Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Sweet Reunion & Lublin Adventures

We arrived in Warsaw safe and sound on May 9th – just less a couple of pieces of luggage.  We didn’t really care, all we cared about was being reunited with our sweet boys.  On Sunday, May 10th (mother’s day), we were picked up from our hotel in Warsaw and taken 3 hours southeast to Bilgoraj.  After nearly a 6 month separation, a 20 hour travel day to Poland, a 3 hour drive through the country, we were only 5 minutes away from our sweet boys. The anticipation was killing us.  Finally, on Monday, May 11th, we were reunited with them.  And what a sweet reunion it was. Below is an excerpt from an email I sent that day:
Today we got to see our boys again!!  We received the best greeting complete with flying hugs!  It felt like we never left - we just picked up right where we left off. I received my first bouquet of hand-picked flowers today.  It included some pretty white flowers (I don't think they were supposed to pick), some dandelions, and a branch with leafs and a ladybug! They are very excited to come home.  I think they were a bit disappointed to realize it would be a little while yet.  They told everyone they saw today that we were their mama & tata and they were going home with us this week.  Seriously, these boys just melt my heart.

I remember that incredible high of having them in my arms again and the relief that came with knowing we would never be separated again.  All of the heartache of the process and the wait just melted away.  The millions of pieces of my shattered heart that were left there so many month ago were instantly made whole.
On Tuesday, May 12th, we took our 1st adventure out with the boys along with their caregiver, our facilitator and a representative from the orphanage.  We explored Zamosc and Zwierzyniec – absolutely beautiful. It was a long, fun day and we were able to stay and put them to bed that night.

Wednesday, May 13th was a big day.  It was the day that we received temporary custody of the boys.  We spent some time at their house visiting with them, their friends and caregivers.  We had some cake (there was always cake) and the boys received gifts.  The good-byes were tough, but we knew we would be back in a few weeks.  Around 11am, we headed out to take a 1 hour trip north to Lublin where we would be staying in an apartment for 3 weeks.  The boys were excited and a little nervous – so were we. 
This is an excerpt from an email I sent on Thursday, May 14th:

It makes my heart so happy to tell you that there are 2 empty beds in Bilgoraj.  It has been a long time coming. 
We moved from Bilgoraj to Lublin yesterday and are just starting to get settled into our apartment.  I would love to tell you that it has been all sunshine and rainbows, but it hasn't been. Yesterday was a ROUGH day for all 4 of us, but especially the boys. We knew to expect this and have been preparing for it, but holy cow, I don't think anything could have prepared us for what unfolded. It was very hard for them to say good-bye to everything that has been their life for the past 2 1/2 years.  While we know this situation is better, and they are very excited to be with us, it is hard for them to fully understand everything that is going on.  In addition, I think the move stirred up some emotions and past hurts. It breaks my heart to look into their eyes and see the hurt and the grief.  They have endured more than most people I know my own age.  Yet here they are, trying to let go and love us and trust us - they have HOPE.

Today was so much better.  We had lots of snuggles, giggles, play time, a super long bath (which they loved), and FEASTING.  Yes, feasting. Meaning they eat and eat and eat!  We knew to expect this, so we stocked up on groceries right away, but we are going to have to take another trip!  We are going to brave our 1st solo field trip with them tomorrow, so wish us luck.   Ready or not...here we come world!! 
The first week and a half was so tough. It was just heartbreaking to see the conflict in my babies’ eyes.  They so desperately wanted the love we were offering, but were terrified to take it at the same time.  I will tell you what though – my 2 boys are the BRAVEST boys I know. There is no way my 5/6 year old self could have handled any of that.  And there they were, fighting with all of their might to break through the hurt and fear.  They AMAZE me…Every. Single. Day.

