Thursday, September 29, 2011

A little more insight....

I love this post!  Gabrielle Shimkus, one of the waiting moms, does an excellent job telling about her and her husband's wait for their little boy, Azamat.   Her post is unique because it touches on why some prospective adoptive parents gravitate toward international adoption and how hard it is to parent a child from so far away.  Please take the time to read.  I guarantee you that you will be touched!

 Most people would agree that adoption is good and noble cause. That said, the issue gets complicated from there on. I’ve found that while many like the idea of taking in a child who was not wanted for whatever reason, the thought usually does not translate into any action. When I dig deeper, I’ve heard those same people say they “want their own children,” or “it costs too much,” or they “would like to, but…..” . I’ve concluded it must just be a big mental leap for some people to transition from wanting to adopt, to actually doing it. Having bridged that divide myself, I can say it is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life; it is also the most tragic.
I always wanted a son. My husband, Frank, has four adult daughters and a son from his previous marriage. Seeing the statistics I had a feeling that there would be more girls than boys in our future. Not wanting to leave life up to chance, we decided to adopt an infant son to love and cherish. When it came to deciding whether we would take the domestic or international adoption road, for me, there really wasn’t a choice. My belief is that children in this country have a chance to be adopted, whereas for children in foreign countries that chance is greatly diminished. For children in poverty here, there are still federal programs and safeguards in place for babies up for adoption. In other countries, orphanages guarantee children a life of institutionalization, but not much else. So, if I was going to adopt, I wanted to make a difference in the life of one of these children. Little did I know what a difference one child would end up making in my own life.
His name is Azamat. He was born June 27, 2008 to an unwed woman in the former Soviet country of Kyrgyzstan. Upon seeing his severe bilateral cleft lip and palate at birth, his birth mother immediately gave him up for adoption, citing on his paperwork she did not want him because of his “deformity.”  Azamat was two months old we got his referral. At the time I we were married four months, and discovered I was having problems getting pregnant. Knowing we wanted to both adopt and have biological children, we decided to work both ends to start our family immediately by both adopting and undergoing in-vitro fertilization.
We never intended on adopting a child with special needs. To be honest, that first referral picture of a frighteningly frail, very sick little boy in need of obvious extensive surgery really scared me. So many thoughts went through my head, but they all came back to one central question; Can I be the mother this child needs? I kept the referral picture out on the kitchen table and stared at it for most of the day. When I returned to it the next morning it was like an “ah ha” moment, and I was able to say definitively; this is my son.
We re-named him Aidan Josiah-Azamat Shimkus, and made immediate plans to travel half way around the world and visit him, in Kyrgyzstan, in November of 2008. It was the best two weeks of my life. Here was this little boy, all of about 5 pounds, who needed me as desperately as I wanted him. I would hold him, and talk to him, and tell him all about the life he was going to have with me as his mama. He slept on my chest and felt the seemingly endless number of kisses I places upon his beautiful little face. I was so in love, I didn’t even notice his cleft. Leaving him was the single hardest thing I ever had to do thus far in my life….but I promised him I would return in six weeks for our court date and take him home. That day never came.
In January of 2009, the government of Kyrgyzstan placed a moratorium on all international adoptions out of fear of corruption. In one day they essentially threw out every law on the books that dealt with international adoption with the hopes of someday fixing the system they saw as broken. What they failed to realize however, was that there were 65 American families who, like us, we weeks away from their final court hearing to adopt their children. We became stuck in the pipeline, with no legal way out.
At first we expected the moratorium to last a few months. I was blessed to became pregnant through my first in-vitro attempt and I believed I would still be in my first trimester when I would be traveling back to Kyrgyzstan to pick our Azamat. Everything was supposed to be ok. It wasn’t ok. And it hasn’t ever been ok since.
It is now three years later, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have fought to bring my son home every single day. Through pictures I have watched him grow up in the Bishkek Babyhouse orphanage. Realizing there were 65 families going through the same horrible ordeal, we banned together and began calling ourselves “The Kyrgyz 65.” In the past three years, two of the original 65 children have died do to medical conditions treatable here in the United States….(One of whom is Altynai, for whom this fund honors.) Every day I fear that Azamat will get some kind of infection or disease and be the next one to pass. Every day I worry if he is getting enough to eat. Every day I wonder if someone is taking a few minutes to pick him up, provide a little attention or affection. But I know in my heart that is not happening. It is one of the awful nightmares any parent can imagine…and the worst part is that it doesn’t end.
The fight to get him and the other kids out doesn’t end, either. We have monthly conference calls with the US Dept. of State. We recently hired an international adoption lawyer as a group. The waiting families set up a yahoo blog over which more than 17,000 emails have been passed back and forth to date. It is a way for us to provide not only critical information about our situation, but also much needed emotional support. Our situation is so unique, it is impossible to find anyone who understands the emotions, fears, and frustrations involved. I compare it to having a missing child, although, it’s twisted.   Kyrgyzstan allows me to “parent” Azamat from half a world away. I contacted a group of German/Swiss surgeons and had them travel to Kyrgyzstan to operate on his cleft. So much time had passed, that my original plan of having him operated on at Geisinger Medical Center in PA had to be changed. Azamat is getting older with each passing day. If his cleft isn’t fixed, the greater the possibility is that he will suffer greatly from eating, speech, and breathing issues. I arranged the surgery, and the Kyrgyz government allowed me to do it. Azamat is three years old, and just learned how to walk in June. His orphanage is not providing him with the proper nutrition his little body is craving. Saying I fear the long-term affects the neglect and malnutrition is causing is a grave understatement. Not to mention the attachment issues that he as a three year old institutionalized orphan is going to undoubtedly face when he does come home.
The psychological affects this trauma is causing in our life is not lost on me. For three years I have walked past Azamat’s room as it lies untouched. The stuffed zoo animals are not played with, the new crib has not been slept in, and the clothes in the closet with tags still attached have long been outgrown by the little boy who was supposed to arrive at 5 months old. His pictures hang on the wall, and I struggle to explain to my girls, two year old Emerson and ten month old Greyson, that baby “A” is their brother who lives far, far, away.
I pour myself into understanding every facet and every player in the volatile new democratic government that makes up Kyrgyzstan today. I travel to Washington DC and New York City to meet with senators, congressmen, and members of the Kyrgyz parliament. I am constantly working every contact I can think of to get information on my son, The Kyrgyz 65, and the daily ongoing of our advocacy efforts. It takes an enormous amount of work to gain an inch of progress. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has finally been informed by Congress of our dire situation. It took three years to raise the issue to that level. Getting my son out of a third world orphanage is easily a full-time job, and most definitely an obsession. But I believe that for many of us, being obsessed is the only thing that is going to get our kids out of this country.
I don’t know what I am going to do. I am stuck in an abusive relationship with a country that is holding my son hostage. There is no manual on how to deal with this kind of situation and it’s hard to even talk about. This is as personal as it gets. He is my son….not some random orphaned poster child you see starving on television. This orphan has a home. He has a family who loves him, and a mama who refuses to stop fighting for him. There is an old Jewish saying I will always remember, “To save one life is to save the world entire.” I made a promise to my son. It is as simple and as complicated as that. The only thing I do know is that I am the only person in the world who loves this boy. If I don’t fight for him, no one will.                 

