Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Different Christmas Spirit

I come back to the states and the reality of my life after being in what seemed like another world for a month and a half.  I missed Halloween and pretty much slept through Thanksgiving...I feel like fall disappeared.  So naturally, it's been hard to get in the quote Christmas Spirit.  But I think I have also realized my heart has been changed since arriving home.  My Christmas Spirit has a different tone this year.  I had no excitement about Black Friday (never really have, though)...I had no interest in Cyber enticement to purchase my kid's the latest, greatest toy(s)...and am annoyed by all the catalogs being sent in the mail advertising 'must-have' items.  I do not want to buy my kid's worthless 'stuff' that will get thrown in the toy box after a month of use, I do not want to spend money on items that have no meaning, no value, no worth besides the paper it is wrapped in and labeled by.

Not after what I have seen.

Not after what I have experienced.

Not after what I have been changed forever by.

Nope, my Christmas Spirit is different this year.

Jerad and I both feel this way.  We have decided to do things different this year.  Everyone on our list this year will receive gifts that have meaning, that initiate the idea of giving is better than receiving, and/or create an experience.  I think we will give each child 3 gifts.  One gift will be a desired item.  One gift will be something the child will use to help someone else.  One gift will be for something we can do together as a family or with friends.

No more 'stuff.'

There are too many people out there suffering endlessly.  Starving.  Hurting.  Helpless.  Homeless.

We want to be a part of the change.  We want our kids to be aware of the need of people around them.  Our gift to them is to learn about compassion, caring, serving, giving hope, loving on, and sharing with.  That's our Christmas Spirit.

Some items I've already purchased you may be interested in:

Angel Tree Dollars.

31 Bits Jewelry


Saturday, November 26, 2011

The past few days


From leaving this place...

Waiting at the airport in Kiev at 3 am in the morning.
Meeting up with Luda,at the airport as she prepared to take off for a week's vacation before arriving back to work with other soon-to-be arriving adoptive families!
To entertaining the crowds waiting at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany.  He climbed up and down this window ledge for 2 hours straight, much to everyone else's amusement around us.
Eating on the Germany also.
Eating his first McDonald's meal as a US Citizen in Chicago at the airport.  He liked the nuggets, and spit out all the french fries.  I think it was a texture issue, they were pretty crunchy.  I had no problem eating them for him. :)  He enjoyed the toy too, except that he threw it when we were standing in the terminal to board our plane and it landed in a lady's purse as she walked by...I wasn't going to ask her to stop and retrieve it. Ha!
His first meeting with the rest of the family at the airport in Wichita.
Showing off his walking skills for KSN News 3.
Waking up the first morning to his anxiously awaiting sister's.  Poor Autum, her morning hair is always interesting :)
First attempt at a bath with little sissy.  It was pretty entertaining--lots of splashing, yelling, screaming, bubble blowing, and toy throwing...and a few laughs.

I am amazed at how well he is adjusting to life here.  He is now drinking out of a sippy cup like a rock star, he is feeding himself for the most part.  This boy can put away some food and LOVES mashed potatoes!  He has slept through the night every night so far-he woke up a for a few minutes the first night crying but immediately went back to sleep with a little rocking from mommy.  Thursday he slept from 3 pm in the afternoon until 7 am Friday morning!  This boy was worn out.  He is loving all his new toys and is exploring every inch of our house.  I am anxious for the wind to quit howling so we can go outside to explore!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Coming Home Celebration

Just an update...we are home, as you can see in this video.  We slept fairly well last night.  Blake woke up crying two times out of fear, I think.  He went back to sleep fairly quickly.  We all slept in until about 6:30 am.  So I can't complain, it could have been worse.  I hope everyone takes naps today so we can all rest up.

This morning had the feel of Christmas with the excitement and anticipation of how all the kids would get along.  I left my camera in my mom's bag so I haven't been able to take any pictures, but lots of videos.  Autum doesn't know quite what to think of Blake, they keep wanting the same toys, so it's been a battle of the wills.  Leah is being a great helper, she helped Blake get dressed this morning by putting on his socks.  So I'm excited to have her around to help.  My house is ransacked!  Autum loves pulling the DVD's out of the TV stand and then hands them to Blake who proceeds to throw them across the living room.  They cleared out the whole stand.  Next they went to the kitchen and unpacked all my cookbooks and envelopes from the shelves...then the phone books, rags, and towels.  So I guess until they are done exploring I'll leave the mess!

