Sunday, July 26, 2015

Introducing... (our 1 week HOME update)

It is hard to believe that this time last week we were just getting home from the airport after the longest day of traveling of my life.

This week has flown by, but in a way it seems like our two little loves have been here much longer than a mere seven days.

There is so much to update on and so many pictures to post.

My dearest blog family, please welcome the two newest Maxwell's...

Gresham Allister Maxwell

And our little princess, Miss EmarieJoy Juliet Maxwell (pronounced like Marie just with a short E) aka Emma, EmmieJo, or EmJ as daddy calls her.

When God called us to adopt again we just didn't see how it could possibly work out. We felt stretched to our limit with our two little boys. We knew we wanted to adopt again "someday", but this just felt way to soon! But we prayed about it and we knew, if God was saying "go" we couldn't say no. We knew that if there were indeed more children already out in the world that belonged in our family, we knew we couldn't live with the fact that they were waiting because we were doubting God. 

So we stepped out in faith and committed to the two precious little souls pictured above and 8 months later they are HOME!!

As soon as God laid these two on our hearts we started praying for specific things. We prayed that Gresham and Landon would get along and be play mates, that baby girl would be exactly what our family of boys has been missing, we prayed and prayed that God would prepare them to be in our family and for a smooth transition from 2 to 4 kids.

Deep in our hearts Ryan and I had a peace that these two would just "fit", but we had no idea how true that would be.

There is no doubt in my mind that God orchestrated this adoption. I firmly believe that He closed doors for us to bring home a second child our first adoption so that a year later we would be ready and able to bring home these two. He works in such mysterious ways and this adoption has taught us to trust Him even when His plan feels crazy, even mean and just doesn't make sense. 

We are learning that we don't need to have all the right answers to the why's of our life we just need to follow God's leading's as He reveals them and trust in the fact that He is the author and He KNOWS the whole story. 

Gresham is 4 years old and weighs 18Ibs. He is tiny and it is almost impossible to find pants that will stay up on him. Right now he's been wearing size 12 month shorts because they're the only size that will stay up on his waist. 18m shirts fit him, but he's got 0 fat on his entire body. He is so much like Landon it's almost scary! We had a hard time getting him to sit still through a meal so now we strap him in a booster chair and he does much better and is eating more which makes me happy. Him and Landon hit it off right away and watching them play together brings us so much joy. He is the sweetest boy and is always giving us spontaneous hugs and kisses. He is very interested in learning english and tries to repeat most of what we say. I don't doubt that he learn very quickly.

Overall he is adjusting remarkably well, but he did come from a very aggressive environment so we see random aggressive behavior and meltdowns from him. It's nothing we didn't expect, but it's still hard to watch. He is especially aggressive with our animals since his only experience with animals has been from behind a fence where it was the goal of all the children to pull the orphanage dog's tail or throw rocks at him. He has to be watched constantly with both our dog and cat and it's gotten to the point where I just have to put our dog outside and lock our cat in the laundry room because he is so obsessed with them, but has a very hard time with being gentle and interacting appropriately with them. Surprisingly and thankfully his aggressive behavior seems to be only towards the animals which is such an answer to prayer because we worried about how he would do with the kids. Him and Landon argue and tussle like any little boys, especially brothers do, but so far we haven't had any concerning incidents. 

I'm not going to lie, there have been really hard times this past week. 55% of the time Gresham is the sweetest kid you've ever met, but 45% of the time he is pushing boundaries to see how we will react. In the orphanage he was in there was no consistency. Whether he was allowed to get away with everything or whether he was beaten and isolated for his behavior relied solely on which nannies were on duty at that specific time. So he will do things like throw his full plate of food on the ground or dump his cup of water that he just asked for right on my feet just to see how we will react and when he gets a time in (we don't do time outs with our adopted kids since they are used to being isolated, instead we make them sit with us until they calm down) he freaks out because he obviously doesn't want to face consequences for his actions, but at the same time we aren't reacting violently like he is used to. Some days it seems like this battle is constant and I know it will take a lot of time before he will be able to process and accept this new, healthy way of life. 

