My last post discussed the many events in the life of our family that occurred in January through March of 2014. To read that post, click here. Now on to April through June!
Bucking its rainy reputation, April brought with it plenty of sunshine for our family. My parents visited for Easter (SUCH a wonderful weekend!), Shanti and I visited the National Air Force Museum as part of her homeschooling, we celebrated my birthday in fine style, we went to King’s Island together.
In our Easter finery
Making paska, Ukrainian Easter bread
Decorating Easter eggs
In the middle of an Easter egg hunt
Throughout April, we continued house hunting, finding our dream home and putting in an offer at the very end of the month. We were going to be moving soon! We were all excited and very nervous about the move. While it was definitely the right thing for our family (our previous living situation needed to be changed), it was also scary for Arturo and I to move out of the house we’d chosen together as newlyweds and for Shanti to move away from the home she’d only just settled into. It meant even more change for our family, but we were committed to making it work together.
Taken during our first viewing of the house that would become our home. This is now the music room, and that red paint is long gone.
Our new house has this lilac stained glass transom window in the living room. It is perhaps my favorite feature of the house.
The side yard at our new house, complete with an included play set
While rough moments of grief and adjustment were definitely still there, they were finally starting to diminish in frequency, not just in duration. We were making progress, and we were continuing to strive toward the goal of a bonded, attached family.
The weather in Cincinnati this past April was really quite beautiful, rainy days notwithstanding. We went to the park together every chance we got. Arturo’s strings of Chinese kites, purchased when we went to Tienanmen Square together years ago, were a big hit.
In mid-April, we made the incredibly difficult decision that I would no longer homeschool Shanti. At first, our homeschooling helped grow the bond between Shanti and I simply because we were forced to spend so much time together that we couldn’t help but bond with one another. By early April, that was no longer the case. The transition between mom and teacher every day was hard for both of us, and we have such different personalities (I’m an introvert and she’s an extrovert, for starters) that the all-day-every-day-together nature of homeschooling was starting to cause problems in our relationship. Shanti had also started to crave peer relationships. When she first came home, all she wanted was Mama and Papa, and rightly so. She’d had to survive so long without parental relationships that she was hungry for parents and nothing but parents. After almost four months in, she felt secure enough in our relationship that she wanted friends as well. So, we started looking for other schooling options.
We found a school that was and still is an excellent fit. Shanti still attends there, and Andre will as well once we get him home. But when Shanti first started school in late April 2014? Oh it was hard. We experienced transition pain and grief and adjustment woes all over again. It took many parent-teacher conferences and several months of our new schooling schedule before Arturo and I were able to say with certainty that we had made the right decision regarding Shanti’s schooling.
As we had in earlier months, we visited the Newport Aquarium numerous times during April. This “how tall are you?” picture was taken on my birthday at the beginning of April. Shanti grew so much her first four months home! (See my previous post for January photos of Shanti next to the same statue.)
In May, a new job opportunity fell into my lap. With my days newly free thanks to Shanti’s new school, I was looking for a project, and God handed one to me on a silver platter. A horn player in one of the orchestras we play with decided to strike up a conversation with me at rehearsal. His wife is a cellist in the same orchestra and she and I are often stand partners, so I know her well, but I don’t think I’d ever actually talked to him. Out of the blue, he came over and started talking to me during a break in rehearsal. As an aside during our conversation, he told me about an audition for a cello position with the small chamber group he’s in. I was intrigued, did my research about the group, and jumped at the opportunity to audition. I won the job at the May audition. The job didn’t start until September, but it has been an incredible blessing to our family. I LOVE performing every single day, and the additional income from this job is what made our adoption of Andre financially possible. And it all started in a “God moment” conversation in mid May with a horn player I’d never talked to before. I love how God works!
I can’t remember where we were when I took this photo, but I love what Shanti drew!
May also brought house showings of our old house so we could move into our new house. Those house showings were stressful, but they were nothing compared to the stress of actually moving that was in store for us in June. In May, we started the long process of packing up our belongings after living in our old house for over six years, although in hindsight, we didn’t do nearly as much prepacking as we should have done.
Shanti with Brandon, our realtor, outside our new house. This was taken the last week of May during our final walk-through before closing on the new house.
May also included Shanti’s first dance recital in America. She had taken dance at the orphanage and was eager to start dance classes when she got home. She worked really hard and did a great job in the recital. We were (and still are) so proud of her!
At the end of the month, we traveled to visit my parents over our anniversary weekend, and they gave us an incredible anniversary gift: they watched Shanti the evening of our anniversary so we could go on our first date together in over six months. We went to dinner, enjoyed dessert and a jazz concert afterward, wandered around downtown hand in hand, and savored every single moment. It felt so good to get some quality bonding time with the love of my life. I will forever treasure the memory of our sixth anniversary.