Monday, September 26, 2011

What was I thinking (???) and a request for help

I am sure that several of you were wondering, what the heck I was thinking when I said I was doing a rummage sale.  Trust me, Saturday morning, I was thinking the same thing.  Rummage sales are NOT a good idea for a fund raiser!  Bake sales at rummage sales are NOT a good idea either!  Now, as I am typing this I am laughing especially since I should have known better.   The bottom line is that there were 3 types of garage sale shoppers present this weekend.  Those that really need your discarded items because they have fallen on hard times and they are doing their best to make ends meet.  Those that are simply collectors of junk and lastly, people who buy your stuff and then plan to take it down the street to the local flee market and charge more than what you charged.  As for the first group, those are the people that I would have been happy to give my kids outgrown clothes too.  Of course, they never bartered with the price and were excited about their purchases.  The second group, well they came in with groups of friends and it was clear that it was their weekly social event and they were having a ball!  The last group was incredibly annoying - they participated in the raping of the clothes piles.  They would throw things this way and that, create a pile, decide that $0.25 -0.50 per items was too much and either walk away from the mess they had just made or try to steal the items.  Needless to say, none of the three parties were interested in orphans in Kyrgyzstan.   As for the bake sale, same concept... who is going to pay $0.50- $1 for a baked good when they will not pay that for a pair of pants that was worn once.   "A" for effort, right?

