and just like clockwork the boy was up at six-thirty. I gave him a bath first thing, which was a happy surprise for him. I can't get over how much he loves the bath. He giggles and shouts and is just purely joyful in the tub. Unfortunately, you can guess how he feels about getting out! He is getting better about it though, not completely falling apart or trying to hit me anymore :-). This little guy has some serious emotions; this next year and beyond will be spent deeply involved in teaching him to trust in his family to be his soft place to land. He wants love and then he wants to push you away almost in the next instant sometimes. However, I'm thinking that much if this has to do with the fact that he's had to spend the past seven days cooped up in a small hotel room with his mama always right there. Even though we've kept busy and ventured out some, it would make me a little moody too.

Anyway, after his bath my next adventure would be to finish packing. I had packed most of my bags the night before, making a pile of non-essentials that could be left behind if necessary. I still needed to borrow a vacuum from the hotel for my space bags. And I needed another miracle for those suctioned space bags to fit in the two pieces of luggage I had with me, plus two small carry-on shoulder bags (yikes!). At first it seemed impossible, but after a bit of finagling I finally squeezed the last things in. I ended up leaving behind some diapers, one glove (the other gotten eaten by the second hotel in which we'd stayed), some toys I'd brought from home, two neon belts (don't ask), and some hand-warmers. Whew! The housekeeping staff probably got a good laugh out if that pile.
I had to use some shopping bags for carry-ons for Gabe to get the last things packed, but we did it, amazingly.

We got everything piled by the door and went down to breakfast. By this point in time, Gabe had become an expert on the breakfast buffet. When you arrive you have to sign a little card with your name and room number on it. Well, the past two days he's grabbed a pen and signed his own little card so seriously and official-like. He's finally won over the staff in the breakfast area, after a less-than-stellar first performance our first day there, poor kid. He saw his familiar chef again and motioned for him to come over and give him his chefs hat, which the chef lovingly did. When we left I thanked this kind man for being so sweet to my son and making our breakfast experience so much easier.

Okay! We went back upstairs, gathered our luggage and checked out. Hooray! Igor picked us up and by some uncanny ability managed to get all of our luggage in his small car. It was a bit like Jenga, but he did it.

The drive to the airport was full of traffic (no surprise), but we had given ourselves plenty of time to get there.

I had forgotten to email Brian before we left, so I called him to tell him we were on our way to the airport. Before I hung up I told him the next time I would probably talk to him would be in Los Angeles, and I surprised myself by getting all choked up just thinking about it! My emotions are at the surface these days, my defenses coming down a bit since moving out of "fight mode."

Checking in at the airport was quite the ordeal. Igor was so kind and helped us with all the luggage. When we hoisted my big bag onto the scales at check-in, the attendant immediately told me in Russian that my bag was too heavy. By twenty pounds!! I gave her a pathetic look and explained I didn't have anywhere to put twenty pounds of luggage! She took pity on me and my boy laying in the floor and let it slide. But when Jeana's luggage hit the scales, her eyes got huge and she seemed so exasperated! Jeana's was only a hundred pounds over :-). But again, she seemed to just want to get rid of us and passed her luggage through anyway. What a blessing! Can you imagine us unloading all this luggage in the middle of the airport, deciding what clothes to throw away? We are so glad we didn't have to do that.

Even with our big bags checked, we had two carry-ons for us and our kids, so it was quite a time getting ourselves to our gate. On the way there, we stopped to use the restroom and that's when we saw it: the departures screen that showed us our flight had been delayed by THREE HOURS. Are you kidding me? Seriously, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! This meant we would miss our connection to Salt Lake in Los Angeles.

At this point Jeana was having a really hard time because she has a daughter at home who was just admitted to the hospital with RSV and pneumonia, and she NEEDS to get home to her baby. Also, we had arrived at our gate an hour early already, so now we had four hours to kill in the airport with these two. We had planned on them napping soon after we boarded the plane, but I guess that plan was too perfect to be.

Jeana got on the phone with her husband, at about 2:00 am Utah time, and told him our situation. He said he'd get right on it and call Delta to figure out what to do about our missed connection. We had hoped we'd be able to just take a later flight to SLC tonight. That didn't work out with how much time we needed at LAX to go through immigration with our kids. So we ended up with the current plan of staying the night in L.A. And heading out in the morning.

