Friday, February 21, 2014

What a second! How much?

Thank you again to everyone who has been donating this week.  Thanks to some more awesome donations today's total comes to.....


"Pause for effect" (Gru - Despicable Me)



I must admit this is a very awesome number.  How much more awesome can it get?  Well that depends on you sharing our story with everyone you know and getting them to chip in as well.  There are two days left in our fundraising week for Give1Save1 and I think there is still time to make my original goal of $4500. (We are 71.5% of the way through the week, and we are 84.5 % of the way to our goal).  Please please please help us get there (Any size donation is gratefully accepted.).

As promised, here are a couple more videos for your enjoyment:
Graham Espoir's Balloon
Proof Olivia Maicha is a Daddy's Girl

Give1Save1 Day 5: Why

(Well - I build up to this post for four days and my wife steals my thunder.  Oh well, I will write it all fairness I didn't tell her I was writing a post like this so she has no idea that she wrote what I was thinking.  And instead of putting it at the end; Come back tomorrow to read the post for Day 6)

If you have been following the posts I have been writing this week, they haven't made adoption seem like a very attractive adventure.  There is all the paperwork, the people judging you, the waiting, and the heartache.  Why then would someone do all this?  Why would you keep going and keep on trying to finish this journey?
The answer is very simple and I am confused as to why it is not more apparent to many of the people who have asked us this type of question.  We chose to adopt, which in other words means we chose to love the children God has given us.

It seems quite obvious to me that love is a choice.  It is not genetically implanted that you love your children - look at our society if you need any examples of parents who abuse, neglect, hurt, and even kill their children.  Parents love their children because they choose to.  It is much easier to not be a parent then it is to live being one - when you choose to love a child you are choosing to put their needs before your own.

For anyone who questions why adoptive parents go through such a long, arduous, expensive process to bring children they have not met into their homes, families, and lives, I offer the following questions to ponder.

If you have biological children, when did you start loving them and spending money on them?  We have 4 biological children - and I loved them before I met them too.  I spent money on doctors and decorating rooms for them.  I watched as my wife gave up large chunks of her life to make sure our children had what they needed while in the womb.  I watched as she spent 8 weeks in the hospital on bed rest with our first child so that he would be born instead of finishing her last 3 weeks of college.  We didn't know him then any more than an adoptive parent knows the child they are referred before they meet them - only what a picture or an ultrasound can show.  During those eight long weeks of living in a hospital, not once do I remember her questioning why she was doing it or suggest that it would be easier if we didn't have our precious son.  Why would someone postpone their graduation for someone they hadn't met? Because of love.

If  you are pregnant and there are complications, what would you not risk to bring your child into the world safely and healthy?  Would there be a procedure you would decline because it was too expensive?  Would there be something you wouldn't try even if it were moderately risky for you to do?  I love all my children and there is nothing I wouldn't give to make sure they are happy, healthy, and safe.

There also seems to be a simple precedent set - "For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son... (John 3:16),"  "to buy freedom for us who were slaves ... so that he could adopt us as his very own children...  (Galatians 4:4-5)."  I am saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ because of the love of the Father.  Through the payment of his blood, I have been adopted by the Father.  Through their great sacrifice I have been made an heir to the kingdom of heaven.  What would the Father not have given for me? Nothing was to great a price. Why? Because he loved me first.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)."  "Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child (Galatians 4:7a)."Was I perfect that he chose me to be his child? Far from it.  I am a sinner, and yet he loved me anyways.  Is there any imperfection a child can have which is greater than the ugliness of sin to a righteous God?  He chose me in my brokenness so he could help make me new.  He loved me in my emptiness so that I could overflow his love.  It is with that same love that I love my children.  It is that love that gives you the strength to make it through the adoption process, no matter how trying.  It is that love that allows you to weather the hardships and become a stronger person and a stronger family.  It is that love that gives you hope in the knowledge that some day you will hold your child in your arms and they will know how much they are loved.


