Monday, December 31, 2007

My boys

Yesterday I went to church to help interpret and Mark kept the boys at home. They're just not quite ready for the large amount of loving waiting for them at church. ;)

When I got home, I found that the boys had been busy! They had installed a new coat rack (at a height where the boys can hang up their coats and hats on their own), put together a shoe rack for the front door area, and bought me these:

It's kind of nice being spoiled by three boys!

We've seen some really encouraging attachment over the last couple of days. Zhenya wanted to snuggle after nap yesterday, and Dima climbed into my lap to read today and stayed snuggled up for quite a while. They spent a good portion of today with Mark since I had to go to work, and they had a great day with him as well. We're happy with the "baby steps" we're seeing, although we've still got a long ways to go. In terms of English, they know "fish", "up", and "toilet" unprompted and will repeat a number of other words. I talked with another family who also adopted siblings last year and she said it was 4-5 months before they were speaking more English than Russian. It's important to note that we have two--they hang on to their Russian longer because they can speak it to each other. And their confidence on the playground...well, I'll let it speak for itself:

Sunday, December 30, 2007


I've gotten a few requests for information on the issues surrounding attachment in adopted children. Let me assure you, we have had lots of time while in-process to read and research! ;)

Children like ours who have had a childhood where they have been bounced around often have difficulty in attaching to "forever" parents, in part because they have no idea what that means or that it's even true. For our boys, they have no idea that they won't be moved to another place in a few years or a month--that we are any different than any of the other people that have cared for them for the past few years. It will take a long time--probably at least a year, maybe longer--before they come to understand a little bit of our place in their lives.

Some children develop Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). From what I understand, it is believed that these children fight against the people who are trying to love them because they refuse to trust and believe that they are worthy of love. These children are usually well-behaved outside the home, but are abusive and combative to their primary caregivers. It takes a long time to diagnose RAD, and at this point we do not believe that our boys are showing any symptoms of RAD. We are seeing good signs of attachment, but it is a slow process especially since our boys are older and have been moved around so many times.

It will take a long time for us to develop the trust with the boys necessary to show them that we will be their parents forever. In the meantime, we may make some odd requests or do things that don't seem like "normal" parenting. Please believe that we are spending lots of time praying and seeking wisdom from other adoptive parents as we go through this transition. We will be keeping the boys' world pretty small for quite a while and not putting them in situations where they would have other authority figures--like childcare, Sunday school, gymnastics classes, etc.

If you're in close contact with new adoptive parents, here's a list of helpful dos and don'ts that I found on another blog (sorry for linking, but it's all there so well already!):

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Settling in

I always swore I wouldn't do it--take my newly adopted kids out and about right after getting them home. But how else am I to wear out two very active little boys? :)

We've been taking them to the playground twice a day, but then the weather got bad so on Thursday we took them to the St. Louis Science Center. One of the great things about the Science Center (there are many) is that it's free, so we can come and go as we need to without worrying about cost. Thursday morning we just barely went in the Science Center--in the Planetarium and across the bridge for those of you familiar with it. There are several building stations with blocks and gears and all kinds of fun boy toys just across the bridge, so we spent about an hour there then went home.

The boys had their first visit from family this weekend when my dad and stepmom came up to visit. The boys did well but some of their reactions are making us think we need to wait before we introduce too many new people. We need a little more attachment with us as mama and papa and a little more clarity for them as to what that means. :) They did get to go to the zoo, which I think they enjoyed. It's hard since so many of the things they see have no meaning for them--they don't know the English words and they've only seen a few animals before. They enjoyed watching the sea lion feeding and the ape exhibits (insert appropriate boy-behavior/similarity-to-apes comments here ;)).

We have been careful about watching their overstimulation. Dima tends to get very excited and hyperactive when he is overstimulated, whereas Zhenya tends to shut down. Being aware of it helps us to know when to head home or change to a calming activity with one-on-one time with us. We've noticed some issues with attachment with Dima being entirely too comfortable with strangers, and it seems to be the worst when people come to our house and visit with the boys. So we're going to be cutting back on that for the next while (not sure how long). It's hard because people think it's great that he's so friendly, but it's not great if it's going to lead to family problems. So if we seem a little standoffish over the next few weeks, I apologize. The boys and their transition into our family come first, and then we'll have lots of time to hang out with everyone. Just pretend we're still in Ukraine. ;) Consequently, I will be going to church tomorrow to help interpret but Mark and the boys will be staying home. There are just too many people who want to love on them and we've got to get our relationships established first.

A big thanks to everyone who has fed us (and those of you who plan to!). I've included a picture of the boys enjoying one of the "treats" that came with dinner this week. Here's their first experience with pumpkin pie:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's never too early for manual labor

I figure most people aren't really interested in reading my ramblings--what you want are pictures, right? :) So here are some pics from yesterday and today.

The boys did much better at the playground today. They were a lot more confident and Dima is becoming quite the climber. Although we'll probably regret it later, we're really encouraging their climbing to help with their motor skills. They also really enjoy the swings. We have determined that Dima is best suited to become a university professor, as while they are on the swings he gives Zhenya a lecture in Russian. Every once in a while, Zhenya will say "Da?" and Dima replies "Da." very seriously. Dima's lectures can go for 10 or 15 minutes. We really don't know what they're talking about, but yesterday I did hear Dima mention "detsky dom" which is their orphanage. We get a big kick out of their conversations and know we will miss it when they are not speaking Russian anymore.

We spent some time today training for the World Cup. As you can see, Dima is all set to become a star forward and a lefty to boot. :) We think some of his coordination problems may have come from being forced to use his right side, but he is definitely a lefty and he's got a great shot. Dad O and Paul will be happy for the company.

