As promised, over the next few weeks I will catch up on some of the significant happenings in our life since I last posted regularly on this blog in February. I won’t post about everything that happened — that would be impossible! — but I will hit some of the highlights. Enjoy!
Shant’s group at her orphanage contained 15 children, but only five of the children were girls. As a result, these five girls were a band of sisters with bonds stronger than you could ever imagine. During our time in Ukraine, Arturo and I spent four hours every day with Shanti and all of her group-mates. We grew to love each and every one of her friends, especially those four other girls. They are such beautiful, sweet children.
By God’s grace, two of these girls have also been adopted by American families. The first weekend of March, we were honored to be able to surprise Nastya, one of Shanti’s closest friends. We arrived at her house while she was at the park with her father and her two brothers during her first full day in America. When she opened the front door to her new house, we were there to welcome her home.
Nastya was known as “Stella” on Reece’s Rainbow.
This visit was also the first time Arturo and I were able to meet Nastya’s parents, Rebecca and Luke. Thanks to information from orphanage workers and small anecdotes about the girls, we knew before our travel to Eastern Europe that Shanti and Nastya were close friends. As a result, Rebecca, Luke, Arturo, and I walked the pre-adoption journey side-by-side (along with another family who adopted two children from Shanti’s orphanage, but more about them in another post).
Meeting Rebecca was a joy. I now consider her one of my closest friends. The experiences we shared together (and continue to share!) are ones that are quite specific to our situation: the special relationship of our daughters and our adoption journeys walked together. I treasure Rebecca’s friendship and am so glad adoption brought us together.
Shanti and Nastya were beyond excited to be together again. While they are not related, their shared time in the orphanage forged a relationship closer than that of most biological sisters. Arturo and I were overjoyed to see them together.
We wanted to get a good photo of them together to record their first visit in America, but they were just too excited to stand still for a photo. Finally, we asked for a “serious” picture. I guess we deserved what we got.
And even that silliness only lasted for approximately 1.2 seconds before devolving into giggling once again. Girls will be girls, after all.
After hours of laughter and giggling, their cheeks began to hurt from too much smiling. It was time for the pufferfish.
While this first visit in March was wonderful, our second visit with the Adams a few weeks later, at the end of March, was even better. The first trip was a last-minute decision to travel to see Nastya. The second trip was a long-planned weekend together, coupled with a fabulous visit with Arturo’s parents, who live just over an hour from the Adams.
Shanti and Dedushka Kurt (“Grandpa Kurt” in Russian) made bagels for our breakfast. Yum! Shanti had perhaps a bit too much fun punching down the dough, and I didn’t know bagels could taste so good.
Babushka Monica (“Grandma Monica” in Russian) definitely won the “cool pet” award with her chickens.
We then went bowling and enjoyed an afternoon at the park near Kurt and Monica’s home.
Saturday night, Rebecca and Luke took Shanti home with them for a sleepover, and Shanti was over-the-moon excited. Kurt, Monica, Arturo, and I had a fabulous night in playing Book Lover’s Scrabble, during which I managed to earn 162 points in a single turn. Score!
While amazing and wonderful and absolutely precious, the aftermath of the visits with Nastya were both difficult for Shanti. Much of the grief she has faced upon coming home has been grief for the loss of her orphanage siblings. After saying goodbye to Nastya on both visits, the pain of separation from her friends seemed to hit Shanti full-force once again. Watching your child grieve is one of the the most difficult experiences any parent must go through. But the experience also showed glimmers of hope. After the first visit in early March, Shanti closed herself off from Arturo and I, keeping her grief private, blocking us off, and rejecting any attempt we made to comfort her. But four weeks later, when we visited again the final week of March, Shanti’s trust of us had grown enough that she felt comfortable coming to me in her grief, letting me hold her and rock her like a small child, accepting my comfort, and allowing me to cry with her as she mourned for those she left behind when she chose to say “yes” to a family.
Step by step, day by day, our bonds as a family have grown. Now, four-and-a-half months after that second visit with Nastya and the Adams, our bonds are yet again that much stronger. God has worked (and continues to work) a beautiful miracle in our family, pulling us together from three different continents and three different languages to form an exquisite whole.
Our family is nothing less than a miracle.