Wednesday, November 26, 2008
This was all part of what we were trying to work out. The house is livable except the roof needs to be redone and part of the plumbing is missing (darn copper thieves!). So we have found a loan that will build the cost of those two repairs into our mortgage while still keeping us under the monthly payment we wanted. At some point maybe I'll share all of the gory details about why we wanted to do this this way, but for right now let's just say that we're looking into the future.
For the overwhelming part...well, a house and an adoption at the same time just tends to be a little overwhelming. I'm excited about both, and the new house has at least 5 bedrooms so we should be set for another few adoptions. ;) My anal side wants so much to be able to see how all of this is going to work out--this is pretty daunting financially. But then I read this post from Audrey. And it pretty much summed it up.
If I have the abilities to do all of this on my own, or I make it appear that way, no one would glorify God for that. But when we are incapable of doing the things He has called us to do and we trust that if this is His will, He will make it work, the outcome will bring glory to Him for the things that only could have come from Him.
Right now I only see the finite--the things we lack to do what we believe He is calling us to do. But if He has called us, He will also equip us and provide for us. We are choosing to move forward in faith and trust, not fear.
"May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." --Hebrews 13:20-21 (NIV)
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
We got home the afternoon of Christmas Eve last year. Because of circumstances surrounding our travel, we had a quiet homecoming all to ourselves which I really think was best. That night, we went to the Christmas Eve service at our church. We snuck in late and sat in the balcony so as not to see too many people. We continued to keep the first few weeks very low-key, but one thing we did do was go see the Christmas lights at Our Lady of the Snows Shrine in Belleville, IL. The boys loved Christmas lights and the Shrine has it set up where you drive through the story of Christmas, so there weren't crowds or loud music or anything else to contend with. They thought the lights were cool but I don't think they had any idea what they were really looking at. ;)
This past Saturday, we went to the Shrine lights again. This time, they got it. :) They knew what they were looking at and for, and they had a lot of fun pointing out all of the different things they saw--camels, angels, stars. I must confess to getting a little misty-eyed as we drove in. We're coming full circle with their first year home. I'm pretty sure the boys don't remember going to the Shrine last year--they'd been home a week and there'd been an awful lot of changes happening in the month previous. But it doesn't matter. I'm so happy to be establishing positive patterns for them, building a foundation of trust and faith that this is real, and this is permanent.
Friday, November 21, 2008
All 4 of us in the car, and we go over a bump.
Z: What was that bump?
M: A manhole cover.
Z: A mancover?
Muffled laughter from the front.
M: No, a manhole cover.
Z: A animal cover?
Not-so-muffled laughter from the front.
M: No, a manhole cover.
Z: I not know what you saying!
Flat out peals of laughter from the front. :)
Just for the record, we did then go on and explain it to him. :) :)
Thursday, November 20, 2008
When Dima is anxious, he chews--on his fingernails, on whatever he's holding (pen, marker, etc.), and on his clothes...usually the cuffs of his sleeves if he's wearing long sleeves. Tuesday, he chewed a hole in the sleeve of his shirt. When I saw that, I knew something was up.
The boys are in preparation for a Thanksgiving feast that their two classes are putting on next week. Parents are invited to come participate in the feast and watch a little program that the classes have been practicing. The program is a few songs with hand motions and I think a couple of poems. On Monday, Dima's teacher had told me that Dima wouldn't participate in the rehearsals--he stands on stage with the classes and laughs along but doesn't actually do the songs. She wasn't sure if he didn't understand or was just being goofy.But Monday night at dinner, he sang the songs to me, complete with hand motions! Then came Tuesday. And a lot of thought on my part.
For those of you not familiar, the orphanages put on programs at various times during the year. Dima was never in school in Ukraine, so his only experience with a program like this was in the orphanage. And I think it was completely freaking him out.
Tuesday after school, Zhenya went with Mark over to work on the house, and Dima and I sat down and talked. I gave him the option of not participating in the singing--not as punishment, just as an option if he didn't want to do it. He initially said he didn't want to sing, but later in the conversation changed his mind. I told him that Mark and I would be coming next week to watch him and Zhenya sing, and he got really excited about that. He decided he did want to sing, and even got up and sang some more for me including the hand motions. ;) We talked a little more about it at bedtime, and I told him again how excited Mark and I are to get to come watch them.
Yesterday, Dima had the best day he's ever had at school.
