Tuesday, December 8, 2009

There is Another...or Three

Today was a little different during our visit time with Ana. Usually we go to her orphanage, pick her up (Tom does this, as she is a bit heavy for me), and go into a room that is normally for four kids to sleep in. We play in there for an hour and a half the first visit, and then two hours the second visit. While we love spending time with our daughter, it is difficult when you do the same thing everyday...in the same room...with the same toys.

Yesterday it was a bit nicer outside, so we got to play outside with the kids. That was a good change of scenery and made the visit go by faster. It was more fun for Ana, which makes me feel better. I don't want her to dislike her time with us because it is boring for her. (We can only buy so many toys here =). We played outside and then inside for a bit too. It was too cold to play outside the whole time.

This morning was too cold to play outside, but much to our surprise they came and got us after a very short time in our room. The doctor (who is very beautiful btw and LOVES the kids very much) came and told us, "I'm sorry, but it is time for their music lesson..." and she motioned that we could come out and join all the kids. We were very glad to do so and went right out. Ana loved the music and doing all the motions. Most of the kids seemed to enjoy themselves, though all of them wanted to climb all over both of us of course. It is a bit hard to see all of the other kids because they want so much to have a mommy and daddy there for them too. They climb all over us and will actually fight for "face time" with us (only so many children can fit in our laps at a time).

During the music lesson it was much different than yesterday when we were outside though. These were just the children from Ana's floor, so there weren't as many kids, they were the kids we are used to seeing, and also most of them were special needs. I'm not sure why, but the special needs kids seem to be less pushy and bossy...their attitudes are much nicer and I more enjoy giving them my attention. While I totally understand that the less kind children are only doing so because of the lives they have lived, it is still more endearing to have a child that sweetly tries to get your attention, rather than pushing kids out of the way and then hitting you and being slightly mean to get you to notice them. (This saddens me too of course. Just in a different way.)

Inside, with the kids on Anastasia's floor, we just love the children. They are so sweet. This morning with the music lesson, we had the opportunity to enjoy them rather than be bombarded with too much attention. There is a little boy with DS who we hope will be on Reece's Rainbow soon. He is a bundle of energy and is always trying to escape- he he he. It makes me laugh. He is a good boy, and they always laugh at him when he tries to get out. It seems that he is not trying to get away, but more that he has an exploratory nature. He wants to figure out what is over there or behind that door. It reminds me of Ben, our little boy at home. He isn't naughty or mischievous, he just wants to figure things out and isn't timid or mindful of rules. He naturally gets himself into trouble, but not in an intentional way. He is very cute...but unfortunately I don't know his name yet.

Christina is another. She does not have DS, but has some other needs. She is so very happy ALL the time and walks around with a smile on her face...a HUGE smile...all the time. I would say she is the most interested in my attention and loves to come and get hugs. Whenever we come to get Ana, she is always at the door calling to us as Mama and Papa...so hard knowing that we will be leaving and we aren't going to take her with us. Will her heart be broken? Will a family come for her? Will she have the same fate that Ana or Tonya would if they weren't adopted...the fate of an institution? I am not even sure if Christina is available for adoption, but I am going to ask our facilitator if she can find out. Christina walks and runs, but her legs don't function the way they should. She falls sometimes and it seems that it is hard for her to get up off the ground by herself. She will most times just walk around on her knees when she falls until an adult comes to help her back up. I would guess from our time with her, which is limited (not one on one), that she is delayed a bit too. She is very capable of doing everything that the other kids are doing, but she isn't at the same level that most kids her age would be. Pray for a family for Christina. She is such a precious little girl. Anastasia and Tonya are very different from Christina. They both seem to have some spunk...they are a little bossy and have a harder time sharing (nothing that is not teachable). Christina is much different. She is all joy and smiles all the time and gets along well with all the other kids. She just wants to be loved, that's it. She wants the other kids to love her, the caretakers, and us. Love. Christina will be such a sweet addition to whoever brings her home. She is one of my two favorites outside of Ana =).

