Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I love ESL

"Mama, mama, Emily put all of the pilgrims in the box!"

Me: "Tangrams. Emily put the tangrams in the box."

At least I know we learned some Thanksgiving vocabulary. ;)

Tim is getting married

The three oldest kids have Bible verses for their handwriting every day. Right now we are going through the Christmas story in Luke. I had the following conversation with Tim.

Tim: "What does 'pledged' mean?"
Me: "Engaged. That they are going to be married but they aren't married yet."
Tim: "When were they going to be married?"
Me: "I don't know."
Tim: "Can people get married in Bethlehem?"
Me: "Yes, people can get married in Bethlehem."
Tim: "I can't get married in Bethlehem, can I?"
Me: "Yes, if you want to get married in Bethlehem I think you could get married there."
Tim: "Maybe I'll get married in Bethlehem. But I'll have to ask my wife."
Tim: "I think I'll let her decide."
Me: "That's probably a good plan." (at this point I was trying really hard to contain my laughter)
Tim: "But we can't get married yet. We'll get married when we're older."

He was very serious about all of this. It's a good thing he hasn't found anyone to be his wife yet!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A busy week

We've had a few of those. :)

Monday was pretty quiet. School and all of that.

Tuesday was speech for Emily, then R came to visit for a few hours. The kids love playing with her and she's 2 now and so much fun to have around. Tim has just recently gotten into the "big brother" groove with her and it's hilarious to listen to him. "No, no, R...don't touch that. Here, play with this."

Wednesday was new ear tubes for Emily. She did great with the surgery but decided she didn't like her doctor AT ALL when she threw up 9 times after anesthesia. Yes, 9. Thankfully they sent us home with a small bucket and I only had to stop three times on the way home to dump it. Ick. ;) She tried to eat when she got home (she was so hungry!) but it didn't work out so well. After a little rest time she was fully recovered and, in true Emily style, decided she had to eat eggs first since she had missed them at breakfast. I did NOT give her eggs first but after I was convinced her stomach had settled she did get her eggs.

Today was shots for Julia and Bianca. Neither one cried and the nurse was so impressed with how the other kids did in the room (I had all 6 of them with me) that she gave all of the kids a pencil.

You could have heard a pin drop in the awed silence when she said they would all get one. Pencils are like gold in our house!

The dirty house is almost done. We have it scheduled to be listed on November 1. We'll see if we can hold to it, but I think we can make it. NOTE: That last "we" should really read "Mark", who is going to nearly kill himself trying to get this house finished alone.

Oh, and did I mention (no, I did not) that he has a new job? Mark is now a therapy manager. YAY for my awesome hubby!!! :)

It's been a little crazy busy around here.

Just the way I like it. :) :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

My favorite quote of the day

I get a lot of great quotes out of the kids, some more publishable than others. ;) Today's was overheard as Alex and Bianca were sitting at the dining room table coloring. I have no idea what the context was (I'm guessing they were talking about what they were drawing) but all of a sudden I hear Alex pipe up, "Yeah, and baby horses eat baby corn."

To which Bianca replied, "Ewww..." (no idea why; she likes baby corn in stir fry!) and Alex's response, "No, really, they do. They like it."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On strength

For Tim's birthday, Grandma and Grandpa O. got him a t-shirt and short set with a dinosaur on it. Tim loves them, and even more since Papa told him that that kind of shirt (without sleeves) is called a "muscle shirt".

Yesterday was Tim's day to help so he got to pick what we had for afternoon snack and then help me make it. He picked some butterscotch brownies from a cookie cookbook that we have. As I added the flour and the dough became more difficult to stir, he turned to me very seriously and said,

"You have to be strong to stir these cookies. It's a good thing I have my muscle shirt on since it makes me stronger."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On reading

Emily thinks she can read.

She can't. She can sound a few words out, but she much prefers to just guess.

I do oral reading every day with the three oldest as part of our homeschooling, and sometimes she just can't stand being left out (I do reading with the youngest three as a group as they are all at about the same place), so occasionally she begs me to allow her to read to me. While I would love to encourage her, it's honestly incredibly painful.

Let me illustrate.

She gets a reading book and begins going through the pictures and telling me the words she knows. Then she gets to C-U-B.


"No, Emily, sound it out."


"No, try again."



Sunday, September 11, 2011


I am. We are.

And absolutely loving life.

When I first decided to quit working, there were a whole series of emotions I went through with regards to being at home. Would I be a lousy stay-at-home-mom? Could I handle everyone at home all the time? Would I want to go back to work in a few months?




I love being home, more than I did even the first few months. I still don't clean enough. There is still always more to do than I have time. There are still always small people whining.

And it is wonderful.

In the past couple of months we've had two birthdays (one of them mine!) and we now have ages 9, 8, 7, 6, 6, 5. I just realized a couple of days ago that for one month of the year three of our girls will be the same age. Heaven help us when it's 16, 15, 14, 13, 13, and 13.

We traveled to Ohio for Mark's annual vintage base ball festival. The kids had a blast and I am glad to be through the first year of it with 6 of them. ;) The second year is always easier because they know what to expect. I did have to laugh when a few weeks before we went Bianca was telling a friend that at the hotel pool they had a button you push for bubbles. That information came from Tim and was referring to the hot tub. Bianca had no idea what he was talking about but it was very exciting all the same. It definitely helps to have older siblings who can ease the fear of new places with their excitement.

Eventually there might be pictures to go with posts but don't count on it. That's one of the reasons I haven't posted--I kept wanting to get pictures to go with the posts and it never happens.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

This speaks volumes

It is ever so inappropriate for me to go nearly two months without posting, and then to only post a link. But I'm going to anyway. It speaks so eloquently as to life post-adoption. I am sure that some of you who click through and read it will think it's so nice we haven't had to go through any of that.


I do feel...fortunate? blessed? at how many issues we have not had. But however you look at it, none of our kids had an ideal start to life. All six of them were abandoned, some of them mere minutes after birth. Others were given the "opportunity" to love a parent who then rejected them later on.

How much does that hurt, to know you're not wanted?

Read Jen's after the airport story for a good look at life post-adoption for pretty much every adoptive family I know, domestic and international.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The joy of siblings

I get asked a lot how the kids are getting along...

Whenever there is a disagreement as to what happened between two people, they have to sit together until they can come to a coherent story that is agreeable to both parties.

"Mama! Julia hit me!"
"No I not!"
"Yes, she hit me right here really hard!"
"No I not!"
"She hit me! See the red mark on my arm?" (for the record, I could not)
"Tim...Tim..." (Julia looking at her hand trying to find something Tim had done to her)


"I hit her first but she hit me HARDER!"

Their punishment was to sit together on the freezer while I made dinner. ;)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

No puking today

...and his work is done.

I was a very, very mean mama this morning. I do know of a few things that tend to motivate Alex, one of which is playing outside. Because it's been so hot lately we haven't been outside much. So this morning I told the kids they could take the bikes and play out front, which is a huge deal around here. Amazingly enough, Alex managed to get his folder erased within 30 minutes and then started on his work. He did not finish in time to go outside (I had to make the kids come in--they were drenched with sweat and it was getting pretty hot outside before he finished) but he did get to play.

We seem to be making progress on him doing his work diligently slowly but surely. At this point, I'll take any progress at all!

Friday, July 22, 2011


Today Alex had 5 papers to do, the same as Tim and one more than each of the girls. Instead of doing his work, he chose to scribble all over his folder. This is something he has done in the past and I have asked him to stop, so when he was doing it today I told him he could now erase his whole folder. He spent so much time crying and whining over it he made himself sick--literally.

After the third time he threw up (with no fever) I sent him to bed for the rest of the day.

He is by far my biggest pain in the rear when it comes to doing work. He can do everything he's being given, and if there's a chance he can't do it or I think it's something we need to reinforce, I sit down with him and we go through it and do several examples. And then he still sits and whines about it instead of doing it. But find some kind of motivation and all of a sudden his work gets done. He just doesn't seem to be motivated by much--and believe me I've tried.

The other day he was whining about a fill-in-the-blank paper, and I finally looked at him and said, "Alex, they can't make it any easier for you. All of the answers are in the box at the top of the page." But instead of filling in the blanks, he spent an hour whining about doing it at all. I spend a lot of time rolling my eyes (I try to keep it out of sight of the kids, but I'm sure I don't always succeed. ;)). I have heard of other kids doing this--sometimes for years!--so I'm hopeful that at some point he will just decide it's easier to do his work than to whine.

