My Birthday Wish List

I’ve got a birthday coming up {October 3rd} and wanted to share my “wish list” with you.  Now, before you go thinking I’m being greedy, this time the focus isn’t on me. ;)

My wish for my 35th birthday is that {at least} 35 people donate {at least} $35 to {at least} one of these orphan-focused ministries/families.  If my wish comes true, that adds up to {at least} $1,225 for orphan care!  And that would make for a happy 35th birthday to me!

(And YES, I'm being serious--if you were planning to buy me a gift, DON'T DO IT!  Donate to one of these families/ministries instead!)

The following ministries / families represent all of the facets of orphan care—from prevention and reunification to adoption to post-placement support for adoptive families.   Please consider donating, and if you do, please contact me so I can see if my “birthday wish” comes true.  Thanks, friends!

Orphan Prevention / Family Reunification:
Abide Family Center (Uganda)
Click here to get to know them and donate.

Orphan Care:
Dan & Christi Ucherek  (Guatemala)
$3,000 to raise in 2 months
Click here to get to know them and donate.

[NOTE: all of these families are in urgent financial need for their respective adoptions—and I know all of these families personally, so I can vouch for their legitimacy]

Tim & Maggie Bea Ray (international older child adoption – Ethiopia)
$12,000 to raise in 7 days
Click here to get to know them and donate.

Josh & Aubre Adams (international infant adoption – DRC)
$10,000 to raise in 1 month
Click here to get to know them and donate.

Kirby & Carie Lawson (domestic older child adoption)
$9,000 to raise in 1 month
Click here to get to know them and donate. 

Gray & Leigh Ladd (domestic infant adoption)
$3,000 to raise in 9 days
Donate via PayPal to and find Leigh on facebook or instagram to follow their story.

Post-Adoption Support:
Click here to get to know them, then follow the directions below to donate.

The donation link on the website isn’t up and running yet, so please make donations the old-fashion way.  Checks can be made out to “Refuge Ministries” and mailed to Refuge Ministries c/o Traci Heim, 6920 W. 173rd Place, Tinley Park, IL 60477.  Please indicate if this is a one-time donation or that you are interested in regular giving.

Can't wait to see the total impact!  

Our Plans for School...and about the language barrier

Quick Recap: we are all present and accounted for!
If you have followed our family on Facebook and/or Instagram, you’re up to date.  If you only follow our blog, I’m sorry—here’s the quick recap: we traveled to Ukraine and adopted our boys during a revolution (total stay was 8 weeks), we had a very busy and fun summer bonding as a family, and now our kiddos are about to start school!

Many of you have asked what we’re doing for school for our boys and how their English is coming along, so I thought I’d give you the low-down. 

Here's the short version:
-English - our boys are rock stars and are doing amazingly well with their English after only 4 months in the U.S.!
-School - Slavik and Vlad are going to public school, Valik is being homeschooled, and Eden & Cal are going to a new church preschool program. 

Here's the {much} more detailed version:

