Monday, August 27, 2007


Hallelujah, our dossier is DONE! Well, it has been "done" in the sense that we have had all of the documents for the past three weeks, BUT, we FINALLY got approval from our agency to submit it without Evan's surname in the appointment request letter (For those of you who are in the dark about this "issue," in order to request a specific child from the SDA in Ukraine we must include certain information in our appointment request letter to enable them to locate the child's file. We were hoping to submit the letter with his first AND last names, but the director of the orphanage has been on vacation all month (along with everyone else in Eastern Europe) and we have been unable to get it). Rather than using his first and last names in our request we simply used the information that we had available (first name, birth date, city, orphanage) and are hoping that it will suffice (we will still ask the orphanage director for his surname and pass it on to our facilitator just in case the SDA is unable to locate his file with the information provided, however).

Now that I have confused everyone completely with senseless details, let me tell you about my day! On Friday Richard and I took the last of our documents to be notarized. Unfortunately it was too late in the day to run them by the courthouse to be county certified so I decided to add that to my "to do" list for today. I woke up bright and early this morning, got dressed, woke the kids, fed them, dressed them and finished gathering all of my paperwork. Thanks to my wonderful friend Stacey (seriously Stacey, you are FANTASTIC), I was able to run my countless adoption "errands" this morning WITHOUT my children in tow (they are too young to realize how happy they should be that I didn't drag them along for the ride, but I will be sure to tell them how lucky they were someday!).

I left the house this morning around 9 am. My first stop (other than to gas up the mommy mobile) was the Greene County Courthouse. Ohio is one of several states that requires additional county-level certification of documents. These certifications simply state the the notary who notarized your documents is in fact a notary commissioned in that county. I spent about 25 minutes at the courthouse and then hopped back into the mommy mobile with my newly certified documents and headed for Columbus (just over an hour away). Upon arriving in Columbus I proceeded to drive around for 15-20 minutes looking for a place to park. As luck would have it, I managed to find a metered parking space between my two destinations. . .as luck would NOT have it, I had somehow managed to walk out the door this morning WITHOUT my stash of quarters for the meter!!! After rummaging around in my purse, the cupholders, and the floorboards, I managed to come up with about 30 cents which bought me about 15 minutes. With no other options, I quickly said a prayer that the meter maids would skip over the street I was on and I started to head for the Franklin County Courthouse about 4 blocks away.

The Franklin County "Government Center" is an enormous building and I have to admit, after visiting the Greene County Courthouse earlier this morning (very small, very straightforward), I was slightly overwhelmed. The information I had found on their website had instructed me to go to the 23rd floor so I headed for the elevators. Now, I have to say, I generally enjoy a good elevator ride, but these were like elevators on speed. By the time I reached the 23rd flood (which probably only took about 3 seconds. . .seriously) my head was spinning and I felt like I was going to puke. For a minute I thought I had just stepped off an amusement park ride rather than an elevator. So, when I walked into the office labeled "Clerk of Courts" and was told I would need to go back down to the 3rd floor, I was less than thrilled by the thought of getting back onto the warp-speed elevators. I took a deep breath, stepped onto the elevator and held on for dear life. Eventually, with the help of several very helpful people, I found the correct office and was able to get my last two documents county certified.

Once I was done at the courthouse I headed back to the mommy mobile to see if I could scrounge up any more change (by this time the parking meter had been empty for a good 20 minutes), but alas there was no more change to be found. Again, I said a quick prayer that the meter maids would be on their lunch break and unable to hand out parking tickets and walked the 4 or so blocks to the Secretary of State's Office to have all of my documents apostilled. I have visited the SoS several times now, so this trip was old hat. I was in and out of that building (whose elevators, thank goodness, operate at normal speeds) in less than 15 minutes. Stepping out of that building I felt like a new woman. My paperwork was DONE!!! I could just feel the weight being lifted off my shoulders. Unfortunately I didn't have a lot of time to celebrate as I needed to high tail it back to the mommy mobile before the meter maids came back from lunch. Heaven must've been smiling down on me today because thankfully, my windshield was free of parking tickets when I returned.

I made the drive home and relieved Stacey of her duties (really Stacey I cannot thank you enough. . .just thinking about dragging my children through the streets of downtown Columbus (and taking them on warp-speed elevator rides) makes my head spin. . .you really are FABULOUS) and then collapsed into a pile on my couch and took a few minutes to revel in the elation of having our paperwork DONE!!!

