Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Year in Review 2006

What a difference a year makes...

It was Christmastime one year ago when we were just beginning to feel acclimated to family life and the challenges of parenting. Today our lives have a comfortable and familiar rhythm and the kids are thriving.

Christmas 2005: It took a week for the kids to open their gifts, as love at first sight gave way to fascination with boxes and shredding wrapping paper. In the interim, we had a great visit with the Breslin and Trautwein families; enjoyed the “Cousins’ Lunch” at Whitemarsh; hosted Aunt TT, Uncle Scott, Megan, Craig and Casey for a couple of days; and ROCKED New Year’s Eve until 10 PM!

In January 2006 we said good-bye to Molly’s baby chick hair (quite the sad occasion for me) and hello to a couple mouths full of teeth. The winter’s first significant snowstorm found us trying our hand at a time-honored tradition: wrestling the kids into snowsuits. An hour of bundling and buckling and swathing in layers left Mom and Dad drenched with perspiration and the children appropriately immobile. Fifteen minutes later, Mom and the kids retreated to the warmth of the house to watch Dad snow-blow the driveway. On our first “date” as parents, Alli and I attended the Big 5’s 50th Anniversary Celebration at the Palestra.

Aidan had minor little boy outpatient surgery to kick off a busy month of February. Mom was a bit of a wreck in pre-op, but the boy was so loopy on the sedative he’d been given he fairly leapt into the arms of the nurse with scarcely a look back when the time came for his procedure. Post-op was another story, though, and after we arrived home he spent the afternoon at home sleeping first in Alli’s arms and then mine. After a few days of delicate diaper changes he was good as new. February also brought the first of Aunt Barbara’s regularly scheduled visits as she helped Alli take care of the kids and the two of them hosted a bridal shower for Barbara’s daughter/our niece Kristen. Shank, Monique and their kids came down from Welland, Ontario for a weekend.

Spring arrived not a moment too soon: After too many months confined to the house, Alli could take the kids outside! They love being outdoors: playing in their little cottage on the back patio, running around in the yard, pushing their trucks on the driveway, taking wagon rides through the neighborhood, going to children’s parks in the area, and visiting the Lehigh Valley Zoo. When the weather turned warm enough, Molly and Aidan “swam” in their pool, ran under the sprinkler, and ran away from Daddy’s garden hose. We spent July 4th at a neighbor’s house, where the kids got their first look at fireworks up close and personal.

In August, neighbors gave us bike seats their children had outgrown. Alli took Molly and Aidan for helmets (or as Aidan likes to say, “Bipe hap Daddy!”) and taking the kids for a bike ride in the evening became a favorite family activity. August 8th marked the one-year anniversary of the kid’s discharge from the baby home into our permanent custody and we celebrated with our Kazakhstan travel companions Bob, Beth and Nicholas. Molly and Daddy and Aidan and Mommy enjoyed the sights and sounds of Musikfest and polkaed like pros. An article written for La Salle’s quarterly alumni magazine about us, the kids and our adoption experience was published in the summer issue and delivered later in the month. We closed August with a week in Ocean City, NJ with Mo and Pop-Pop: The kids loved the beach and the boardwalk and sleeping in their “beach cribs” (pack-n-plays).

Potty training began in September. Dora the Explorer and Bob the Builder pull-ups along with M & Ms were the catalyst for early success. The kids turned two in late October – the 21st for Molly, the 28th for Aidan – and received terrific two-year wellness check-up reports. For Halloween, Molly was a princess and Aidan a bumblebee. The damp, raw weather limited our trick-or treating but the candy
haul was impressive nonetheless and Kit Kats were an unmistakable favorite. To our delight, the kids got a big a kick out of answering the door and distributing candy, and on more than one occasion we watched as a Kit Kat was extended to a waiting ghoul or goblin only to be recalled at the last moment in favor of a Milky Way or Snickers, said Kit Kat then promptly redeployed to Molly or Aidan’s substantial pile.

November brought exciting news: Alli will be inducted into La Salle’s Hall of Athletes in a ceremony scheduled for February 24, 2007. The stars aligned for this one: 2007 marks the 20th anniversary of her graduation and the 10th anniversary of her induction into the Big 5 Hall of Fame, and February 24 is her birthday. For Thanksgiving, we took Molly and Aidan to Canada: Monique prepared an award-winning turkey dinner; the kids met Nick and Virg and Tara and Tara’s eighteen-month old son Cooper, who took a shining to our Molly, and learned a little French from Mrs. C and Giselle; we all took a trip to see Niagara Falls; and Aidan drove a front-end loader (no kidding!), a two-year old boy’s dream come true if there ever was one.