The boys decided Mark needed some help with the yard work and they were glad to lend a hand with the tree trimming. They were especially good at hauling limbs to the far side of the yard. Really, it's not child exploitation...we're trying to build up their strength, right?

It's especially important to have a good ratio when shoveling. Three people for one small tree always works better, and that shovel handle is awfully long for just one person. Or at least the boys thought so; I'm not so sure Mark agreed. ;)

When all of that hard work is done, it's good to have a brother...
...and a Papa to lean on.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I love progress

I love watching the boys progress in their attachment to us and their understanding of their new environment. There is lots of testing--and lots of discipline--to learn how things work in this new world. But we are seeing definite progress in certain areas (including bedtime!). We are using "time-ins" for discipline after trying a few different options and seeing that these work really well. I think "time-ins" is the correct term, but basically when the boys disobey (which for us involves knowing what is expected--don't touch, etc.--and doing it anyway, or doing it after being told not to in Russian; it does not involve whining, disobedience to a verbal English command, etc.) we hold them on our laps for one minute with our arms crossed over their chest (so they can't flail their arms). It cracks me up, because it has to look so odd when you see it. I gave Dima a time-in on the plane and wondered what people were thinking since I was holding him on my lap and he was crying and trying to get down but was held loosely enough that he could wipe his face and scratch his nose while I was doing it! :) What really amazes me is that EVERY SINGLE TIME we have used time-ins they have had the desired effect, but the boys don't seem to hold them against us. I gave Zhenya a time-in today and 5 minutes later he was crawling in my lap to read books with me. To me, this is what discipline should be--correction for inappropriate behaviors but with a knowledge that there is love there during and after the correction.
Tonight when we put the boys to bed, Zhenya threw up his arms wanting a hug, and then wanted a second one. :) This is the first time he has asked for a hug, although he will give one if you hold your arms out. He wanted hugs from mama and papa, which were gladly given. And he is definitely the one receiving more time-ins. :) :) So far this seems to be a pretty effective discipline method for them, so I think we're going to continue with it. If anyone has any thoughts on time-ins or any negatives, please feel free to email me or comment--I'd love to hear other perspectives!

A little more explanation about the adoption...

I know there are many of you who were concerned with the situation with the boys' biological family. Unfortunately for you, ;) there are many details that I will not share because they are part of the boys' personal history and they deserve to have that information kept private. However, I do want to explain a little more about why we decided to proceed with the adoption.
The boys' grandmother was the only one protesting the adoption. At one point, she had had guardianship of the boys but relinquished it when she wasn't able to care for them. She is not able to provide for them or adopt them, but wanted them to stay in the orphanage so she could come visit every once in a while. She was also concerned (at least she mentioned it in court) that we were only adopting the boys to harvest their organs. After she had a chance to talk with us and see where the boys would be living (from our photo albums), she realized that we wanted to give the boys the opportunity for a future outside of the orphanage and beyond what she would be able to provide. We will be sending her updates and pictures of the boys.
Honestly, we struggled with the idea of taking the boys away from their family. But if we did not adopt them, there was a good chance that they would never leave the orphanage. They are already 4 and 5, and so few kids over the age of 6 get adopted in Ukraine, especially from a special needs orphanage. We prayed that God would take care of the situation, and that we would allow His will to prevail--that He would control the decision of the court, for or against us.

The really incredible part is this: I have always worried a little bit that the children we adopted would have no connection to their past. Sometimes there is a mother's name on the birth certificate, sometimes there are no known parents at all if the baby was abandoned somewhere. I really wanted our kids to know their past--to have a link to their heritage. God totally provided that. We have names, addresses, pictures...everything the boys could want or need to trace their family in the future. If they desire to keep in contact we certainly won't hinder that and we will do our best to update their Ukrainian family with their progress. I am so grateful that our boys have this information, and so glad to know that even with the problems in their early lives, there is a tie of love there, love strong enough to sacrifice itself for the good of the boys' future. It reminds me especially of what we celebrate today--God's gift of a child, who would love the world enough to sacrifice Himself to bring us into God's family.

Merry Christmas to all. May the hope of the Christ-child bring your heart joy today and always.

Our Christmas gifts to you

Merry Christmas! :) :)

Okay, so most of you didn't get much info past Dec 17, the day before court. After court everything was a whirlwind and there wasn't much time to post. ;)

So here we are after court, proud new parents waiting on some paperwork (I'm totally being mean here and keeping you in suspense since I know you haven't even seen the boys' pictures yet ;)):

And here is our new family the day we picked the boys up, with their orphanage director:

And the boys in the airport, waiting to head home (blonde-haired Dima on the right, dark-haired Zhenya on the left):

We went to the park this morning and played on the playground which the boys LOVED. It's so good to get them outside and running around. Other than language, more than anything we need to work on gross motor skills. Their orphanage focused a lot on fine motor skills, so the boys' gross motor skills are sorely lacking and they're not very coordinated (even for 4 and 5 year olds).