Learning English
Background:  Our boys are multi-lingual (Ukrainian, Russian, Spanish, Italian, and English are all spoken in our home) and super smart!  However, when they came home on April 26th, they knew barely any English.  Praise God for His perfect timing of giving us a full summer before we even needed to think about school for them!
How they are learning:  For the last 4 months, we have required our boys to do English lessons for a minimum of 30 minutes a day M-F (we took several breaks when we were on vacations).  Our older two have been doing Rosetta Stone, and our youngest has done a variety of lower-level programs (videos, games, etc.).  We encouraged more TV and movie watching than most would seem normal so that they would hear English even more.  And we limited the amount of Ukrainian videos that our youngest could watch since he struggled the most with learning English.  Now that they are close to starting school and doing activities at church without us around, we have required that they speak to each other in English when we are having dinner together.
Progress:  While we were in Ukraine, we had to use Google Translate 99% of the time to communicate with them.  In the early days home, we had to use it at least a few times a day.  Now we only have to use it for words that are used infrequently (recent example: sauerkraut). 
Verdict:  Our boys are amazing!  They definitely had/have moments of getting frustrated and overwhelmed with learning our language, but they have amazed us with their progress!  I was honestly the most scared about the language barrier with our boys, but God has shown me that it’s one of the easiest things in international adoption! 
Bottom Line:  Because they are our sons, we just know them.  The best analogy I can give is how a mama knows what her newborn baby needs by his/her cries.  We can communicate easily with them because they are part of Team Huss. 
Starting School
Background:  In Ukraine, our boys attended a very small school (their orphanage was their school).  They each had roughly 12-18 kids in their grade level, and they stayed in the same classroom while the teachers rotated in and out.  Team Huss lives in the Houston area where the public schools are huge!
Weighing the Options:  From the beginning, we wanted to ensure that we made our decisions based on the needs of each child.  In other words, all 3 boys don’t have to have the same type of schooling.  We wanted to get to know them before we made any decisions (once again, than you Lord for giving us 4 months with them before we had to make any decisions!).  We wanted to consider all possibilities: public school, private school, and homeschool. 
Ben and I both attended public schools and loved them (he in the Houston area; me in a small town in Louisiana).  We have tons of family members who are public school teachers.  We are fortunate to live in a great area for public schools—they are top notch!  They get ESL support in our public schools, so that was definitely a viable option—the only real downside being the size of the schools. 
Then there is the private school option.  The big pros for that would be the smaller atmosphere and Christian influence.  But cost is obviously a downside there, as well as little ESL support. 
Then there is homeschooling.  For the last year or so (once we started pursuing our boys’ adoption), I started learning more about homeschooling by reading other people’s stories and talking to homeschooling mamas.  There are so many things about it that fit my personality, but we just weren’t sure if it would work with our weird schedules or if our boys would want/need it.  Right before the boys came home, I attended a parent meeting at an amazing private school that combines homeschooling with traditional classroom schooling.  I thought this would be our answer for sure!!  Then I realized that they don’t cater to any “special needs” (ESL included) and that the final testing date for placement was in early July (when the boys would only have 2 ½ months of English under their belts).  I knew that they couldn’t possibly take an all-English placement test that early, so we had to throw that option out (for now). 
Making a Decision:  For our little guy, it became clear very early on that he would do better in a learning environment outside of the home, and he definitely would need ESL support.  We also knew that the elementary school we are zoned for is brand new and within walking/bike riding distance from our house.  Plus, elementary school classes can only have 22 or less kiddos in them, and we knew he would only have 1-2 teachers and wouldn’t have to learn the ropes of moving classes or having a locker, etc.  So that decision was easy.  Slavik will be a 4th grader at Adolphus Elementary!
When “back to school” time started getting closer, it was all our middle son could talk about!  He wanted to drive by and see what school he would attend, he was pumped to get some new clothes for school, and wanted to know all about using a locker and moving from class to class.  His personality is much more extroverted and he just couldn’t wait to meet some new friends!  When he went with me to registration, he was all smiles and decided he wanted to play American football!!  So that decision was easy.  Vlad will be a 7th grader at Bricsoe Jr. High!
Over the summer, we learned that our big boy HATES crowds.  There were several times we changed plans mid-stream because he saw all the cars parked somewhere or all of the people inside a building (think about every Chick-fil-A in the summer around lunch time!).  We also learned how self-motivated he is with his English lesson.  And we learned that his #1 passion in life is soccer, so he is playing with a club that practices 3 nights a week from 8:00pm-9:30pm.  Even with all of these factors, it still seemed like he wanted to go to his public high school (he initially laughed at the idea of homeschool!).  We tried to register him and kept running into issues and delays.  I went ahead and took him to new student orientation (even though we hadn't completed registration), and that’s when his attitude suddenly changed.  When we left I could tell from his body language and look in his eyes that it freaked him out and that he was super uncomfortable.  That night he spoke up and asked me if he could homeschool.  It took me off-guard because he had laughed at the idea only 2 months ago...but then I realized he was serious, so Ben and I discussed it.  There were so many reasons for us to say “yes” to homeschooling him, and the thing that sealed the deal was realizing that we’d get a lot more time with our big boy who could likely be “leaving the nest” in 3 short years.  We prayed about it, talked to him about it, and had the most peace about the decision!  (the same kind of peace we had with our adoptions—even though we know it’s gonna be crazy and new for us, we just know it’s what we’re meant to do right now)  So that decision was easy.  Valik will be a 10th grader at Team Huss school!
Our girls will also be starting something new this year.  I’ll continue to work part-time, but now I’ll spread it over the week rather than work full days 3 days a week.  So, unfortunately, our girls can’t attend the awesome MDO program at our church anymore since it’s only 2 days a week.  However, we’re excited that we found a great church preschool program that is in between Slavik’s and Vlad’s schools!  So that decision was easy.  Eden and Cal will be in preschool at Faith School for Young Children!
Bottom Line:  We will take it step by step and child by child.  We’ll reevaluate each semester to see if we need to make any adjustments and go from there.  We are incredibly thankful to live in a country (and state) that allows us so many education options and the freedom to choose what is right for our kiddos! 
Please continue to pray with us for our kiddos (and us) as we enter this very new territory.  Thanks for loving us!


