Moving Right Along!

So where do I even begin with this crazy whirlwind of a day… at the beginning you say?  Ok, that makes sense I suppose.

Tossed and turned on the overnight train again.  Ready to be done with those!  I’m actually counting down the time we have left by overnight train rides, only two more!  Woohoo!!  The kids slept many more hours than we did, per the usual, and were up bright and early at 6:00am.  Our train didn’t get in until ten so we had a good four hours of entertaining to do on not quite enough sleep.

We were informed upon arrival that we had a different apartment than the last one we were in.  Something about a landlord being asleep and not having time to get us a key… maybe?  Not sure exactly, quite a bit was lost in translation (per the usual).  So now we are completely disoriented in a city we thought we had our bearings in.  Our driver quickly pointed out a McDonald’s and left.  We were famished and I thought he said there was a grocery store down that way, the street certainly had enough shops, so took a little walk.

There were several restaurants and a nice park with a fountain, but no grocery store.  We hiked back and stopped at a little fast food place that was not McDonald’s… I don’t think we could stand another meal of that.  Ugh.  Then we went back to the apartment, I quick got ready for a visit with Hope.  No time for a shower, so I looked terrible after the night and morning.  So glad Hope doesn’t really care what I look like!

It was a short visit today.  We have never visited her in the evening before, but apparently her orphanage “closes” at five o’clock and her “nap” isn’t over until four so… itty bitty window there.  Hubby and the kids stayed back this time, it had already been such a long, cooped up day for them to spend another hour+ in the car.

Sweet girl and I had a good visit though, and it was so nice to just get some alone time with her!  Her new favorite game is laying on my lap while I bounce her and sing the sign language ABC song I know, holding her with one hand and signing with the other.  I promise I was safe!  But she just laughed hysterically the whole time and she was trying to track with my hands to watch the signs.

After the song was over I told her to say “Again” if she wanted to go again.  I prompted her a few times and got a little “ahhhh” out of her so we went again :)  I’m no speech therapist, but I figure prompting her to speak and then praising and rewarding her for vocalizing is probably a good start in teaching her to communicate through appropriate sounds (rather than just screaming).

Next I went on a quick grocery trip since I had our driver and could actually get to a store.  When I got home everyone was famished, so we decided to go to the “pizza place” which felt less than inviting, so Jake suggested the “other pizza place”.  We walked the other way on the street and came to a small building with huge stickers of pizza on the window and an arrow pointing inside.  It looked promising.  We walk in to tables surrounded by lush, exotic couches and middle eastern incense.  Hmm… perhaps we should have payed more attention to the Disney Genie sticker on the window?

We sat down (first mistake) and the lady brought us huge, elaborate menus that certainly did include pizza but this was no pizza joint.  The kids were restless and asking to eat the sugar on the table.  This was obviously too high end for restless, hungry, miniature people so we got up and left!  Totally embarrassing.

Our last ditch dinner effort was the “burger joint” we saw (different from lunch).  They even had cheese sticks!  How could you go wrong, right??  AND pizza on the menu! Score!  Well, we order to discover that the pizza was made with ketchup, not sauce.  The cheese sticks were actually fish sticks.  The Caesar Salad dressing was actually plain mayonnaise and the burger was actually a grilled chicken sandwich-type thing.  We didn’t eat much, but they thought we were trying to order chicken nuggets instead of fish sticks (thankfully) so at least the kids ate.

I still consider this a good, successful day though!  We are here in Hope’s region just waiting for our court date.  By the way, pretty please pray we get SDA approval tomorrow!!  This is the only thing not “moving right along” and we really need it!  If we don’t get our approval tomorrow we won’t be able to have court until Monday at the earliest.  That puts Juri and Zhanna Hope’s court dates at least a week apart, delaying our return home about a week.  We are so ready to come home, please pray we wake up to approval in the morning!!

