Thursday, July 29, 2010

Finally Final!

It is completely 100% official and final... Isabella Agnese Tucker and Becca Daniela Tucker are our daughters and American citizens (when they land in Chicago in a few hours!). What a journey it has been! I am reflecting on all that has changed in our lives this past year. Those people closest to me, know that I have had a difficult time with a certain problem this past year (nothing to do with adoption) and I have tried and tried to give it over to God, but it keeps coming back and eating at me. It has really made me question a lot of things about my life, my job, my ministry, my other friendships, and so on... But I have this sense of peace for some reason at this moment because I know that God has given me so many wonderful relationships that have supported my family throughout this year with the adoption of Isabella and Becca. I needed those people and their support more than anything and they were there to give love and care every single time I reached out (and sometimes when I didn't!). I don't want to list names, but I know you know who you are! And I thank you for sticking by us and choosing to be a part of the changes in our family!

People often talk about adopting older children and all the problems that can come with it. There are so many stories of families that have struggles and those who don't know about the blessings of adoption find it easy to criticize or say things like "well, I would never put my family through that". I know there were people who were once close to us who thought we were completely out of our minds adopting the girls and that we were not being fair to Ryleigh and Reagan. There were people who questioned the money aspect of it. And people who thought we were doing it to "save" these orphans, like it was for selfish reasons. Those are the people who are really too afraid to step out of their comfort zone and open up their hearts to what James 1:27 tells us. Not everyone should or can adopt kids, but there are ways to show your support of orphans and widows in so many ways. I cannot imagine not having the blessing of my 3 adopted children, not just for Tim and me, but for Ryleigh, too. Would we go through all the stress of stupid paperwork, crappy trips to Latvia, difficult parenting moments, language barriers, and more again? Yes!!!!! Because in the end, we have followed God's plan for our family and He is blessing us for it! I can't imagine not adopting them because I was afraid of a few uncomfortable or frustrating things. There is no denying that our girls were meant to be in our family. Will it be easy? No, but I will take the challenges, knowing good times are just around the corner. Will I be the perfect mother to them? Nope, but I will try, because they deserve loving, caring, understanding parents.

When I think back to a time when we didn't have kids yet and we suffered our first miscarriage of twins, I went through such a difficult time. I was not as close to God as I should have been, but I did get an overwhelming feeling that He did have a bigger plan. For a long time I thought we would get pregnant with twins again. The first day I spent with my big girls, I talked to my friend Erin afterwards and I remember just crying when she asked me what I was feeling and thinking and I said I felt like they were the blessing that God had waiting for me all these years. The girls do not replace those babies we lost, but God knew even then that Isabella and Becca needed a family here to help give them a fresh start. His timing is perfect. Our eyes were opened to adopting an older child at just the right time to prepare our hearts for them. When we prayed about the girl in China, I just kept going back to wanting another baby from China. But something opened up in my heart and mind that we would adopt an older child some day. I am so thankful to Stacy and Brad for being in tune with God's plan to host orphans through New Horizons. Again, His timing is perfect! I can't even describe how much gratitude there is in my heart for them. I think you just never know how God will use you to be a blessing to someone else! I want to teach all my girls that... there is a purpose for your life and you have to be in constant communication with God to be able to recognize how you can be all He wants you to be.

There are some dreams you have when you are a little girl talking to your friends about the future. As long as I can remember I wanted 4 kids. And now I have those 4 and one more "Bonus Baby" on the way! How lucky am I ? Yes, it is more difficult and expensive than I imagined in my pre-children days. But I love it! I love having a big family to sit down with at the dinner table. I love all the personalities that I get to nurture. I enjoy watching my husband smile at the goofy things our kids say and do. I love signing all of our names on cards! I love thinking about how when I couldn't imagine ever surviving one more miscarriage, God gave me the words "Be still and know that I am God" and I knew that everything would be okay.

So, despite failed friendships, being fat and out of shape, making mistakes daily in my duties as wife and mommy, and not always being perfect in my job... I am rejoicing tonight because we have completed another chapter in our lives, a chapter with the fingerprints of God all over it, and I am truly happy and content with life! In the words of my dear, sweet Grandma "Hooray for the good guys!" I am so looking forward to my family being together tomorrow night so we can turn the page on a new life for all of us! God is so, so, so good!

More about our awesome summer and pictures later... just had to get those thoughts out of my head!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Few Pictures

Proud to be American

We had a great 4th of July weekend! It was very busy, but lots of great memories were made. We spent time with the Goodin side of the family on Friday and Saturday and on Sunday we went to Grandma Eula's for fireworks and food! I was nervous about Becca and Isabella getting hurt with the fireworks, but they did great following the rules of NO lighting fireworks by yourself! It was fun for me to sit back and watch them have such a good time!

Yesterday at breakfast, Becca made a comment about wishing she would have had a life like Ryleigh. Then Isabella said, yes, she did, too. They asked why God didn't give them a good life when they were little. Talk about heart-breaking. How do you explain something that you don't even fully understand? I want them to know that God loves them and always has and that He has a plan for them, like He does for all of us.

The big girls all loved church camp and really learned a lot. I am so proud of them and happy that things went so well! Becca even made a friend (that is a boy, but not a "boyfriend") that's mom called the director of the camp to get our contact info so they could keep in touch. I guess when he asked for her phone number and address, she told him "she can't share that"! I was proud of her for being safe with that! She is definitely building our trust back. They all had funny stories to share and it was awesome to see their smiles while they talked about it. Great memories!

Now that Summer in the Son is over, we are finding time to relax and enjoy not being on a schedule. I will work a little bit to keep things running smoothly and prepare for next year, but I am making a conscious effort to get away from work for awhile. I am extremely thankful for Melissa being the new daycare director. She is doing a wonderful job and she is such a fantastic person and friend. Bright Beginnings is so lucky to have her!

We are headed to Wisconsin at the end of the week. 12 hours in the van with 4 kids and a dog. Hmmm... that should be loads of fun! I am really looking foward to visiting my grandparents and introducing the Isabella and Becca to them. I am praying for lots of patience and a go with the flow attitude for all of us!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Baby Steps

Our family is doing well. We had VBS last week, which means lots of late nights and hard work, but the payoff is totally worth it! We had more kids attend than ever before and so many awesome volunteers to help things run smoothly! What a blessing it is to have such a great church family! I am proud of how well things went! The girls all had fun and it was so neat to watch Isabella and Becca participating and learning! They all memorized the verse 1 Timothy 4:12 and the big girls got up with the music leader and sang. I was so proud of them, my heart was just about to burst. I think they are starting to understand more about God and why Tim and I are so passionate about serving Him. It is hard to remember that is definitely takes baby steps to change the way the think about things and to teach them what the Bible really says.

We had our first major issue with Becca. To make a long and hurtful story short... their birth mom contacted them via email after Becca searched for her on a site kind of like Facebook. We have handled it the best way we knew how and are praying that Becca will be able to move forward without too much curiosity to find out what her birth mom is doing. I took the liberty to email her and explained that she could not contact them and that I was their mom now. I know that she just wants money. I pray that she will find the Lord and someday understand the impact of her neglect on Isabella and Becca. I want us all to be able to forgive her and move on, but it is so hard. The more they open up about their life with her, the more I want to cry and punch her in the face. The other night at dinner Reagan said she wished she were still a baby and Becca said "Me, too, I wish I could have been a baby in this house." It breaks my heart.

Summer school is going so well! I love teaching the elementary kids with Bridget and Lauren. We have been having so much fun! It makes me really wish Bright Beginnings could expand to include elementary school. If only money wasn't an issue...