So here we are, a year gone by and the holidays upon us. Molly and Aidan enjoyed their first Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem. As with last year, Molly wants nothing to do with visiting Santa’s lap, though Aidan took the opportunity to charm the fat man and request a school bus and a choo-choo. We took the kids to get our tree again this year, and they trooped up hill and down dale with Mom and Dad in search of evergreen perfection. They’ve been excited participants in our preparations, anxiously exploring box after box of Christmas treasures (how have we managed to accumulate so much stuff over the years?) and helping to decorate the tree. We enjoyed a cookie party at our adoption agency and were delighted to find Aidan’s picture in the local paper the next day.

Molly remains as vivacious as ever. She has a great sense of humor, loves to laugh and dance, and enjoys singing and clapping games. She hugs and kisses her babies and stuffed animals with gusto. Circumspect and hesitant by nature, she has made wonderful strides in handling new situations and meeting new people. She is content with solitary play or quiet reading at times but prefers company in most activities. She loves her brother, often at his peril and only so long as he remembers who’s the boss. We watch with fascination as their interaction changes with their developing personalities. She bedevils Mom and Dad at times but remains the apple of her Pop-Pop’s eye. Molly is a sweet, sweet little girl.

Aidan, so small and so frail when we met him, has flourished in the last year. He is keenly observant and extremely curious about how things work. The more adventurous of the two, he eagerly tries new things; however, his ambitions sometimes exceed his capabilities, at which point things begin to fly! He loves everything to do with cars and trucks and trains (Thomas the Tank Engine has dethroned Elmo), and is content to spend hours playing with them. Much like his Dad, Aidan enjoys cleaning and counts the dust buster and vacuum attachments among his favorite toys. He remains a little boy through and through, however, smashing into this and crashing into that and all the while providing play by play and color commentary whether anyone is listening or not. Like his sister, he strikes us as very bright and we marvel at his ability to string words together and form ideas. He is quick to smile and laughs heartily and often. Aidan is a sweet, sweet little boy.

We are reminded each and every day that we are truly blessed. We wish you the special blessings of Christmas throughout the season and the New Year.

Merry Christmas with love,
Pat, Alli, Molly and Aidan

(We’re still Blogging @

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Holiday Preparations

Unlike last year, Molly and Aidan have been enthusiastic participants in our Christmas preparations. They've anxiously explored box after box of Christmas treasures and helped us decorate the tree. I know it's still early but they've been good about touching things gently or leaving things alone when we ask. The two exceptions have been the ornaments on the tree and the gift wrapped boxes (which are empty and for display only) and who can blame them. We put a gate across the doorway into the room where the tree is and placed the boxes up a little higher. We've designated the sofa table as Molly and Aidan's and they are able to touch and play with whatever is on there. They also have a Little People Nativity (given to them by our friends Nick and Virg from Welland, Ontario) which they like to play with. The baby Jesus was missing for a few days but luckily was found in between the sofa cushions. Any figure from the Nativity can be seen atop the Creche; one of the wisemen, Mary, Joseph, a camel...whatever. With our decorating complete, I'll be moving on to baking cookies. We also need to get our Christmas cards out but we'll be happy as long as they're in the mail by the 24th. You always get a few cards after Christmas.

Aidan has taken a real shining to a plush Rudolph toy and has been carrying him around the house. Rudolph has also be seen tooling around in the back of Aidan's dump truck. He is not really a stuffed animal kids so this attachment is a wonder to us. Molly has had a few issues with some of our decorations. Our closet has a growing collection of things she is afraid of including two plush Santas, a stuffed Opus (for those of you who remember Calvin and Hobbs), and a plush Grinch in a Santa suit. I hope this is it because we're running out of space. Poor little girl!!

On Saturday we took the kids to Jim Thorpe, PA. Jim Thorpe, formerly Mauch Chunk, is a small picturesque Pennsylvania town with a fascinating history. Established in a wilderness on the banks of the Lehigh River in 1818, Mauch Chunk became a bustling coal transportation center, tourist Mecca, and the esteemed seat of Carbon County by the middle of the 19th century. It's only 45 minutes from our house and a really cool place. One of the highlights of the day was the H.O. train display. The display is 47 ft. x 12 ft. and features 13 mainlines measuring 1087 sq. ft. of track, over 200 structures, 100 bridges, and trestles, moving autos, a burning building, old fashioned football stadium, and more. Some engines pull more than 50 railroad cars. Aidan was in heaven. They had a nice supply of candy canes so Molly was happy too!