He obeyed, he participated in the rehearsal for the program--he did everything right. As a reward, he got to go to another class to see their gerbils (he LOVES animals) and he got a little certificate sent home saying what a great day he had. The best part? He was so excited to have had such a good day.
Was all of his stress due to the program? I don't know. It's a trigger that never would have occurred to me, but it helps me remember that I need to be vigilant about paying attention to his stress cues (namely the chewing) and trying to ferret out what's going on. It also emphasizes to me how important it is that Mark and I be involved in the new things he does, to help reassure him that it's all okay. And I continue praying that God would help heal their minds. I don't want them to forget, but I don't want all of their experiences now to be tainted with the fear and bitterness of the past. I want them to be able to remember, but also to know that that was then, and this is now, and then and now are different.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Do the boys know?
Not exactly. We've talked about bringing more kids into the family and they are very excited about that, but they won't know about the girls until we get a travel date (at the earliest). Too many things can change with Ukraine. :)
Have the girls been available for adoption for very long?
I don't know how long they've been registered, but I know they are registered as there have been 2 or 3 families who have been referred to them and then opted not to adopt them. You might very well have seen their profile, Diana!
What other information do you have on the girls?
I do know what region and orphanage they are in, but I will not share any of that publicly until we have actually had our appointment and are in the process of adopting them. Other than that, we pretty much know only what is listed on Reece's Rainbow. We have, however, talked with another family that adopted from the same groupa as one of the girls so we have a little more information there.
Do you think Ukraine does bait-and-switch on prospective adoptive parents?
No, because Ukraine does not advocate for its children internationally. Do agencies do bait-and-switch...most definitely! Any agency that has photolistings for Ukraine is acting illegally, as Ukraine does not allow for children to be pre-selected for cost. The exceptions to pre-selection are learning about children through hosting programs, mission trips, and through other families that have adopted. Even in all of those cases, the SDA will not necessarily hold a child for you (particularly a young, healthy child). Reece's Rainbow gets all of their information from families who are adopting--so the information on the girls comes from families who have adopted from their orphanage. There is no money exchanged for any information and RR does not act as an agency. They simply advocate for children who need homes. Any family, working with any agency or independent facilitator, can adopt a child on RR.
How do you think your sons will respond to you returning to Ukraine?
This is an interesting question, because right now I don't think they "get" Ukraine. In the US, we learn about where we live (our country) when we start school. Even in kindergarten and first grade it can be difficult for children to grasp the concept of a whole country. Geography is normally taught starting at "neighborhood" and moving outward. Our boys had not started school when we brought them home, so they had never had any teaching on Ukraine as the country where they lived. And from their perspective, they never left (stay with me here LOL).
Mark and I were talking about this the other day, because the boys don't know that they ever flew in an airplane. Why would they? From the orphanage, they got in a car, got on a train (saw the train and got to look out the window as it was moving), got in another car, went into a building (airport), walked down a long hallway (gate to plane), and then sat down in some chairs for a long time (plane flight from KBP to JFK). On the plane we were not next to the window, so they never saw out. The plane had food, bathrooms, room to walk around--they have no clue that was an airplane. From their perspective, we took them somewhere else, but they don't recognize it as another country, just somewhere different than where we were before. The good thing is that we wouldn't be going back to the boys' orphanage, but I am concerned about the effect being somewhere where everyone speaks Russian would have on the boys. They have not responded well to Russian-speaking people here in the States.
Are you taking the boys with you?
This is something we're still discussing, and some of it will depend on when the adoption actually happens. If this one takes as long as the last one (almost 3 years!) we would definitely take them. If it happens this spring...we aren't sure. We don't really want to leave them for 3 weeks (initial trip) as we think that might be traumatic for them (just them personally, not all kids). But taking them with us brings a whole other set of challenges. We don't want them at the SDA meeting or at court--certain things are sometimes said in those places that the boys don't need to hear. Plus, we'd like to have time to bond with the girls before bringing them home. We're still looking at options with all of this so I'll keep you posted as the adoption progresses.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Yep, you read it right. We are going back to Ukraine to pursue two little girls with special needs. And yes, we are very well aware that these little girls are NOT being held for us--Ukraine does not allow for preselection which means they do not give hold children for families or give referrals until your SDA appointment. However, since they are a sibling set and they BOTH have medical needs, it is highly unlikely that they will be adopted. We are choosing to trust that God is leading us in this direction and we will follow Him. :)
Here they are:
Dana (blonde) is 4 years old. Eve (brunette) is 3 years old.