Our third and FINAL!!!!! trip to Latvia will be at the end of July. Tim will go with the girls alone again. The tickets are just to expensive for us all to go. All of the Latvian side is done, so now we just do the American side, so they can be citizens as soon as they land on American soil. There names will be officially changed and we can celebrate the finalization of their adoption. It seems like it has taken forever, yet it was one year ago this week that we met them for the first time! Wow! That is hard to believe! I think about how going into it, we knew there would be difficulties and struggles, but we weren't sure what they would be. Now we know some of it, but I wouldn't change any of it for any thing! There are people, I am sure, that look at our life and think we are crazy or hear about the negative things and think we made a mistake, but when I think about it, I can't imagine not having them in my life. As much as we are teaching them, they are teaching me so much, too, about life and love and trust and faith. It is amazing and frustrating and wonderful and difficult all at the same time. But do I regret it? NO WAY! God made us a family and every gift from Him is a blessing. Tim and I are learning that you can love all of your children in different ways and that the love for our big girls is naturally different than the love for Ryleigh and Reagan because we are still getting to know them. It is hard to admit that, but it is a different feeling and that is okay! We continue to bond and it just takes baby steps to integrate them into life here. It is definitely not something you can rush! There are lots of things to teach them, show them, and let them experience. I am so proud to have the privilege of being the mom of all my girls! And I can't imagine parenting without Tim by my side. We have learned more about eachother through this experience, too. Truly a blessing!

We have started a job chart for the girls that is working like a charm! They each have a list of jobs that doesn't change and then two jobs that rotate between the three older girls. It's nice to have the help and they do a great job with the chores. They get paid a dollar a day if they do their jobs. If they don't do one and someone else does it for them, that sister gets the dollar. One of the "jobs" on all their lists is Obey the first time. This is a phrase that has become quiet popular in our house! But it quickly ends the arguing and talking back that sometimes happens with preteen girls! They all chipped in last weeks allowance to buy Just Dance for the Wii and we are having tons of fun with that! It was nice to see them agree on something worth spending their money on. And they all bought Daddy gifts for Father's day with their own money and also donated to our VBS Mission, which was the Red Cross. Hopefully we are teaching them a little bit about money!

I am looking forward to July. We have my family reunion with my dad's side of the family, so the big girls will get to meet a lot of new relatives. Becca is playing in the Show-Me soccer games so we will all go to Columbia for that. And we are trying to work out a time to go to Wisconsin to visit my grandparents so they can meet Isabella and Becca, too. I am eager to rearrange and organize my office and have several little projects to do at home, too. And hopefully we will have time for swimming, family games of whiffle ball and Hillbilly golf, and lots of rest and relaxation!

I have realized lately the people in our life that can really be counted on and I am so thankful for the love and support that our true friends have shown us. When we are having trouble with the girls or something and someone just stops to pray with us, it is such an awesome feeling. I really appreciate those friends that know just the right things to say to build me back up after a difficult day. It would be so easy for people to judge us or criticize, but instead we are surrounded by people who love us and appreciate our hearts. We may not be perfect, but we try to live a Godly life, and when people can see that and know our hearts, we feel so loved and cared for. So, if that is YOU and you are reading this, THANKS!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Summer Begins

I'll just start by saying I have been overwhelmed lately. I have been filling in for the last couple of months for the Daycare Director position because we are in between real directors. It has been way too much to take on with all of the other responsibilities I have in my life, but there wasn't really a choice. I have not felt this busy and on edge in my life. So, obviously blogging has not been a priority. But I did want to post a few things to update everyone on our family...

We finished up the school year and all the girls were successful! Isabella and Becca will make the transition to the jr. high (where daddy can keep an eye on them!), Ryleigh will move to Boswell (where I used to teach, but thankfully there is a new principal), and Reagan will start kindergarten. I want the summer to go really slow, so I can enjoy them all before a new school year gets started! Time goes so fast...

Tim took the big girls back to Latvia last week for a court date. Everything went fine and after a 20 day appeal period, they will be officially ours in the eyes of Latvia and we will be able to make our final trip to finish up the American side of things so they can become U.S. citizens and legally change their names, etc. The judge was not nice and didn't smile (Becca's words) and had a lot of questions about their biological sister who is older. The social worker told the court that she had already had her children taken away from her, so she would not be fit to take the girls. Apparently, the judge wanted to make sure that not biological relative could take them. The girls did not show much emotion about any of this or about being gone for a few days. It is certainly a slow process helping them open up to real emotions. They were very excited that they got to swim at the hotel, though. Their flights were all smooth and great, except for delays in Chicago (Tim is boycotting that airport now!). I stayed home with the little girls and we survived just fine, but missed everyone terribly.

Our summer schools started today. I am taking Ryleigh and Reagan with me to Bright Beginnings' Summer in the Son program and Isabella and Becca are going to public school summer school. Lucky for us there are only 6 kids in their grade that are attending and the teacher is Isabella's teacher! I am glad they will be getting a lot of individual attention and instruction that will help them transition to Jr. High. Tim gets the summer off, except for teaching at Drury on Thursday nights. He is also going to drive the church van on field trips for my school! He's also going to come do science experiments! Both summer schools are only half a day, so we should have some down time as a family, which we desperately need. All the girls are going to take swimming lessons, too! Hopefully they will learn how to do the different strokes since they all can swim okay already.

I've had a lot on my mind lately about things I hear from others... People often say to us that we are such a great family and that Tim and I are doing such a wonderful thing adopting the girls. And to be honest, most of the time, I don't feel that way. It is not easy and it is certainly not an experience that is full of joy all the time. Tim and I have been struggling a lot lately with our emotions. There is very little time, if any, for us, and that is hard. When I am grouchy I don't feel like I am the right person to parent my four daughters. They have definitely seen me at my worst now and Tim, too. So, we are trying to do better and trying to balance everything. We know that we are so blessed that God made us a family and we need to really focus on bringing out the best in each other. I know my kids deserve better than the mom I have been lately and I am reevaluating my work life and how we can be more efficient at home with housework and all of our activities.

The girls are getting along pretty well, but you can definitely tell they are sisters. The preteen attitudes and bossiness is coming out in all 3 of the older girls. They love to correct eachother and tattle, but then they turn around and play for hours together. Becca and Ryleigh put on a show the other day using a bunch of science experiements and magic tricks they found in books. It was cute and very entertaining! Sometimes I can see that Isabella gets jealous of the bond forming between Ry and Becca and that is bothers her. I keep encouraging them to all find ways to play with each other and to never leave anyone out.

As crazy as life has been and as busy and hectic as we are, I still feel like we are one kid short to being complete. We are nearly 3 and a half years into our wait for our China baby and when we decided to adopt the big girls, we thought we would just play it by ear and see how things worked out. Honestly, I still want my little Reece as much as I have since the day we visited Reagan's orphanage. I just know there is a little girl that is meant for us and someday it will be our turn to make that awesome journey back to China to get her. All 4 girls talk about Reece like she is already a sister they have, especially Reagan. She always says she we have 5 girls in our family. I know she is going to be a great big sister! She is at the age now that Ryleigh was when we adopted her, which is so weird! It is neat to think about her getting to go to China and make all kinds of memories, just like Ryleigh did! She will remember it forever and have a better understanding of her adoption, too! I am excited for that! It is probably more than a year away, but it is something to be looking forward to for all of us. We will need all that time to rebuild our savings so we can all make the trip together (anyone want to come along and help us????).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

New Pictures

Easter morning
Easter Sunday at church

Meeting Candice Cameron Bure aka DJ Tanner

Waiting to meet Steven Curtis Chapman!

The view from front and center!

A moment worth waiting for and one I will never forget!!!!! I love SCC!

Big Daddy Weave

Aleah pretending to faint with Chris and Conrad! Good times!

Becca and her fancy footwork!

Ryleigh hustling in soccer!

Reagan and Mommy at the Mother's Day Tea Party... Reagan had pink eye and had to go home before the party, but we took a picture on stage anyway and she sang the "We Love Mommies" song by herself to me!

Happiest of all Mother's Days!

