Every Child has a Dream to Belong and Be Loved

IMG_1824 January 2014

IMG_3161Sept 2015

November is Adoption Awareness month and Sunday is Orphan Sunday.  As our family has been touched by adoption, now is as good a time as ever to update my blog beginning with an adoption related post.  Our sweet little guy spent almost 3 years in an orphanage in Eastern Europe.  He was rarely talked to, rarely held, and not loved.  He was unwanted.  Why?  Maybe he was unwanted because he was born with Down syndrome.  Maybe because his family couldn’t care for him or support him.  I really don’t know exactly why, but my guess is that his birth mother had to make a pretty hard decision that causes her to live daily with some pain from that decision.  It is hard for me to understand, but orphanage life is also difficult to understand.  I really can’t dwell on Levi’s life before he came home.  It makes me too sad to think about what life was like for him.  When he cried, no one comforted him so he probably stopped crying.  He was hungry, but because he was a “lazy eater,” he just missed out on meals.  No one took the time to let him eat at his own pace or help him learn to eat more efficiently.  No one rocked him to sleep or prayed with him at bedtime.  No one cared for him when he was sick.

Do you know what the craziest thing is?  Levi’s orphanage was actually one of the better orphanages in Bulgaria.  That means there are countless children receiving even less care than Levi!  They are fed less, held less.  If you really aren’t sure that this can be true, check out the fb page “Saving Baby Ryan.”  This little guy is 7 years old and weighs 11 pounds.  11 pounds!!!  How is this even possible?  I know we live in a broken world and God’s design for families was not for children to be abandoned.

It is tough because adoption can be expensive.  It is time consuming.  It is scary.  All these children from foster care here in the U.S. to the orphanages in Bulgaria (and all the places in between) desperately need families.  They deserve families.  They deserve love.  The fact is, however, adoption is not all rainbows and unicorns.  It is tough.  These precious children have experienced abandonment and trauma, and many have been through abusive situations that I can’t even fathom.  I also know that adoption is not for everyone but I do know that we can all do something about the orphan crisis.


Have you thought about adoption?  Maybe not.  Maybe you need another tangible way to help right now.  How about delivering a meal to a family with a couple of new foster kids?  Could you offer to take the siblings of a newly adopted kiddo to a movie?  Could you mow for a family while they are out of the country picking up their newly adopted child?  What about dropping off a coffee to a mom who is overwhelmed with the not-so-bright-side of adoption?  There are so many ways to help support families who have decided that foster care/adoption is for them.  What can you do to help?

The Play-by-Play of the Trip Home -by Kevin

Hate to wake this guy, but we need to catch a plane.  Our first flight is from Sofia, Bulgaria to Frankfurt, Germany.  Bags are checked, made it through security and passport control. Thanks to security for moving us to the front of the line. Passport control had all kinds of questions like, “where is the mother, is she Bulgarian”. She didn’t like my answers of “at home in the US, and no she is not Bulgarian”. Needless to say she wanted to see some additional paperwork but finally let us through.


First flight down. He did pretty well. I gave him the window seat. He fell asleep on me for about 45 min. We are chilling out waiting to board our next flight in about 1 hour 45 min. I have to say that I am not a big fan of the Frankfurt Airport.

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Got a late start out of Frankfurt. Sat on plane for a little over two hours before taking off. We left about an hour and thirty minutes late. Will see what happens. This little guy isn’t phased. Wifi over the ocean, what will be next.10363637_10204210809613594_4009691450957035316_n

The good news is you can say hello to the newest American Levi Ergin Swinigan. Bad news, I think we are missing our next flight.

This kid is amazing. As of now I am on a standby to STL @ 8:05. Chances are not good. If no standby, then 9pm to Springfield, IL. I will get this kid to his mom somehow tonight.
We have boarding passes for a flight that leaves in 30 min to Springfield, IL. Levi still doing well – good thing he has his thumb. Heather and a friend are picking us up. Thanks for all the other offers. Heather at least got to see all the dance recital and will get to see Levi today, so it all worked out. Thanks for following and the prayers. And the in words of the famous poet Ozzy Osbourne “Mama I’m Coming Home”. By the way, I’ve been up for 25 hours.
We made it to Springfield!  This guys has a big smile while waiting for his mommy.
 Levi and mommy FINALLY reunited!
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Thanks to our good friend, Will, we all made it safely back to St. Louis.  So good to be home.

