Wednesday, January 30, 2008
The kids all watching a movie together. They are all cuddled under soft blankets warm from the drier. The blankets were a gift from our friend, Richard and Ginger. A different color for each child! What a thoughtful gift! As you can see, the kids really enjoy them.
Oh, and, what are they watching? Barbie, of course.
Monday, January 28, 2008
We have discovered something. Whenever the boys get in trouble or are being disciplined they suddendly want a drink of water or they have to pee! I like to think of the glass as being half full; so, instead of saying we have some naughty boys, I prefer to say we have some very thirsty and leaky boys!
I am so happy to report the boys are doing well! Vitali is bonding well. There were days I simply could not go into work and one of us would just hold him. Bedtime is no longer a battle and the boys go right to sleep. However, I think the boys are afraid of lightning because tonight Melissa closed the garage door and Max and Misha went into complete meltdown mode crying and carrying on when they heard the noisy rumbling. It wasn't until I took them downstairs and showed them several times how loud the door can be that they believed me there was no thunderstorm!
Having worked as a RN and AEMT before starting my business I had seen people going through withdrawals or delirium tremens. In many ways Vitali went through a very similar process. It was so tough to see the monsters haunting our son as he fought between wanting to let go and love or withdrawing into a "never-never land" of emotional nowhere! Thursday was an important day and a series of connections and disconnections. There were a couple times we just held him as he arched his body, screamed in rage, and was mad at us and mad at the world. As he went to bed he spent 30 minutes telling me I was "ochin malinki" (very small) and he was "ochin balshoi" (very big). Friday morning started the same way and I scooped him up and started to hold him and no more than sixty seconds later Vitali rattled off "Ya loobloo papa" (I love papa), "ya loobloo mama" (I love mama), "Vitali malinki", "papa balshoi", and then in English "water, please."
Since then he has been a new boy: Fewer "nyeets!" He is not afraid of corners, stairs, closets, etc., etc. He will come to us seeking hugs, kisses or to be held. He says he loves us in Russian. He has become the sweetest little boy. Still naughty but sweet and much improved in the behavior department.
Other victories include voluntary seat belt buckling, no calling us toilet humor names, much fewer nyeets(NO), and much less whinnnnnningggggggggg! We have had no more floods because we no longer have a plug in the boys bathroom sink! The boys comply most of the time if they are told "NO". The problem is if they are not specifically told "no" that makes it an automatic YES!
Yesterday We did have incident! The boys have been loving playing outside. They had repeatedly been instructed on staying on our property. We have about one acre and there is plenty to do. Somebody has alway been with them but for just a few minutes they were alone and we had a breach! I left for work and the boys were playing outside. Melissa went inside for a few minutes to take care of something. It was just minutes but before we knew it our boys were on the front porch with a Loudon County Sheriff's Deputy. We live at the end of a dead end quiet country road and they had crossed it and were walking in the self storage buildings across the road.
The deputy realized quickly the boys did not speak English as they rattled on in Russian and sheepishly walked home. When I got home later we had what our pastor calls a "Come to Jesus meeting!!" In my best Russian, which is not good, I gave them a stern talk. They won't be playing outside without an eagle eye on them for a while now.
I have discovered a fun thing to do: make videotapes that I can use for future blackmail! Max will repeat anything I say; so I have some good footage! The boys all like playing with Barbie and will play dress up with the girls. The funniest thing is to see Max and Misha running through the house playing with their airplanes and wearing fairy wings.
PS. Not the usual method, but we use raw cabbage and tomatoes to bribe the boys to eat pizza!
The boys would prefer a diet of juice, yogurt, cabbage, carrots, buckwheat, soup, fruit, and water. If Misha is given any soda, he will say "nyeet" and ask for water!
Sunday, January 27, 2008
The boys love it, though! They never seem to tire!
Sometime I'll have to catch that on camera for you all!