Alec at the sale.  He is my #1 supporter!
Now on to bigger and better things but with that I have a request.  Please, please, please share the fund's blog with your friends and families.  I also started a separate Facebook page "Altynai's Legacy Adoption Fund:  Bringing Home the Kyrgyz 65" so please join or hit "Like".  If you are an adoptive parent, please share with your own adoption community.  Share with your families, friends, church groups, play groups, share, share, share.....  The fund needs to gather some momentum!  If everyone that read this blog could pass it along to even a handful of people and they continued that trend, the potential would be endless.  Now I know that we all have individual causes that tug at our heart strings, and I get that this is mine, and may not be yours, but even if that is the case, maybe someone that you share it with will become our serendipitous supporter.

I have some exciting things planned.  We are working on t-shirts that will soon be ready for purchase with the proceeds going to the fund, some specialized bracelets and some upcoming raffles but in orders for those to be a success, I really need a good following.   To date, there are nine waiting families that are applying and the news from Kyrgyzstan is still a "go".  Now the time line is still in question but the adoption regulations are officially on the books, the agencies are working on re-accreditation and the families are assembling their new dossiers.  So while they are all at work, please help me.  I am realizing that there is no way that I can make this a success on my own.  I am incredibly independent and hate to ask for help, but I have been humbled and frustrated to say the least.

Enough of my whining...  stay tuned in, I have more stories to share and you will probably get more random and mildly entertaining posts from me!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Garage Sales and Bake Sales

The weekend is almost here and I am sure that most of you are looking forward to it.  I worked a ton at the beginning of the month so after tomorrow's shift, I will be done for the month!  Yippee!  I love having unexpected "free" time because it gives me the chance to get organized and to tackle projects that I can't get done during the two hours that Drew naps on Mondays and Tuesdays.  The rest of the week I am either at work or busy with the big kid's activities, homework, ect..

My itinerary begins with whipping up some bake goods tomorrow night.  Little Miss Libby (currently vying to be the highest donor)  has convinced her Mom that she needs to do another bake sale but this time she is taking it to a community garage sale.  For those of you that know of my less than stellar cooking skills, please don't worry, I have grand plans for Rice Krispie treats.  As long as I don't burn the marshmallows, they are guaranteed to turn out.  Shoot, I  might even get a little fancy and add some M&Ms!  Saturday morning, I have a table reserved at our church's annual rummage sale.  I am not a fan of garage sales but I have some good stuff this year and I just don't want it to give it away.  All of the proceeds will go towards raffle items for an upcoming online fund raiser that I have planned.  Hopefully both the garage sale and the fund raiser will be successful.  I haven't set a date for the raffle because I want to make sure that I have a good following first.  The more readers, the more participants.

The rest of the week will be filled with quality time with the kids, a class project for Ansley, a trip to the eye doctor, boy scout meeting at our house and work on the fund.  Craig is home all next week so we should get some quality family time too.  My big project, as long as I can stay motivated will be to clean out my closet - shoot, that just reminds me.  I should do that before the rummage sale!  Darn it, I may have to give it a quick run through tonight. ( Truly, I am not making up that revelation.)

Well, on that note I have work to do.  Next week, I have more waiting families stories lined up and will get an update from Lifesong on the total donations.  Thanks to everyone who is following along and thank you to the families who have been so willing to share their journeys.  Please keep the kiddos in your prayers!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Precious Sezim

During our trip to meet Altynai, I had the pleasure of meeting and evaluating Sezim.  She was a little over 2 years old at the time and she melted my heart.  She was the oldest of the children that I examined and through her I learned a lot about orphanage "developmental" milestones.  I was fascinated that day to learn that the orphanage staff, doctors included, have a VERY different developmental expectations for children that are being raised in an orphanage.  I would ask "isn't it odd that this two year old has little to no words?" The answer was "no, she is fine"  but when I then asked if it would normal for a child NOT in the orphanage, the answer was "why, yes that would be quite concerning!" Another interesting deviation from normal is that most children learn to walk between 9-15 months and past that, as pediatricians, we become quite concerned.  Not so in an orphanage.  Little Sezim learned to walk just a month or two before I met her ( very late ) but shockingly, she was already climbing stairs with ease within that short period of time which was ahead of schedule for that gross motor milestone.  Essentially, once the staff knows that you can ambulate on your own, you become self reliant due to the simple fact that no one will carry you anymore.   The kids walk late but climb and run early.  

