Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

Merry Christmas, we pray you and your families’ are having a wonderful time together this holiday and that you may be blessed this New Year.

As I write this letter, I remember writing our letter in 2012 and how I was looking forward to a quiet, restful, peaceful 2013.  The year started out pretty well with me returning to work and Leeza transitioning smoothly to daycare, but as most of you have heard- by May we were surprised to find out that we were expecting again!  Yes, this is the second time that we've conceived after adopting.  Everyone likes to ask us how it happened and we like to joke that we're on God's buy one, get one free plan.  However, we know that this is just part of God's amazing plan for our lives.  He loves us and wants us to have an amazing story to share with all of you.  It's pretty humbling when I look back 7 years ago and think of all the tears I cried wanting a baby.  Now God has turned all of my tears into joy and I can't believe that I'm soon to be a mother of 4.  How quickly everything can change when you trust in Him.

The new baby is due any day.  It's a boy.  The kids are very excited.  Evan is excited to be a big brother again, but he's a little disappointed that the baby isn't a girl.  He still has a very special bond with Leeza and he wanted another baby sister.  Nolan is excited to give the baby his old baby toys and secretly we know he just plans to play with them again too.  He likes to climb in the walker and if we let him he’d get in the swing too.  Leeza likes to kiss my belly and is fascinated by the changes in my body.  She is excited to hold the baby and she’s got big plans for him. I’m worried that she’s going to think that it’s HER baby.  We’re going to have to watch her closely because she’s going to want to pick up the baby and put it in her new doll crib and stroller. 
Announcing the baby

It's a boy- they were playing with diapers and mommy had an idea.

Leeza is 2.5 and she is doing great.  She loves her family, mommy, daddy and brothers and she has also discovered that both of her Grandma’s have a soft spot for her that she is using to her advantage.  Leeza is doing great at daycare; she is well loved by her teachers and has many friends.  She is a very active, vocal little girl.  Her speech is perfect and she constantly quizzes us throughout the day.  She wants to do everything by herself, including dressing herself and choosing her clothes.  She loves Hello Kitty, Dora, and frilly and glittery things.  When it comes to clothes she is a girlie girl, but when it comes to play she is all boy.  She plays trucks and whatever else the boys are doing.  She is extremely agile and athletic, she swims like a fish and can throw and hit a baseball.  Michael says she is going to be the athlete of the family.  This fall, I started her in dance class to channel some of her physical abilities.  The first few weeks she just kicked her feet and sucked her fingers.  I thought of holding off for a while, but every morning she would beg to go to dance class.  Now she is doing everything at class and dancing more and more around the house.  Leeza has been wearing big girl underpants for the last few weeks.  We still have a few accidents, but we’re hoping she’s fully trained by the time the new baby arrives.  She’s still a lightweight, at only 22 lbs., but she eats well and has doubled her size since she came home from Russia.

Leeza's baby dedication

Girlie tom boy

Dance class

Nolan is 3.5 and he’s a big boy.  He’s 34 pounds and too hard to carry anymore.  He’s a good boy, but he’s beginning to test our boundaries.  He’s outgrowing nap time.  He loves diggers, trucks, Dora and games on the Ipad.  He’s a good big brother to Leeza and most of the time he enjoys playing with her.  He also enjoys playing with Evan and Evan’s friends.  Nolan is (most of the time) our easygoing child who listens well.  He likes to be goofy and silly.  Nolan is giving up his room to the new baby and is moving in with Evan.  Nolan is easy going and this doesn’t seem to bother him.  Nolan and Leeza both go to the same daycare during the week.  They see each other on the playground, but his fall he will enter VPK at Evan’s school.

Evan is 6.5 and a first grader this year.  He’s doing great in school.  Math, (after PE) is his favorite subject and he is reading really well.  Michael & I are amazed at all of the stuff 1st graders have to learn nowadays.  It’s a lot of work!!!  Evan is well liked by his teacher and he has many, many, many friends and girlfriends.  Last year we tried out T-ball but he wasn’t ready for it.  He prefers to come home from school and ride his bike and play with the neighbor kids.  This year we’re trying out Odyssey of the Mind as an after school activity.  He continues to swim like a fish so maybe someday we’ll try swimming.  Right now with the new baby and the little ones we just don’t have time.  Evan continues to be a compassionate and loving big brother.  He is always looking out for his siblings and he is extremely protective of them.  Often you"ll see Evan carrying Leeza or trying to hold Nolan's hand to keep them from getting hurt or running off in public.