Finding a Temporary Normal -by Kevin

June 3

Today we did not have any meetings or appointments so Levi and I spent most of the day at the hotel. We did venture out and took a walk for a couple of miles in the stroller. Sidewalks here are not stroller friendly. We made a few stops at different stores. It was funny to watch Levi’s face as he took in all of the sites, sounds, and smells. Out next appointment is Thursday, so we will likely have more of the same tomorrow. He is a very good eater, and he also sleeps well. He slept through the night and has taken 2.5/3 hour naps each day. If he is ever fussy, it usually involves food, which you could say that about most of us Swinigans. I am either too slow getting it to him, or he is not a fan of what I have picked for him to eat. If all else fails, the kid loves bananas. He loves to make funny faces and sounds, and I am usually too late to get the good ones on video. Here is one short clip while I was trying to feed him a snack this afternoon.

June 4

So I think I learned my lesson on where to post things so that everyone can see them. Sorry for the technical difficulties. Maybe one day this Facebook thing will start to work right and really take off…..or maybe it was user error. Anyway, like I said, no meeting scheduled for today so we headed out to the mall….me and all the other moms with strollers.

A few things I learned today besides not going to the mall right before noon when many stores close for an hour:

1. I am out of practice with all this baby stuff. When leaving the hotel this morning for the mall, I remembered the kid, the stroller, but forgot the backpack (diaper bag). Luckily, I had one diaper stashed away in the stroller from the other day. We made it work. Shhhhh, whatever you do don’t tell Heather.

2. A cabbie may try to ignore you when you walk up pushing a baby stroller, but if you open the door and insist that you can make it all fit, he will roll his eyes and let you put the stroller in the front seat. He earned a nice tip for his good deed.

3. When you pack lite for an international trip and plan to do laundry in the bathtub, having a balcony to dry your clothes on is great, until you forget about them and it starts raining. Sure hope my pants dry before my appointment at the US Embassy tomorrow. Not sure I want to roll in there in a pair of shorts!

Here are a few random pics. You may notice a trend in a lot of the pictures the last couple of days of these multi colored linking rings. He loves those things.

This first picture is us getting ready to leave the hotel. The second is another napping picture. The third picture is him kissing his sisters in the picture book we made of them. He did this to their pictures on our first trip in January as well. He also tries to attack the iPad when we FaceTime with them.

Well that is all I have time for because I need to go blow dry my pants!

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June 5

On our way to the Embassy with passport in hand and dry pants, just in case anyone was wondering. My pants not his.  The next picture is our driver/translator, Dimiter.


So our field trip today was rather uneventful, which if you are going someplace where everyone is really serious and there is lots of security, you want it to be rather uneventful. You are required to turn your cell phone off and turn it in to the guards, and you get it back as you leave. Hypothetically speaking someone may have snapped a photo of the building as they were leaving, thinking this one will be a good one for Facebook later. Well, let me just tell you, you will not be seeing that picture, because when that someone got back to their hotel and was going through the pictures, there is this lovely sign in that shot (that someone did not see), that says “Visitors are not to take photos while on diplomatic property”. Whoops, my bad.

I do need to give major credit to our attorney over here. He totally prepared me for what to expect as we went through each step of the process. So now everything has been approved, I am just waiting on the last few official documents to be delivered tomorrow evening so we can leave Saturday morning.

Here are four pictures from today:

The first is a picture of Levi and I with our translator/driver, Dimiter. We will not see him again, so I had the people at the hotel take a picture of us. He has been great. He was our driver/translator in January as well, and I can not say enough good things about him.

The second picture is Levi at dinner. Can you guess what he had? He was really not that messy, I just gave him an extra big bite because I thought it would make for a better picture.

The third picture is of our dinner tonight at the hotel restaurant. This one is for Dewayne, who harassed me in one of my first post saying that rather just knowing where I was eating, he wanted to see a picture of my food. Well here you go D. By the way, it was excellent!