Life in an orphanage is not one filled with love but one filled with need.  Of course, they need the obvious - food, water and shelter ( all of which were suboptimal while I was there) but they also need love, support and stability.  Children need these staples to reach their potential and without them the potential is simply LOST!  Imagine this - there are 148 orphans in the world, orphans whose potential will never be met.  It is the loss of one of God's greatest natural resources and that is incredibly sad.

Please take time to read Lisa's story about her two daughters, Sezim and Caitlin.  The striking difference in their lives is astounding!

My adoption journey started as it has for so many: I wanted to open my home and heart to a child. I come from a large and loving family. I am an Aunt to 11 nephews and helped raise four of them while in high school and college. When I was ready to become a mom, adoption seemed like a natural fit for me.
I adopted my daughter Caitlin from Kazakhstan in March of 2003.  When I saw her picture, I knew instantly she was meant to be my child. The connection was instant; the love, undeniable. When she came home, she was malnourished, and both physically and developmentally behind. I started physical and speech therapy right away, and worked with a therapist twice a week to ensure Caitlin was receiving all the help she could receive to get on track for her age.

Caitlin performing in the Nutcracker
Caitlin completed her physical therapy within six months. Her muscle development was quick, and she learned to walk and run at record speed. Speech therapy has taken us six years to work through. Her therapist has been nothing short of phenomenal, and I will be forever in her debt. 
Caitlin is an active child. She loves musicals and plays, which we attend on a regular basis. She has been in ballet since she was two. She loves performing and lights up every stage she is on. Caitlin is outgoing, vivacious and has a love of life that is infectious. She is the light of my life, a  true blessing from the Lord.

When Caitlin was four years old she asked me if she was going to get a little sister. We had talked about adding to our family, but I was candidly not ready given the commitment I had to her and her developmental needs. I wanted to be absolutely sure I could give another child as much love and attention as I had been able to give to Caitlin.

When Caitlin turned five, I felt we were both ready to add a little sister to our family. I went back to Kazakhstan and started the process again. The agency I selected had a strong back ground and experience in Kazakhstan; I was told the wait would be about nine months to bring a child home.  As I waited for my adoption process to start, many events were going on behind the scenes with my agency. In December 2007, after waiting almost two years, we were told our agency was closing its Kaz program.

I can’t begin to share the sadness that filled my heart and soul. Sharing this news with Caitlin brought more tears and pain for us both and our family. I knew though that I could not give up; I could not let our belief that there was a child out there for us to adopt be forever lost to us. I reached out to another adoption agency and started the process again to find a little girl in the world who was meant to be part of our family.

As I restarted my journey to adopt, I was offered a number of different adoption programs to review. I chose Kyrgyzstan as I felt connected to the country and the people instantly. Caitlin and I started our journey to bring a little sister home with as much love, excitement and joy as we had before.
Sezim came into our lives within a few weeks after starting our journey. As with Caitlin, when I saw her picture, my heart opened up instantly and I knew she was my child. When I reviewed Sezim pictures and video, it was very evident she was malnourished and developmentally behind. I asked for a specialist to review her files and the report back indicated she was definitely a special needs child and would require ongoing therapy.

Knowing what that level of support would entail for Sezim, I had no fears or concerns.  She was and is my child, how could any challenge be too big for me? I worked fast and furious to get my paper work completed and in as soon as possible. I didn’t want my child to wait to feel my arms around her, to see my smiles as she woke up to a new day and the joy of having so many to love her and care for her.
As I headed over to Kyrgyzstan to complete my bonding period with Sezim, I was filled with such excitement and joy. Each day I spent with Sezim, we took walks picking flowers and smelling their sweet scent, the memories of how her eyes would light up when she sniffed each flower is a memory I will always cherish. I would pull leaves and run her fingers over them for her to feel their grooves and shapes. Sezim laughter filled my ears, and consumed my heart. We colored pictures, and I read her stories. We played puzzle games, threw rings and played hide and seek. I shared pictures of her family with her; her sister Caitlin, all of her aunts and uncle, her grandpa along with the never-ending pictures of her 11 nephews, all waiting to welcome her in to the Reickerd brood.  My 10 days with her were magical. I headed home, counting the days until I could bring her home.