I'll write more later...they are headed to the bathroom...oh no!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The crying little girl..

Okay, so you remember how God broke my and Sarah's heart for this little girl?

If not, read here.
And here.

Now remember?

Well, this story has a happy ending that God allowed my mom and I to witness on our last morning visit with Blake.  On Saturday's the orphanage is always hustling and bustling with visiting parents of children, grandparents giving hugs to children their own children abandoned, volunteers, etc.  Well on this particular Saturday, the orphanage waiting room was filled with people.  We know our way around well enough, now, that we pushed on through and made our way to Blake.  We took him to his regular spot, to play in the music room, where we were greeted by 2 of the families we saw in the front waiting room.  One woman was there to visit with who I am assuming was her son.  She was entertaining he and Blake with bananas, cookies, and candy.  Her little guy was laughing and learning to walk around, he actually took a few steps that day much to her and everyone else's excitement.  But that wasn't the best part....

The best part was what was about to happen with the other family.  It looked as if there was a young couple, along with a set of his or her parents, and another woman (who I later decided was a social worker)...they all spoke Russian.  They were all anxiously waiting on the couch.  Not long after we let Blake loose to play on the floor, did the door open and in walked a nurse holding baby Ylena (which I later learned was her name).  This little gal was the 1-year old that Shawn and Sarah witnessed being dropped off and Jerad and I saw the staff trying to take an orphan listing photograph of later on.  She still had the same fear in her eyes, the same feeling dug down in my soul as I made eye contact with her.  But what I saw next literally brought me to tears.  The nurse handed her over to what looked to be her 'new mommy!!!'  The woman gently took the young, delicate little Ylena in her arms and talked so sweetly to her.--Ylena's disposition began to soften.  The mommy reached in her purse and pulled out a cookie to entice Ylena's attention and calm her fears.  Little Ylena relaxed even more, I think I even witnessed a small attempt at a smile.  The mommy walked around the room with her, almost floating as she hummed a song, as if this mommy needed baby Ylena as much as Ylena needed a mommy.  I looked back at the family and the grandparents were smiling ear to ear, while the father was beaming.  This little gal had captured their hearts already.  As she did Sarah and I's...and so many of yours.  I received so many emails and comments about how you were touched by this little gal's story.  I know many of you were praying, hoping, someone would make her their own.  I just did not realize God would allow us the blessing to witness it firsthand before we left Ukraine.  What an awesome God we serve!

One who is so careful about timing and details.
One who heard so many prayers.
One who loves all the children of the world.
One who knew my heart needed to rest about this child.
One who should receive all the glory for this amazing event!

I was able to watch the family interact with Ylena throughout the whole morning visit.  The grandma took her next, as she seemed to be more comfortable with women.  She took her to the window and pointed and began to describe various things to Ylena.  She hugged her and kissed her little head.  Next the mommy placed Ylena on the nervous daddy's lap.  Ylena stiffened up and let out a cry.  The daddy immediately handed her off.  Ha!  By the end of the 1 1/2 hours, though, the father was ready to make another attempt at holding her.  He picked her up with one hand while distracting her with a cookie with the other.  Soon he whisked her away to the window, and began to stroke her hair, straighten Ylena's dress out, and look her over, as Ylena gazed out the window.  I could just feel the love this family had to offer for this little child, and I couldn't be more excited and emotional for how this story ended.
Can't you just see it?  Love.

I was always a sucker for happy endings, especially the ones that don't occur in fairy tales!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wrap Up


We picked up Blake's Visa today.  We walked up to the US Embassy, the guard recognized us, ushered us past the long lines of people awaiting their Visa's, and away we went.  We were the only family in the adoption unit.  Because we are the last US family adopting right now, until adoptions are reopened (which I heard today will be SOON!!).  We walked out of there an hour later with Visa in hand!  That was our last official step in this process for Blake to become a US Citizen when we step foot on US soil in Chicago tomorrow afternoon!!

The past few days have been a whirlwind of driving, waiting, sleeping, driving, waiting, signing papers, waiting.  Anyway, here is a bit of a synopsis of what all we had to do, pay close attention at how your prayers made everything possible.  There were so many things that happened this past week, that we really should not have been able to do--but God went before us, just like I have been praying, and prepared the way.

