Saturday, July 12, 2014

"X" days, and counting!

The excitement is simply bubbling over right now!!!! I can’t believe it, but the countdown has begun and the planning is in full force. I am running from one activity to another and in all of the in-between moments, I am soaking up snuggles with Aftyn, Haley and Aiden. Not only am I working on packing for the trip to Haiti, I am finalizing plans with three fabulous women for a retreat at our church, leading thirteen 5th graders through a week of vacation bible school, packing 800 snacks for vacation bible school in the mountains of Haiti, packing for our kids to stay at their aunt and uncles for when we are gone to Haiti. And just to round out the craziness…we are headed out of town this weekend to camp with two families from our church!!! So pretty much…life is fabulous…but it is crazy.

After the little ones are tucked into their beds at night, it is my time to flit around the house and prepare for the twins to come home. I listen to praise music and pull out the supplies that we will need. I have stacks of little socks, shoes, shorts, jeans and snuggly fleeces all laid out and prepared to pack. I set out the twins’ teddy bears on their beds and vacuumed their room one final time. I can’t wait to see their little footprints smooshed into the carpet. I polished the fridge today and look forward to the tiny finger prints that will decorate it soon! These are the things that I think as I am preparing my nest.

The countdown has begun….but is difficult to know what number to use. It is THREE days from our departure date for Haiti. It is FOUR days from the time we will be reunited with the staff and children at the Mission Haiti orphanage. It is FIVE days from our mountaintop experience at Toussaint, Haiti working with the children and staff there. It is TEN days from being dropped off at the orphanage and being reunited with the twins!!!!! This is the GOTCH DAY that adoptive families speak of. It is the first day of the rest of our lives together! And then finally, we are ELEVEN days from arriving home to reunite our family at the Sioux Falls Airport!!!!! Unbelieveable. (I get choked up just typing this.)

We are thrilled to tell you that we are anticipating an incredible homecoming that night at the airport! I know I shared this already, but we welcome all of our family, friends, coworkers and prayer supporters to join us there. We will be arriving from Chicago on American Airlines Flight #3469 at 5:20 pm. We are asking that all people wait for us at the bottom of the escalator. (Except for our kiddos, Craig’s immediate family and my immediate family, and some photographers.)

As we are traveling home that day, we will have access to Facebook and will keep you all posted if there is any change in our plans or if we are delayed in any way. We plan to greet the people at the airport but want to gently remind everyone that the boys are going to likely have quite an overwhelming day. They will be experiencing many things for the first time. We are not sure what their reaction will be but want to be certain that everyone remembers my blog from October of 2013 that gave a bit of insight into the first few months home for us. It will be a time of cocooning with our boys. A time when Craig and I (and eventually our kids) will be the only ones holding them, feeding them, changing them and tucking them in at night. We will be the only ones to kiss their owies and attempting to help them with their fears. It is a time of them learning that we are now in the role of Mama and Daddy.

Here is the blog discussing this a bit further:

Here is an excerpt from that blog that I think is especially important to share with all of you:

“We will be cautious at first with visitors...we will need to begin with close family only and then we will gradually progress to a larger circle of friends when we feel the twins are ready for that. Believe me when I say that when we come home with the boys, I will want to show off their handsome faces to all of the people that have been praying us though...but we have a responsibility to do this right...and we only get one shot at this. Please, please do not be offended when we tell you that we can't let you hold the twins for the first few weeks when they get home.

The twins missed out on developmental stages that they would have naturally had if they would have been in our family from day one. We need to be the ones to hold them, change them, feed them and comfort them for a very long time. It is almost like reversing the clock so we can give them all of the nurturing and love that they missed. The twins are used to being independent and this might be a tough transition for them. They will be learning how to be a part of our family.”

We also wanted to take this opportunity to share with all of you that we were able to secure August 23, 2014 for the boys’ baptism and for the official Welcome Home Party. It will be held at Abiding Savior Free Lutheran Church from 3:00-5:00 pm. We will begin with the baptism and then will have a time for socializing to follow.

Many people have asked how they can help us with the transition with the twins and we are still learning what to expect. There are a few things that we have thought of so far and would welcome help in these areas if you are willing and able.

·         Prayer for a smooth transition and successful bonding.
·         Meal preparation-call in advance to arrange if possible.
·         Older kiddo assistance as needed for transportation or outings (I would like to make a list of people willing to assist with this if we need.)
·         Date night assistance list as needed (for when we are able to break away for small segments of time)

Your prayers are more important than ever as we are preparing to travel and transition home. We can’t wait to introduce the twins to all of you! Thank you for walking along with us as we journey down this path!

Anticipating their arrival,

Monday, July 7, 2014

Praising an Awesome God... homecoming plans!

It is with a heart of joy that I write today to inform all of you that we have officially made our travel plans. I have been meaning to write this blog for several days now, but all of the excitement and planning has gotten the best of me. I guess that I am nesting full force and forcing myself to sit down for any length of time is harder now than ever.  I think that I should rewind and give you a bit of a recap over the last week as it has been a bit interesting.

Last week, we learned that our boys' Visa appointment had been set and amazingly it paired up with the mission trip that we had been planning on being a part of perfectly. We had been praying for months that God would make His plan for us clear and that we would know whether we were supposed to attend this mission trip, and we are pleased to share that our God is truly an amazing God. He didn't have to plan for all of this to fall seamlessly together at the end, but we are without doubt of His unshakable love for us, because the timing couldn't have been more perfect.