What we really want you to know...

You guys are awesome!  Seriously. 

The prayers, the meals, the hugs, the smiles, the gift cards, the sweet comments, the love.

It's all awesome.  And it's all from you guys.  Which makes you awesome.

Thank you for continuing to be a part of this adoption journey, and therefore, a part of our "team."  We couldn't do it without you. 

So thank you for your awesomeness.  Seriously.

They are coming HOME!

The men of Team Huss are coming HOME!! 

The only thing pending is picking up the boys' passports and going to their final Embassy appointment, which is all scheduled to happen tomorrow (Thursday)!  Their flights are booked for a Friday morning departure from Kiev!

Scratch that.  God had other plans.  They DID get their passports and finish their final Embassy appointment on Thursday (today).  However, they can't pick up their Visas until Friday (tomorrow) morning.  SO, we had to change their flights.  They are now arriving on Saturday afternoon.  The remaining info below has been updated to reflect their new flight.

We want to invite everyone to the airport (Houston Intercontinental) on Saturday afternoon (April 26th) to welcome them home.  They will be arriving at 2:20pm on United Airlines Flight 105 from Munich.  We're guessing it will take them about an hour to deplane, go through customs and immigration, and get luggage; so, they should be walking through the arrival gates at the international terminal by 3:30pm! (that's just my estimate...)

Keep in mind that our boys speak very little English, so don't expect any conversation to happen.  But I'm sure they will appreciate smiles and "welcome" signs.

After the greetings and pictures (Valik is going to hate all of the pictures I plan to take!), we'll head to our house to begin settling in as a family of 7.  So, even though it will only be a bit of time that you'll get to see them at the airport, I know they would love a warm welcome.  And once we're settled and they have adjusted to the 8-hour time difference, we're happy to have visitors so y'all can get to know our boys a bit more.

Thanks for ALL of your love, prayers, and support.  When they land on US soil, our real journey please keep 'em coming! ;)

Some Cool Dates

Everyone loves a cool "coincidence" story, right?  Well, I actually call these type of things "winks from God."  Things that aren't necessary for Him to do, but He does them because He's in the details and loves us.  These are just dates on the calendar, but they mean so much more to us!     