Sunday night: Gotcha Day!
Monday morning:
5 am--Rise and Shine.  Fly to Kiev from Lugansk Airport.  We said goodbye to Violetta for the last time.  I'm going to miss her and her sweet daughter and family.

First plane ride!

9:30 am--Arrive in Kiev.  Niko picked us up we headed straight to the US Embassy to begin the process to obtain a Visa. We had confirmed an appointment online the week before...but, for some reason we were not on the list and they weren't going to let us in.  I called Luda, she made some calls, the next thing I know, we are being rushed inside past all the waiting lines to get Blake's paperwork turned in.  We didn't even have to wait a minute!  Praise God moment #1.
10:30 am--Head over to the hospital to have Blake's medical appointment.  I was so apprehensive about this appointment for some reason, because so many other family's have had major issues with their child's medical appointment--and were held up here for another few weeks. We found out the nurse who usually checks the child in and takes his vitals, weighs him, and takes his height was out to we sat down thinking we would be waiting awhile for her to return.  Not long after a physician sticks his head out of the doorway, waves at us and in we went.  He began speaking to me in English, asking lots of questions about Blake, etc.  He looked him over, played with him a little bit, told me to redress him, signed some papers and told me to go wait in the waiting room.  5 minutes later he comes back and hands me a big white envelope containing Blake's medical results that the US Embassy will need to issue his Visa.  Niko's eyes about popped out of his head...he has never seen a medical appointment go so quickly.  We were in and out of there in 30 minutes!!
Praise God moment #2.
2:00 pm--We go to our apartment.  No Internet.  Great, I haven't talked to Jerad in a few days, I want to see the girls, and was most looking forward to Skyping with Blake and the such luck.
4:30 pm--Begin to wind down for the evening and I decide to give Blake a bath because of a poopy mess we had earlier in the day.  I turned on the hot water...and nothing.  I call Luda, she tells me she'll call the landlord about the Internet and the water issue.
6:00 pm--Luda finally calls back and says the housecleaning lady will be by soon to figure out the boiler for the water and that a computer specialist will be by at 9:00 pm that night to fix the computer.  Not ideal, but I'll stay up late and wait for him just so I can talk to my family...
7:00 pm--Housecleaning lady shows up, messes with water boiler...she can't figure out what is wrong with the heater either.  But she is able to show me how to rework the wires for the Internet, and voila!  We have Internet.  She calls landlord. We can either move apartments or maintenance man will come later that night to help fix it.  We decided to just wait and move to a new apartment Tuesday morning.
9:00 pm--Luda calls back and tells me they have realized we are at 'great' risk for there to be an explosion and gas leak in our apartment.  WHAT???  Blake has been asleep for hours now and my mom just went to bed too.  She said we would need to move apartments now or allow the maintenance man in at 9:30 pm to try to fix it..if he couldn't we would need to move to another apartment across town.  Ugh.
9:30 pm--Maintenance man returns with housecleaning lady (who asked to come back and wait with me so I wasn't left alone with the maintenance man--so sweet!)
11:30 pm--Hot water!  No more gas leaks. I am so grateful to Luda for staying on top of this issue for us and making sure we stayed safe.  It could have been a bad situation if we had not had our water boiler fixed and we had slept here unknowingly.  Praise God moment #3.
He is beginning to like his baths again.  But he still prefers to stand outside the tub and throw stuff in. :)
He kind of likes running around in just a diaper too! :)
 And the most important part, Blake has been a super-trooper throughout all of this.  He sleeps in the car as soon as it starts moving.  He plays quietly while we sit through appointments.  He has taken his naps and slept all night.  He is eating like a horse.  He skyped for the first time last night with Leah.  He kept licking the screen and closing the laptop lid. 

So like I said, we have felt your prayers through this whole journey.  They have paved the way for our process to continue on smoothly, they have kept us safe, they have moved mountains!  Praise God and praise you all!

If you would like to welcome Blake to the US tomorrow, we will be arriving at 5:57 pm at Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita, Kansas.  Channel 3 news will be there to finish their previous story on our adoption journey.  What a great way to celebrate!  We would love to see you all there.

Trying to help me by putting on his own shoes.

It didn't take him long to start getting 'naughty'...he pulled all of the DVD's of the TV stand and threw them on the floor and then looked at me like this.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Gotcha Day..for real this time..

 And I have pictures to prove it!
Wave goodbye to this orphanage, forever!!