We brought home a tiny little boy who has been forced to learn to survive in a constant fight environment. He has been bullied and he has bullied those smaller then him. He has witnessed and experienced physical abuse from those who were supposed to love and care for him. He has put up walls in order to survive and we are slowly learning how to penetrate those walls so God's love can heal the broken pieces of his precious soul. His past is heartbreaking, but sadly that is just what life is like for the majority of orphans in Ukraine. Ivan faced a different kind of abuse, he was left for years to lay in a crib, most of the time by himself with no stimulation and because of that he really struggles with anxiety and sensory imbalance, but Gresham's story is different. Ryan and I are learning that every adopted child's experience is different therefore we have to parent each of our kiddos differently. All things considered though, Gresh is adjusting amazingly well. We love our little munchkin to pieces and he knows it... it scares him at times, but he's beginning to really know love.

And then there is our EmarieJoy. There really is not much to write because she has had 0 issues since the day I took her out of the orphanage. She is the happiest most content baby I have ever seen. She cries when she is hungry, tired, or wants to be held, but that is it. She fits into our easy going, laid back clan like she has been here from day 1. She is 2 1/2 and weighs 20Ibs (yes, she weighs 2Ibs more than Gresham!). When she was at the orphanage she was drinking only out of a bottle. I tried rice cereal while in Kiev with her and she had no idea how to use a spoon so I ended up putting it in a bottle and cutting a bigger hole in the nipple (likely what she was used to drinking from since they do this to get the kids to drink faster at the orphanage). Once we got home I started trying a little baby food with her each meal and after a couple days she began accepting the spoon and getting the hang of swallowing. She has now tried a bunch of different kinds of baby food as well as tiny pieces of a cracker, potatoes, and today she tried pancakes which she was a total fan of! She is a total rock star and we know she will excel with therapy. We have already been in contact with our case worker and she should be starting early intervention soon. She is not walking, but she will pull herself up to high knees and if we support her she will bare some weight on her legs. She has very low muscle tone which is common for kiddos with Down Syndrome, but since she hasn't had any early intervention to work on it, it will take some time for her to get used to using those muscles in her legs. She is a rocket fast crawler though and gets wherever she wants to go lickety split! She babbles a lot and says "mama" and "dada" occasionally, but her expressions communicate loud and clear most of the time. When we first met EmarieJoy it took her days to even glance at us. She is very spunky and does everything on her own terms, but at the time, we really worried that we may struggle with attachment issues with her. I am so happy that has NOT been the case. This girl is so attached to Ryan and I that I really can't believe she has only been home for a week. She seeks us out and loves to be cuddled. She is starting to motion to be picked up and she just get's the most joyous smile on her face when she's being loved on. She melts in our arms in a way that communicates she knows she's safe and loved. It is such a beautiful and miraculous thing.

She is adored by daddy and mama and all of her brothers as well. She is the princess in our home and she seems to quit enjoy that title and all the perks it brings with it. She is our spunky, smiley, ray of sunshine and I can't imagine life without her anymore. 

Both of the kiddos will be seeing our doctor on Tues so we'll get a plan of action going on what is necessary for medical treatments. Although extremely small for their age they both seem to be over all healthy. I am anxious to have both of their hearts looked at though and hear first hand what is going on with them. We know Gresham will need to see a ophthalmologist asap as there is likely a surgery in the near future to correct his droopy eyelid. They will also both need to see a dentist soon. It was obvious that neither of them had ever had their teeth brushed before. They are getting more used to it now, but at first they both sobbed in pain and their gums bled from the small amount of pressure. We were told Gresham had probably never had milk before because it is too expensive there and you can tell that he is really lacking in calcium since his teeth are very small and hardly have any tooth enamel.

I'm sure our calendar will fill up quickly in the next couple months, but I can't wait to get our kiddos the help their bodies need and get them growing and on the right track.