My other favorite is a little girl that seems to be about the same size and age as Ben. She weighs quite a bit less, but she is walking all over the place, falling here and there. I am not sure if she has any special needs of any sort. She seems to have a vision problem, but that would be all that I can observe at this point. Sorry...no doctor here =). She is always watching us and waving at us. She has big eyes that stay fixed on us with curiosity whenever we are within range of view. She doesn't get to go outside with the other kids and she is often in a different area than the other kids. I am not sure if this is because she is so much younger, or what. There is a play pen like area in the center of their floor of the building that some of the kids that can't walk are placed in most times. There are never more than two in there, but she is often one of them. From time to time she is in with the other kids, but it isn't all the time. Yesterday when we were coming in, they tried to take her in the room with all the toys and the ball pit that the other kids are in during that time and she just cried. The caretaker walked out with her right away and looked at me with a smile and a shrug. They took her back to the place she preferred to be.

I will take a second to mention while I am thinking about it...the ratio here of kids to caretakers is wonderful. There seem to be about 8 kids on this particular floor and 3 to 4 caretakers. This is not including the doctor, who is often on this floor. Her desk seems to be there, though I am not certain that they don't have a desk on each floor with information about each of the children in files.

Back to my rambling about our day...

So, this morning we got to spend time with some of the other kids as well as Ana. The little girl that I told you about, the one that is younger than the rest, she sat on my lap for a little while and they allowed it. She wasn't as able to do the music as the rest of the kids, so it was okay. Our little one is more fond of her Daddy still right now, so I let her be and don't try to force anything on her. She likes me, but is always more into climbing up in Daddy's lap and being with him. Because of this, she is not jealous of other kids climbing on me. If they climb on him it's sometimes a different story. She is more apt to get territorial about him.

Tom says looking at things that I have said here (mainly that the visit went by faster), that it seems like I don't enjoy Anastasia. Please don't get the wrong impression. I am very exicited to take her home and bond with her more there. We have bonded here too, but it's different when you are in such an unnatural situation and you feel like people are watching your every move. Imagine the situation of being in the same room, twice a day, for two hours...every single day. Same thing. Same toys. Same everything. You understand a little? Can I get an amen from someone who knows =).

Okay. So, now that we have that under control, it's time for me to get to some other things. I need to get ready to go visit again. To walk our daily walk to the orphanage that's about 20 minutes, perhaps 15, and to hopefully have some time outside before we get our room time with Ana. If you feel like this post was all over the place, well you are not alone. I feel the same way. That's how my brain works right now...all over the place.

Thank you to all of you who have helped with fund raising to build up Tonya's adoption fund. Hopefully soon I will have news for you that she has a family on the way!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

We're Weirdos and Photos

It is early morning here. Yesterday, you could say my rose colored glasses changed colors a little bit. I noticed some things that I haven't noticed before and perhaps it was due to the different people that were around...or maybe it was just because I was reflecting on missing home the other day. Whatever it was, things were different. Not bad, just different.

It's interesting, you would think that we would encounter more difficulty with older folks if anything. Or more dislike of our country of citizenship. They are the ones that would be more apt to remember the days of...unfortunate relations with the US. That would be my thinking and I would understand if the older folks had a little bit of hard feelings toward us from the "S" days that we don't talk about.

Strangely, the older folks are kind and helpful. We enjoy going through the outdoor market and buying things from the vendors that range more in the age of our parents to grandparents. They are easy to work with and helpful even though we don't speak the language. We can make things work with a pen and paper because numbers look the same. We can say "kilogram" the same way they do, so when buying by weight we can do okay. (But make a note, you don't want to buy a kilogram of bacon. That's a lot. Remember that a kilogram is a little over 2lbs.)