Little did I know as I kissed her good bye, telling her I loved her — would always, always take care of her — that I would be waiting three and a half years to bring her home. I can’t describe the pain, sadness and helplessness that I have felt during this journey. The anguish of seeing her grow up without her family is one I can’t even begin to describe. Caitlin and I have never missed a birthday or Christmas holiday. We have sent Sezim care packages full of clothes, coloring books, story books, dolls and supplies. I want her to always know she is still loved and wanted. I will continue to walk this journey to bring her home for as long as it takes. I believe with all of my heart she is meant to be my child.
Little Ms. Sezim 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Love this statement!

‎"By adopting a child and helping them reach their potential, they help us reach ours. An adopted child is not an unwanted child; to the contrary. They are a child who was searched for, prayed for, cried for, begged for; received by arms that ached, making empty hearts full. Love is meant to be shared." Author Unknown

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Maksim has been waiting 1300 days....

The following post was written by Kerri and Eric Schlef, yet another amazing set of waiting parents.  Maksim lives in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan but he has a family, including two little brothers, waiting for him here in the United States.  His parents have literally been counting the days that they have been waiting to bring him home.  The numbers just don't lie, especially when you realize that he has lost 1300 days ( and counting ) thriving in a loving family.  1300+ days of his childhood, that he will never get back...  .

1300 days have passed since we received Maksim's picture via email. 1300. That's 3 years, 6 months and 23 days of praying that THIS will be the day God allows Maksim to come home.

God answers prayers. He gives three answers: yes, no and not right now. You can beg and plead with God all you want, but when God's answer is 'not right now' then that is His answer.
Our journey to Maksim began in late 2007. We had a miscarriage and felt we were being led to adopt. Because we are Type A people, we made a spreadsheet with all the possible countries. Kyrgyzstan fit our requirements - child chosen for you, young infant and able to complete the adoption in a short amount of time.

In February 2008 we received Maksim's referral and we traveled to met him in early March. We were told we would return in 6-8 weeks to bring our son home. Weeks passed and we were given excuse after excuse of why our case didn't go to court. Weeks turn into months.

In February 2009, former Kyrgyz Prime Minister Usenov declared a moratorium on international adoptions.

19 months later, adoption regulations were signed. The waiting continues as adoption agencies have to be accredited and the regulations need to be clarified and implemented.

During this time our hands stay busy sending emails and making phone calls to our Members of Congress, sending packages to Kyrgyzstan, making connections, supporting the other waiting families and most importantly praying for our children's hearts to stay soft.

And so we will wait on the Lord for as long as it takes.

Kerri and Eric

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Two of my heros

Over the course of the 3 1/2 years since we started our adoption journey, I have been blessed by being "virtually" surrounded by a group of phenomenal adoptive parents or prospective parents, many of which have become dear friends.  I say virtual because the majority of my interactions with these people have been via email, yahoo groups and telephone conversations.   These new friends live throughout the  United States, Canada and Kyrgyzstan but in spite of the distance, they were always just a moment away if I needed them.  Tragedy has an interesting way of bonding people together and I am so grateful to have found such an amazing support system.    I want to share some blog posts from two of these very special people.

The first is John Wright.  He and his wife, Julie, are missionaries that fell in love with the people of Central Asia and in particular, Kyrgyzstan.  Over the years they have made it their life's mission to help the underserved of this area.  They have inspired me, and many others, with the amazing work that they are doing there, which include providing support to several orphanages, an old person's homes, the homeless and the medically needy to name just a FEW.  They have opened their hearts and minds to the needs of the people that have surrounded them and in response have made an tremendous impact.  At times, their work has been close to miraculous.  The majority of us "met" John through the yahoo group for people interested in adopting from Kyrgyzstan.  Through that group, he helped families get medicines and other supplies to the orphanages.  When I realized that Altynai had developed hydrocephalus, John was one of the first people I contacted.  She needed a CT scan, a neurosurgeon and a shunt, ASAP and I knew that he would, at a minimum, be able to point me in the right direction.  Long story short,  in a short period of time ( based on Kyrygyz standards : ) ) she had everything she needed.  I will never forget picking up my phone one afternoon, and low and behold, it was John ( and Ann - Kyrstina's mom) calling me from Kyrgyzstan to let me know that he found a way to get her the shunt she needed.  Not only that but he paid for the shunt out of their own funds while he was waiting for our money to make it to him.  Like I said, miraculous considering that she was just an orphan that few people seemed to value!  John, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!  If you want to be truly inspired by what the Wright's have done and are doing in Kyrgyzstan, or to hear his side of Altynai's story, please check out his blog post on September 2nd at:

The second person I owe great thanks too is Cindy Lajoy.  She is the mother to five adopted children; four from Kazakhstan and one from Kyrgyzstan.  She created and moderated the initial Kyrgyzstan adoption group, back in it's heyday when adoptions were actively occurring.  It didn't take a member long to realize after reading her posts or following her blog, that she was someone very, very special.  Her compassion and wisdom would resonate throughout her statements and for many of us, when we needed individual advice, she was more than happy to help.  When the adoptions ceased, Cindy remained part of the waiting parents group and actually contacted me after Altynai became ill.  It was over the next several months that she provided me with the advice and understanding that I deeply needed.  Although, my friends and family were aware of my fears, grief and guilt and multitude of other feelings, they were at a loss as to what to say.  None of them had adopted before and to be honest, a lot of them could not wrap their heads around why I was so attached to this little person that I had only spent a week with.  Not to mention, the dramatic rollercoaster ride that I had been on for several years had made most people annoyed enough that they steered clear of such conversations.  It is for those reasons that the adoption community is so closely knit and supportive of each other.  It is also why my conversations with Cindy had such an impact on me.  I will never forget her telling me although we may believe that we are supposed to become a given child's parent, God often has very, very different plans  for us.  We are often involved for a variety of other reasons, whether it be to open our hearts to new possibilities or to delay things so that the child that is supposed to be ours, can be placed in our path instead.  She was often quick to remind me and many others, that the delays and the guilt that we often place on ourselves when things go horribly wrong, are not our faults to bear, for we are often truly just along for the ride.   Cindy also wrote a beautiful piece about Altynai's fund on her blog.  Please take time to read it at

Friday, September 9, 2011

Way to go, Libby!!!

They say that big things come in small packages, right???  They also say that every little bit counts, right???  I need to share you a great example of both.   Libby is a 9 year old little girl that is the daughter of a dear, dear friend of mine and she has been working her tail off.  When I told her mom, and subsequently Libby, that I was starting a fund to help bring home the orphans that lived with Altynai, Libby thought that was a great idea.   She was quick to tell me and her mom that she was going to help me raise money for the fund.  Now Jill and I thought that was super sweet but really, how much was she really going to raise and how long was this going to keep her interest???  I should have never doubted her!

Libby started by calling their family and close friends, next she made and sold friendship bracelets,  and most recently convinced her mom that she needed to do a bake sale.  She had given some thought to the old fashion lemonade stand but decided that her mom's Oreo balls, would be worth a lot more.  So that is what they did.  They became a traveling bake sale.  They hit up teachers, friends and neighbors and they sold like hotcakes.   The majority of the donations she collected were less than $10 and in fact, some just a $2 or $3 and yet it all adds up!

$185 was raised in 3 weeks making her the 4th largest donor to the fund!  I love you Libby and you have no idea how impressed I am!  You are making a difference and I am so proud of you!

If you haven't had a chance to chip in yet, the PayPal button is on right side of the blog and every little bit helps.  There are 5 families that have applied so far and I would great appreciate any donation you could give!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Krystina's Strory

We are entering the fourth week since Altynai's fund was launched and I am excited to share more stories about the waiting children/parents.   Krystina's to-be mom, Ann, is an exceptional woman!   She is a pediatric transport/flight nurse that has a heart of gold!  I am personally indebted to her for the love that she showed Altynai during one of her trips to Kyrgyzstan.  Shortly after Altynai's diagnosis of hydrocephalus was confirmed, Ann contacted me to let me know that she and another waiting mom (love you too, Nicole) were going to Kyrygyzstan on a mission trip and that she would do anything in her power to help Altynai.  Ann and Nicole were able to visit Altynai several times,  including in the hospital before her surgery.  Ann was able to give me some of the medical information that I  desperately wanted and more importantly, they were able to shower Altynai with attention and love.  Since then Ann has continued to fiercely advocate not only for Kyrstina and the waiting children, but also for several other special needs orphans she met during her visits to Bishkek.  

A Tale of Two Children

Two children so beautiful, so special and so loved. Both my children but only one I can hold and kiss, teach and provide for. The other lives in my heart and I hold her in my dreams.

In June of 2008 I met Shelby Krystina. She was then 19 months old. Her medical reports include hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, severe malnourishment, global developmental and physical delays; all consistent with the suspicion for cerebral palsy. Shelby sat for the first time unassisted on my first trip. She walked unassisted just prior to my second trip in December of 2008. She remains extremely small for her age. And she remains in an orphanage in Kyrgyzstan. Two and a half years after meeting her government has continued to invoke delay after delay. We have no end in sight. We have no timeline for when or even if she will ever get to be more then the child of my heart.