I'll try to fill you in on some of the missing adoption details tonight after the boys are asleep. Dima's already awake from his nap and Z will be up soon. It's a busy household here when they're awake, but we love it! :) :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Home sweet home

Final count:
22 days door to door; 20 days from US soil to US soil...absolutely amazing

For those of you who may not be familiar with Ukraine adoptions, they normally take 4-6 weeks, sometimes much longer if there are complications. We NEVER anticipated being home by Christmas, but here we are. For whatever reasons, God decided His timeline would be much different than ours. Happily, it was shorter. ;) :)

The boys are doing great. They traveled so well in the car the past couple of days. We had a backpack full of toys for the plane (and then the car) and it was never opened. They entertained themselves on the flight (for 10 hours!) with the headsets that are given with the travel package on international flights. In the car they chatted with each other and played with their blankets and coats. Mama's been very mean and refuses to pick up anything that is thrown or falls onto the floor in the backseat, so they've been learning not to throw things they may want later. ;) :)

We stayed in Greenfield, IN, last night at a Comfort Inn. We chose to stop there (a little sooner than we needed to) to let the boys experience their first indoor swimming pool. :) :) At first they wanted NOTHING to do with it--Zhenya was crying about it, but Mark and I got in and eventually coaxed them in as well (coax might be a little weak of a word here). Once they were in, they LOVED it! We had to drag them out. We only had a little bit of time before the pool closed, but it was perfect as no one else was there and they were able to relax and work on trusting Mama and Papa to keep them safe in the water. It was really a great experience and we're so glad we decided to do that.

Schedule-wise, we've been doing great and don't seem to be hit too hard with jet lag (at least not yet). The boys got up about 6:45 this morning and we grabbed breakfast at the hotel and hit the road. We arrived in St Louis about 1pm and picked up our car from some friends (thanks, K and J!!) and returned the rental car. As soon as we got home, we put the boys down for a nap and they were out for an hour and a half. We had a hard time waking them but we knew better than to let them sleep (and wake up at 4am!). Since we were home, and it is Christmas Eve, we opted to go to our church Christmas Eve service. I haven't been to a Christmas Eve service at my home church (wherever that may be) since high school, and it was so incredible to be back at home (at church) with the boys. So many people there have been praying for us and following our journey, and it was an incredible experience to celebrate our Savior's birth with them tonight. The boys did great during the service and sat quietly and still for almost all of it. Afterwards, many people came up to greet us and they closed up completely. The good part was that they both had death grips on our hands. :) As soon as we left church, they were babbling away again like crazy and had a long conversation in the backseat on the way home. We're glad to see that they are unsure around strangers and more comfortable around us. We've been seeing good signs of attachment but we've still got a ways to go.

As soon as we were home we put the boys to bed and they were asleep within a few minutes. Mark and I are headed the same direction now that we've got some laundry going. We're planning a relatively scheduled day tomorrow with a couple of trips to the playground as well as naptime. And no, we will not be celebrating a traditional Christmas with presents. :) The boys do not understand the concept and we don't want them thinking of Mama and Papa as the people who give them things. We want to be the people who care for them and love them and keep them safe, and we need to build those foundations before we can be givers of extra material items. I will post again tomorrow with pics of our journey. Sorry for no pics tonight but I'm wiped out and want to be able to be up and running with the boys tomorrow. :) :) :)

***Oh, and for those of you who are traveling soon: We were asked for adoption paperwork at the Kyiv airport as we were leaving, so be sure to pack a copy of your court decree (in Ukrainian is fine) in your carry-on luggage in addition to the envelopes from the Embassy. :) :)***

Sunday, December 23, 2007

On the road

Hello from Allentown, PA! :)

We worked reallky hard trying to get flights, but there were just too many problems--our credit card wouldn't work, we had a hard time finding flights that didn't have long layovers, etc. So we opted to rent a car and drive home. It's about 14 hours (without kids) from NYC to St Louis, so we picked up the car last night and drove a ways to Allentown. We booked a hotel on the road, and now we're up and will be heading out again soon.

The boys travel well in the car, but last night Zhenya was NOT fond of the car seat. We'll see how they do today after getting some sleep. :)

The flight yesterday was great and the boys did really well. Zhenya slept for about an hour but Dima didn't sleep at all. They were so exhausted by the time we got the rental car (about 7pm EST, 2am Ukraine time) that as soon as we started driving they both crashed and slep the whole way to Allentown.

I'll fill everyone in on more details about the adoption once we get home, which will either be late tonight or sometime tomorrow depending on how we do today. Thanks again for all of the prayers! God has truly been going before and behind us in every way possible. :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

In Kyiv

We're currently in Kyiv and will be headed home (all 4 of us!) on Saturday. Actually, we'll be headed to JFK on the 22nd--we haven't been able to find flights back to St Louis yet so we're still working on that. Prayers for that would be great.

As I'm sure many of you are wondering, yes, the judge waived our 10 day wait, and no, we did not pay him to do so. Apparently there are a couple of judges in the Donetsk region that prefer to waive the 10-day wait, and we got one of them. He has waived it for every other couple we know of that have adopted in the last few weeks as well. Bizarre, but we aren't complaining!

We had the long train ride to Kyiv last night after getting all of the paperwork done yesterday. We're having a lot of discipline issues but most of it stems from a lack of routine (which is awfully hard to set right now). The boys are tired and confused but are doing really well. We arrived in town about 8am, went straight for the boys' physicals, then straight to the Embassy to drop off the paperwork. They did the visa interview with me and then told me to come back in a little bit for their visas! Wow! If I'd know that I would have booked flights earlier. :)

Prayers for our transition and the plane ride are really appreciated. Oh, and I haven't told you their names! I can't post pics as I'm at an internet cafe, but the boys are Alexander Dimitri (called Dima) and Timothy Evgeniy (called Zhenya). Dima is the blond and is 13 months older, but a bit shorter and lighter than Zhenya. I've got to get back to the apartment before the boys kill Mark. ;) If anyone has any suggestions for one-way flights from JFK or LGA to STL I'd love them--I've checked all of my usual spots!

Hopefully I'll get to post again, but if not we'll see you in the USA! :) :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

They're ours!