September 17th
2009 - the day we felt called to adopt --read more about that here (NOTE: it was actually the 16th for us, but with Ethiopia and Ukraine being 8 hours ahead, it was the 17th in both of those countries)
2009 - a very significant time in our boys' story (my vagueness is on's none-ya business)
2010 - the day Eden was born in Ethiopia
2014 - the day our dossier for our boys' adoption was sent to Ukraine

April 1st

2013 - the day we began the journey to our boys--when Ben shared with me about his recurring dream (read more about that here)
2014 - the day we stood before a court in Ukraine to officially make the boys part of Team Huss

Back-to-Back "Forever Family" Days (April 15th, 16th, 17th)
April 15, 2014 - the date on our court decree for Valik, Vlad, and Slavik--when the appeal term was over and the boys became forever ours!
April 16, 2012 - the date of birth of Callie Jeanne--she entered the world and became forever ours!
April 17, 2011 - the date we picked Eden up for the final time from her transition home in Ethiopia--forever in our arms!

NOTE: Those in the adoption community will realize that these back-to-back dates also mean that our adopted kiddos experience their "trauma-versaries" at the same time.  This is going to make for some interesting Springs from here on out...please pray for us to be able to give them the support they need.  For those not familiar with that term, it's such an interesting and sad thing that children from hard places deal with.  Their internal clocks just know when something traumatic happened in their life (for international adoption, that can be when they were separated from birthparents, when they leave their birth country, etc.).  Their behaviors get really cray-cray during this time (my scientific explanation), and they often don't know why.  Even kiddos adopted at birth will deal with this.  Eden was home with us when she was 7 months old and she still has major trauma-versary behaviors (we're going through it right now, so please be patient with me as I parent her during this time). 

When are they coming home??

Hi friends!  Sorry for taking so long to update all of you on our timeline.  I'm home now and (mostly) adjusted back to Central Time.  Here is the latest on bringing our boys home...

Short version:  If everything goes smoothly, Ben and the boys will be home on April 30th!  So please PRAY for PERFECTION in the PROCESS. ;)

Longer version:  These are details (as we understand them) about the remaining process to bring them home...

{We're currently in the mandatory waiting period after we passed court on April 1st.}

1) Court Decree - Ben and Yana (our translator/adoption process guru) will pick up the court decree in Volodarka on April 15th. 

2) Birth Certificates - Ben and Yana will travel to pick up the boys' new birth certificates.  Our boys were born in 2 different towns, but luckily they are only approximately 3 hours from each other.  In total, this step of getting birth certificates will take approximately 2 days. 

3) ID Codes - Yana will change the boys' ID codes in Kiev.  It takes 1 day to do this.

{If these steps go according to plan, they should be completed by April 18th.}

4) Passports - Ben, Yana, and the boys will all go to Kiev to submit some documents, take their passport pictures, etc.  If the other steps are done by the 18th, then the passports can be done on April 21st.

{The passports take 4 work days to be completed. This timeframe will also be when the boys start their goodbyes at the orphanage.  After those 4 days (so, hopefully April 25th), Ben and the boys will move to Kiev.}

6) Visas - Ben will schedule his appointments at the US Embassy (they require 2 appointment days--one to review the document and the next day for the interview appointment). If all is going as planned, these would happen April 28th-29th.

7) Fly Home - It looks like we're shooting for April 30th as their departure date! 

Thank you SO much for all of your excitement, prayers, support, and love!

Prayer Requests

Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:19-20

Overall Prayer Requests as We Expand our Team:
Our marriage
Travel mercies
Jet lag
Language barrier
Spiritual warfare
Political safety
Culture shock

Prayers over the process:
Acceptance from our boys
Bonding for all 7 of us
Favor over our timelines (pray they are home by Easter)
A kind judge
Acceptance of our paperwork as-is

Prayers over the trip (note: Kiev is 8 hours ahead of Houston):
The way over: depart Houston Feb 21 at 6:55pm; 6-hour layover in Frankfurt; land in Kiev 9:45pm Feb 22
The way back (for all but Ben): depart Kiev 5:55am Mar 20; 6-hour layover in Frankfurt; land in Houston 7:20pm Mar 20
(pray for luggage, passports, traveling with young kiddos, etc.)