These girls are being advocated for by Reece's Rainbow, a 501(c)3 organization that advocates for the adoption of children with special needs, particularly Down Syndrome. I've been a follower of RR for quite a while and they do amazing work. If you are interested in helping to support our adoption financially, you can make a tax-deductible donation towards Dana and Eve's adoption. We will never see the money--it will go directly towards our adoption expenses. I'm hoping to have a button up on our blog linking to them sometime today, so stay tuned! :)
Monday, November 17, 2008
But it did open up another opportunity to talk about the boxes, so I put together one of the boxes from church (folded it up to make a shoebox) and then showed the boys one of the videos showing children receiving the shoeboxes. They were able to make the connection between the box sitting on our coffee table and the exact same boxes that they could see children opening in the video. Both boys noted how happy the children were to be getting the boxes, and we talked about how excited they were to be getting presents.
On Saturday, we went shopping for our shoebox items. Mark and I did all of the deciding as to what went into the boxes. We didn't even ask the boys for their opinion more because they didn't have any clue as to what would fit in the box or be appropriate. But the boys did go with us and we talked about the things we were buying that would go into the boxes for some other little boys and girls--and we left it at that.
Mark and I packed the boxes Saturday night after the boys were in bed. The boys were very happy and proud to be carrying their boxes into church on Sunday, but I think that was more related to being able to help carry them than anything actually associated with the shoeboxes. ;)
Next year, this will all be familiar, and perhaps they will be able to understand a little bit more about what is happening. But for now, I'm very happy with the way it turned out. Thanks for all of your thoughts and opinions!
Friday, November 14, 2008
Play therapy is fine, but I think you should come right out and tell the kids that they are staying with you permantly. It sounds do simple, but have you done that? At this age they need information presented at a very concrete level.Regarding the gifts for children in need, I understand your derire to involve them and have family traditions, but you have time. Don't oush the issue. They may just be too you and at this stage the world revolves around them so it is hard to understand the needs of others. Also Dima's antsy response to mentioning the detksy dom is understandable even without knowing his complete background. It is a reminder to you as parents that their lives at the demsky dom we vere poor at best. Why would Dima want to remember that place? It's is like an adult recalling a terrible experience, you would rather not think about it or relive it.
YES, we have definitely told them many times that they are with us forever. In fact, that was something we talked about EVERY NIGHT for several months. I've used lots of different language to explain that--since time is not a concept that kids this age fully understand, the idea of "forever" is not something they "get."
Last night Dima and I went over it again, albeit slightly differently. I want him to understand that no matter where I go, he's going too. So I told him (again) that he is going to live with Mama forever (stay with me on this one--I'm hoping I'm not prepping myself for a still-at-home 35yo son LOL). Then I asked him: If Mama moves to another house, where does Dima go? He looked at me and smiled, and I said "with Mama!" Then we repeated this several times with him telling me where he goes if I move somewhere. It's a lot of fun to do this, because when we have these conversations you can see him relax and he just starts smiling and giggling. The problem is it hasn't made it from his heart to his head (or vice versa depending on your perspective). He knows in his heart that we are his parents and he is with us always, but it's hard to convince that pesky mind with all of those memories that it's really true.
It's not so much that their lives at the detsky dom were bad. In fact, their lives were better there than they had been before that, and their orphanage was actually very nice in comparison to many that Mark and I have seen in Ukraine. It's that he doesn't want to go back. I don't think he's against remembering the detsky dom, but he thinks when we talk about it that it means he's going to go back there someday. So for us, I think it's important that when we are in safe situations and everyone is feeling comfortable, that we bring it up occasionally to help them understand that yes, it is okay to talk about it, and no, I'm never going back. Believe me, it's not a subject I push on them at all. I bring it up, see how they respond, and go from there. It's not like you can push meaningful dialogue and discussion with a 5 and 6 yo, especially when they don't have a great command of the English language. ;)
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I picked 4 boxes--2 boys and 2 girls. ;) Just planning ahead, you know.
The problem (and why I need advice) is this: How do I explain this to the boys? I have tried talking to them about there being other children who do not have many toys or gifts--no interest. I tried mentioning the detsky dom, and how when they were there they didn't have many toys and had to share everything, but when I bring this up I'm losing Dima. He gets very antsy and starts trying to change the subject or go do something else (Zhenya sort of listens politely and then asks if he can go play. LOL). My guess is that Dima remembers the detsky dom and thinks there's a chance he may have to go back there--that I'm bringing it up to prepare them to be sent back. Which breaks my heart, by the way.