Will post more tomorrow. Must go to bed. :) :)

Monday, December 17, 2007

It wouldn't be a Ukraine adoption without a hitch

We arrived at the orphanage today a little later than usual and went to check and see who was in the little room. We were pretty sure the Italian family was back there and possibly the other American family, so with us it would have made 7 adults and 4 children in a very small room. We thought we would take the boys into the playroom again if that was the case. We ran into Kevin and Melissa in the hall and she asked if we had seen the boys. Apparently something had happened when they arrived but she didn't want to talk about it, just told us to go see the boys--that they were together in Alexander's groupa's room--and to talk to her before we left today. Puzzled, we headed for Alexander's room...and walked into Alexander and Timothy with their mother, father, grandmother and two caretakers. Yeah--it was a blow to the gut to say the least, especially with court tomorrow. We ended up in the director's office, who is still in support of us adopting the boys. After a bit and some details I won't share, we were taken to Timothy's room and the boys were brought to us. We spent about 40 minutes with them, and it went really well. We had a lot of space and toys in the room we were in and we got to watch both of them in some imaginative play which was great.

So, where are things now? Well, the SDA didn't get our paperwork complete for court tomorrow. So Vanya is in Kyiv waiting for the paperwork which we have been promised will be signed by 9am tomorrow (Tuesday). Vanya will fax the paperwork to the orphanage. At 9:30am tomorrow morning we will be at the orphanage to pick up the fax and meet with the boys' grandmother. The judge has agreed to have court with the faxed document provided we do not pick up the boys until after he has the original (not a problem as the original will be here by Wednesday). Lots to pray for. :)

We're in good spirits and trusting in God for guidance with all of this. Thanks for all of the comments, suggestions, and prayers!

Happy birthday, Mark!

Yesterday was Mark's birthday! We went to church and after the service Kenny announced it was Mark's birthday. :) I promise I had nothing to do with it. They sang to him and had cake, and teased him about the Ukrainian tradition of pulling a person's ears the same number of times as he is years old on his birthday. Thankfully for Mark, no one pulled his ears. :) After cake, many people stayed and talked and played cards and hung out. It was a lot of fun and I learned how to play nertz in the process. Then we played a few games of Phase 10 before the youth group started their class.

We went back to the apartment and a while later Kenny knocked on the door to let us know they were going to have a snowball fight in the playground right behind our building. Mark got suited up and then got ambushed when he went out the back door! Don't worry, he got plenty of revenge. ;) Today he's a bit sore but I'm sure he'll recover in a few weeks. ;)

In the evening, we went to Lora and Kenny's apartment and had spaghetti and played A LOT of nertz. We were there way too late but had a great time. We basically interrogated them about their decisions to move to Ukraine and their perspectives on their time here. Their teenage daughter Leanna stayed up and played as well, and it was great to get her perspective since she has lived in both the US and Ukraine but has spent a lot of time growing up in Ukraine. Here's a few pictures from yesterday:

Hanging out after church

Youth group

The ambush

Oh, and I talked to the Embassy today. They have received our update and everything is in order! :)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Let it snow!

...since snow is so much better than mud! We've had unexpectedly warm weather since we arrived in Ukraine, and it has finally decided to cool down. Yesterday and today we had snow and all of the mud puddles in Gorlovka have finally frozen over. It makes it much easier to walk!

We visited with the boys again this morning and it went great! Instead of going to our usual tiny room, we went to a sunroom off of Alexander's groupa room. It's cold and we all had to wear coats, but it's so much bigger and there are all kind of toys and things for the boys to do. The other American family adopting here had told us about the room and few days ago and I'm so glad we decided to check it out. There are tricycles and a bicycle with training wheels, balls of various sizes, climbing bars, plastic bowling pins, benches, a mat, and a small table. It was a fantastic place to get to see the boys run around a bit and check their development. As it turns out, they may not be as delayed as we originally thought. I think we're going to have to do the most work with emotional delays (inappropriate responses, inability to express emotions or express them appropriately, etc.) rather than any physical or cognitive delays. Alexander is picking up English much faster than we had expected--still only a few words, but they are very clear and there are a couple he will use without prompting ("cracker" in particular :) ) and he will mimic others he is told. He's starting to catch on that when we hand him something or point to something and give him the word, he should be able to say that word. Very good progress and well beyond where we thought we'd be with him at this point.

Timothy is making great attachment progress. When we took the boys back to their rooms we took Alexander back first and some of his caretakers came over and were "petting" on Timothy. He hid behind Mark's leg and then ran over and grabbed mine and hid behind me, shyly peaking out but obviously trying to stay away from the "petting". This was completely unprompted and we were both pretty surprised but pleased. It is good if he can trust us enough to feel that we can "protect" him, even if it's from overzealous women who think he's super cute. ;)

This evening we went to the teen girls' Bible study at the church and worshipped with them, then had dinner with Kostya and his family. It was a wonderful, relaxing evening. Mark asked me the other day if I was homesick. Honestly? Not at all. The only thing I miss is being able to go to the grocery store and grab whatever I need, as opposed to trying to figure it out or take Kostya along. :) But there isn't anything I've been craving from home or anything I wish I could do here, so that's nice.

The homestudy addendum was written, sent to the St Louis BCIS, approved, and cabled to the US Embassy in Kyiv! So that appears to be taken care of. I haven't been able to confirm that it was received by the Embassy but we've still got some time so all of that seems to be okay. I'm not giving out any dates or details, but please be praying for airline tickets. I'll be able to share more as some things get firmed up, but for right now prayers for court and plane tickets would be wonderful!