Prayers over our boys:
Come to know Jesus personally—soon
Feel safe, secure, and loved in their new family
Bond quickly with sisters and mom and dad
Smooth transition as cross-cultural kids
Learn English, while still retaining Ukrainian

Prayers over our girls:
Continue to feel safe, secure, and loved in their growing family
Bond quickly with brothers
Patience and grace with brothers and mom and dad

Prayers once we're home:
Our marriage
Transition to a family of 7
Family bonding time—true connection
Language barrier
Establishing rules/boundaries
Culture shock 
Decisions about schooling

Thank you for your prayers!

Ukraine Needs Our Help

In the wake of us celebrating MLK and his fight for justice, I now come to you asking you to join me in taking ACTION to help the people of Ukraine.  Whether you have personal ties to Ukraine or not, JUSTICE matters to EVERYONE.  And obviously for Team Huss, this is personal. 

What is happening in Ukraine right now is NOT RIGHT.  They were peacefully disagreeing with wrongful actions of their leaders and the unimaginable happened.  A dictatorship is on the rise, lives are being lost, freedom is being taken away.  This injustice cannot be ignored.  They deserve freedom!  Will you help?

Proverbs 31:8 "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves..."

What YOU Can Do This Week
I've compiled everything into one place, so this should only take you 10-15 minutes out of your day.  Your voice DOES MATTER!  The Ukrainian people are pleading for the US to get involved.  They are NOT asking for troops or money--they are asking for our government to impose sanctions on those who are standing in the way of their freedom.  THANK YOU in advance for standing up for the people of Ukraine during their struggle to build a free and democratic nation.

1) SIGN THIS PETITION - simply click here and enter your basic info to sign.  This is just a basic petition to John Kerry that will hopefully get the president's attention for America to help Ukraine.

It says:  Please immediately speak out against the Ukrainian Government! They are silencing free assembly and speech with draconian measures. They are choosing dictatorship over democracy. This must be stopped before more lives are lost. President Bush spoke out in 2004 during the Orange Revolution and his words helped to effect great change. The same should happen now. 

2) EMAIL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES - below you will find a script that you can copy and paste to write your representatives.  Send it to your US Senators and your US Representatives (Congressman/woman).  Simply click here to find your representatives, then follow those individual links to get their contact info, then paste the script below into their email contact form.

Dear Senator __ or Representative __
Ukraine’s President Victor Yanukovych recently signed a series of laws that curb freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to legal due process and freedom of association; severely curtailing civil liberties and political rights in Ukraine. 
The laws implemented are intended to shut down the Euromaidan protests, which have underscored the determination of the Ukrainian people to live in a free, just and democratic society. Rather than engaging in constructive dialogue with its citizens, the government is silencing these protests through repression, censorship, and intimidation.
The signing of the so-called "Dictatorship Laws" have transformed the country overnight into a police state that many experts have compared to Russia, Belarus and North Korea.  Equally concern is the fact that on the same day the "dictatorship laws" were signed by the President, he fired the Commander of the Armed Forces, the Head of the Presidential Administration, and appointed over 70 new judges throughout Ukraine in an effort to consolidate control over the military and judiciary in addition to the legislative branch and the executive. 
I call on the government of the United States and its allies to impose SEVERE and IMMEDIATE sanctions against those who seek to strip the Ukrainian people of their freedom.   I ask you to freeze the financial assets of those responsible for perpetuating the violations of human rights and freedoms in Ukraine.  I ask that you warn Russia and its agents against any acts of interference in the events occurring in Ukraine. 
Please stand with me in complete solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their peaceful struggle to build a free and democratic nation.

A Brief Background if You are Completely LostOn November 21, 2013, peaceful demonstrations and protests began in Kiev after the Ukrainian government suspended preparations for signing an agreement with the European Union.  The wave of demonstrations is called "Euromaidan," and have underscored the determination of the Ukrainian people to live in a free, just and democratic society.  It has been characterized as an event of major political symbolism for the EU itself and has been called the largest ever pro-European rally in history. 

