Adopting Grace

The journey to bring our little girl home

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Animal Crackers for Breakfast

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The whole family finally together

I’ll post something while Leeza gets used to the fact that she has to take naps here too…it was apparently an unexpected surprise and she’s yelling ‘I don’t want it!’ in Russian at the top of her lungs. Considering how much in her life has changed in the past couple days  it’s amazing that this is the first full blown fit she’s had since being here.

Philip and Leeza started out their journey home with a quick flight from Kiev to Munich and, I’m told, she loved everything about the ride except take off and landing. Then they hopped on the 9 hour flight from Munich to Chicago. You might remember a prayer request I had a few days ago that they would be upgraded to Economy Plus to have a more comfortable flight and I understand I had a few scoffers. However, when Philip went to get their boarding passes he realized he and Leeza weren’t seated together so they had to be moved to, you guessed it, Economy Plus. They even got bulkhead seating so Philip could stretch his legs out! Thanks,God! She ended up sleeping a little bit and it sounds like it was a pretty uneventful flight home. As they were landing on American soil I got a phone call from a dear friend who had managed to get Leeza’s medical records translated for us (thank you , thank you, thank you!) so they were ready for her appointment next week and then it really seemed to hit Josiah and me that we only had a few hours until they were going to be here! The house was as clean as it gets with 3 little kids in it, they were all dressed and we were just sort of running around in circles with excitement until it was time to leave. Thankfully we got there just a little bit early because so did they! Another dear friend was there to take pictures of the kids all meeting each other for the first time. Leeza was excited to see all of us, but especially Josiah, or ‘Jew-Jewa’ as she calls him. We came home and let her explore the house a bit, bounce on the couch and play with some toys before putting everyone to bed.

We thought we were going to get off easy when she’d settled down by 10pm, but then she woke back up at midnight. As I sat beside her I could hear her stomach growling so I asked if she wanted a snack and some water and she got excited. When I came back she had her pajamas partially unzipped and I thought she might be hot so I asked if she wanted them off (they sleep in their underwear in the orphanage when it’s warm). It wasn’t until she started insisting that I find her day clothes that I did the math and realized it was time for her to get up in Ukraine and her body was wide awake, despite almost no sleep, and she thought we were starting the day! The kids there ate cookies and tea for breakfast every day so when I brought in animal crackers and water she must have just thought these crazy Americans eat their breakfast in the dark, in their beds! She was confused and wouldn’t let me leave the room the rest of the night, but she did stay in bed and try to sleep. If it wasn’t for a bad cough that woke her up every time she might have drifted off. We spent the night with me trying to sleep a little as she held my hand and styled my hair. Here’s to hoping she’s really tired tonight and we all get some sleep!

Other than sleep times she’s been doing really well. She loved playing on the fort and jumping in a pile of leaves. She took a bath with the girls and at least tried a bite of pancakes for breakfast. She LOVES milk and refuses to even touch a chocolate chip. I’m not sure she knows what cheese is and wouldn’t try it at lunch. She’s in heaven with all the hair bows the girls have and has brushed her hair (and anyone elses’ who will sit still) with every brush in the house already.  I think we have a budding hairstylist on our hands. She has no concept of ‘mine’ and ‘yours’ so we have a lot of work to do on sharing and being respectful of someone else’s things and space…and sippy cup. She is fitting in so well already and has given us the biggest smiles and loudest laughs we’ve ever heard from her while she played with the kids this morning. We still have a long road ahead of us, but we’re just enjoying today for right now.

PS Apparently nap time will take more than one day to go smoothly. Philip and I are betting we’ve got at least 2 more days of screaming before she accepts it. We feel like Super Nanny…we’ve already put her back in bed more times than I can count. :)  (Note: Day two nap time went about as well, although she did fall asleep with about 5 minutes left.)

They’re Home!!!

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Philip and Leeza are home!!! The kids have been having fun playing together and we’re trying to get everyone settled down for the first night together. We’ll write later with more details.

We know her birthdate, but will never know exactly what time she was born. Instead we know that on October 14th at 6:29pm she landed in Iowa and our family was together for the first time. Welcome home sweetie!

Splish Splash I went to Bed

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Leeza enjoying a bath and washing her hair.

