Monday, May 24, 2010

Moving right along. . .

For now, things seem to be moving right along! We were able to complete our dossier for Little Lady #3 last Monday and, on Tuesday afternoon, we sent it on its way:

Proof that Richard is a part of this process as well! Here he is with our completed dossier, very happy to be bidding it farewell!

"You know we're crazy right!?"

"I mean, really NUTS!"

Our dossier arrived in Bulgaria on Friday afternoon and, because it has already been translated, will begin the authentication process tomorrow (today, of course, is a Bulgarian holiday). We are hopeful that it will be filed and registered with the Ministry of Justice on Monday (5/31) and we are praying that we will receive our official referral for Little Lady #3 by next Friday (6/4). We learned last week that it is unlikely that we will travel the first two weeks in July as we had hoped, as there will be another family traveling in that time slot. Instead, it looks like we will be traveling towards the middle/end of July. Once we have received the official referral we will be able to make firm travel plans. I am looking forward to finally having a date set in stone (well, as set in stone as a date can be in the adoption world)!

Our "Pieced Together By Love" fundraiser has, once again, left us humbled and awed by the amazing outpouring of love and support from our family, friends and even strangers! In just one week we have raised $350 and have added 52 names to our puzzle:

We are so grateful for each and every one of you! Just writing your names down on these puzzle pieces brings tears to my eyes! What an amazing gift it will be to hang this on our wall as a daily reminder of all of the amazing people who stood behind us and made it possible for us to bring our precious girls home! We are truly blessed!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pieced Together By Love


When we began this journey we prayed that we would be able to complete these adoptions without incurring any additional debt. Through the hand of the Lord, a lot of hard work and the support of our wonderful friends, family and even strangers, we have watched, in humility, as the needed funds have always been there when we needed them, without incurring any additional debt!

As we near the end of our journey we find that we are once again, just short of the mark. We will be bringing our lovely ladies home in just six, short weeks!

We are calling our final fundraiser "Pieced Together By Love." Here is how it works:

We have purchased a 500 piece puzzle featuring one of my favorite pictures of the Savior by artist Del Parson:

For every $5 donation, the name of the donor will be featured on the back of a puzzle piece. Each donor will only have their name listed once, but every additional $5 donation by the same donor can be made in someone elses name (for example, if you have a family of five, you can make a $25 donation and each family member's name will be listed on a puzzle piece).

Each $5 donation will also enter you into a gift card giveaway. We will be giving away five $25 gift cards (iTunes, Visa, Target, Amazon and Toys R Us) at the end of our fundraiser. So, if you donate $5 your name will be entered into the giveaway once, if you donate $25, your name will be entered five times, etc.

If you aren't able to offer your financial support we understand. There are still several ways that you can get your name on a puzzle piece and entered into our gift card giveaway. Help us get the word out! Post our fundraiser information on your blog, your Facebook page, Twitter, etc. and earn an entry in our giveaway and a piece on our puzzle (make sure you leave a comment to let me know that you have done so).

Once our puzzle is complete we will seal it and hang it on our wall as a reminder of the outpouring of love, support and encouragement that we have received as we have worked to bring our girls home. We are truly humbled each and every day by the number of people who have supported us throughout this process and we know that, for many of you, seeing our girls come home is just as much a victory for you as it is for us. We are SO grateful to each and every one of you! Without your love, support, encouragement and prayers this would not be possible.

So, for a quick recap:

For a $5 donation you will receive your name on our puzzle and an entry into our gift card giveaway.

Each additional $5 donation will be another entry into the gift card giveaway and, if you so desire, the name of a friend/family member on our puzzle.

Also, for every mention of our fundraiser on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. your name will be entered into the gift card giveaway and, if it has not been already, added to the puzzle.

There are several ways to donate:

You may donate directly to us by clicking on the "Pieced Together By Love" chip-in on the sidebar. This is linked directly to our paypal account and will come to us immediately upon donation.

You may also donate directly to our Reece's Rainbow grant fund by clicking on the green button on the sidebar (under "Make a Tax-Deductible donation). Follow the link and the instructions provided. Donations can be made via paypal or mail (be sure to let me know if you have chosen to donate this way as sometimes it takes a week or two for the donation information to be reported to me). These donations are tax-deductible.

If you would like to donate by check, please contact me at for our mailing address.

We will provide photo updates of our puzzle as it is pieced together so that everyone will have the opportunity to see how amazing it is when so many people link together in love and support of one another!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Another one bites the dust

Friday was a wonderful day of celebration! We danced, we sang, we jumped for joy, enjoyed some celebratory "sisters" ice cream at our favorite ice cream shop, and of course, got down on our knees and thanked our Heavenly Father over and over again for His guiding hand in this process and the many mighty miracles that He has worked to get us to this point.