We weren't sure what to expect when we met Espoir. Would our time with him go smoothly or would it be a really bumpy ride? We were blown away by this little boy and amazed at how well he did with us. He's spent his first three years in other people's care and really knows nothing about us but didn't skip a beat when it came to relying on us for his needs that week. We were somewhat surprised at just how natural it all felt. Again, we just didn't know what to expect. The first day had it's awkward moments and we had a few communication snafus but really for the majority of the time it just felt like we had known each other forever. We really, really enjoyed our time with him in his birth country. We know there will likely be some rocky times in the future as we all adjust to being a forever family and as he learns a new language and culture but we've laid down a good base foundation. We are praying to be together with again soon and that he would receive us as well the second time around. We really, truly LOVE this boy. He is our son - not just on paper but in our hearts as well. He is full of energy and loves life. I am so excited for him to meet his forever brother and sisters. Here is a video of him telling us, his brother, sisters & grandparents that he loves them. And we really truly do LOVE Espoir.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Downer Day

Hey all,

Today was a slow day.  I will take it as a sign that you are all waiting till tomorrow to keep urging people you know to consider helping us.  Please do.

From here on out, we will release a new video for every $500 raised.  Please keep people coming.

Give1Save1 Day 4: Interminable Waiting

Waiting is hard.  Waiting with no control over anything and nothing you can do that will change the amount of waiting you have to endure is worse.  Waiting for a deadline that seems to keep moving out farther and farther from where you are while you are waiting for it to arrive just really stinks.  That's where you find yourself after you make it past court in your child's country of origin.  They are yours, and there is nothing you can do to speed up the time between them being yours and the time you actually have everything put together to go and get them.

It makes it feel like a pregnancy that has no due date.  You know that someone is joining your family.  You know who they are.  All you want to do is bring them home - but you can't.  There always seems to be "just one more thing" you have to have.  You have to turn paperwork in to the US government. Then you wait for them to review it. Then they decide to add an "investigation" into the process.  And you wait again. Then the country you are adopting from, in an effort to limit child trafficking, stops allowing legally adopted kids to leave the country. And you wait again. You end up waiting for the next thing to delay you rather than focusing on bringing your child home.

You lose patience and go to visit your children.  You see them, you hug them, you hold them, you play with them, and it feels good. And then you have to leave.  There really isn't anything like leaving your child in a place you know is not the best place for them, not knowing when you will get to go back to them.  It tears at you when you have to do it and every day after that.  You know all to well what it felt like to have them, and now you can't again.  It makes waiting hard.  It makes staying positive hard.  It makes you irritable because you want to fight someone to bring them home and there is no one to fight.

After all this, you might be asking "Why?"  Come back tomorrow for the answer.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


So these have been an awesome couple days.  Thanks to your generous donations during the first three days of our Give1Save1 week, we are over $2000 donated. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. This is awesome.  As a fun little treat for reaching this level, you can watch another video of Graham Espoir here.

Please keep up the awesome sharing, encouraging, and giving and thank you so much for all you have done already.

Give1Save1 Day 3: Revelation and Heartbreak

You are there! You finally made it to referral.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term as it applies to the adoption process, referral is the time where your agency/lawyer matches you with a child - or in our case two children.  For most people there is a long wait between the time you get your documentation approved and the time when you actually get to see your child's face for the first time.  It is hard to just sit around and wait, and just like in a pregnancy before the first time you get to see your child (whether via ultrasound or in the flesh), while you wait the anticipation builds.

What will it be like when I see them for the first time?  Will I love them right away?  Will it be a boy or a girl?  What do I need to know to parent them right and how do I learn it?  Those were all questions I asked during each pregnancy while I waited and waited for something to happen.  Adoption is the same way before the referral - you don't really know much about the child you will see when it happens, so you question everything.  And with adoption, you just add more questions like: What will I do if it is a sibling group?  What should I be doing to raise money to pay for this whole process?  How will I deal with raising a special needs child (I would include all children with traumatic backgrounds in this group, and sadly most adoptable children fall into that category)?

Then, one day an email will come.  It will have a picture of a child in it and information about the child.  Unlike pregnancy, at least for us, adoption allows you to look at this and say - "No - keep looking".  I frankly never understood this, and maybe that is because of the reasons we are adopting, but I think it has more to do with the type of parents my wife and I want to be.  Every time we were waiting for results of all the tests they run and before they do the ultrasounds to check for defects, we decided that we would love whatever child God gave us.  We had the same attitude when we went into the referral.  We said we would love whatever child God presented us with.