While you are praying for that, also join with us in a prayer of thanksgiving for our funding!  We just received word that a grant we applied for months and months ago actually came through!  And the crazy thing is that they prayerfully determined to give us the exact amount we need to be funded after our Miles Fundraiser is finished!  Is God awesome or what!?!  Perfect love, perfect gift, perfect timing.  Thank you Jesus!

AND we only have 527 miles left to go!  That’s a little over $500 to finish funding our adoption and then we’ll get to reveal Juri’s new name to you all!  I cannot wait to finish this off, so excited to make that reveal!  We are absolutely praising God for His hand in all of this and so humbled and grateful to all of you who have come alongside us to bless our family and our new children by making this adoption possible for them.  It would not have been possible to do this on our own.  It is Christ’s Church that has kept us afloat the entire way!  We can never thank you all enough!

P.S. – Click here if you want to help us move a little closer to revealing our son’s new name!

Here’s Where We’re At

I was very pleasantly surprised that Hope was not at all sedated during our visit today.  Looking back through my notes (and guessing from today’s demeanor) I think we must have been off on the schedule.  In any case, we were so happy to have a great visit with her today!  She was smiley, laughing and alert, although I noticed she was a tiny bit more agitated than usual.  We saw some stimming behaviors which we haven’t seen in a while.  But other than that she did great.

At 4:00am tomorrow morning we are leaving on the train to head back to Juri’s region.  Apparently this is the busy train season, so they were having difficulty finding us a compartment together… thus the early morning departure.  Hopefully the children will be able to go back to sleep once on the train, or we might have a very, very long Sunday.

Since we’re at another crossroads in our journey I thought now would be a great time to outline for you what everything looks like from here on out so we all have an idea of what’s coming next.  On Monday we have court for Juri and will be officially made his parents (God willing).  Later in the week we will travel back to Hope’s city to have court for her and become her parents.  Adopting from two different regions is a lot of travelling back and forth if you hadn’t noticed.

IMG_0565After we have court for Hope we will go back to Juri’s city to wait for Gotcha Day.  (That will be three overnight train rides in about a week, fun times right?)  There is a ten day waiting period between the court decree being issued and our possession of it.  This is so that if anyone wants to dispute the judge’s decision they have time to file an appeal.  That usually never happens, but we still do have to wait.  Right around July 4th weekend our wait will be over and we will be able to start collecting all of Juri’s paperwork in order to take custody.  (My mom will be here for that, woohoo!)  Once that’s all done and we have Gotcha Day the six of us (six including Grammy) will go back to Kharkiv to pick up Hope.

We are hoping to leave the country as soon as possible once we have custody of her so that we can get her admitted to the hospital quickly for observation while we increase her caloric intake.  So we’ll hop a train straight to Kiev, get the children’s medicals done and complete all our paperwork and get approval for them to enter the US and become citizens!

So much to do so little time!  Please keep praying for our family!  Our fundraiser is still making progress we are officially into the triple digits with only 868 miles left to go!  And once we meet that I will be able to tell you all Juri’s new name!  I am dying to spill the beans people!  If you’d like to help us out you can make give a tax free donation to our family here.

And just as a side note, since we are asking ya’ll for money and posted our really fun trip to Gorky Park yesterday I thought I would just clarify quickly.  That sort of a fun outing could have easily cost us $100 or more in the U.S. but we didn’t even spend $12.00 on all the rides we took!  Prices are a tiny bit different here :)  We were given money from some close family friends before leaving specifically dedicated to ice cream and helping the kids have a good time while we were here.  So we have a small “fun fund” that we are required to utilize.  😉  We just didn’t want everyone to think that we were misappropriating the generous gifts we have been given or being frivolous with our spending while appearing to be in need.  Transparency is best, right?

Haha ok… enough about money, that’s like my least favorite blogging topic!  Please pray for Hope’s heart as we leave her for a few days, Juri’s heart as we go to see him again for the first time in over two weeks, and that God would give us a supernatural amount of rest with only the few hours of sleep we are getting tonight!  Love you all, thank so much for being a part of our children’s journey home.