Friday, January 25, 2008
Anyway, I just took a nice long hot shower, soaked in the tub, slathered myself with new body lotion, removed the remains of toenail-polish long ago applied and repainted. Now, I'm no foot model and I did a bit of a sloppy job but doesn't that look good?! I even put it on my fingernails which I rarely do because, while socks and shoes hide the fact that I am not very good about refreshing the polish, I don't often wear gloves to hide chipping fingernail polish!
Next, my big plans are to turn on a music CD really loud and speed-clean the house. I do it this way, for each song, I clean (and dance) each room. One room for each song. When the song changes, so does the room. It helps me keep my mind on my task and not be distracted all over the house! Don't laugh! It works for me! If I am alone, I can put more energy into the process so I expect to work up a sweat here pretty soon! Great! I can clean my house AND get fit all at the same time!!!! I would be more fit if I did this more often but if I did it more often, it wouldn't be as fun, would it?!
Alright, off to work but first, here are some pictures of the kids and stuff:
The bigger girls, Hannah and Annette, have a dresser that needed work. Steve fixed it with the "help" of his boys today. Mom and I hung that shelf above it.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
"Ivy, did you wet your pants!??" I asked her.
"Nooo!", wailing: "Your yewwow baffroom has water on the fwooor!"
I went up, sure she hadn't quite made it. There was my bathroom with water on the floor all right-- about a half an inch! Also, the drawers were full about three inches and the toothbrushes were floating around in there.
Misha doesn't always shut the water off and this time he forgot to unplug the sink as well. Hannah ran and got me the dirty towels from my bathroom and another one that was clean but big out of the closet. Then she got Ivy taken care of. Poor Ivy must have walked in and slipped, hence the wet back and socks! I took care of the rest.
I wasn't away from the bathroom five minutes. Just long enough to start a quick email and throw the sopping stuff into the washer. This time it was Vitali who came down crying. He was holding his tongue and very upset. I smelled something minty...no...something else...Yup, that's it: Icy Hot. The poor little guy had gotten into the stuff from the drawers that was lying in the tub drying out and had decided to taste the Icy Hot. Clawing at his tongue and crying, he asked for water! I took him out and wiped him off with a dry washcloth and then gave him a little milk to sooth his mouth. Fortunately, he didn't get much!
On a good note, the heating guy was here today and fixed our heater that had been icing up while we were gone. Thanks to our neighbors for keeping an eye on things and letting us know! And, thanks to our friend Richard Shamblin who recommended this guy, Robert. He got the job done!
Steve went back to work today, teasingly moaning about 'poor' him who had to go to work! HaHa.
But really, it's okay. An hour and a half till nap time and I have a candy bar with my name on it in the glove compartment of our car. And it hasn't been that bad AND I don't have to clean any windows in the cold! (Though I probably should!) And now, I don't have to wash the bathroom floor either. Not only that, but with Vitali sitting here so nicely on my lap, my sinuses are quite clear. I wonder how long he will smell like Icy Hot?! I guess it could have been worse!
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
(Melissa here: Misha's teeth are pretty bad too but he wouldn't let the dentist see his mouth today. Max took 10 minutes to open his mouth. He was afraid. Apparently, this isn't his first visit to a dentist. If it is, he must have heard horror stories from somewhere. He was terrified. Poor guy!)
Max has a bit of something that looks like a lazy eye.
Misha has very sensitive skin so for him, we have switched laundry soap.
Vitali has a very serious case of: I-run-into-everything-and-throw-stuff-including-
tantrums-and-fall-all-the-time-itis with a few whack-a-mole tendencies!
We have been deliberate about sharing our process because one of our goals has been to raise awareness about the plight of the 150,000,000 lost children worldwide. Please do not be afraid to ask us questions! We will do our best to answer them. Some we will answer openly here, some more open in person or by email and some we won't be able to answer because we have to respect our sons' privacy.
Here are a few recent questions:
Why did you choose Ukraine?/ Why did you not adopt domestically?/ Why not Africa, China, etc?