All in all we're in pretty good shape for the upcoming holidays. We've taken a low stress approach and are getting done what time allows. This has been a good plan as we've really been enjoying getting ready for Christmas.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Oh Christmas Tree

Last Thursday night we attended a holiday party sponsored by our adoption agency. The turn out was great and it was wonderful to see so many families that were created through adoption. It was also nice to see the agency people we worked so closely with during the process. They genuinely enjoy getting a chance to see the children since much of their involvement is on the paperwork end. Bob, Beth and Nicholas (the family we traveled with to Kaz) were also there. Their paperwork to adopt a child from Guatemala is complete. Now they wait for a referral and are hopeful they will travel this summer. We're very excited for them. We discovered that Aidan LOVES cookies and he had a grand feast with those he was served and those to which he helped himself. We were concerned that the agency people would think we never feed the boy. Luckily, he suffered no ill effects from the copious quantites he consumed. Santa stopped in for a visit. He received mixed reviews from the kids as one might expect. Some greeted him with joy while others burst into tears. Molly hopped into the safety of her daddy's arms but did not cry. Aidan sat on Santa's lap again. "School bus please" was his request. No lap for Molly however she did blow Santa a kiss when we were leaving. She's making progress.

On Saturday I attended a bridal shower for Pat's cousin. The shower was in South Jersey and started at 11:00am so I was out the door early. Daddy had Molly and Aidan all to himself. A great day was had by one and all.

We woke the kids up early on Sunday morning and went to the 8:30 Mass. After church and a quick breakfast we headed out to find our Christmas tree. The first place we went to had a lot of atmosphere but the trees were pre-cut. You could cut your own but the selection wasn't great. This place had a nice train display, horse drawn wagon rides and guess who...yes, Santa. There weren't many people there so Santa was trying to talk to Molly and Aidan from where he was seated. Aidan was too mesmerized by the trains to notice and Molly was hiding between my legs. After a few minutes he came over and gave them each a candy cane. Aidan took his and surprisingly so did Molly. Candy is hard to resist. Pat theorized that Molly was too caught off guard by Santa sneaking up on her to react. Both kids scarfed down the candy canes. We didn't even know they liked peppermint. Aidan took another opportunity to sit on the fat man's lap. His Christmas wish list has grown. He now would like a school bus and a choo choo.

The next place we stopped had tons of trees to choose from and we inspected nearly every one. Molly and Aidan were troopers and didn't complain as we climbed up and down the mountain side. After we found the one, Pat broke out the saw and cut it down. The kids were intrigued. The tractor swung by for the tree and we walked to the checkout. Aidan was fascinated by the baler (hard to imagine). While we waited for our tree to be done, Aidan invented a new game called "throw the stump down the hill". Pat had cut a small round piece from the tree stump for each of the kids. Aidan threw his down the hill and didn't it roll about 25 feet. Pat retrieved it and both kids threw theirs again. This time they all chased them down. I wish I had the video camera. It was hysterical. Everyone there was laughing. We paid for the tree, tied it to the roof and headed home. We had a terrific time. Tonight we'll put the tree in the stand and Pat will put on the lights. That will be enough to accomplish with two 2 year old "helpers".

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Adventures in Bedland

The guys from Sherwood's Furniture arrived on Tuesday morning to convert Molly and Aidan's cribs to toddler beds. They made quick work of Aidan's crib but Molly's was another story. They were not familiar with the brand (Morigeau-Lepine: a French Canadian company) and weren't sure if it converted to a toddler bed. These convertible types go from a crib to a toddler bed (small bed that still uses the crib mattress)to a full-size bed. We didn't seem to have the parts needed to make Molly's crib into a toddler bed. I hopped on our computer (embarrassed by our dial-up connection) to find a number for the manufacturer. After placing a phone call the guys were able to determine that her crib does convert to a toddler bed but we don't have the necessary parts. They were going to straighten it out back at the shop. So we were one for two. Molly and Aidan were involved in all of the activity and seemed to enjoy themselves and entertain the company. As usual, they were very "helpful".