After that 1st week and a half, something just clicked.  The boys were starting to get the hang of this whole family thing…and so were we. The rest of our time in Lublin flew by.  We had so much fun exploring with the boys.  We also had 2 visits from the social worker, government rep and caregivers.  One on Friday, May 22nd and the final one on Wednesday, May 27th.  Below is an expert from the email I sent during that time:
Our visit on Friday went great. The boys asked them when they were going to leave so we could play zombies!  LOL!  We had another visit yesterday and that went really well too.  Both the social worker and the government adoption authority representative said that they will be giving positive remarks for the adoption in court.  They called our facilitator yesterday after the visit and told her that they were very impressed with how well we were doing with the boys and how much they have already connected with us. 

The boys' behavior is like night and day from a week ago.  They are listening much better, they are trusting us, they are very affectionate, and we are able to have a lot of fun with them.  We have been to the park several times.  The parks here are absolutely amazing – I wish we had some like this back home. We made it to Old Town a couple of times too – so beautiful.  We braved the Trinity Tower w/ the boys.  They did so good, but we were all exhausted by the time we got home.  We have walked everywhere - I would guess we have gotten in 35-50 miles since we have been here.  We love it here and are afraid we have been a bit spoiled.  We are really going to miss this place.
I am writing this as we wait for our car to pick us up to take us to Bilgoraj tonight.  We have an early court time tomorrow - 9AM, so that is 2AM your time.  Please say a prayer that all goes well.  Right after that we will be heading to Warsaw for our remaining time in Poland. After court, we will also know our return date. We have been praying our request to shorten the appeals period goes through.

With our hearts full and our first memories as a family of 4 burned in our minds, it was with much anticipation that we said farewell to Lublin and set out on the next part of our journey.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Just an Ordinary Day

Thursday, April 30th, 2015 started out as just an ordinary day.  My morning started pleading with God to get me back to my boys.  I then headed off to work for a busy day full of meetings and preparation for a business trip the following week.  Wally had the day off - I am sure I had a honey-do-list a mile long for him to work on as we prepared to bring the boys home.  Nothing special.  That was until…Wally starts blowing me up - crazy boy style!  He was calling my desk line, my cell and texting me to call him right away.  I desperately wanted to call him back as I assumed it was about the boys - not to say he wouldn't try and reach me that frantically just to profess his love for me.  Unfortunately, I was on a conference call and couldn’t.  At first he didn’t want to tell me via text, but I begged and pleaded as I could no longer stand the suspense.  He finally sent me a text: “Yes, we have travel dates, we leave next week!”

WOOOOOOOHOOOOOOO!!!   Finally, I am going to go get my babies!  Thank you Jesus!  Wait, What?  Did you just say leave in 1 week?

As soon as my call was over, I quickly called Wally.  We laughed with joy and excitement and I of course cried.  He shared with me all of the details the agency provided and let me know that they would be providing more information soon.

For those of you following along, you know we were so desperately missing our boys that we had resorted to calling our agency every Thursday just to check-in and see if they had heard anything.  Bless their hearts – I don’t know how they didn’t grow tired of our calls.  Every call they patiently listened to our repetitive questions, encouraged us and ensured us we would know something as soon as they did.  We knew that would be the case, but there was something comforting about that weekly check-in. 

This Thursday’s call was much different than the rest.  Wally’s call to the agency caught them a bit off-guard as they had just received our travel information.  They hadn’t yet had the opportunity to review it, so they weren’t ready to share it with us.  However, they didn’t want to make us wait any longer and gave Wally as much info as they could!  It was enough for me!  All I needed to know was that in just over a week my boys would be in my arms and we would never have to be a part again!

Divide and conquer was our strategy moving forward.  We knew that in 1 week we both had to prepare for our leaves at work, finalize details with dog/house sitter, book our travel, finish preparing the house for the boys, and pack for a 2 month trip…not just for us, but for the boys too!

Looks like we just got our tickets to the crazy train, and we couldn’t be more thrilled!  All Aboard!

Proverbs 16:9  The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord established his steps.

Catching Up

I had great intentions of keeping up with the blog once we got the boys home.  As it turns out, time flies when you have little ones.  On top of that, playing with and loving on these sweet boys has been priority number one.  I spent so much time wishing for them to be here, and now that they finally are, I try to soak in every minute with them.