So we move on.  We say yes.  We give our hearts over to loving these children, even if all we know is where they were found and what we can see in a picture.  You start loving them then.  Unfortunately, adoption referrals don't always turn into adopted kids.  Sometimes there are problems.  Sometimes after you give your heart over to loving this child or group of children, you get told there were complications.  You get told their case can't be moved forward with and to start over. It hurts.  It hurts like it hurts when you lose someone you love.  I don't think there are good words for this.  It is heartbreak and more.

Unlike when you lose a child during pregnancy, this process can repeat itself multiple times in short succession.  You are expected to somewhere muster the courage to continue each time.  You have to find a way to move on and to continue loving the next child that is given to you to love, even if it is for such a short time.  You have to find a way to keep faith that eventually the child in the picture will end up being your child, and that time it won't be hurt that you feel.  After all of that, you will be ready to finish the adoption process.  You will be ready to fight for your child.  You will not have doubts.  You will want them home.  You will want to hold them.  And at that point, you have moved on.  Your child has been revealed to you, and you will move into the next phase: Interminable waiting.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Give1Save1 Day 2: Scrutiny

After the first step inevitably comes the second.  You have made your decision - thought it through and have prepared yourself for what is next. Scrutiny.  You will find this decision analyzed and commented on by more groups than most other decisions in your life - your friends, your family, our government, their government, social workers, psychologists, and perfect strangers. Prepare to be studied.  Prepared to have a high power lens aimed at your life and a hot lamp stuck underneath you.

You will have to be ready for people to look at your life and let them judge whether they think you are a "Fit Parent" or not.  At least you get to pick the social worker who gets to poke around all your personal information - at least sort of (maybe if you live in a more populous place than Iowa there are multiple qualified people within a short driving distance who can perform the service).  Then they let someone analyze if you are mentally stable enough to have kids - which if you already have kids is a fun hurdle in itself (most of them perfect the art of driving their parents completely insane by the time they are 2). They ask you for your financial information because everyone has to be financially prepared when they have a child.  Then, after you tell them intimate details about your relationships with your family, details about your childhood, and a whole list of other fun facts which make you think you are one of the categories in tomorrow's Jeopardy which they intend to be prepared to win, they sit down with a neat little set of rules and grade your ability to parent.  And after they do, they send their crib notes to the government so they can cheat on writing their own paper and give you the same grade as the first people - at least most of the time (who knows, maybe while your paperwork was getting lost in the mail your fingerprints expired and you suddenly became a psychotic mass murderer they didn't know about but strangely has a desired to adopt a child).

Then you get the great joy of telling your family and other people in your life.  How much of a joy that is completely depends on the person you are telling.  Some of them laugh at you.  Some of them are proud of you.  Some of them will support you.  Some of them will surprise you both for the good and for the bad.  Everyone, everyone will question you.  It was so much easier with pregnancy - I only had to remember two things until the kid was born - boy or girl and when is she due.  Adoption isn't the same - once again, more hands on.  If you are adopting, you better be able to give good answers to a whole number of questions people wouldn't normally ask: "Do you make enough money to add more kids to your family?" "Why are you buying kids? (since you obviously didn't have problems making them yourself...)" "Did you know most Africans are black and your kids are white?"  "Did you think this through?" and my all time favorite "Can you still get it out of it?"  Here's a tip - treat an adoptive couple like a pregnant couple.  If it isn't something you would ask a pregnant person, don't ask and adoptive parent.  For example, most people know that if she is already pregnant, we will find a way to support the child.  Most people know better than to tell you that you have too many children and shouldn't have another one.  Most people know that you will love whatever child comes out of the womb, no matter what they look like.  Most people know better than to ask if you "know how babies are made".  And most people don't walk up to you and ask if you have considered abortion as an option so you can "get out of it".  Like my mom would say, if you don't have something nice to say then keep your mouth shut.