On Mother's Day 2004, I had a miscarriage. And honestly, it kind of put a damper on every Mother's Day since then. But, this year, it has been so different. I am so happy to celebrate Mother's Day this year with my 4 daughters and so blessed to be the mom of these 4 children that God chose for me. His plan is so much bigger and so much better than mine! Our sermon this morning was on the verse "blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted". How incredible true that is. In our mourning, we can find the sweetest and most awesome blessings because we have a God who cares about us and loves us and has a plan for us. Lean on God in all things and He will be right there with you.

As expected, I have not had time to blog lately. I think about it all the time and always have something to say, but finding the time and energy when the kids are in bed or occupied with something else is just about impossible for me! I am disappointed in myself because I really want to blog to document details of our journey for all my girls to read someday. I guess the entries I do make are going to have to be reeeeaaaallllyyy long!

Last month, I got to attend the Women of Joy conference in Branson. And I got to meet Steven Curtis Chapman. For me, this was HUGE! He has done so much for the adoption community and our family was awarded a grant from Show Hope, which I got to personally thank him for! His public grief over the death of his beautiful daughter Maria has shown how God can help us through anything. His music makes me a better mom and person. His music also is helping my big girls learn English and love Christian music, how could I ever thank him enough for that? He was so nice, down to earth, and "normal"! My friend, Aleah, and I waited for hours to be first in line at the concert and then waited together backstage to meet him (Tim had set the meeting up via email with the people at Show Hope and his road manager). It was one of the most exciting moments of my life to watch him walk off his bus and to me for a hug! He actually said "thank you" to me! I got to give him a picture of my family and talk to him about my girls! Honestly, of all the celebrities in the world, he is my favorite, so meeting him was a dream come true!

The girls have been getting along with eachother pretty well, which is great progress. Ryleigh seems to have moved passed her feelings of not wanting 3 sisters and is enjoying life a little more and worrying a little less. Totally an answer to prayer. We are busy with soccer and all the girls do a great job! I am very proud of each of them for different reasons... Reagan is so good at not being distracted by the kids who refuse to participate, she does exactly what she is supposed to do all the time and always has a smile on her face. Ryleigh hustles and tries her best even though she her coach (and I use that term loosely) uses bad words, smokes during the game, and leaves a lot of the time to talk on his cell phone. There are three girls on her team that play good and a couple of dad's on the sidelines do the real coaching for the three of them that want to win and do well. It's been a good experience as far as Ryleigh really having to dig deep to keep at it when she is tired and frustrated. I am so proud of her! Becca improves every week. She has gotten better at being a team player with her attitude and cheers her team on. She does great getting the ball down the field, but hasn't quite mastered a really good hard kick to get it past the goalie. We love her coach and all he has done to work with her and make it fun! I love watching Becca play, thinking about how far she has come and what a bright future she has. Isabella still cheers at the games and doesn't seem to mind sitting through at least 3 soccer games every week. She is excelling at piano and works ahead of what Ms. Danielle tells her to practice. Her love of music is growing every day. There are several songs on the radio that she loves and sings loudly. I am looking forward to her someday playing the piano at church.

Things have not always been easy lately (I waited to write about this, for the people who have quit reading by now that got bored...). We are seeing a lot of attitude from Isabella and it is really frustrating. She gets really mad and hateful when she is corrected on something or gets in trouble. She makes the situation worse almost every time because of her reaction. She gets mad playing games if things are going her way (like paying rent in Monopoly, getting out in kickball, losing on the Wii, etc.). It is just hard to comprehend how she can get mad at little things and not just be happy with her new life. She is happy most of the time, don't get me wrong, but when the attitude comes out, it is not a pretty thing. I am learning it is best to just smile at her and ignore it. Because my first reaction is to get angry and try to talk her out of it, which does not work! For mother's day she told me in a card that she loves me because I help her learn to cook. I know she means it and I am going to try to be a better mom to her and have the patience she needs. The more I know about her, the more obvious it is that the only thing she has been truly attached to is animals. She gets overly excited when she sees any animal, especially dogs. She rarely talks about people from her past, but gives long accounts of stories from the past that involve animals. It is heart breaking to think about. I have seen little signs from her that she is attaching to us and I love to watch her tease Tim back and see her face light up when she has something exciting to say. She is definitely opening up to people and not as shy around strangers.

Becca has been in trouble lately for not listening. She doesn't take instruction very well, because she won't admit she doesn't know something. She wants to hurry through everything still and it got to a point that we had to start giving her a consequence for messing things up (like putting the icecream away in the refrigerator after she told us she knew what the freezer in the garage was in a super snotty way, she bought a new tub with her own money). It seems like little things, but I feel like part of her attachment is going to depend on her realizing she does need us. I prayed about this and for God to give me a sign from her that we are making progress. I saw I glimmer of hope when she had a spider in her bed and she was absolutely terrified and needed her daddy to come kill it. She cried a cry I hadn't heard before and it was showing her true emotions plainly. Most of the time she cries it is out of frustration and anger. She doesn't care much about her school work and got grounded for not doing her homework last week.

We have been really praying hard about next school year for all the girls. Isabella and Becca will be moving to the Jr. High and will be in regular classes, but with an ILP (individual language plan, which will allow modifications in their work). It is going to be a huge adjustment for them to have to participate in all the subjects with their peers. We will be working hard this summer at home to get ready for this transition. Ryleigh will be moving to Boswell, where I used to teach. Honestly, I am having a lot of anxiety about this. I am praying that she will have a teacher like Mrs. Bechtel (2nd grade) and that she will form some new friendships. And then there's my baby, who will go to kindergarten! She scored a 99 on her screening and I know she is ready, but I still know that kindergarten is the beginning of the end! This is me having to let go and expose her to all the meanies of the world. There will be teasing and hatefulness to contend with and people who don't understand her adoption. I dread it, but I know that she is tough and she will prove to people what a great kid she is! I wish her Bright Beginnings pre-k class could just stay together! That would be a lucky teacher!

Tim is headed back to Latvia with both girls on May 24th for a court date on the 26th. We are very disappointed that they have to go, as it is $3,000 extra in airplane tickets and they will be in the air longer than they are in Latvia. It is so stupid the way the process is for this adoption! It would be nice to save that money for their education or something worthwhile. Oh well, as adoptive parents, we do what we have to do, whether we like it or not! The timing is good, as this is the week between regular school and summer school. Please pray for safety as they travel and patience for Tim as he deals with all the paperwork, etc. on his own and the girls to be on their best behavior!

I will try to update sooner next time, that just took me a long time to type!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mom and Isabella showing how we cheer for the soccer girls!
Our three soccer stars!

