Some things are just meant to be.
When Darice and Kyle Duininck decided last year to pursue adopting a child, the Trophy Club couple didn't know that their journey would take them to Russia, near a bombed train, through volcanic ash and into a national adoption controversy that prompted Russian officials to threaten to halt U.S. adoptions from their country.
"Our prayer through the whole thing was that God would open the doors or shut the doors," Darice Duininck said.
Those doors kept opening, starting with a call about a child just one week after they submitted their adoption application, eventually leading them to an orphanage in Vologda, Russia, about 250 miles northeast of Moscow.
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Last Thanksgiving, they met their son there face to face: A 9-month-old blue-eyed, blond-haired boy whose smile lit up the room.
By March, the Duinincks were back in Russia, petitioning in court to be the boy's parents. In mid-April, amid volcanic ash and international outrage after a Tennessee mother "returned" her 7-year-old adopted son to Russia alone on a one-way flight, they went back to Russia to bring their son home.
Now the Duinincks are home with the newest member of their family: 15-month-old Marc Evgeny Duininck, who has sparkling eyes and a contagious giggle.
"He's my son," Darice Duininck said. "There was never any doubt. I already knew he was my son."
Opening the door
The Duinincks, who have four biological children ages 11 to 17, knew they wanted to adopt.
In October, they submitted an online application to the Gladney Center for Adoption, saying they were interested in adopting a child younger than 3. They said they would consider a child with a medically treatable condition but preferred that the child be in the United States.
Within a week, they received a call asking whether they would consider adopting Marc, who was born with a cleft lip and palate. He lived in Russia.
They said yes.
A home study, in which adoption officials visit to make sure that the family's home is a suitable environment, was suddenly moved up. And by Thanksgiving, after canceling a family trip to Cancun, Darice and Kyle Duininck were on their way to the Russian orphanage.
They were on a train at the same time a homemade bomb was planted on Russian train tracks, derailing a different train and killing more than two dozen travelers. But they made it to the orphanage, where they promptly fell in love.
"He has white blond hair and big blue eyes, and he was always studying you," Darice Duininck said. "He would rub Kyle's whiskers and just take my hand and hold it. He would cuddle."
They had several months to complete paperwork and finalize adoption requirements, during which time Russian officials continued to try to find a Russian family to adopt Marc. The Duinincks headed back to Russia in late March for a court hearing and were expected to get legal custody.
A hearing that should have lasted about 90 minutes stretched into two days as paperwork issues arose and the Duinincks were questioned about their parenting abilities.
They were asked whether they knew about deaths and injuries that had befallen some Russian adoptees after they moved to the United States. The judge had questions about their other children, whether they had pets, even whether they had religious beliefs that would prevent them from seeking medical treatment for Marc.
"The judge said she didn't want her name on the adoption certificate the next time something went wrong," Kyle Duininck said.
But by the time they left Russia, Darice and Kyle Duininck were formally listed as Marc's parents.
They were getting ready to go back to Russia for the last time, to pick up Marc, but first hoped to see their oldest daughter, 17-year-old Kayla, go to her senior prom and their 15-year-old daughter, Lauren, go to her first prom. But Russian officials moved the dates up, forcing the couple to miss the proms.
"It turned out that if they hadn't done that, we wouldn't have been able to get there," Darice Duininck said.
By prom time, Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano had erupted, spewing an ash cloud that grounded flights around the world.
The Duinincks, however, got through, arriving in Russia shortly after news broke about the Tennessee mother who "returned" her son. Russian officials threatened to freeze adoptions, saying they wanted assurances that children from their country would be safe in the United States.
"I never felt like [the adoption] might not happen, because by then he was legally ours," Darice Duininck said. "I just felt it might take longer."
Kyle Duininck does say that Marc might not be home with them now if they hadn't been so far in the process when the news broke about the "returned" child.
"The Tennessee woman could not have realized what an impact she would have ... how disruptive it would be," Kyle Duininck said. "You can't do what she did. ... You can't terminate [an adoption] that way.
"All through the process, it was like scuba diving in a dark lake," he said. "You never know what's next. You just go where you can go ... and see what happens."
In the end
The Duinincks were able to take Marc from the orphanage April 14. They spent the next days at a hotel taking care of paperwork, handling medical issues and spending time with their son.
"It was emotionally overwhelming," Darice Duininck said. "There isn't any way to describe it. You know he's part of your family, and meant to be part of the family, and then he's finally with you."
They made it home April 23, after the volcanic ash had cleared and flights resumed.
Four of Marc's biggest fans are his older siblings: Kayla; Lauren; Trent, 13; and Grace, 11. They rarely watch TV anymore because they are busy playing with their little brother, who loves to laugh. They feed him, change his diapers, even help him learn to walk. And they love to watch him dance.
"It's fun," Kayla said.
"It's good to have a brother," Trent said with a grin.
On Friday, Marc will undergo the first of three surgeries this year to repair his cleft lip and palate.
And in Russia, although few details are being released, officials appear to have reached a deal that would prevent Russian officials from halting U.S. adoptions. The deal is believed to add more home visits, screening and training -- and make the process costlier and longer for adoptive parents.
Gladney is working with about 30 other families trying to adopt from Russia, officials said.
"Each adoption is a miracle," said Jennifer Lanter, spokeswoman for Gladney. "It is our mission to create bright futures around the world, and families like the Duinincks make this possible."
ANNA M. TINSLEY, 817-390-7610