We couldn't stand it any longer on Sunday, so I called Violetta, our translator, about 3 pm and said "WE ARE READY TO BUST THAT BOY OUT OF THERE!" I was a bit disappointed because she wouldn't be able to drive us herself, but she did us the honor of calling a taxi for our last trip to the orphanage.  We arrived during naptime, so we snuck in the room and the nurse scooped him up out of his bed, and as soon as he saw us he spit his pacifier out (which I now wish I knew he used) and smiled really big.  It was like he knew.  In fact, the night before when we visited him I went to take him back to his groupa and he REFUSED to let go of me...he was clinging to my shirt for dear life.  I just got this overwhelming feeling like he knew, again.   

Thank you Lord for answering my prayers for this little boy.  Thank you for whispering sweet words to his little heart throughout this whole journey, preparing him for his family, and for us, and for this day....finally!

We handed over his little jeans, button down shirt, onesie, Spiderman tights, new sneakers, gigantic coat, and hat in exchange for his old, worn out, non-personal orphanage clothes.

This little guy cleans up nice.  I kept thinking he looked like a totally different kid in these clothes!

This was the size of the smile I got when the nanny handed him over to me.  Brought me to tears!  
Tears of joy!  
Tears of relief!  
Tears of gratitude!
Tears of love!
Tears of disbelief!

I was finally getting to bring the boy God had planned for me--home, to a safe place, to people who loved him and would provide him with a quality of life.
"'Quit hugging me mom, let's get out of here!"
"Paka, Paka." We purchased him a towel, shown in this picture, that is authentic to Ukrainian culture.  Baby's are gifted with these towels at birth and carry it with them throughout all significant events in their lives.  So we bought one for Blake to begin his journey with us.  
The final walk.
Our handsome little man at the apartment.

First bath.  He wasn't too crazy about it.

Sweet-smelling boy.
We had to spike his hair, just once.

This kid loves mirrors!  He licks them whenever he sees himself! I know what toy we will keep handy for use on the 9-hour plane ride home.

It didn't take him long to warm up to his new surroundings and want to explore! In case you are wondering, all kids in Ukraine wear tights under their clothing for warmth, so when I found these Spiderman tights at the outdoor market I couldn't pass them up!

When we got back to the apartment we gave him a bath, as I was dying to rid him of that orphanage smell.  Then we ate some supper.  Mom and I attempted to make borscht like they do here, it was a poor attempt, but tasted good all the same.  He scarfed it down, along with the 2 packets of baby food I had with me.  We are trying to keep his diet very similar to what he is used to eating to avoid any digestive problems or allergic outbreaks.  Needless to say, I still had to experience that first, horrible, what I was warned about, beyond stinky diaper, all other adoptive mom's had warned me about...phew!  My mom walked around the apartment with her shirt over her nose while opening the windows (even though it was freezing outside) to just help clear the air.  Phewweee!

I slept with Blake last night on a pull-out couch, because we did not have a playpen in region to use and because I was afraid he would fall out of the big bed.  His staff told us he drinks warm tea before bed every night, so we made his tea and I slipped a little bit of Melatonin in it to help him calm down and sleep well.  I rubbed his back for a couple of minutes, he did some rocking and self-soothing (which is common for orphans) and was out like a light!  He only kicked me a few times during the night!

All I know is this feels so surreal.  This feels like I am dreaming.  I watched Blake sleep last night as I lie awake praying to God out of gratitude and overwhelming joy. I couldn't help but realize as I watched Blake sleep that I had the same feelings well up within me as I do when I watch my girl's sleep at night.  I smiled because only God could create this bond, this love, this child, and this perfect end to a day.

Because this is the day the Lord has Made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Operation: Get that Boy...Day 5

     Today was a lot less stressful of a day...we slept in this morning.  Then visited Blake.  There were a lot of other family's visiting today so the music room we always play in was a little chaotic.  I didn't feel like we got the same one-on-one time we normally get with our visits, so it was hard to share. (I have an amazing story to share about these visiting families but I can't share it yet) We walked to and from the orphanage for our morning visit, we figured it is about 5k one-way, so we got a total of 10k, or 6.2 miles in of walking this morning.  Then I took mom to the open-air market in the center of Lugansk just to experience that madness.  We ended up purchasing quite a few items for family and friends back home.  We laughed that we did most of our Christmas shopping today, we'll just have to spend our time going home working to get the smoke smell out of everything! 