In MN with Grandma

Michael continues to enjoy work as a nurse anesthetist and I am still with my employer as a pharmaceutical sales representative.  God has greatly blessed us not only with our beautiful children, but financially as well & we are so thankful. 

In April, Michael and I escaped from the kids for a weekend cruise to the Bahamas.  Thanks Grandma & Grandpa for watching the kids!  When we got back, my parents were tired and they told us before returning to MN, “No more grandchildren!”  Ha, ha- look how that turned out.

We also took the kids to Disney for a few days in April and then to Sea World this October.  They loved both places.

Sea World

Brrr! Only 32 degrees in the penguin exhibit.

In July we visited our families in MN.  The kids had a great time and Evan travelled ahead of us and spent 2 weeks being spoiled by both of his grandparents.  We can’t really call it a vacation, because travelling with a 6, 3 and 2 year old doesn’t feel like a vacation.  We’re informed our parents that flying with the new baby isn’t going to be in our plans for a few years.  However, FL has some really nice family resorts that we’re happy to meet them at!

Last year at this time we were saddened to hear of Russia’s adoption ban to the US.  Unfortunately there isn’t any good news to report in this matter.  Hundreds of American families were stuck in the process and many still hold out hope for the children they met and love.  There are estimates that 600,000 or more children are living in orphanages in Russia.  Putin claims that they are finding homes for these children however, reports coming out of Russia say that very Russians have adopted few of the children who were promised to American families.  The ban has spread to include more countries, and at this time it appears that only citizens of Italy may adopt from Russia.  It’s hard for us to look in Evan and Leeza’s eyes and think of the children left behind.  They have grown and changed so much since we brought them home.  Please continue to pray for the orphans in Russia and around the world and pray for those families who are stuck in the process.

One of the sad results of the ban is that many American families who have adopted from Russia are afraid to speak out publicly.   They are afraid that somehow the Russian government will try to take their children.  Families who were proud of their children’s heritage and planned to visit Russia with their adopted children are now afraid to visit Russia.  During the Russian lawmakers debates, lawmakers made claims that Americans were adopting children to receive money from the US government, to abuse physically or sexually, and one Russian lawmaker went so far as to claim that Americans were adopting children to be organ donors!!! 

Michael and I are proud to have children adopted from Russia.  We love our adopted children as much as our biological children and we believe that one of the only ways to dispel these lies is to let people see the truth.  While I haven’t had much time this year to update the blog we’re committed to completing our post-adoption reports and to sharing our story publicly so that Russians can see that their children are safe and loved in American homes.

XOXO- Love and God's Blessings to you from the Tichy's

Monday, December 16, 2013

Coming soon….

Finally, an update and our annual Christmas letter!!!!

Leeza still loves Santa!

Friday, December 28, 2012

My heart is breaking...

My heart is breaking.  I woke up to find that Putin signed into law a bill that bans adoptions of Russian orphans by Americans.  I've been praying for days that this would not happen.  The ban was passed to punish the US for signing into law the Magnitsky Act.  The Magnitsky Act is a law recently passed to prevent human rights violators in Russia from visiting the US or holding assets here.  I don't know that much about the Magnitsky Act, but I do know that it has nothing to do with ORPHANS.  By banning US adoptions the Russians are punishing US adoptive families, but most of all they are punishing innocent ORPHANS.  Here's the latest news this morning in regards to the new law.

I can't help but feel grateful for my beautiful children and relieved that we brought Leeza home just in time.  She has been home 12 weeks now.  I look at her and can't help to think that she's one of the lucky ones, one of the last Russian princesses to escape.  Her future in Russia was bleak.