The first step is kind of like the waiting period in a pregnancy before it's "safe" to tell people you are pregnant.  It is the time where things are less certain, and the only one who has to know about and live with you changing your mind and not adopting is you.  But after that time is up, you have to know for certain that you are adopting.  People will try and talk you out of it.  People will tell you that you are crazy.  People will tell you about "that one family that adopted and it was terrible for them and their kids".  You are not going to be talked out of it. Who wants to be normal if normal is being so self-invested that you can't look around and care for someone outside your neat little life. Yes some families have problems whether they have adopted or not, and although adoption may not be easy, there is always the strength, hope, and love which will make it work.

And, after months of paperwork and questions, you finally get to move on.  You will go on answering all the questions to people you decide to tell, but by this time it has become routine.  You will continue to fill out paperwork and become intimately aware of all the red tape that stands between lonely children and loving families.  And then it hits you.  You are in the third stage of your journey: Revelation and Heartbreak.  Come back tomorrow to read about it.


We have had a successful first day and a half as the Give One Save One Featured Family. As I'm writing this we are soooooooo close to breaking the $600. Let's keep it going people!

As promised here is a video of Mr. Graham. We have many more precious videos of him to share and will do so again if we hit $1000.

I'm sharing this adorable video now because I don't know how to do the fancy blurred face feature like my husband. He'll get some videos ready to share that show even more of this boys personality. I'm telling you - he is one awesome and amazing kid and I think he will fit in so well here with his brother and sisters. Him and Kailyn are going to make quite the out world!!

And as a bonus Here is our baby girl showing off her standing skills! . The videos are dark since we took these at night and there wasn't a ton of light in our room. This girl is such a joy and has a smile that could melt anyone. She is a Daddy's girl for sure!!! 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Give1Save1 Day 1: The First Step

"You're going to roll your eyes and call me crazy but..."  That's how our adoption journey started in February 2012, and I have a feeling that was the initial reaction of many of the people we told.  After having twins less than a year before that, it did sound crazy.  It sounded even more crazy when we told people we were adopting two kids.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

What I will deem "The First Step" in our adoption journey, and any adoption journey is the decision to adopt.  It is a HUGE decision with an incredible number of factors involved.  And then, after you make the initial decision to adopt, you are tasked with an even more tremendous set of decisions to make.  How old should they be?  Where should we adopt from?  Do we qualify to adopt from there?  What is the process for adopting from there?  How will they mesh with our current children?  Will they thrive in our community?  How much does it cost?  How will we pay for it?  Why am I doing this again?  My wife has presented me with evidence of being pregnant 4 (not a typo - see note) times, and I would describe how "The First Step" feels as being very similar to that feeling: Excited and Overwhelmed.

You are excited after you make the decision to grow your family and know, at least believe at some level, that it is a "certainty".  This is true when adopting as well.  Pretty much as soon as you enter the community of adoptive parents, you find yourself in a swirl of information from people in every step of the process, from where you are to people who are in the thick of it, to people who have gotten to bring their kids home.  You realize that the children are very real, and you are going to be "one of those families".  You are excited for all the things you will get to teach them and do with them, and if you were already a parent like us, all the things that they are sure to teach and give you.

You are overwhelmed because, unlike a pregnancy, this is a very hands on process.  You have to be organized and learn a process you knew nothing about just a little time earlier.  You have to figure out the ins and outs of the system.  You have to prepare yourself for a process which you know won't go as planned, but can never imagine how much it may stray from the original idealistic vision had in mind.  You are overwhelmed answering questions from inquisitive minds that don't always think about how their inquiries may affect your feelings and attitudes towards them.  You're overwhelmed because you're a newbie - you made one hard decision which only opened the door for 100 more to be made.

So, if you were one of those people that said "they're crazy" when we told you we were adopting two kids from the Democratic Republic of Congo, don't feel bad - you weren't the only one.  But try to understand - we aren't crazy.  We did not make this decision lightly and by considering it extensively prior to making it we can stand firm that it is the right decision.  For us, if boils down to something very simple.  Sometimes God calls you to do something which seems crazy, but that doesn't make it any less right.  God might want to stretch you beyond your limits, beyond where you are comfortable.  God might want you to do something before "it makes sense".  Are you going to do it?

Please keep sharing about our family and consider donating during this week.  Come back tomorrow to read the next post in the series: Give1Save1 Day 2: Scrutiny.