Thanks to everyone for your faithful prayers. Hopefully you've been able to see answers to prayers in some of the things we've already posted, but there's even more I look forward to sharing once a few other things are finished up over here. Just know that your prayers are paving our way and making such a difference in our adoption experience, and we thank you for your love and support of us. Most of all we thank God for going before us and preparing things in ways we never expected! :) :)

Friday, December 14, 2007

A good day

Today was a good day. We had a great visit with the boys this morning. It was our longest yet and things seem to be progressing well. I don't know how to describe the process to those of you who haven't done an adoption, especially adoption of an older child (usually over age 3). We are trying to establish ourselves as parents, which is difficult since the boys have no idea what parents are or do. They are used to almost a military-type discipline environment, so when they encounter someone who is kind and loving to them they assume that person has no authority. It puts us almost at the level of a playmate. In addition, they see us given directions by their caretakers (where to go, when to bring them back, etc.) so they don't associate us with any kind of authority. That is what we are trying to start establishing. And it is a painful process. :) More on us than them, I guarantee. We are fighting defiance in particular, especially in Alexander. I'm glad to see it, since when we first saw him he seemed almost drugged. It's good to see his personality and to see him testing the limits. We don't have a good, consistent way to discipline them in the environment we are in--no way to do timeouts or anything like that. So a lot of the consistency won't start happening until we get them out of the orphanage. In the meantime, we are trying to be consistent in the few things we do enforce (no throwing inside, no running away) and the way we handle them. It's certainly a challenge, made even more difficult by our inability to communicate with the boys and they with us. We'll get there, slow and steady. :)

After we got back from visiting the boys, we went with Kenny to the baby hospital they are helping. They have helped paint several rooms there, outfitted a storage room into a playroom, and donated supplies. They are working especially on providing for the abandoned children at this hospital--those whose parents cannot care for them for various reasons. I'm posting some pictures of our time there today. Although many of you are not doctors, I'm sure you have seen ER, House, and the like and will be able to see the differences between the medical equipment available at this hospital as compared to hospitals in the US. Keep in mind that this is a regional baby hospital and is one of the best outfitted in the area. The first two pictures are of what is effectively the NICU; the last picture is of the playroom Lora and Kenny have created. In the first picture, it is difficult to see but the baby has an oxygen tent. In this hospital, that is a hard plastic dome with an inlet nipple to attach oxygen tubing. The second picture shows a baby in an incubator and two other babies in cribs. All of the babies we saw are very tiny.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Internet at last

Yes, we really and truly have internet thanks to Kenny! And who is Kenny? Well, let me back up... (this will probably be long :) )

After our SDA appointment on Tuesday (a week and a half ago), we had to stick around Kyiv and wait for our referral papers. Those can usually be picked up the day after your appointment between 5 and 6pm. In the meantime, we tried to get train tickets to head to the Donetsk region but everything was already sold. We finally managed to get tickets on Wednesday about 3pm, then picked up our referral papers and headed to the train. The train overnight was great--we were all asleep within half an hour of getting on the train. I woke up a few times when we would stop for more than a few minutes, but overall it was a great night's sleep. We saw the boys for the first time Wednesday morning during an interesting meeting with the orphanage director. We saw the boys again that afternoon in their groupas and decided to stay in town at a hotel not far from the orphanage so that we could file all of the necessary paperwork on Thursday. Thursday was paperwork and seeing the boys for about half an hour.

Okay, so a few explanations in the middle of the story. The boys are in the same region (Donetsk) as our facilitator's family, but about an hour and a half away from Kostya's hometown of Gorlovka. So when it looked like we wouldn't be able to see the boys over the weekend (including Friday) due to an orphanage inspection (or something like that), Kostya's church started looking for a place for us to stay in Gorlovka instead of staying in the hotel in the boys' town. As it worked out, there is a couple here from the states named Lora and Kenny who have started a ministry (the church Kostya attends) here with their family. As part of their work, they have purchased an extra apartment that is used for various purposes, including housing visitors, and the guy who was using it left the Friday we arrived in Gorlovka so they offered it to us as a place to stay. We are so grateful!! :) The apartment has a kitchen, a washer/dryer, and high-speed internet. We have been so blessed by their generosity. In addition, we have been surrounded by the church family here who are praying diligently for us (and were even before we arrived). On Sunday, we attended church and on Wednesday the adult Bible study where Lora served homemade chili...yum! And today we were able to go see their project which is really a labor of love. Kenny and Lora have purchased a large building to be used as a foster care home and they are in the process of completely renovating it. The intention is to end up with several apartments that will house families who will foster children here in Gorlovka until they are adopted. Since we are still having laptop problems, Kenny loaned us a laptop he had so that we would be able to access the internet from the apartment we are staying in. Thanks, Kenny and Lora and our whole church family in Gorlovka! :) :)

Back to the boys...we hired a driver to take us back and forth to the orphanage every day. The visits have been going well although it's hard being in a very small room. Not much space for two active boys to run around. :) We're hoping to be able to take them outside tomorrow. They are loving the snacks we bring--peanut butter crackers and goldfish and juice boxes. We're making them ask for the food we bring in English--in fact, I think their first official English word is "cracker". We'll be taking yogurt tomorrow as well. We are doing absolutely no candy or sweets--they've got plenty of energy without any of that. ;) As most of you know, we won't be showing pictures of the boys until after court, except for this one... :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Still no internet

I was hoping this post would be stating that we have internet access, but no luck. My computer is completely refusing to cooperate. We'll keep trying, but until then the posting will be short and sporadic.