But we're certainly not there yet!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pajama day

Today is pajama day at the request of the kids. They used to do these for school (the four old ones) but they had to pay $1 to do it. Between the anxiety caused by the change in routine and the cost we didn't usually end up doing them.

But now we can. :)

So the kids stayed in pajamas all day. They still did schoolwork (more on that in a later, really ;)) but we didn't have anywhere to go so it was ideal. I think we may make some "theme"
days a regular part of our school year. It will break things up and I think it gives the kids a sense of family spirit.

We've also (just this week) started playing games after dinner. It's been too hot to go outside (100-115 with the heat index) so we're working on card games. The kids all love Uno and it's one that everyone can play. Right now all of the kids keep their cards face up and we work on colors and numbers with the new girls, but they really don't need much help. It just keeps the game moving if we don't have to wait for everyone to look at each card in their hand since they're already laid out on the floor. Plus it encourages more cooperation as the other kids can help someone find a card.

It's been a hot summer and I will not be sad to see some cooler weather coming. We do have window units, but even with those going it's been so hot that we're only able to get the house down to 86 or 87 at best. But I figure it's probably better for us anyway. ;)

Friday, July 15, 2011

My kids have heat stroke

They must, because I was just asked "Mama, may I please scrub the bathtub?" After I shook my head a few times to clear it and agreed, I've now had other people ask to clean the bathtub and the one cleaning the bathtub asked if she could also clean the floor.

Bizarre...maybe this is what happens when you don't have air conditioning.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


So apparently if you don't post for awhile, some kind of spambots take notice and start trying to spam your blog. I'm getting multiple spam comments a day.

I think it's a hint. :)

Without further ado, a brief update:

Hives: We had our first incident of hives. Although none of our kids have ever had hives, I recognized them pretty quickly. A sudden case of big red splotches seemed pretty clear cut. The problem was figuring out the cause. We had gone to the zoo over the weekend for Mark's work picnic, but we hadn't done anything unusual and the food was hot dogs and burgers, so nothing odd there. But nevertheless, Sunday night Emily was covered in splotches. I gave her some Benadryl and she was good in the morning, but then Tuesday afternoon they popped up again. After some Googling and a call to the pediatric nurse, we just kept giving her Benadryl. But no one had said how long to give it to her, so I gave it to her for 24 hours then stopped. Thursday afternoon she looked like this again:

After three more days of continual Benadryl, the hives seem to be cleared up. Still no exact idea as to what caused them, but we did pet the stingrays at the zoo and got splashed (dripping wet) by one of them, so it might have been something in the water. However, the kids and I went again this past Wednesday and she didn't have any problems, so...???

A birthday: Alex is 9! He had a great birthday and we've been talking a lot about being 9 and what that means for him. I think he's excited to be growing up. :)

Circus Flora: The kids LOVED the circus. I really hope we can make this an annual tradition. The newest girls were just in awe of everything they saw. I think the kids liked the dog act the best, but I really liked the jugglers.

I have pictures of Alex's birthday and the circus, but since I've already waited a week to post this hoping I could get to the other computer and add the pictures, I'm just posting without them!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


I have six kids, two of whom have been home for a little under 3 months. Obviously we're still working on adjusting, discipline...all kinds of things.

In addition to those six, we have another little girl, R, who is 20 months. She comes and visits us every day while her mom and dad work.

Yesterday, a fellow mom at church put out an emergency plea. She needed someone to watch her 3-year-old daughter for the day. Guess who volunteered?? :)

Today's schedule:

Get kids up, dressed, and fed (thankfully Mark does breakfast!)
R arrived
Schoolwork until 8:30
Bathrooms and load 7 kids into the van
Arrive for speech at 9am
Drop Emily off and then take Alex, Tim, and Danielle to the sibling playroom
Take Julia, Bianca, and R to the labs for another blood draw and TB test for Julia
Run upstairs to get Emily before the TB test because her speech is done
Take J, B, R, and E back down to the lab for the TB test
Pick up A, T, and D from the playroom
Drive home to meet A (the 3-year-old) who spent the rest of the day with us

So I had eight kids ages 8 and under today. What can I say...I'm a glutton for punishment. There were a few times where I looked out the window just to remind myself that there was something outside of where I was. :) But overall it was a really good day! I even managed to vacuum, get dinner started, and do two loads of laundry. It's always a good day if everyone eats and has clean clothes. :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Did you miss me??

Two whole weeks I've gone without posting. I've thought about it several times, but my hands haven't made it to the keyboard--there've just been lots of mental posts. ;)

It's all done. School, that is.

The kids had a half-day last Thursday and have been home since then.

I still love being home, crazy as it can be. :) :)

Today was actually the second day of the rest of our lives--also known as homeschooling!

Yes, we have decided to homeschool for the next year. We just see too many gaps in our kids, and I am beyond frustrated that even at a Christian school Danielle doesn't know her alphabet but was learning to flip people off.


I get lots of comments like "Wow! Homeschooling six!" which make me wonder if I should be concerned about the fact that one teacher teaches 16-20 of them (or more!) at a time in the schools. If I can't teach six of them, why on earth should I be surprised that they aren't getting enough help when they're in a large classroom? :)

So this will be our new normal. Over the summer we're just doing worksheets from curriculum workbooks based on their last grade level. I want to see exactly where our gaps are and where we need to focus for each child. It will be a challenge but I know it will be worth it!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


This weekend I had the opportunity to visit with two friends--one I had never met before and one I met a long time ago.

During college, I worked for a summer camp for kids with special needs (Camp John Marc). It was literally a life-changing experience for me, and I believe one of the reasons I had very little hesitation with the idea of adopting children with medical needs.

A few weeks ago, one of the camp directors emailed me to let me know a current staff member was going to be in St Louis for a few weeks. Marne and I were able to get together and have coffee this past weekend, and it was a lot of fun. I found out that she worked last summer when a couple of girls "graduated" from Camp I-Thonka-Chi (a camp for children who have been burned). They were very special girls to me as I had worked with them when they had just started coming to camp (many, many years ago...and yes, it made me feel old! LOL).

Several months ago, a former student of mine from Michigan State had contacted me about being a reference for her. She was applying for graduate school here in St Louis. She ended coming here and then we realized a couple of months ago that she is attending the same church as we do! Last week, she emailed me to let me know her aunt Lois was going to be in town. In a very bizarre set of circumstances, we know her aunt. In fact, we traveled to Ukraine(!) with her on our very first trip with Master Provisions. She was 70 years old when we went to Ukraine. We loved her gentle spirit and willingness to take whatever came our way with the trip. It was so much fun to see her again, and to introduce her to our Ukrainian additions!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

It's rough being 8

"Moooommmm, I need help with my homework."

"Alex, I'm not going to give you the answers. Everything you need to do those questions is on your paper."

"But it's not here..." (pointing to one section)

"No, it's not."

"You mean I have to think all by myself??"

"Yes, you have to think. That's what happens when you're eight years old."

Friday, May 13, 2011

My dryer works again!

And boy am I thankful for a handy husband! ;)

About a year ago, my dryer started acting up. It would stop the cycle and flash and error code and seemed to be overheating. So I started running the cycles manually and setting the temperature to low. That bought me a few months.

But recently it's not heating up at all, or only sporadically, so none of the clothes are getting dry. I don't yet have a clothesline outside (and not really sure I want everything hanging out in the backyard!) so it meant running the clothes through the dryer sometimes up to three hours(!!) to get them dry, and then hanging them up for a bit in the basement or laying them out upstairs for awhile.

I had Googled the issue when it first starting happening and was pretty sure I knew what the problem was. Apparently these Whirlpool Duet dryers are notorious for these problems, and it's due to the thermistor. I found a thermistor on Amazon and then just needed to actually purchase it. I do some online surveys so I had enough in my Amazon account to cover the cost of the thermistor and shipping (they're not very expensive at all, so it was worth it even if that didn't end up being the problem as long as we could try to avoid a service call!).

The new thermistor arrived yesterday and after watching a few videos on the internet (yeah, I know) we decided to tackle it as it looked like a pretty easy fix. After one false start, Mark was able to get the new thermistor in and our dryer works again! I am thrilled as I do about 8 loads of laundry a week, and that was a lot of laundry hanging around to dry!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

We love the dentist

Julia did great at the dentist yesterday. She was really excited about it and seemed to understand exactly what was going to happen (we can tell from her teeth that she's had an extraction before). She told me (in Russian) that she would go to sleep, it would hurt, and she wouldn't cry.** The whole procedure from her going back to coming out to the lobby took 30 minutes. She had some gauze to bite on and they told us to leave it in for five minutes. She didn't seem to have any desire to take it out of her mouth, so I let her keep it in for the ride home. When we got home she wanted to eat, so I told her to go throw the gauze in the trash. As soon as she opened her mouth we had a fountain of blood!