As Friday drew to a close it was time to put our game faces on once again so that we could focus on getting our third little ladybug home too. We spent today running to and fro getting our dossier certified and apostilled and I am very happy to say that another dossier is COMPLETE! We will be bidding it a fond farewell and sending it on its way to Bulgaria tomorrow and hope that it will be in the hands of our facilitator by the end of the week!

Fortunately, because we were able to scan and email the dossier to Toni prior to sending it (and because she translated an almost identical dossier for us just a few months ago) she has already been able to translate most of it and we are hopeful that we will be able to submit everything to the Ministry of Justice next week and, if we are lucky, we may be able to receive our official referral next Friday! YAY!

Our hope is to combine our pickup trip for Alayna and Lily with our first trip for our third little lady. Our projected travel date. . . .the first two weeks in July!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The verdict is in. . . .

I just received a phone call from our attorney in Bulgaria and. . . . .


Hallelujah!!! I have to admit, with so little time for Social Services to prepare and mail the requested reports, I was expecting to hear that court would be rescheduled (I know, "ye of little faith") and, when there was no news from Bulgaria waiting for me in my inbox this morning, I was convinced that was the case. But when the phone rang at 9 am and I heard Toni's voice, I knew that the Lord had worked another mighty miracle!

And now, I would like to OFFICIALLY introduce my two beautiful daughters:

Alayna Svetelina Rieben

Lilyana Claire Rieben

Is there any doubt that my Heavenly Father loves me!? Not in my mind! Now. . .time to celebrate!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Be Still

In just a few hours, in a courtroom in Sofia, Bulgaria, the judge who has been assigned to our case will deliver her ruling.

This will be the first time that I have not been present during the decision-making process. This will be the first time that I have no say in the proceedings, the first time that I will not be there to explain why we long to make these beautiful little girls a part of our family, to explain to the judge just how much potential they possess and just how loved and cherished they already are and always will be. How I long to be in that courtroom to be a voice for my beautiful little girls. Although we will not be there for the proceedings, we have been blessed with an amazing attorney who knows our hearts and who cares for our girls just as deeply as we do. She WILL be a voice for our family and for our girls and, if it comes down to it, we know that she will fight for us. Still, the fact that the decision will be made while we are sleeping (yeah right!) over 5000 miles away has been difficult.

The judge will rule in one of three ways. She will either grant the adoptions (assuming the Social Services reports made it to court on time. . .at this point, we do not know), reschedule the hearing (assuming the reports did NOT make it to court on time) or she will deny our petition (this decision would be appealed). Despite the uncertainty, one thing is sure. Though we will not be there when the decision is made, we know that the Lord will. "I will go before thee and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron" (Isaiah 45:2).

As I go to bed tonight I am at peace because I know that the Lord is guiding this process and that He will go before us and make the crooked places straight. I am ready to heed the admonition, "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalms 46:10) and trust that, whatever the outcome of this hearing, all will be well because the Lord is in control.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

We Like to Keep Things Interesting. . .

When we first began this process in February 2009, I felt impressed to ask our social worker to approve us for three children. At the time, I felt confident that we would be bringing home two children, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that I needed to ask for approval for three, so I did and our social worker approved.

Some of you may recall that, just a few days before our dossier was submitted to the Ministry of Justice, we were committed to bringing three children home- Lily, Alayna and a little boy with arthrogryposis. Just three days before our dossier was submitted, we learned that our little boy's mother had withdrawn consent for adoption and that we would no longer be able to bring him home. The news was devastating. The Ministry of Justice gave us the opportunity to commit to another child prior to submitting our dossier, but, after a lot of prayer and discussion, we made the decision to move forward with the girls. It was terribly hard for me to accept that decision. We were approved for three, we had room for three in our home and in our hearts and we had almost raised the funds to bring three children home, but we knew that we needed to move forward with the girls and so we did.

But, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't shake the feeling that we were leaving someone behind.

While I was in Bulgaria visiting Alayna, I met a wonderful little boy with arthrogryposis and fell in love! While still in Bulgaria, Richard and I made the decision to pursue him as well, if he was registered and available to be adopted. As soon as I returned home and after I had completed all of the necessary paperwork for the girls, we began working on assembling another dossier (because the official referrals of the girls had already been issued, the pursuit of another child is considered a separate adoption which meant we had to start from the beginning). Two weeks after I arrived home, we received the news that another family had committed to bring this little boy home. We were very happy for him, but, of course, sad that he would not be joining our family.

Despite this news, I STILL couldn't shake the feeling that we were leaving someone behind.

A few weeks ago, our attorney received the files of several children listed on the Waiting Children's List. Among those children was a little girl from Lily's orphanage. While visiting Lily, I had the chance to meet and spend time with the children in her group. Among them was a beautiful little girl with mild cerebral palsy. Oh how I had wished I could bring her home as well. Based on the location, diagnosis and age of the little girl in the file, I wondered if it might be the same little girl in Lily's group. The picture included with the file was more than two years old and, though it didn't look exactly like the little girl I had seen, it was similar enough that I was almost certain it was her. How I longed to bring her home.