So do Mark and I just prepare the boxes ourselves and not involve the boys? I had really hoped to make this a family thing, but maybe they're not ready emotionally to grasp this idea. And I still think they (at least Dima) don't understand that this home and family is permanent. I know they've been home almost a year, but if you knew their complete background it would make perfect sense why he would be expecting to leave--and most of his transitions in the past have happened during winter.
I'm thinking maybe I need to have a heart-to-heart with Dima, and maybe a little play therapy to reinforce this idea of family. I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts on how to help them understand what we're doing with Operation Christmas Child, I'd appreciate it. :)
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I happen to know what some of the triggers are...one day I heard some music that sounded very similar to the Ukrainian discotheque music we listened to every day on the taxi ride to the boys' orphanage. It was about an hour and a half ride each way (which is why we only went once a day) so we listened to A LOT of music. LOL
The biggest trigger has been the weather. It's finally gotten colder here, and I've pulled out my winter coat--the same one I bought for Ukraine and wore every day while we were there. I'll soon be wearing my winter boots that I bought in Ukraine. It's just a little bizarre--like part of me is still there. Of course, I felt this way after the first time we went to Ukraine in 2003. I missed it so much and wanted to go back, but I don't remember having flashbacks.
It makes me wonder if the boys ever have flashbacks. They were there a lot longer than Mark and I--are there things here that trigger memories for them? Is that why so many parents report seeing a change in behavior around the one-year anniversary mark? (We haven't yet, but we've still got a month and a half.)
In the meantime, I'm enjoying my flashbacks and thinking I need to go make some borscht. ;)
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I've shared previously that we implemented doing homework immediately after school. That seems to be the easiest for both boys and gives them an incentive to get it done since they get to go play when it's finished. Dima's class is working on letters/sounds/phonics right now, so we get a lot of phonics worksheets as well as handwriting. Handwriting is still a struggle (Dima's motor skills are delayed for a 6yo so that makes handwriting more difficult for him) but he's been working hard and is really improving. But I have a beef with the phonics worksheets...
A lot of the phonics worksheets relate to looking at a picture and then identifying the sounds of that word. So, for example, there might be a picture of a hat and the worksheet would want them to circle the initial consonant ("h") or the vowel sound they hear ("a").
Yesterday, his worksheet came home with a picture like this:
Now, what is the first single word that comes to mind when you see this? For me (and Dima), it was "bear." So he knows bear starts with "b" and goes to circle the intial consonant. But wait! His choices are "t", "g", or "m"...
Yeah, it's a "teddy bear". Nevermind that the worksheet last week that had a similar picture wanted him to circle "b" for "bear". Sigh.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Dima had his speech eval on Friday. It was a long 2 hours of focusing on words, and he did a really great job. It was also painfully clear (to me) that he really needs some speech and language help. They also did a hearing test and once again he passed that (his last one was done in January) so I think we're confident that he doesn't have any hearing loss. The summary at the end of the session was "we think he needs speech therapy." Yeah, me too. They have to score all of the tests and then Mark and I will go in and get their complete breakdown of which specific areas Dima needs to work on.
Observations from the eval: We used a center through a local university, and while the testing went fine I don't think we'll be doing therapy there. They use graduate students for the testing and therapy (all supervised by licensed therapists, of course) which was okay for the tests but Dima is really going to need someone with a lot of experience because of the extent of his delays. If we just needed to work on a couple of sounds it would be one thing, but this is going to need to be some pretty comprehensive language therapy. It was really hard for me to sit and watch this, and realize how delayed Dima's language is. Yes, I know he's only been hearing English for 11 months, but some of the tests he should have been able to do without English--they were picture association tests that test comprehension. Those tests were towards the end, so he may have just been tired by that point, but it didn't go well.
It is discouraging to me to know how far behind he is, but it just means I'll rejoice even more in the small steps of progress!
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Why did Papa tickle Zhenya? Why did we go to the Harvest party at church? Why are those people being silly?
The answer to a lot of the questions is "for fun." And Dima just doesn't get it. It's sad to me that his early life was so messed up that he has no idea of what it means to do things for fun. For him, everything is about living. There is no fun involved. And while he knows how to have fun now, it still baffles him that people would do things just "for fun."
This is a continual learning experience for him, and probably his biggest struggle with school because he hasn't figured out when it's okay to be silly and have fun and when it's time to settle down and work. When he's working at school, he does really well.