Apparently she had had the gauze held so tightly that the clot adhered, so when she released the pressure the bleeding started all over again. Thankfully she closed her mouth again when I asked her too. ;) We got the bleeding stopped without a problem, then she ate some ice cream and a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.

She had a great afternoon with no pain (or so she kept saying). Walking to pick the other kids up from school, she asked me if she was all done with the dentist.

"No, you have one more."
"One more??"


They LOVE their dentist!

**I did tell her it was okay to cry, but the "no crying" thing stems from her and Bianca's last doctor visit where Julia got five shots and Bianca got four. Julia didn't cry but Bianca howled and Julia is lording it over her and apparently is never going to cry again. ;)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hijacking the blog

This post is for Sara and Mom O...

Here are the girls' dresses (ignore the socks--those are their regular socks). Let me know if something doesn't look right! :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Still here :)

...and LOVING it. :) :)

Hmmm...what to share from the last few weeks? I really am loving being at home. I go to bed every night thankful I don't have to go to work the next day. I love being able to focus on serving my family.

Bianca and Julia are doing really well. I have been amazed at their adjustment. That's not to say we don't have issues. ;) We have had a couple of common issues--bedwetting and finger/thumb-sucking. The bedwetting is occurring with one girl, but not because she is an actual bedwetter. She doesn't want to get up and go to the bathroom so she pees in bed. This is not at all uncommon for children from orphanages as they are not usually allowed to get up at night. Both girls suck their fingers (Bianca) and thumb (Julia). They are wearing mittens to bed at night on the specific hand. Julia has now asked not to wear it and seems to have stopped sucking her thumb. I'm sure at stressful times we will see that recur. :) The thumb/hand sucking we want to get stopped as quickly as possible as the girls are already 5 and 6 and losing teeth. We want to get this behavior modified so that it doesn't impact their adult teeth.

Julia already has to have plenty of dental work done. She's scheduled for three fillings, two extractions, and a crown. She won't be under full anesthesia like Emily was, but they're giving her nitrous and splitting the work into two sessions.

I promise we do have pictures to share. They're on the camera still and I'm hoping to get them off today!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The workings of a "big" family

In the adoption world, 6 kids is not really a lot. I know so many families that have more than 6 kids that I sometimes forget what an oddity we are to other people we run into. And most people can't for the life of them figure out how we manage six kids. I get lots of comments about "How do you do it? I can hardly manage two!" Really, I think once you get past three or four it just doesn't matter anymore. But a little organization does help. And you definitely need to be able to count up to however many kids you have...over and over again. ;)

So how does life work with 6 kids? We're organized and follow a schedule (or at least we try really hard to be!). Every night, clothes are laid out for the next day. Each child has basically 10 days worth of clothing plus dress clothes (and school clothes as applicable). There is an under-bed drawer under each child's bed that has their clothes. School clothes are in a separate dresser with a drawer for each child. We do showers every other night and all six kids go through the shower one after the other. They brush their teeth then shower, then pajamas then stories. They all know the routine. :) In the mornings, I get the kids up and dressed and do the girls' hair. Then I send them downstairs to Mark who makes breakfast. I use my time upstairs for quiet time (praying, Bible reading, etc.) and finishing up any upstairs chores like putting away or gathering laundry. After breakfast the kids come back upstairs to brush their teeth, then it's downstairs for bathroom, shoes, and backpacks. Off to walk to school about 8am (right now that's a family affair unless Mark has to be at work early) then Mark goes to work and Bianca, Julia, and R come back home with me. When school is done I walk down with Bianca, Julia, and R to pick the other kids up. At home, the kids put their backpacks on the back of their dining room chairs and take out their papers from the day. We start homework as needed and the others go play. I finish getting dinner ready (if I've done well there's very little last-minute dinner prep) and we eat between 5 and 5:30. After dinner is playtime or showers depending on the night and we start all over again.

I have separate medical and school binders for each child. In their medical binders I keep their most recent physical and vaccination record for each child. This way I can just grab the relevant child's binder to look things up (or take with me to appointments) instead of trying to flip through information on the whole family. I have found the binders to be invaluable as we have several kids with medical needs.

We also have a big wall calendar that I use to keep track of everyone. It's particularly nice since Mark works occasional weekends plus we have lots of school functions that go on the calendar (two kids who take class snack to school at least once per month plus an amazing number of field trips). The wall calendar is also why I have been adamant that none of our kids have the same first initial. Every even put on the calendar has one or more initials in front of it designating who is participating in the event. That doesn't work well when people have the same first initial. So the kids' last dentist appointment looked like "ATDBEJ--Dr. A... 1pm". I know lots of people like colored pens or pencils for the calendar, but there's no way I'd remember who was which color, especially with eight of us in the house!

Mealtimes are pretty easy for us as we don't have any special needs regarding food. Each person has a specific spot at the table as well as a designated napkin. We had to institute that after lots of fighting over napkins. Now no one can complain that someone else got their napkin dirty. LOL

I'm sure there are other areas I'm leaving off, so feel free to ask questions in the comments!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The new girls

I haven't posted much simply because the girls have really fit in so well that it strikes me as really odd that they haven't been here for longer. About two weeks home I was really frustrated with hearing Russian from them--I wanted them to speak English so I could get to know them better!

But as a side note to how easy our transition was, the first afternoon home Bianca turned to me and said something and I just stared at her blankly. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why she was speaking in Russian and not English. Then I remembered...oh yeah, we got home last night.

Anyway, the girls have really melded well into our family. We're all still finding our spots, of course, and they still have family behaviors to learn and orphanage behaviors to unlearn, but they are doing really well. I love to watch all of the kids (or even small groups of the kids) play together. In the beginning, Julia and Bianca would play together and the other kids would play together, but there wasn't much mixing because B and J play lots of imaginative play, and it was hard for the others to join in with the language barrier. Now some of that barrier has started to go away and they are spending more time intermingling.

Some explanations

I think there might be a little confusion out there about the current state of our family, plus there may be a few of you who are just joining in from this last adoption so I thought a detailed explanation of "us" might be in order.

Mark--sole breadwinner and highly esteemed physical therapist, house rehabber (rebuilder!), and worm digger

Courtney--highly educated (not the same thing as qualified, FYI) stay-at-home mom as of this past Monday, former maker of medicines, now dispenser of more band-aids than can be counted

Alex--8 years old and going on 40, loves history, has issues with anxiety especially with schedule changes

Tim--7 years old, loves to tell jokes and do "magic" tricks, keeps me laughing when he's not driving me crazy with his antics

Danielle--7 years old, thinks she's a princess, prefers not to do any work (princesses don't have to do work, do they?) and is definitely going to want the largest share of the mirror as she gets older

Bianca--6 years old, new to the family in March 2011, loves language and almost knows the alphabet song (there are lots of C's in her version)

Emily--5 years old, thinks she's cute (and will tell you!), never ever EVER stops talking

Julia--5 years old, new to the family in March 2011, has an infectious giggle and a monster pout

Those of you who've seen us out and about during the week have probably also seen another little girl with us. That's R. She's 18 months old and the daughter of one of Mark's co-workers. We babysit her during the day. We did not adopt another child right after Bianca and Julia. :)

As you can imagine, things at our house are a little chaotic. Right now during the day it's usually just Bianca, Julia and R, but on days like today and tomorrow when the other kids are out of school I have all 7 at home. I've found divide-and-conquer to be an effective strategy. As in, send two to play in one room, two upstairs, etc. ;)

In the stay-at-home realm, I am still LOVING IT. I am so much more relaxed than when I was working (that should say something since I have 7 kids at home!). I love that I can do all of our meal preps during the day. I am slowly tackling various projects around the house to try to better organize and streamline our lives.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I'm free!

It hasn't really sunk in yet, but as of tomorrow morning I am a free woman. "Free" probably doesn't have the same meaning to me as it does to you.

Free means I can go on my kids' field trips.

Free means I'm no longer worrying about home stuff while I'm at work, and vice versa.

Free means when one of my kids is sick, or there's a snow day, or WHATEVER, I don't need to take a vacation day to take care of my family.