Just a Quick Note

Our visit with Hope today went so much better.  She was awake and alert, she smiled and laughed for us right away, although by the end of our visit she was obviously worn out.  Her stamina is not what it was four days ago.  She really needs some calories in her; she just has so little energy.  Poor sweet thing!  But even still she was an absolute joy today.  It’s so good to see her being herself again.  I was really beginning to miss that bubbly little personality.

I was very blessed today to be able to love on a few of the other sweet orphans there today who were playing with Evie and Stephen.  I am so very much hoping that we can find families for the three of them.  They were precious and so in need of love.  Expect that I will be talking about them in the future!  It is one thing to hope for a family for a picture on the computer screen, but once they become flesh and blood, real live children standing in front of you and giving you hugs… there is no way I could walk away from this place and not come back and do everything in my power to get them families!

In other news, our Sponsor a Mile Fundraiser is going so well!  We have met both our matching grants and we only have 1,498 miles left to go to meet our goal!  We will not be quite funded once this is met, (we are still $2,933 away from that) BUT we will be able to fly home with all four kiddos by the skin of our teeth!  Once we finish off our Miles Fundraiser I will announce Juri’s new name and the story behind that.  Exciting!!

Thank you all for continuing to love and pray us through!  We are finally in the home stretch of this adoption, and then the real journey begins!

Sevenfold

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Today and yesterday were difficult visits.  Our poor Janna was lethargic and trying so hard to be engaged, but her little body was just too tired.  We have an inkling why, suffice it to say here that orphanage life is not a good life for any child.  She needs out of that place!  It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to hand her back to the nannies, turn around, and walk away.  Now that we are just waiting on court dates the days seem to be dragging on forever.  How long oh Lord!

And with the groaning of my heart, I learn another small piece of God’s heart for us.  How it must grieve him.  I have only two children who I long to be in my arms and my presence.  Our Father in Heaven has literally billions of children He is still working tirelessly to bring home to His Church.  The need is great, so great.

Yet even through the brokenness, there is light and hope.  Despite Janna’s condition today she was actually holding herself up in our arms!  Usually she just slouches over and leans on us, but she was actually “sitting” up straight today!  She did it several times, it was great progress and we were so encouraged.  We can’t wait to see her home and help her to become the beautiful young lady she was always meant to be.

And we are not the only ones!  Our family has been abundantly blessed with so many prayer warriors, encouragers and supporters.  We couldn’t do this without every single one of you.  A dear family member, who wishes to remain anonymous, has offered our family a second matching grant!  We have been so surprised, and humbled and grateful for this.  We still have 3,475 miles left to go on our miles fundraiser to get us funded for the rest of our adoption!  What a great blessing and opportunity this grant is for us.

Our anonymous donor has offered a matching grant of $631.00.  So when our mileage reaches 2,844 our donor will double that!  The grant was offered based on the Bible verse of Proverbs 6:31, that we might pray over Juri and Janna that everything which has been stolen from them will be returned sevenfold.  What a beautiful prayer and what a beautiful gift!

So here is your incentive!  We already have our children’s new names picked out.  Once we meet our matching grant we will share with you what Janna’s new name will be, along with the story behind it!  After we finish our miles fundraiser off completely we will announce Juri’s new name and the story behind that one!  I promise you they will be lovely names and inspiring stories and I am dying to share, so let’s knock this out shall we!!

Our donor has given us seven days to meet our matching grant.  Today is day one.  Let’s go!  I ask that now you have finished this post (yes right this minute) step away from the computer and say a quick prayer for our family.  After you have prayed please share this post and our story with others you know and ask them to do the same!  If you feel led to give perhaps consider $6.00 or $31.00 to honor the Scripture verse being prayed over our sweet children’s lives this week.