It's when we go into the normal stores...the ones inside buildings, that things are different. I wouldn't say we look that different from the people here, but we definitely stand out. It could be, and probably is, quite a number of things that make us stand out. What happens? When we walk into a store it's like we are wearing clown suits. It's kind of funny actually. The people will call other people over to show them the Americans, they find us amusing. Last night we went into a store and the young woman at the register was weird with us. She kept making glances toward the other girl in the store and either smiling (as in laughing), or a glance similar to eye rolling. It's quite strange and I don't understand. But what can you do =D. This is Ukraine.

I wonder what it will be like when we have Ana out of the orphanage. I wonder what they will look at us like then. What will they think when we are toting around one of the children from their country, one that is not typical to have out and about here on their streets. What will things be like then? Please do not judge the people, for really, they are not unlike our own. 50 years ago, we put our kids with DS in the institutions. 50 years ago, we didn't treat our people with special needs with care. And today, well, today we still don't treat all of them the way that God intends. Today, in our country, we abort them if we know they are coming. Today, we "spare them" of a life that is "not worth living". Today we believe that lie.

I have only known Ana for a short time, but I can tell you that she loves living her life. She is just like our other two children. Seriously, I have never been around a child with DS before. I have zero experience with her diagnosis whatsoever, so I am not "used to it", and there is nothing different about Ana from her siblings. I keep saying, she is very much like your average two year old, and she is. So...I would ask- if your four year old were two, would that make her life not worth living? I just don't get it. I don't understand what makes people think that this little wouldn't be worth having around. I don't understand how not giving her the option of life would make sense.

Sure, she has a heart issue...which is mild in her case, but either way- if someone were pregnant with a child with a heart defect, would the doctor push abortion at them? By no means! They would give all the options available and treat the condition. It's just confusing to me...what makes people so afraid of DS?

Okay, I will climb off that horse now.

Let me end this interesting post about random not beautiful things with something more pretty. I will share some new photos of Ana girl with you =D. Will that make up for the rest of the post? Please excuse, but the room is dark, I have my iso set high and my lens open all the way...still not enough. SO... you have to view them with harsh on camera flash. Yuck! But, she still makes it look cute ;-).

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Growing Pains

There are, as with most things, up days and down days. Today is living more on the other side.

I enjoy Anastasia, and our visit with her was as good as can be. My health is getting better and Tom is nearly completely well. Our walk toward the orphanage was good, and we got picked up by our friend and driver less than halfway there because he saw us and insisted that we let him give us a ride. Nothing is particularly less than great today in most respects. It's just that today...well, today I want to be with my babies. Today I want to hold my Benjamin and kiss his chubby little cheeks while he struggles to get out of my arms for more fun things that are on his agenda. Today I want to snuggle with my Lexi and give her Mommy kisses all over her face while she holds her pink blanket and tells me she loves me too. Today I want to read them stories and make them lunch. I want to smell their smells and feel their chubby little fingers.

Today I want to be with my kids.

Chernovsty is good. As far as travel goes, this place is nice. The people kind, the culture thick, the charm not lacking. But I am not a traveler, and this is not my home.

I want to eat my normal food. I want to feel my bed, in my house. I want my routine, in my town. I want the company of my friends who speak my language in the comfort of my living room. I want my rain (or possibly snow I hear) in my "dreary" Pacific Northwest.

Today I want to be home.

Even with the road paved perfectly before us, the Lord clearly going ahead of us to ready our path, it is not always easy. We have had things very easy so far, completely uneventful. Yet, I still want to be home.

My baby is clingy and sad, he wants his mommy and daddy and I can't give that to him. My big girl has been a little sick and wants her normal routine back...I also can't give that to her. I want to. I want the same things they want, but this is not in my power. God has called us to this mission at this time. God has given us the gift of Ana, and we are excited to bring her home. It just so happens that this little blessing that we are adding to our family this time is half way across the world. This is just part of the work that it takes to get her.