Yep, those were of several highlights today.  Last night went much better with Leeza only awake for an hour around 2am.  She did wake up at 5:30 which made my shower a little interesting but we survived.  Afterward, Leeza had a bath and loved it.  She obviously knew what to do so it wasn’t a first, but getting to stay in the water and play was an obvious treat.  I made her get out after about an hour and a half and she was okay with that.

The morning was spent entertaining a four year-old that didn’t have clothes warm enough to go walking outside.  It was a challenge but we had a good time.  I made Leeza lay down for about 20 minutes for nap before we hit up the Embassy one more time.  She screamed for 18 minutes of it and then settled down.  At the Embassy we received Leeza’s visa and all the needed document then headed back to the apartment.

For dinner, we walked down to T.G.I Fridays to have dinner with three other RR families.  We had a good time talking and Leeza ate and played in the chair next to me for almost a full two hours without fuss, complaint, or accident.  She really was amazing and actually like the chicken fingers.  Oddly enough, ketchup and french fries are still no-gos.

We walked back home around 8pm. and had Leeza undressed, change, and pajama’d by 8:20pm.  I told her it was time to go to bed and she started that little pout / whimper again.  I picked her up, tickled her, and told her it was going to be okay.  We went into the bedroom and sat on the bed to sing through a stanza of  “Jesus Loves Me.”  Upon asking if she wanted to sing more she simply said no and patted the bed.  I sat her down and she crawled under the covers and waited for me to get to the other side.  We gave each other a kiss and she was sound asleep by 8:30pm.

So, she is asleep and I need to be.  Our ride to the airport arrives in 5.5 hours.  God has been gracious so far and I am praying He continues tomorrow.  Assuming all flights are on time we will be one big family again by 7pm CDT on Thursday the 14th of October.

Oh, P.S.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!!!

This is real, isn’t it?

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If Leeza could speak English I am sure she would have asked the above questions several times by now.  In case you are curious, Leeza woke up scared and crying every 15 minutes last night until she finally fell into a deep sleep at 2am.  That would be great except that we had to get up at 4:30am to drive to the airport.  She did amazingly well at being woken up and eating breakfast.  She also enjoyed talking to Forest in Russian.  he had stopped by to pick up keys and help  me get everything down stairs.  (Thank you again Forrest and sorry for leaving to to clean up.)

The Trip to the airport went great and we played in the seats until it was time to board.  She enjoyed the plane as well,  at least up until it took off.  That seemed to unnerve her a little, but only for a short time.  As soon as we could take off her seat-belt she was in my lap, looking out of the window, and enjoying to fresh airplane h’orderves.   She was a little frustrated with the landing because she had to set down with her belt on.  Of course that was a trick because she had figured out how to take it off by herself during the flight.  Go figure.

The drive to the Embassy took a little while.  That combined with taxi cab driving and a very very very very hot car (direct sun, coats, and the driver had the heat on)  we had the joy of seeing those afore mentioned h’orderves show back up again.  Well, I fortunately had a change of clothes in the backpack and got to do some wash this evening.  Oh well, we will learn from that one and try not to repeat it.  Oddly enough, the driver and Niko both said that it happens a lot.

So, we met the Parker’s (another RR family) and had our first Embassy appointment and went and had Leeza’s medical check up.  After that we were taken to our apartment.  We went for a walk, which Leeza enjoyed, and found some more diapers, dinner, breakfast for tomorrow, and a snack or two.  Leeza still won’t eat much.  I am guessing when she really gets hungry she will.  So far, juice and bananas seem to be holding her over, although she did eat some of the chicken we had for lunch.

So, what you are all curious about…. Was tonight any better.  Well, yes and no.  We played, laughed, and explored the apartment for a while.  She started getting quiet about 5:30pm and I could see that looming question mark behind her eyes.  She proceeded to put the cap on her water bottle, grab her coat and scoot over to the door saying, “Let’s go.”  (in Russian of course)  I walked over her and asked where?  She answered quickly with a very confident, “Groupa.”  She was done and ready to go back to her friends and care takers.  A soft ‘neyt’ (no) with a kiss and hug did little to evade the avalanche of emotion and tears.  Fortunately they didn’t last long and we played honk the nose with some good belly laughs.

By 6:15pm she was crashing, but determined that she wasn’t sleeping here.  She only had 2 hours of good sleep last night and no nap today.  So, I decided it was just time.  I picked her up, changed her into her pajamas and laid her in bed.  As expected, she screamed and tried several time to crawl out of bed.  It took about 10 minutes for her to decide that the Papa laying beside her was all the comfort available.  She slowly inched her way over to my chest and was sound asleep in 5 minutes.  That was at about 6:30pm and it is now 8:15pm; not a sound from her yet.

