Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dennis Turns 10!

Happy 10th Birthday, Buddy!
We all know that he shares his birthday with his
1 yr younger sister, Amanda!
His favorite brother, Sam -
ok, well his only brother!
This one is just self-explanatory!
The Macy Monkeys!
See the rest of our photos on facebook:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Adoption Summary - if it's even possible!

            Have you ever told God “No,” or “I don't think so,” or “Not right now?” I sure have! But, God always seems to have a have a different plan, doesn't he? My name is Melissa and my husband, Brian, and I have five children; two of them are adopted from Ukraine. This is our story of how God took my no and turned it into something beyond what I even could even imagine.
            In 2010 a friend told me about New Horizons for Children  (, an international hosting program that brings orphaned children from Eastern Europe to America for six weeks over the summer. These children are fostered by Christian families all across the country and are taught the love of Jesus Christ and a family. I was sure that my husband would not agree given the cost involved and the fact that we already had three children between the ages six and nine, but I figured that if it was meant to be, that God would take care of it.
            I showed my husband the NHFC website with photos of children available for hosting. At first he didn't say yes or no. We talked about what gender and age child we might be interested in hosting for the summer, and discovered that there were not any children that fit “our” criteria, so we tried to just put it out of our minds. However, neither of us could take our eyes off the faces of the beautiful children we had seen on the website. In fact, we were drawn to the same pair of siblings without even discussing with with the other.
            A few months later, Dennis and Snezhana arrived in the US, with approximately 150 other children for the summer hosting program. Dennis, was seven at the time and had been diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy. His half-sister Snezhana, was 14 at the time. It was an amazing summer! Our children bonded with them immediately! Extended family got to meet them and everyone agreed that they should become part of our family. Thus began the roller coaster ride known as international adoption.
            The first testing of our faith actually occurred during the hosting program. We discovered that they had two more siblings back in Ukraine – an 11-year-old brother and a 5-year-old sister! That was followed by the distressing news that they had been separated and living at different orphanages for the past three years! If we were to reunite these children and adopt all four of them, that would mean seven children, nearly doubling the size of our family!
            I tried to tell God, “NO!” Seven children  –  I couldn't possibly do that! But, over the next few days my heart would begin to change, as we sought God's guidance. You see, I was adopted when I was 3, and my sister only 18 months, by the same family. I simply could not bear the thought of separating the children permanently by adopting two and leaving two behind. I struggled with this deeply, but my husband felt very differently about it. He was delighted at the possibility, as he had always wanted to have a large family. Finally, I submitted to God's leading that we should reunite the children by adopting all four of them.
            The first step was to get a home study. We contacted a few agencies, and discovered that going from three children to seven in one adoption could be more difficult than we first imagined. We were finally able to find an agency that works with larger Christian families, America World Adoption Association (, and got started.
            Known as a “paper pregnancy,” the home study process is quite comprehensive. They obtained information about nearly every aspect of our lives. Then there was a series of meetings between our family and the social worker for more in depth interviews, and of course a visit to our home to make sure we could proper accommodate seven children.
            With the home study complete, a dossier would now be complied, which can take several months to complete. This consistents of approximately 30 documents that must be notarized, then sealed by the state, and finally sent overseas to the foreign government for processing. God moved mountains for us time and time again during the U.S. side of the adoption process. We sailed through everything in record time, only being able to say, “It was all God!” We left for Ukraine in December of 2010, just 4 months later!
            However, our faith and resolve was put to the test at every turn once we arrived in Ukraine. Nothing seemed to be going “according to plan.” We felt like we were persevering and following God's path, when we were blind sided by something we had not even considered – One of the children we had hosted did not want to be adopted!
            Snezhana, then age 15, was unable to leave her relatives, friends, and boyfriend behind to start a new life with a family in America. Dennis, however wholeheartedly wanted to come home with us! We were afraid of what Snezhana's decision might mean for all of us. The other two siblings both decided that they did not want to be adopted by us. We were after all total strangers from another country, who did not speak their language, and their oldest sister would not be coming home with us. Honestly, I cannot blame them, and can only imagine what must have been going through their minds.
            We however, were heartbroken, and began to question what it had all been for. Why had we gone through all of this, just to come to Ukraine and possibly return empty handed? But, empty handed was not what God had planned for us.