After a quick lunch it was time for the moment of truth. "Aidan, I know you can get out of your bed now and run around your room play but mommy and daddy want you to stay in bed and sleep." That's all you have to say to a two year old, right? Not exactly as anyone whose been through this knows. Molly now feels she has her own personal assistant. She can throw toys from her crib and Aidan can retrieve them. If she can't figure out which buttons to push to get the fish to swim in her oceans of wonder aquarium, no problem. Aidan can help. After about a 1/2 hour of frivolity and visits from mom the room became quite. The boy slept in his bed. All in all, not too bad.

But wait, in addition to nap time there is bed time. Oi vay! "Aidan, I know you can get out of your bed now and run around your room play but mommy and daddy want you to stay in bed and sleep." After nearly 2 hours of fun and games and numerous visits from mom and dad we threw in the towel. Pat retrieved the pack-n-play from the basement and we set the boy up in there. Everyone was out within 10 minutes. Although this is what we expected, it was a stressful experience. We decided that we would put Aidan's crib back together and try again after the holidays when we have more time to devote to the transition.

However, after sleeping on it mom and dad re-stategized. We'll keep the pack-n-play up, buy a bed rail to help Aidan feel more comfortable and keep with it. Worse comes to worst, we'll keep putting him in the pack-n-play for a while. We also decided that it's time to move our dear little girl to her own room. We'll convert her bed and move her across the hall at the beginning of next year. I like to say it that way because it sounds like we have more time than we really do.

And don't ya know when we arrive in Molly and Aidan's room for their nap Aidan hops in his bed, stretches out and says "mommy, mommy, mommy, Aidan sleep here now." Go figure.

Monday, December 04, 2006

This and That

Don't know how it happens but another weekend has flown by. On Saturday morning we took the kids to Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem. Christkindlemarkt is a holiday craft fair housed in two huge circus tents featuring shopping, food, live holiday music, kid's rides and activities and of course jolly, old St. Nicholas. We hurried past 5 or 6 busses unloading seniors to purchase our tickets and get inside. The place was mobbed but Molly and Aidan did well. There was so much for them to see. After shopping a bit we made our way to Santa's place. Amazing no one was in line so we pushed our strollers to the front to let the kids see the fat man. Molly immediately began to grind her teeth and say no ho ho, no ho ho. We eventually got her to give a half-hearted wave. Aidan was not all that interested until I mentioned that if he wanted a school bus for Christmas he would have to tell Santa. The boy leapt from his stoller, climbed on Santa's lap and requested said school bus (remembering to say please). No sure if old Santa understood but Aidan was quite pleased with himself and got a box of Mike & Ikes to boot.

We went out to dinner and a movie with the neighbors on Saturday evening. The Rau girls (also neighbors) baby sat. They are the first non-family memebers to put Molly and Aidan to bed. When we got home Jenna reported that the kids went down without a fuss but that when the went to check on them after they were asleep they discovered that Molly had taken her pajamas off. Not to worry we said it's par for the course. All went well and we look forward to having them sit again.

Molly if officially on potty training hiatus. I'll put her on the potty, read a few books and nothing (maybe a drop or two). She then proceeds to wet in her pull up. She just isn't interested. We've decided to give it a rest for a while and pick up again later when she becomes interested. Aidan on the other hand will soon be ready for underwear. "Hooray for underpants" to quote Elmo.

We had a surprise on Sunday night after the kids were in bed (not sleeping mind you but in their cribs). They are doing their normal thing, hopping, talking, laughing. Pat and I are in the kitchen making dinner. Suddenly we hear real wailing. Pat heads up the back stair and I tear up the front (he tells me later that he chose a diffent staircase to avoid being run over by me). I'm sure the holiday candles in the window have ignited the shade. We enter the room to find a little boy wandering in the dark, dazed and crying. Yes, it has finally happened. Aidan climbed (or fell) out of his crib. He wasn't hurt, just startled. Molly was apparently startled as well which accounts for her wailing. So, tomorrow someone from Sherwood's Furniture store will come to convert the cribs to toddler beds. Wish us luck. We'll be entering new and uncharted territory.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Let the Shopping Begin

Once a week my in-laws (aka Mo and Pop Pop) watch Molly and Aidan. This works out well for all parties involved. Mo and Pop Pop get their weekly Molly and Aidan fix, Molly and Aidan get to spend time with their beloved grand parents, and good old Mom gets out and about. A true win/win/win situation. Yesterday was the day and I used my time off to begin Christmas shopping. This is quite a change for us since prior to the arrival of M & A Pat and I would do all of our shopping the Saturday before Christmas in one big blitz. Not gonna work anymore. Silly me, having rarely been to the mall during the week at holiday time I thought that it would be empty. Boy was I wrong ever wrong. The place was rockin' and I enjoy being out in the hustle and bustle.

