Psalm 68:5-6

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

I am Stepanie Nance. My family adopted two little boys with Down Syndrome from Ukraine in 2010. I hope to educate and to inspire you. I hope to make you laugh and to make you cry.

Come along for the ride. It's a wild one!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Thinking and hoping.

Can you guess what I managed to fit in this envelope?

Does this bunch of paperwork look familiar to anyone?

Yep. That's our dossier. It's the group of documents needed for our adoption. All nicely notarized (Hallelujah!) and apostilled. An apostille is the paper with the gold star issued by the State of Kansas which is stapled to each and every document. It is something like notarizing the notary. Each one costs $7.50. More in some other states. No volume discount. If you know me you know that I asked about that. *sigh*
The papers were received in Eastern Europe on Thursday afternoon. There they will be translated and submitted to the national adoption authorities the second week of June. We think. We hope.
About two weeks later, we think, we hope, we will find out our travel date. Yes, they tell us when to come. It is an invitation.
We think, we hope, this date will be in mid-July. This reminds me of being pregnant and having everyone ask you what is the due date. We all know full well that babies come when babies are ready to come! Well, we will get our travel date when the adoption authorities are ready to give us a date.
This makes it difficult to ask for vacation days at work. If you remember to pray for my husband, please do. He does not want to displease his employer, but may have to ask for changes in his pre-approved vacation days.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

No fear. Persevere.

Hebrews 12: 1-3 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

This verse is speaking to my heart today.

If you thought that we were adopting two children because we really wanted some more children, then you would be mistaken. With nine arrows in our quiver, it would be absurdly easy to say no more, we’re done. We are comfortable. Life is good. No more children for us. But, I never wanted an ordinary life. And then God called...

I’m an idea girl. A dreamer. I love knowledge. I love to learn things and try things. I get excited.

And then things get real. Things get tough.

I’m a starter but not much of a finisher. Undisciplined. I know.

But I have nine children. One with some significant needs. They all depend on me. So I have the privilege of daily battling my selfish, undisciplined nature. I get to question things that many people take for granted and root out the things that have no place in my life. The things that hinder and entangle me.

Now two more children are depending on me. Alec and Zhenya.

It’s no small thing either. It’s not like they are depending on me to make sure they get their medicine on time, or get to baseball practice on time, or have lunch money, or have clean socks and underwear. I can’t always seem to get those little things right. But this…this is LIFE and DEATH.

I don’t have the option to change my mind now. I can’t let the adoption “thing” slide. Not that I would want to, just to be crystal clear. I need to follow through and complete the course that has been marked out for me. But, fear is creeping up on me. Here is where we are:

Our dossier is en route to Eastern Europe.

We will likely be traveling in roughly 6 weeks.

We do not yet have the funds we need to travel.

The money is bothering me. Not just that we don’t have it all nailed down yet, but my attitude is bugging me. I yelled at my children today for playing in the mud because they would need an extra bath and water costs money, don’cha know! How utterly ridiculous! Is this adoption derangement syndrome, I wonder?
The crazy thing is this - from the very beginning we have always somehow had just enough money to complete each step of the process. Thousands in deposits, donations and home study fees, just to get the ball rolling. Roughly a thousand for immigration approval. Hundreds in notaries and international shipping. I’ve always said that God does not always call the equipped, but he always equips the called. I believe that we have been called to this. What am I worried about?

I WILL be finishing what I started this time. God willing. I will make and sell enchiladas until my hands turn orange. (It actually doesn’t take long for the sauce to stain my skin.) I will borrow and go into debt. I will ration water, haha! I’m even going to ask (beg?) for money. I’m going to lay down my pride.

Times are tough, I know full well. But if you have ever considered supporting us in this rescue mission now would be the time to take a small step forward. Really, no contribution is too small.** One dollar. Ten. Pocket change? Baby steps…they add up!
As our travel date approaches it is time to get excited. No time for fear. I will persevere and finish this race.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dossier shipping in the morning!

The dossier is ready to go. I'm so nervous! I'm just certain that I overlooked something or forgot to sign something. It gets shipped in the morning!!! Yikes!

Each little step we take makes the whole thing seem more real. First was the promise money that we sent...huge scary step! Next was the home study...opening up our lives to scrutiny was pretty huge and scary. Then the immigration process...government, 'nuf said.

Now we are sending a stack of documents overseas. Documents that we stressed and obsessed over. Documents that were redone three and even four times. Documents that I stalked county appraisers, doctors and social workers to get completed correctly. Documents that I stuffed in the safe every time we had a tornado or thunderstorm warning.

I'm about to trust UPS to get this stack of precious paper safely overseas in two days. I'm telling you it's hard to let go!

Friday, May 21, 2010

171h Makes an Appearance

It has three rings. Clowns. Ravenous, roaring animals. Death defying stunts. What is it?