My good intentions of being a regular blogger have obviously not panned out! There is really so much to say and so little time to say it! Our family is doing great. There are still little challenges that come up, but so far we have figured out solutions that have kept things on track and the kids are all learning to give each other patience and grace. Here's a recap of what each of our girls has been up to: Isabella: Has informed us she likes a boy in her class! YIKES, that didn't take long! She loves school and is disappointed when the weekend is here. She is very self-conscious about some of her skin issues, especially the dark spots on her legs and will rarely wear shorts. She loves to dress up for church, but won't wear church clothes to school. She will start piano lessons tomorrow and she is very excited. She is a huge fan of all 3 of her sisters soccer games and it is cute how she cheers from them! She is a wonderful helper with everything you ask her to do and really likes to work outside and sweep/mop floors! Her reading is getting much better and she uses English most of the time now. She is so good with Reagan and they really have a lot of fun coloring together and playing outside. She is very motherly with Reagan and it is nice to see the bond they have. Becca: Is still going 90 miles an hour in anything she does! She is playing soccer and seems to be really good, her speed helps! She almost scored a couple of times in her first game! She likes school, and is doing well. Her reading is really improving and she is even reading a chapter book in English now! She doesn't care as much as Isabella about her school work, but she is doing well. Becca and Ryleigh have had some pretty big conflicts, but they are working on using their words and staying calm. I tried to tell Becca that she needs to not walk away when she is mad, but she needs to talk to Ryleigh about what is bothering her. I know it is hard for her to understand Ryleigh and her moodiness! She has picked up some phrases that she actually says wrong and it is pretty fun... instead of "holy cow" she says, "only cow" and instead of "whatever" she says "forever". She asked me yesterday why I didn't adopt her when she was little like I did Reagan. It broke my heart. I never thought about her thinking about that. I am so thankful that she is verbalizing her questions and I am praying that I can provide answers that help her deal with her anger, hurt, and confusion. Ryleigh: Doesn't always like her new sisters. She is still struggling with all the changes. It has been a hard few months on her and it is taking a lot of patience to help her through her struggles. I had a nice long talk with her last night and tried to explain things to her. She doesn't really understand all that the big girls have been through and how lucky she is to be able to make a difference in their lives by loving them and being a good sister to them. I know she has it in her to be more loving and caring, so I am praying for her to open her heart. She is also playing soccer and she was a star in her first game! I was so proud of her for hustling and getting in there! She really likes it and I am so glad she decided to play again. The MAP test has been going well for her, she hasn't been too stressed out her too distracted by all the hoopla that goes along with the wonderful standardized testing 3rd graders do. Reagan: is still the most happy-go-lucky of them all! She is excited that kindergarten in just around the corner! She is such a funny little girl and she really keeps us all laughing. Isabella is constantly saying "silly Reagan" and it's so cute! Reagan is playing soccer, too, and she scored a goal in the first game yesterday! She had all 3 sisters and mommy cheering so loud and she grinned from ear to ear. However, when the coach moved her to goalie, she spent most of the time playing in the dirt! Mommy and Daddy: are pretty exhausted most of the time! Tim misses all the soccer games on Mondays, since he teaches at Drury, so I am left to be super soccer mom on my own! I may have to ask for help when the games are at the same times. There has been a lot of doom and gloom talk with the school's budget, so it looks like Tim will not be teaching summer school (bye-bye $3300) or getting all of his career ladder money (bye-bye $5,000). Plus, insurance will certainly go up, so we are probably looking at making about $10,000 less next year. It sure would be nice of the politicians who make these choices would cut back their own salaries and spending. I know that God will provide for us and we will be fine. Bright Beginnings is going to try to fill the summer school void by offering some new programs this summer and I am excited about it. I will be teaching elementary summer school and some of our pre-k graduates from last year will be attending! Also, we will be opening up the daycare to elementary kids, too. It's going to be a lot of work getting everything lined out, but I really feel God's hands in this and I keep thinking about how many lives we can touch by expanding. I really think it is the church's duty to minister to children and families and this is such a great opportunity to show that when the government fails us, God is there! We have to lean on Him in all things because He is the one in control. Thank you, Jesus! We are still waiting to hear when trip #2 to Latvia is and who will have to go. Please continue to pray that the girls will not have to go. It is so expensive to buy those 2 extra tickets and it just seems ridiculous for them to make such a whirlwind trip. I really just want to get all the paperwork and formalities done so we can move on with our lives. I want the girls to be at peace with their future and know that they are Tuckers with no chance of that changing!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Our church service this morning was so inspiring! There are so many great things going on at SHCC and I am so incredibly blessed to be a part of this church family. Terry's message was about running the good race for God. Joe and Daniel did an awesome skit that really opened my mind to receive God's word. Something that really hit me today was when Terry said being a Christian is a marathon, not a sprint! I LOVE that saying. I so often think that in order to really worship God, you have to be an every day committed follower. You can't just attend on special events or holidays or be a part of a church without being involved in a ministry (or two, or three, or ten!!!) and expect to grow closer to God and be equipped to spread the Good News! There is a phrase that has been used, "pew sitters", to describe the people who come for one hour on Sunday to do their time. I can't imagine being that kind of Christian, but I also feel challenged ot encourage others to not be that way. I am by no means the perfect Christian and there are people who probably call me a hypocrit (which Terry also talked about today), but God knows my heart and His forgiveness is really the only thing that matters.

When I decided to propose Bright Beginnings to the Elders, I wasn't sure how it would be received, but from day 1 i have had so much support and encouragement. I have seen God's hand in all that we have done and continue to do for the families of Lebanon. I wish each and every person in this world could focus on the path that God has set before him. He has given all of us talents and given us everything we need to be a successful follower of His. Being committed to Him sometimes has a worldly price, people aren't always going to understand you or like you, but it's not about being popular or rich. I am so blessed to work at Bright Beginnings, where our faith is shared not only with the kids and families, but with eachother. My coworkers are also my sisters in Christ and it is so nice to be able to be a part of something that is making an eternal difference.

I have been thinking about commitment, too, when I think about adoption. I have some very close friends that are adoptive parents, some who are waiting, and I am quite certain, some who will eventually join this "club"! When God calls us to adopt, we have to be committed to His plan. We have to commit financially, emotionally, and parentally (not sure that is a word, but you know what I mean!). We are facing some challenges with our kids lately, especially Ryleigh. I want to show her and my other daughters what it means to stay in the race, even when it is hard. We made the commitment to being a family and we have to remember that when we are getting on eachother's nerves, fighting, or feeling hurt. It is hard to add two older children to your family, but just because it is difficult, doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. Jesus endured horrible things in His life on earth. He was perfect, but he didn't have love and support from everyone! Can you imagine how silly it is for us to expect everyone to like us, when we are so imperfect? I want to remember that about all four of my daughters and try to show them that we cannot be perfect, but we can strive to be like Jesus by being more forgiving, more loving, and more passionate about the Bible. God has given me my children and I want to parent them the way He wants me to. I am so thankful that He is with me yesterday, today, and always!

I have been praying special prayers for the families who are waiting for their referrals, in particular, The Jays and The Belotes, who are waiting for their baby girls from Ethiopia. They are so close to seeing the faces of their chosen children and while the excitement has been building for a long time, I know that this is probably the hardest part, when you are so close, yet it seems so far. I thank God for their commitment to this wait and for the love they have for the child they haven't even met yet! It truly takes patience and unexplainable love to adopt a child. Just like God adopts us as His children with His love and patience.

We had a special prayer for Stacy today, for her mission trip to Kazahkstan, and the work they will be doing to build a playground. It is that kind of commitment that changes the world! I am so proud to have the chance to know somebody who gives so much to others in the name of the Lord. Is is easy to do this? NO! But there are people who sacrifice for God and it's so awesome to see someone following God's plan for them. God gave Stacy and many others the heart for orphans. I pray for the people of Kaz to see Jesus in each of the 11 people who are making this trip. Thank God for their commitment!

We had a Girls Night Out in honor of Brenda on Friday night. She will be moving to North Carolina one week from today. It was so much fun to be with a great group of women. Laughing and talking does wonders! Of course, there were tears, too, because I am going to miss Brenda so much! She has laid the foundation for the daycare at Bright Beginnings in a way that nobody else could have! I thank her for her commitment to the kids and families, and most of all to God. Her little KayAnna is like the mascot of our school! She was just a teeny little baby, who was always so happy to be up there working on getting the rooms ready! And Aleigha was in our first Peaceful Pals class and has blossomed this year as a Faithful Friend. It won't be the same without them! I am happy to have Facebook to keep in touch with them! And they will be back in 7 years! (when Isabella is 20!!!! Yikes!)

I just wanted to share these thoughts on a lazy Sunday afternoon as I was reflecting on a wonderful morning of Praise and Worship at SHCC! God Bless!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Break Pictures

Here's the Scoop

I thought it was probably time for an update for all you "blog stalkers"! Just kidding, I really appreciate the continued thoughts and prayers for our family. We are continuing to adjust to life as a family of 6! We were on Spring Break last week, so we had LOTS of time together, which was good. We got a lot of things checked off our list of things to do...

