Sunday, June 29, 2014

Checking in

Good morning, y'all.

Baby girl had me up at 5:30 this morning, so I thought I'd take the chance to update you while everyone is sleeping still.  It's been a bit tricky to get to a computer over the past week, so I figure I should probably take advantage of the opportunity - who knows when another one will arise!

Theo made it home (with Mike and Rascal #1) on Monday afternoon - we were pulling into our driveway at 2 pm.   He had a blast playing with his brothers that afternoon, showing us what toys he'd brought home and goofing off.

The next day, the circus began.   We were moving into our new house, about 20 minutes away.   At 9 am, the moving truck arrived, and we got to work.    A babysitter took the oldest kids to their gymnastics practice, and then came back to help me with the three younger ones (rascal #3, baby girl, and Theo).   We locked ourselves into the playroom while Mike and the movers loaded everything onto the moving truck - we thought about leaving and completely getting out of the way, but I wanted Theo to be able to "check in" with Mike as much as he needed to, since he'd already bonded quite a bit to Mike at this point.  

So, now we're in the new house and are slowly getting settled and unpacked.  Trying to take it easy and focus more on the kids and family than the moving boxes - that's hard for us!  Normally, we're completely (and I mean COMPLETELY - no boxes left at all) unpacked within days of moving.   Not so, this time.   Our focus has been playing and cuddling with the rascals, especially Theo.  

Settling in with Theo seems to be going well.  He had an amazing foster family in his country, so I'm expecting we'll hit a grieving period where he will be missing them and life with them.  This week, though, has been wonderful.   Poor little guy has been fighting off a cold, but other than that, he's happy and eating/drinking/sleeping/playing wonderfully.   He LOVES his big brothers, and has thoroughly enjoyed playing in our pool with all of them.  He's got a special bond to Rascal #1, but seems to be bonding with the other two just fine.

He is definitely more attached to Mike than to me, but I expected that after not traveling to his country to bring him home.  He prefers Mike over me, BUT he doesn't refuse me.   He'll let me care for him, play with him, and we've even had quite a few cuddling sessions.   I was worried about how he'd respond to me once coming home, and I can honestly say it's gone better than I anticipated.   We will get there....

Yesterday was our 11th wedding anniversary, and so we all went out for our first "family of 7" outing - ice cream at a local ice cream parlour.   I can honestly say that it may have been one of the most enjoyable anniversary celebrations ever - saying Theo "liked" ice cream might just be an understatement.   Every single bite was accompanied with a "MMMMMMM!!!" and a *huge* giggle and smile.   The rest of us could hardly finish our own ice creams because of all of the laughter.  

We are truly blessed.
Playing with water while Mommy makes dinner

Colouring at the ice cream parlour

A little early-morning tower building with brothers

Colouring during moving day

Enjoying the pool with Daddy

Monday, June 23, 2014

He's home!

It took longer than it was supposed to, thanks to a canceled flight at the very last minute (seriously, I was loading the other kids into the car, after having woken them up at 11 pm when Mike called to tell me the news).

After some negotiations, the airline put him and the boys up in a hotel and rebooked them for a flight for this morning out of New York and into Maine.    I think, even though it was frustrating and anti-climactic and stressful last night, that it really worked out for the best.   All three travelers were able to get a great night of sleep and show up in Maine rested, bathed/showered, and feeling a bit more "human" overall instead of stumbling in after 40 hours of traveling around the world.

And now, I have a toddler sleeping in the crib that we've had waiting for him for over two years now. 

He seems to be responding well to all of us - he's interacting, eating/drinking, and playing.  He's very much in love with his big brothers, not too sure about what exactly his little sister IS (today's her one month birthday, so she's still pretty tiny!), and seems very comfortable in his new home.

Over the next little bit, we're going to be "cocooning" our family - laying low and spending time bonding and getting to know each other.  I probably won't be updating all that often here or on FB, but will try to come back and let everyone know how we are doing at least occasionally!!

I'm currently uploading pictures and video from today's homecoming!  Check them out!!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Getting ready!

The first leg of the long trek home is over  - according to Flight Aware, Mike and the boys have landed for their first layover (I know they were on the plane before it took off, because Mike texted me, haha!).  

Three more layovers and about 32 hours to go before they'll be climbing into our car to head back home.   Keep those prayers coming!

In the meantime, the other rascals and I are cleaning, building cribs, making posters, and stocking the pantry with Theo's favourite foods.  Our little guy is almost home!!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sightseeing with Theo

From Mike:

The last 2 days have been spent getting to know each other a little bit more.  Yesterday we went to "The Big Buddha" - the world's largest sitting Buddha.  It was a very impressive sight.  To get there we took a shuttle from the hotel, to a subway line, to a cable car.  The cable car was truly amazing.  We were in the cable car for about 25 mins soaring high over trees, and bodies of water etc.  We paid a little extra to have a car with a glass bottom, it was beautiful!  Then we ventured through a small village designed to look like a traditional Chinese village, and then hiked up to the buddha.  Theo fell asleep along the walk, so I carried him up the many stairs in incredibly hot conditions - the things we do for our kids!  The "real feel temp" was 112....  but it was worth the climb!