A circus? No. It's my day! I'm the stuntman. I'll let you guess who the animals and clowns would be. Heh.

This morning we received our 171h, otherwise known around here as immigration approval! This just shy of a month after we sent in our application.

So, instead of cooking and preparing for a graduation party that takes place here tomorrow, I did one last paper chase. Adoption is a waiting game. And a hurry-up game. Actually, more like wait...wait...wait...hurry, hurry HURRY!!...ok, wait some more now! My goal for the day was to get the last few signatures and documents notarized and then make a quick drive up to Topeka to get our whole dossier apostilled.

This is the super condensed version of my day. The first person I needed to find was out of the office today. I was able to find this person by going to their home. Awkward, but necessary. Got it done.

The second person I arranged to meet at the salon! This person started to sign in black ink before I caught it! Oh no! So I drove home and printed another document, drove back to the salon, got the signature.

Well, something was wrong with the document. So this person stopped by our house to do it over again. Well, I couldn't find the matching blue pen that we needed! So we started over with a whole new document.

Later I found another problem with the document. I took a chance and ran over to the hardware store where this person had said they would be going. Have you ever felt like a stalker? I peeked down all the aisles at the hardware store, but didn't find the person. I glanced out the window and saw my target in the garden center. I helped this person carry flowers to the car and got my final signature of the day.

I visited the notary three times today, made photocopies of the whole dossier, and scanned the documents for approval. Phew! Done at 3pm.

Done too late.

I did not have time to drive to the capital to get the documents apostilled today. I'm so disappointed in myself. I should have had everything ready. If I had sent my dossier today instead of next Monday we might have been submitted a whole week earlier.

No use crying over it now. I have to make it through graduation weekend in one piece and just make the trip on Monday. I'll take the kids and we will make it fun, somehow.

It's good for me to have a day or two to flip through all the paperwork and double check everything, and put it all in order. That paper baby will be on it's way to Eastern Europe on Monday and we'll be entering another waiting phase of this journey.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A little good news in a dark land.

A little more than a year ago I began corresponding with a missionary couple in Ukraine. My heart goes out to the Ukrainian people who lived for so long under the oppressive and godless system of communism. But that's a whole different post.

Through this couple I found out about a mental institution in a remote part of Zaporozhye region. Years ago it was a large and prosperous Mennonite farm. After the revolution in 1917 the family was forced to leave and I imagine that the farm was collectivized. The missionaries also put me in touch with an American Mennonite man who is a descendant of the owners of the farm. I'm not a cultural Mennonite, but I do belong to a Mennonite Brethren church, so I was quite interested.

(You can read about the history of Kalinovka HERE.)

The children of Kalinovka are so beautiful and pitiful at the same time. When I asked about the possibility of adoption for these children, I was disappointed. The attitude at the time was one of resignation, that these children have been institutionalized for so long that they would certainly not be able to function in a family. Is that true? If it is true, how sad that they were never given the chance. If it is not true, how sad that they will never be given a chance.

(And, by the way, this is the type of place that Alec and Zhenya would be sent upon reaching the ripe old age of four.)

I'm certain that I will one day visit Kalinovka. If we had not begun the adoption process for Alec and Zhenya it might have even been this summer. Many improvements have been made there over the past three years and visitors are now welcomed. Part of my long range vision is to bring a work team over there once a year.

Lately there is good news from Kalinovka! The Happy Child Foundation, a regional Ukrainian children's charity, is encouraging foster parents and adoptive parents to come forward and give some of the children a chance to live in a family setting. They are also developing an idea to equip a separate home on the property for some of the children to live in a family-like setting, where the children would have their own room and a "mother" to love and care for them.

This is Zhenya, (it is a common nickname for boys and girls!) one of the children for whom foster/adoptive families are being sought. Isn't she pretty? She would be so cute in pigtails, but all the children have close cropped hair to keep the lice down. You can see some of the other children with profiles linked HERE.

There IS an orphan crisis. It is real. It is so easy to lose heart because the problem is so big. Things are getting better in some places, though. And groups like Happy Child are making a big difference. It is something to be glad about.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I wonder

Sometimes I wonder if I did the right thing by making an adoption blog in addition to Ralph and the Crew. Why did I decide to do two?

There is really not much going on right now except waiting for immigration approval. And, when we travel there won't be much to say on Ralphcrew.

Some people make their adoption blogs private when they get ready to travel. You never really know who is reading at any given time anyway, so why do it? I'm undecided at this point. If we decide to take this blog private I'll be thankful that I have two seperate blogs I suppose.

I want to always be as honest and real as possible without ruffling any feathers. What do you think I should do?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


After exchanging a few emails with the USCIS office and chatting with some friends who are experienced in international adoption, I decided that we needed to go have our fingerprints for immigration approval done today. The notices that James and I received in the mail were for June 2, but no questions were asked when we showed up today. I'm so glad that we didn't wait. Our boys have been living without a mommy and daddy for too long and I'm not about to relax and take it easy until they are home with us.