The last picture is of my room. There is nothing special about the picture, other than the fact that the hotel staff is awesome. When I leave my room during the day, this place looks like a tornado came through. We are a couple of dudes staying in a hotel room, by ourselves, what do you expect. Towels, toys, glasses, etc., left everywhere. It’s like the movie The Hangover, except without the drugs, and alcohol, and the women, and the gambling, or Mike Tyson….actually is it nothing like The Hangover, except the part where Alan carries the baby around on his chest. I did that earlier this week and neither of us enjoyed it at all.  Anyway, this is what I come back to each day, everything is its place, toys neatly organized on the bed.

Thanks for reading and giving me a chance to not go crazy while we wait to get back and see Heather and the girls!


June 6

A really nice day in Sophia today so we went for a little walk.  We at lunch by this fountain. Starting to pack soon. That feels good.

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So thank you all for joining us on this journey so far. It has been an amazing ride and I am sure that God has great things in store for us going forward. I have received many kudos of the past week or so for taking this trip, but I have to tell you that the one who deserves the kudos and who is the true rock star in our house is Heather.

You see, God placed this desire on her heart well before he placed it on mine (or I just did a better job is ignoring it at first). Sure we had talked about adoption as a way to grow our family for years, but in my mind it was always a domestic adoption. But an international adoption, of a special needs child, no way, not in a million years. But, through lots of prayer, God working on our hearts, and talking between us and with other adoptive parents and other special needs parents, it began to feel like something we were called to do.

I have to admit, at times through this process, on Sundays, it felt like God was talking directly to us through Pastor Terry. We would sometimes leave looking at each other shaking our heads wondering why was he looking at us the whole sermon, was there no one else in there?

Even though it took us all awhile to get on the same page and then to get all the paperwork, etc. done, God’s timing is perfect and that is why I am sitting in Sophia right now, and getting ready to board a plan in less than 12 hours.

The first picture is Levi and I with our attorney in Bulgaria. Please pray for these people. They do amazing work connecting these kids with families and putting up with all of the legal changes along the way.

The second picture was taken at dinner tonight. These are two other families that are currently on their first trip, Barry and Shelly Ray and Colleen Novit. They will both be in country for two weeks because they both are adopting 2 kids from different regions of the country.

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Reunited! by Kevin

Wow, what a day. It is almost 11pm local time in Sophia. Off to bed soon.

Here are a few highlights from the day:

•Left the hotel this morning about 8:40 only to make it a ¼ of a mile down the street and the car starts smoking out of the hood and then shuts down completely. I really thought it was on fire. I grab my backpack, empty car seat, and two gift bags for the orphanage workers out of the car and stand off to the side of the road. By the way, it was raining. After we realize that the car is not going to start, we need to push it off to the side of the road and my driver/translator tells me “wait here” and that he will be back in a few minutes because he needs to go get his other car. I should have walked back to the hotel with my backpack, empty car seat and two gift bags, but no, I find a nearby canopy to stand under for 15 minutes while I wait for him to come back. And I thought I was getting strange looks at the airport!

•The people at the orphanage were very nice and I had a nice conversation with the orphanage director, though our translator, and showed her pictures of our girls. She was excited that we were adding a boy to the mix. It was great to see him again come through that door. I could not get off the couch quick enough to grab him out of the workers arms.

•Made a stop at the clinic for a blood draw and medical check. He was not a big fan of the blood draw, but got over it rather quickly.

•Made it back to the hotel and fed him lunch, gave him a bath, and after all that, we were both so exhausted that we took a nap. Mine was about 30 min and his was about 3 hours.

•After he woke up, we were able to Facetime for the first time with the girls. That was great. He seemed really interested in seeing all the girls on the screen.

•All in all, it was a great day, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.

IMG_2781           Gotcha Day

It is Time!

So, here we are, June 1.  I am at home with the girls and Kevin is in Bulgaria. He actually leaves the hotel in 3 hours to head to the orphanage to pick up Levi. Kevin posted some thoughts on facebook. It doesn’t happen often, but I gave a firm request that he post more than he would normally post so I would have some record of everything going on for Levi’s pick up trip.  (For the next several posts, I am going to just copy and paste Kevin’s account of the trip.)