Today we ventured out to the science museum.  The museum was very cool, all three of us had a great time.  We also met with G. (social worker) to get all of our travel documents, and we are officially done with all of our adoption steps until finalization in Maine (in about 6 months).

Time has flown, and tomorrow we depart for home!!  It is quite the trip, but we will be working our way there starting tomorrow night at 10 pm !!

This trip has been very special, one that I will most definitely remember forever, and I'm sure Joseph will remember forever as well.  Definitely a once in a lifetime trip.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The day is finally here....

From Mike:

Today Theo officially became ours!  I signed the paperwork that is required, and he came back to the hotel with us!!  It is so hard to believe, after all of this time - he is now under our care!

It was a day filled with joy and celebration - Theo's foster family planned a beautiful going away party complete with decorations, food, entertainment and fun!  His classmates all came, as did the teachers.  They had a dance that they performed for us as well, it was quite special to see.  In addition they sent him home with many gifts to remember his time with them, and to wish him well.

It was also a day of mixed emotions, as we were celebrating the joy of him joining our family, his foster family had to watch him leave.  They lavished us with gifts and memories that we will cherish forever.  We will continue to keep in touch with them after we bring him home, for sure!

His birth family also left a gift for the family that would ultimately adopt him.  We will never be able to have contact with them, but we now have a token of appreciation from them.  I was moved to tears by this gesture.

This day was a very special day, our "gotcha day".  It is very hard to believe, but after this long process he is finally here.  Praise God!

A few pictures from the day:

Heidi again.  ;)

They still have a couple of days in-country before they head back to the States - days to sightsee and get to know each other better in a familiar location for Theo.   Please continue to cover them in prayers during this time, and as they head back around the world on Saturday.  Homecoming is REALLY late on Sunday night, and I'll make sure to keep everyone updated on how that goes!

Thank you again for all of your support!!  We are so grateful for you all for helping to make this happen.  If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have just been sitting in front of a computer screen, watching my new son point to me and wave and say "Hi Mama" unprompted.   You all have made this possible.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Day 2 with Theo

From Mike:

Today was a very special day. It started with a bus/train ride to Theo's school. His school is a government run school for special needs children. What an amazing place, the children are very well cared for, and seem to really be thriving there! There was 1 main teacher and about 5 other helpers in the room, it was truly remarkable to see them in action! 

We then left with Theo after lunch and brought him back to our hotel. We spent the afternoon playing and getting to know him even more. We took him for his first ever swim, and he sure loved the water!! He even went down water slides with daddy and big brother! He kept putting his face in the water, and loved to be dunked under!! He is quite the daredevil! 

We brought him back to our room for a snack and to relax before bringing him back to the foster home. This is his last night at the foster home, tomorrow is "gotcha day", where we sign over all of the paperwork, and he will officially be in our care!!!! 

Huge going away party tomorrow for him though. It is clear that our little man has been well loved and cared for. I am so grateful for his foster family, his teachers and his nurses/doctors for their amazing care. He is truly special, and he has clearly been treated that way. God is GREAT!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Day 1 with Theo

Yesterday was Day 1 of meeting with and spending time with Theo!

A brief description of the day, from Mike:

What an amazing day, can't wait to tell you all about it!

We met "G" (Heidi's note: that's our social worker) at the hotel then we went to meet him at the mall in town. His foster mother met us at McDonald's and then we spent some time talking. She then left and we explored a park nearby. He was nervous I think at first, it took a bit to warm up to us, but then he bonded pretty quickly - especially to Rascal #1. He definitely knew who we were, he was calling me papa!

Then we ate some traditional food for lunch - he made quite the mess!! And then we took a cab out to his home and spent a couple of hours there with his foster mother. She gave us all kinds of stuff to take back: pictures, movies, slide shows. The nurses at the hospital he lived at made a collage. Seriously I was moved to tears so many times. It was so much better than I ever could have expected!

There are some pretty amazing pictures and video filtering in through my email.  I cannot wait until we can share all of them with you guys (that'll be after the adoption is finalized, just FYI).   They are heading back out in a few minutes to spend day #2 with Theo (it's tomorrow already where they are), and I'll try to make sure to get an update together for you all tomorrow!

If you have emailed me for the photo album and haven't gotten a response, please try again by emailing me here.    I found one email in my spam folder, and don't know if I've missed any others.   

Thank you again for the prayers and the support!  One day closer to bringing our little guy home!!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

In just about 24 hours....

....Mike and Rascal #1 will be getting picked up by our in-country social worker to head to Theo's foster home to meet our little boy for the first time.

It's finally here!   We know he's excited about his family (he's been "practicing" his gymnastics moves like the ones his big brothers performed in the video we sent him) and they believe that he understands that he'll be heading to his forever home in about a week.   I'm hopeful that, because of this, their first meeting will go well and it will be a good experience.

They'll be getting picked up around 10 pm EST - if you're awake then, please send up a couple of prayers:  one of thanksgiving that this day has finally arrived, and one asking for a joyful experience for all involved.  Thank you for helping us cover them in prayers during this adventure!