There are 150,00,000 lost children so we had to say no to 149,999,997 to say yes to 3. We carefully looked at our goals and objectives and chose international adoption based on Matthew 25:45 we tried to look for "the least of these". We also looked closely at Rwanda, Estonia, India, Russia, Hungary and Azerbaijan but these were not the right places for us.
Children in the USA have a chance. It is true that 40% of US foster children will end up in the penal system at some time but if an American child applies himself he has significant opportunity. Most children overseas who apply themselves will still end up as educated prostitutes, drug addicts, cadavers or criminals. The chances one of these lost children has is almost zero!
We chose Ukraine because we thought it gave us the best opportunity for success. We knew the cost of this adoption would be staggering and so we knew we wouldn't have the funds to do it over. After careful analysis and prayer we settled on Ukraine. Our sons were in Ukraine!
What happened to the boys' birth family? What do you know about the birth family?
We know almost nothing to be honest. Of what we do know, we will only share a minimal amount here. The boys had a single mother and her rights were terminated for cause based on a singular traumatic event . Our boys lived in the orphanage for 4 years and in 2006, the boys were placed on the Ukrainian database for adoption.
Our boys finally became available for adoption on December 6, 2007. We traveled to Ukraine on December 7, 2007. The reality is the boys have never really known "a family;" they are just now learning what it means to have a family. (Misha told the translator today: "we eat good, we sleep good, and we have a mama and papa")
How much did it cost? How did you pay for it?
We are still adding up the costs, but at this point the direct costs look to be about $40,000. This includes lawyers' fees, Ukraine costs, room and board, airfare, US immigration expenses, home study expenses, etc. The indirect costs include 2 months lost income, home improvements and supplies necessary to accommodate three new children, and a vehicle for a family of eight. These costs are in excess of $25,000. There will be significant additional costs associated with Max's dental work. We paid for all of this $1.00 at a time.
We had saved about $12,000 prior to starting. We began paying for items as they came. We cut our expenses as much as possible. My business grew about 15% this year. We had nearly 50 people financially invest in us and our children. We have spent more money on this adoption than we make in a year and have done it without going into debt. It might be the "church answer" but apart from God this would not have been possible!
Can you afford these boys? How will you pay for college?
Yes, we can afford the additional expense of these boys but the reality is that we will have to make sacrifices. We are not going to be able to do things we might have been able to had we not had three more mouths. The reality is that these boys are our 'why'. When you know your 'why' and choose to ignore it, that is a rather precarious spot to be in!
College will come sooner than we expect but the reality for our boys, and other children like them, is that they would have been facing much larger issues such as suicide, drug addiction, or exploitation. Our boys will not lack for opportunity or education. The opportunity might be difficult and come at a cost but they will not lack.
Monday, January 21, 2008
I thought this was worth digging out the tripod to take the picture in the dark!
There have been several challenges the last week but the boys behavior has improved significantly. Bedtime is no longer a battle and the boys go to bed and stay. We went to church yesterday and the boys had a chance to see their classes and we sat through the songs and then had to leave because the boys were getting loud. We have gotten so much help and for that we are so grateful and cannot thank all of you enough.
Tomorrow Max and I will be going to an appointment with the pediatric dentist. Max's teeth are in very rough shape and will need extensive work. Somehow he is not in pain; I don't know how! A special thanks to Dr. Irwin for helping us get such a quick appointment.
It has been said, that these boys are "lucky", fortunate, and have gained everything. The reality is that to gain everything these boys have lost everything. Little Vitali is usually very happy but periodically he will sadly ask about going to the "detsky dom" (baby orphanage.) The reality is our boys have lost their entire identity. Absolute gain has cost our boys what they knew as home. Absolute gain has cost them what they knew as family. Absolute gain has cost them everything they were familiar with. Absolute gain has cost these boys absolute loss!
Please remember our boys as they go through these next few weeks. While we see the ultimate gain they are experiencing the loss. Please pray that as the weeks past they continue to make this transition smoothly. Pray that the boys will continue to accept our love. Please pray that God will restore to them the lost years and help them to become Godly men. Please pray for our girls as they must sacrifice their time right now with us for their brothers. Please pray for Melissa and I; for our health, that we will be rested, and remember our commitment to each other.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Enjoy! It is good to be home!