            On December 31, 2012, we went to court. Due to Dennis' cerebral palsy, the courts in Ukraine decided that it was in his best interest to be separated from his siblings and be adopted by us. They felt we could give him better medical care and that he would thrive in a loving family environment. On New Year's Day, my husband returned to the U.S., while I remained in Ukraine alone, to complete the rest of the adoption process.
            After court there was a 10-day waiting period, during which someone in Ukraine can appeal the decision and file for custody of the child – typically this is when the birth parents or other family members could show up and claim the child. It was a very scary 10 days for me to just sit there and wait. I was able to visit with our new son at the orphanage most days, but holidays and weekends were difficult for me.
             Finally, the wait was over! On January 11, 2011, I took custody of Dennis, and we left the orphanage for good. It was a tearful goodbye with his half-sister, but we told her she could visit him in America next summer during the hosting program. From here the crazy paper chase began – new birth certificate, passport, medical visit, Embassy visits, and finally we obtained his visa. A week later we would be headed home for good!
            But, during that last week while I was still in Ukraine with Dennis, something else amazing happened. Back home, Brian received an email with a link to the NHFC children that were not being adopted by their Christmas host families, and therefore would be available for summer hosting. A 14-year-old girl, name Anya, had caught his attention. Anya had been in America during the Christmas hosting program, with a family in Georgia. They were not ready to pursue adoption, so her photo was up on the website, along with about 50 other children who would be available for summer hosting.
            Being that I was on the other side of the world completing our adoption, Brian did not bring her to my attention; however, God did! I received that same email, and was also drawn to Anya. In the same manner as we had chosen Dennis and Snezhana, God had worked independently in our hearts and brought us both to Anya before we had even discussed it with each other!
            As only God could orchestrate, Anya was coming into Kiev from Christmas hosting the night before I was to leave to bring Dennis home. On January 16, 2011, Dennis 8th birthday, we met Anya at the train station in Kiev! This was literally just hours before we would board our plan home. So, I brought Dennis home the next day and we contemplated what to do next.
            As we transitioned Dennis into our home, we found him to be fairly consistent with what the adoption training textbooks said. The primary thing we saw right away was age regression. While he was in the body of an eight year old boy, he often behaved as our biological children had during the ages of two to four years of age. The language barrier and his developmental delays made things a bit more difficult than a domestic adoption because it was often hard to determine if he truly understood what was going on. And, during times when he would cry or have a tantrum, he would be unable to communicate with us what was upsetting him.
            Within a few months, however he had moved out of the toddler phase and onto about age four or five. Tantrums had subsided and he was eating and sleeping regularly. We were able to enroll him in the ELL (English Language Learners) program in our local public school, a specialized language aid program for students whose native language is not English. Dennis absolutely loved school immediately! His education in Ukraine had been non-existent, but by the end of the school year, he could count to 30, say the alphabet, and write his name – all things he had not been able to do in his native language!
            Summer arrived and Dennis was looking forward to seeing his half-sister again. We had already invited Snezana to come stay with us for the hosting program again, and she agreed. Knowing that she did not want to be adopted, but that we had more room in our home, family, and hearts for more children, we decided to invite Anya (the girl we met in Kiev) to say with us for the summer hosting program as well.
            It was definitely an interesting summer, with two teenage girls, but by the end, Anya had expressed her desire to be adopted. Little did she know that we had already planned to adopt her even before she arrived. God has stirred in our hearts the desire to adopt her, even though we had only met once, so our paperwork was already in Ukraine – all she needed to do was say, “Yes!”
            Roughly 6 weeks later, in September 2011, we returned to Ukraine for Anya. She changed her name to Amber Noelle, (her birthday being the day after Christmas) and we brought her home in October 2011. Within a month she was enrolled in the ELL program, and was making new friends. In December she turned 15, and had her first sleep over birthday party. Within a few months of being home, we had already visited with two other families who have adopted teen girls from Ukraine, and live only a few hours away. We found a Russian speaking church, which we attend once a month, so she can connect with those who speak her native tongue, and stay in touch with her Eastern European heritage.
            We heard from friends and also read that transitioning an older teenager can be quite a challenge, but we have truly been blessed to have encountered very little resistance or rebellion, thus far. To date, she has been home 8 months, and though she had her stubborn days and teenage attitudes, she has bonded well with us and her siblings. We are looking forward to many more years together as a new larger family!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012