Free means having the time to devote to the things my family needs, like a clean house, food made in more than 5 minutes, and clean clothing without having to remind me to get it to them. ;)

Free means having the time to volunteer to help others without taking away from my family.

I am SO excited to be FREE!!

Thursday, April 07, 2011


The Christian band Third Day is sponsoring an interesting opportunity for adoptive families. They regularly show video presentations in their live concerts. During their current concert tour, they are hoping to highlight adoptive families as a picture of God's love for us. They are asking adoptive families to send in pictures that may then be shown at their concerts.

So I got to thinking...wouldn't it be cool to send in a picture of our family? But wait, also one of my mom and my new little sister. And I started counting what I know...

In our parents' generation, two adoptions.

In our generation, three adoptions.

In our childrens' generation, six adoptions.

You may be familiar with the concept of "legacy"--the idea that the choices that people make have a long-term, lasting effect on future generations.

For a long time, when people asked I would say our family legacy is divorce. Divorce stretches back generations in our family and it truly seemed to be what was being handed down to each generation. For that reason I was adamant that I only marry someone who did not think divorce was an option.

I now see another legacy growing in our families, one that excites me and gives me hope for our future generations.

I claim a legacy of adoption for our family--choosing to love beyond what we see.

Monday, April 04, 2011

I did it

I did it.

I DID IT!!!!

I gave my two weeks notice today.

I'm a soon-to-be full time homemaker!!

:) :) :) :)

Friday, March 25, 2011

A question

"Why do you love me, Mama?"

Asked not in simple curiousity, but out of desperation, and a true lack of understanding as to why someone him. After all, everyone else had abandoned him.

Those who said they loved...left.

And he is left struggling to understand how it is that someone who didn't know him, now loves him.

How do I answer that question?

To some extent I understand. I have dealt with feelings of loss and abandonment for most of my life. They threatened the early years of our marriage as I could not shake the feeling that Mark would leave. Recent events in my family once again caused me to question how and why love is.

I don't know, Alex. I don't know why I love you. I don't know why others didn't love you, or why they did things that made you think they don't love you.

But here and now, I love you. You are my son. And I will choose to love you for the rest of my life.

It's snowing...again

This seems like the weirdest spring. It was gorgeous here while we were in Ukraine on our first trip, then yucky here while we were home, then nice again while we were gone. Of course we get back, Mark's home with all 6 kids for spring break...and it snows. ;)

Now, almost two weeks later, it's snowing again. Big, fat flakes. And the kids are off of school today.

Poor Mark.

Of course, the kids have work to do today anyway, but it's always harder when they can't go outside and run off some energy.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's a love-hate relationship

Mark took the kids to the zoo today (yes, all 6 of them by himself!). He is so much better about taking pictures than I am. :)

Bianca's still trying to figure out whether or not she likes the dogs, but she is trying.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The herd

Because really, what else could I call all of the animals in our ark??

Chronological age order, right to left

I call this one "Reality" :)

Circus Flora deal

Quick post to say...for those of you in the St Louis area, Groupon (one of those daily deal sites) has a great deal on Circus Flora tickets today. You get two tickets for $19, which basically means it's a B1G1 free deal. The tickets are on the mezzanine side, but if you've ever been to Circus Flora you know there are no bad seats. We took the boys to Circus Flora the first summer they were home and we've wanted to go again, but it just gets really expensive especially with 8(!) of us. I think this link should take you to the deal for Circus Flora:

Groupon for Circus Flora

I still have vivid memories of the boys' faces as they watched the circus and I can't wait to see them there again. :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Home :)

We got home about 6pm Saturday night. Mark started his stopwatch when we left the apartment and it turns out it was right at 24 hours from when we got up Saturday morning in Kyiv to when we walked in our door Saturday night.

The girls did GREAT on the flights. I did have to hold Bianca to get her to fall asleep but she did sleep for about 2 hours on our long flight which was perfect. Our plane was full and we didn't have seats together, so Mark and Julia were in one section of the plane and Bianca and I were in the next section back. Consequently, the only time we saw each other the whole flight was when I took some medicine up to Mark and Julia. But it all worked out and the most important thing is that we made it home. I had a disconcerting moment in the Chicago airport. I had gone to grab some food (McDonald's...way to start them out on a healthy American diet, right?) and when I turned around from McD's I had no idea where I was. I mean, I knew I was in an airport, but other than that I couldn't have told you where in the world I was. Literally.

It took me a few seconds, but I finally remembered I was in Chicago, and then had to remember where our gate was. I'm chalking that one up to exhaustion. ;)

The other kids were so excited to see their new sisters. They were watching from the windows for us to get there, and they had made welcome home signs that were hanging on the door. We got everyone acquainted and (unfortunately for her) acquainted Bianca with our dogs. I have never seen such absolute terror in a child! She was screaming and kept yelling that the dogs were going to eat her. Having been through this a couple of times, we already had a plan for dealing with this. Once we headed upstairs to bed, we kept the dogs downstairs and I talked to Bianca, asking her in Russian if the dogs had eaten any of the other kids (Alex, Tim, Danielle, and Emily). You could see the understanding dawning on her face as we talked, and she went to bed fine that night.

Yesterday she started being brave and would reach out to pet Samson (the "little" 50 lb retriever) but was still terrified of McKinley (the 65 lb Husky). Today she has started petting McKinley as long as McKinley isn't looking at her. LOL I'd say by the end of the week she'll barely be noticing them. I will also say that it has helped tremendously to be able to talk to her in Russian. I'm not fluent, but have enough words that I can explain things to her (although my verb tenses are usually wrong).

So far all of the kids are getting along great. I anticipate more problems in the next week or two as everyone gets more comfortable. However, we went to the playground yesterday and it just felt like the girls had been here forever. Bianca came up to me at home last night and said something and I was so confused that she was speaking Russian and not English. It took me a minute to remember that she had only been home for 18 hours. LOL

Friday, March 11, 2011

We have it!

We have the visa in hand and are all set for our flights out tomorrow.

We've spent the day playing and hanging out. Julia has finally decided that Papa is really a lot of fun. :) She was a little unsure the first few days, but now she really likes having a papa...except of course when she's getting in trouble, and then she's not so fond of mama either. ;)

Someone had asked in the comments: our first trip was exactly two weeks door-to-door, and this second trip for me is 13 days door-to-door (Mark was here for the second week). Our first trip was a little shorter than normal (I'd say 2.5 weeks is about average since you have to wait for your court date), and the second trip was a little long due to various difficulties, including a holiday in the middle of our trip which caused delays. So our total adoption time counting the 10-day wait was right at 5 weeks (most people run 5-7 weeks).

Waiting for visa

I talked to the Embassy this morning and the visa approval has come through so now they just have to print it, which should happen in the next hour or so. They said definitely today. :)

We have already rebooked our flights for coming home tomorrow. All is good.

In answer to what happened yesterday, I didn't elaborate because I'm trying very hard not to place blame. It really was a string of events that caused an unfortunate cascade. I will elaborate more on some of the details later, but suffice it to say that I would recommend ALL adopting families to go to the medical center as early in the morning as possible. Would that have avoided our situation? Maybe, maybe not.

The Embassy is going to call when the visa is ready, so in the meantime I think we're headed out to play!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A glitch

We're not coming home.

At least, not yet.

The US Embassy wasn't able to issue one of the girls' visas today, so we can't leave tomorrow. We should be able to get the visa tomorrow (really hoping, since we just paid to change our flights and I don't want to change them again!). There were a lot of potential factors that played into not getting the visa today, but in the end it doesn't matter. All that matters is that we didn't get it and we're hoping for tomorrow.

Other than that things are good here. I can really only say that now because I've had a lot of chocolate. ;) The girls are doing really well. Today in the car Bianca was talking to our driver and was talking about her "sister, Julia". So sweet.

We did a family tradition this morning at a specific playground here in Kyiv. All 6 of our kids have now played on the same playground while waiting to go home. :)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Loss of internet

Yesterday we moved apartments, into the old apartment of our friends the Bowdens. Their apartment was a little more convenient to the places we were spending the most time, so we thought it would be nice for the remaining few days we had left. However, we weren't sure how well the internet worked as the Bowdens didn't have a computer with them. Once we got moved in, we realized there wasn't any internet.

Our facilitator Yulia spent most of yesterday trying to get in touch with the landlord, but it was a holiday yesterday and she wasn't able to reach her. This morning we found out that they are doing some work on the lines and we do not have internet in our aparment. Yulia was so helpful and brought over a wireless modem for us to use, so now we do have internet in our apartment!