On a positive note due to continued delays my fiance' and I chose to pursue a concurrent adoption. In December of 2009 (on Shelby’s Birthday) we received photographs of a little boy who we knew instantly was meant to be our son. Six months later Nikolas Benjamin Richard became a United States citizen as we landed on U.S. soil at John F. Kennedy Airport.

I met Nikolas (aka Kolya ) in April 2010. He was just shy of 18 months old. He too is tiny, malnourished and developmentally delayed. But Nikolas has an advantage. Russia, despite recent troubles, has continued to allow International Adoption to proceed. Their government has worked closely with many adoption advocates to unite as many children with families as possible. Kolya will turn three on October 10. In the last year he has learned to not only walk without toppling every three steps, he now runs, jumps, skips, and climbs. He has gone from not talking in the orphanage to exceeding the age criteria for language development. His words daily melt my heart. His new saying makes me sad and happy at the same time. My favorite words are most certainly “I wuv yoo Mamma” When going to sleep or being held, “I wuv yoo” is said over and over. Kolya has transformed from a lonely scared developmentally delayed child into a happy, shining little boy who is almost right on target in all areas for his age.

Kolya came home at the same age that Shelby “should have” come home. I am reminded daily, just by watching him blossom, of what Shelby is missing. No speech, physical, or occupational therapy. No nutrients to help her thrive, no one to sing her bedtime songs or hold her when she cries. Shelby will turn five in December. She potentially was moved to the orphanage for older children before her fourth birthday. A year has passed again and still she sleeps alone. She should be starting preschool. She should be enjoying her family. But yet she still remains another year of childhood lost. She has lost her infancy, her toddlerhood and now potentially her preschool year. What will happen to her? Who will watch over her? Who will tell her repeatedly “ I wuv yoo?” Maybe just maybe we are getting closer. But our fight and our process is not over. We will anxiously wait now to see what the new process will bring. Will Kolya and I be spending a month in Kyrgyzstan? Paperwork that we were promised did not have to be redone… Now it may have to be started again from scratch. The fight for this child is not over. She is our daughter and I am determined she will hear the words “I wuv yoo “ every day of her life.

Ann's blog is easy to find at

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Our happy adoption story!

Unfortunately, the majority of the posts leading up to this have been about children needing loving families but now you are in a for a treat.  I am one lucky mom and I want to make sure that you know the other part of our adoption story.

When we started our adoption journey, I remember our social worker telling us that adoption was not for the faint of heart.  How true that statement was.   Today, I thought I would share with you our other adoption story.   After our rocky experience in Kyrygyzstan, my husband kept bringing up exploring domestic adoptions.  I was DONE though.  I wanted another child and always thought we would adopt our third but I was done with the whole process.  I had been fully consumed by Altynai's adoption and I was grieving the loss of the child that I thought was going to be our daughter.  I was also dealing with a ton of guilt over the fact that she was still there and I wasn't going to be able to bring her home.  So when my husband brought up adoption again, in a sarcastic way I said "fine but YOU are doing all the work!  I can't do this again."  Well, he took me seriously and in a short period of time, he did a little research and had us signed up with 3 different agencies.  I went and met with them but I was tearful throughout the our meetings because of Altynai.  I am sure that they were wondering what the heck we were doing.  They all made sure to tell us that we needed to plan on at least 12-18 month wait at a minimum. We could hope for better but longer was absolutely a possibility. I was OK with this because I had a lot of healing to do.

Four months later, in record breaking time, Andrew "Drew" Ryan joined our family.  I always tell people that God handed him to us on a silver platter!  I think God was saying, "I had you on Altynai's journey for lots of reason but you were never supposed to be her parents BUT this little guy, well he is yours!  And I am going to make it so easy that you will never, ever doubt it."  And that is exactly what happened.  Two months after our application was in, we got a call that a young couple had chosen us to be the parents of their unborn son.  Two weeks later we met with them and had an incredibly meeting.  In fact, when it was over, Craig and I walked away and said, "well, that was just too good to be true.  They are definitely going to change their minds."  Not even two months later, and one month ahead of his due date, Drew was born.  Twenty four hours later he was ours!  We had just become a family of five!