We've been able to visit the boys regularly and things are going well. They've started testing the boundaries and heard "nyet" (Russian for no) quite a bit today. Might as well get started on discipline early! :)

In regards to recent prayer requests:
--the grandmother: at some point in time she had guardianship of the boys and voluntarily gave that up. Because of that and some other things, the judge is not allowing her to interfere with the adoption as he feels it is in the boys' best interest to be adopted and out of the orphanage. There are a few other things associated with that that I'm not going to post at this time, but it looks like all of that will work out for the adoption to proceed.
--the HS addendum: we contacted our SW and she was able to do the addendum immediately! :) She sent it to the local BCIS office yesterday by fax and mail. We have been trying to get in touch with the BCIS office to make sure they have received it and move forward on it quickly. Prayers for the quick approval and forwarding to the Embassy are much appreciated!

Thank you all so much for your thoughts, comments, and prayers. There are many things we simply haven't had time to share that clearly demonstrate God's presence in this adoption. Please continue to pray for our time with the boys and the development of those relationships. We will not be visiting them tomorrow but should be there Friday and Saturday. We are loving our time in Ukraine and are having a lot of fun--way more than we expected! :)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

More about our appointment

I'm going to finish this post I started a couple of days ago, but wanted to update a couple of things. Our court date is next Tuesday, Dec 18 at 10:30am. Please pray for a favorable ruling. Also, a grandmother is not happy with the adoption, so please pray for that situation. Lastly, the US Embassy is requiring us to do a HS addendum because Alexander is outside of the age range listed on our HS. Please pray that our SW would be able to do the addendum and submit it to BCIS in the next couple of days.

Our appointment was at 2pm on Tuesday. We arrived at the SDA gate a few minutes before 2 but the gate was locked so we waited about 10 or 15 minutes in the cold before someone came and unlocked the gate. When we were let in, we got into the stairwell and met our SDA interpreter, Julia. Apparently the rules have changed (yet again) and as of two weeks ago facilitators are not allowed to go into the appointment with their clients. So it was us, our SDA translator, and the SDA psychologist. We were offered several older children which we refused, and one set of 5 yo twin boys, one of whom had Hep C which we also turned down. The first file we actually looked at was of our boys, but they were older than we really wanted and had a lot of medical issues so we weren't sure. The only other file we were even given to look at had a 6 yo and a 2 yo. We continued to ask for more files and were repeatedly told there are no others. So we started asking questions about the boys...their medical information, their history, etc. Then I asked what region are they in? When the psychologist said "Donetsk", we both started laughing and were pretty sure we were supposed to go visit these kids. Our facilitator is from Donetsk and we had joked that it would be a great Christmas present to get a referral close to his family, so when the boys ended up being in Donetsk we knew it was from God.

I will do my best to post more later, but it's not easy right now. We have high speed internet in the apartment we are in but my laptop will not connect. A few too many security features, I suspect...

Friday, December 07, 2007


Hi to everyone! We are no longer in Kyiv, we're now in Gorlovka, after spending time in a few other cities. :)

So here's the scoop. Our SDA appt did not go well (Mark says it went "okay" :)). We really only had one choice that didn't even completely match our profile. Because of a lack of options, we decided to take the referral for two brothers, ages 4 and 5 in the Donetsk region. We got their referral papers on Wednesday evening and took a night train to their city, arriving about 9am the next morning. We were not able to meet with the social worker so we went straight to the orphanage. It was quite the experience, to be detailed later. ;) The boys were brought individually into the director's office for us to see them and the director had them draw and do a few little activities. After seeing both of them, we requested being able to see them in their groupas, as we felt they were a little overwhelmed by the number of adults in the room (us, our translator, the director, the speech pathologist, the doctor, and a couple others all in a 10'x10' room).
We came back that evening after much praying as to what to do. The boys are both delayed, but other than that there was nothing that would have discouraged us from adopting them. We were praying for some indication as to what God's plan was for us and the boys. When we went back to visit, we visited each of their rooms individually. While both of the boys were quite shy in the initial meeting and did not interact much with either of us, it was a little different seeing us for the second time in the same day. The older one came over to us and hung out with us as we sat on the couch in his groupa's room. Although he's not quite sure what to do with us, he became pretty possessive in telling the other kids that we were not their parents, although he didn't claim us for himself. ;) When we went to the younger boy's room, as soon as we walked in the room and he saw us he ran over and threw his arms around my legs in a big hug. I sat with his groupa for awhile as they watched a cartoon and Mark and our facilitator talked with the caretakers. When we left, I said goodbye to all of the kids, and an individual goodbye to our boy. As we left, he had his head down and was trying to wipe away tears without anyone seeing.
We went to the orphanage doctor's office and got their full medical history, and decided to adopt them. :) :) :)
As unexpected and completely different than we thought this would be, these are most definitely our sons. I have never felt such peace about a decision--no qualms, no afterthoughts, just peace. We have already chosen their new names and applied for permission to adopt them. We will meet with the judge on Monday to set a court date, which we anticipate being the following week (around Dec 16). Both boys will probably need some therapy and a lot of good nutrition, and of course all the love we can give them. Although I can't give you their full names yet, you can be praying for Alexander and Timothy and our progression towards becoming a family. There is still much to be done, and I know they don't understand why we left yesterday without them (we didn't even tell them we were coming back because we hadn't officially decided). Please pray for their tender hearts and that God would continue to knit us together as a family.
Everything is going phenomenally well and we are in VERY good hands. The first few days were very stressful with a lot of decision-making. Now we are much more relaxed although there is still a lot to go before we come home. Thank you all for your prayers--you have no idea how many have been answered in ways you wouldn't believe. We will do our best to post again soon, or send word through my mom (the internet cafe we were at kept shutting down internet explorer when I tried to post on blogger).