That being said, we are approaching our 1 year Famiversary.  I thought it would be fun to catch up on the blog by sharing our experiences at this time a year ago.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Heartache & Hope

It has been 5 months since I last kissed my sweet boys.  Five months since I last felt the weight of their arms wrapped around my neck.  I miss their sweet little giggles, their tiny fingers intertwined with mine, their flying hugs – I miss EVERYTHING about being around them. I have missed multiple holidays, birthdays and countless opportunities to just be their mama during these last 151 days.  My heart aches for them every single day.

I was doing pretty good up until we hit the 4 month mark.  Since then, I have been morphing into a total hot mess.  Some days it’s all I can do to just make it out of work and to my car before the tears fall.  Most of my evenings are spent pleading with God to get me back to my boys.  In my weakness I am tempted to be angry with God.  Thankfully I have been reminded that God loves them more than I ever could.  While that is hard to imagine, I know it to be true.  And I know He has His loving arms wrapped around my boys. They are His after all.  There is peace in knowing that, but it doesn’t alleviate the sting of the separation. 

While I don’t understand why getting back to them is taking so long, I do know that God is using this wait to mold me into the mother I need to be for these boys.  I have faith in His plans for our family.  God grants me new mercies and new strength every day so I can get through this.  I know that every night when my head hits my pillow I am one day closer to being reunited with my sweet boys.

We have had some good news recently.  Just last Thursday we had to complete a new Power of Attorney form.  It finally feels like things are moving forward again.  I have asked some of my adoptive mommy friends that have gone before me about their timelines.  It seems that the average is 2-4 weeks between the POA form and receiving travel dates.   So, I am hopeful that we will hear something soon.

Thank you all so much for your continued prayers and support.  We appreciate you all so much!

Psalm 71:14  As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Getting to Know Our Littles

In the last blog I talked a lot about our trip and interactions with the boys, but not much about their personalities.  So, I thought I would share with you what Wally & I have learned about the boys so far.

They are both so adorable – I mean seriously adorable.  Their big eyes and happy little smiles absolutely melt this mama’s heart!  They are both 100% BOY!!!  They are full of energy and are constantly on the move!  They love rough housing and climbing on daddy like he is a jungle gym.  In fact, they are like 2 little monkeys and like to climb on everything! They love cars, soccer balls, games, being tickled and playing at the park.  Getting them off of the swings was no easy task! We brought bubbles with us, and those were the biggest hit!  Every day we had to play with bubbles!  They also LOVED seeing pictures and videos of themselves. They are so silly and enjoyed hamming it up for us and the cameras!  They love making funny faces at us, and love it even more when we make them back!  Their big laughs and tiny giggles are the best – I would do anything to hear those sweet little laughs again.  The best thing ever is that they are both really affectionate (after they warm up to you) – I got way more hugs and cuddles than I was expecting on our first trip.  I can’t wait for all of those hugs and cuddles again!

Little K is pretty laid back and so smart.  He can already count to 20 in English.  He knows some English words, and always asked us how to say things in English. Before coloring in his activity book, we had to go through each page and tell him what everything was in English. I don’t think he will have any problems catching on to English quickly.  He is very inquisitive and wants to know how things work and why.   He loves mazes, puzzles, games, crafting/coloring, and taking pictures.  We have hundreds of pictures courtesy of Little K!  Most of them are blurry and aren’t really of anything, but he did get us a couple of good ones of Little A!  He also liked to “do” mama’s hair.  If you ever see my out and about and my hair looks questionable, just go with it!  He is quite the little helper too – he was always stepping in to help his little brother and the other little kids too.  He loves to snuggle and hates good-byes just as much as his mama does.

Little A is such a tiny little thing but has a HUGE personality.  He is very animated and has the best facial expressions!  He is a bit sassy too!  I think Little A is the child my mother always wished I would have.  You know…those moments when you were doing something questionable and your mom said “I hope you have a child just like you”!  He loves coloring and he really loves stickers.  He likes to stick them on you and then try to put them back a bit later. I have learned with this little one around I will always have something on my shirt.  Whether it be stickers, snot or food, to Little A, my shirt is fair game!  He also loves sneaking up on you and surprising you and he loves being surprised too!  As I mentioned before, both boys love cars, but Little A really, really loves cars!  We gave him a car on the 1st day, and that thing did not leave his side!  He loves to sit across from you, have your feet touch and push the car back and forth.  He is very particular and likes to have things organized in a certain way!  I wonder if that trait will last once he is home?!?!