You can make a tax deductible donation at either of the links below:

Reece’s Rainbow Mueller Family Grant
Adopttogether Mueller Family Grant

We love you all so much and we are humbled and eager to watch God work as He knits our family together with love from His people around the globe.

Sponsor a Mile!

If you are new to our adoption journey, you might want to read a little bit more about our story.  Start here for the beginning of our adoption journey, or jump in when things start to get exciting, or even just take a quick glance at our very first visit with our son.  Thank you for stopping by and may you be richly blessed!

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WE’RE FINISHED THANK YOU!! STAY TUNED FOR OUR SON’S NEW NAME!

The week before we left I started a fundraiser called Sponsor a Mile.  It was a Facebook event that ended while were travelling so I lost the chance to update it.  I have had some requests to bring it back, so here it is!  Bookmark this page to keep updated on where we are or you can just follow along on our Facebook Page.

Here is how this fundraiser works, we have to fly home with Juri and Janna from the capital city in their country to our hometown in the U.S.  That flight is a total of 5,370 miles.  If we can raise one dollar for each mile of our trip we will be almost fully funded!

As of now we have 0 miles left to go!

UPDATE: WE MET OUR MATCHING GRANT OF $600!! THANK YOU!

UPDATE: WE MET OUR MATCHING GRANT OF $631!! THANK YOU!

If you would like to sponsor a mile or two simply go to our grant fund HERE and make a tax deductible gift, then comment below, email or message us on Facebook to let us know how many miles you sponsored!  We will put your name, a little note or Bible verse from you and the miles you sponsored in our children’s keepsake books so they can see how many people helped them to come home.

For another giving option that is also tax deductible, please contact us.

Thank you to everyone who is taking the time to follow our journey!  We are truly blessed.

Growing Up in Pictures

I remember when I was pregnant with Evangeline and I thought that I must  be the worst mother in the world.  I didn’t feel a particularly strong connection with her before she was born and it took some effort for me to consciously think of her and build that love.  And she was growing inside of me!  Sometimes this adoption has been the same way.  I find myself emotionally disconnecting from the who and focusing on the what.  Getting the next paper notarized, mailing things, fundraising, scheduling home study appointments and physicals, etc.

There is certainly enough busy work in adoption that it is easy to get yourself buried in all the immediate details to escape from some of the more painful realities of the situation.  That’s not necessarily helpful or healthy though, especially when it prevents you from praying for your child or from blogging about the adoption because that would mean you need to confront what’s in front of you.  But it’s hard to pray for him, and it’s hard to even blog updates or talk about how our process is going.  It’s just harder than I ever knew it would be.

I always thought I would be one of those adopting moms who blogged constantly about all the little details of our adoption, who prayed multiple times a day until he was in our arms, who was always lost in whatever pictures or video we might be able to see of him.  But I’m not doing any of those things… I am avoiding them.  It’s usually not a conscious avoidance, but I was looking at some of his pictures today in preparing our November newsletter… and I realized how long it had been since I’ve looked at them.  I even forgot we had a few of them.  It’s been months since I’ve watched his video.  It’s too painful.

We have pictures from about four different times over the course of a few years.

He has grown so much.

Here is the earliest picture we have of him…

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Every time I look at it my heart breaks all over again.  All I see is “Where are you mama?” etched all over his face.  He is so little here.

The next picture we have is after he had been at his new orphanage for some time.  There is a little more life in him…

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And then he gets a little older…

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And finally those chubby baby cheeks are gone altogether…

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It is painful to watch your child grow up in pictures.

And though I am thankful to have them, most days I simply cannot look at them.

I should have been the one playing with him on the floor and showing him toys.

I should have been the one taking pictures and making him smile.

I should have been the one tickling him.

It should have been me there… but it wasn’t and it isn’t.

How I cannot wait for that day that it will be me.