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Backpost #4

This morning we were up early and K and Mark headed to the ticket office to try to secure tickets for tonight. No luck. They were told to check back 6 hours before the train was to leave, so either at noon or 3 depending on which train we wanted to take. At this point, any train sounded good. Mark and I stayed in the apartment while K went to do some scanning for other families. We lounged around—I read “The Princess Bride” while he watched soccer highlights on TV. We caught up with Kostya a little later and went to the ticket office to check on tickets—still nothing. Then Mark and I went exploring while K stayed in. We wandered all over looking for free wireless internet since we still hadn’t been able to post or email to let everyone know what was going on. We didn’t have any luck with that, but we did find lunch at Mister Snack where we were able to point at what we wanted to eat. We got two delicious sandwiches and had a great time hanging out. We wandered by O’Panas and the Opera House and took pictures. Then we stopped by the ticket office to again check for tickets, but since K wasn’t with us we called him once we found the office and he spoke with one of the workers. The woman who handled the train tickets was still out at lunch, but the other worker gave us a phone number to call her a little later on.

When we got back to the apartment, K waited a bit then called the ticket office. They had found 3 tickets for us on the 9pm train so we hurried over to the office and purchased them. On the way back, Mark and I stopped at an internet café to try to post to the blog. We were unsuccessful as Internet Explorer kept shutting down, but we sent an email to my mom with the login information for her to post on the blog for us. Hopefully she was able to do that.
When we got back to the apartment, we packed up as much as we could and waited until it was time to pick up our referral papers. When we got to the SDA, K picked up our papers and we left, but had to go back again when he realized they hadn’t given him any contact information for the inspector. He got that info and called the inspector right away to make sure we would be able to meet tomorrow. After his conversation with the inspector, we received more information on the boys. They have been on the registry since March, but no families had been referred to them until us. Apparently, when the boys entered the system, the SDA called the orphanage director and asked about the boys—health, etc. She gave a very negative report—so bad that the SDA did not refer any families to see these boys because they didn’t believe they would be adopted. However, a little while ago the local social worker who had seen the boys in court (when mom’s parental rights were terminated) called the SDA and asked why no families were being sent to see the boys, as she felt they were of normal enough development to be adopted. At that point, the SDA decided to offer the boys to a family, and that family was us. K also said that apparently the youngest one doesn’t talk. We’re not sure what’s going on with that, so it should be an interesting meeting tomorrow.

I think right now I’m just nervous about meeting the boys, as I know how hard it will be to say no if we need to. Tonight should be a good night’s rest as we are on the train and it always lulls me to sleep.

In Ukraine!

Courtney and Mark have arrived safely in Ukraine! I received a short email from Courtney this morning, and they haven't been able to post to their blog. She asked that I let everyone know they were there, and that they had their appointment yesterday and it went well. They will be travelling by train tonight and are looking forward to that. Hopefully, they will be able to post to the blog later, but if not, Courtney will email me, and I'll post for them.

Jeanie (Courtney's Mom)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Backpost #3

Waking up late meant I didn’t have as much time to be nervous before our appointment. We headed out, walked down an enormous(!) hill to a bank for K, grabbed lunch (I couldn’t eat much but had delicious cottage cheese crepes and a prune roll and Mark had cabbage rolls and a poppy seed roll) and then went to our appointment. Along the way we stopped at an internet café but it was full, so we waited in a coffee shop until it was close enough to our appointment time (it was cold and drizzly outside). When we got to the SDA, we waited outside the gate for about 20 minutes before we were let into the building. When we went inside, Kostya was not allowed into our appointment. He told us to take our time and “make sure she is translating everything correctly”—I think he was nervous too. :)

Our appointment was interesting. We had requested two siblings under the age of 4. We were first asked what type of child we were looking for, and if we had ever been to Ukraine before. We were then told it is very difficult to find two siblings under the age of 4, and offered a referral of an 8 and 4 yo, which we stated was outside of our age range. We asked for any other files, and were offered 5 yo twin boys, one with Hep C, which we also turned down. We were then offered two boys, 4 and 5 yo, with developmental delays. We kept this one for consideration and continued to ask for more files. We were then offered a referral for two boys, 6 and 2 yo, which we stated was outside of our age range. We asked about special needs, specifically physical abnormalities or deafness, and were told it would be very difficult to find a young deaf child. We were offered a referral for a 5 yo girl without any ears with a hearing impairment and other neurological issues, which we turned down. We continued to ask for more files and were repeatedly told there were none. We also continued to ask questions about the 4 and 5 yo brothers—what exactly are their delays, etc. The psychologist stated that they are walking and talking and dressing themselves, but have attention and memory problems. We asked what region they are in and were told Donetsk. At that we both started laughing and the psychologist and out interpreter both looked at us like we were crazy and asked why we were laughing. We explained that our interpreter is from Donetsk. We were told our best option was to visit these boys and if they do not work out they will offer us a second appointment, but it may not be for a few months. We decided to go visit Dima and Zhenya (the 4 and 5 yo boys). After we had accepted the referral, the psychologist told us that that orphanage director is “mean” and does not like for parents to adopt her children—that she makes up bad medical information to put into the files. We left our appointment but the SDA staff needed to give the information to K, so we called him. He was making copies of our dossier and said he’d be back within 10 minutes. When he returned, he went inside and we waited outside in the drizzle and talked things over. Overall, we felt good about the referral, and truly felt that we had asked as much as we could for different files to make sure these were the kids God wanted us to go see. We were told to come back tomorrow between 5 and 6 pm for the paperwork to go visit the kids.
After the appointment, we tried to visit the internet café again but it was still full, so we stopped and got a dial-up internet card and bought a phone card for K. We reimbursed him for his train ticket to Kyiv as well. We stopped at the ticket place to get train tickets to Donetsk, but both trains tomorrow night are sold out. After 9pm, any tickets that have been reserved but not paid for will be released, so Mark and K will be going to the office again tomorrow to try to get tickets. We made it back to the apartment and I worked for an hour before we went out for dinner. After dinner and dessert, we went boot shopping for me as I had blown out the side and heel of my snow boots and was reduced to wearing tennis shoes. Comfy, but very conspicuous. I found a pair of boots that I think will work well and that were within our price range. We’ll see how well they work tomorrow. After shoe shopping it was back to the apartment where K tried to set up the dial-up internet, but my computer refused to cooperate. So as of yet, no one even knows we made it safely to Kyiv, although they have our cell phone number and could call if they were really worried. :)