Don’t’ they just sound like a boatload of love and fun?!?!  They totally are!  I cannot wait for our friends and family to fall in love with these 2 just as we have.  We aren’t leaving tomorrow, but we are getting closer!

 Quick Status Update:
·         What’s Happened:
o   Wednesday, January 14th – received notification that our paperwork was on it’s way to our agency form Poland
o   Thursday, January 22nd – received notification that our agency received the paperwork
o   Thursday, January 29th – we received our paperwork
o   Saturday, January 31st – sent paperwork (overnight of course) to USCIS

·         What’s Next:
o   Wait for approval from USCIS (we are praying we get this before the end of February)
o   Wait for Poland to assign us a court date & travel dates
o   Go get our boys & bring them HOME!

  1 John 4:19 - We love because he first loved us.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Highest High and the Lowest Low - Our First Trip

Wally and I were able to take our 1st trip to meet our boys in late November.  I don’t know what a 1st trip is supposed to be like, but I can’t imagine it going any better.  It was so awesome and Wally and I are so in love with these little boys!  They are definitely meant to be a part of our family.

On Monday, November 17th we left Warsaw and made a long drive to meet an adoption government official and the social worker.  After a brief meeting with them, we were on the road again making a 90 minute drive to get to the orphanage.  The boys knew that there were visitors coming, so when we arrived there was a whole group of them waiting to greet us in the entry way.  We got to spend a little time with them and then sat down for a chat with their caregivers.  We learned a lot more about their situation prior to coming to the orphanage and all of the progress they have made since.  Our boys are truly loved there and we are so very grateful for all of the wonderful people who have helped our boys since their arrival.  After that we had to meet the director of the orphanage, and then we were able to come back and play with our boys for a few hours.  They were pretty shy at first, but they warmed up pretty quickly once we started playing.

On Tuesday, November 18th we arrived back at the orphanage at 10am.  The boys excitedly ran to the door to greet us – we knew it would be a great day.  We were only supposed to stay for a couple of hours in the morning and then come back for a couple of hours in the evening.  We got so lucky and got to leave at 4pm and spend the entire day with our boys.  We had tons of play time and were able to share lunch with them.  The weather cooperated and we even got to take them outside to the playground for a while.  Some of my favorite memories of this trip were made at that playground.  Their little personalities really started shining through as the day progressed.  When we went to leave sweet little Mr. K kept holding my arm and asking me not to go…this practice continued the rest of the week. 

Wednesday, November 19th was a super special day.  We arrived at 9am and our sweet boys were anxiously awaiting our arrival.  We were able to sit down with the boys, their caregiver and their psychiatrist and present them with photo books we had prepared for them.  It included pictures of Wally & I, the dogs, our house, and we added polaroid pictures we had taken of us with them.  When we presented them with the books, they were told that we were going to be mommy and daddy.  The boys were so excited.  I don’t know that little Mr. A fully understands it, but little Mr. K absolutely gets it.  We got an atlas out later that day so we could show them where Poland is and where Wisconsin is.  Little Mr. K immediately asked when he gets to ride an airplane to go there!  As his psychiatrist told us, he is so ready for his new family! We spent a lot of time playing with the boys and really getting to know them.  We were asked to stay late this day and put them to bed.  No arguments here – we were able to stay until 8pm and enjoyed every minute we were able to spend with them.