All-around good news: We received word that the girls' passports are done, so they will arrive here in Kyiv tomorrow morning. We had our first visa appointment at the US Embassy today. Unfortunately, they requested some additional information for us. A wonderful person from my HR has already provided us with one of the documents they needed and we will take the other one (a letter from Mark and me) tomorrow when we go for our second appointment.

The girls are doing well. We do pretty much the same thing every day. Breakfast, go outside to play or walk, lunch, nap, go outside to play or walk, dinner, bath/bed. Bianca made a new friend at the playground today. They were more or less instantly inseparable, and her new friend was very sad when we left. It was cute. ;)

Prayer requests: We will have the girls' medicals tomorrow morning at 11am (you'll all be sleeping--that's 3am CST!) and then our second visa interview is at 2pm. Please pray that the medicals will go well and that we will be able to get the girls' visas we can go home FRIDAY! :)

Monday, March 07, 2011


We're a boring crew around here. Everyone's sleeping but me. :)

The girls have been napping every day from about 12:30-1:30, but they sleep longer if we've done a lot in the morning. We walked a lot this morning so they're pretty tired, and Mark's tired from all of the traveling (and waiting in the airport!).

I'm hanging out, waiting for everyone to wake up. We're going to meet up with the Bowdens (another RR family) this afternoon before they leave for home tomorrow. We're still hoping to get the girls down to Independence Square, but it's been cold and windy and it's a bit of a walk from our apartment for them. We're staying in an apartment basically at the other end of Kreschatik. But there's lots to do right around us and we've found several playgrounds. The girls LOVE to swing and even better, they love to push each other. ;)

If we can remember to take the camera, I'll try to get some pictures of us out and about in Kyiv. I couldn't manage it with the girls by myself, but now there are extra hands!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Update on Mark :)

I just talked to him on the phone. :) :) He's with Nico and they're on the way to the apartment right now. YAY!!!! :) :)

Mark's arrival

I've been on pins and needles all day, and time has seemed to drag more slowly than I ever remember. I've been checking Mark's flight status, and they left Germany about 30 minutes late, so I knew he would be getting here late too. But at an hour after his plane had arrived, with still no sign of him, I started to worry.

He didn't have a cell phone with him, although he did have plenty of grivna. He had my cell phone number but not the apartment address, because Nico would pick him up at the airport.

Therein was the problem.

When I arrived last Monday, I told Nico when Mark would be coming. He asked me to call and remind him the day before.

I forgot. And Nico forgot.

I called Nico after Mark had been waiting at the airport for an hour and half, and he had completely forgotten Mark was coming in today. I'm relatively certain Mark is here, because I received two calls from an unfamiliar number, but I couldn't hear anyone on the other end. The second time, I told Mark (if it was him) to wait at the airport, that Nico was on his way.

Still waiting here. :(

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Picture post

My luggage. Contained within were the following: four pairs pants, 5 pairs socks and underwear, four shirts, two sweaters, two winter coats, two hats, two pairs mittens, two pairs shoes, two pairs pajamas, two stuffed animals, two notebooks, 24-pack crayons, one puzzle pairs set, one book, one photo album (all of the previous for the girls); dossier documents, netbook, sudoku book, camera, charger and adapters, two cell phones (one US, one UA), notebook, money belt, travel kleenex, 5 granola bars, sleep mask, one sweater, one pair thermal tights, one long underwear top, 5 pairs underwear, 5 pairs socks, slippers, pajamas, toiletries, pocket Russian dictionary/phrase books, comb. Now you have a packing list. ;)

An Amstor in Mariupol.

An Amstor in Donetsk.

I've tried to explain to people that Ukrainians have a love affair with mayonnaise. Why do you think I like it here so much? This is a billboard for lemon mayonnaise. :) They have whole aisles in the supermarket just for mayonnaise, and that's not an exaggeration!

Leaving the orphanage and driving to Donetsk for passports, with Sasha (our regional facilitator--she's awesome!)

Mad at me because I wouldn't take her seatbelt off. I know she looks worried here, but she spent most of the drive scowling at me. :)

Their first bubble bath. They were enthralled with the bubbles!

Three Reece's Rainbow angels who are orphans no more! "Darla", "Sophie", and "Candace"

Less than 16 hours

Today was a good day. We only had two wailing fits/temper tantrums, I think. Nevermind that one of them lasted for a hour and a half. And no, none of them were mine. ;)

I didn't go into all of the details about the little things that were derailing me a few days ago (with my rant post) but suffice it to say that we have toilet paper today and that has made a tremendous difference in my ability to stay calm during the tantrums. I really am serious about that. :) Running out of toilet paper, then buying paper towels by mistake because I was in a hurry and couldn't find any more toilet paper in the apartment (it was there), then staining the only pair of pants I have here because I only packed enough necessary items to get me to the Amstor in Mariupol which never happened...

A lot of little things piled up and I was finding it difficult to be as rational as I should be with handling two newly adopted children.

But we have toilet paper again, so I handled the 1.5 hour tantrum today calmly. The tantrum started because I asked Bianca to go to the bathroom so we could go outside. She didn't want to go and I told her we weren't going outside until she went, and she lost it. Not at all unexpected for a child in her situation. She is desperate to control anything she possibly can, because she's just lost everything, and I do mean everything.

When we were in Mariupol, one of the days we visited Julia brought out her worldly goods.

It made me want to cry. A few pieces of broken toys, a lego piece, a little doll, a coloring book...the little penguin thing she got after a visit to the hospital. Behind that is a birthday card from her caretakers this past January.

None of it came with her when she left the orphanage.

Can you imagine wanting something so badly that you would give up everything you owned, and everything you know, to obtain that? I'm not sure I could do that. But all of my kids have.

If they had told someone they didn't want to be adopted, they most likely would have been able to stop the adoption (except maybe Emily, because she had no speech and was only 3). They were old enough to make a choice. No, they probably didn't realize everything that choice entailed, but they knew they would be leaving. And they chose to leave. For us.

People they had only met a few times, but who held their hopes and dreams in our hands.

They left it all.

I think I'd be crying all day.

Friday, March 04, 2011


Thank you guys for being so understanding of my little rant this morning. I'm not as crabby as I sound in the post. ;) And I really did laugh reading the comments, mainly because I knew several of you who had been through this and I remember what a nightmare it was for you (Tami, your situation with Maddie specifically came to mind!). Mark and I have always done the whole adoption together, so this is new territory for me and I definitely wasn't prepared for how much I would miss him. That's what I get for being in love with my husband. ;)

Today was really a good day. A few more wailing fits in the apartment, but the girls do such a great job when we're out walking around. They cling to my hands when we're out walking the streets and when we go to eat at restaurants (Ukrainian buffets which are cheap and I can try different foods on them...doesn't matter, they eat EVERYTHING) they sit nicely and eat so well. They love to go walking and window shop, and especially to see all of the people. What they are usually most interested in is other kids. It's so interesting to me to watch them with other kids on the playground when they start to realize that each child has his or her own mama. This is something new for them and they watch the other mamas interact with their kids very intently.

I'm hoping to make it to Independence Square tomorrow. We didn't quite make it that far today. We made it a ways down Kreschatik but then the girls decided it was lunch time, and after lunch they were literally begging for naps. The walking wears them out. :) So hopefully tomorrow we will have fewer wailing fits and more time to walk. It's cold here but sunny and very beautiful.

Also, I got some good news today from the Embassy. We were concerned that since we won't have our passports until Thursday (that was confirmed today) that we would not be able to make our flights on Friday. That's not a big deal; it would just mean we fly home on Saturday instead. But I couldn't decide whether or not to change our flights. The Embassy said we can do our paperwork appointment on Wednesday and then come in for the visa on Thursday when we have the passports. They should be able to finish the visa on Thursday and we can still make out flights on Friday. That bit of news really lifted my spirits. Nothing changed, but I think it was stressing me out that the "end" seemed very indefinite. ;)

I know there are so many of you who have been in much more difficult situations. I don't know how those of you with medically needy or fragile children do it, especially if it is a one-parent situation. Shopping and normal activities just become much more difficult, and I would imagine nearly impossible for those of you with children who are more limited. Anyway, thanks for letting me be honest on the blog about the things that are hard. :)

You guys are funny

I get that you're being totally sincere, and I do appreciate the well-wishes and congratulations, but I am NOT thrilled about having the girls with me. :) Trust me, it is much easier to just have a few days with them here in Ukraine before being able to go home as opposed to a week and a half.