Note: So, we have four biological kids, but as I said, two of those are twins.  If you are semi-skilled at math that would tell you about 3 of the 4 times I thought we were pregnant.  The fourth was far more overwhelming than any of the others, as it came during the beginning of the adoption process.  We didn't really think it was possible to get that news again - my wife would say that "this baby factory was c.l.o.s.e.d" after the twins were born.  A couple days past and we found out that this was one of those rare flukes that happens with tests having false positives. Ha ha God - very funny.

Give1Save1: Preface

I hope everyone is aware that we are the Give1Save1 family for this week.  From the handy stats provided by the blog, I can see that most of today's traffic has come from this site which makes me rather excited.  However, if you by chance happened to return to this blog without knowing, now you do.  If you want to know more about Give1Save1, please reference their blog ( The crux is you visit the site, you watch a cute movie about our family, you give a donation via the Paypal button there or using one of the other methods listed on our blog fundraising page, and then you tell EVERYONE YOU KNOW about the awesome family you just learned about that could use their support as well.

The company I work for has every employee write down their goals for the year, both business goals and goals related to how we do that business.  They encourage goals be written using the SMART guidelines (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time Bound).  So here is my goal for this week: During the week starting February 17, 2014 and ending February 23, 2014, people will donate enough money to our Give1Save1 campaign to cover plane tickets.  This would equate to approximately $4500, which is about half the expense of the trip to pick up our kids.  This is a large amount of money, but I believe it is realistic because I believe in the generosity of people.  I also believe we will have at least 4500 people view our video by the end of the week if everyone extends our message into their networks of friends and families.  If everyone gives, then each person would only have to give $1 to meet this goal. (Another thing about goals from work - the managers write their goals first, which then filter to the supervisors, and finally make it to the grunt employees like myself.  If you couldn't guess from the goal itself, we need your support of this goal to make it a reality - consider yourself "Assigned").

Today I will publish the first segment in a series of posts for this week - I hope you will all come back to read each day.  I promise the posts will be more exciting to read than this boring preface.  The series of posts I want to share with you this week will summarize my thoughts on the adoption journey, which will hopefully let you into what our world has been like over the last two years.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The River, the Market, and Attitude - OH MY!!

We had the privilege of spending time with another family who was just there for a visit as well. We were able to spend quite a bit of time talking together and sharing our experiences. There were also some families there that had been in Congo for months and they were a wealth of information! And seeing them with their kids and how attached they had gotten over that time gave us hope for what is to come for us and our children. We have learned along this journey that there is no one out there that knows what you are going through better than a fellow adoptive parent especially those that are walking the path the same time as you. It's almost like there is an instant bond - there's a huge shared thread of life and it is so good for the soul to connect with them.

While we were visiting we had the opportunity to visit the Congo River with another family. Fortunately we were able to take a van that day - the night before we got to experience loading four grown adults, four toddlers and a baby plus our driver into a very small car for an evening out at a local restaurant. Needless to say the rules of the road are not the same as they are here!!

The river was amazingly beautiful and HUGE. Again, I had heard about it so many times and seen other people's pictures but to be there and actually see it with my own eyes was amazing. We were able to learn that this was the first time E had ever been to the river so it was neat to share that experience with him. That morning was the most time M spent cuddled up with me the entire time we were there. She took a bottle and fell asleep with me holding her which became our normal morning ritual. It was so sweet! We got to experience the Congo HEAT that day, too. Coming from the midwest in the middle of winter to that kind of temperature was a shock to the body!!

After the river we made a stop at the Symphonie D'Arts which was beautiful!! However, it was not little child friendly and we didn't spend long there. Next up after that was the Mommy Mommy Market. Let me remind you it was HOT and we hadn't expected to go there that day so we were a little unprepared - mostly mentally ;) We got a few things that day and spied a few other things that we wanted to pick up another time. E was having a REALLY rough time being there. We were never able to figure out if it was only due to hunger, if he was upset we wouldn't buy him every single thing he wanted or a combination of the two. Needless to say even Paul pulled him aside to speak to him in Lingala and I used my rudimentary Lingala to tell him to stop, too.