Thousands of Ukrainians continued to protest despite the sub-zero temperatures and a heavy police presence.  On November 30, 2013, the government forces escalated the violence, which caused the number of protesters to rise up to the 800,000 mark.  Even through New Year and Christmas celebrations, thousands of protesters stood strong.

On January 16, 2014, Ukraine's President Victor Yanukovych signed a series of laws that curb freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to legal due process and freedom of association; severely curtailing civil liberties and political rights in Ukraine.  The laws implemented are intended to shut down the Euromaidan protests.  Rather than engaging in constructive dialogue with its citizens, the government is silencing these protests through repression, censorship, and intimidation. 

The signing of these so-called "Dictatorship Laws" have transformed the country overnight into a war zone.  At the time of me posting this blog, at least 2 protesters have been killed

Will this Impact our Adoption
We have no idea...but it is certainly a possibility with all of the violence and chaos happening in Kiev (the capital) right now.  We just ask for your prayers.  For Ukraine.  For our boys.  For the process.  And for us.

Thank YOU for standing with us for JUSTICE for Ukraine!

Her Brothers

Eden loves her brothers.

We went to get her passport photo yesterday and had the most precious (and heart-wrenching) conversation...

Me:  We're getting your picture taken today so that we can get your passport and go get your brothers.
Eden:  OK, Mom.  That's a good idea.
Me:  You need to smile and look at the camera so we can get a good photo (NOTE: our last picture got sent back because she wasn't looking at the camera.)
Eden:  OK, Mom.

{she took the cutest picture with no problems at all}

{when we got back in the car}

Eden:  OK, Mom--let's go get my brothers!
Me: (almost in tears) Oh, honey--we can't get them today, but it will be soon.  We first have to get our Letter of Invitation and then we'll get on an airplane and fly to go get them.
Eden:  OK, Mom. (with her head down)

{when we pulled in the driveway after some errands}

Eden: (frantic) No, Mom!  We don't have my brothers yet!  We can't go home yet!
Me: (almost in tears again) Oh, honey--I know--we have to pray and trust that God will send us over there to get them soon.
Eden:  OK, Mom.  That's a good idea.

Lord, please hear our cries.  We pray boldly that we will receive our Letter of Invitation by the end of this month! 

Kind of Freaking Out

It's all becoming real.  I'm about to be a mom to 3 grown boys!  Don't get me wrong--I'm still extremely excited and can't wait to have them home--but it's starting to kind of freak me out! 

When I let my guard down, the Enemy definitely starts to get to me.  He speaks lies to try to destroy me.  Things like...
"you're totally unprepared for this" 
"this is going to rock your world" 
"they are going to mess up the good thing you have going with your little family" 
"you won't be able to afford the groceries, clothing, and activities they will require" 
"you won't even be able to communicate with them" 
"you don't know anything about raising boys" 
"you don't even know anything about them!"

Thankfully I can replace those lies with TRUTH!

"If you want to find peace, then you need to return to the truth of God's Word that will last forever, not meditate on circumstances that will change and fade.  It is this truth that enables us to go into the future undaunted." - Christine Caine in Undaunted

Here is just a handful of TRUTH to cover my fears...
Matthew 19:26 - with God, all things are possible
Deuteronomy 31:6 - He will never leave me or forsake me
Philippians 4:19 - God will meet all of my needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus
Revelation 21:5 - He makes all things new
1 Peter 5:7 - cast all of your cares upon Him because He cares for you

So, here you go Satan...

Yes, I'm totally unprepared.  But I'll lean on God and He will equip me.

Yes, it is definitely going to rock my world.  But that is a GREAT thing!

Yes, things are going to change around here.  But change is GOOD--I hate monotony!

Yes, our budget will look very different.  But God is my ultimate provider!

Yes, I speak a different language than my boys.  But LOVE can transcend that (and google translate)!

Yes, I'm a rookie in all things boy.  But I'm a fast learner!

Matthew 6:33-34 - Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Whew!  That's plenty of TRUTH to keep me from freaking out.  Thank you, Jesus!