The last few days of May were spent with friends, exactly as they should be. Nastya’s family came for an extended visit in Cincinnati on the way home from their Memorial Day travels, and we had a blast! We explored the many fabulous parks Cincinnati has to offer, spent lots of time playing games at home, and generally had a wonderful time. They even helped me pack up our dining room china.
On June 2, we closed on our new house, and the month of June can be summed up in one terrible word: MOVING.
Until June 2014, I had never actually had to move before. My parents still live in the same house they bought when they got married, so I had zero experience moving as a child. The moves in and out of college dorm rooms and apartments don’t really count, as those rooms and apartments were all furnished. While those moves always felt at the time like I had to move so much stuff, they were basically as simple as packing up my clothes and textbooks, putting them in my parents’ van, and we were off.
When Arturo and I got married and moved into our first house, my parents had all of my belongings from home packed and in the Budget truck before we even arrived, so I did none of the work. (Only now do I fully appreciate the incredible amount of work they did to make that possible!) After living in China for three years before our marriage, Arturo had pared down his belongings enough that moving his things into our first house could be done almost as an afterthought. Our move into a house together after we got married was easy and carefree, a perfect start to married life.
All that to say that nothing prepared me for the enormity of what it means to move out of a four-bedroom house into another four-bedroom house. It. Was. Awful. I pray I never have to live through another month as stressful as June 2014. I can, without any hesitation, say that it was more stressful, more tiring, more difficult than ANYTHING related to either adoption. And that’s saying a LOT.
I had no previous moving experience to help me understand what to do or how to do it, and we had done pitifully little packing of our old house beforehand thanks to a packed May schedule. We also wanted to paint as much as we could in the new house before we moved in, as the paint colors were not our style and the paint job throughout the house was ATROCIOUS. Before we moved in, we succeeded in painting the music room (the worst of the paint jobs and the worst of the colors — it was vibrant blood red!), Shanti’s bedroom (which was the first room to be set up and ready to go in the moving process, which helped her transition immensely since she could always go there for refuge), and Arturo’s and my bedroom (which had been a dark dark dark navy blue that made it feel like a cave and is now a lovely pale sage green). We also primed the front entryway and hallway, which we finished painting in early August. It was an ordeal, that’s for sure.
In the midst of the moving stress, which I will freely admit I didn’t handle well, our friends showed up in a way that still amazes me. We had people come over to help us paint, come over to help us pack, come over to help us move, come over just to say “moving stinks, and we love you anyway.” Our support network stepped up and showed us just how deep is their love for us. As I was with the support we received during Shanti’s adoption, I was once again completely overwhelmed by the love shown to us when we were moving. God has blessed us in a BIG way by our church family and by our friends and loved ones who surround us in Cincinnati. I pray that I can, somehow someday, repay the kindness that was shown to us in June 2014. It still amazes me.
The house is now ours!
Having fun in an empty house
Painting in-progress, complete with Shanti’s signatures
One of our painting parties
Also in the midst of the moving stress, I felt the first stirrings of God calling us to adopt again. Perhaps now, after reading about what we were going through at the time, you’ll understand a bit better why I said what I said in this blog post about our decision to adopt again:
We started feeling God’s call to adopt again about 2 months ago, in late June, but we were resistant at first. To be honest, my first reaction when it came up was, “You have got to be kidding me!” We are so happy as a family of three. The adoption process to bring Shanti home was a stressful nightmare. (The paperwork …. oh the paperwork!! …) But now that she’s home and we’re settling into a rhythm together and learning and growing as a family, life right now is good, really REALLY good. Why on earth would we want to change it? The first time it came up, we brushed the notion aside and moved on.
At the time, in the middle of moving, the incongruity of God calling us to adopt again was astounding. Our family was finally settling into a rhythm together, a rhythm that was barely surviving the stress of the move. Why on earth would we choose June to start the process to adopt again? I decided almost immediately that God was crazy, I was crazy, and I couldn’t handle this right now.
Only time would tell just how “crazy” God really was and just how many mountains God would move to make our adoption #2 a reality. It was over two more months before we would commit to adopting Andre, but looking back on it, had God not started working on our hearts in June when He did, we wouldn’t have been emotionally capable of handling the accelerated timeframe required for us to adopt Andre. I shudder to think what would have happened if we’d decided not to pursue Andre when we realized that we would need to complete his adoption in four months, a task that we weren’t sure was even possible due to paperwork processing times. Had we not taken that leap, we wouldn’t have our precious son, and I truly think we wouldn’t have taken that leap had God not placed the idea of a second adoption on our hearts and minds at a time when it was completely unfathomable. If we could consider adopting again while in the midst of the worst move and most stressful month ever, why not try to complete an international adoption in four months start-to-finish? Thank God that He started working on us well before we were ready ourselves!
The month of June closed on a high note, if it can be called that. At 11:30 pm on June 30th (when we had to be finished by midnight), we pulled away from our old house with the last carload of items. The actual moving was done. What remained was the unpacking …..
To be continued …