Monday, December 24, 2012

One Week Home Already!

So our driver picked us up last Friday at 3am and headed to the Kiev airport to board the first of three flights.  Want to know what Terminal D looks like at that time of morning?

As the plane sped down the runway and began its ascent, I had to quickly wipe away a tear or two (didn't want Bella to see me cry and become concerned).  I was so RELIEVED and HAPPY this journey was almost over and I was leaving this country to go back to my home.  Don't get me wrong - I had a good experience there, and I met people who I believe will be part of my life forever.  But there are things about Ukraine that make me feel sad and hollow inside, that make me try to find answers to questions that I sometimes I wish I didn't even know to ask. 

And so it was when we landed in Frankfurt, Germany a couple of hours later...this time I think I cried a little because it just all looked so beautiful and so normal to me - like confirmation that I was back in the "real" world instead of bleak otherworldly Eastern Europe. 

Meanwhile, Bella was handling all the travel extremely well!  I had to purchase two airplane seats for her since she cannot tolerate sitting up yet.  Our next flight was from Frankfurt to San Fransisco - 11 hours and 40 minutes, and she was so good.  I know adults who can't behave on a flight that long!   We met some neat people along the way - for example, there was a Russian-speaking missionary on our long flight who had actually lived in Ukraine for two years.  He happened to be standing behind us as we were waiting in line to get on the plane and we struck up a conversation.  He was able to help me out some.   Once we cleared customs in San Francisco (and I said I had no prohibited items!) and were waiting to get our bags and recheck them, an airport dog made a hit on my carry-on bag.  The agent asked me if I had produce and I discovered that I'd accidentally carried a banana from Europe.  He was nice about it, and as he wrote on my customs form, he asked me about what I had been doing in Ukraine.  When I told him, his eyes lit up and he told me that he and his wife had adopted one child internationally and were in the process of adopting another :)  After our layover we boarded our last flight to Honolulu.  Unlike the other flights, Bella slept for the entire time but I was too excited to do anything except watch the minutes tick by.

When we arrived in home sweet Honolulu, there were no tears for me.  I was soaring with excitement and relief.  We were greeted by many of our friends (some of whom are adoptive families) - it was very special to have some of the people who supported us and prayed for us throughout this process there to see it all come to fruition.

Bella took everything in stride - smiling at everyone, extending her hand to greet them, and reveling in the attention from the other children present.  My friends Andrea (mom to two internationally adopted children) and Amy captured some special moments for us: 

The only time I got choked up was when my two year old son came running toward me, arms spread wide, and jumped into my embrace.  Oh, it has never felt so good to hold my little boy. 

Here is our first family photo (with friends Anya and Brandon).  Anya is from Uzbekistan and speaks Russian, so she and Bella were instant friends!  We are very thankful for her.

We had arranged to admit Bella to the hospital as soon as we arrived in Honolulu due to some risks associated with her condition, but she was doing so well that I thought it would be better for her emotionally if she was allowed to SEE her new home and spend one night there prior to going to this hospital.  Anya explained the plan to her, and she understood.  She loved our house, our Christmas tree, and her new room.  She also LOVED being with her sister again!

Saturday morning we headed to the hospital where Bella spent the next five days being monitored for refeeding syndrome and getting everything else she needed.  She was a champ!  She only cried a few times during the entire stay, when she was afraid or hurting.  Her emotional responses were appropriate and when it was over she recovered quickly.  That was very encouraging for us to see!  It went better than we could have ever hoped for.  She has a long, long road ahead of her but we know that she will persevere.

 On Wednesday Bella was discharged to home!  Since then we have just been concentrating on starting life together as a family of five.  She has experienced many firsts in just a few days.  She is picking up new English words every day.  She is just a delightful little girl.  I sometimes look at Rob and say "Is this real?"  There has been no anger or grief on her part, no tantrums, defiance, or inappropriate behavior.  She seeks out eye contact and smiles, is happy to receive affection, willing to try any new food, says please and thank you, and loves her siblings.  Of course we know that things may take a turn at any time, as this journey has just begun.  But after a week home with this joyful child, we are cautiously optimistic that things will continue to go well.  Through almost nightly conversations with our Russian-speaking friend, we have learned of Bella's rather insightful observations about life in an institution, and how she feels about leaving there (more encouragement for us).

So I'll close with a video and couple of photos from her first official outing with her new family, to watch her sister's Christmas hula performance.  Bella LOVED it - the music, the children, the socialization - she just soaked it up and the smile never left her face.

I added the video for a few reasons:  the song is beautiful, the hula is beautiful, Bou is in it (angel in the center), and you can see Bella's reaction at the end of it :)


  1. Oh Lisa, I am reading this and tears are filling my eyes. Praise God for orchestrating all of this perfectly! I am only sad because I wasn't there at the airport to greet you and Bella home. What great pictures that were taken to capture that sweet and joyful moment. May God continue to strengthen Bella and that her knowledge of Him will grow each day.

  2. The hula was beautiful. Thanks for that peaceful video. Bella looks great and I know in a month she'll look even better. Will you share pictures the first time she sees, touches the ocean? I know she will love it. Have a wonderful Christmas!

  3. As a Southerner (we live in NC), our Christmas pageants are a bit different. I'm so glad I watched the video. The song and the hula were just beautiful!! It made my Christmas Eve to watch it and see Bella's reaction at the end. May God continue to bless your family.

  4. We live in NC so I'm not use to seeing Christmas celebrated with Hula. However, that was one of the most beautiful things I've seen in awhile. I love the song and the hula was beautiful. May God continue to bless Bella and your family.

  5. That was so beautiful!

    I'm so happy that Bella has found a home and a family.


  6. Just beautiful!!! Conratulations!! <3 <3

  7. She is just such a smiley little girl! I am so overjoyed to see her home!!!!!

  8. She is just precious! Her sweet, happy smile just brings me to tears! Congratulations!!!!

  9. Oh this is just too precious for words! The photo of her with her sister in bed gets to my heart like no other. God bless you all and HAPPY NEW YEAR! Thank you for sharing your family. Blessings, Katrina