I am in a city where I don't know anyone, barely speak the language, and have two small children with whom I can't communicate. There is no part of this that is fun. We've already had multiple wailing fits this morning (from both girls--and it's only 9am). I know they're grieving, I know everything is different for them, and it is for me too. I don't know them and they don't know me. To them I am another caretaker, but one that they can't talk to and that they have a hard time understanding. Bianca has wet the bed two nights in a row, not because she's a bedwetter but because in the orphanage they get in trouble for getting up at night, so she doesn't know she can get up to go to the bathroom (we're already working on this one). So I've been washing laundry in a bathtub every morning and I expect that to continue.

Right now we do not expect to have the girls' passports until next THURSDAY. This is not wait a few days and head home. We are here in a small apartment for awhile. Thankfully it's been sunny (although a little cold still, but better than a couple of weeks ago) but all of the playgrounds are still covered in snow so our only "exercise" is to walk. We walked to Kreschatik yesterday and I'm thinking we'll hit Independence Square today--once we get through the wailing fits. ;)

I am thankful that the girls are ours, but we have never wanted to take our kids from the orphanages early for this very reason. It is very hard on them and us, and it is difficult to set boundaries when you are still nowhere near home. So we're working on it and I know this is good bonding time together. I know God did this for a reason and I don't question that at all. But it doesn't mean I have to like it! :)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Change in plans

I don't think we've yet had an adoption that didn't have one of those days...where everything you thought you knew turned out to be totally and completely wrong (in this case, our plan for the next couple of weeks).

Remember these two?

They're here. With me.

In Kyiv.

Big change of plans. :)

Wednesday started off as planned, with driving to Enakiev (I'm SURE it has other spellings, that's just the one I've seen most often here, but it's actually pronounced Yenakiev) to get Julia's birth certificate and tax ID. Then we went to Makiivka to close out the girls' bank accounts there. All of that went more or less easier than the previous day, but we still didn't get done with those until noon. At 12:45, the sky started falling. ;)

Sasha called the orphanage director so that we could take the girls out to have digital scans made in Donetsk for their passports. This meant we would be driving the girls from Mariupol to Donetsk (about 2 hours) and back. But the orphanage director refused to let us take them unless we signed them out permanently. The other option was she would have the girls taken to Donetsk in one of the orphanage cars with an orphanage worker, hopefully today. But this completely threw off the timeline we're still hoping to make for this second trip, and it wasn't clear that the girls would definitely go to Donetsk today, so the best option was to go ahead and take them out.

We drove back to Mariupol, I ran into Amstor to grab tights (the only thing I hadn't brought for the girls, intentionally) and then we went to the baby house to pick them up. Then they wouldn't let us go until we closed out their Mariupol bank accounts. We made it back to Donetsk right before 6pm for the passport scans. Sasha had called ahead and the woman was waiting for us. After that was a quick run to the train to try to head to Kyiv, since there was no reason to hang out in either Donetsk or Mariupol with the girls, and Mark will be coming into Kyiv on Sunday. we're here, waiting for our passports to arrive. :)

By the way, the train from Donetsk to Kyiv was REALLY nice! Way nicer than the trains in the US that I've been on. The girls did great on the train although it took Bianca a long time to fall asleep. But then, I couldn't sleep either so I can't blame her. It was a pretty exciting day!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

In Donetsk

I arrived about an hour late this morning, and we did hit the ground running. First we went to the courthouse to get the court decree. We then went to the orphanage to get the girls' old birth certificates and then back to the social worker's building to get the birth certificate dossiers (a requirement in Donetsk). While there, they realized there was a mistake on the court decrees with Bianca's birthname, so we had to run back to the courthouse to get a few corrected copies.

After all of that was done, we drove to Donetsk to start the process for new birth certificates. We got Bianca's new birth certificate and then went to apply for her name to be changed on her tax ID code (like our social security numbers). The woman there had never done a name change on a tax ID for an adoption so it took TWO HOURS to change her name and get one quarter sheet of paper. So we weren't able to even start any of the documents for Julia. All of hers will (hopefully) happen tomorrow when we drive to Enakiev and Makiivka for her birth certificate and tax ID change. Long days, but so worth it!

Blogging from the train

I was so spoiled on my flight from Dusseldorf to Kyiv. I had an aisle seat but no one else in the seats next to me so I had three seats to myself. I tried to sleep but it just didn’t happen.

Nico met me at the airport and took me to the train station. We were able to get a whole second-class compartment (4 tickets, $100) for the same price as one first-class ticket, so I chose to travel second-class. It meant I had the whole compartment to myself instead of sharing with another person. There’s not, in my opinion, a huge difference between first and second class on the train. First class only has two bunks per compartment; second has four. The beds are a little different: first class has something like velour on the beds/seats, and second class has what I think is vinyl. But I haven’t noticed any significant differences in the bathrooms or the service. Nico asked the train lady to take care of me (not sure what he thought I was going to do!) and ordered tea (chai) for me. Tea on the train is 3 grivna per cup, so about $0.37 each.

Since my train ride is 16 hours long, I had a lot of time. I spent the first few hours reading and waiting for the bathroom. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to ride on the trains in Ukraine, you are not allowed to use the bathroom while the train is stopped or going through towns. This is because the toilet flushes directly on to the tracks. Nope, not kidding at all. We had a lot of stops right in a row after leaving Kyiv so it was awhile before I could get in to the bathroom. After the bathroom, I made myself comfortable and curled up and went to sleep. I woke up a few times (I was actually cold!) but pulled my coat over me and slept well after that. They do have blankets on the train in the compartments, but I’m afraid of them now after Nancy got a rash from them. ;) So I just used the pillow in a pillowcase with another sheet folded around it, and the second sheet folded in half for my bed.

I’m now about 15 minutes away from Mariupol (okay, when I typed this, I thought I was about 15 minutes away. As it turned out, I was still about an hour away as our train was running late). Sasha has said to expect today AND tomorrow to be crazy running-around days, so I expect I will do lots of sitting in the car and handing over money as necessary. :)

Right now all that matters is that I am here and working hard to get our girls home!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Blogging from Dusseldorf

After church this morning everyone brought me to the airport. The kids wanted me to get out of the van so they could go watch the planes taking off and landing. ;) The girls are beyond excited that I’m leaving to go bring their new sisters home. Every time we talk about it we hear lots of “YAY!!! Our sisters are coming home!”

Yesterday we managed to find a mattress for one of the girls’ new beds, but realized after we got it home that it was an extra-long twin. Mark got two mattresses today after I left that will actually fit the beds he is making. We’ve moved the boys into their new room (what used to be the playroom) and they are so excited. They have now built a cardboard door to keep everyone out. I think “everyone” particularly refers to sisters. We’re going to be splitting up Danielle and Emily which I hope will work out well. We’ve had lots of problems with them waking each other up at night. Now we’ll either solve the problem or have four girls awake at night. The current plan is to have Emily and Julia in a room together and Danielle and Bianca sharing a room. That’s always up for adjustments if we see things aren’t working.

My flights were pretty uneventful. The St Louis to Chicago flight was delayed by almost an hour but I had about a 3 hour layover in Chicago so it didn’t affect me. My flight from Chicago to Dusseldorf was on an Airbus, and I highly recommend it over the 777s. The entire Lufthansa Airbus fleet has the individual seatback screens and you can pick what you watch. I had requested an aisle seat this flight as on our last flight Mark and I were on the inside seats (against the wall of the airplane) and the gentleman on the aisle did not get up once during the entire flight from Chicago to Frankfurt. I take that back, he got up the two times I asked him to get up. But I prefer getting up during the flights much more often than that, and I like to be able to get up without asking permission. ;) So I made sure to get an aisle seat this time. After I was seated, the flight attendant came along and asked if I’d like to move towards the back, as there was an empty aisle seat with another empty seat next to it. Moving gave me and the three gentlemen I was originally sitting with all more room, which was great.