Unfortunately the director of our agency is on vacation this week (a very well deserved vacation I might add) so she won't be able to send our dossier off to Ukraine until next week, but really, I am just glad that it is done. I will be sending it to the agency tomorrow and then I will be throwing myself a little party! For some people, the "waiting" is the most stressful part of the adoption process. While I admit that it is hard to wait, it is probably the LEAST stressful part for me. No, my stress comes from having that paperwork sitting on my desk, knowing that it is still in my hands and that I am still in control of it. Once it is gone, out of my hands, and I have no control over the process, I actually relax a little and it is wonderful!

It feels SO good to be DONE!!!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Test of Faith

Although I have watched the video above more times than I can count, the tears flow freely every time I watch it. As a mother, my heart aches for each of those children and I wish that I could take each of them into my arms and whisper in their ears that they are special, beautiful and beloved children of God. The statistics are heart wrenching and I wish that I could find a way to bring each and every one of them into a loving family.

We have been approved by our government to adopt up to three children. While I do not feel that we will adopt a third, I pray every day to know Heavenly Father's will and that, if Joshua and Evan are meant to be the only children we adopt at this time, that I will have the strength to look into the eyes of those precious children and know that it is HIS will. It has truly been a test of faith for me!

Let's start from the very beginning. . . .

Our adoption "journey" began the day that our triplets were born. . .well, okay, technically it began during my pregnancy when every person we met would laugh and say to us, "Oh, an instant family! You aren't planning to have any more are you?" After being confronted with these statements and questions for what seemed like the millionth time, my husband and I decided that no, we were not "done." We knew that there were more children who were meant to be a part of our family (and if you REALLY want to get technical, we believe that this was all part of the "plan" before we even made our debuts here on earth, but, for the sake of time, we won't get into that). HOW those other children would come into our family was determined the day that our triplets were born.

After a difficult pregnancy it appeared that the delivery would be following the same pattern. After spending almost 4 days in the hospital, I was wheeled into the operating room for an emergency c-section. I was very sick and the doctors needed to get my babies out quickly. Once the surgery was underway, all three of my children were out within a minute and a half. I do not remember much after that as I started to lose blood rapidly and was in and out of consciousness. To make a very long story very short, the doctors were unable to stop the bleeding and I had to undergo an emergency hysterectomy to save my life. I was 21 years-old at the time. While it seems like a tragic story, I have yet to this day, to feel sorrow for my loss. I expected to feel devastation and sadness. Fortunately that has not been the case and I have been able to focus on the positive aspects of the "situation". For example, if I can be perfectly honest, I am quite happy about the fact that I will not have another period for the rest of my life, will never have to use birth control ever again and will not have to experience physical labor in order to bring another child into our family (I say physical labor because, anyone who has ever gone through the adoption process knows that there is quite a bit of "labor" involved)! Once all of the drugs had worn off and I was able to manage coherent thought again, I believe my first thoughts went something like this, "Thank you Heavenly Father for three beautiful, healthy babies," and "Looks like our next child/children will be adopted!"

Shortly after we celebrated our children's first birthday we started to pursue the domestic adoption of an infant through our church. We didn't really give it much thought, we just always assumed that we would go through our church agency (who only places infants domestically) when it came time to add to our family. Six months after we had begun the process we were still only 1/3 of the way through our homestudy. Several months later we had still made no progress. We knew that there were more children meant for our family. We knew that we would adopt. I just did not understand why we were dragging our feet (scratch that, I think "dragging" would be giving us too much credit). Looking back I realize that there were a combination of factors contributing to our snail-like pace, the most important being, it was not the right time and it was not the right path.

In January of this year we realized that we were on the wrong path and we quickly began researching all of our options. Our hearts soon turned to International Adoption. We began researching countries, agencies, financing, traveling. . .everything that international adoption entails. After countless hours, day, weeks, months of research, thought and prayer we found ourselves drawn to Uzbekistan and knew that we would find our child there. We selected an agency to assist us on our journey (fabulous agency by the way, I would highly recommend them to anyone, About A Child) and we were off, full-speed ahead! One morning in late March, I logged onto my agency account and, on a whim, clicked on the Waiting Children's photolisting. My eyes fell immediately upon a beautiful baby boy from Uzbekistan. My heart raced as I clicked on his picture to learn more about him. As I scrolled down the page I discovered why this precious little boy had been listed as a waiting child. He was born with a rare birth defect known as phocomelia of the legs (the long bones of his legs failed to form in the womb so his legs end just below the hips). While I could clearly see his disability and was somewhat intimidated by what it all might entail, I could not deny the feeling that this sweet baby boy was meant to be ours. Richard and I spent a lot of time discussing this little boy, his medical needs, what his life might be like, and whether or not we would be able to adequately meet his needs, but what it really came down to was that, after consulting the Lord in prayer many, many times, we just knew that it was HIS plan that this little boy be a part of our family. We contacted our agency and informed them of our desire to adopt this baby boy and, from that day forward, in our hearts, that precious little boy became ours. When he comes home (which we hope will be soon) he will be Joshua Steve Ortyk Rieben.