I'm not really sure what pose he's doing here.
Dennis is Batman and Sam is a Clone Trooper

Now that's just scary!

Butts up!

Witches brew
View all the fun on our facebook page:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

From 4 to 14

Dennis has been home 15 months now and I just took him into see the doctor for another growth check. When we first got him home he was in the 4% for height and weight.

On 1/26/11 he was 50.3 inches tall and 55lbs. Supposedly he had just turned 10 ... ummm ... our 7 yr old daughter is this size!!

On 6/21 he was 51.5 inches and 56lbs ... 7% for height, but only 4% for weight. Growing taller, but not stronger. We started him on 2 bottles of ensure per day and agreed to keep coming back to weight checks.

On 8/15 he weighed 58lbs, putting him back to 5%.

On 1/17/12 (day after his 11th birthday) he was 53 inches (10%) and 61 lbs (6%). YEAH, finally all headed in the right direction.

Yesterday, 4/24/12 he was 54 inches (14%) and 63 lbs (still only 6%). Dr said that Ensure is his best friend! :)

Speaking of his 11th birthday, the purpose of yesterday's dr visit was to get the necessary paperwork signed to file for an age change for Dennis. Given his slow growth, small size, and developmental dealys, we have an adoption attorney helping us get Dennis birthday set back 2 years from 2001 to 2003. This way he will be 9 this year instead of 11. He is in 3rd grade, so 9 is a much better age for him anyway.

Way to grow, Dennis!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Birthday Party

If you've been following our blog since the beginning, then you probably already know that we fondly refer to Dennis and Amanda as our "twins." They share the same birth-DAY, just a different year! :)

This year is actually the 2nd birthday party we've had for the twins, but this year it was actually ON their birthDAY! It was a school holiday, so the kids were all out of school on this Monday! Last year on their birthday, Dennis and I were still in Ukraine and would return home the following day!

(Something extra special about their birthday last year, though, was that Dennis and I met Anya in Ukraine on that day -- she is now their new sister, Amber!)

The day started with chocolate chip pancakes with chocolate sauce ...

Then they had a big pile of gifts to open ...

Dennis' favorite was a remote control motorcycle  

How can a kid be so cute while frowning!!?? :)

  Amanda's favorite was a puppy that walks, sits, and barks when you pet it

 Then we were off to the roller skating rink ...

Had some pizza with friends ...

"Baby Dennis"

And, some cake ...

Did some limbo ...

Amanda in the blue shirt
Amber in the yellow shirt
and generally had lots of fun!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Celebrating 1 year GOTCHA DAY

Dennis has been our son for 1 year! YIPPIE! It was about another week before we got home from Ukraine, but 1-11-11 was our official GOTCHA DAY!

Today we celebrated with an oreo ice cream cake and a big smiley face balloon! I will let the pictures tell the rest! :)

Look at that sly little smile! :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dennis' First Thanksgiving

Dennis has been home for 10 months now, but this is still his first Holiday season with us. He was very excited about Halloween last month, and while not quite as excited about Thanksgiving, was still pleased with the holiday. He is now asking every day if it's Christmas!


The preparations for Thanksgiving began the evening before when Dennis had some fun with the left over apple skins from the apple corer peeling machine.

This will be apple pie tomorrow, Dennis!

He didn't actually participate in the cooking, however he does like to hover near whoever IS cooking and at least feels like he's part of the fun! One of the many great things about D's personality is that although he sometimes cannot physically participate in some of the things, he is more than happy to just stand by and enjoy the fun anyway! Always has a big smile on his face!

 Dennis prefers the big sisters ... and he is the preferred brother as well!

 Amber and Dennis getting ready to go outside and ride bikes.

 He doesn't let a little thing like him being on a trike while the girls are on bikes slow him down! He seems to understand his limitations, but does not let that effect his joy in life!

 "I'm gonna get you ..."

 Skidded out when Mama moved out of the way!

 Look, Mama - no hands!!! (Taking after Ashley)

Amanda & Dennis by our newly planted Christmas tree that I won through Dutchman Tree Farms online.

This goofy face on Dennis is because he kept saying "I'm big" and wanted to show Amanda how to jump from the ledge onto the rings. He made it, but didn't try it a 2nd time!

 "My baby" he says, but in reality Princess is Ashley's baby!


"Mama, I'm driving"

 Dennis and me with the very last of the fall leaves - 
everything else is bare bones!!

Getting ready for turkey time!!

Dennis' first round - he liked the turkey and had more, but they all had to have just a small scoop of everything to try it first. Notice his hand on the Matrinelle bottle? Each person at the table had their own bottle!

Gus got some leftovers, too!

Some more Thanksgiving Day Fun!

Not sure what the deal is with #1 and #3 being party poopers!

You can read more about our Thanksgiving fun on Amber's blog here:
and see all the pictures on Facebook here: