Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Hope's first hayride

Hope enjoyed Thanksgiving so much. She got to meet new cousins and was so friendly to her extended family. She has definitely settled in to being part of a family and believe me, feels very comfortable in expressing her wants and likes/dislikes. She has gotten very good at asking for juice, milk, etc. and saying no to what she doesn’t want. She is playing and interacting with other children and plays more pretend play. She continues to adore Elmo and animals.

She experienced her first hayride over Thanksgiving as well. She loves being at our farm in Dadeville. She may have a future as a jockey if she continues to loves horses and remains so petite.

We are introducing her to baby Jesus, Santa, and all that is Christmas.

She and I had a little accident involving scissors in which I received 15 stitches in my right index finger. Andy and I spent 5 hrs. in the ER waiting to get my finger stitched. In the meantime, Dow and Beth took over with Hope. Beth got her ready for bed. Dow read to and rocked her and then laid down with her until she was asleep. Beth took over again and slept with her. Andy and I got home at 2:00 am. I was so proud of Dow and Beth!!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Halloween and Horses!

Immediate attraction to horses!

First 4-wheeler drive
First Halloween

Hope enjoyed her first Halloween and even tolerated her “butterfly” costume well. At the Fall Festival at our church, she saw her first pony. She went a little “nuts.” If you think she looks as if she is crying, she was. However, it wasn’t because she was scared. She cried because she had to wait in line in order to get her turn on the pony. To say she loved riding it is an understatement. She rode a second time and then we tried to redirect her, but she would not cooperate. We had to leave in order to get her to calm down. She didn’t get the “waiting in line” concept. Everyone was teasing us about knowing what Hope would get for Christmas.

Soon after Halloween, we spent a day at the farm, and Hope didn’t hesitate in getting on the 4-wheeler. She loved it. She also enjoyed seeing real live cows and our big horse named Rosie. As you can tell, she looks right at home on Rosie and will ride forever.

Hope got ear tubes on Nov. 12th, so we are looking forward to being infection free and off antibiotics for awhile.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Before and After!

Six months after being home
First day home
Playing in new sandbox

Dedication day at FBC, Montgomery
Dow and Beth getting ready for Sr. Citizen Day

Hope continues to blossom in so many ways. As you can see she has come a long way in five months. I don’t think we realized how much until I took the “after” picture and compared it to the earlier one. Her whole appearance has taken on a complete change. In the past few weeks, her language has just exploded. She is beginning to repeat a lot of what we say and will say please and thank-you when prompted. Of course when she really wants something, she will say please without prompting and it is really hard to say no to her. She is so sweet when she says it.

She is very, very animated in her expressions and has gotten in the habit of say, “Ohhhh,” really loud and dramatically when she sees something exciting. She also puts her hands out and says “go?” when she doesn’t know where something went.

Everyone continues to show such love and interest toward Hope and we are so grateful. From older children to her preschool teachers. One sweet person from our church made a beautiful hand made dress for her. We received the dress in the mail with a simple note welcoming Hope to First Baptist. We had her dedicated in the dress, and she looked like an angel. Her dedication was shared with Ruthie Grace Blakeney who was recently adopted by Dr. Mendy Blakeney. It was a special day with our choir singing “Orphans of God” to a very moving video created by the Portis family.

Hope has been wide open at home since the week she came home. With others and in different settings, she has been quiet and reserved for the most part. In the past few weeks, she has really started to come out of her “shell.” Her preschool teacher said she was doing better, because she was getting into a “little trouble.” She was laughing and sliding in Sunday School and eating green apples. Finally, Hope participated in Kindermusik this week after 10 weeks of attending. It is so fun watching her and seeing her personality develop. Just today, she started blowing kisses with her hand. I wish you all could see her.

She continues to battle ear infections and if we can ever get her well, we plan to have tubes put in. She is on her 6th antibiotic (four for ears). She has gained about three pounds since she has been home. She is eating a little better, but not as good as I think she needs to. We have made a little progress in the area of sleep. I now can sit at the end of the bed and read as long as I hold her foot. She continues to wake up crying every night, and I sleep the rest of the night with her. We will just have to be patient in this area. Thanks again for your continued prayers and concern.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Waves and Kisses!

Hope with Christy!
Hope with Daddy and Great Grandmother

Hope after first spaghetti dinner
Hope with her first sitter, Emily Cheek
Hope loved the water immediately

Hope enjoyed celebrating her first 4th of July at the lake with friends and family. She loves the water now and is fearless. She will play forever just splashing. While she didn’t eat any BBQ, she ate strawberries all day long. She wasn’t even scared of the fireworks. She kept pointing at them and say “ook, ook.”

Hope had her very first sitter other than Dow and Beth. Her name is Emily and she is so good with Hope. Her family is waiting on a referral from China. Emily has sat with Hope three times so far and Hope has done well every time - thanks Emily!

We returned to the International Adoption Clinic this past Wednesday. Hope was given a developmental evaluation and did very well except for speech. I just have to brag a little. The therapist wanted Hope to stack four blocks, but Hope stacked eight blocks!!! We were so proud.

All of her lab work was good. Even the immunizations she had in Moldova were good. This saves her a lot of shots. We will be retesting for the parasite that was discovered earlier, but the doctor feels sure that the antibiotic took care of it. We sure hope so, because Hope absolutely hated that medicine. We had to hold her down three times a day and force it down her. Plus it lowered her appetite considerably. The bad news is that Hope has not gained an ounce since being home. She still weighs 16 and 1/2 lbs. The doctor is concerned about this and gave us weight goals. Hope is very selective in what she eats, so it will not be very easy to reach these goals. Hope also met her great grandmother on Andy’s side (Gigi) today. Hope has two great-grandmothers!

She is saying more words such as apple, ball, and Bet (Beth). However, she understands what we are saying so well. WE can’t believe she has learned so much in such a short time. We are so excited that she has learned to give us a kiss. She still has some work to do in this area, but she has come a long way. She has also learned to wave good-bye. Of course like other two year olds, she will never do it when asked. Yesterday, she experienced butterfly kisses from her Mom and she loved them.

Tonight, we just returned from meeting Phillip Cameron, his wife, and about 14 young ladies from Stella House in Moldova. We were so impressed with all the girls, and they loved meeting Hope. Phillip was so surprised and pleased to discover we adopted from Moldova. He said he could empty the orphanages in Moldova if he could get the government to cooperate. His first words to us were, “how did you do it?” Of course our response was “God!”

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tennis, an Antibiotic and a Two Year Old!

Hope with Matthew and Uncle Stevie

Hope meets Pawpaw Payne
Hope playing with Abbie and Emma

This past week has had its challenges but good times as well. Hope, Beth and I headed to Inverness Country Club last Thursday for a tennis tournament. Beth played at noon! Remember how hot it was? Hope and I found a sliver of shade and Hope entertained herself with sticks and dirt. Andy’s parents were also there. Then the three of us headed to the Galleria to shop. We entertained Hope by feeding her those yummy fries from J. Alexander’s. Thanks to Beth, Hope will always be well dressed and have plenty of clothes. Beth just finds all sorts of “adorable” things for Hope.

Friday was a big day. Hope got to meet her Mimi and Pawpaw Payne, Uncle Bart and his family, and her great grandmother. She also got to see her Aunt JoJo and cousins again. We had such a good visit. Once again, Hope went immediately to my brother but would never let any of the “women folk” hold her! Then it was back to the tennis court in Inverness where Beth won her next two matches to clinch the consolation title. For the first match at 1:30, Andy, Dow, and Andy’s sister, Robin and family, were there. For the last match at 4:30, I was on my own. Hope was tired, hot, and basically miserable. I wasn’t able to watch any of Beth’s match. Overall, she had been a trooper but just reached her breaking point.

Hope started a really strong antibiotic on Saturday and completely stopped eating. In the mean time, Andy and Dow were in Macon, GA for the Boy’s Southern tennis tournament. Monday morning, the girls and I headed to Macon. Dow was still in the tournament and Andy had to be in New Orleans Tuesday morning. Another hotel room! At bedtime, Dow was asleep, so I drove Hope around Mercer University to get her to sleep. Otherwise, she would have screamed and disturbed Dow’s slumber. She still had not eaten anything except for a few fries.

On Tuesday, Hope began refusing her antibiotic and I mean gagging and spitting and slapping. I never knew she was so strong!!! By noon, I had gotten some in her along with apple juice and a few Goldfish. While in the van, waiting on Dow’s next match, I got all of that back. Hope vomited and guess what, I only had some tissues to get it up! Fortunately, Dow had gone to sign in and didn’t have to witness this right before a match in a 100 degree weather. Sadly, Dow lost his match, but we are so proud of how well he played throughout the tournament. There were six southern states involved. Dow was one of 11 from AL. We headed home. Hope did great on the three hour drive home. I tried the medicine again but with no luck. That night, she finally ate something.

I talked to Hope’s doctor and was informed we have no choice but to continue with the antibiotic. Andy returned Wednesday evening and we were able to get two doses down. We are so glad to all be home and together. Hope is now saying “uh-0h” and “Bet” for Beth. We can’t wait for her language and speech to develop.

We are on our way this evening to eat veggies at Chip and Christy Colees. I for one, can’t wait!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Birthday and Other Fun Times!

Hope loves her new rocker
Hope registering her new Build a Bear
Samantha Grace and Hope
Hope turned two!

Hope celebrated her second birthday on June 13th. The celebration was low key. We baked some special cupcakes (given to us by the West family). As you can see in the picture, Hope was not sure about the candles. We took her to Build a Bear where she got a lamb dressed in froggy pj’s . Andy and Beth rode the carousel with her but she refused to ride one of the horses. They settled for the little carriage on the carousel.

Hope also enjoyed her first play date with Samantha Grace Duke. They played well together and enjoyed a grilled cheese for lunch. Hope attended her first bridal tea (Elizabeth Hart) tea last Sunday where she thoroughly enjoyed munching on cheese straws. She went to Sunday School for the first time last Sunday as well. I got a very good report on her. I enjoyed being back in my Sunday School.

She continues to do so well and seems so happy. She loves her family and enjoys giving really big neck hugs. She is keeping us busy. She has added “uh-oh” to her English vocabulary which now brings it up to two words including “cat.” She seems to understand a lot of what we say. Communication hasn’t really been a problem. As two year olds go, she is pretty easy. I can’t imagine adopting a child with issues or medical problems. My admiration for those who have has gone even to a higher level.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Life with a Two Year Old!

First boat ride
Our family with our pastor, Jay Wolf
Hope meets Mimi Carole
Hope meets Pawpaw Tony
Hope meets cousins, Abbie and Emma
Big brother, Dow, swinging his new sister

Oh, how I forgot the demands of a two year old! Life has been very busy at the Birchfield house since returning from Moldova. We took Hope to the International Adoption Clinic in B’ham on June 3rd. The doctor and the family therapist both thought Hope was doing well. She did have a really bad cold and possible ear infections. She had the lovely experience of having her ears cleaned out by the doctor. They had to draw blood from her arm to test for a lot of different things. We will get the results when we return on July 8th. We now need to see a pediatric audiologist and ophthalmologist just as a precautionary measure.

Hope enjoyed her first boat ride this weekend. She loved it and didn’t even mind the dreaded life jacket. She was all over the boat and liked to stand up and feel the wind. She also met one set of grandparents, Mimi and Pawpaw Tony. They brought her surprises from their mission trip to Costa Rico. Last Sunday night, she made her first appearance at church and met her sweet pastor and many other friends who had been praying for her. We plan to experiment with Sunday School soon. This past Sunday she met some more cousins, Amy, Abbie, and Emma, and her aunt Joanna.

Hope continues to adjust very well. She is getting much more selective with her eating, so we are sticking to a few favorites right now. She loves books and just jabbers as she looks at the pages. She was pretending to feed a doll with a spoon today. Like most two year olds, she wants every electronic item in our possession. This has caused a few “little tantrums.” We are still working on our sleep schedule. She hates being left alone and really doesn’t understand the meaning of “just a minute!” She likes the challenge of climbing up in chairs and on sofas, because she has never gotten to do this before. We are having a little trouble with biting, hitting , and throwing, but overall, she has a very sweet temperament.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Life at Home!

Hope meets Chip!
Great American Cookie Co. - yum
First time at Moe's
Eating her first curly fry

We have been busy since waking up Thursday morning. Hope has adjusted better than we ever imagined. On Thursday, she met her brother, Dow. Unfortunately, Dow has been sick and didn’t get to spend much one on one time with her. However, she was so comfortable with him just like she knew he was her big brother. We went to Target, Walmart, Moes (where she enjoyed her first cheese quesadilla), and then to the ball field. Hope enjoys seeing and experiencing everything and constantly points and makes a sound which we think is “look.” She made a new friend on Thursday - Chip Colee. She likes her “Uncle Chip” a lot! I think the feeling is mutual.

She likes the dogs but they are not so crazy about her. Casey does like to lick her in the face! Hope is not so sure about that. She continues to hate getting a bath and going to sleep. Sleep is really the only issue we are having. We can deal with the baths, because they are so short, but the sleep is a little more challenging.

Beth has just taken over with Hope just like Hope is a real live doll. Beth is having a ball with her and Hope loves her big sister. Beth even painted Hope’s toenails bright pink. I told Beth I may need to homeschool her in the fall, because I will be so spoiled by all of her help.

On Friday, we took her to the pool in our neighborhood. She did not like it at all and wouldn’t even let Beth put her feet in the water, but she sure looked cute in her bathing suit! All of the clothes and diapers we had for her were too large. Even some 12 mos. clothes are too big. Her appetite continues to be great. She had her first fry at the pool and was quickly looking for her second. She gets so excited when she sees a banana and you cant eat in front of her without sharing.

She was glad to see her Daddy when he got home from N.O. She went to her first tennis match FRiday night. I found myself chasing after a two yr. old again. Beth was at a friend’s house. Hope gathered leaves and bottle caps. She got so excited. She also liked seeing her big brother on the tennis court. She got to see “Uncle Chip” again tonight. They definitely cemented their relationship.

On Saturday, she met her cousin, Matthew, and aunt and uncle, Robin and Stevie. She really liked Stevie and went right to him. She still prefers men to women for some reason. I forgot her shoes when we returned to the tennis courts. She went to stand up and didn’t like the grass. She refused to walk on it.

She likes stroller rides, peanut butter, and pens and pencils. She loves to just hold pens and pencils. We are having to baby proof. Fortunately, she does not put things in her mouth. It is hard to believe that just days ago, she was a solemn faced little girl with little stimulation. She laughs out loud now. Today, she saw our cat and said the word “cat” very plainly. We are looking forward to more words in the next few weeks.

As I write this Saturday evening, Dow has started on antibiotics, has won his first round in the tournament, Andy is napping, and Beth has Hope outside. Our house is a wreck, we have dirty sippy cups by the sink, and toys scattered everywhere. Somehow, it just seems all normal. I have to admit that I have been through every emotion on the continuum from “oh, my goodness what have we done” to “this is pure joy.” As Hope continues to struggle with sleep, so do I. I know tiredness has a lot to do with my emotions. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, we will be in a better sleep pattern. Overall, I couldn’t ask for a better start. She is a joy and it has been a blessing to see another very special side of Dow and Beth.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Traveling Home!

Sorry for the lack of pictures - we went at a pace that didn’t allow pictures! Andy met the consulate at 7:00 am this morning. As he expressed our gratitude, she got tears in her eyes. We prayed that God would prepare people along the way that were sympathetic to us, and He certainly used the US consulate as a blessing.

We arrived at the airport in Bucharest in plenty of time. We were told we had to buy a different ticket for Hope, because hers was never changed from Friday. About 45 minutes later, we got the ticket and headed to customs and security. Hope enjoyed running through the airport and climbing on chairs during our long wait on her ticket - she is very much a two year old with lots of energy. We were so glad to see this. She did great for the three hour flight to London. She played the entire trip.

When we got to London, it took us awhile to get through customs. They wanted to see paper work on Hope, etc. The airport was very difficult to navigate, so we went through a line and completed paperwork that wasn’t necessary. We got to our gate just in time to grab some snacks for the very long trip home.

Hope did really well on the flight. We gave her one dose of Benadryl. She slept a couple of hours and then played and ate the rest of the eight hours. God is sooo good. When we landed in Atlanta, Hope became a US citizen. We had a brief meeting with immigration at the airport to give them documents from the US Embassy in Romania. We thought we were home free. Then we had to have our bags checked (not carry on bags) for agricultural reasons since we were coming in from another country. THEN we had to go through security one more time. To fully appreciate all of this, to our bodies, it was between 1 and 2 am Thursday morning! Through this security, they made Hope take her shoes off - not good! This was the most she cried all day. Of course, she stopped as soon as they were back on. Finally, we retrieved our bags, headed to the van, and loaded up. Hope had her first ride in a car seat. She really protested but fell asleep very quickly.

We arrived home to a big welcome home sign with balloons at the front door (thanks to those sweet Powells) and the Colee family and best of all, Dow! Words can not express how much we love all of you and thank you for your support and prayers. I hope to update tomorrow with some pics of Hope in her new home.

Please pray for Andy, he leaves for N.O. at 5 am Thursday morning!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hello Bucharest!

We got up at 4:15 this morning and left for the airport at 5:00! We were detained for awhile in customs while they read the court decree that gave us custody of Hope. Natalia (a translator) was traveling with us, and we were so thankful. We arrived in Bucharest about 8:30 a.m. It is a very crowed and noisy city. Hope was fine with all of the activity. After checking into our hotel, we took a 30 min. walk to see the doctor. This visit took about 10 minutes! It was just a formality to get her past one more clearance. Then it was back to the hotel.

The paperwork from the doctor was to be ready at 12:00, so Natalia went back to the doctor’s office to get it. Our embassy appt. was at 1:00 and 12:50, Natalia still had not returned. We could not get in touch with her either. She walked in the hotel at 1:00, because she had to wait on the paperwork to be completed.

We ran into a big hurdle at the US Embassy. We were informed we had filed an application for a visa “out of sequence.” We tried to explain to the official that we had been in constant contact with US immigration and her office regarding the process. There had been no other way to proceed with the process due to Moldovan law. She insisted on calling Washington when their office opened at 3:00 Bucharest time. She asked Andy to return at 3:15. Needless to say, we were very frustrated! He returned at 5:50. He was not allowed to take a phone inside the embassy, so I had no idea what was going on. He still did not have an answer. He met with the consulate who had been in contact with the “legal dept.” in D.C. She was still waiting to hear from them to give a decision. She told Andy she would call him as soon as she heard. If we get a favorable decision, she will have someone meet us at the embassy and give us the visa and packet. There has been no mention of what our alternative plan would be.

At 10:30 pm, we received her call; we had been cleared to leave!!! I cried with relief. The consulate went above and beyond the call to make this possible. We are coming home tomorrow.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Last Day in Chisinau!

Starting her out on a Mac!

First time in a candy store

I mentioned Marina on the first day. She was placed in the same orphanage as Hope, adopted by a national family, abandoned by them, returned to an orphanage, and then adopted by a US family five years ago. She returned to Moldova recently for a visit to find out more about her country and heritage. While she has been through a lot, she is doing well now. She just completed her first year of college and wants to become a physician’s assistant. She is smart, personable and beautiful. It was a blessing to meet her. She continues to be fluent in both Russian and Romanian.

During our season of prayer regarding the adoption, I thought of many reasons not to adopt (they were all selfish, of course). However, I never questioned our ability to love another child as our own.

I am glad to say there was no reason to be concerned. God planted that love in our hearts when He placed the desire to adopt. Our love for Hope was automatic. When I became a Christian, I immediately became part of God’s family receiving His love, eternal life, forgiveness, power, grace, and so many other blessings. He didn’t hold anything back. I got the “whole package.” That is the way we feel about Hope. Our love for her is complete and she has access to all that we have. She is ours! She doesn’t have to earn our love or prove herself to us. We just simply love her by modeling the love of Christ.

Learning more and more about the history and current political situation in Moldova, makes us even more thankful to be Americans. Moldova’s independence and our independence is not the same. They encounter many injustices from other countries as well as within their own government. As you celebrate Memorial Day, remember to be thankful for all of those who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice to ensure our freedom and privileges as Americans (thanks to Bill McCrary for reminding me of this).

Today was a crazy day! I spent much of the time trying to figure out where we were going next. We visited the director of Child Protective Services for all of Moldova. If you remember in one of my earlier emails, I mentioned an adoption official being arrested and then acquitted. This was the same official. She was so warm and winsome. She gave us a special bell for Hope, so that she will always remember Moldova. It was such a pleasure to meet her. Albina said a statue should be made of her, because she is such an advocate for children.

We all waited patiently in the car at the Romanian Embassy while Albina went to get the visa at 3:00. Actually, Andy was walking Hope around, because it was way past her nap time and she was a bit cranky. Albina returned saying it would be ready in an hour. She returned in just under an hour and was told to wait. Around 4 pm, employees began leaving, because the embassy closed at this time. I was not there, but apparently Albina became furious. She said she yelled at the ambassador while he was walking out and explained our situation. While he was not very pleased with her, he went back inside, and Albina got the visa!!!

Hope realized she could scoot on her bottom and thought it was so funny. She also learned that Beth would chase her if she ran. Beth played with her for about two hours this afternoon. Beth is enjoying being a big sister. Our biggest news of all is that Hope had a BM - yea!

We have another big day tomorrow. We fly to Bucharest early in the morning, Hope is examined by an embassy appointed physician, and then we have our interview at the US Embassy. We are looking forward to have this step behind us. Please pray that we have all the right papers and documents when we get to the embassy. Also, we think Hope has had all of the required immunizations but will not know for sure until she sees the doctor.

One last thing. Hope came to me without any problem today!!!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Day Well Spent!

She sees a cat and claps
Getting tickled!
Loving on Andy
Andy loving on Hope

Today was such a good day. Hope woke up in a good mood and wanting Andy. I fed her breakfast while he held her. We are just amazed at how much healthier and “alive” she looks in such a short time. Albina and Aurelia (our favorite translator) picked us up around 11:00 a.m. Our first item on the agenda was to find a potty. Hope has not had a BM since we got her and Aurelia and Albina thought it would help to get a potty. They said that in Moldova and especially in the orphanage that as soon as a child can sit up, they are placed on a potty at appropriate times. They do this because diapers are expensive. They said she probably didn’t want to use her diaper. After finally finding a potty (went to three places), we had no success! In fact, she cried and seemed to be scared of it. During our “potty” expedition, we visited a supermarket. Hope was so excited pointing and “talking” about everything. She even got excited about seeing detergent.

We ate lunch at a really neat place outside the city. It is new but built like an old fortress. It was designed by a German architect. We were the only patrons at the time, so we got excellent service. It was made of wood and natural stone. Hope enjoyed soup, chicken, bread and strawberries. She never seems to get full. The waiters were dressed in traditional Moldovan costumes. While, the restaurant is new and the bathrooms were very nice, the toilet was a hole in the floor. Beth opened the door to the stall and turned right around and headed back out. Then Aurelia explained to her that she needed to “squat” over it.

Then we rode out to a village close to town. Some of the homes had been abandoned by people who had found work in countries like Romania or Russia. Some new homes looked nice. Aurelia said these were owned by rich people. They heat mostly with coal and have no AC. Most of the homes had a small plot of land for growing vegetables, strawberries, and grapes.

After a few more stops, we headed back to the apt. I scraped the meat of an apple and fed it to Hope per Albina’s instructions. We still have had no success with the BM. I thought I brought a remedy for anything. I even brought Pedia-pops, an antibiotic, and “gas” medicine, but I didn’t bring anything for constipation!!!

Beth played with her on the floor and Hope started giggling and laughing and loving all over her.

She was hugging her and climbing on her. She also hugged on Andy earlier today and slobbered on his cheeks. She just grins when she hugs them. I haven’t experienced this yet, but I know my time is coming. She did come to me this evening and I held her while we took an evening walk. We put little tennis shoes on her today that she loved. When we put her pj’s on she screamed when we took her shoes off. We had to let her go to sleep in them. Beth got her to sleep tonight. She and Beth are so precious together. While Hope will eat anything, she hates the new experience of getting her teeth brushed nor did she like getting a bath.

On another positive note, she gets so excited when she sees cats and dogs. She clapped several times today when spotting one of them. She has also made a lot of sweet baby talk today. Beth and I really think she said “bubble” today as well.

Tomorrow we have a few loose ends to tie up including picking up her visa at 3:00. We hope all you have a wonderful Monday celebrating Memorial Day.