The big girls had a good report at the their eye dr. appointment. I was so happy to introduce them to my friend, Marla and I was proud of how well they did. (Thanks, Marla, for EVERYTHING!) And Isabella doesn't need glasses after all! We have decided her squinting and blinking is more of a nervous habit, which we are seeing less of lately. The doctor appointment on Friday also went well. Dr. Mebruer decided to start from scratch with their immunizations, since they do not have a shot record. They both cried when they got their 3 shots. Unfortunately, that was only the first round. We will be making frequent visits in the next 6 months so they can get caught up. :( We also got advice on how to deal with all of their skin issues, and we have already seen a big difference. They are both extremely excited about getting the spots on their legs cleared up.

We attended the funeral of my Aunt Dixie, so that was a learning experience for the girls. I hope that if they got anything out of it, it was that you need to live for Jesus, so when it is your time to go, you can spend eternity with him. It's such a comfort to know that she is in a better place and her husband, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren can be at peace because they know she is in heaven.

We took the girls to Build-A-Bear and Isabella and Becca had so much fun. Isabella made a Jonas Brothers dog and named it Isabella Jonas. Becca made a bear that she dressed in a soccer uniform and named Troy. Reagan used her very own money to make a bunny that she dressed in a fancy purple dress and named Addie. Ryleigh bought a Mizzou handkerchief for a bear she already has. It was a fun time! We also got Easter outfits for all the girls. We also bought the big girls Bibles. They are excited about that!

We went to Sequiota Park and walked around, fed the ducks and explored the caves. All of the girls had a blast and it was nice to have some time sitting with Tim while the girls played on the playground. It's not often that we have any quiet time to talk anymore!

There continues to be some struggles and frustrations for all of us. It is so hard to know if the attitudes Isabella and Becca sometimes have are from pain from their past, grieving, anger at us for being "mean", their age, etc. It's hard to understand sometimes how they cannot be more appreciative of their life with us, but I know that they are going through a lot emotionally and we are doing our best to be understanding and loving, yet consistent with rules and expectations. We are doing our best to choose the battles that matter the most and letting the other things go, which is certainly not easy!

We enjoy the fact that we have cut back on activities for awhile... Ryleigh is in between basketball teams, soccer for Becca and Reagan hasn't started yet, and we are taking a break from our Sunday night Small Group (this was such a hard decision for us, but after really praying about it and thinking about what is best for our family at this point, we decided we need that time to be at home). It really takes a lot of thought when we go places to think about who and what the big girls are being exposed to. We want to make sure that we do our best to keep them around positive influences and Godly people.

I am very happy to be back at work in the regular routine. I am excited about all the changes that are going on at Bright Beginnings. We officially hired Ms. Melissa as the new Daycare Director and she is going to be a wonderful asset to the Bright Beginnings family! We are adding several new programs for the 2010-2011 school year and summer school for June. I am so thankful for all the awesome women I work with and how they all add new ideas and are willing to work so hard to make an eternal difference in the lives of the children and families of Lebanon. Nothing can compare to the education the kids get at Bright Beginnings! I am looking forward to our Enrollment Kick-Off Carnival on April 12th.

Again, thank for the support and prayers for our family!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Good Times!

Catching Up!

It was a very long week! A good one, but it seems like life is just more exhausting than it ever has been before! The best way to describe our house is a big slumber party. There's lots of giggling, a little bit of fighting, and two parents who just want everyone to go to bed at night! Considering all the changes we are all going through, things have been great. There are only little issues that come up, but I have to admit I found myself very frustrated yesterday with the little issues and kind of lost my temper with the big girls. There is such a fine line trying to cut them some slack because of their circumstances and trying to teach them our expectations as a part of this family.

I suppose there are a few things people are curious about, so I will try to address a few of those things...

Food... The girls have both adapted to our food very easily. They eat everything we eat and are very good helpers in the kitchen. Candy has been one of those little issues with Becca, as she sneaks it in her pockets and eats it when she wants. Not a big deal, but it's something we don't let the other girls do, so we had to ask her to not do that anymore. Isabella says one of her favorite things is fajitas and Becca loves apple juice slushes from Sonic! We are very pleased with how easy it has been to cook for them and with them and our meals together are a fun time of talking and laughing and each of us telling our favorite part of our day.

School... We are so happy with how well the girls did in their first week of school! They both talk a mile a minute (another little issue of trying to teach manners and how to listen to all the sisters talk) when they come home. We are very pleasantly surprised at how much Isabella loves school. They are both starting to make friends and both say that the other one has a boy that likes her! Becca only had one trip to the nurses office for a skinned up knee from a rough basketball game at recess! P.E. is definitely her favorite part of school and I think Isabella likes her time with Mrs. Arl the best. They both wrote the alphabet perfectly and read several easy reader books to us this week. We are so thankful for the wonderful teachers they have and for the kids for making them feel so welcome. Their English is improving more and more each day, which is super!

Little girls... Ryleigh is probably having the most difficult time with all the changes. She was really sick at the beginning of the week, with a high fever and aching all over. She gets irritated when the big girls speak Latvian to eachother (and I don't blame her... that's another little issue!) and she gets annoyed at all the noise sometimes (and again, I don't blame her!). It seems like we have tv's, computers, and cd players blaring all the time! Reagan loved having me back with her at Bright Beginnings this week! She is so laid back and really seems to enjoy the company of her big sisters. All in all, the four of them get along well and enjoy playing, doing crafts, and just hanging out.

Adoption progress... we received word from Daina that we can file the 1800 paperwork for the girls. Which is just the next step in making this all official. No word yet on our second trip or if the girls will have to go (please keep praying that they don't). We have started working on the forms and hope to get done in the next day or two. We also have to set up a couple of visits with our social worker so she can monitor our bonding time. We are praying that the agency is not going to charge an arm and a leg for these reports. It is one of those things that we have to do and they can pretty much make us pay whatever they want. This is one of the unexpected expenses that we did not know about at the beginning, not that it would have made a difference!

Church... We wondered how the big girls were going to feel about all the time we spend at SHCC. We just started a Saturday night contemporary service, so we go on Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday nights, not to mention all the time I spend there for meetings for preschool and Children's ministry and the other activities that go on that we are a part of. We don't want to burn them out on church, but we want them to understand how important SHCC is to our family. So far they are doing fine as long as we explain to them what we are doing. We are still trying to make them understand appropriate ways to act at church, like no running, no wild behavior, no talking out during the sermon, etc. Everytime someone says "Amen", Becca says "Amen", too! I know it is hard on them to not understand everything that is being said and I am praying that they know in time it will get easier and that they will come to know Christ in a deeply personal way.

Going back to work... Being back at Bright Beginnings full time last week was such a blessing! It was so nice to have some sort of normal again! Although, it was a very sad day on Friday as we had to say good-bye to Ms. Brenda. There are a lot of changes going on and it is exciting to see where God is leading us next! I am so grateful to the awesome, Godly women I work with that make me laugh every single day! We had a great staff meeting on Thursday and those of us who are going to the Women of Joy conference in April are getting super excited about this weekend of fun, fellowship, and of course seeing Steven Curtis Chapman and Candace Cameron! I say this often, but think it is worth mentioning again, I am so blessed to work in a Christian environment where I can do what I love with the best staff ever!

Mornings with 4 daughers...The girls all get up and get ready quickly for school and really our mornings are not too hectic! We have been on time every day, but have figured out that we really need to leave no later than 7:35 for everyone to get to the right place on time. Fixing hair is an issue, not just because it is time consuming, but because the big girls are very picky about how they like their hair. I am really trying to not make it a fight, but I want them to see that it is okay to try different things. They are both so beautiful and I wish they would let me fix their hair like Ryleigh and Reagan always have. Becca did tell me that her Latvia mom burned her with the curling iron, which probably explains some of her issues. It was more of a thing where it seemed like she had done it on purpose and I explained to her that I would never, ever hurt her on purpose and that she never has to be scared about that.