This afternoon we drove back to the orphanage, as it got VERY cold here today.  We got an hour to play with Blake at his last evening visit in that orphanage FOREVER.  I can say that now and be sure!  We are going to the store this evening to get some last minute items we'll need for his and our survival in the apartment the next few days.  I don't want to have to get him out much in this cold, for fear of him getting sick.  Anyway, I tried to explain to him tonight is his last night in the orphanage, he just looked at me and stuck his tongue out and spit.  (which is something his daddy taught him to do before we left last time) :) :) 

Ohh, and he is getting to be such a smart boy.  Today we really worked with him on how to sign 'please.'  I would pat his chest with his hand and verbalize 'please'...then I would give him a bit of a cookie.  We did it several times before he did it himself!!!  I was so excited.  He is really going to thrive once we get home and really work on things.  He did it one more time for me before we had to go.  I can't wait to explore his potential.  We have 9 hours on an airplane to work on it, so hopefully we can learn a few more things on to kill time!  Any suggestions on how to entertain a young child on the airplane ride home would be appreciated.  I am a bit concerned about that...

Here are a few pics of Blake's last day in the orphanage.

Smile!  He is starting to realize what a camera is for, he does this whenever


This place sells hot dogs that smell pretty good, but we couldn't get ourselves to eat anything that resembled the name "Crapdogs!"

Hahaha, this is my last night here, nanana booboo!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gotcha Day...almost

I had to make my first official mommy decision regarding Blake today...and it was a tough one.  It was a decision in which my head was saying one thing and my heart heart wanted to break him out of the orphanage today FOREVER and keep him with us all weekend...but my head said I should leave him in the place he is most comfortable and cared for at this time, until we are ready to leave this region.  You see, we cannot fly out of here until Monday morning so we are waiting out the weekend in Lugansk--where I know my way around, feel most comfortable, and apartment rent is much cheaper.  So my heart was desiring nothing more than to spend the weekend with the little guy in my arms, showing him the sights of his hometown, beginning to create a bond. 

But, if we had busted him out of there today and he were to get sick we would have no place to take him--as the orphanage has no right to provide for him anymore and because of the court decree he is considered a partial US would have been in a bad situation had he gotten sick.  In addition, our apartment does not have an extra bed and no one could come up with a playpen for us to we would have gotten creative with sleeping arrangements.  So, I finally elected to leave him there until Sunday...I know, it stinks, but I feel it was in the best interest of Blake.

In other news, we were able to acquire the passport this morning, despite the registration office being closed does that happen??  Thanks to a lot of prayers.  A few people went beyond the call of duty and helped us out.  Praise God!  In addition, the director of the bank we needed to use to close out Blake's government bank account was in meetings all day and was going to attempt to teach another bank representative how to do this process--which usually takes 2 hours.  Well, we went over the lunch hour, and lo and behold, the director of the bank was able to get away from her meetings to help us out! We were in and out of there in 1 hour!!!  Can I get an AMEN!  My mom and I walked away from there amazed and in awe of the answer to the prayers today.  We were completely humbled.  So thank you again.

We also took some time this afternoon to restock the diaper supply at the orphanage, as well as purchase some more tights that each of the children wear under their clothing (Ukrainian tradition).  And we personally delivered some handmade afghans for the baby room by a loving woman in Oklahoma.  The staff was so grateful and appreciative of this donation, as they are always needing diapers, as you can imagine.  We actually already signed Blake out of the orphanage today, we went over his schedule with the assistant director, discussed what types of foods he eats, how his food is prepared, etc.  That was great to know.  Again, we are so blessed by the care of his orphanage. 

In addition, another prayer request is that Sarah Basile and baby Mila (and Mike) are heading home tomorrow.  Praise God.  They are at the end of their journey and it feels so amazing to have even shared half of the joy and excitement with them. Jump over and congratulate their family and encourage them in this last leg of this journey.  Please keep them in your prayers as well.

So these pictures will have to do for now...2 more days and he's out of there!!

What we have left to do...Monday morning we will fly to Kiev and have our U.S. embassy interview and medical appointment.  If we pass those both, we will be issued our Visa Tuesday afternoon, and fly home Wednesday morning.  Please keep all of these steps in your prayers.  We learned this week that the Visa department's printing services have been broken down all week so they have been telling people to come back next week to finish--so pray that the department is up and running consistently and that we are able to acquire our Visa by Tuesday afternoon.  Thank you for all of the prayers thus far, we are almost there!