As we came closer to submitting our dossier for Uzbekistan, I began to have this nagging feeling that someone was still missing. Richard and I had already made the decision that we would adopt one more time, but I think we both thought we would wait a few years before starting the process again. I tried to put the thoughts and feelings out of my mind thinking that they were simply a part of the emotional roller-coaster of adoption, but the thought that there was another child out there continued to press itself heavily upon my mind. Recognizing that this feeling was NOT going away, I asked the Lord for guidance and soon found myself at Reece's Rainbow, an organization established to help find homes for children with Down Syndrome. On their website they also have a photolisting of children available for adoption with other special needs. I clicked on this link (one that I had visited frequently) and immediately noticed several new faces. I began to scroll down the page, reading about each sweet little one as I went, until my eyes fell upon one of the most beautiful faces I have ever seen! Tears came to my eyes and a familiar feeling (I say familiar because I experienced the same feelings when I saw Josh for the first time) flooded my soul. This little boy that I was looking at was in no way a stranger to me, but rather a familiar face, the "missing piece!" I knew almost instantly that this was the little boy that my heart had been searching for and that he was meant to be our son. I wish that there were words to express the intense emotions that I felt as I looked at this sweet little one and felt the overwhelming power of the spirit confirming that this was the child that we had been silently searching for. How grateful I was to my Heavenly Father in that moment for leading me to this little one. This little boy is our Evan (currently known as Valera). He is a three year-old boy from Ukraine, born with a rare birth defect known as Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita. Like Joshua, when we look at him, we do not see disability. We simply see a precious little boy who desperately needs a family to love him and help him reach his full potential. There is no doubt in our minds that he is meant to be a part of our family.

When we started this journey I never could have predicted that this is where it would lead us, but if I have learned anything throughout the course of my life, it is that the Lord's plan is perfect and if we submit ourselves to His will and allow Him to lead us, He will take us amazing places. I could not have imagined such amazing blessings for myself. Heavenly Father is SO good.

So now you know how we came to find ourselves adopting two little boys with special needs, from two different countries simultaneously, with 2.5 year-old triplets at home (and if you made it this far, I salute you!). I told you it would be a wild ride!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Another Blog?

Some of you may be asking yourselves why I am starting yet another blog when I do such a lousy job of keeping our family website up to date. GREAT question. . .one that I have asked myself many times during the creation of this blog! There are several reasons actually. The first thing that prompted me to create an additional "home" in cyberspace was the need for a place to vent my overabundance of emotions and neurotic ramblings regarding all things adoption. Let's face it, adoption (particularly international adoption) is a very long and emotional process full of enough ups and downs to cause just about anyone to need some valium! This blog is my valium! When we created our family website shortly after receiving the news that we were expecting our triplets, we did it with the purpose of keeping all of our friends and family up to date on the happenings of the Rieben Family. I would like it to remain a place where friends and family can come to check in on all of our many adventures as a family without it becoming adoption heavy (which it has been of late). While I will, of course, continue to update our family site with the progress of our adoptions, I would like it to remain a snapshot of the "big picture" of our family.

Hand in hand with needing a specific outlet for the spillage of adoption events and emotions, I also wanted to create a specific space where I could share our experiences with others who are currently going through or are contemplating, international adoption, particularly adoption from Uzbekistan and/or Ukraine. After riding this roller coaster for almost 8 months, I have learned just how vital it is to have people who you can relate to, who have "been-there-done-that," to help you through the process. It is my hope that through our experiences I can be a support to others in similar situations.

For those of you just tuning into our adventures, I intend to "go back" and explain just how we came to find ourselves adopting two little boys with special needs from two different countries simultaneously with 2.5 year-old triplets at home (and believe me, you will definitely want to stay tuned for this)! Until then, please feel free to drop by our family website to "catch up!"