Almost-Uncle Rick is a fireman and he and his friends there treated the boys to a tour of the trucks. Right after we left Rick called us and said that a guy had just come on duty who spoke Russian. Too bad we missed him!)
Friday, January 18, 2008
We began with the doctor's office, then went to the American consulate where, because of our American status, we went right in past a long line of waiting Ukrainians. We were there for our final documents: the visas for the boys. We filled out the necessary paperwork and handed over all our documents bearing those all important blue stamps. Because I was going to be flying out in the morning, I asked if there were any things I needed to sign to assure that Steve could finish up after I left. When they realized that we both had tickets for the morning but that Steve had to stay behind with the boys to wait for the visa, they suggested that we wait a bit and see if they couldn't hurry up and get us done that day. Sure enough, by the end of the day, we had our visas in hand and were hurriedly packing to head to America!!! On our original tickets, saving us the change fee and another night of the miserable bedtime "routine". (another story) This practically never happens so that, in itself was amazing. That and getting the visas so quickly.
We were up in the morning at 5:00am ready to be picked up at 5:30 to head to the airport. I have told you before that Steve's mom and sister were planning to escort us home. They were going to fly out of the US on the same morning that we ended up leaving. Instead, they were going to meet us at the airport in Washington DC.
I was so excited to get home but the plane ride was miserable! Despite our attempts to drug the boys with Benadryl, Misha and Max never slept all day (26 hours) and Vitali slept only 2 and a half hours, and then only after he terrorized the whole coach section with tantrums and whining and throwing things. We felt so bad about it! And not just because we were being driven nuts ourselves!
The people were so nice and understanding and several people played with the boys and shared toys with them, particularly Misha, who loved to talk to people and make friends. Max was fascinated by the remotes and the seat-back televisions. He kept pretty busy with that. That and locking himself in the bathroom.
That flight was awful for us. But our miserable situation attracted attention and most people were interested to hear about our adoption and the boys, saying how wonderful it was for the boys and all. Especially remarkable were several ladies travelling home to the Deep South. One of them dug out a pack of gum and gave it to us at the gate to replace the one that we took out of Misha's mouth after he had picked it off the garbage can. Very nice ladies they all were.
Also, the Romanian-American Grandmother that was the MVP of the flight. She was finally able to get Vitali to sleep where he stayed for the final 2 and a half hours of the trip! Ahhhh, sweet quietness!
Customs wasn't any better but it was shorter. In fact, the boys were so awful there that they moved us to the head of a two-hour line; something I felt bad about but was very much appreciated.
In Washington, we saw Babushka Eimers and Aunt Laurie coming from afar; Red, white and blue balloons sailing above them. Three mylar balloons in the the shape of American flags were bopping around on the mix as well. We pointed them out to the boys and Misha and Max went running full tilt and calling, "Babushka!" I got it on video, it was so sweet.
There we got the news that our flight to Knoxville was canceled after having been delayed several times. Steve asked me if we should start crying now or wait till later. We decided to wait. :-) Laurie's fiancee has a home here in the DC area and we all were able to crash at his house. By the end of the day, 26 hours later, we went to sleep and slept soundly, the boys having fallen asleep in the car. ( thank the Lord!)
The flight out today was too full for us to make it and so we will be flying out tomorrow morning and arriving in Knoxville at around 10:00 am. I can hardly wait to see the girls and to just be home! I was disappointed to be delayed but especially so because of the girls. I felt so bad knowing that they have been so understanding and have sacrificed so willingly for so long and now, to be so excited that we were coming home only to have to wait two more days... I get teary just thinking about it!
Today we took the boys to a mall here. They rode a carousel, went to the shoe store where we settled on light-up sneakers (I took video there too, so cute to see them stomping their feet proudly to see the lights.) We also got them haircuts! They are sooooo cute in their new hairdos! What an amazing difference.