My heart is breaking for the families who are in the process.  There are families who are stuck right in the middle of this turmoil.  Families who have met their child, held their child and adopted their child in their hearts.  These are families and mothers like me, whose roads to motherhood have been long and painful, filled with tears and years of longing for children they haven't been able to conceive.  Many have had painful miscarriages or hopes dashed adopting domestically.  Now when they finally thought it was all worth it- that their suffering had been for a reason- for this one special child in a land far away- their dreams have turned into a nightmare.  Their child, the child they love and have adopted in their heart, is on the other side of the world, forever trapped and being held ransom as a political pawn.  So far 56 families have been identified who have travelled twice, met their child, bonded with their child and then attended court and had a Russian judge agree to their adoption petition.  These families have met every requirement of Russian law and were told to return in 30 days for their child, but now they are being told that the adoption is over.  Over the last week we've been praying the bill would not pass that this just couldn't happen, especially not now, not at Christmas time.  We hoped and prayed for a miracle, but it seems now we need to pray that these precious few will be able to join their families.  There are likely hundreds more families who are in the process and have met their children too- that's hundreds of heart broken families.

We've been told that the reason for the ban is also because of the 19 US adopted children who have died due to abuse, however because of the proposed ban reporters in Russia have been sharing more information about how common abuse and abandonment of adopted children is in Russia.

"According to various estimates, 50 to 95 percent of children who grow up in Russian orphanages become drug addicts or alcoholics or commit suicide. Russian orphanages essentially produce children who suffer from Mowgli Syndrome — that is, they are ill-equipped to function in any capacity in society.

Neither is the situation particularly rosy regarding Russian adoptive parents. According to official government statistics, a child adopted by Russian parents is 39 times more likely to die than one adopted by parents in the West. Of course, the causes of death include not only murder and involuntary manslaughter but also car accidents, illness and other factors. Unfortunately, even those statistics understate the problem because Russian courts often fail to initiate criminal proceedings when children are the victims of mistreatment or abuse."

Read more:
The Moscow Times

Putin claims that they are going to put more emphasis on Russian adoptions and that the orphans will be adopted there.  I have doubts that this will happen.  Leeza and Evan were both available for adoption for more than a year by Russians and they were never chosen.  Since our first adoption in 2008 we've been told the Russians began a pro-adoption, pro-family advertising campaign and the orphanages were still full when we visited fall 2012.  I think Putin's claims are just claims so that the human rights organizations who are outraged by this action will go away.  Even Russian citizens aren't in support of the ban.

Evan and Leeza would not have been adopted by Russians, but they might have been adopted by a European family.  However children with special needs will probably not be so fortunate.

Last night I contacted a local news station, WINK news, offering to speak about the ban and share our adoption story.  Within 30 minutes I had a reply that they would love to do a story.  What a blessing!  I pray that seeing Leeza and Evan's sweet faces will help to bring more attention to this story.  Rachael Rafanelli, came to our home this morning to interview us.  She was lovely and very gracious and we are thankful for her interest in the story.  Evan is very excited to be on TV.  Michael was at work so I got the limelight.  Yikes!  I'm not a fan of watching myself in our own videos- but I am willing to sacrifice my pride to show off my beautiful children and to hopefully inspire others to pray for the Russian orphans and the families who are in process.  Here's the link to the wink news site

I was also impressed to see Senator Marco Rubio ask President Obama to "forcefully condemn this action" in response to this ban.  His own sister has adopted children from Russia.

If you're reading my blog for the first time you might be thinking- why don't you just adopt from the US and why don't we just take care of our own first?  I think that's a wonderful idea.  Please do- try to adopt from the US, join the long, long, LONG waiting list of families.  I think the wait for some agencies are 5 years or longer.  There are very few children available for adoption here, while children sit in orphanages around the world waiting for a home.  But don't let that stop you, you can help kids today- take in a child from the foster care system.  Care and love that child and then have your heart broken when they have to return to their parent who abused or neglected them.  I fully support and encourage families to adopt any child, anywhere, at any time.  Domestic, foster to adopt or international, I'd probably even support inter-galactic adoption too (if it existed).  Adoption is beautiful and amazing and giving a child a home should never be criticized.  There are 147 million orphans in this world and if every Christian in the US adopted we'd empty out the orphanages and the foster care system in one swipe.

My baby was worth the wait.  How can you NOT love this child?

A child is a child and no child should be denied a home when a loving one has been found for them. What can we do?  First- pray.  Pray that this law will be removed and that Russian adoptions can go forward.  Pray for the families who have met their child and desperately want to bring them home.  Pray for the families who have just started the process and give them hope that their child is out there somewhere and that one day they will bring them home.  But most of all pray for ORPHANS everywhere.  There are 147 million orphans worldwide who need loving homes.

Pray for ophans in Russia and the world.  They have no voice, no one to protect them.
They have become the ENEMY of their countries.

