Archive for Adoption Journey

Introducing …

Introducing our son, Andre David Araya.






Born August 5, 2004


Forever in Our Family January 12, 2015


We’re officially a family of four!





As I write this, we are still in-country finishing up the embassy paperwork required for Andre to immigrate to America. We’re not sure how much longer we’ll be here, as we’re experiencing some delays in the process, but we’re praying and trusting in God to get us through. This too shall pass.

We’re currently enjoying the “honeymoon” stage of the post-adoption adjustment process and having a blast together as we do so. Although waiting in line for paperwork (which is what we’ve been doing the most of these days) is certainly not a favorite activity of Andre’s, I can hardly blame him for it! Other than getting the wiggles in boring office waiting rooms, he’s a happy-go-lucky little dude who is super fun and who fits in perfectly with our family.

We can’t thank you enough for your prayers, support, and encouragement throughout the process of bringing home Andre, and also the process of bringing home Shanti last year. God has blessed us with two amazing children, and we couldn’t have answered God’s calling had you not also stepped up and given us the encouragement and support we needed. We are humbled and grateful for the community God has provided to love and support us. We couldn’t do this without you. Thank you. We are a family today because of the support you’ve given us.

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We have a court date! … maybe.

Hello friends. We have a court date: December 26 at 3:30 am EST time!! Praise God! This court date is a huge miracle all on its own, and we’re so excited. But … by no means does it actually ensure we will have court on that day. Our paperwork must be processed by the central authorities first, and to have our paperwork ready by the 26th would require them to move WAY faster than is usual. We continue to pray for a miracle.

If we are able to have court on the 26th, we will likely be home the third or fourth week of January. If we miss the 26th deadline, court will happen on January 12th, and we won’t be home until the second or third week of February. (Just saying that feels like a punch in the gut …) Praying hard!

We’ve had some up and down days with Shiloh recently, and we would very much appreciate your prayers. He has zero trust of authority figures and doesn’t even believe us on the most basic of statements (like telling him that we’ll see him again tomorrow, for example). It will take time to build his felt safety and teach him to trust. We are prepared for the task (as prepared as we can be, at least), but it’s still very hard to experience in the moment and extremely hard to watch him struggle while not knowing really how to help. The orphanage atmosphere and the short length of our daily visits definitely are not helping the situation, but until we take custody of him, we have no other options.

This morning, we went to church at the little protestant church in town, and it was wonderful. We sang “angels we have heard on high” and “o holy night” in Russian, we lit advent candles, we heard a wonderful sermon about the reason for Christ’s coming, we fellowshipped with wonderful fellow believers. It was one of the most refreshing and soul-recharging services in my recent memory, exactly what I needed after this past week’s rollercoaster ride. We are so blessed by this little church.

Arturo has had no more kidney stone pain since Wednesday, thank God. Hopefully this is the only attack of our stay here. My homesickness has abated somewhat – buying a Christmas tree on the way home from church certainly helped! – but Shanti is still struggling, still wants home more than anything else. To top it all off, she got sick after lunch today. 🙁 Arturo went on to the orphanage to visit with Shiloh, which had been the plan for all of us, and I’m home nursing our sick darling. She’s asleep on the couch for now and should be just fine by tomorrow, but I feel so bad for her. She just can’t seem to catch a break. Poor thing!

Thank you all for your prayers, and merry Christmas!

PS — A quick shout out to my brother, who is GRADUATING TODAY WITH HIS PhD!!! I am SO stinkin’ proud of him and all he’s accomplished, We’re sending huge shouts of love and congratulations across the ocean to my brother, his wife, and their cuter-than-should-be-legal little boy. We’re going to watch the graduation tonight on live stream. Gotta love modern technology! 🙂

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Update: We’re in-country, and we’ve met Shiloh!

Goodness, has it really been over a month since I’ve posted here? I am so sorry for the delay. Life since our last post has been … well, full. We held two incredibly successful benefit concerts, by which I was overwhelmingly humbled and filled with gratitude for the love and support of friends, family, and strangers. God is so good.

While we were in VA for the second benefit concert, Shanti got to see Nastya, one of her best friends from her orphanage life, and I got to see my sister and nieces. Oh what a wonderful weekend it was! My parents played host and hostess to the large gathering, and I was once again reminded how incredibly blessed we are by our wonderful support network. Jill and Rebecca, thank you both so much for making the trip to attend our concert with your kiddos in tow. It was SO good to see you both.