We had to buy lunch, so I left the kids with Jeana and found a place and bought two large sandwiches, four waters and a few potato logs. Price tag? $48.00!!!! Ouch. We had found a nice corner at our terminal that was lined with windows so the kids could watch the planes and all the goings-on outside while we ate. The rest of our hours there were spent walking up and down the terminal, coloring, singing, eating snacks, trying to nap (no success for Gabe), and just trying to stay sane!

Finally it was time to board. As I held Gabe's little hand while we walked onto the plane and down the long isles, I could feel him slowing down, wondering what on earth we were doing. But he wasn't afraid, in fact he settled right in to the seat where I buckled him and got him comfy with some pillows. He was as glad as I about finally getting this show on the road. We got all excited talking to the kids about going home to see their Papa's and meet their siblings. They were so cute, showing off their new "thumbs up" skills.

So here we are, halfway into the eleven hour flight to Los Angeles. Gabe is finally asleep, after much convincing and protesting. I am praying he'll sleep at least a couple more hours because I'm starting to wonder how I'll keep this busy boy happy for five more hours! He has been struggling on the plane, I'm sure feeling as cramped as ever. I cannot wait until we are finally in our home, with all that room to walk, explore, and just be! It will be such a relief for both of us.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New Plan

Okay, new flight puts us in Boise Thursday. Our plane lands at 4:30 p.m. We are staying the night in Los Angeles. Crazy to even think about lugging all our luggage to a hotel again. Aye! Well, if this past month had taught us anything, it is to be flexible. Hope to see you Thursday!

I'll throw in some photos to pass the time :-)


It appears our flight has been delayed. I will try to update when I can, but right now I don't know when we will arrive in Boise.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dear Friends and Family

I have so many photos and stories to share, but today I felt it was important to share this letter we are posting for our friends and families "in real life".

Dear Family and Friends,

As we have prepared to bring Gabe home, we have learned a lot about attachment and how to help him adapt to his new surroundings. To best help Gabe adjust and form a strong bond with his sisters, brother and parents, we have a few guidelines that we ask you all to respect and follow.

Gabe is extremely social and will hug anyone, especially men because he hasn't had a lot of exposure to men in his life. Part of this is just his loving personality, but part of it is also being in survival mode. The cutest and most precocious kids at the orphanage are the ones who fared the best.

Typically, he will just reach up (or out to you if he is in our arms) with his arms wide open. We ask that, for the first little while, if he does this to you, please just gently pat him on the back and/or give him a high-five or thumbs-up. Please do not bend down and hug him or pick him up. We NEED him to learn that he can't hug any stranger, and right now, everybody other than Brian and Becky are strangers. He has not had four years of learning what it is like to be in a family, and what a family even is, so it will take some time for him to learn. We know that this will be difficult to resist the temptation of hugging him back, but the day will soon come that returning the hug will be just fine, and we will happily let you know when that is. There are things we will be watching for that will indicate his strong attachment to us, and we will celebrate those days when they come!

Another guideline is in direct relation to the last. Again, we NEED Gabe to learn that mom and dad are "his people", and that he cannot or shouldn't need to expect any person he is with to care for him. He needs to learn that his parents will be the ones meeting his needs. As such, if he asks for food, a drink, to go potty, gets hurt and needs consoling, or anything similar to this please tell him to go ask Mama or Papa.

We are so happy to have such wonderful family members and friends that have supported us through the past year and know that we would not have been able to get to this point without you. Thank you! And please talk to us directly if you have any questions or concerns about how to help Gabe. Don't be afraid of him or what you can or cannot do, you know how down-to-earth we are and we are surely going to make mistakes regarding this issue too, but we knew it was important to prepare those who will be his "village" as well.

Thank you again, there are no words what you all have meant to us as we've ventured into the world of international adoption! We can't wait to share the rest of it with you as well!

Much love, Brian & Becky

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Day Two

Day two of our new life dawned early....this little boy is up at 6:00 a.m. and ready to go.  He slid out of bed and immediately turned on the lamps in the room.  It is still dark here until about 9:30 am, so it feels extra early when we spend our mornings in the dark.

Gabe spent those early moments playing with toys and dressing up in Mama's clothes.