Originally we were going to try to get the prints done on Wednesday, because the USCIS person that I exchanged emails with said that Wednesday's would be the best day to come. Then I realized that Wesley was leaving today for Write His Answer, a Christian writer's conference in Estes Park, Colorado. He was just going to have to leave a couple of hours later so that we could get this done.

Just a couple of problems...if dad and I and Wesley needed to be downtown at 8am, we would have to leave the house at 7:30am. Leroy gets on the bus at 7:45am. The other kids leave at 8:15am. Chipper and Richard leave early so they would not be around to help. Wes was going with us so he would not be there to help. I was so worried about this that I could not sleep!

Well, it wasn't a fun morning. In fact, it was down right tense around here. But, everyone did get to school on time. I did find a parking place. I did find a quarter for the parking meter (that was a small miracle in itself!). We did get to the USCIS office. We did get the prints taken, even though Wes didn't get his appointment notice! Another miracle. An hour later, we were out the door. I felt like I had gone through the wringer!

Should I tell you about the rest of my day?

Next I took Ralph and Ruby to the church nursery and then drove to my mom's group end of the year brunch. Then back to the church to pick up the kids. Home to meet Leroy's bus. Leroy gets off, Ralph gets on. Then Leroy and Ruby and I head for the store.

Did I mention that today was my husband's birthday? Yep. Maybe that's why he was so bent out of shape this morning. In addition to immigration fingerprints he had to get his driver's license renewed today! I really shouldn't laugh.

Anyway, I bought him a new wedding band for his birthday. A very inexpensive titanium band. Titanium is very strong and heat resistant, just like my love. His gold band is so beat up and not even round anymore. Our gold rings will be sold to help finance the adoption.

Cake and ice cream tonight. Dad loves his new ring. Life is good.

Monday, May 10, 2010


I have news! We received fingerprint appointment notices today.

June 2.



Does that seem like a long way off to you? Because it seems so far to me.

June 2 is Alec's birthday. He turns four that day. His orphanage has been known to transfer children to an adult mental asylum on their birthday. Dear Lord in heaven this crushes my heart.

There are families who started their adoptions about the same time as we did that are all ready home with their children. I imangined at first that we would be travelling in May. Now it is looking like July or even August.

Here is where I try to make myself feel better by listing the reasons we can't travel that soon anyway. My son Richard is graduating this month! I would feel terrible if I had missed that. June is the big baseball season around here. With five children playing on five different teams it's going to be a crazy month. Add to that the fact that the ball fields are spread out around town! I would feel bad if someone else had to manage that mess of a schedule. Also, we have not yet secured the necessary funds. More about that later.

But, it is not about me and how I would feel.

It is about saving two little boys and giving them a life. Whatever I have to do to accomplish this mission will be worth the trouble. Which is why I have emailed USCIS and asked if there is anyway to get the fingerprints done sooner. Maybe they have a cancellation or a last minute reschedule? Would you pray for us to find favor with the officials at USCIS? And with our Father?

It cannot hurt to ask, right? I'll soon find out.

James 4:2 (NIV)
You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but
you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because
you do not ask God

Monday, May 3, 2010

No news about USCIS yet. I know the paperwork is there, they just have not acknowledged receiving it yet! *sigh*

On a positive note, enchilada sales have been going great! James and I have a pretty good system set up where he is the one getting his hands messy rolling them up! I just love that I don't have to get my hands sloppy.

This past weekend we made twelve dozen plus another dozen for ourselves. Along with getting Richard ready for prom, five baseball practices and Ralph's birthday party it was quite an insane weekend. We have made enough to pay the apostille fees on our dossier, so it's all worth it.

This morning I received a request for four more dozen enchiladas for next weekend, so I guess I'll be accepting orders again this week! I did tweak the recipe from the first week. I'm using quite a bit less fat than was in the orders from the first week. So if you thought they were too greasy the first week (I did!), then I hear you and I fixed them and you should get some more!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

New (old) photos! :) :) :) :) :)

I got a real treat yesterday. I got some photos and videos of my children in Eastern Europe!

They were older photos, but still such a blessing. I'm so thankful to the people who go out of their way to get photos and videos of other children.

Uh-oh! Where are your hands!

He'll probably look like this when he's an old man, too!

I was showing them to my husband on my little mini laptop and he got very frustrated with the tiny screen. So I had to forward them all to him so that he would not have to scroll at all to see the whole thing. He had a great time browsing through them all; it was quite cute.
It's good to know that my hubby is "all in." It took some time, that is for sure. Now I catch him reading the same adoption blogs as me. What a guy!

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