Basketball... We are trying to clear up all the misunderstandings and problems that occured while we were gone and are continuing to pray for guidance as to what God's plan is for Ryleigh. For me it all goes back to this... I want her to have fun and be a part of a team that enjoys playing a fun sport that can teach them lots of things about life. I want her to be the best she can be. I really appreciate all the people who have given advice and helped me see this situation from lots of different angles. It's so sad to think that this type of thing happens all the time in little kids' sports. Part of me feels better that we are not alone, but part of me feels sad that others have walked down this road, too.

Spring break... We don't have many plans for this coming week of Spring Break. The big girls have eye dr. (can't wait for them to meet Marla!!!!) and dr. appointments this week. We will be going to my aunt Dixie's funeral on Wednesday. She lost her battle with cancer on Friday. Please pray for my Uncle Bob and the rest of their family. I know she is celebrating with Jesus now and is pain-free. I am thankful for all the memories I have of her.

Other thoughts... This adoption journey has been a leap of faith from the very beginning. We have spent a lot of time in prayer lately for God to give us the wisdom to parent our children in a way that will be pleasing to Him. I read somewhere recently that adopting older children is more like a marriage and we are finding that to be very true. The girls already have personalities that we have nothing to do with and have learned things and been influenced by so many different parental figures. It's a slow process of blending us all together. I know that they say "I love you" but I don't think they really comprehend really loving someone yet. Sometimes their lack of appreciation, concern for others, and bad attitudes are really frustrating. I know that probably sounds harsh to some of you and to others, I know you know exactly what I mean! We knew there would be challenges and we prepared ourselves the best we knew how, but the truth is, the girls are each unique in the way they deal with things, so we know that there is no book or Hague training information that could really prepare us on how to handle the issues that come up. What works for one will most certainly not work with the other because they are so different. We just pray that the love we have for them will be consistent and real to them so they can begin to heal from their past. They are generally good, sweet, funny, happy girls, which is a miracle in itself!

We appreciate all the self-proclaimed blog-stalkers who have been faithfully checking our blog and apologize that I have not had time to post lately! Thanks for continuing to pray for our family!

Monday, March 8, 2010

First Day of School

Our prayers were definitely answered today! Isabella and Becca had a fantastic first day of school! They did such a great job telling us all the details about their day... they made friends, had fun, and learned a lot. We are so proud of them and thankful for the three amazing teachers that are helping them!

I have found that the girls love to be read to. They have probably never had that experience of reading a book before bed, so that's what we have been doing. I have never in my life seen anyone enjoy the book "Green Eggs and Ham" like they did tonight. On one hand I am so sad that they have never been read to, but on the other hand I am so glad that I get to share this with them.

On another adoption note... today marks the 3 year anniversary of our paperwork being logged in for baby Reece in China. Reagan drew a picture today and gave it to me and said, "mommy, this is you and me and Reece" It was so cute! Then she said at bedtime, "Am I going to help with Reece?' And I said "yes". She said, "What about Isabella, Becca, and Ryleigh?" I said, "yes". And she said, "No, I think I can do it by myself. Reece will like me because we are both from China!" She is going to make a great big sister someday!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

One Week Anniversary!

Well, we have survived our first week, and obviously I have not had much computer time! There has been a lot of getting the girls settled, spending time as a family, and unpacking. Becca and Isabella are doing well, they love their rooms and are very excited at each new sight, smell, and experience. It reminds me of a toddler that has learned to walk and talk and wants to touch and get into everything! They are both eager to help, which is great, but it also means we have to explain things like, you don't push the button that starts the conveyer belt at Wal-Mart and you can't just push buttons on the tv remote (they managed to order 3 movies from Dish on Demand that cost $15 and we have no interest in watching).

They took the English Language test on Wednesday and met their classes and teachers. You could feel the excitement from the students at the chance to see and talk to the girls in person. Becca got to go to P.E. and LOVED it! Isabella got to go to Art class, but she was really to shy to participate. The kids asked her a million questions, especially the boys, but she stayed pretty quiet most of the time. We went and bought all their school supplies yesterday and that was really fun! I love shopping for school supplies during the Back to School time and it was just as fun doing it with two girls who have never had that experience! It really makes you realize that it is definitely the little things in life that can make you happy! Both girls got haircuts yesterday and Isabella really liked when Brittany put lots of curls all over after she cut it. Becca just couldn't wait to put her ponytail back in!

Becca thinks that living in America is all about documents. I have had to fill out paperwork for the eye doctor, insurance, school, and more adoption stuff. She is so funny with her English, she picks up on words easily and uses them in context, but then later she will say "What is this_________?" Like, the word, "nevermind". She was using it a lot, but then last night in the car, she said "I like "nevermind" but I no understand it!" That was kind of a hard one to translate! She can't remember Ooach Coplings name, but she loves to say "P.E. teacher". She says "I like that word"! She has picked through the clothes in her closet and only agreed to wear a few things that aren't too beautiful, too tight, too flared in the legs, etc. She shows the most attitude when she doesn't get her way or loses at something, but we are working on that!

Isabella is opposite of Becca in so many ways. She rarely tries to say new things in English, did not try her best on the English test, and loves beautiful things. She gladly takes any item of clothing that Becca doesn't want and puts it in her closet. She still LOVES the Jonas Brothers and has spent a lot of time watching their videos. At night she leaves her closet light on and opens the door just right to where is shines on her poster of the Jonas Brothers. I guess that gives her sweet dreams! Her attitude really came out at church Wednesday night and it was the first time I really had to be stern with her. I think I made my point and she knew I was serious and straightened up immediately. I hope that her confidence will build and she will have the desire to do her best.

Ryleigh and Reagan are doing well. They still argue like always, but have welcomed their new sisters with open arms. Right now it still feels like one big slumber party so we are enjoying this "honeymoon" phase while we prepare for the challenges that are still to come. We suprsisingly got up and around on time every day this past week!

I am anxious to get back to work on Monday, I have really missed the kids and my co-workers and just doing my jobs. I appreciate all the ways people have stepped in to help keep things running smoothly while I have been away! What a blessing!

Well, the kids are starting to wake up now, so I probably should sign off and think about fixing breakfast! Thanks for continuing to follow along on our journey!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Home Sweet Home

We have just tucked all four girls in bed after a very fun and "normal" day!

Our trip home went very well! We woke up early on Friday morning and everyone was ready by 9:00. Pretty much the only thing to do was watch tv and wait for the apartment representative to get there to check us out. She got there at 9:45 and it took about 30 seconds for her to look around, give us our deposit back and send us on our way! Our taxi was waiting for us and after loading up our 5 big suitcases and 4 carry-ons we headed to the airport. It took awhile for us to get checked in, the guy really looked over the paperwork that we got from the court that told our situation and that is was okay for us to have the girls in our care. Once we got our boarding passes we went found the right gate, then went to have some pizza before we left. They changed our gate 3 times, so we were going back and forth and up and down the stairs, which really annoyed the girls. They were so ready to leave and the wait was not fun for them!

Our flight to Munich was good, no delays or problems. We made it easily through the passport check place, took a tram to the right terminal and waited for our long flight. This flight was 8 hours and 50 minutes and with the exception of a bratty kid sitting in front of us (with an annoying mom who leaned both their seats back for the entire time, leaving us about 5 inches of room) the flight was great. The girls sat in seats behind us. Somewhere in Munich, Isabella lost her MP3 player, so Becca shared hers. The girls did great and the time passed surprisingly quickly.

When we were approaching Chicago, the girls were giddy! They took pictures of the city lights, which did look beautiful (even more so because we knew we were back on American soil!!!!). We had to go through customs, which also went smoothly. We got something to eat and then realized that our flight was delayed. They said it would be a half hour wait, but that turned into about an hour. The girls were completely exhausted and they fell asleep sitting in the chairs waiting. We woke them up, boarded the plane and made the short trip from Chicago to Springfield. Isabella was sound asleep for the flight. I was a little bit emotional and shed a few tears when they announced that we were making the final descent into Springfield.