Mom's boots
He had to go show Vika how he was dressed in mom's pajamas and boots.

Relaxing while watching the Disney Channel in Russian.  He was quite impressed!

We went down to breakfast, which was an interesting experience.  At this point, Gabe hadn't wanted to each much, I'm sure from the stress he was feeling about this new change in his life.  I gave him lots of options of things to try, but he most often gave me his disgusted face and entire-body shudder, "nyet!"  He seemed more interested in the people and the large room in which the breakfast was served than in eating.  I did manage to get him to try some apple juice, and was relieved he was drinking more.  He also ate a little bit of plain oatmeal, which  was what he was used to eating at the orphanage.  

Later that morning I offered him more foods, and finally got him to try some things as long as I ate some first and didn't give him too big of bites.

As you can see, Gabe has quite the cold sore on his lip, so we headed to the pharmacy across the street to try and find something to put on it.  I was hoping I could just point to it and the pharmacist would know what I needed.  This would be our first outing together, so I was a little nervous about how we would do!  We bundled the kids up and off we went!  Gabe was ready to get out of the hotel room for sure.
Walking to the pharmacy....so far, so good.
Sweet Vika
On the way home, things got a little bit tricky.  Gabe wanted to stop and play in the snow, which was fun.  We stopped on the sidewalk and he leaned into the snow bank and began scooping snow down between his legs.  It was so fun to watch him just have time to stop and explore.  

When it was time to go, however, he wasn't happy about it.  I picked him up and started carrying him back toward the hotel, but he soon threw his hat off his head.  Normally I wouldn't mind if he didn't want to wear his hat such a short distance, but the wind was blowing and I just knew I would get scolded by the next passerby if he wasn't wearing his hat :-)  So we struggled to keep that on, then he figured out he could swing his legs and kick his boots off.  Aye!  Now things were getting tricky!  So here I was, trying to figure out how to get his foot back in his boot he had kicked off, his hat back on his head, and juggle my grocery bag and purse!  As a mother of three, this situation normally wouldn't even make me break a sweat, but this time, being our first time out together and having people watching what was going on, I was sweating bullets!  

Finally I just scooped him up, boots and hat and all, and lugged him back to the hotel lobby.  We somehow managed to make it back to our room, where we both plopped on the bed in exhaustion!  He was happy that I had something for his cold sore, loving all the attention I was giving him and his "owie."

Once he was all undressed from his snow gear, we had some lunch and read some stories and then watched the city below us out our window.  The weather had warmed up quite a bit, so the snow was melting quickly.  We watched it slide in big slabs down this dome outside the hotel window.  He was getting sleepy just sitting there in his chair.

Hey there, sleepy head.

Do you think these kids look ready for a nap, or what?
We got ready for a nap and read our little Russian bedtime story together, which he loves!  I turned out the light and he again slid away from me to settle in.  But it wasn't long before he came back, climbed onto my lap, and in the time it took to sing two lullaby's, he was sleeping soundly.  What a gift to be able to just be there for him, to snuggle him, without having to worry about doing anything else in that moment.  It was just what we both needed. 
Sleep soundly, my little angel.
About an hour later he awoke, and was immediately ready to have fun.  He thinks the curtains are his stage, and I've been a bit lenient by letting him play in them nicely.  He is so funny, how he closes them then burst out and starts reciting a poem he learned at his Christmas party at the orphanage.  He had the best time entertaining us for a good half hour.

Teddy had to get in on the action, too.

Peek-a-boo, I see you!

The second day was a great day.  We learned a lot about each other and began communicating better.  He struggled a bit with wanting to hit and resisting my instructions.  I can't imagine how frustrating and scary it must be to suddenly be placed with people who don't speak your language, taken from the only life you've ever known.  I showed him each time he hit how to touch nicely, taking his hand gently and stroking my face and arm with it while saying, "soft."  I watched his eyes as he tried to understand.  I will be patient with you, my dear little boy.

As we fell asleep that night, I got this photo from Brian.  I was surprised how I instantly had tears streaming down my face to see our front door had been "heart-attacked".  I wrote back to Brian and simply asked, "how will we ever repay all of these people?"  I don't have the answer, except that I will share our story as often as I can, and pay forward all of the love, sacrifice, and friendship we have been shown.