Alexis and Benjamin came with discomfort of their own. There was geography change involved there too...it's just that it was the north and south of my body. There was traveling involved, and even pain. But God blessed us with them and nothing worth so much is easy to get. This discomfort is temporary and it is worth the end result. But that doesn't change that I would rather be home today.

I say this not to complain, so don't get the wrong idea. I want you to know that, while adoption is worth the things you must go through (and I know I will still feel that way in a year), it's not all cheery and rosy. The travel is nice and you get to see a new place, but it's still not always peachy. God doesn't call us to peachy. God calls us to things that make us grow.

It's time to go see our girl for our second visit of the day, so I will have to go now. Thanks for listening to my growing pains for today.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Driving...

There is much to be said about drivers in Ukraine. Much that would terrify and bewilder you. But, I feel that I should give you the reality of the situation so that you know the truth.

While it appears that people here are out of their minds and desire to come within an inch of their lives, in truth they are brilliant and skilled. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying that I wish us to change the way things are done at home. By no means! Most of us lack the skill to be capable of such things. But here, where all drivers learn this way from the start there is something to be said. I do not care for the lack of seatbelts and the wearing of them. I will give you that. But when I am in the car and it takes until reaching nearly 140 KPM (nearly 87 MPH), that says something. I am a fearful passenger at home, pushing that invisible passenger brake every five minutes...but here, I am content to sit and look out the window while the driver pushes and shoves his was around with his vehicle like nobody's business. Here, I don't reach nervous very often. Here I reamin calm while they drive in a way that I would be screaming at home.

On second thought, I'm not sure it's the driver at all. I might be all on someone else. My fear being released and a calm state taking over... like an peace that makes no sense. Like a peace that surpasses all understanding ;-).

Yep, I will give credit where credit is due. Lord, thank you. Thank you for taking over and bringing peace to this normally uptight body. I couldn't make it through this trip without you. Couldn't do it on so many levels.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Meeting Anastasia

Okay folks, I have so much to say and not a lot of time to write it tonight. So...I am going to post some photos to appease you for the time being and then try to write tomorrow. The first two days in region are very busy because the facilitator is trying to get so much paperwork done. It's crazy! No sleep for a long time and lots of car travel and waiting.
I will tell you the important details right now though. We met Anastasia yesterday. It was the best first meeting we could pray for. We met with the orphanage director and then they took us upstairs to meet Anastasia. The moment they opened the door to the room she was playing in and called her name, she came running out the door. They didn't have to tell her what to do or who to go to, she ran straight for Daddy and jumped up into his arms. Almost before he could even register what was going on =). It was very sweet and she is quite attached to her Daddy. (Sounds like her siblings at home...) We have enjoyed playing with her and loving on her. She is actually quite mellow and doesn't seem to like playing extremely actively (though she can be active when she wants to!). She likes to sit and cuddle, and she likes quiet activities. We took a photo album today and she flipped through the pages for our whole hour. That's all she wanted to do. Tom tried to take the album and play other games with her and she would have none of that. She just wanted to sit in Papa's lap and flip pages. Yesterday was bubbles. She loved those as well and wanted to figure it out all by herself. That seems to be something she likes to- to do everything by herself like a little adult. She copies all of the things that Tom does and tries to be like him. He lays down, she is right down next to him. He stands, she is standing too. When we were outside today we sat at a picnic table that she led us to. She sat down first and folded her hands and looked. I am not sure if this is something they do before eating, or if she has seen adults fold their hands, but it was very cute. The director told us that she loved this baby doll that they had. She would carry it around like a little mother almost like it was a real baby (also sounds familiar...like Alexis). Unfortunately the other kids broke the doll, so she doesn't have it anymore. I guess she used to even sleep with it. First on the list of things to get- a babydoll =).

So, that was our meeting. On the adoption side of things, we have court next Thursday, the 10th of December. Yulia says the likelyhood of our 10 days being waved is low, and I'm not sure she is even going to ask for it. We will see... But still be praying for that for us. If it was waved we could be home for Christmas with all of our children under one roof. That is something that we hope, pray, and dream for, but we also trust God's timing and know that if we don't get to be home for Christmas it isn't because He can't do it, but because His purpose is for us to be here right now. We trust Him fully and know that wherever we are it will be His will. We are excited at how quickly court will happen and how wonderful things have been here.