At the airport. First picture as a family of 6!
Bedtime snuggles

Okay, I just have to say! Where in the world did my baby go!! He becomes a big brother and all of a sudden he looks growth up :(

Love watching my clan around our table

My peaceful angel girl

My wild sweet little boy

All three playing together while Ivan had pt in the basement.

First time in the grass, she's not sure about it

Learning to like baby food

Her expressions are priceless

He get's so excited when it's meal time!

Our crazy awesome crew!

At the salon about to say good-bye to her lovely Ukrainian mullet. Her hair grew (or was cut) very uneven so we tried to even it out with an adorable little pixie cut.

Daddy reading to Gresham. He tries to repeat everything dad says.

Saying night night to sissy. Look at him striking a pose haha
Emma gets lots of kisses and smothering with 3 adoring big brothers. Landon especially always wants to know what "my baby" is doing or tells me if he thinks "my baby" needs something.

Trying out pancakes for the first time this morning. She even picked up a couple pieces by herself. YAY for fine motor development!!

Sometimes she just looks at him like "dude, you are so crazy and loud, just chill out like me."

Our perfect, unexpected and unplanned blessing.

I had her bottle in my hand and she always gets this excited!

Those eyes... just pure JOY!!

Some pics that capture the relationship between our twinsies!

Gresham Allister born on April 21st, 2011 (4 years old) and Landon Anthony born April 3rd 2012 (3 years old). One year and a couple weeks apart, best buds since the day they met!!

The night we got home from the airport. Gresham followed Landon around and Landon wanted to show him all his toys.

I've been amazed at how they communicate with each other in spite of the language barrier. Just goes to show, play and silliness are universal :)

Playing with sticks outside, being boys.

Eating monster cookies.

I have no idea what was so hilarious about drinking milk.

God knew they needed each other.

 So Ryan and I have talked in length about what we should do in regards to cacooning (an adoption term that means a family stays basically home bound with their adopted children to enforce security and attachment). With Ivan we cacooned for three long months and it was absolutely necessary, but we are in a different place as a family now and these kiddos are different then Ivan so we've been going back and forth on what is necessary. We've decided to not go out very often yet and to really be choosy about where we do go, but we don't think it's fair to Ivan and Landon to be cooped up for the remainder of the Summer and honestly we don't feel like it's really needed for these two. So last night we all went to Target to go school supplies shopping for Ivan and it was wonderful to go out as a family. Today it was so beautiful outside and Ivan and Landon have been begging to go to the beach with brother and sister so we packed everything and everyone up after nap time and headed to the lake. 

We had a blast and the kids all behaved like champs!! 

Here's some pics from our day.

We celebrated our first Saturday morning together with pancakes and bacon, does it get any better??

Picnic on the beach

"mom, I'm over this."
Ivan loves to swim/crawl around.

We were so surprised since this kid has been hating bath time, but he ran right into the water to join his daddy.

He loved splashing!!

Breeze in her hair, sitting where the water can't touch her... my daughter, my love.
Like Ivan, this kiddo has 0 fat so he get's cold really fast. Nothing some cuddles with daddy can't fix.

Just surrounded by love. I could never deserve these precious blessings.

Off to the park to play

Checking out her surroundings (she's ultra observant) and letting everyone around her know she has a lot to say.

The twins eating their ice cream cones

We were all exhausted after our day at the beach so we ordered pizza and had a family movie night.

She's getting so interested in food now... "Daddy whatcha got for me?"
Gresh doesn't sit still for Movies yet since he can't understand them, but he had a great time playing and making all of us try his food.

I think her shirt says it all

So there's a glimpse into this new chapter of ours. 

When we adopted Ivan we were completely disoriented for a while. Today Ryan and I were remembering how we couldn't even walk a block without him completely melting down in sobs and screaming the entire time. These two kiddos are adjusting so much better than he did, but can I be honest? When we brought home Ivan we were completely stretched to our limit and now with these two, although they are transitioning much easier, I still feel COMPLETELY stretched to my limit about 90% of the time!! 

Yes, adoption is hard. Yes, having 4 kids is hard, but what it boils down to is living for God is hard. 

Let me put it a different way, LOVE is HARD. 