P.S. – Please help us bring our boy home!  If you haven’t yet, check out our current fundraisers:

Juri’s Birthday Party

November Auction for Juri

Juri’s Christmas Storefront

Fundraising Q&A

Why are you fundraising? Adoption is very near and dear to our hearts. We realize that many of these children, if they are not adopted, have very few options. Orphans with special needs are usually sent to underfunded government mental institutions where many die for lack of food, neglect and other abuse. Healthy orphans are turned out onto the streets as teenagers; no one will hire them and they often have no other choice but to fall into crime, drugs or suicide. Many are sold into the sex slave trade. Unfortunately, international adoption is prohibitively expensive. Saving the lives of these children makes it difficult for families to be found for them.

How much does adoption cost? An international adoption (like ours) costs, on average, $30,000. This is not because we are “buying” a child, but logistically there are many things that need to be paid for. These costs include things like: a homestudy, background checks, translation assistance, international plane tickets, sleeping accommodations during travel, government facilitators, passports, court fees, etc.

If you can’t afford the adoption, how will you afford to care for the child once they are home? This is a common question. There truly is a big difference between paying for an adoption (the equivalent of about $4300 payments a month for seven months) and being able to afford to feed and clothe a child. Many loving, competent, financially stable families would love to bring an orphan into their home, they simply lack the large lump sum needed to get them there.

Do other families fundraise for their adoptions? Yes! Adoption fundraising is becoming more and more common as more people are realizing the plight of these orphans in other countries. Special needs adoption is a ministry that truly reflects God’s love for us! More Christians are realizing this truth and answering God’s call as He “sets the lonely in families”. Churches and communities gather around these families and give them the support they need to get their children home. It is a marvelous and beautiful thing!

Are there any fundraisers going on right now?  I am currently having two Thirty-One parties as fundraisers.  Go to: mythirtyone.com/thecup All commission from sales at this website will go toward our adoption!  We also have some more fundraisers coming up, so stay tuned!

Can I make a tax deductible donation toward your adoption? Absolutely! We are partnering with an organization called Reece’s Rainbow for our adoption. They are a registered 501c3 non-profit that advocates for orphans and helps to raise money for adopting families. You can find our sponsorship page and make a tax deductible gift at: reecesrainbow.org/63824/sponsormueller. Or you can mail your gift to the address below with the memo “Juri for the Mueller Family”.

Juri
Reece’s Rainbow
PO Box 4024
Gaithersburg, MD 20885

Blessings!

Adoption Q&A

Hey everyone!  Wow!  Thank you SO much for the overwhelming flood of support and love we received yesterday after announcing our adoption!  We really cannot be more thrilled to bring this boy into our family and sharing our joy with you has been a much needed blessing!  We have only just started the process, but we are already knee deep in paperwork and weary!  With all the transition this summer, adding an adoption to the mix is quite a lot to bite off, but we want to get to our boy as soon as possible, so here we are!  We got some great questions yesterday about our sweet boy and the adoption, so I put together a little Q&A for you!

Juri in the Ball Pit

 

Where is Juri?

Juri is in Eastern Europe.  We cannot reveal his country of residence in order to protect his privacy.

Is Juri his real name?

No.  Juri is an alias that was used to advocate for him.  It is the name that his many fans know him by, so we will be using it for now until the adoption is completed.  We cannot reveal his birth name to protect his privacy.  If you are wondering how Juri is pronounced, we say it “Yur-ee”.

How old is Juri?  

He will be turning six in November!

How did you find him?  

As most of you know, I have been advocating with an organization called Reece’s Rainbow for quite some time.  He was listed on their website, and he really stood out to Jake, so we prayed about it and God opened the doors for us to pursue his adoption.  Reece’s Rainbow has also set up a Family Sponsorship Page for our adoption.  You can see that here: Juri for the Mueller Family 

Does he have any special needs?  

