"To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." Isaiah 61:3

The Burckhard Family

The Burckhard Family

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Our First Family Photo!

Here's our first family photo with the six of us all together!



Today was our nephew Jason's wedding. He and Andrea are no longer endangered, but are now a newly married couple!

I am sure I will have a few photos to share tomorrow after the wedding reception tonight. We are ready, as Grace has been saying, to "go party and have cake!"

Here are the FOUR kids together before we went to the wedding:



Love, Paula

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An Update & Some Firsts...

Can't believe we have been home six days now. (I have been trying to blog for over three days....LOL) Bella is adjusting beautifully! At first, I was concerned because she wouldn't eat anything, but Sunday morning she wolfed down a bowl of Cream of Wheat made with milk in under two minutes flat! (we have it on video!)



On Sunday she attended church for the first time. Our Trinity Church family was so excited to finally meet Bella. She marched right into the church as if she knew everyone and walked around exploring. Eeee (as Bella calls Elizabeth) offered to take her out during the sermon because she was a bit talkative. She LOVED the worship music and when Papa went up to welcome and give annoucements (his job each Sunday), she noticed him across the santuary and yelled and pointed "Papa, Papa, Papa". It was hard for Papa to stop the tears! Kevin shared that he is glad she finally knows her earthly Papa, but hopes and prays that some day she will also know her Papa in heaven!





We love it too that when she is done eating she will bring her dishes over to the counter and then push in her chair. Grandma and I stood watching it in amazement last night, especially when she pointed to the table--we finally figured out that she wanted to wash her spot. We hand her the dishcloth and she scrubbed away, even swiping the crumbs into her little hand! Gotta love some of the orphanage behavior!





Bath with Grace - each of them splashing the other!

Walking with Sam--with Pooh in a stroller:

First time shopping at Target:

First swimsuit and blow up pool.

First Grandma Florence Chocolate Chip Cookie:

First meeting with Jen, our babysitter (she brought presents including sunglasses!)

First Wii High School Musical game:

Playing with the Fisher Price play house:

First ice cream at Grandpa & my belated birthday party:

First day of Sophomore year for Elizabeth:

First day of sixth grade for Sam:

Life is good - not perfect - but very good! Praise God.... Love, Paula

Friday, August 21, 2009

We Are Home!

Yes, it is true! We are home at last! After our "gotcha day" we brought Bella to our apartment. She loved her first bath with us.

She thought the big "futon" bed was great...she finally fell asleep around 8:00 p.m. with Elizabeth lying next to her patting her little tummy. Then, at 2:00 a.m. we "rudely" awakened her to leave for the airport at 3:00 a.m. As we left the apartment, we heard this screaming, sobbing, and pounding. And, one of our greatest fears was realized for some poor soul -- the elevator had broken down with him in it! Bella gripped on to Elizabeth's neck while we worked our way down five flights of stairs listening to the poor man crying out in Ukrainian, panicked out of his mind. What was sad was that we couldn't do anything about it. We had to leave him there and take the taxi to the airport. Our translator did push the button for emergency help though.

It took us forever to get our bags checked. After that, when we finally got to passport control, the border patrol officer took our documents and left us standing there, along with everyone else in line behind us, for over ten minutes. Finally, he returned, stamped our passports and let us through without a word.

We barely made our first flight, but Bella was a complete angel! The only time she cried was when I moved her food to my tray to cut her food - it was the saddest thing ever -- she hung her head, opened her mouth with no sound coming out, and big crocodile tears fell down her cheeks. A truly soundless cry - I felt terrible having her think I took her food!

I won't go into all the details about the rest of the flights--they were uneventful, yet stressful.

However, I wanted to share our experience re-entering the USA. When we got to US Customs, we were blessed with the nicest man! He took our sealed Embassy documents and looked at our passports. He said he had been to Minot once with his Border Patrol job. After opening our documents and glancing through them, he came around and greeted Bella. "He said oh, she is so cute." He then asked Elizabeth if this was her first sister. She said "No I have another one at home." I shared with him that Bella is our second daughter with Down syndrome. He said, "Oh, Bella has DS?" Then he asked me "Are there degrees?" I said "I think those should be in there." He just looked at me with the strangest, puzzled look. Then it dawned on me, "Oh, I thought you said decrees, as in adoption decrees. But you meant degrees of Down syndrome." We all laughed! He then stamped our passports, stood, shook my hand, and said "Congratulations and God bless you for what you are doing." He also told us he will make it easy for us. I didn't know what he meant until I got to the customs with our luggage and they just waved us on through, no questions asked.

On the last leg of our flight, Bella laid her little head in my lap. She finally fell asleep facing me on my lap with her head on my chest. I was in heaven!

Then the time had come for us to deboard the plane. We could see Kevin, Sam, Grace, Grandma, Grandpa, and sister-in-law Brenda waiting for us. Kevin was waving his arms, jumping up and down. Sam and Grace gave me monster hugs. And Bella, bless her heart, stood there with big eyes taking it all in. Grace was kind and gentle with Bella touching her face and saying "She's so cute...Hi Bella" over and over again. When Bella saw Kevin, she exclaimed, "Papa, Papa, Papa." Then the most amazing thing happened, Grandpa held out his arms and she toddled over to him and allowed him to pick her up. Not only that, she clung on and hugged him! Well, if that didn't make the tears flow.....

Bella meets Sam and Grace....

There were several people sitting around watching the whole event unfold...I wonder what they were thinking!

Because we flew into Bismarck to save money, we had to drive home two more hours. Bella seemed to enjoy the safety and security of her carseat and quickly fell asleep.
Grace was so cute allowing Bella's new car seat to be in "her spot" in the Tahoe. Instead, she sat in the way back. When she needed something, she would whisper to Sissy or one of us. It was so cute to see her being considerate of her new sleeping sister.

Finally, we arrived home.

She loved her little bed, but when she saw Jake she screamed in terror. Guess she may have never seen a cat before? Well, at least not one that is as large as she is! :)

Sam and Bella together....


She had a good evening first evening at home taking it all in. She also went potty and put on her jammies. Then, Uncle Randy, Aunt Pat, and Grandma Lucille stopped over to meet Bella. She was very shy with them. But said "Paka" when they left.

Another fun thing to watch last night, was how Bella was infatuated with one of Grace's favorite activities: throwing her beaded necklaces into her toy box.
This is hard to actually describe in writing, but what Grace does is sit a few feet away from the wooden toy box, lift a "mardis gras" type necklace up, and then swing it into the box. I think she likes the sound it makes, not sure though. But, anyways, Bella loved it too. Grace would throw one and then allow Bella to throw one. It was the most precious thing to witness!

Well, it was finally bedtime. Bella falls asleep on her back with her little hands tucked behind her head, elbows out. We got to witness that this is how all the other little boys in her room also fall asleep. It was 8:00, so I crashed too. I fell asleep as my head hit the pillow. Around 3:00 am, I awakened (my body still thinking Ukraine time) and walked out to the living room. Kevin was sleeping on the couch, listening for Bella. I told him that when I just checked on Bella that she was sleeping on the floor. He said, "I know, I have put her back to bed four times already." So, I put her back in bed myself and went back to bed.

I awoke a 8:00 am and walked by Grace and Bella's room noticing the door was shut. When I greeted Kevin this morning, he asked if I had shut the girls' bedroom door. I told him that I hadn't shut it, so we went back and slowly opened the door. What did we see? Two little girls sleeping on the floor right next to each other, pillows touching! They had their first sleepover!

We've had a good day so far. There is so much more to share. Like how Bella spent over an hour going through her clothes from cousin Tifany and Aunt Karla. She would sing and sing and make piles of clothes carefully inspecting each one. She would also layer 5 to 6 shirts on top of one another and at one point had two pairs of jeans on also! I think she has never seen so many clothes and all girl ones that she will never have to share with the boys in her groupa or have the number "5" written on each piece!

Grandma feeding Bella mashed potatoes for lunch....Yum!


So to sum it up, Bella seems to be slowly adjusting. Besides the scary cat, not eating much, and the incessant teeth grinding-- things are going amazingly well. We know that there will be rough times ahead, but having a good start will help us weather the storms that may come!

Bella is slowly warming up to Papa...


We are praising God for this little blessing! We thank him too for all of you, our friends, who prayed for us, gave us financial support, and encouraged us through good times and bad. We feel so blessed to have been able to share this journey with you!
Love in Him, Paula

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Heart is Full......

Today is the day Bella left the only place she has ever known and has joined the Burckhard family (at least the half of our family on this side of the ocean).

Here is our Ukrainian princess with our favorite caregiver Helena:


As we were saying goodbye to the Orphanage Director, she climbed up in his chair. He thought it was so funny and put his stethoscope around her neck to boot!


Here we are outside the Berizka Orphanage Gate. In the adoption world it is fondly called "Gotcha Day!"


And after a full day, here are two of my girls back at the apartment.


I will tell you more later, but suffice it to say that my heart is full of love and thankfulness to God for blessing us with another daughter to love.

Good night all.....it's only 7:50 here in Ukraine. And, as I type this, a little 4 year old girl is sleeping soundly next to me.

To God be the Glory! In Him, Paula

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Getting Close......

Hello! Just a quick update....we took Bella to the required medical appointment today. She was very fiesty while waiting for the appointment, but was a very good girl with the doctor. Our translator said he was impressed with her comprehension, how she knew the animals and their sounnds and her ability to point to body parts he requested such as eyes, nose, mouth, etc.

We had Bella with us driving around from 9:00 to 1:30 going both to the medical appointment and to drop off documents at the Embassy. Our Visa appointment is 2:00 tomorrow at the US Embassy.

We weren't able to have our gotcha day today as we hoped :( because the Inspector is on vacation and the assistant Inspector was unable to be there when we wanted to leave. (Apparently, a representative has to be at the orphanage when we take Bella.) So, her "gotcha day" will be tomorrow at 12:30 before the Embassy appointment. Also at this time, we will give the orphanage workers a little gift for the love and dedication they have given to Bella and the other children.

I will update tomorrow after we get Bella....We fly out of Kiev at 5:30 am on Thursday morning. Daddy, Sam & Grace--here we come! Love, Paula

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Our Day.....

We picked up little Bella at her orphanage and wedged her between Elizabeth and me in the back seat of the taxi. Her wide eyes were going "blinky, blinky" as she tried to take it all in. When the "machina" started moving, she grasped on to Elizabeth's left hand and my right...her little fingers were white as she held on for dear life. Natasha said to tell her "horisho" (or something like that :) to tell her "it's ok". She didn't move a muscle until she saw the Dnipro River and then quickly sat up and pointed at the water.


Here we are waiting at the passport office with Elizabeth & Bella and her "ginormous" bow!...



She was very good at the passport office, though we had to do lots of tricks to get her to close her mouth, sit up straight, look here, etc. Finally, we got a good enough scan and picture of her face.

We brought her back to the orphanage, with our hands in her vice grip. She seemed to relieved to be back at the only home she has ever known. However, SHE wanted to play like we usually do, but it was time to eat lunch. She was ok with that when our translator said it was time to go in and eat. She hustled off into the building leaving us all standing there!

Oh, and I might as well tell you, it was my birthday too. The best present of all was watching Bella experience her first ride in a car and her first time ever off the orphanage grounds. We can't wait to watch her blossom and experience the big world that's waiting for her just outside the orphanage gates--not to mention these three, Grace, Sam, and Daddy anxiously awaiting our return and Bella's arrival....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yay! What a Day!

What a day indeed! The day started with our dear translator Natasha going to the registration office at 7:00 a.m. to be the first in line when the doors opened at 9:00 a.m. She called me a cab and I met her in the line. From there on--birth certificate registration, new birth certificate at different building, tax id number, notaries, back to tax id office, and then passport application. Let me just say that God moved mountains today! Hallelujah!

What can take up to a week got done in 15 minutes and what can take three days took a few hours. Even the translator and facilitator were surprised and pleased with how the day went! I was able to point everything back to God and that His people were praying! This day was full of miraculous events that can only be credited to our all-powerful, gracious God!

Tomorrow morning will be exciting because we have to bring Bella to the passport office where they will scan her face to complete her passport. Because Bella has never been off the orphanage grounds, not to mention never riding in a car, it should prove to be interesting to say the least.

All these completed details mean -- WE CAN GET OUR GIRL ON TUESDAY AND FLY HOME AS SCHEDULED ON THURSDAY! Praise God from whom all blessings flow....

Love in Him, Paula

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Happy Birthday Dad!

Today is my father's birthday...Happy Birthday, Papa! Wish we could be there to share a huge slice of Lucille's homemade chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! When we get home with Bella, you can be sure we will have a belated birthday party for you and for me!

Papa, you will just love little Bella and she will love you! Papa is can fix and build anything! In fact, he put Bella's new little wooden toddler bed together in a few short minutes!

Thanks for everything, Papa! We miss you, love you, and are sending Birthday hugs and kisses over the ocean to you.....

Love, Paula, Elizabeth, & Bella (1/2 of the Burckhards)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Stuck on Bella...

We had fun with Bella today...stickers galore! She usually loves to put them in a coloring book (good for developing fine motor skills), but today Sissy put one on Bella's nose--what a fun twist on the daily sticker session. She thought it was great to put the stickers on Mama's and Sissy's noses! Silly Bella...


Monday, August 10, 2009

Scoring Points with Bella

Today was the first time, since the day we met her, that we gave her some food and juice. In a stealth-like fashion, we offered her some little Gerber crackers--you know the ones that melt in your mouth. She loved them! Couldn't chew them, but sucked away until they dissolved.

Then, we gave her a new sippy cup filled with grape juice--it took her a few tries to get the hang of it. But, once she did, she clutched that little cup so hard to her face that it left a big red mark on her nose. You could hear her loudly gulping away!


At the beginning of our time here at the Orphanage, they asked us not to feed her so that she would eat her meals. They said "The children here are very well-fed getting five meals a day." We wonder what they consider a meal, because Bella is a scrawny little thing! Then, one day they allowed us to feed her a jar of baby food. Hmmmmmm, is that a meal for a four-year old? We will definitely have to get some feeding and OT therapy for her!

So we think we scored BIG points with Bella. We figured that now that she is officially a Burckhard, that we would be ok giving her a little snack. Truly, the way to our family's heart is definitely through the tummy! Welcome to the family, Bella!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Bella's OFFICIALLY Ours!


The 10 day wait is up and Bella Bogdana Burckhard has a family -- Ours! We are thrilled! Now, we will pick up the court decree next Wednesday and start the paperwork on Thursday. Praise God!

After our morning Bella visit, we went to a really neat Cossacks Museum in Kiev. It was cool and rainy, but that didn't stop us hardy North Dakotans!


We had a fun day at the museum, eating at an authentic Ukrainian restaurant, and shopping at a really nice mall. I even got Bella two very cute little dresses and two cotton nightgowns. Can't wait to have her model one of the dresses for you all on her "gotcha day" which will hopefully be very, very soon!

Love, Paula BELLA's MAMA

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Our Adoption Process To Date.....

Well, just want to give a quick update on what we know about where we are in our adoption process.

Our 10 day wait is over this Friday, August 8th. Usually the court decree can picked up the following day, but, because the next day is a Saturday we have to wait until the following week. And, no, not Monday, but next Wednesday, August 12th because in Kiev you can only pick up court decrees on Wednesdays and Fridays.

We've had some bumps in the road the last two days. Please pray for our process to be smoothed out and that our spirits are lifted. Although this has been an extremely stressful time, I am treasuring the time I have with Elizabeth and Bella! Please also pray that I can hold it together for the both of them--all to the Glory of God.

In Him, Paula

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Life goes on....





Hello Friends!

Elizabeth and I are getting into our own little routine here: orphanage, apartment, orphanage, apartment...

Bella is wonderful. It is so fun to see her connect with "Leeza" as the orphanage workers call her. All the other children now call Bogdana "Bella" and she is seeming to like her new name and respond to it.

I am so excited to report that another family from the States received a referral to a little girl at Bella's orphanage. They are a wonderful family for a wonderful little girl! This little girl stole Kevin's heart--every day we were here we would catch her longingly looking at us--around the corners, over ledges, behind trees--wanting a family for her own. Kevin is so thrilled! He said that she reminded him so much of what our Elizabeth looked like at that age, and it just broke his heart that she was alone. What a miracle and a blessing!

Love, Paula