I think that this process has been a bit confusing for those families that have never adopted from Haiti. Each country has such unique timelines and processes....and Haiti is no different. I received a couple of comments wondering why we weren't going down to get the boys right away when we received our USCIS approval. When we received our USCIS approval on June 20th, we were still a few steps away from having everything completed. We had to receive our Visa appointment date, the boys had to receive their medical checks and we also still had to receive the exit letter from the Haitian government. So, we have been trying to restrain our excitement as we continue to wait for all of the pieces to fall into place.

We had a little excitement Thursday, July 3rd when I received a call from our agency with some new information. Craig had been contacting them several days a week for over three weeks asking how we were supposed to fill out our final two documents. We thought that these documents needed to be sent to Haiti in time for the Visa appointment. Well, we didn't receive any response...until the 3rd. We were informed that we needed to fill out the two documents immediately, and they would need to be overnighted to Haiti prior to the Visa appointment on Tuesday, the 8th. Then she informed me that one of the documents needed to be notarized as well and of course the next day was a holiday. So, Craig buckled down over lunch and got all of the documents lined up, thankfully one of his employers was still in the office and was able to notarize the document. It was placed in the mail with the fastest delivery to Haiti and is scheduled to make it to the orphanage director in Port au Prince tonight (Monday) since it needs to be brought to the US Embassy at 8am tomorrow. Just in the nick of time, hopefully. (Craig just check FedEx tracking seconds ago and it's still in Miami.)

So, we got that piece of the puzzle in place and we are asking our prayer warriors to be praying that the documents do not get held up in customs. We were told that the Visa appointment would not be able to take place without the originals, so your prayers are appreciated. Apparently an "overnight delivery" to Haiti takes a few days.

I should also clarify that our agency advises that the adoptive families wait to travel to Haiti for several days after the Visa appointment to make sure that all of the final documents are ready, and just in case of any delays. This works out beautifully with our mission trip and allows us to serve the people of Haiti as well. Our whole adoption process began as a result of a mission trip to Haiti with Mission Haiti and it seems appropriate to praise the Lord through missions as He finalizes our adoption and allows our boys to come home.

So.....drum roll...we will be leaving for Haiti on July 15th with a team from our church headed to Toussaint, Haiti for mission work in the rural mountains (a 6 hour drive plus 3 hour hike from Port au Prince). We will be teaching teachers, instructing pastors and leading youth group for approximately 25 youth and VBS for 250 children!!!! What a huge blessing. We are thrilled to reconnect with several of the youth group members in Ti Riviere, the children at Mission-Haiti's orphanage and to meet the children and staff at Toussaint, the school that our church sponsors. We will also get to witness first-hand three women from our congregation experiencing Haiti for the first time. What a blessing that God paid attention to all of the details and enabled us to be a part of His plan.

On Tuesday, July 22nd, the team will drop us off in Port at Maison, our orphanage, prior to them leaving for the US and Sioux Falls that same day. We felt that it would be better for the boys to slow down the transition and allow them to warm up to us a little bit first instead of us going straight to the airport with the mission team. We haven't been able to be there for over a year and it doesn't seem natural to just swoop in and whisk them home. We are planning to spend much of the day at Maison reconnecting with the boys and loving on the nannies. We hope to take many pictures there with the boys so they can remember their friends and their orphanage home as they grow older. We are also praying that the boys' birth dad will be able to come to the orphanage to meet with us. We have several questions written that we would like to have the answers for the boys. What did their mom pass away from? What was she like? How did they meet? What are their siblings' names? and so forth. Please pray that God would orchestrate this and allow this to happen.

Later that evening, still on the 22nd, we have flights out of Port-au-Prince and are headed to Miami. We decided to stay a night in Miami so we wouldn't have to stress about connecting flights as we are going through immigration with the boys. We know that it can be difficult and can take quite a while, so making a connecting flight would be tough and flying with the boys for multiple flights on the first day would be tough as well.

We leave Miami around noon the next day (Wednesday, the 23rd) so will get a slow start in the morning, which might be good because we haven't had toddlers for several years, and we've never had two at the same time!!! We will then fly through Chicago and will get into Sioux Falls at 5:20 pm!!!!!! (American Airlines Flight 3469) We thought that this flight would be perfect because then we would be able to invite our family, friends, and coworkers to the airport to greet us at our homecoming!!!!!!  We are completely pumped for this moment. In many ways it still seems so surreal that this is even in the near future.

We are planning to have our immediate family (Aftyn, Haley and Aiden, Grandparents, Great-Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins) meet us at the top of the airport greeting area so we can spend a few moments just with them prior to coming down to the lower airport area. We are going to have a few photographers up there with us too capturing the moment, and then we are going to come down the escalator to greet everyone else as a complete family of 7!!!!

I would like to personally invite you all to attend if you are able, and look forward to sharing the joyful moments there with those that have prayed us through. We have also now booked our church for the twins' baptism and welcome home open house. This will be on Saturday, August 23rd from 3:00pm to 5:00pm. We'll have the baptism right at 3:00, which you're all welcome to attend, and then snacks and fellowship after that. Our amazing/supportive church is Abiding Savior Free Lutheran at 49th and Bahnson.  Please join us!

We began our countdown the day that we booked our flights and currently today, July 7th, we have 16 days left!!!!! Crazy exciting! Haley even fabricated a countdown chain, and we remove a link every morning! The chain already seems to be shrinking quickly. Praise God! You are such an Awesome God!!!!!

I'll be in touch soon with details of our "cocooning plan." :)

Bubbling over in joy,