This is what Kevin had to say:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
Hillsong United – Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

Many times throughout this process I have questioned if God knew exactly what he was doing when he called Heather and I to adopt. I like the lyrics to the song Oceans by Hillsong United, because I feel like God is taking our family deeper than we would have ever wandered on our own. I mean, I could barely even find this place on a map 12 months ago. As I sit here in my room with just over 10 hours till I get to pick Levi up, I know that God knew exactly what he was doing. I am not naive enough to think that there will not be some rough times still ahead, but when I think about all the people that we have met through this process, the people that are praying for our journey, the people that have helped with fundraising and donated their time and money, I know that God’s plans are perfect.

I know for most, adopting from an eastern European country, may not be what God is calling you to do, but I encourage you to listen to what God is calling you to do, and as the Matthew West song says, Do Something.

Here is a picture of the view from my room. About 10 miles off in the distance towards those mountains, Levi is spending his last night in the orphanage.

Hotel view

Travel Dates!!!

 Monday, May 12, we received word that we had travel dates! Our travel dates are May 31-June 7. I read the email at 6:30 in the morning. My first response was “thank you, Jesus!” My next response was, “Oh no!” The girls’ play is May 31st and their dance recital is June 7. We had already decided that if our travel dates fell between the play to the dance recital that Kevin would travel to Bulgaria alone. We discussed it, but I NEVER thought it would really fall that week.

 I was actually on my way out the door for a run when we received the email regarding our travel dates. Kevin and I chatted briefly and then I went on my run. While on my run, I think I cried for the first mile. I actually thought I was going to hyperventilate from crying while running. For the next three miles, however, I prayed. As I was praying, I felt a peace that only God can give. I knew without a doubt that sending Kevin alone was the way God had it planned from the start. God knew that our girls needed me at home.

Regardless of how it all works out, Levi will be home for good on June 7!!!  

Adoption Update

I know I didn’t do a very good job of posting adoption updates here. The last 2 months have sort of been a whirlwind with birthdays, finishing school, adoption news, play practice, dance class, etc.

The last time I posted about the adoption we were in the middle of an extended wait. We received word on April 11 that our court date was April 22. We were told the judge did not request any additional information, which was good.

April 22 our adoption was granted. Levi officially became a Swinigan.

Introducing Levi Ergin Swinigan

Introducing Levi Ergin Swinigan

We are so thankful that the adoption was granted without any problems! Now, we wait. Again. This time for travel dates.

Happy Birthday, Lucy!

I am exactly a month late – but, better late than never, right?


Lucy turned 8 on May 1 this year.  As we do on all the girls’ birthdays, we reflected back on Lucy’s birth.  She came into this world giving us quite a scare.  With much gratefulness and humility, we rejoice in the fact that God chose to breathe life into Lucy when it seemed she may not.

Lucy is full of life – highs and lows!  She is full of so much love and passion for not only her family and friends, but also anyone she meets.  She hears of someone is need, and she wants to give all she has to help them.   A couple of weeks ago, Norah and Lucy took the 5 Love Languages quiz.  We were not surprised to see that Lucy’s top love language is physical touch.  Lucy is always hugging us, sitting on our laps, hanging on us, etc.  Every question on the quiz that asked about a hug, Lucy would respond with, “I LOVE HUGS!”

This was a huge year of school for Lucy.  She matured a lot and it was very noticeable in every subject.  We spent much of her school year encouraging her to read and read and read.  She claimed all year that she didn’t like to read or that it was too hard for her.  However, as I listened to her read, I knew she was a great reader who simply lacked the confidence to do it alone.  Finally, after our last day of school this year, Lucy picked up a chapter book on her own (without encouragement from me) and started reading.  She didn’t put the book down until she finished it.  From that moment on, she has been reading like crazy!  All of the sudden it clicked!

Lucy just finished her 2nd year of Lifelight Creative Drama.  As I watched her perform in Songs & Scenes from Beauty and the Beast, I thought back to 3 years ago when she REFUSED to go to drama class.  She cried and cried and cried.  I finally decided just to take her out of the class (she never actually went to a single class – but we were there every week for Norah).  Last year, she was ready to try it and now 2 years later, she LOVES it!  She was so cute and animated on stage last night as she performed as a narrator and villager.  It was really fun to see her do something that she LOVES!