Here is a petiton you can sign that is being sent to Putin. It can't hurt to sign.

Also you can contact your Senator or Representatives and ask them to help bring the children home of the families who are in process.  Russia signed a inter-country adoption treaty this summer that promised the US that each country would need to inform the other of changes one year in advance.  We're praying for Pres. Obama to hold Putin to this commitment.  This would mean all families who are in process would have time to complete their adoptions.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Our Annual Christmas letter...

Merry Christmas friends and family,

We've pray you are all well and that your families are enjoying this wonderful time together.  One of our favorite things about this time of year is receiving letters and cards from our family and friends near and far.  We love to read your letters and see your family photos.  It's one of the highlights of the Holidays for us.

This year I decided to share our annual letter here for two reasons.  One- because then I could procrastinate a little bit longer and two- Michael doesn't like folding and stuffing the letter in 100 cards!  I hope you don't mind having to log on and find it here- but with 3 kids, it's the best I can do.  Plus this way I can include lots more photos.

January began a new year and new challenges for our family.  The company I worked for was purchased by another and in December 2011 I was informed that I would retain my position despite layoffs.  Praise God!  We had prepared and would have been okay without my employment, but Michael wasn't really thrilled with becoming the sole breadwinner.  I joked to him during the process that maybe God was telling us I was supposed to stay at home with the kids, but Michael didn't agree.  My sales territory changed and I got different manager, but most everything else has remained the same.  As a result, I am very thankful in this difficult economy to have my job.

Michael is still employed by the same anesthesia group.  Their business has remained steady and they keep him busy.  He still finds time to squeeze in weigh lifting and lots of time to play with the kids.  He is a wonderful father and if you're at our house you'll hear the children begging him to play because he's just TOO MUCH FUN!.

We also began the wait to adopt from Russia again.  This meant that much of our income and vacation time had to be saved for the THREE trips to Russia.  Yikes!  Yes, 3 trips.  In January, Russia made a change and began to require 3 trips.  We settled in for a long wait and we were surprised to get the call in June for a baby girl.

We traveled with short notice in June to meet Leeza and then came home and 36 hours later flew to MN for the July 4th Holiday at the lake.  Our tickets to MN had already been purchased or we probably would have cancelled the trip.  Between our trip to Russia and our family vacation, Michael and I were gone for almost a month.  By the time we were home, we really missed sleeping in our own bed.

Before we left for our first trip things were chaotic and very stressful.  We had only 8 days notice and lots of paperwork and medicals to complete before leaving.  Every document had to be perfect or it wouldn't be valid.  Everyday a new crisis appeared and it looked like we might never make it to Russia to meet our daughter.  I found myself daily crying and pleading for God's help.  My daily manta became the Skillet song, "I can't do this, I can't do this, Oh, God I need your help."  If you'd been anywhere near me you would have thought I was crazy and a few times even I thought I was crazy.  Once we finally boarded the plane to Russia all the obstacles fell away and our trip was smooth sailing. Leeza on the other hand, wasn't that thrilled with her new mommy and daddy.  She had recently been moved to a different room in the orphanage and she had lost all of her familiar caregivers so when we visited initially she cried or was afraid most of the time.  It was hard on her, but gradually she became more comfortable with us.  We visited her 8 days and most of the time she just wanted to sit on my lap and be held.  While it was difficult, we never doubted that God had chosen her for us.

In August, we made our second trip to Russia for court.  Once again we had short notice for this trip too.  We visited with Leeza another 3 days and had a long 3.5 hour gruelling court session.  The judge finally said yes to our petition to adopt, but it wasn't a fun experience.  On the bright side, we had the pleasure of meeting The Recine's from Canada who were on their first trip to meet their son, Marco.  This was the first time that we met another family while in Russia and it was wonderful to have some adoption comrades.  Marco is their first child and it was wonderful to see their joy and relive our memories of meeting Evan for the first time.

When we got home from Russia, I decided that we'd better hurry up and take the kids to Disney.  I guess I felt a little guilty about being gone and thought we should squeeze in one last memory before we became a family of 5.  Here's some pics from the trip.

We also celebrated our 12th year of marriage.  Well honestly, with all of the craziness and last minute trips to Russia and preparation for our new daughter we forgot our anniversary.  Michael wished me a Happy Anniversary 3 weeks late and to be honest, I hadn't even noticed.  Oops!  That's what can happen when you're adopting internationally.  I joke that every trip to Russia deleted my brain and that I am suffering from amnesia.  Hopefully in 2013, I can get my memory back.