So how do I feel about our referral? I’m not sure. I’m not anxious about it, but we did find out tonight that it is a special needs orphanage, and that is concerning. We are willing to accept special needs, but physical more than neurological. There are a lot of issues that they could have that would be too much to handle. However, we’ve also been told to take the SDA file information with a grain of salt, as it is often very inaccurate. There is nothing we can do but wait until we see the boys, and trust God to let us know if these are the children for us.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Backpost #2

Immigration cards were passed out on the plane for anyone who was not a Ukrainian citizen. We filled those out and went through immigration right after getting off of the plane. We then went to wait for our luggage and picked up the customs declaration form. We both filled one out and waited for our luggage some more. We thought Mark’s bag hadn’t made it, but it finally showed up (there were still many people waiting for their luggage). We headed to customs, put our bags through the x-ray machine, then went to the customs desk. He looked over our declarations (all we declared was money), asked if we had brought any gifts (we answered no) and then stamped our cards and waved us through. Past customs we walked through the doors and into a huge crowd of people, some holding signs, others asking if we wanted a taxi. We finally found our facilitator and driver and headed out. They had been waiting for about 3 hours since our plane was running late. We headed into Kyiv and went to the apartment we are staying in, close to the McDonald’s in Independence Square. It is a one bedroom apartment, typical Ukrainian style: narrow hallway with the living room and bedroom off of it, and at the end of the hallway the toilet, washroom, and kitchen. The ceilings are about 12 feet high and beautiful. After settling in to the apartment we headed to the SDA at 4pm to find out our appointment time: 2 pm. We went back to the apartment and our facilitator showed us how to get to O’Panas where we were meeting Sue and Chris and Tami and Shad for dinner. We left about 6:30 and headed out on foot to find O’Panas. We walked past the Opera House towards Moscow State University to the park where O’Panas is. It looks like a big tent built around a tree. We walked in and were seated without a problem, but both of the other couples were running behind so we had a bit of a wait. Once they arrived, we all ordered. Mark had veal and I had borsch and potato fritters. The borsch was more tomatoey than I’ve had before, but still very good. It was great to get to meet the other American couples and compare experiences to date. After that, back to the apartment to try to sleep. We were both exhausted, so it shouldn’t have been a problem, but I woke up in the middle of the night and had a hard time getting back to sleep. I finally did, though, and didn’t wake up until 11 am the next morning!

Backpost #1

We arrived at the St Louis airport at 8:30am thanks to Micah and Tiffany. The flight on AA was uneventful but the plane was tiny! Only 3 seats across and only overhead bins above the two seats. It was nearly full but also a fairly short flight to New York-JFK so not too bad. When we arrived at JFK we were in terminal 8. There weren’t any clear signs for Aerosvit, but I remembered Nataliya had mentioned on her blog needing to go to terminal 4 for Aerosvit, so we headed for the Airtrain and took the train that said “to all terminals”. We passed terminal 7, then 5/6, then arrived at 4. We found the Aerosvit desk pretty easily (Row 8, far left) and there was quite a line. Aerosvit does not do online check-in so everyone has to go through the line to get a boarding pass. When we finally got our boarding passes, we went straight through security without looking at our seat assignments. After getting to the gate, we realized we had been assigned seats apart, 14A and 15A. There was no one at the gate to help change the seats, and we didn’t want to go back through security, so we had to wait. The flight ended up being delayed about 3 hours, so we left JFK at about 9:30pm. Once onboard, we switched Mark’s bulkhead seat with the man who was supposed to be sitting next to me. I was pleasantly surprised by the flight. Plenty of room, and the seats are 2-3-2, so we had two seats to ourselves and lots of room to stretch out. We were served dinner about 1 hour after we took off. Dinner consisted of a shrimp appetizer, delicious soft bread (small loaf), pasta/beef/chicken entrée, vegetables, and a lemon dessert, then tea or coffee. Mark had the pasta (something filled with spinach!) and I had the chicken. After dinner Mark slept almost the rest of the flight, and I slept off and on in about 30 minute increments, until I was finally able to sleep for about an hour. We had breakfast about an hour before we landed (scrambled eggs, sausage link, fruit, and a croissant) with tea or coffee following.

T-4h and counting

Yes, we are packed. ;) We packed last night and even got to bed at a decent hour! This morning we got up and have been mostly cleaning--Mark did the dishes and I've done a couple of loads of laundry. I have no desire to come home to a dirty, cluttered house! I'm sure it will end up that way soon enough. :) :)

We will be leaving for the airport in about 30 minutes. Our Ukraine cell phone number will be posted on the lefthand side of the blog. You are welcome to call us, just try to remember that we will be about 8 hours ahead of the US. Incoming calls on our cell phone are free. For those who have asked, we do not yet know our appointment time. We will find out on Monday when we arrive, and I will try to post on Monday to let everyone know.

Thanks for all of the prayers and we will post again onc we're in Ukraine!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

T-15h and counting

Should I be concerned that we haven't started packing?

Oh, but the kids' room is done. :)