The other day was hard, Ryan came home from work to Gresham screaming his head off, stripping his clothes and throwing everything he could get his hands on. He had done something he knows is wrong and I had to take something away from him... ensue meltdown.

I was dealing with his behavior, but to be honest, I was just tired and done. I didn't want to lovingly correct anymore. I didn't want to hold a screaming and thrashing child on my lap anymore. I just wanted to go to bed and hide from this new crazy reality.

I was on the verge of tears when I explained to Ryan that I didn't know if I was making the right decisions. "Maybe we're expecting too much of him, too soon. I feel like I'm screwing up our attachment because I'm constantly correcting him. I feel like he hates me." Ryan hugged me and encouraged me that I was doing the right thing. Shortly after, I went to pick up my screaming little boy and he wrapped his little arms around me and I held him close for the next 15 min. Ryan eventually looked over at me and smirked, "you think he's not attached to you?"

In that instant I knew he was right. I could feel it in the soft breathing of my son who was completely hysterical only minutes prior. 

This is love at work. 

This is God at work. 
This is the power of family.

Then that night I was sitting by Gresham's bed. We'd read a couple books and now I was singing to him and stroking his tiny cheek as his eyes drifted open and shut until he eventual gave in to slumber, which was signaled by one deep long sigh and then quiet steady breaths. I couldn't bring myself to leave his side though. Even after the long hard day we had together, even with how much I told myself all day I just had to make it until bedtime, then I could have a break from the chaos. I just sat there, stroking his cheek, rubbing his back, and pondering how deep this love is. I thought about all of the projects we need done on our house and all of the dreams Ryan and I have for our future and suddenly none of it mattered compared to this. 

I really believe the more you follow God and say yes to His plan, the more He will demand of you. 

For a while I thought this was mean of Him. Doesn't He realize I have my hands full over here, why would He ask more of us? Is He TRYING to kill me!!" are all thoughts I've had on numerous occasions, but my heart is beginning to realize that there's no end to what God will ask of us, because there's no end to the deepness of His love. Each time we give up our own plans and surrender to His ways, we dive deeper. 

 Our life is far from easy, but there are so many moments during the day that I am overcome with emotions. I can't express with words how grateful we are to God for calling us to dive deeper and deeper and deeper into His love and redemption and I am so humbled and amazed by the love and support of others. 

Each of you have played such a significant role in bringing our children home. To those of you who read this blog, follow our story, and pray for our family, THANK YOU.

To everyone who supported us through our many fundraisers, I can't tell you what that has meant to us. The adoption process is such a hard, emotionally and physically taxing process and the fact that each of our fundraisers was met with such support gave us hope and courage.

Our amazing family, friends, and church family, you are priceless to us and we could of never done this without your love and support.

There is just no way we could ever repay everyone's generosity and thank you just doesn't seem adequate enough, but my hope and prayer is that seeing our children smiling and getting to watch them grow and thrive in the future will bring such joy and satisfaction to your soul because you truly have played a role in their redemption and healing. 

So with tears welling in my eyes and an overwhelming amount of gratitude bursting in my heart, THANK YOU!

God has been faithful!! 

Our babies are HOME...

Now the journey really begins :)

It means so much to our family to get to share our story with you. Our prayer is that through sharing our life, God would be glorified and each of you reading would know that you are loved. No matter where you've come from, what you've done, or what kinds of lies the world has spoken over you, God loves you more than you could ever know and He desires for you to know that love and never stop diving deeper.


  1. Wow! Thanks so much for sharing, Natalie.

  2. Thank you! Thank you! so much for this post and all the pictures.
    I was overjoyed when I saw little "Reno" on MFFM and even more so when it was revealed it was your family who was going for him. Seeing him, happy and being a loved son and brother just seizes my heart up.

    You have a beautiful family, thank you for sharing a bit of it with us :)

  3. I am so happy for you all!!!! They are so adorable and we can't wait to meet them someday! I'm sure you will have lots of hard days but God gives strength and grace when we need it! I love their names too! Thank you so much for sharing and posting all the lovely pictures!