I knew there were going to be family and friends greeting us, but I never could have imagined the crowd that was there! I literally ran with Becca once we got into the airport. I could see so many people, but there were 2 little faces that I could not wait to kiss! I don't even know exactly what happened, but when I reached the little girls, we somehow ended up in a big pile on the floor. I am sure we looked ridiculous to the people walking by, but I didn't really think about that until today! There were so many people to hug and thank and there were balloons for the girls and gifts and flowers and banners. It was an overwhelming and awesome homecoming! I am so thankful to each and every person who came that late to greet us. It will be a night I will never forget and I know my girls won't either!

Sometimes I get discouraged because there are people who I am not as close to as I used to be and I dwell on the fact that I have mistakes that people won't forgive. But I woke up this morning knowing that I am truly, truly blessed to have such a wonderful family and church family and friends that love us all for who we are! I wish I could have spent a lot more time thanking all the people who were at the airport! That show of love and support was so incredible. God has given us so much to be thankful for and I give Him all the praise for these blessings. We got lots of emails, too, from people who couldn't come to the airport that wanted to welcome us home and I really appreciate those special messages, too!

It was such a fantastic feeling to drive home in our van with our 4 girls all together! Reagan was so hilarious talking non-stop! They were all so excited to be together and I enjoyed listening to their chatter! When we got home, it was almost midnight, but that didn't stop us from having a mini-Christmas. We left our little fake tree up in the basement and put the girls' gifts under there. So for the last 2 months, those presents have been waiting! They opened everything and there was so much excitement from all 4 of them! Isabella and Becca loved their rooms and looked over everything with gigantic smiles and lots of "thank yous"! We were all so tired and about 1:30 decided we needed to call it a night. We prayed together and everyone climbed in their own beds. I have to say that laying down to go to sleep in my own bed after taking a shower in my own shower felt like a little piece of heaven! I slept so peacefully and woke up with a huge smile and sense of happiness knowing that it was our first day as a family of 6 together!

Tim and I made breakfast after spending some time cuddling with Reagan (she was the first one up). When the other girls got up, we ate and then they all wanted to go outside to play. I spent some time watching and listening to them from my bedroom window and again had so much praise in my heart for the blessing of my 4 daughters and the miracle that they each are. Tim and I couldn't get over how bright the sun was shining and how beautiful the day was, especially compared to what we have seen the last 3 weeks! We did most of the unpacking and the girls did a lot of playing, which is what they all needed!

My mom had made some delicious food and stocked our refrigerator, so that was a huge relief to not have to go to Wal-Mart today for groceries (thanks, Mom!). Then Tim's parent's brought over pizza for dinner! (Thanks!!)

We are looking forward to church tomorrow! I have really missed being at SHCC, I am used to being there at least 6 days a week, so it has been very hard to be away from where we worship and where I have 2 jobs! I have dreamed about this day for a long time and Ryan and Danielle put my favorite song in the worship set, "Count Your Blessings". How sweet and thoughtful is that?! They sang this song after Ryleigh was baptized, too! No wonder he was voted top Worship Leader in Lebanon!!!!

Ryleigh is not feeling very well, bless her little heart, she has pushed herself all day to have fun, but it is obvious she doesn't feel like herself. She didn't have a fever today, but she didn't eat much and she is coughing and looking a little pitiful.

Well, my eyes are getting very heavy and Tim is snoring now, so I think I better wrap this up! We are so glad to be home! We will post pictures tomorrow for those of you who didn't see them on facebook!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Last Post from Latvia!

It's late here and we are all ready for our last sleep in Riga! To say we are excited to be home is quite possibly the understatement of the year!

We just talked to the little girls and my mom. Ryleigh had to go home early from school because she had a fever (only 100.3). Please pray that she is not coming down with something that would prevent her from meeting us at the airport. She was looking and acting fine, so I am hoping it was just a fluke thing.

We got everything packed that we won't need in the morning and had a hodge-podge of leftover food for dinner! We cleaned up the apartment and feel confident we will get our deposit back. It was a pretty laid back day again! Tim and Becca went to the Embassy to get the visas and everything went perfectly smooth with that. We said good-bye to the Hendersons and exchanged info to keep in touch.

It's been a loooooong stay here in Riga, but definitely one I will never forget. We are anxious and thrilled to be headed home to be a family of 6! We will keep updating the blog because I know there is going to be a lot of excitement and changes in our household and I want to document it for the future!

Thanks to all of our friends, family, and even strangers who have taken interest in our blog and followed along on this journey. We have so much support and love from so many wonderful people. We are so thankful that my mom was able to stay at our house during the week and keep our girls in their normal routine. I could not ask for a better mom! She inspires me to be a better mom to my girls! Thanks a million, mom! I know this time spent with Gram will be something the little girls will remember forever.

It's so emotional for me to be typing the post and I wish I could put into words what my heart is feeling right now, but for some reason I can't. Maybe it will come to me later... So for now, I will say good-bye from Latvia and God Bless you all!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Looking Forward to Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is our last day in Latvia- Hip!Hip! Hooray! We will be leaving Friday morning at 9:45 from the apartment and our flight leaves at 12:25 from Riga to Munich. Then Munich to Chicago and last Chicago to Springfield! We are scheduled to land at 9:46 pm. We would love to see you there!

Today was very relaxed. We were up early to head to the U.S. Embassy with Daina. She "briefed" us about what questions they would ask and what we should answer. We went over the paperwork that I was confused about, but she said it's for Trip #2 anyway! I stressed out for nothing! We had to go through 2 security checkpoints and then we waited in a waiting area for them to call us in to this little cubicle. The guy talked to us through glass with a microphone like at a bank (or jail!!!!). He was so nice and friendly. He talked to the girls and told them how beautiful they were. He checked all of our passports and told us that he knew Daina would have everything in order and that he would pretend to check it anyway. He asked a few questions, just like Daina said and then he told the girls they were very lucky and that we were approved to bring them to America! He and Daina talked about the timeline and she said she hopes we will have everything completed in the next 4 months. We have a 6 month window, just in case, to get things finalized. Daina was talking to us about our agency and how they are the best for a Latvian adoption. In fact, she had some very negative things to say about the other agency that we had looked at. Thank you, God, for leading us to An Open Door! She said it is such a pleasure to work with Cathy and we agreed! Daina also said that there was a really mean guy that used to work at the Embassy that never granted permission for the kids to leave with the parents on the first trip. She said they called him "Little Napolean" and after he said some nasty things about her to a family, she confronted him and asked him what his problem was!!!! She is so feisty! She said that they switched people when Obama became president and she is so happy that the ones that are there now care about the families and kids. I am thankful that we only had to deal with the nice guys! It would be absolute torture to have to leave the girls here after all this time with them! Even though the adoption will not be final for a few months, it is definitely final in our hearts and that is what matters!

Isabella did a lot of artwork today. She traced every page in the two coloring books we bought for Ryleigh and Reagan so she could have a copy of the pictures, too. Talk about perserverance! Becca watched a lot of tv today, she was tired from getting up so early, but of course, at bedtime she got wound up and started acting crazy! I warned Ryleigh that she was going to have a wild roommate! It's been so fun to really get to know not just their personalities, but their hearts, too. I can't wait to watch our four daughters together. I am so blessed!

Tim and I passed the time today playing Scrabble. I won both games! He got so cocky when he beat me the first time we played in Latvia, so I thought I better let everyone know that I am back on a winning streak!

Thanks for all the prayers for Ryleigh. She had a much better day today! The situation is still not resolved and after some blunt emailing by my husband, I don't know what is going to happen. I tried to stay out of it and pray for a way for us all to see the other side. I do not like conflict in any form and this whole ordeal is leaving me with a pit in my stomach. God is good and faithful and He will help us see what we are supposed to do for Ryleigh. Thank you, God, for being with us in all circumstances.