Two weeks ago, while Richard was attending a Scout camp out, I found myself on my knees. I pleaded with the Lord to confirm to my heart that this was the little girl I had met at the orphanage (if it was) and more importantly, if this little girl was the "missing piece" that my heart seemed to be searching for. An hour later, before heading to bed, I pulled up Reece's Rainbow to look at her picture one more time, but as soon as I clicked on the link I saw another sweet face staring back at me. A familiar face. The face of the little girl in Lily's group (who had just been added to the photo listing mere minutes before I sat down at my computer). That was all the confirmation I needed to know that this little girl WAS the child my heart had been search for and that we were supposed to be bringing her home.

A few days later (last Monday), we made the official commitment! Because we had already begun the process of putting together a second dossier for the little boy I met while in Bulgaria, our dossier was almost complete. We are still waiting on a few things from our homestudy agency and our placing agency, but we are hoping to have everything notarized and apostilled on Friday so that we can send our second dossier on its way by Saturday or Monday!

We are hopeful that we will be able to combine our pickup trip for the girls with our first trip for our third little girl and hopefully, we will have all three girls home by the end of the year!

Yes, we know we are crazy, but we love it and we feel incredibly blessed to be bringing these THREE amazing little girls into our family!

And now, introducing. . . . .

Little Lady #3

PS- Keep scrolling for an update on our court date

We Need Your Prayers!

I know, I know! I REALLY need to stop with the disappearing acts, but have no fear, I am still here and I am still stressed!

In the way of an update, our dossier DID make it to court, and quickly. It did not happen on April 28th as we had hoped, but it was there by the 30th and the potential disaster that we had been concerned about was, fortunately, averted! Last Wednesday morning, as the kids and I were heading out the door for Philadelphia, we received our court date! Our hearing has been scheduled for THIS FRIDAY, May 14th at 9:30 am (Bulgarian time)!

We are, of course, ecstatic that we received such a quick court date, however, with the good news, often comes the bad. Though we received a quick court date, the judge that has been assigned to our case has also requested additional paperwork. Fortunately, nothing is required on our part. Unfortunately, the requested paperwork is reports, completed by Social Services in the girls' respective towns, stating whether or not the girls are visited by birth parents or other relatives and if adoption is in the girls' best interest.

The concerns: The first concern with this request is the amount of time that Social Services has to complete the reports and get them to court (both towns are far enough away from Sofia that the reports must be mailed and they MUST be to court by the time of our hearing). Because there was a national holiday in Bulgaria (St. Georges Day) at the end of last week, Social Services could not begin preparing the reports until Monday. We received word from our attorney this morning that Lily's report has been completed and mailed, but she has been unable to get an update on Alayna's report because Social Services in her town will not take her calls (though the Director of the orphanage did call on Monday to say that Social Services had contacted her). If both of the girls reports are not at the court by 9:30 am on Friday morning, our hearing will have to be rescheduled. We are praying that both reports will arrive in time, but there is a very good chance that they will not and that the hearing will be rescheduled. If it is, we are hopeful that, since the judge was so quick to issue our initial court date, she will be equally quick in rescheduling.

Our second concern is that Alayna's birth mother and several of her relative DO visit her. When we arrived at the orphanage in March to meet Alayna, the Director informed us that her birth mother and grandparents visit twice a year (usually on her birthday and at Christmas). While surprised to learn this, I was happy to know that Alayna had known the love of her birth mother and her grandparents and hoped that we might be able to send them regular updates and pictures so that they could remain a part of her life. I will admit, after losing Little Boy when his birth mother made the decision to withdraw consent for adoption, I was very nervous about the possibility that Alayna's mother might choose to do the same, but the orphanage director tried to calm my fears by explaining that her mother had never expressed a desire to remove her from the orphanage.

Obviously two visits a year does not compare to having a permanent home and family and much-needed medical care (and all involved in this situation know that adoption IS in Alayna's best interest. . .if she is not adopted she will remain in the orphanage, will not receive the medical care that will help her meet her full potential and, once she reaches adulthood, despite the fact that she is very smart and very able, she will be placed in an adult institution), but the decision now rests with Social Services and, ultimately, the judge assigned to our case.

We KNOW that our Heavenly Father is guiding this process and that His timing and His plan are perfect. Please pray with us that the girls' reports will arrive in time for our hearing on Friday and that the heart of the judge will be softened so that she will grant the adoptions.

And while you're at it, please pray for the stomach ulcer that MUST be forming as I type and the poor hairdresser (likely my mom) who will be responsible for dying my hair once this is all said and done ;-)