I'm off to a good start. I purchased a fleece blanket, pin and sweater for our "secret senior" (senior in a local nursing care facility)and a princess tea set from The Disney Store for Molly. I was also looking for a holiday sweater/vest for Aidan. Has anyone recently tried to find a such a thing for a toddler boy? Next to impossible. I looked in two children's stores and three department stores. Nada. Hundreds of pretty dresses for girls (which we don't need since Molly received one from Aunt Leen and Uncle Ron for her birthday) but nothing for toddler boys. Fortunately when I arrived home and shared my plight with my MIL she remembered that she had forgotten to tell me that she found a vest for Aidan. I'm glad the search is over.

Speaking of Christmas shopping....has anyone received the F*A*O Schwarz catalog? Blew my mind. High-end doesn't describe it. Here are a few examples: 1) Life size Santa (6' tall)...$3,000 2)Custom Lionel Train Set...starting at $10,000 (contact a personal shopper to discuss the details) 3)Your House as a Doll House (detailed scale model of your own home)...starting at $10,000 and 4) Life-Sized Lego Batman (6' 6" tall)...$27,000. YIKES!! They do have one page with items priced at $25. These must be stocking stuffers.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Our last posting was in April and in that posting I enthusiastically proclaimed that I would begin making updates on a weekly basis. When that didn't happen I thought to myself okay, I'll post monthly. Wrong again. As the months went by and I considered posting I became overwhelmed with the task of summarizing all that had transpired so I avoided it altogether. Now I have a new plan of attack. I'm just going to start with current events and fill in the blanks as needed. So, welcome to our world.....

Molly and Aidan turned two at the end of October. It's a terrific and trying time. Both are very verbal and the house is filled with their voices. Aidan provides a continuous play by play of his life whether anyone is listening or not. He strings four and five words together. Some of it is able to be understood by non-family members but I seem to be the best at interpreting. We are surprised by his non-stop talking as he was a man of few words until a short while ago. Molly is putting together three and four words together and her pronunciation is crystal clear. It is really neat to hear them talk to one another. We often stand outside their bedroom door and laugh as we listen.

We visited our friends the Petrachenkos in their hometown of Welland, Ontario over our Thanksgiving Day holiday. It was a whirlwind trip and the kids did very well. They were comfortable around the new people they met (this is a huge change for Molly as she has always taken a good bit of time to warm up to strangers). One of our Canadian friends has an 18 month old boy who was smitten by Molly. He spent much of the time trying to hug and kiss her. Aidan continued his play by play much to the entertainment of everyone. We did have one meltdown on the trip home but a stop for something to eat and stretch the legs put everything back on track. We've made tentative plans to visit again in the summer.

The potty training initiative has begun. We've been at it for five or six weeks and it's going slowly but well. Aidan is just about there. He will come running from another room shouting "on potty, on potty" when he needs to go. He will ask to sit on the potty if he is in his high chair. Today we were at the zoo and he told me he needed to go but unfortunately I wasn't able to take him. He has been trying desparately to poop on the potty as well. He'll ask to sit on the potty and then say "too hard" and get off. He knows he has to go but isn't quite sure how to make it happen. Molly is doing well but rarely initiates a visit to the potty. She'll go at our suggestion, sometimes willingly and some times in full protest, but she doesn't always stay dry between trips. She has such a strong will and I think that part of this is a stuggle for power and control. And forget pooping on the potty. She will run and hide in one of her "spots" to do her business. If you happen to catch her in the act she'll say "bye bye mommy or bye bye daddy". Interesting how things are working out since many people told me boys were much harder to train.

We have discovered that Molly is a nudist. For the last several weeks she has been peeling of her pajamas sometime after we put her to bed. We've been concerned that she will be cold but it doesn't seem to impact her sleep. Last night after the kids were asleep I sneaked into their room to check on them. Their cycle lately seem to be to poop after they are tucked in at night so we've had to check and wake sleeping children for a change. Such was the case last night as I discovered as soon as I opened the door. Not knowing which child was the offender I flipped the light on low. I peeked into Molly's crib (hers is closest to the door) and their she lay buck naked and sound asleep. I'm happy to report that she was not the offender. We did howerer change Aidan and diaper and re-dress Molly (somewhat futile effort as she was in only a diaper when I went in to get them this morning).