As our time here is coming to a close, I have been reflecting a lot about how much adopting a child changes you. I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity to gain a view of the world through all three of my adopted daughters and that my tummy baby has the chance to grow as a person through these experiences, too. Although I have been so homesick and missing my little girls, I have learned a lot about myself while being here. I watch the people here and think about the differences between them and the people in Lebanon. Nobody smiles at strangers here, I mean nobody! It's sad that people don't hold the door open for eachother, say "excuse me", make eye contact, or share the sidewalk. It's all little things, but I have missed the friendliness that I am used to. There will be groups of people or couples who will be talking to eachother and laughing and smiling, but nobody show any manners to other people around. We have been run into numerous times, glared at, splashed with mucky street slush by cars, and felt invisible by people. Apparently it has something to do with Latvians and Russians hating eachother and not wanting to be friendly with anyone in case they are from the other background. 60% of Latvia is Russian, so there's a pretty good chance you might make a mistake if you showed any niceness to anyone. It is very sad to me. I think about all of the times that I have worried about what people think about me and what I have told myself is that I should be more like Jesus and just be nice to everyone, even when it is really, really, really hard! I have learned that close friendships come and go in life, but life is also to short to dwell on people that don't want to be friendly to one another. You cannot please everyone, but you can be nice trying! That's my new motto!

There are so many other things I have been thinking about here. Adopting Isabella and Becca has been a completely different experience than adopting Reagan as a baby or giving birth to Ryleigh for a ton of reasons, but the thing that has really struck me is that God is in control. He has protected these girls from so many horrible things. I truly believe that He wanted their Latvian mom to change, but since she didn't he has blessed us with the opportunity to give them a family. It is definitely a challenge with the language barrier and their ages and lots of other factors, but the joy and happiness I see in their faces is worth it. They are two children who just need to be loved unconditionally and we are ready to do that. Our life together will not be perfect, but it will be blessed because that is what God promises. If anyone is starting to think that we are so nice for saving these girls, please reverse that statement... because what is really happening is they are saving us from having 2 empty spots in our hearts that only they could fill. I have learned more from them than I could ever teach them. What if we had not been open to the idea of adopting older children from previous prayers for a 14 year old in China? What if we did not have our church family guiding us and growing us spiritually so we could hear God's calling? What if we didn't have two little girls who were so open to having 2 older sisters? What if Tim and I were afraid to share our feelings with eachother? What if Stacy had not picked these girls on the New Horizons sight? What if so many people hadn't donated to our fundraisers and letters of support? I could go on and on...

God does have a plan. Let our story be proof of that and inspire you to really listen to what God is telling you. It may have nothing to do with adoption, but if it does, may you be as completely and utterly blessed as the Tucker family!

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Tim's new skills learned while here in Latvia.
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We also found a skating rink in Old Riga. We just had to lace up the skates!
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tucker Family

2 More Full Days...

Okay, so our time is winding down, but not fast enough! We want to send lots of love to Ryleigh right now because she is at home crying and very hurt that she was left out of her basketball games tonight. We had asked several people to keep my mom informed of what was going on (because things seem to change all the time) and I guess everyone forgot (or they are leaving her out on purpose). She found out from one of her teammates that they have 2 games tonight. She called us after school and we were trying to help my mom get a hold of someone, with no luck. So, she is very aware that nobody cared enough to call and let my mom know where and when the games were. It is so frustrating!!!!! I know that our feelings are all going to be more on edge because of our current situation, but I had hoped that things could be pretty normal for Ry while we were gone. This has not been a very pleasant basketball season for us. It's sad that the idea of a "team" is completely lost and they are only in third grade. Please pray for all of us to move on...

We did lots of skyping today! The teachers and kids at Bright Beginnings called us! What a bunch of cuties! It was so sweet to see them and talk to them. They came up with some good questions and then some of them just told me what was going on. Some of them just said I love you! Which really warmed my heart! I am so blessed to work at BB! I can't wait to bring the big girls in to meet everyone! Thanks for getting everything
set up today, Danielle and Lenita and anyone else who helped! It was great to see the people I am used to seeing every single day!

We had a pretty lazy day here. The girls went to bed in the wee hours of the morning, so they slept until almost 1:00 in the afternoon! We walked to Double Coffee to eat and then to the grocery store to pick up enough stuff to make it to Friday. We talked to Mrs. Dickerson's class today, too. They seem like such an awesome group and I know they are going to make the girls feel so welcome. What a blessing! Isabella gets so shy and won't really talk to them, but Becca seems to really enjoy it! She is trying to learn the kids' names and is very excited there are lots of soccer players!

Tomorrow will be our Visa Interview at 11:00. Daina will pick us up at 10:30. I had some trouble with the paperwork that we were supposed to fill out. It was super confusing to me and I am pretty sure I messed it up. I will show Daina first thing and see if she can help. It was another example of being reminded that this is not like a China adoption where your guide walks you through every single bit of paperwork and you always know what to expect!

The girls get more excited every day about what is waiting for them at home in Lebanon... "Ryleigh, Reagan, grandmother, grandfather, school, church, Maci, Christmas presents, new rooms". Their smiles light up the room when they talk about it. 2 more full days and then we will be on our way to a new life!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Successful Court!

This is what Latvia has done to Tim!
Dressed for court, early in the morning!

Mommy and Becca, so happy together!

We made it up early today and everyone was ready by 8:30 for court. The girls even put dresses on without arguing! They looked beautiful! Daina picked us up at 8:40 on the dot and we headed to the Orphan Court building. We had to wait out in the hallway for awhile and then they called us in, but told the girls to stay out in the hall. Our interpreter from the first court date was there to translate. They started with the formalities of introducing everyone and stating what the purpose was, blah, blah, blah... Then they asked us several questions about our time here and what we have been doing, how we feel about the girls, our plans to leave Latvia, how we communicate with them, what our education plan is for them, how we feel our other children we react to the girls being their sisters, etc. We answered everything and they seemed satisfied with what we said. They asked Daina if she had anything to add and she said a lot of really nice things about what Aina (foster mom) had told her about how the girls felt when we told them our plans to adopt them and about their feelings about the time they spent with us. (During the time we were in the courtroom, we could hear the girls laughing and goofing around in the hall! It turns out they were taking silly pictures of eachother! ) Then they asked us to leave and they had the girls go in. Later, Becca told us they asked about our time together and if they were ready to be in our family. She said Isabella wouldn't say anything, so she did all the talking! This is how is usually is! They called us back in and gave the verdict that we could indeed have custody of the girls and bring them to America! Hooray! We thought this was a for sure thing, but it was still a little bit scary thinking that they had the control to make the girls stay here. So then we had to stop in the social workers office because the girls had messed up a few things on the paperwork they signed last week when they visited us at the apartment. It took Isabella 4 tries to get the form filled out right (we are suspecting that she needs glasses) and Becca 2 times. We waited patiently for them to be done. Daina gave us a packet of forms to fill out. These are the first forms that will have their new names on them! We will get them done and give them to her on Wednesday when we go to our interview for the girls' Visas at the U.S. Embassy.
Tomorrow is a free day. We did a lot of packing tonight. The girls got super excited and started getting everything packed up. They cannot wait to be home in their new rooms. They look at the pictures on the computer and get so excited. They are anxious to open their Christmas presents that have been waiting for them!
Three of us took a nap this afternoon to recover from our very early morning, early when you don't go to bed until 2:00! Becca watched tv instead of taking a nap... that girl has more energy than anyone I have ever known! I think she is going to be a superstar Soccer player for the Lebanon Yellowjackets!
We ate dinner with the Henderson's again. We made spaghetti, bread, and salad. It was good food and nice company! Then we all watched G.I. Joe. The girls loved all the action and I think Tim has been happy to see a couple of non-chick-flick movies here!
Our time is winding down here and the excitement is definitely building! We can't wait to step off of the plane in Springfield!