Yes.  Juri has mild Cerebral Palsy.  It affects only his legs, and makes it very difficult for him to walk.  The last update we have on him is that he does not have much motion in his legs at all and that he is learning how to walk with a walker.  We are hopeful that with braces and regular therapy he will eventually be able to walk on his own!  Also, because he is an older child who has spent his entire life in an orphanage, there will be some delays and emotional trauma associated with that.  We feel very privileged to have the opportunity to walk him through these challenges and help him reach his full potential.

Do you have more pictures?

Yes!  We have LOTS of pictures AND a video!  But I am not going to give them to you all right away.  We have to make them last a while before I get new ones, so you will just have to be on the look out for more cuteness!

When will he come home?  

Adoptions from Juri’s country take about 5-8 months from start to finish.  We are praying that he will be home in time for Easter.  We could be travelling as soon as January or as late as March.  It depends on how fast we get all of our paperwork in and how long it takes it all to be processed and approved.

How will adopting an older child affect your younger children?

Of course, we cannot know for certain how adding Juri will affect our family dynamics.  As with any addition to a family, you just don’t know what your new normal will be!  We have done a lot of reading and learning about this specifically, and we believe that Juri will be a  blessing to our whole family, Evangeline and Stephen especially.  I just read a blog post the other day that absolutely sums up my thoughts and what I have witnessed over the years in adoptions like ours.  It’s long but I encourage everyone to take a look; it’s very eye opening!  Read it here: How Adoption Effects Bio Children

How much will it cost?  

Our adoption will cost approximately $25,000.  This includes six weeks of travel, homestudy costs, facilitation fees, medicals, etc.

How will you pay for the adoption?  

That is a great question!  The honest answer is, we don’t know.  The other honest answer is, we trust that God will provide.  If He wants to place Juri in our family, He will get us there one way or the other.  We don’t have the kind of money an international adoption costs.  Even just the (relatively) small upfront costs we have already paid have been a stretch for our family financially.  We definitely have the money to care for him once he is home, but shelling out 25k in a matter of 5 to 8 months?  Very few families I know can do that out of pocket and there are SO many children needing a good home.

So what’s the solution?  Well, we have already been blessed with Juri’s Reece’s Rainbow grant fund.  This is the fund that was held for him before he found a family.  It has almost $2000 in it that we will be able to use toward the costs at the end of our adoption.  We will be as frugal as we possibly can from now until Juri is home so we can put as much of our own money into this process as possible.  But the reality is, we are still looking at $20,000 (give or take) that we need to get him home that we just do not have yet and do not know where it is going to come from.

We will be putting together some fundraisers in the coming months for Juri’s adoption, please stay updated and participate as you can!  We don’t have any put together yet, but donations can be made at any time to our family’s Reece’s Rainbow Grant Fund.  Gifts made to Reece’s Rainbow are tax deductible and 100% of the money will be given to our family to use on adoption expenses when we travel.  Tomorrow I will put together a totally separate Q&A post on fundraising for you all.  So if you have other questions about this very necessary aspect of our adoption, feel free to ask!

Why not adopt out of foster care?

Because our son is not in foster care, he is in Eastern Europe!  To us, every orphan needs a loving family.  Our decision wasn’t about where we wanted to adopt from, it was about who is our son and where is he so we can go get him?  In the last several months we have been doing a lot of praying and, trust me, lots of looking on databases of children waiting for families (from the U.S. and all over the world).  We considered taking blind referrals and every other which way you could imagine going about an adoption.

I can’t explain it other than it has become very evident to us in the last few months that Juri is our son.  God is opening the doors.  So we are going to go get him!  Yes, foster care would be so much cheaper and easier for many reasons, but if we adopted from foster care we would not be able to adopt Juri.  We are not opposed to foster care, in fact, we would love to go that route one day!  But for today we are being called to this little boy half way across the world.  We are not counting the cost, because he is more than worth all of it!

Thank you all for taking this journey with us!  If you want to stay updated you can subscribe to our blog using the handy button on the right hand side (just above “Reader’s Favorites” and just under Stephen’s adorable newborn picture that sorely needs to be updated!)

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