I know I will see many of you tomorrow morning. I can't wait to have you meet our boys! We love them to pieces! We hope you will too.
Keep praying pleeeeease! I won't lie; this is a real challenge! But we don't regret it, we can't, it's all just so important and we love them too much.
Da Zaftra (Until tomorrow),
Ps. It's too busy here right now but I am hoping to post some pictures here later. Keep and eye open!
Sunday, January 13, 2008
I am glad that Max will not be going to America alone but will be with his brothers. This will be one thing from his home land that he will not be separated from!
On Tuesday, we will check Misha and Vitali out of their orphanage and then we will all catch the train to Kiev. There, we will spend one full day all together and then I will head back to America (by way of Austria--I am really nervous about this--please pray for me! To connect, I have to switch airlines in a foreign airport with all its signs in a foreign language!)
Steve and Alla will stay with the boys and, while I am flying home, Steve's mom and sister will be on their way here! They will help Steve to get through the airport. This will be important. We realized how important when we had the boys for the day in the city. Misha has no fear and wants to see everything and if we weren't actually watching him directly, he absolutely would leave the room! Not only that but if we called him, he would laugh and run away. Needless to say, this will not be good in an airport!
Today is Sunday. This morning we met "Papa Dima" as he is called by the children. We attended his church with him (Russian speaking) He is a man here in Kharkiv who takes Sunday school to the orphanages and the TB hospital in the area. We were able to give him a gift from our Sunday school class that will help him buy quite a few Bibles, Sunday school materials, and small necessities for the children he serves! He was very thankful and since he has known our boys for five years, he asked to come to the train station to see us off. Isn't that so nice for our boys? Their final goodbye from their city will be from the one guy who has been Jesus to them every week. I am so grateful for this man and his ministry. There are several who have come to help him on mission trips or whatever and it was from some of these that we have heard stories of our boys and gotten pictures of them before we knew them! God is good!
Just now, we are in the internet cafe and our translator will meet us here and we will go to lunch. After that, our friends, Keith and Wendy will meet us again (just Steve and I) under the statue of Lenin again and we will go to their church service (in English). After that, we plan to go out to dinner with them since their home is getting new windows today--yes, in January--brrr!
We are continually blessed by the people we have met, by our friends and family back home and by this great opportunity to love these boys! This is quite an adventure, let me assure you, but well worth it!
Saturday, January 12, 2008
We have been unable to post because we have been so busy the last few days. (And because the ADSL, as were the washer and elevator, that we were assured was here—was not!) We left
In the morning, we picked up our court decree and went to see the boys and get some more documents. This ended up being a ten-hour day of driving and sitting in waiting rooms and freezing!
The next day was similar to the first, another ten hours of driving and documents and waiting and being a little less freezing (not because it was warm but because we were getting used to being freezing!)
Today was our favorite day so far. Why? Because we had to take our three boys TOGETHER to get pictures for passports and visas. We picked up Misha and Vitali first. Misha hopped happily into the car but Vitali stiffened and was obviously petrified of the car! Despite taking him around the car and letting him look it over and despite the sight of Misha’s ear-to-ear grin from inside the car, he would not calm down! What was the problem? We asked out translator. Turns out that most likely all of his car trips have involved trips to the doctor at the hospital which were not good experiences for him at all. Alla, our translator, assured him that we were absolutely not going to the hospital today and he submitted and snuggled up with Mama and stopped crying. Poor little guy!
We drove the short distance to Max’s orphanage and Misha was so excited to see his brother again. I (Melissa) waited in the car with he and Vitali watching him alternate between eager anticipation of seeing Max and being pre-occupied with the dome light.
Before long, Max was in view. Misha started exclaiming with joy, “Maxeeeeemmmm! (and a bunch of other stuff in Russian).”