October 1st, we left the orphanage for the last time with Leeza.  She was frightened, but adjusted quickly.  We spent another week in Russia completing paperwork and then we flew home.  Evan, Nolan, Grandma and Grandpa met us in the morning.  Everyone was thrilled to meet her, well everyone but Nolan.  He had a hard time the first two weeks because he missed his mommy and Leeza wasn't willing to share me with him.  He also got sick.  (For more about our homecoming look in the October posts.)

Leeza has been home 3 months.  Next week I go back to work and she will begin daycare.  She will be going to daycare with Nolan, but they won't be in the same classroom.  We're praying that she transitions well.  She really has come a long way since she came home.  The first few weeks she clung to my legs all day, everyday and especially if anyone came near us.  Now she can handle visitors and family, but she will run to me it you try to pick her up.  She is vibrant, energetic and a little bit stubborn.  She loves her brothers, especially Evan and she loves to wrestle.  She also enjoys girlie stuff like shoes and dresses and she eats and sleeps well.  She loves her mommy and daddy and she is very well attached.  Sometimes I feel like she's a Velcro monkey on my hip.

Evan is now 5 and he began full-day Kindergarten this year.  He was very excited to begin school and even more excited to ride the school bus the first day of school.  He is doing very well in school and he continues to be a kind and loving friend to everyone.  He still has a tender, compassionate heart and even though he loves being BIG he still loves his mommy and daddy and loves to cuddle.  Evan played a T-ball this year and he still swims like a shark.   The highlight of the year for Evan is his baby sister.  From the moment we began the adoption process he starting asking us to bring his baby sister home.  Evan is THRILLED to be a big brother again.  He's been proud to show off his sister at school and he's proud to say he's Russian too.  This year for Christmas he asked for a globe so he can see where Russia is and how far we travelled for them. I can't wait to give it to him.  I want to mark his hometown and Leeza's with hearts and tell them how I love them to other side of the world and back (5X!).

Nolan is 2.5 and he's still our easy going child.  He is always happy, silly and sweet.  He listens and obeys easily.  Sometimes we joke that if all our kids could be like Nolan, we'd have 3 more.  Nolan is in daycare at our church during the week and he is very happy to be there with his friends.  Nolan had a hard time at first with his baby sister since he missed his mommy and daddy so much, but now he loves her and likes to play with her.  He's a typical 2.5 year old who loves his nukie and playing in the sandbox with diggers and trucks.  He has no interest in the potty, but he can sing his ABC's and he loves to read stories with mommy and daddy.

We've been blessed to have my parents visit early this year. They arrived the Saturday after Thanksgiving and we've been doing our best to give them lots and lots and LOTS of quality time with their grand kids!!!  Pop Pop and Grandma Sue have also made their annual trips to visit us and they are thrilled with their new granddaughter.

This year we said goodbye to my Grandma Lois.  She passed away one month before we got the call to go to Russia.  While I know she would have loved to meet Leeza in the flesh, I know that she enjoyed being with us in spirit everyday of our journey and she had the pleasure of meeting her great-granddaughter first.

That's it for us this year.  We're hoping for a little less excitement in 2013 and maybe some much needed rest and relaxation.

Thank you for all of your prayers, well wishes, comments, encouragement and gifts over the last year.  International adoption is physically, mentally, spiritually and financially challenging and we couldn't have done it without the support of our friends and family.  Thank you so much.

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Our prayer for you this year is that God will continue to bless your families with health and happiness.  We also pray for those who are hurting this Holiday that God will wrap you in His arms and give you His comfort and peace.

Sorry Santa...
We also ask that you would pray for Russian orphans this Holiday.  Laws are being proposed in Russia to ban the adoption of orphans by Americans.  This means that children just like Evan and Leeza will never get the chance to find their forever families.  This means that families like us who have already met and adopted their child into their hearts would not be able to bring their child home.  We cannot imagine the heartache and fear these families are experiencing right now.  Please add them to your Christmas prayers and pray that this law does not pass.  Putin is scheduled to sign or not sign the law into effect on 12/26/2012 (with the time change that's our Christmas Day).

The Tichys