Thursday, November 20th was honestly the toughest day I have ever had.  I am not exaggerating – it was truly heartbreaking.  I knew the good-byes were coming, so the morning started with tears. When we arrived at 9am we were greeted with flying hugs (the best kind) and we had some time to play with the boys before we sat down for a final chat with their caregiver.  She answered more of our questions and shared her thoughts with us.  She told us that she had prayed for a family for our boys for a long time and that she was so happy how quickly we connected with the boys and how quickly the connected with us.  Needless to say we were all in tears…the good kind though!  Shortly after she had prepared a lovely lunch of traditional Polish food – pierogis!!  She had arranged it so it was just us with the boys so we could have alone time before leaving.  After that, we had a few more minutes of playtime and then the good-byes begun.  I did pretty good keeping it together.  We had lots of hugs and kisses and they even called us mama and tata.  The caregiver did an excellent job telling what was going on.  However, sweet little Mr. K saw no need for us to go get things ready – he was ready to come home now.  He ran to the door and put his little stocking hat on and was quite adamant that he would just leave now.  That is when this mama could no longer keep it together and the tears came.  Walking out that door and looking back was more than I could take – in that moment, my heart broke into a million pieces.  I pretty much sobbed the rest of the day and kept trying to figure out how I was going to make it through the coming months.

I loved these boys when we first started this adoption journey; I loved them more when we received their referral, and now that love is indescribable!  It’s like there has always been a secret compartment of my heart that I never knew about, but was always reserved for them – my heart is so full!  I thought that it might take a little longer to love them this way, but it came so quickly and I know it will only grow!  My heart remains in Poland with my 2 boys.  Nothing feels the same anymore – it always feels like something is missing.  When we walked into our home after getting back, it was the 1st time it ever felt empty.

We ask that you pray that the paperwork moves quickly and we are able to get back to our boys very soon!

“Every minute feels like an hour, every hour feels like a day, every day feels like forever, but I will wait for you forever and a day.”

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Francis Family Happenings: August – October

Wow…it has been a crazy couple of months.  A lot of you have been asking for updates, so I will give you the short and sweet version.  In most cases, people get to travel to Poland within a month of accepting their referral.  However, A&K fell just outside of what we were originally approved for regarding age, so we had to update our paperwork.  We used expeditor services and found that they are worth every penny.  Why didn’t we use them on the 1st round of paperwork?  We will know better for next time.  As you will probably notice in our timeline below, we did slow down a bit in October and didn’t expedite anything.  I know what you are thinking…are you guys crazy? Don’t you want to hurry up and meet your boys?  I was thinking the exact same thing and it took everything in me not to expedite things.  And for the record, YES…I cannot wait to meet them!!!  For reasons beyond our control, there was going to be a delay in getting travel dates no matter how quickly we got the paperwork to our agency.  We decide to save money and practice patience.  It wasn’t easy, but we did it.  Well almost…we did end up sending the final paperwork overnight to our agency.  I just couldn’t help myself!  Even longer story short – there is a very good reason for the delay.  I just can’t tell you about it yet.  I know, I know….so many secrets!  I hate keeping them, but I promise I will spill the beans once the boys are officially ours.

Now what?  Well, we are running around like crazy trying to get ready for our 1st trip.  We leave shortly and there is so much to do.  We have also started renewing our paperwork.  That’s right, round 3 of the paperwork is already underway.  It should be fairly simple since we just had to update our paperwork.  We weren’t able to renew when we were updating because we were not within 90 days of the expiration of our approval.  So many rules and so much paperwork!  A&K are beyond worth it!  All of this paperwork will be a distant memory soon!
We are so excited to share our journey with you and are so very blessed by all of your love & support.   We ask for your continued prayers as we prepare to travel.

Paperwork Round 2:
·         August 14th - received our referral for A & K 
·         August 18th - met with an international adoption doctor
·         August 18th - accepted the referral for A & K
·         August 19th - began paperwork update
·         August 29th - completed our part of the paper work
·         September 8th - home study approved
·         September 15th - sent paperwork to USCIS
·         October 1st - found out USCIS paperwork was approved
·         October 4th - received USCIS approval in the mail
·         October  9th - dropped paperwork off at Secretary of State to be apostilled
·         October 14th - picked up apostilled paperwork from Secretary of State & sent to our agency
·         October 27th - received travel dates

We even found time to carve little A & K a pumpkin!
       Philippians 3:14
       I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.