Drew is blessed to have two sets of parents who love him, very, very much.  His birth parents said their goodbyes to him before we got there but as they were leaving they asked our social worker to tell us "Please don't let them feel sorry or sad for us today. We know we are making the best decision we can for our son and we are excited for them".   Can you imagine how hard I cried when I heard that?  Craig and I had just had a long an emotional conversation in the nursery, as we stared in awe at this perfect baby boy, about what a tragedy this was for them.   Then to learn that his birth parents were thinking about OUR feelings on the day that they suffered a great loss.  Oh, you have no idea how that touched my heart.

The following day, his birth parents, came back to the hospital to see us.  We spent over a hour with them in the lobby.  It was a meeting filled with genuine happiness and thanks.  Thank you's from us to them for the child that they were allowing us to welcome into our family and raise as our own.  And from them to us, for giving their family and Drew the opportunities to have the best life moving forward.  When the meeting was over, I found our social worker crying in the hallway.  She was crying tears of joy and amazement because in her 20 years in the adoption business, she had never seen such a genuinely beautiful end to an adoption.

As we left the hospital with Drew, Craig asked me if I was OK?  I know that it seems like an odd question but after the prior two years of disappointment it was a reasonable one.  He wanted to know if I was OK with the fact that Drew was the exact opposite of the child that I thought was going to be ours.  A healthy baby boy from south Florida was not what I had planned on and yet, that is exactly what God had in store for us and I couldn't have been happier.  Drew is our son and I can't imagine what our life would be like without him.  What an amazing gift we have been given!

All our children, Ansley, Alec, Drew and Altynai, are all incredible blessings from God.  My life has forever been changed because I have been allowed to be their mother, even if for a short period of time, and I do my best to cherish every second.

In parting, here is a fun Kyrygyz 65 fact.  In the last 3 years since all of our international adoptions ceased, over 25 children have been adopted, both foreign and domestic, by the waiting parents.  It is wonderful to know that the delays have had some wonderful silver linings too.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Adoption Regulations have been signed!

It is true!  On September 1st the new adoption regulations were signed by the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan.  Two and a half years ago another Prime Minister placed a moratorium on adoptions and  since then, the advocacy efforts have been directed at lifting the moratorium and getting new regulations on the books.  Sounds easy, right?  Wrong!  When your government changes cabinet members as frequently as you change your clothes and there is a full blown revolution in the midst of it, it is darn near impossible.  So yesterday's news is absolutely wonderful!  Based on our experiences with Kyrgyz government, I am sure that there will be stumbling blocks along the way for the waiting families but this is a big step in the right direction.  Hope is in the air!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Donation Update and Thank you!!!

Hello everyone!  I am so excited to tell you that since launching Altynai's fund on August 16th, $2000 has been donated.  I can't even begin to tell you how touched I have been by each and every donation.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Things in Kyrgyzstan are continuing to move forward but not without some new challenges for the waiting families.  The good news is that the new adoption regulations are complete and they are awaiting the final signature of approval from the Kyrgyz government.  That is supposed to occur in the very near future.  The bad news is that the families and the agencies are likely going to have to reapply to the program.  For the families, it means that they will have to re-do their dossiers and as of now, they will have to make two additional trips to Kyrgyzstan in order to complete their adoptions.  As you can imagine, none of the above takes place quickly and none of the above is cheap.   The additional expenses are absolutely going to impact many of the waiting families, making Altynai's Fund all the more important.  As already so nicely stated on my dear friend Kim's blog, several of these families have already spent thousands of dollars to travel countless times to Washington, DC, New York and Kyrgyzstan to meet with Members of Congress, Department of State officials, Kyrgyz officials and adoption advocacy organization to advocate for these children.  Their children are literally wasting away physically, mentally and emotionally in overcrowded orphanages and many have special needs, just like Altynai.  They desperately need to have their adoptions completed and I hope that Altynai's fund will help.  The fund raising is on going so if you have not had the chance to donate yet, please consider it.  Any donation, small or large would be greatly appreciated.  $10- $20 donations can add up quick.  $2000 is fabulous but I have a long way to go.  If you are new to the blog, please read my post from August 16th.  It explains Altynai's story and fund in detail.  Donations are easy to make.  Just look on the right side of this post.

Thanks again to everyone that has made donations, shared the blog with a friend or family member or said some prayers for the waiting families and children.  There is a lot of work to be done and I will take all the help I can get!