So, I'm back to Blogging. It feels good.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What's New with the Donohoes?

Well, we're glad you asked. It's hard to believe but we've been home for 9 months. Molly and Aidan are terrific and we've settled into a wonderful family way of life. Both kids are happy, curious, ACTIVE toddlers. They are amazing to us and our hearts are filled with love. We're still figuring out the whole parenting thing but none of us seem any the worse for wear. We've been inspired to return to blogging and plan on posting weekly updates.

Molly is a sweet, giving child and a definite character. She is usually the peacemaker in disputes with her brother (unless he tries to covet her favorite blanket). That's not to say that she doesn't still like to hit him upside his head on occassion but these situations are usually desereved on his part. We don't allow it of course but we do see her point. Molly wakes up in the morning dancing and she goes at it all day long. Her rendition of "Head, Shoulder, Knees and Toes" is not to be missed. She has a wonderful sense of humor, is quick to laugh and is ticklish just about everywhere. She is a bright child who loves to "read". She is the more verbal of the two and has a distinguishable vocabulary of a dozen words or so that is growing daily. Molly loves her daddy and would prefer to be in his arms dancing to most other activites (eating NOT included!!) She has overcome her fear of dogs and now runs up to kiss even large ones. She has also overcome her fear of most men in the neighborhood which is more than I can say!! We love her so.

Aidan is a snuggly boy who's gears are always turning. He is extremely inquisitive and I believe he could make me coffee in the morning if allowed. He is bright, persistent and has a fantastic memory. We lovingly refer to him as "Bill Nye the Science Guy". Mealtime most often resembles a science experiment...what happens if I dump my plate? do green beans taste when pulverized? many times must I throw my cup on the floor before my parents' heads explode?...what foods look best in my hair? Aidan is an outgoing boy with a sweet, sweet smile. He is a mama's boy without a doubt. He has a full agenda and is busy about it day long. One of his favorite activities is to "clean". He has a toy mop, broom, and dust buster (although he prefers the real things) and is the model of cleanliness. He runs the real vaccum while his sister runs from it. We traveled 1/2 way around the world to find a boy who is just like his daddy. Nothing wrong with a little healthy OCD. We love him so.

Mom and dad are adjusting to life with two toddlers. Quite different than BMA (before Molly and Aidan). We maintain our sense of humor, pray daily for patience and keep the fridge well stocked with adult beverages. And keep in mind, these are good kids! We enjoy taking the kids out and about and are glad that the warm weather has arrived. It has been amazing to see them grow, develop and thrive. We try to appreciate what each day brings because they are flying by so fast. Molly and Aidan bring us great joy. We are truly blessed. Tune in for more exciting episodes of the Molly and Aidan show.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Year in Review

As 2005 draws to a close with our first Christmas as a family, Alli and I wanted to share with you the events and experiences of our wonderful and blessed year of dreams come true.

Let me start in March of 2004 when Alli attended an informational meeting on international adoption at the office of a local adoption agency. We had discussed adoption on a number of occasions during our many years of trying to begin a family. Alli finally took the initiative and came home with folders filled with information on the program options available at the time, i.e. those foreign countries offering adoption opportunities to citizens of the United States.

We discussed numbers – I favored one child, Alli wanted two – and deliberated on the many factors involved when one considers international adoption as a whole and specific programs/countries in particular. We eliminated countries from which we might adopt just one child – Alli won again - as well as those more gender specific in availability of children for adoption. We evaluated expected duration of process, projected length of stay abroad and, of course, financial obligations. In the end, we settled on Kazakhstan. Once part of the Soviet Union but independent since 1991, Kazakhstan is among the world’s largest countries in land mass, shares borders with Russia and China and counts among its other neighbors combustible countries including Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran. We had never heard of and knew little about Kazakhstan, but hoped it held the answer to our prayers for children.