Something super exciting- we got our apartment for the month...the WHOLE month (which we probably won't need the entire thing...) for $300!!! That's $10 per night, which is AMAZING! All praise goes to God for that one. Definatley something that He made happen for us. The woman who owns the apartment just finished remodeling it (very nice inside). She has two apartments and works at Children's Services (the place that first approved us to adopt in region). She doesn't rent it all the time and it isn't for business. She just thought she would make some extra money. It very much blessed us! We had in our budget for $60 per night. That means we saved a lot of money by her generous offer.

Our driver in region is also very affordable. He charges $5 an hour...well, 40 Hryvnya which is pretty much $5. We tried to tip him 20 Hryvnya after yesterday's LONG day where he was with us all day and he wouldn't let us. $2.50 is seriously no big deal dude! But he wouldn't allow it. This morning he brought us apples from his garden and tomorrow he said he was going to bring us honey from his friend who makes it. He also invited Tom to have some Vodka with him LOL. He said you can't be in Ukraine and not have Vodka, it's a tradition. It's a man's drink. Then he told him that it is the medicine that he needs for his cough.

He has taken such good care to make sure that we are comfortable and get the things we need. He picks up on little things we say and makes it happen. Yesterday he took us to the resaurant that his wife works at and had them make us traditional Western Ukrainian food. Yulia, our facilitator, told us that it was her first time trying it too. It was like a corn meal porridge that was firm and on a platter. She cut it with something that resembled dental floss. You take that piece of porridge and put some very salty white cheese on top followed by their version of bacon. They don't fry it in strips here, they just cook up chunks of bacon. It was delicious. Tom already wants to have it again =). They also gave us dumplings with potato in them and some sourkraut soup (I'm not sure what you call it). All of it was very good, but I was so full after just the soup that I couldn't eat much of the dumplings or the cheese/bacon dish. Today I mentioned that I wanted to try Borshch. I asked if they make it at his wife's resaurant. He told me that it was gross with his face and shook his head no (HA), so I didn't think we were going to try it. For lunch, he took us to another place that he knew the lady and had already prepared for her to serve us borshch. It was very good =). I think he took us to a person who makes it the way he likes it.

So, now Yulia is headed home and we are here alone to visit Ana everyday. It's about a twenty minute walk to her orphanage, so we will walk in the morning and then have our driver take us for our eveing appointment. We would like the ride when it is dark outside because it gets a little cold in the night air. He can also take us to dinner if we want him to. He said any time we want him to take us to eat, just call Yulia and have her tell him. (He doesn't speak English) We actually spent a lot of time in the car today, waiting for documents to be done by Yulia (man that woman is busy on days like the first ones in country). So...we figured out ways to talk with him. For a long time we were using gestures and a little bit of our Ukrainian language book, and we did okay with that. Then later we got our modem for the computer so that we can have internet wherever we are. It's a wireless one. We tried it out in the car while waiting for Yulia to get our court date and I had the idea to use Google translate to speak with him. He was SO excited. It was funny...he thought it was the coolest thing that we could type what we wanted to say on the computer and he could read in his language. He told us he has internet on his phone, so he could e-mail with us that way =).

Okay, time for me to get back to bed. Hope to share more with you tomorrow, though I wrote more than I ever intended to do tonight already.
Also, please check out the family blog Pure Mommy Extract so that you can see Ana's friend Tonya. There is a family that wants to bring Tonya home, but isn't able to pay for the adoption. Please consider donating to Tonya's fund this week so that this family can commit to Tonya right away. If 1090 people donated just $20 to Tonya's fund that would cover the cost of her adoption. So, please spread the word and raise these funds. I know we can do it!