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!