Today we celebrated Tanya’s First-To-Us birthday. She has been asking if she will have a birthday since she and I were still in her country, waiting for the paperwork to come, and she has watched every other member of our family celebrate their birthday – and today it was her turn. She turned ten years old, and owned every bit of her day.
A year ago today…
We celebrated the twins’ seventh birthday a day early, with our bags packed behind their presents. The next day, the twins’ actual birthday, we were going to leave for Eastern Europe to start Tanya’s adoption. We had a crazy day, we spent time with family at another birthday party, came home and spent several hours opening presents and eating cake with the twins, and then stayed up late after the kids were in bed finishing the packing and double checking everything. I was scared, and sad to be leaving my family – at that point I had no idea how long I’d be in Eastern Europe. I was excited to finally be traveling, and unsure of what to expect. I didn’t know what Tanya would think of us. I didn’t know what to expect from her, after four years. I didn’t know if there would be bumps in the road. I was worried about what our family would be like with another child, especially another child with special needs. I want to say that the excitement outweighed the fear, but to be honest, this day last year I was terrified and grieving our family of seven, even while looking forward to becoming a family of eight.
THIS year, we are all home together. Ray took this picture tonight, right before bedtime. Tanya is a daughter and a sister, and we are a family of eight. It’s true that we have stretched and grown over the past year, and she has had to stretch and grow as well. We are still stretching and growing. But we are glad to be doing it together, and we are thankful for what she adds to our life.
Tomorrow we will celebrate the twins, on their actual birthday this year! But tonight I am remembering the craziness and anticipation of preparing to travel, and the fear I had about stepping out into the unknown.
It has been a while since we gave an update. Tatiana is doing well, adjusting to life in a family and learning English. It feels like we have a doctor appointment every week for her as we try to make up for lost history and get her all checked out, but she’s healthy and thriving. As a family we’ve kicked off a new school year, taken a couple trips to the zoo, added a huge bulletin board the length of the basement, grown a full blown flock of ducks, and ushered in a new season complete with our first potato harvest, and much more. Time is flying, and we’re along for the ride. Here are some photos to show some of what we’ve been up to.
Our new daughter, Tatiana.
She is a trooper. After a couple of weeks of being dragged all over her country for medicals and paperwork, she and I got on a plane in the middle of the night, and started the long trip home.
Ray and the kids met us at the airport, and I was so happy to see them. I missed them so much while I was gone, and Tanya spent the two weeks asking where her Papa was. This is our first family picture – we are all exhausted, but so glad to be together.
We have been resting, unpacking, and getting to know each other. Tanya has never lived in a house, never had a mama and a papa, never known what a family is. It will take her time to learn what all of this means. In the mean time, we’ll just take things one day at a time.
We met Tanya four years ago, the same day that we met the twins. She offered me pretend food, something to eat and something to drink – and I pretended to eat it and drink it. I didn’t realize until later that this made her unique from the other kids there. I thought we were just playing. I realized later that she was listed on Reece’s Rainbow, and we came home hoping to find a family for her.
(I don’t have a picture of my first meeting with Tanya, here is a picture of the train window as we traveled to the twins’ and Tanya’s region for the first time.)
We came home and settled into life with two new toddlers. We moved across the country. We continued to advocate for her and hope for a family for her, but we thought it would be someone else.
Two years ago, our life had calmed down somewhat, and she was still available for adoption. We started to discuss going to get her, and the more we talked, the more it seemed that we were headed in that direction. The week we were prepared to make a final decision, I shattered my ankle. I wound up spending months on the couch, and Ray had to spend that time caring for the house, the kids, the pets, and working his full time job. Through that time I was alternately hopeful that someone else would find Tanya and decide to adopt her, and scared to hear that someone was committed to her. As soon as I could hobble, I started talking to Ray again about whether we were supposed to pursue adopting her. We were both scared, after having come through so many life changes. We finally decided that yes, this is the path we were supposed to take – and the next morning, we heard the news that a part of her country had been invaded.
(Max and I, looking worse for the wear.)
We pressed on with the adoption, although we weren’t sure what was going to happen to adoptions, with the turmoil where she lived. We had ridiculous paperwork issues, house repairs, illnesses, and finally right as we were waiting to hear our travel date, Ray was hit while driving, and our van was totaled.
It was surreal to actually get to the point of traveling, and I had a hard time believing we were finally going to go back to a country we love, for a child that we expected to help find another home. Since that first day that we got on an airplane, I have been bouncing between countries, cities, towns, and airports. We have gotten to re-know Tanya, and are so excited to finally bring her home.
At the same time I am having trouble wrapping my mind around how far we’ve come. Looking back, so much has led us up to this final trip. Months of travel, a year of paperwork, years of prayer, discussion and discerning, longer years of hoping and praying for someone to find her. And before that, the years that she spent waiting for someone to come, while we were learning to be parents, learning to parent kids with extra needs, learning to let go of some things and hold on tight to others. Looking back over the events of all of ours lives, in some ways it feels like we have been preparing to be family since she was born.
There is a lot of weight leading up to this one trip. I am exhausted, scared, excited, nervous… I am not sure I am ready.
Once again, I have been terribly behind in my blogging. To cut to the biggest news, we passed court! I would like to officially introduce our newest daughter, Tatiana Jayne.
(Some of you have asked about her name, we are keeping her original name. They call her Tanya in the orphanage, and that’s what we will call her as well, unless she chooses to go by Tatiana at some point.)
Currently we are at home during our mandatory ten day wait, and very soon I will get back on a plane to get Tatiana out of the orphanage for good. It has been a very long road to get here, and I have to admit we are weary and exhausted (and jet lagged!). But we look forward to having all of our family under one roof, and begin to recenter as a family of eight!
Clearly we are behind on our updating – life has been very full! Things have been moving, and we are preparing to fly to Tatiana’s country in a week. We are working on last minute details for – well- basically every aspect of our lives.
Several people have asked me if Tatiana knows we are coming, and the answer is that she doesn’t. She won’t know until we get to officially meet her. We are anticipating a huge adjustment for her, and for the rest of our family. The adoption itself will still be lengthy, and once we get back home we will need to take a good amount of time to rest, bond, and settle into our new normal. I will try to update as much as I can, because I know some of you have cared about Tatiana for a very long time, but please be patient with us!
We are so excited to finally get to travel, and we are incredibly grateful for the people in our lives who are loving us and supporting us through this. Continued thoughts and prayers for us, Tatiana, and our other children are greatly appreciated.