The disadvantage to the seatback screens is that I had no incentive to sleep. :) :) I watched an episode of Mr. Monk, Disney cartoons, and the movies R.E.D. (better than I expected), Easy A (cute, very funny in some places), and Megamind (cute, but nothing spectacular). Nope, I didn’t sleep at all. It’s 8:35am here in Dusseldorf and I’ve been awake for 19 hours. I’m hoping not to sleep in the airport, but I’m sure I’ll sleep on my next flight to Kyiv. And then there’s always the overnight train to the girls. :)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A quick week

A lot of people were really confused as to why we came home during our ten-day wait. In all honesty, it was mostly for our kids. Alex in particular really needed to see us come back, and it would have been really hard on him to wait for 5 weeks. Plus Mark and I were able to work for a week and it's always good to get paid, plus that time doesn't count against our FMLA leave. :)

It's also allowed us to get some more things done for the girls. I had saved a lot of 4T clothing that Emily had outgrown, anticipating that any new kids would be younger and smaller than she. However, Bianca is older and Julia is definitely not smaller!

Right now we're guessing both girls will be in size 5 clothing. I definitely did NOT have enough size 5 to split up among the three girls (Danielle is in size 6/7) so we hit the Walmart clearance. Plus one of my coworkers went through her daughter's clothes and brought me a lot of stuff (most of which will be going back with me to Ukraine!).

It's been nice to be home in my own bed, be able to pay bills and get things taken care of here, and hang out with the kids and enjoy their week with them. Mark's mom has still been here too (which has been WONDERFUL! :)) and it's been fun to watch her get to know the kids better.

Tomorrow, I head back to Ukraine. Mark will join me in another week, but there's no reason for both of us to go paperchase. I doubt I'll even get to see the girls until Wednesday, because Tuesday will be a crazy mad driving-around-the-Donetsk-region paperchase day. We have to go where the girls were born to get their new birth certificates, and not only were they not born in the same place, both of their birth cities are a few HOURS from where they are now.

Satan has tried a few tricks to derail us this week, but I've just sat back and let God handle it. And all of it has been handled. Thanks, God! :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Advocating by video

I know some special needs seem more daunting than others, and Down syndrome is often one that people shy away from. I don't think it's the day-to-day living that concerns most people, but worry about what will become of their child when he or she is older. Will he be able to live alone? Who will take care of her?

But these questions are not necessarily any different questions than I have for my children now. I believe at this point in time that they will all live independently. But who will care for them? Make sure they are on the right path? Watch over them, make sure they eat well and get enough sleep?

At some point, we have to trust that as the future unfolds, so will clarity for our children and their futures. This is not to say that we can't plan, but more that it is easier to plan as you get to know your child and what will work best for him or her. Many people with Down syndrome live more productive lives than some of the non-special needs adults I know. They graduate high school and college, find employment, live independently, and enjoy life just like the rest of us.

But here's the bigger question.

Are you really concerned for their future, or yours?

Are you worried that there won't be someone to care for them, or worried that it will still be you when you were wanting to be done parenting and enjoying the golden years of your life?

Are you willing to let a child die--unloved...alone...

Or worse, suffer through a life of indignity, waiting to die, doing that you can have the life you think is best for you?

Yes, it's harsh. And so is the reality of life for these children. Sadly, many of them are not adoptable because they are social orphans and their parents have not relinquished their rights. They will never know a family's love and care.

But what about the rest? What about the others, who only wait for someone to step step out in faith...believing that it is more worthy to serve the least of these instead of ourselves?

Sunday, February 20, 2011


We arrived home Saturday evening about 5:30pm. The flights were great and we actually managed to get exit rows for two of them (no, not the really long one ;)).

Poor Emily put her hands on her hips when we got home and said "Where are my sisters??" She is very proud to tell you she has two new sisters names Julia and Bianca. All of the kids are really excited to get the girls home, which is so sweet.

Now it's back into the swing of things for a week. We had lots of school papers to go through and we let the kids sort their Valentines yesterday--that was on hold until we got home.

We've had two meltdowns since getting home from two different kids. I was just happy they were at two different times. I fully expected this since they are all on emotional overload with us being gone for a couple of weeks and then being home again.

And while we were traveling, Bianca turned six. So for those of you keeping track, it's 8 (Alex), 7 (Tim), 7 (Danielle), 6 (Bianca), 5 (Emily), 5 (Julia). And yes, we've already nearly had heart attacks at the thought of what our household will be like in 10 years!! ;)

Friday, February 18, 2011

In Kyiv Kyiv again.

First answers to questions: yes, Mark is planning to play without a second baseman. :) :) We've been here for not even two weeks--we arrived on Feb 6, had our SDA Feb 7, and will be returning home Feb 19. It will be exactly 2 weeks door to door traveling. We haven't done anything unusual to get such a short timeframe. It just worked out with our court date. The French couple who was at the same orphanage met their child the same day we did and had court the same day. The Italian couple met their child the day after the rest of us and have court scheduled for the 28th. :( You're at the mercy of the system here. It could just have easily been us with court on the 28th.

The train ride was great; quite possibly the best train ride I've ever been on in Ukraine. I know that sounds sarcastic, but I'm serious. It was quiet, COOL (very uncommon for Ukraine trains), and not smoky. Both Mark and I slept. I love the motion of the train--it's actually hard for me to stay awake for any length of time while the train is moving!

Once in Kyiv, Nico picked us up and took us to our apartment. We have a great view of the Kyiv skyline. I took a panoramic picture but haven't downloaded it off of the camera yet.

Then...we went walking. ;)

We walked to the Lavra (the monastery caves--I've always wanted to go and in the 5 trips we've made to Ukraine hadn't ever gone), then back to our apartment, then to Independence Square, then to the SDA. Along the way we got pictures of the girls developed, bought souvenirs for the kids, exchanged pictures of the girls at the SDA, and had dinner with Serge and Luda. It was great to finally meet Luda since we've exchanged lots of emails regarding adoption documents. :) We got to show Serge pictures of Danielle and Emily--he knew them both when they were in Khmelnitsky and couldn't believe how much they had changed.

Now we're back at the apartment getting ready for our very early wakeup to go to the airport. This time tomorrow (sort of) we'll be home in bed!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Few minutes to update

I have a few minutes before we jump back on the train to head to Kyiv so here's a quick update.

Court was great!! 30 minutes, and a super friendly and nice judge. We were asked lots of questions (even by the jurors) but the judge said she liked all of our answers and couldn't find any reason not to approve the adoption. :)

After court we went to the orphanage to see the girls and tell them we were going home to get things ready for them. Bianca cried. She told Sasha (our interpreter) she was afraid we won't come back for her. :( :(

We then went to a notary for a POA and passport application for the girls. Our tentative plan is for me to come back here next weekend by myself and Mark will meet me and the girls in Kyiv to do the Embassy part after we have finished the rest of the paperwork (birth certificates and Ukrainian passports), so we needed a POA for me to be able to do that without Mark here.

Now we're back at the Amstor for lunch (at 2:30; was very happy we had packed some granola bars for today in anticipation of no time to eat!) and we'll be heading to the train station shortly for the overnight train to Kyiv. We should be able to update again from Kyiv. We'll get there in the morning and will leave early Saturday morning to head back to the States. Our kids don't know when we're supposed to get home yet, just in case we run into some flight delays.

Providing everything goes as scheduled, we'll be at church on Sunday as a family! :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Our new little girls

We are the proud parents of Bianca Anastasia and Julia Svetlana!

Yesterday and today

Yesterday and today have been pretty much the same: visiting with the girls morning and afternoon. We've been sharing taxis with the Italian and French couples and it is an absolute riot when the 6 of us are together. I think one of our taxi drivers was ready to throw us out the other day. He couldn't find the orphanage so he was getting directions in English, French, Italian, and broken Russian. He was very happy to drop us off. :) :)

Both the French couple and Mark and I have court tomorrow at 10am. We aren't quite sure how that's working (since both the city social worker and the orphanage lawyer have to be at both of our courts) so we may actually have court together. My French is gradually coming back but I'm hoping to brush up a little while we're home. Both of the other couples are staying the whole time, so they will be here for our return trip.

I have eaten so much that every day I swear I'm not going to eat anymore. And then we smell some yummy Ukrainian food and I'm hungry again. It's a vicious cycle. ;)

Today we took the mashrutka (bus) to the orphanage with the other couples. They had tried it the other day but had gotten lost, so we had to convince them to try again. Mark and I have never ridden a mashrutka in all of our times in Ukraine so we really wanted to. Now we have, and it was definitely worth the 2 grivna ($0.25) each versus the 20 grivna ($2.50) for the taxi. We have a bit of a walk after we get off the mashrutka which wouldn't be bad if it was something over's a bit cold, and the windchill makes it even colder. I have been VERY glad for my thermal tights.