Max was also excited to see Misha again, but the most touching part to us was after we were all settled in the car, Max kept looking over to Vitali, whom Max has not seen since he was one year old, and reaching out and petting his head or his cheek and, for most of the trip, holding his hand. He asked us, “ Eta Vitali?”(It is Vitali?) “Skolka (something) Vitali” (How many years is Vitali?)
“Three”, we told him. “And you?”
“Nine,” he said. (he’s eight) grinning, but again reaching up to pet his ‘Malinky’ (little) brother’s cheek. Then, back to holding his hand.
We had a great day with the boys. We enjoyed spotting every ‘Avtobus’ (bus), ‘Tram vye’ (electric bus), tractor, and ‘poiesd’ (train). Even a ‘Cemailot’ (airplane)! I don’t need to tell you all that with three girls, these have not been items of interest on our travels so far! The three boys and Steve and I were all sitting snuggled up in the back of a little car the size of a Ford Escort. It sounds cramped but it was wonderful—that is, until after our McDonald’s trip when Vitali threw up all over himself and Steve! (Just a quick note from Steve!) [In 8 years of having our girls I wasn’t vomited on once. I worked very hard on this and in our very first visit with all 3 boys, my crown has fallen! Vitali was also quite intrigued by standing up to use the urinals in the men’s rooms. We are going to have to find out how to say “don’t stare” in Russian! Courts can say you are the parent but getting thrown up on makes you the parent!!!]
Still, at the end of the day, it is easy for us to say that this was our best visit yet! To see Max with Vitali, so tender, and to have Vitali so unusually snuggly and sweet (he even hugged us both without being asked several times), and seeing them all together—oh this was wonderful! And we can not wait to get our boys home! Now, more than ever!
Keep praying! I am planning to fly home on Thursday and Wendy and Laurie, Steve’s mom and sister will likely fly here around then. Our hopes are that early the week of the twenty-first our sons will set foot in
Monday, January 07, 2008
Wednesday morning we will pick up our court decree and go see the boys. The boys will stay at the orphanage until at least Friday because we have some very long 12 hour days in a little Daewoo. Over the next few days we will be working on getting new birth certificates, id #'s and passports and of course more of Ukraine's lovely blue notary stamps! We are not quite sure how long all this will take and what new laws might have taken effect on January 1st.
After getting everything in order we will head to Kiev with the boys. We will have to sign several US immigration forms for the boys, have physicals for immigration and get 3 US visas for the boys as they will be traveling on Ukrainian passports. My mom and sister Laurie will be flying into Kiev and helping us escort the boys home.
Please continue to pray for the process of collecting documents.
Pray for our family's health and stamina these next few weeks.
Pray that our boys will bond with us.
Thanks to everybody. Got to run!
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
a house that includes three boys and three girls, that is!
First, we dismantled the bed that was Ivy and Annette's and moved it out of the way. Next, we rolled up the big pink rug--won't be needing that in there! Then we dismantled the bunk beds from Hannah's old room and reassembled them in Ivy and Annette's old room. This is where Max and Misha will sleep.
Yesterday was spent shopping for gifts and necessities. Necessities being things like shoes, bed sheets (one set each, we'll have to get more later.) , blue blankets and this coordinating set of flannel shirts at $3 a shirt! (Couldn't pass that up, could I?)
Max is a boy's size 7. Actually, he seems to be a small seven or a big six but we'll stick with seven so he won't grow out of things too quickly! Adjustable waistbands would probably be good for him. His shoe size is a children's 2.
Misha is a boy's size 5/6T. This means 5T is too short and 6x was a little long. When in doubt, go with the larger size. No "slims" for Misha. He's not chubby by American standards at all but, by orphanage standards, he is. :-) Misha's shoe size is a children's 12.
Vitali is a pretty straightforward toddler's size: 3T. His shoe size is a children's 9.
We leave again on Sunday to head to Atlanta and the next morning we will be at the airport boarding the first plane of our return journey to Ukraine. I hate to go, but at the same time, I can't wait! You know what I mean, don't you?!
We are really missing the boys this week.
Love to you all,