So, the Embassy documents are complete and I believe all is in order.  We have or second appointment, or exit interview as they call it at 2pm tomorrow.  (6am for you timezone challenged. :-) )  I am expecting all to go well and we will head home the following morning.  It is surreal to think that I have been here for almost two months.  It doesn’t even seem possible.  Then again, I have a  four year-old daughter that I can not understand or speak to who feels like she has always been there and is as much a part of me as any of my children.  Six months ago that was a far fetched an idea as living in Ukraine for two months.

God truly has a way of stirring things up.  Doesn’t He.  I was thinking about this whole process today.  Intellectually I explain with the best of them what it meant for God to give you the desires of your heart.  You know what I am talking about, the whole, he doesn’t give you what you want, but rather he gives you THE want.  I have never experienced that so vividly than through this process.  We were ready every step of the way for God to say, “this is far enough.”  Yet with each step we took the understanding that were that to happen, we would be loosing a child, a daughter, not just the chance to adopt.  I is amazing how those want, those desires have crept into my heart almost without being notices.  Oh, and how good, loving, and faithful is God to grant those desires.  Simple AWESOME!

A New Beginning…

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So, today was simply nuts.  As much as I would love to give every little detail, I have a plane to catch in the morning and have to be up is a little under four hours.  So I will leave you with a summery; done in my best play-by-play fashion.  We will start with something you have all been waiting for though :-)

The day start with Violetta picking me up at 9am.  We go get Leeza to take her passport phone.  Her eyes are the size of silver dollars as we drive through town and she doesn’t say a word the entire time.  Head over to the other side of town to get some documents once the photo is taken just to drive back to pick up the photo, about 30 minutes later.  Then Leeza gets drop back off at the orphanage for story time while we keep running.

We first head to the passport agency just to find out there is a mistake in our request document.  Oh, and the back were we have to pay decided not to open today.  We drive around two town for a little while to find another branch and then head to the Notary for a new request document but can’t get one because Kim isn’t here to sign as well.  Back to the passport agency for the original in hopes the Notary can modify it.  Back to the Notary were good news awaits.  Back to the passport agency with corrected document.

We are told the passport will be ready at 2:30.  Violetta gets a call saying she needs to scan in our new documents and send them to Kiev for translation.  Oddly enough, someone else has always done this and she has no idea where to get documents scanned. (think about it for a minute, baring you having a scanner in you home, do you?)  Well, I just happened to notice the Ferdon’s had a scanner so I give them a call.  Violetta looks a little shocked when I tell her I can get it done, but I do.  (Thanks Forrest!!)

So, documents are scanned, we have gifts for the orphanage workers, so off to get the passport and head to the bank (which just opened from break) to transfer the donation funds to the orphanage.  Everything goes smoothly at the first branch (yep, we have to go to two) and every thing goes smoothly at the second… Until they realize the power has been off for street construction all day and they have no idea when it will be back on.  They did all the paperwork, but none of their cashier equipment works to actually give me the money.  So, they ask we we can come back at 5:30 to check if the power is back on.  I said I would if I had to while saying a quick prayer.  The power turns on before I can finish my answer and we get the cash and head back to the orphanage.

We get back at about 4:30pm and say thank you to all the staff and let them say their good-byes.  We then stop by the play room to say bye to all our new friends.  Once this is done we head down to the car to go back to the apartment.

Leeza really enjoys the car ride and seeing new people at the apartment (Valerie and her daughter were just heading to the train station).  We Skype Kim and the other kids and enjoy chatting.  Then Leeza enjoys seeing her videos on the blog.   At about 6:20pm we head down stairs to meet the Ferdon’s who were taking us out to celebrate.   Walking outside I see the wide eyes of wonderment turn to panic and fear.  I am wondering if she has ever been outside at night?  She calms down with a few whimpers and all is well again when we get in the Van.

We have a great time at dinner and loved the company.  Leeza was the star of the evening and did very well, even if she didn’t eat anything.  Once back at the apartment I see the same fear and confusion when I get her ready for bed.  I can tell this is completely foreign to her but can’t do much to relieve her anxiety.   Once Leeza was ready for bed and actually saw her bed I think she realized she wan’t going back.  I have three small kids, and have seen tears of anger, tears of joy, tears of frustration, tears of hurt, and even tears of regret;  Nothing comes close to seeing genuine tears of fear.