We had a great day celebrating Lucy this year.  We took the girls on a trolley tour of St. Louis.  The girls loved it!  It was extra fun this year because of the 250th Anniversary of St. Louis.  The girls were able to spot quite a few cakes from Cakeway to the West.  We ended the day with Lucy’s choice – Steak ‘n Shake.

Here is a photo dump of the last year:


Beauty and the Beast - Mrs. Potts and Narrator 2.

Beauty and the Beast – Mrs. Potts and Narrator 2.

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

Riding the trolley in downtown St. Louis

Riding the trolley in downtown St. Louis


Lucy loves piano!

Lucy loves piano!

Lucy's first official run!  St. Patrick's Day run in Cottleville.

Lucy’s first official run! St. Patrick’s Day run in Cottleville.

our little basketball star

our little basketball star

Heading to Disney!

Heading to Disney!

Look alikes :)

Look alikes 🙂



Double Digits!

’nuff said.



Oh, alright, I will add a little more than just a picture.  Ten sounds old.  Grown-up.  It seems like Norah was born, then we blinked, and she turned 10.  From the time I started babysitting, the preschool/toddler was my favorite.  I was an early ed major and LOVED teaching preschool.  Norah was a precious, sweet, inquisitive toddler and preschooler.  I really thought those were my favorite years – until this year.  Norah at 9 was absolutely my favorite.  Norah is growing into a delightful young lady.

I love that we can actually have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around princess, unicorns, ice castles, and lala land (however, I do enjoy those things, too).  I love that she has opinions on things she likes to wear and do.

Norah still loves to read.  I mean, she loves it.  She always has a book in her hand.  She seems to love most genre but some of her favorites right now include: The Cupcake Club series and The Babysitter’s Club books.

Norah is taking ballet, tap and jazz this year, and she is loving all of it!  Her dance studio is working on their recital dances and she is really excited about all the dances and her costume.  It seems like most kids have found “their thing” by age 10 and I definitely think dance is it for Norah.  She is a natural and very comfortable and confident in her dancing.  She loves a lot of other things but dance seems to be her favorite.

Norah is definitely a typical first-born in many situations.  She tends to be a perfectionist (but really not extreme – seems to have a good amount of perfectionism going on, but not enough to make us all crazy).  She is a rule-follower.  We actually laugh about it sometimes – she will argue with us until she is blue in the face, but she RARELY breaks a rule (all of this happens as her sisters go ahead and break the rules – ha!).

Norah is such a sweetie and a joy to watch grow.  We are so very thankful for her precious life and are excited to watch her grow in her love for Jesus over the next year.  We are confident that God has great plans perfect for her little life, and we are thankful that we get to see it all unfold.


Boredom Busters!

This winter has been crazy!  We have had so much snow and such cold temperatures that everyone is going stir crazy.  We decided to do something different to bust through the boredom AND try something totally new (inspired by the Olympics).  We took the girls skiing/snowboarding yesterday.  Everyone had a great time and did WAY better than I expected.  Kevin and I ski-ed but we gave the girls the option of skiing or snowboarding.  Norah and Lucy chose to snowboard and Daphne chose to ski.

If you have never been and are not an expert yourself, I would definitely recommend signing your kids up for a class.  It was well worth it.  The classes were 2 hours each – the girls learned so much more than if we had let them attempt to do anything on their own!  However, if you are going on a weekend, try to sign up ahead of time.  The classes fill up quickly!

Norah and Lucy took a snowboarding class at 10:30 and by the time we had everyone suited up and ready to go, it was about 10:30.  They were done at 12:30 – had something to eat and then had the rest of the afternoon to snowboard.  The 10:30 ski class for Daphne’s age group was full so we signed her up for a class at 1:30.  In the end, this was probably best because she probably would have been tired/whiny for us by that time of day, but for someone else, she would be fine.  She ski-ed with us for a couple of hours while Norah and Lucy were in their class.  She had lunch and then went to her class.  While Daphne was in her class, Norah and Lucy snowboarded with us (while we ski-ed).  Timing wise, everything worked out great.  The temperature was perfect – no one was really ever cold.








Olympics 2022, here we come!