The arduous process of evaluation and qualification began almost immediately, and we spent weeks completing paperwork, soliciting references, submitting to local and federal background checks and FBI fingerprinting, and proving ourselves physically and financially fit. In July of 2004, our home study behind us and our dossier complete, the waiting began while our agency and the baby home they work with in the town of Kostanai worked to match us with the children who met our qualifications: We hoped for a boy and a girl and expressed preferences for Russian children, one a toddler and the other an infant, with neither older than 24 months and one between 6 and 12 months. We thought we’d like the infant to be a boy, a notion the agency supported at first but later suggested we revise in light of the scarcity of toddler girls. Weeks by with no word as summer turned to fall and then winter.

Early in January, 2005 we spoke with our agency’s stateside placement coordinator, and she encouraged us to further expand our horizons to include children of Kazakh heritage, children closer in age to one another and children of the same sex. We continued to insist on our high-end age parameter but were agreeable to her other suggestions. On January 24, we received our “referral:” pictures and medical histories on two children, a girl (Viktoria Shihova) and a boy (Artyom Lobas) born within eight days of one another in October 2004. We took the medical records to a local pediatrician who specializes in international adoption and is herself the mother of two adopted children. While some of the verbiage in the reports was unnerving to us, the doctor quickly explained the problem lay not in the content of the reports but in what might be lost or confused in the translation of three distinct languages – Russian, English and medical terminology. She was pleased with the information and offered her enthusiastic endorsement of the referral. We accepted the referral on January 28.

The paperwork was grueling and the search for a match very difficult, but the worst was yet to come: The next step involved waiting for the government of Kazakhstan to issue an invitation for us to travel. Only with invitation in hand could we secure our visas, make our travel plans and, of course, meet our kids. At the same time, we were both having an increasingly difficult time of things at work, and we moved from week to week hoping word would come, bringing with it an opportunity to close one unhappy chapter and open a wonderful and exciting new one.

Salvation arrived on May 17: Alli received a phone call at work telling us we were welcome to enter Kazakhstan on June 7. In the ensuing days we began processing the paperwork for our visas, secured transportation to and from Kazakhstan and broke the news at work. The next two weeks were a whirl- wind of planning, packing, preparations and good-byes until Sunday, June 5 arrived and we departed from Newark Airport for what we anticipated would be five to six weeks away from home.

7 ½ hours to London, an eight-hour layover in Heathrow and ten hours from London to Almaty later (Almaty is the former capital city of Kazakhstan and still home to the US Embassy), we were going through customs at 5:30 in the morning under the watchful eyes of very stern-looking, non-English-speaking military personnel. To hotel and bed at 7 AM Tuesday morning Kazakhstan time (9 PM Monday night back home), we awoke in mid-afternoon to word we would fly to Kostanai by way of Astana (the current capital city) the following day at 1 PM. We arrived in Kostanai at 5:30 PM, were greeted by our smiling facilitator, Olesya, and (surprisingly) went directly to the baby home! Less than an hour later, following a brief interview with the head doctor, the children were brought in: first Molly, then Aidan and finally Nicholas (adopted by our traveling companions Bob and Beth Meuser). After nearly 16 years of married life, more than a year in the adoption process, and nearly six months since we’d fallen in love with two tiny photographs, we held our children in our arms for the first time!

Molly was a sturdy nineteen pounds, able to sit without assistance, hold and throw toys and chatter animatedly to herself and others. Stoic and skeptical, a favorite among the baby home staff and the more engaging of the two children, she liked to laugh and shout, took active if briefly focused interest in the goings on around her and expressed both happiness and annoyance with unmistakable clarity. Aidan was tiny and shy. Not quite 16 pounds but two inches longer than Molly, he looked particularly slight and almost frail by comparison, and he was unable to sit by himself or hold any but the smallest toy. He was quiet and withdrawn, rarely made eye contact and seemed to take comfort in studying his fingers. He was more curious about things generally and took time to study that to which Molly might give only passing interest. He liked to snuggle more than his sister and took a shining to his mom.

We visited the children in the baby home every day for 90 minutes from 1 to 2:30 PM. Though the same age, they were housed in different rooms and in all likelihood had little if any contact with each other before we arrived. It was interesting to watch them get to know one another while becoming more comfortable with us. For the first two weeks, the court-prescribed bonding period, we were permitted to feed the children their lunch before taking them to a private area for play and interaction. Through-out the summer, we had opportunities to dress and change them and put them down for their after-noon naps. During our visits, we took them outside as often as possible, and on one occasion took them on a” field trip” off the grounds to have their passport photos taken.