Leeza has proven to be a very soft hearted and happy little girl.  Much like a little puppy that sees the joy in almost everything.  It was hard to hold and hug knowing that right then, I was not what she wanted, but rather what she was fearful of.  After a few minutes, she calmed down and let me lay her down.  I pulled up the blanket and sat beside her.  After 45 minutes of the occasional cry and echoing whimper, the readjustment of the arm or leg, Leeza fell asleep.

I am now praying that Jesus will meet her in her dreams and provide the comfort of normalcy that was so coldly missing from her night-time routine.  Hopefully when she wakes up she will have a renewed strength to see the day as an adventure and know that I will be right beside her.  Here’s to hoping the airplane, tomorrow, is as fascinating as the car was.

Gameplan

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Hmmm, Kim is home with three small kids and she still beats me to the blog.  Thanks sweetie!!  I love you!

Ok, so the gameplan for this week is for Philip to finish celebrating his birthday tonight and then hit the ground running tomorrow. He needs to do a little shopping for thank you presents for the care takers who have been so good to Leeza at the orphanage before he finally gets to take her out of there for the last time! We had decided to leave her there while he finished up the bulk of the paperwork and running around because it really would have been very difficult to carry her around and keep her occupied in all the government offices he’s been stuck in and leaving the orphanage is usually a pretty scary thing for the kids. We’d been advised to leave her where she was comfortable until he was just about ready to leave the region. It will be interesting to hear what she thinks of being on the outside….her first bath, first restaurant, first day where tea cookies and porridge aren’t major parts of her diet, first airplane ride, first time to not live in a room with 14 other kids and the first time she’ll be cared for by the same person for more than an 8 hour shift. They will have a few other errands to run before they can leave and then they’ll be headed to Kiev to do what’s necessary at the American Embassy. Lord willing, they will be on a flight home by Thursday morning and our family will be together that evening!

I do have a couple prayer requests….the first is a praise that they are planning to meet the couple who first blogged about Leeza 8 months ago, which is how we found out about her. They are also in Ukraine right now for the adoption of their 2 girls and should be in Kiev at the same time. It seems fitting that God would allow our families to cross paths there at the end of our journey. The second is that God would provide Philip and Leeza with comfortable flights on the way back. I ended up being asked to move to Economy Plus on my long flight (they didn’t have to ask me twice!) and it was SO much better than the seats on the way there! It may seem like a silly prayer, but I’m hoping He will provide comfort for them as well so they can enjoy their flight and get some rest. I don’t know that I’ll hear from them much until they arrive home (internet service is pretty spotty over there), but we’ll definitely let you know when they get home!

God vs. Government

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Okay, so this is going to be quick update.  I just wanted everyone to be praying.  We went to get Leeza’s new social security number so we could apply for her passport.  This is usually not a hard thing to do and the last time our facilitator did it they were there for a total of 15 minutes.  Well, ours took most of the day and ended with the office worker saying thank you and he would have her new number in a week!  That’s right, one WEEK!

Our facilitator was so shocked I even saw it on her face without knowing a thing they were saying.  This worker is not the one they usually work with and the team is going to try and track their usual contact down tomorrow and find a better solution.  Apparently he was out today.  Needless to say, I would love for you all to be praying that we can get her number tomorrow, not a week from now.  I am sure God can issue a new social in less than a week. :-)

On a happier note, I leave you with a very silly girl trying to read the French newspaper.  Isn’t she cute. :-)

From the Homefront

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This is Kim…finally catching my breath after getting home a week ago! I returned to 3 VERY excited kids and have been trying to get back into our routine ever since. The jet lag took about a week to get over both ways so I’m starting to feel pretty normal today. I expected to be tired and have the kids act out some and have a lot of things around the house to catch up on…what I didn’t expect was the culture shock of coming back here. It felt wonderful to be home, but it was kind of overwhelming to suddenly understand everyone (and have them understand me!) and have so many people who wanted to talk to me and to have the kids constantly wanting to talk to me. We’d just spent 4 weeks with very few English speakers and most of the people we saw each day weren’t terribly friendly. It’s a great feeling to be able to be so clean and to know what I’m eating all the time and to drive in a place with rules and to hear my kids laughs and be in my church…it’s just great to be home!