Fortunately for all of us that attitude outburst was short lived. He discovered the JOY of taking pictures with my old itouch. Both E and the other boy that was there LOVED all things technology but it made me too nervous to just give him free reign with the ipad or even my phone. But the itouch was all his and he LOVED it!! We dubbed him the paparazzi and he easily took 1000/day. M started showing a lot more of her precious personality on her first full day with us. She started flashing her HUGE smile and interacting more. She wanted to crawl around so badly but the floor was so smooth she kept slipping! We did learn that she can pull herself up and stand with assistance and she LOVES doing that! It was so good to see some more of that precious little girl's personality coming out.

We are so looking forward to seeing how their personalities and little selves blossom and grow in our family and to learn even more about them. Being their parents is such a huge blessing!

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Day We Met Our Kids

December 31, 2013

This is a day Mike and I have been dreaming of and talking about since we decided to pursue adoption almost two years ago. The day we met our kids - it's something that you just can't fathom until you're there and experiencing it. I wasn't sure if I would be a blubbering mess of emotions, if I would be so happy I'd burst into tears, if it would be surreal or if it would be a moment of pure joy. We had no way to know if the kids would be happy to see us, if they would be terrified or somewhere in between.

That morning we had gotten word that the kids were on their way. We had no idea when they would actually arrive so most of the morning was a lot of sitting around and just waiting. There were other families and kids there to keep us company and try to keep our minds off of what was about to happen. Literally a minute before the gates opened and our kids drove in Mike had gone back inside the house to our room. I had to send one of the other parents back in to get him. I knew I needed him with me when we met them.

My son was the first one to step out of the car. My first thought was how LITTLE he was!! It's so hard to tell in pictures but he was so small and even more adorable and precious than any of his pictures. He looked around and really just took everything in. His foster mom and her daughter got out next. Mike and I had stepped forward and E saw us. You could tell immediately that he recognized us - he was trying so hard to hide his little smile while he watched us and he was acting so shy.

I went to his foster mom first and said the only think I could think of which was "Merci". That was the only moment when I almost burst into tears. I am so grateful for this woman and all she has done for these two kids and by extension for me. I am able to wait knowing they are with someone who is taking good care of them and who loves them. She gave me a good, tight squeeze and a smile that said she understood all the unspoken words between us. Even now that moment makes me choke up. After that I went to E and knelt down to say hello. The two of us just checked each other out. He looked back to his foster mom as if to double check with her to make sure this was ok. She nodded and said something I didn't understand and that was all he needed to allow me to pick him up.

He tried to be so stoic but his grin kept emerging. We sat down together at the table and I talked to him even though I know he had absolutely no idea what this white lady he'd never met before was saying. I can only imagine what was going through his mind. He obviously recognized us which means he has seen at least some of the pictures I have sent. And I am assuming he had been told we were his parents because he seemed to understand that as well. Still, I'm not sure if he will ever be able to tell us what he was thinking in those moments. It was totally and completely surreal. They were there and they were in our arms! These kids we had prayed so much for and had loved so much from so far away were WITH us!


M was totally and completely zonked out. Her foster sister was carrying her and brought her to Mike. Seeing him holding another one of his baby girls was so neat. We have a picture of him holding Hadley for the first time and he is obviously completely in love and such a proud daddy. This was another one of those moments. Love at first sight. She is such a dainty little thing. One of the most beautiful baby girls I have ever laid my eyes on with a diva-tude to rival any of her sisters.

Their foster mom left us a bottle for her and through a translator gave us some basic info about what they like and some helpful tips. She and her daughter said good-bye and then they were gone. We had Paul explain to E that we were there for a visit and that he would go back to his foster mom in a few days. We wanted that message repeated to him several times so it was less confusing for him and I do think it helped.

Paul talked to E and he started to come out of his shell a little more. I took M and Mike took E to play some soccer. I have video of their first soccer match and video of soccer from the day before we left. The difference is amazing. He totally blossomed and let his personality shine while he was with us. He was so tentative at first though but that smile he tried to hide finally came through and he wasn't afraid to show it. Mike put him on the swing and that grin was there to stay! He LOVED it!

When M woke up she was not particularly pleased to see me. I tried to give her a snack which she took without much enthusiasm. And then she screamed at me and screamed some more until Mike took her and then it immediately stopped. Little did we know that was how the whole week was going to go!!