Tomorrow, Sasha will be here about 9 and we will pick up the social worker and the orphanage lawyer on our way to court. Court is at 10am (4am CST in the US) so we should be done by the time most of you wake up!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Video and photos

For you-know-who, from Miss Big Meanie Pants. LOL
The girls love to sit on my lap and listen to me read from our Russian phrase book, especially B.

Coloring together. J LOVES to color and draw.

This is a video of Mark playing with the girls. J was trying to balance a box on his head and B is sitting at the table playing. I tried to keep their faces out of the shot, but most of you have seen J's picture before anyway. ;)

Our romantic Valentine's Day

For Valentine's Day, Mark and I decided it would be fun to go to the beach. And so we went.

Don't believe me? I have pictures to prove it. :)

Oh, you don't believe we were really there today? Here's the sea behind us.

Mark says his face looks like that because it was so frozen that was as close to a smile as he could get. My face had been wrapped up in my scarf so it was still thawed (mostly). The high today was supposed to be 18F, but I guarantee it was NOT that warm on the beach!

Happy Valentine's Day! Hope yours was WARM! :)

Court date

We have court scheduled for this Thursday, Feb 17, at 10am. If everything goes well (we'll know right after court), we should be home this weekend! Then one or both of us will return in a couple of weeks to finish the process and pick up the girls. :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Adoption in Ukraine

Yesterday we saw a commercial in Ukrainian. There were a bunch of kids (cartoons) playing soccer. Then one mom called her son in, so he left. Gradually more and more kids got called away for supper, and it got dark.

And one little boy was left all alone on the soccer field.

It cut to a screen advocating adoption in Ukraine and giving the sirotstvy website.

YAY for promotion of adoption IN Ukraine!!

Yesterday and today

*We have internet in our hotel now! It's not good enough to Skype (we tried) but it's internet!*

We've had a couple of great visits with the girls. It's been good to see especially how B tests boundaries and how she responds to discipline (which is pretty limited in our current setting). We've been doing mini-timeouts with her sitting next to me in a little chair. We have her sit quietly for about 60 seconds. This has only been after deliberate disobedience where she has been instructed numerous times not to do something (or to stop) and has understood and has continued (or returned to) the behavior. It's been fun to watch how she tries to "negotiate" so that the discipline is on her terms. She's a smart little girl!

J has continued to pep up as she's beginning to believe we really are her mama and papa. As soon as she saw the photo album today she grabbed it and started pointing at pictures asking "mine? mine?" in reference to all of the family members and rooms in our house. She was wound up today--I think the correct term would be giddy. :)

We won't see the girls tomorrow as they have some visitors to the orphanage and don't want any adoptive parents there. But we were able to communicate to both of the girls' caretakers that we wouldn't be there tomorrow so they could help the girls understand.

Other than that, we've been hanging out at the Amstor a lot. :) They know us by sight now and are so friendly. I think they like the funny Americans (or at least like to laugh at us when we order food). We Skyped with the kids yesterday which was great. They wanted to know when we're coming home, but we won't know until we hear about court.

And we've made friends! There is a French couple and an Italian couple adopting from the same orphanage we are. They are all staying in the same hotel and we are going to ride the bus with them on Tuesday. We've had some fun conversations with them, especially the French couple. I speak about as much French as the wife speaks English, so we have some really fun conversations, and we're both translating for our husbands. And of course, the Italian couple speaks Italian, French, German, AND English! :) Both couples are adopting "older" boys which I am so excited about. Most people don't want older kids and they usually don't want boys, so this is great for those kids. And both of the boys look really sweet.

Tomorrow will most likely be a couple of trips to Amstor if it's not too cold--it's supposed to be super cold here for the next few days!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Internet troubles

We're having some problems with internet here, but I wanted to do a quick post and let you know that all is well! More pics are coming, along with details of our days. We haven't heard about court yet but should hear on Monday. And no, sorry, but you won't see any faces until after court. :) In the meantime, "B" and "J" (the first initials of their new names) will continue to be very rude and only show you their backsides. ;)

Friday, February 11, 2011

An interesting 24 hours

Last night as we finished posting our power went out and then back on. A few minutes later we started smelling something burning. Upon investigation, there was smoke filling our stairwell. We were staying in the basement of a transitional housing place for older orphans, so we ran upstairs and woke one of the housemothers up. Since she didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Russian, we called the director and explained the situation. Apparently something had exploded in the wall, blowing out a chunk of the wall and leaving the upstairs without power. We still had power downstairs, but it was very smoky. Since we didn’t have any other place to stay, we went to bed a few hours later hoping nothing would catch fire.

Since we get to visit the girls twice a day during the week and once on Saturday and Sunday, we’ve decided to split the weekly visits so we visit each girl individually once a day and then have them together on the weekends. This way we get to know the girls individually but they also get some time together (they used to be in the same groupa but they aren’t anymore). This morning we visited with J. It was a really good visit since she’s been a little hesitant with us. As far as we know she’s never had anyone visit her for adoption but she’s seen plenty of friends be adopted. She’s not quite sure what to think of us, or even dare to hope that it might be her turn. The first time I referred to Mark and I as her mama and papa she just stared at me. But by the end of our visit she would smile and giggle when we said it, and would say my mama and my papa when looking through the picture book. :)

We visited with B in the afternoon, and she was SO excited to see us. While she is more energetic than J, she sat and colored, and looked through books, and sat and played with us without a problem. She is definitely no more energetic or hyperactive than any of our other kids have been when we’ve visited in the orphanage.

For those of you who may not have been through an adoption with us before, we won’t show any pictures of the girls’ faces until after court. We didn’t hear today when court will be so we should hear on Monday.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thursday, the 10th

(I had to ask Mark what day it was about 6 times today, thus the title of the post!)

Today we got up and went to see the girls again at 9am. Sasha had to get more paperwork signed at the orphanage as well. We played with the girls for about an hour and a half and then took them back to their groupas. Then we had to wait for Sasha...until 1:30pm (yeah, again no eating or bathroom--prepare yourself, adoptive parents!).

We left the orphanage and went to the social worker's office again. We walked over to Amstor while Sasha stayed and worked on documents. They finished with those at about 3pm, and then we went to get the head lady's signature. I don't know who she was, but she didn't want to sign our documents! Finally they were signed and we hurried to the courthouse to file our documents before 5pm (it was 4:50 at this point). We dropped the social worker back off, then drove to the bus station to send our documents back to Kyiv.

We are allowed to visit the girls twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, but if you're following our schedule you'll see we've only been able to see them in the morning. However, we are done paperchasing for the moment and should be able to see them twice tomorrow. We are hopeful to maybe hear our court date tomorrow!

J on the left, B on the right. Like I said, B is tiny--she's a year older than J!

Slight delay (LONG) my posting, that is. Namely because we went to sleep so that we could wake up at midnight and Skype with our kids. It was good to see and hear them, but next time I will stay up instead of going to sleep first. I couldn't get back to sleep until after 3:30am!

Okay, so backing way up (at least it feels that way on this end)...

At the train station we met up with Sasha, our in-region facilitator. She actually missed us because we blend in so well :) :) and called us frantic that we hadn't made it. We were standing in front of the train station, patiently waiting. :)

From the train station we went to the social worker's office. He is hysterical! Probably the most animated Ukrainian I have ever met and so funny. From his office, we went to the orphanage to meet the girls. We heard their medical history and then they brought in B. We were a little concerned about what to expect based on her description from the orphanage nurse and director. She is tiny and very sweet. The first thing she asked was if we were her mama and papa and if we were going to take her home that day. :( After a few minutes they brought J in (known to many of you as Candace) and she was quiet but playful. We then took the girls to another room to play for a little while. We really wanted to observe B in action based on what we had heard, as we weren't sure we were going to accept her referral. However, we saw nothing that led us to believe there would be any problems with her joining our family, so we accepted the referrals for both girls!

From there we went to the notary and then to McDonalds for lunch (we've had more McD's in this week than we ever do at home!) in the hopes of finding wi-fi (nope). Then to a post office, then to the notary, then to the social worker's office again, then to Amstor (like Walmart) while Sasha stayed at the social worker's. Then to our apartment (about 2:30pm). Then we finally got to go to the bathroom (yeah, we really hadn't gone since 8am that morning). :) :)

I did take pictures of the girls but I'm not posting those yet. Patience... :)

We didn't visit with the girls again that day since we were running around (we went back to Amstor when Sasha got back after more running around). Then a little bit of internetting and bed before getting up again to Skype with the kids. That brings us to today...