We filled the time around our visits with a variety of activities. In the mornings, Bob and I worked out and carried on a summer-long ping-pong tournament at a local gym while the girls walked from one end of Kostanai to the other. In the afternoons, we’d join Olesya in procedural activities – filling out more paperwork, visiting the notary, etc. – and spend time in the Internet cafĂ© maintaining our on-line journal for the folks back home. In the evenings, we went to dinner with our translator, Dana, and enjoyed summer sunlight that lasted well past 10 PM. Soccer matches, shopping in the outdoor markets, mass on Sundays, court proceedings, our first Father’s Day, my forty-fifth birthday and too many wonderful, poignant moments to relate here filled our days with memories to last a lifetime. On July 9, the second of our court dates, the judge read her decision naming us parents to Molly Claire and Aidan Patrick. On July 25, after a mandatory 15-day waiting period, we officially became mother and father to our daughter and son. Finally, on August 8, we took Molly and Aidan from the baby home at 10 AM, flew to Almaty on a 4 PM flight and began life as a family.

Let me tell you: Ninety minutes of lunch and playing and maybe a little snack before afternoon nap did not come close to preparing us for parenthood, particularly when it began in a hotel with two kids who had never been on a plane or in a car at night, slept in air conditioning, seen a swimming pool or walked around in a large and bustling city. We ordered hot water from room service for bottles and ate our own room service meals in the bathroom so as not to disturb the kids after we’d finally gotten them to go down for the night. Many hours were spent walking around the hotel hallways and grounds at all hours of the night with children who could not have been less interested in sleeping. We soldiered on with the unfailing assistance of Bob and Beth, took Molly and Aidan for medical examinations, met with officials at the US Embassy to secure the children’s’ visas, and endured a two-day delay before leaving for home (the result of the British Airways strikes). On the morning of get-away day, yours truly spent nine hours throwing up in the hotel, the airport, the customs line and the airplane. Alli, Bob and Beth cared for the kids – all of who decided the close confines of the airplane were the perfect place for relentless diarrhea - while I struggled to take care of myself.

We reached Heathrow - a five-hour layover on the way home – where I slept throughout and awoke with at least minimal ability to participate in the final leg of the journey. Arriving in Newark (we left on Sunday and arrived on Sunday!), we were processed through customs and immigration and were met by my mom and dad. Exhaustion and emotions got the better of us all and tears flowed freely among the weary travelers and our families. We arrived home at 1 AM – 11 AM where we had just been for nine weeks – and I felt well enough to drink a beer with my dad to celebrate the moment.

We had an appointment with the pediatrician Monday morning at 11 AM. I was up walking the kids around the neighborhood at 5:30 AM – the kids went to bed around 2 AM but were up in just a few hours – and it seems as if we’ve been running at full speed ever since. I stayed home from work for three weeks after we were home , while Alli retired from Rodale and became a full-time mom. The children adjusted quickly even though in a very real sense day was night and night was day for the first several days. Mom and Dad slept very little, however, as Aidan developed a routine of waking every two hours throughout the night and crying until someone went into his room, picked him up, found his pacifier (on which he was typically standing) and plopped him back down. After a month of that nonsense – Alli is such a softy – we initiated bedtime boot camp and haven’t looked back.

Molly and Aidan were baptized in September, began walking shortly before they turned one in October, enjoyed a family Thanksgiving Donohoe/Dwyer style in November and their first college basketball game (La Salle women) in December. Molly loves stuffed animals (much hugging and kissing!), dancing and books, often “reading” aloud to herself. She says cheese, juice and eye (we think) and responds to simple questions and direction with the correct answers and actions. She is extremely observant and hasn’t missed a decorating trick in our Christmas season preparations. Aidan remains inquisitive and must touch everything and know how it works. He is very adept at observing something done once and figuring out how to do it for himself. He says cracker, cake and Pop-Pop (we think) and sings quietly to himself. They enjoy being outside, don’t particularly like grass and don’t know quite what to make of snow. They are napping well (once per day) and sleeping through the night. They enjoy playing together (essentially throwing their toys into each other’s cribs) prior to naps and upon waking in the morning and love to chase each other around the house. Regularly scheduled check-ups have all been very good: They are happy and healthy and developing on schedule. They fill our lives with oh so much work – Alli’s in particular, and she’s been great! - but reward us with many, many moments of joy, laughter and love.

We are reminded each and every day that we are truly blessed. We wish you the special blessings of Christmas throughout the season and the New Year.

Merry Christmas with love,

Pat, Alli, Molly and Aidan