The weekend after our second benefit concert, on a Saturday morning no less, we got the call we’d been hoping and praying for: we got our date. We were scheduled for our appointment with the central adoption regulators in Shiloh’s country at 11:00 am local time on December 8th. Oh my! It was much earlier than we’d expected to receive our appointment, so we had lots of figuring and re-arranging of our schedule to do in order to make it work. Arturo and I were supposed to play a concert on December 6, and my music students were to perform their studio recital the afternoon of December 6. We spent over 2 hours on the phone with a travel agent trying to find some way we could leave Cincinnati on the 7th and make it in time for our appointment, but no such luck. We had to leave on the 6th. We did the rescheduling we needed to do, and we made it work. Our plane tickets were bought just a few days later. So exciting!

We then left all adoption thoughts behind and spent an incredible 4 days in New York City celebrating the 13th birthday of one very special girl. Before her 12th birthday, which we celebrated with Shanti in 2013 at her orphanage, Shanti asked us to take her to NYC for her 13th birthday. In the book of photos we brought for Shanti, she saw a photo of me in front of the Statue of Liberty and immediately decided she wanted to go there herself. So go to NYC we did. We saw the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (so cool!), took an open-air bus tour of Manhattan (more fun than I expected, and Shanti loved it), rode the subway (required for every visitor of NYC), visited friends in NYC (who were gracious enough to allow us to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with them), spent an afternoon at the Queens science museum (which was AWESOME — absolutely worth the admission price and more), saw the Macy’s window displays (WOW!), bought lots of souvenirs (we did have a 13yo with us, after all!), saw the World Trade Center Memorial (so moving), and took the Staten Island Ferry for a great view of the Statue of Liberty. It was a wonderful trip, and I’m so glad we had that intensive family bonding time with Shanti before our travels to Eastern Europe.

Just a few days after we arrived home from New York, our silent auction ended, with a final tally of well over $1,000. Wow! At this point, almost 2 weeks after the auction’s conclusion, not quite all of the winning bids have been paid, but most of them have, and that money will pay for our return plane tickets home as a family of four. I cannot thank enough those who donated to and bid in our auction. You literally provided the way for us to return home with our son.

No sooner had the auction concluded than we packed and hopped on a plane to Eastern Europe. We arrived in early afternoon on December 7, had our appointment without conflict on December 8, and met our son on December 10. On December 15, “Shiloh” signed his new name (which I can’t yet share) on the document stating that he wants to join our family. On December 17 (today), our request for a court date was submitted back to the central government adoption regulators. We are praying for a miracle that would allow us to have court before the courts and government offices close on December 31, as a delay in our court date until after the holidays would require us to stay in-country for at least an extra 3 weeks. At this point, we are expecting to be here until the 3rd or 4th week of January if we have court before December 31 and until the 2nd or 3rd week of February if we have court after the holiday break. Prayers are much appreciated.

“Shiloh” is wonderful and is indeed a perfect fit for our family. He and Shanti definitely hit it off, and their relationship is already growing well. Shiloh is fun, energetic, and all-around a great little boy. We are so excited to call him our son. I can’t share photos or details now, but I will as soon as we pass court and take custody, making us officially a family of four.

This adoption trip has definitely been different than Shanti’s in a number of ways, not least of which that we have Shanti with us and have her daily needs and schoolwork to monitor. Perhaps the biggest difference relates to our trips to and from Shiloh’s orphanage. For Shanti’s adoption, we were a mere 5 minute walk from her orphanage. Even on days when we spent 3 or 4 hours at her orphanage, the rest of our days still felt empty. Such was our free time (and level of boredom) that I knitted no less than 5 scarves, 6 hats, and 3 pairs of mittens during the 6 weeks when we were visiting Shanti’s orphanage each day.

Our visiting experience this time couldn’t be more different. Shiloh’s orphanage is over 1 hour away from our apartment, making for a 2-hour+ round trip each day just to see him, and nearly 40 minutes each way is walking, for a total of 80 minutes a day walking along the cold, muddy streets of Eastern Europe. While the weather hasn’t been terribly cold, it has definitely been cold enough to make the walk unpleasant. By the time we get home each night after our visit with Shiloh, we are completely spent and have no energy for anything other than making a quick dinner and falling into bed. I brought my knitting supplies for our trip this year, but I have a feeling little knitting will actually get done, unless we find a way to boost our energy levels significantly.