After putting out all the little fires last week….frozen credit cards, mice inhabiting my oven, bills that we’d missed, children who thought I was leaving again every time I left their sight…we’re starting back to normal today. This was our first day of homeschool and it went pretty well. Josiah (4) and Grace (2) started their preschool lessons today and we got off to a good start. I got up in time to work out and dinner is actually planned tonight instead of just throwing some leftovers together. We even picked out Halloween costumes for the 3 kids here this morning at the library (Josiah is a dinosaur, Grace is a monkey and Kasia is a bumble bee).

I talked to Philip this morning about what the time line looks like. Tomorrow is ‘Gotcha Day’ and Leeza will officially be a Dean! Normally this is the day he would pick her up from the orphanage, but because of how things work in Ukraine it looks like he’ll leave her there for a couple days while he takes care of the worst of the paperwork. We decided this made more sense because she’s in a safe place and leaving the orphanage is usually pretty scary for the kids…it’s the only thing they’ve ever known. He will have to drive a couple hours to her birth town to get a new birth certificate issued then has more running around, and probably a  lot of waiting in government offices, before he has what is needed to get her passport and visa ordered. It didn’t seem fair to make her go through all that and scare her and neither of us wants her riding in cars over there any more than is necessary (the driving is horrible and there are no car seats…there aren’t even seat belts in most cars). So he’ll probably ‘bust her out’ Thursday or Friday and we’re expecting them to be able to fly home by the next Thursday or Friday (the 14th or 15th). Lord willing, in about 2 weeks our whole family will be together for the first time!

Outside You Say…

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Leeza wanted to eat her snack on the window sill. Seemed like a good idea to me.

Okay, for the last few days it has been not only cold, but rainy as well.  So, Leeza and I have been in the large play room for our play dates.  We have had the joy of sharing the room with a family from Canada, a family from France, a family from Chili, and a family from somewhere else.  (Hey Kimmie, you missed your opportunity to use your Spanish.)  Unfortunately, most of the other kids were younger and did not share our sense of joy.  While playing inside, Leeza added several new words to her vocabulary.  Most were in sentence structure and I expect she was telling me all sorts of good things.  Only God knows.  However, one word keep coming back over and over and over and over and over  (I think I got enough in there) again.  Of course, I had no idea what it was and it was obviously posed as a question.  Wouldn’t you know it, this morning after Church I was standing by Yuri (sp?) and I heard a very very very similar sounding word come out of his mouth.  So, I interrupted and asked what he had just said.  Ah, I have your interest now don’t I.  What did he say???  Well, he had said, “I can show you when we get outside.”  Yep, the work she had been repeating was, “outside.”

So, armed with my new knowledge and prepared for her question, I eagerly went to visit Leeza.  As you have guessed, the first thing she asked was, “Outside?”  So we did.  It was 47 degrees F and a little windy but we went outside and had a great time.  She didn’t seem to care that her coat was too small and she seemed to enjoy her mittens  (granted they were more of a toy than a hand warmer).   Just for grins we said hello to the family back home as well.  There isn’t much to do while she is eating snack and I can’t hardly use the camera once she is done.  So, I know you have heard this before, but I am pretty sure Kimmie, JoJo and Grace never get tired of it.

Found this one the way to the market. Pretty sure I could do something like this at home. :-)

So, that was about it for my Sunday.  After I left the orphanage I went into town to do some shopping for the week.  It seems that fall is clean up time and someone had fun re-sculpting the bushes in front of the park.  Here is one I am sure Josiah will be especially fond of.

Tomorrow starts crazy week.  I need to get some phone calls made and take a leap of faith and book some airline tickets.  Leeza becomes a Dean on Tuesday and our facilitator thinks we can get her paperwork done on Wednesday and Thursday so we can head to Kiev on Friday.  That seems rather optimistic, but then again, I have been accused of that as well. :-)  Here is to the start of the end before the beginning.  (you followed that right?)

One For the Boys…

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Okay today was a pretty good day.  I went to the orphanage in the morning to miss the rain in the afternoon and also to watch the “part” with Leeza.  Apparently the orphanage, or the director, was having a birthday and staff and kids had a full program put together.  If I can, I will put of some video from that later.

Today’s post is for all the boys out there.  Specifically Josiah.  He loves trains and wanted to see what train Kim and I had ridden on.  So, I stopped by the station on the way home and took what footage was available.  I hope you enjoy them JoJo!!

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