Academically, his teacher says he is doing great. We're still working on behavior and social skills. And it's just going to take him a little while to catch up. Right now (just over 10 months home), his biggest issue is misbehaving behind his teacher's back. Fortunately (unfortunately for him!), he always tells the truth. So if another kid tells on him and Miss B asks him if he did something, if he did he will say yes. We're working on trying to help him understand that someone is always watching him--us, teachers, other kids--and that he can't get away with things. Thankfully (very, very thankfully), he doesn't do anything malicious or mean. He gets out of his chair when his teacher isn't looking, he pulls out toys he's not supposed to play with, etc., so these are very minor behaviors to work on. And, as his teacher says, he's not the only one. It is kindergarten, after all. ;)
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
I have a head cold. It's nothing too severe, but I didn't have anything critical going on at work today so instead of spreading my cold germs to the entire building I opted to stay home. I'm sure my coworkers are thanking me for not sneezing and blowing my nose all around them.
I have a hard time staying at home and resting when I'm sick. I feel like I should be doing things if I'm home, but the whole idea of staying home is to take it easy. I'm hoping to catch up on my coupons (I don't cut them out but enter them all into an excel spreadsheet--it's fantastic and saves me a lot of time) and relax on the couch. Maybe fit in a nap or two. :)
Seven random or weird things about me:
1--I've eaten a chocolate-covered cricket (my husband would say this goes to show I'll eat ANYTHING with chocolate! LOL)
2--My least favorite job as a parent is brushing teeth. I prefer dealing with vomit to brushing my boys' teeth. Neverless, I do it every night (unless Mark's home) because I know it's important.
3--I bite my nails when I'm excited or anxious, but usually only the ones on my left hand. Why? Well, my right hand is usually using the mouse. ;)
4--I have a lifetime certification as a canoeing instructor.
5--I only like crispy french fries and crispy bacon. I pass the soggy ones to Mark (who likes them--we're a perfect match!).
6--I don't wear makeup. Every once in a while I try it out again (usually for an evening event), but it just takes too long and I'd rather be sleeping in the morning. ;)
7--My favorite beverages are Dr. Pepper and Kahlua (not together--and Dr. Pepper will win out over Kahlua 9 times out of 10).
And now, to tag 7 others:
If you've already participated or don't do tags, please don't feel you need to participate. I just tagged people I'd like to hear some random things about. :)
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
I have to confess that my heart is a little heavier than I anticipated over this. But at the same time I am very glad they will have a family. They've been in the orphanage basically since birth and it's high time they get a home and family to love them and care for them. Losing an adoption referral (even though we never actually had it) is not unlike a miscarriage to me. This is the third time we have had a potential adoption fall through over the past 5 years, and it's painful every time. Before I get any nasty comments, yes, I've experienced miscarriage too. In both cases you start to look towards the future, towards what might be changing in your life, and then all of those musings and hopings are gone in an instant.
So where do we go from here? Not sure, but I'll do my best to keep you posted (still waiting on news on the house ;)).
Sunday, November 02, 2008
The boys ate...and ate...and ate. And we weighed them the last day of the cruise and they had maybe each gained 2 lbs. I need to somehow get them to sit still for several days and load them up with food. Dima ate waffles with chocolate syrup nearly every morning (and no, they don't get anything near that at home) and they both had soup, fruit, an entree, and dessert every night. They are definitely good eaters--they're just also good metabolizers! LOL
We left from Ft. Lauderdale and visited Grand Turk, Tortola, St. Maarten, and Half Moon Cay. We ended up not doing any shore excursions and just spent LOTS of time on the beach, which we all loved. The boys have, however, decided they don't like the taste of saltwater. ;) I was really impressed with their swimming abilities and their confidence with their water wings--they were comfortable in the water even when they couldn't touch at all. Take the water wings off, though, and watch them sink! That lack of body fat means they don't float. ;)
The boys took 2- to 3-hour naps each day to enable them to stay up at night and see the evening show. Since we had the early dinner seating our shows didn't start until 9pm and there is no way I would let them stay up that late without a nap. Dima liked the singing and Zhenya LOVED the dancing. During one of the shows, after every song he would turn to Mark and ask "more dancing?".
All in all it was a really great trip and I would definitely do it again!
We tried really hard to fatten the boys up on this trip. Absolutely unlimited food, and we encouraged ice cream after lunch AND dinner every day (provided their behavior during the day was acceptable--they both lost ice cream one meal). I think they're ready to go on a cruise again just for the ice cream!