The rest of the day went well. E was so excited about Fanta so Mike got him some when we went to the store. I had no idea a kid could get that jazzed over a beverage!! Both kids napped and Mike and I just sat and stared at them. It was a lot to take in!!

E found the stash of clothes we brought and immediately wanted to change which was fine. He loved the Thomas trains and the tractor that Elliot had given us to bring for him. And the bathtub - I have never seen anyone SO excited about a bathtub. Turns out he LOVES taking a bath and would have spent the entire week in it if I let him!!

M was very into her daddy. She was fine with me as long as I wasn't holding her. She would smile and play and really is the sweetest little baby. But if I held her it was a blood curdling scream. The only fix was Mike picking her up. And it wasn't just me - it was any other woman even the housekeeper who tried to help calm her down while Mike went to the store. Things did get better as the week went on but she very clearly preferred Mike over me.

We decided not to make a big to-do about E's birthday. I don't think he had any idea that's what the day was. We did celebrate New Years Eve though. We grilled food, made smores and had some fun crowns and glasses to ring in the new year. It was a lot of fun with all the kids and other parents. We went to sleep that night emotionally exhausted but so, so happy and already we knew coming to visit was the right choice. We had only gotten a glimpse of who these kids were but we knew they were amazing and we knew it was a blessing to call ourselves their Mom and their Dad.

Recap: Our trip to Congo

We've been home just over a month - it's probably time to recap our trip to meet our kiddos!!

We left December 28 - right in the middle of Christmas craziness!! Fortunately Mike's parents and my parents were able to take turns caring for the kids and getting them where they needed to be. It ended up being SO cold here that school was delayed or cancelled more than it was on while we were gone.

I'll leave out the details and just say that our flights there were smooth and mostly on time. The only snafu we had was in Brussels where we needed to get boarding passes printed and switch to a different terminal that had Africa bound flights. The line for this was LONG and there was one person working. We made it to the gate in time to visit the bathroom and fill up our water bottles.

Then we landed in Kinshasa. (if you want a good synopsis of the airport experience read this) My first clue this was going to be an adventure should have been on our descent when everyone started making the 'cross' on themselves. And then the entire plane broke out in applause as soon as the plane was safely on the ground. I had no idea that I apparently should have been worried?!?!? Then we took the bus 10ft to the terminal where we got to stand in a long line waiting for permission to enter the country. Then they checked our yellow fever cards. And finally we saw the most beautiful (just joking) board with our names on it. It was a relief to know there was someone there to help us figure all this out. Our in country contact took us immediately to the car where we met Paul who was a complete Godsend on this trip. Our luggage was retrieved for us and then we strapped most of it to the top of the car.

It was dark so we didn't get a great look at the city but it was just plain amazing to be there. I had heard so many people talk about it and had a rough idea of what to expect. Once we got to the house we were staying in we were ready to unpack and get some sleep. We met another family and they filled us in a bit. Seeing them with their kids made me so excited and a lot nervous to meet our kids!!

The next day we woke up expecting to hear from our in country people on when we should expect the kids to come. Instead chaos was descending upon the city (I'm only being a little dramatic). If you want to read up on what happened while we were there go here. We were not in the middle of the drama but it was close enough to make us wonder and we heard many gunshots throughout the day. Needless to say it was too dangerous for the kids to come that day so we just hung around and waited. It was also advised to stay put which was a slight problem since we hadn't made it to the store yet and didn't have any water! We borrowed a big bottle from another family to last us until the next day.

We kept this trip relatively low key. The purpose was to go and meet our kids, spend time with them and get to know them. We did make it to the river, a restaurant, thieves market and fabric market. When we go back next time we are hoping to visit at least our son's old orphanage and a few other places. Suffice it to say we think our kids are pretty amazing and we are completely blessed to have the opportunity to be their parents. It was so surreal to finally be there and to finally hold and kiss and love on these kids we have watched grow in pictures for nearly a year. Our son turned 3 the day we met him and our daughter hit 9 months while we were there. It kills me to think that we missed so many years and months with them but those few days together were priceless and we are so ready for them to come home and join their brother and sisters! There are less unknowns and I feel much more confident about bringing them home and melding our family together. Keep praying them home everyone - it will happen!!

Next up......The Day We Met Our Kids!!