As of that meeting, our pictures will have to switch to private and password-protected.  If you haven't yet emailed me about how to view those, please shoot me an email here.

Until then, though - here are some pictures from the past few days of Mike and Rascal #1's journey.   They left Dubai on Friday morning, and arrived in Theo's country late Friday night.   They've spent most of the weekend (so far - it's Sunday there already) sightseeing and exploring.   

The view from their hotel balcony

Taking in the city, from a distance

Daddy and his biggest rascal

This boy and his buildings, haha

Don't forget to say a prayer for our boys, all of them, on Sunday evening - keep checking back here for updates and a brief recap of how that first meeting goes.  Thank you again for your support!!  It means more to us than we could ever begin to express!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Traveling Update

I know a lot of you have been following Mike's journey to Theo on Facebook, but I also know that some of you out there don't have a Facebook account, so I thought I'd post a little update here as well.

I can't remember if I'd mentioned on this blog before that we'd worked in a special surprise for Rascal #1 during the "Gotcha!" trip.   You see, Rascal #1 has an unbelievable love of architecture.   One of the perks of homeschooling for us has been to allow the boys to spend hours in the library, or in our at-home library, browsing and learning about things that are of particular interest to them.  We will follow their interests as far as they want, or as far as we can (in addition to their regular schoolwork, don't worry!).    For Rascal #1, that led to discovering an intense love of architecture.   He studies buildings, the theories behind them, the mathematical principles that are at work in a building, and the history behind different kinds of architecture and building techniques.  It's honestly quite amazing to see!

The building that started this whole love affair for him was the building that is currently the world's tallest skyscraper (only for a few more years, because another one is being built, of course!).   It's a building in Dubai named the Burj Khalifa.   He can spout of all kinds of facts about the process that they took to build the building, or recite what seems like endless statistics about the building itself.   He just loves that thing.

Well, about a month ago, we were working with our travel agent to book flights for Mike and Rascal #1 to go pick Theo up.   We noticed that one of the options (the cheapest one, gotta love how that works!) had a layover in Dubai.   We also knew that you don't need a visa to travel in Dubai (yes, we'd researched taking a trip there "someday").    Mike worked with the travel agent to find a way to extend their layover into a 24 hour stay, and the travel agent put us in touch with a friend of hers who lives in Dubai.  Together, he and Mike managed to put together an awesome surprise for Rascal #1 - a 24 hour whirlwind tour of the architecture in Dubai, INCLUDING a trip to the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa AND an overnight stay in the hotel that is inside the Burj Khalifa.

The 24 hour layover in Dubai was yesterday.

To say that a little boy's dream came true might actually be an understatement.  I'm pretty sure he thought he was walking around in Heaven all day.   We Skyped last night as they were getting ready for bed, and he was positively glowing.    They'd seen every building that he wanted (minus one - but I don't know which one, I forgot to ask), plus did a few things that he wasn't expecting.   The trip and stay inside the Burj Khalifa was just icing on the cake!    I'm not sure he got any sleep last night, he seemed so excited!  

They're back on a plane today, heading to Theo's home country.   They should be landing in the next 45 minutes or so, and then will head to their in-country hotel.   Theo is a half of a day ahead of us, so it'll be night time when they get there.   They'll have two days to sightsee in his country, before meeting our little boy on Monday morning!  Next week is full of visiting, bonding activities, and getting to know each other....and then next weekend, they'll be getting on a plane WITH Theo to come home!  

At some point, I'm going to have to switch to a private photo album for the pictures of the trip, since Theo's country doesn't want his picture shared publicly.   For anyone who wants to know more about that album and how to access it, please email me here.   This also means that the pictures on things like Facebook will trickle to a stop - if you want to follow the rest of the journey at that point, you'll need to email me for instructions.   I will keep updating the blog with descriptions and written updates, but the public pictures will stop.  

For now, though, enjoy the pictures of Mike and Rascal #1 in Dubai!!

Finally there, after a 13 hour flight!

A VERY happy little boy!

The view from their hotel room!

Thank you all, once again, for your support.  It's because of YOU that Rascal #1 is having the experience of a lifetime, and most importantly, that Theo is going to be home with his forever family in just a few short weeks!   Your prayers, your words of encouragement, and your financial support have been instrumental in making this happen, and we are SO very grateful.   Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Monday, June 9, 2014

Two Days

Two days.

That's all that's left before Mike and Rascal #1 get on a plane to go to Theo.

The bags are packed.  (and unpacked and repacked and unpacked and repacked, haha).

Clothes are washed and waiting for him.

Toys and books are out and waiting for Theo.

Passports and documents have been checked and rechecked and are all stored safely for the travelers to take with them.

Plans have been made for sightseeing and spending bonding time with Theo before getting on the plane to come back home.

Theo's baby sister showed up about two weeks ago, and she's ready and waiting for her big brother to get home.  

Things are falling into place.

We're excited, nervous, a touch scared, and incredibly grateful that we're finally at the end of this long journey to our little boy.

Please pray for us, for Mike and both boys who will be traveling (Rascal #1 and Theo), and we will keep you updated on all of their adventures!