Shanti and I are also somewhat homesick. We both miss the comforts of our friends and family during the holiday season. I’m going to go shopping for Christmas decorations for our apartment today or tomorrow, which will hopefully help things significantly. Arturo is also struggling, although of a different sort. He’s had trouble in the past with kidney stones (including one terrible episode during Shanti’s adoption trip), and it appears the kidney stones are rearing their ugly heads once again. We would like to ask for prayers for Shanti and I to find comfort from the homesickness and for Arturo to find relief from the pain.

I’m now going to be a horrible blogger and end this post with not a single photo. It’s time for lunch and then the mandatory hour+ trip to Shiloh’s orphanage, so photos will just have to wait for another day. Greetings to all of you from Eastern Europe. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. I can’t wait to introduce you to our new son!

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One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, Arturo and I were in Ukraine, in an appointment at the Ukrainian Ministry of Social Policy. One year ago today, for the first time we saw a photo of Shanti when she was 8 years old. This is the earliest photo we have of her and is likely the earliest photo we will ever have of her.


Today, Arturo attended an Honor Roll ceremony at Shanti’s school and proudly cheered for our girl, our precious and beloved girl who made the Honor Roll for the first quarter of her 7th grade year.


One year ago today, we were in a bit of a panic. We arrived at our appointment at the Ukrainian Ministry of Social Policy only to be told that they couldn’t find Shanti’s file. The worker helping us had pulled Shanti’s file the day before to make sure all was in order before our appointment, so she knew it should be there, but still she couldn’t find it. And if she couldn’t find Shanti’s file, we couldn’t accept Shanti’s referral … and if we couldn’t accept Shanti’s referral, we couldn’t adopt her … “panic” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Our facilitator was completely unfazed because she knew it would be just fine and that the file would be found. The worker was frazzled and puzzled, but even she wasn’t all that worried. She had seen Shanti’s file the day before and knew she’d find it if she just kept looking. But Arturo and I — first-time parents in a foreign country navigating the stressful and strange journey called adoption — complete panic. It all did turn out fine, of course, although not until after we had suffered through nearly 3 hours of panic as we were sent away and given a later appointment that day so that the worker wouldn’t get behind and would have time to search for Shanti’s file. We later learned that when the worker pulled the file the day before to check that all was in order, Shanti’s file had inadvertently gotten stuck to the back of another file and then sorted into the wrong cabinet. It took a while, but the worker eventually found it, as the worker and our facilitator both knew she would, and we accepted Shanti’s file without further incident. But my heart still races when I think of the panic I felt that day. One year ago today.

Taken outside the ministry office, after the file had been found and our appointment was completed.

Taken outside the ministry office, after the file had been found and our appointment was completed.

Today, Shanti enjoyed a cappuccino and piece of chocolate-vanilla cake at a local coffee shop in celebration of her honor roll victory.


One year ago today, Arturo and I wandered around Kiev, enjoying the sites and sounds and tastes and smells of the city. We enjoyed our next-to-last day as a family of two, and we had no idea how much we would come to love the brown-eyed girl we had only ever seen in photos.


Ukrainian food is AMAZING.

Ukrainian food is AMAZING.

Today, Shanti asked me to roll her hair in foam rollers before bed so that she can have curls tomorrow, exactly as I asked my mom to roll my hair when I was a child, and exactly as my mom asked my grandmother to roll her hair when she was a child.


One year ago today, Shanti had no idea we existed. She had no idea how her world would be turned upside down. She had no idea the new country she would learn to call home, the new language she would gradually master, the new people she would call her parents. She had no idea.

This photo of Shanti was taken in late October 2013, about a week before our appointment in Kiev.

This photo of Shanti was taken in late October 2013, about a week before our appointment in Kiev.

Today, our completed adoption paperwork was submitted to an Eastern European government to allow us to adopt a little boy, a child who has no idea we exist, a child who has no idea that we already love him and that we cannot wait to call him our son. He does not know that in 5-7 short weeks we will arrive in his country to meet him and to adopt him. He has no idea that he has a big sister excited beyond belief to have him as a little brother. He has no idea.

This photo of Shiloh was taken about 3 years ago.

This photo of Shiloh was taken about 3 years ago.

For two years in a row, October 30 has marked a day of incredible, momentous change in the life of our family. This day will forever be a day of celebration in the Araya household. It is the day we accepted the referral to adopt our precious Shanti. It is the day we submitted our paperwork to adopt our beloved Shiloh. Today is a day of celebration. Today is a day of love.

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Ten Months In

This past Monday, we celebrated ten months as a family. Ten months of laughs, of tears, of smiles, of joys. Ten months of meals shared, songs sung, church services attended, prayers recited, bedtime books read. Ten months of kisses every night before bed, ten months of bleary-eyed good mornings. Those who know us in real life know that those bleary-eyed good mornings were hard, really hard for a long time. That’s gotten much better, and the morning fireworks are almost a distant memory at this point, so much so that this morning Shanti woke from a deep sleep with a huge smile on her face and bounded out of bed to tell Arturo about the dream she’d had. What a transformation. What a miracle. What a blessing.

This photo was taken less than an hour after we met Shanti. She is looking at the photobook we brought for her so she could see photos of us, our friends, our home, and our city.

This photo was taken less than an hour after we met Shanti. She is looking at the photobook we brought for her so she could see photos of us, our friends, our home, and our city.


Our very first family photo, taken on November 1, 2013, over a month before the courts officially declared Shanti our daughter.

Our very first family photo, taken on November 1, 2013, just a few hours after we met Shanti for the first time and over a month before the courts officially declared her our daughter.

Showing me the orphanage photo album so I could see photos of her as a young child. I took photos of these photos with my camera, and they will forever be a treasure to us, as they are one of the only records we have of her life before we met her.

Shanti showing me the orphanage photo album so I could see photos of her as a young child. I took photos of these photos with my camera, and they will forever be a treasure to us, as they are one of the only records we have of her life before we met her.

Taken on November 2, 2013, the day after we met Shanti for the first time.

Taken on November 2, 2013, the day after we met Shanti for the first time.

The metamorphosis in the life and heart of our daughter was brought home to me last week by the casual comment of a new acquaintance. I teach music lessons from our house, and of course we have photos of our family all over. We have a frame in the front entryway that has a photo of Shanti and me just a few days after we met her, and then another photo from several months later. I had a new student come for her first lesson last week, and as she was leaving she paused at the photos, pointed to Shanti in each picture, and asked, “Is this the same girl?”

In many of the big ways, yes, Shanti is the same girl we met just over 11 months ago. Her laugh is still quick and bubbling, and her smile is still infectious. Her sense of humor is the same, all “12-year-old,” and her mind is as quick as can be. But in many other big ways, Shanti is not at all the same child who tentatively said hello to us for the first time. The hard shell of pain and defensiveness around her heart is slowly melting away, revealing a spirit of pure gold underneath. Healing is not a linear path, and some days seem like we take three steps forward and two steps back. But the progress is still there, and when I look back over how far we have come over the past 10 months, I am blown away by what God can do when we open up to His will and dare to say “yes” to His call.

One of our 2014 family photos, taken late last month

One of our 2014 family photos, taken late last month

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of Shanti, for the blessing of our beloved daughter, for the blessing of our family.

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Auction ends tonight!

Sorry for our silence here the last two weeks. Paperwork duties swarmed over us, sucking up all spare time, and I’m now catching up on all that I didn’t do during the the paperwork madness. At the moment, we’re waiting: for child abuse registry clearances to come back, for state department authentications to come back, etc. I’m hoping and praying everything comes in next week so our papers can be mailed and submitted the first full week of October.

In the meantime, our silent auction is almost over! It ends in just over 15 hours, and we have some amazing items available for super low prices. A few items don’t yet have bids, including two of my very favorite items in the whole auction: the stump table and the lace afghan.

The stump table was handcrafted and donated by a family in process to adopt two children from Shanti’s orphanage. Similar tables regularly sell for $600 and up! It’s an incredible piece of craftsmanship, and I can’t believe its future owner hasn’t yet placed a bid. Additional photos of the stump table are available here, and they show just how beautiful this table is.

table 2

The lace afghan was donated by a close friend who lives in Cincinnati, herself an adoptive mom (and adoptive grandmother — her adult children have adopted quite a few children of their own). Words can’t fully describe just how beautiful this afghan is. It’s simply exquisite.

white afghan - Ellen ReadPlease take a few moments today to look through all of the items available in our online auction, and get in your bid while you still can. Don’t forget — bidding ends at midnight tonight! 🙂


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