Adopting Grace

The journey to bring our little girl home

Browsing Posts in travel

Help My Shoes are Dirty

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Leeza was showing off her very dirty cloths.

Okay okay, I am not exactly sure that is what Leeza said, but it sounded like it might look like, “Помощь мои ботинки грязна.”  Which is in fact the title of this post.  So why were her shoes dirty?  Because it rain for the first half of the day.  It was still fairly nice out when I thought it would be fun to play outside regardless of the occasional puddle.  Leeza didn’t seem to mind except stopping twice to ask to go back to the pavilion where the backpack was.  Once we got there she preceded to ask to be put down, pull the wet-wipes out of the backpack and ask me to clean the dirt off her shoes.  Yeah, the bottom of her shoes.  So, I introduced her to wiping her shoes on the grass (note: it helps to have grass).  She seemed satisfied with this and off we went again.  Needless to say, her shoes weren’t the only thing that got dirty and I had the joy of doing a “quick” load of wash when I got home.  Hopefully things will dry quickly.

There is a Canadian couple adopting a little girl and boy that comes at the same time I do.  The little boy is in Leeza’s groupa so we run into each other quite a lot.  Although their first language is French, the do well enough with English for us to have normal conversation.  Tomorrow we are meeting another Canadian mom (in her 10 day wait as well) for dinner.  I am looking forward to having some dinner conversation and sharing stories.

So, this is our Marshrutkas Stop as seen from our kitchen window. Just thought you would like to know. After all, I have to fill my time with something. :-)

On another quick note, Kim go home safe and the household is getting back to normal.  Well, except for the fact that Dad is MIA.  It sounds like Mom and the kids are very happy to all be home again.  I am looking forward to joining them soon.

A Sad Day

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Leeza took this. Not bad!

Well, this has got to be one of the saddest days for our blogging family.  Why you ask?  Well, as I type, Kim is setting in the Chicago O’Hare airport about 40 minutes from taking off to Cedar Rapids.  Ah, I hear it already…. “Why is that so sad?”  I am glad you asked.  That is sad because it means you are stuck with me trying to pull off this blogging thing.  That’s right, you heard me.  No more of Kim’s beautiful analogies. Gone are her picturesque descriptions.  Those Pulitzer Prize worthy saunters down memory lane, banished from these digital scripts.  Most importantly, gone are those really really really yummy dinners she made each evening.  (Miss you Sweetie!!!)

We spend some time riding around too.

Okay enough of that.  I know you guys only stop by to see images and video of one of the worlds four cutiest kids. (bias acknowledged)  So here is what we did today.  After an enjoyable church service, I stopped by the Ferdon’s for lunch.  We had a blast talking, eating, playing Golf, and eating some more.  Then I took my leave to head to the orphanage.  Leeza was quite ready to get out of her room and so we did.  Along with practicing names, we have also started working on numbers.  We were told that she could count to 10 in Russian so we have been starting over in English.  After count out three Hazel nuts we moved on to more important things.  (See Below)  I was surprised when about 40 minutes later we were in the sand box and she counted out three nuts again.  Yep, in English.  One of these days I will have to capture it on video. :-)

Well, that is about it for today.  I wasn’t exactly joking when I said it was a sad day.  Kim is MUCH better at this blogging thing.  I know you are all curious so I will do my best to keep you humored if nothing else. 😉

Almost Home

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Every now and then Leeza has the urge to do pull-ups. She is pretty good at them too.

The alarm went off at 4am this morning and my journey home started. I got to fly to Kiev with the Clarke’s and a Canadian man who was also adopting from our region (not from RR). Niko picked us up, helped me get settled in my apartment for the night and then we met up with the Nalle family at the Ukrainian restaurant here and spent the morning walking around town. Aaron is so sweet and it was wonderful to watch he, Oishin and Alina enjoy the city. Two of those three kids have lived their whole lives, up until Wednesday, in orphanages and an institution and it was truly a gift to get to see Kiev through their eyes. The Nalles have had one of the hardest adoption stories I’ve ever heard, but they are an excellent example of staying faithful to God in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. If you haven’t been following their blog you can find it at http://covenantbuilders.blogspot.com/.

After watching multiple wedding parties around the city (I really will miss those every weekend), walking through ‘souvenir-ski’ street and being a part of some weird Avon party in Independence Square (Avon is huge here) it was time for us to part company so Aaron could rest and the Clarke’s could head home to Ireland. Alina and Leeza are best friends and I’m so grateful we got to meet her

Leeza and Alina are best friends. We are hoping to keep them in touch with each other.

and her family and that we can keep the girls in touch as they grow up. And then I was alone in a foreign city and it felt strange so I decided to call Philip and let him know I’d arrived ok…only to find my cell phone had died and would not turn back on. And the internet was down in the apartment. I at least knew where the Nalles apartment was, but I also knew the building was locked and I’d have to throw rocks at their window to get their attention.  Thankfully there’s an internet cafe down the street and I was able to get a hold of Philip to call Niko and get a new phone dropped off. I’m loving my time alone, but I also like knowing I can call for help if I need it! It was about that time that I realized I’ve spent many exhausted kid-filled days wishing I could check into a hotel by myself for just one night to be alone and not have any responsibilities and that’s exactly what I had today! It’s been a wonderful break before jumping back into ‘real life.’ Tomorrow will start with a 2am wake-up call and I’ll be on my way to the airport by 3am. It’s going to be a long day, but I’m SO excited to see my babies and hug them!!

PS I also got to be part of Leeza’s first phone call. Philip was visiting with her and gave her the phone, which she loves to carry around so she can listen to the music. But today the phone was talking to her with Mama’s voice! From Philip’s laugh her face must have been pretty funny. :)

Nastia was working on the necklace Kim and I put together for the girls (and guys) to make.

We spent half the day out at the other orphanage with Forrest and his family. Philip played frisbee with several kids for a couple hours while I colored with Nastia and Nadia. We had an English student come with us today and she translated some of what Nastia was saying to me. Nastia is a little 9 year old who has really stuck in my head from last week and I was curious to hear part of why she’s there. She told us her mom died when she was 2 and about 2 weeks ago her Papa told her to get out of the house. She has a 10 year old brother who runs away a lot. He ran away from the orphanage this week and hasn’t come back, which upset her because he usually returns pretty quickly. And then she went back to coloring and told us she wanted to be an artist some day, like her Papa. This little girl breaks my heart. As we walked up to the orphanage today she came running out and right into my arms to give me a huge hug. She belongs in a family, but even if her father has signed away rights to her she wouldn’t be available for international adoption for at least a year. I asked Darcy how many of these kids ever get adopted out there (this orphanage is about an hour out of the city in the middle of some tiny village) and she said it’s very rare because no one ever hears about this place. These kids’ only hope of getting a family is for visiting groups to hopefully get their info to someone who might be willing to adopt.

Two of the Monkey Brother Clan. They were amazing on these bars. They could even do backward flip dismounts.

One sibling group that is especially in need of a family is lovingly referred to as the “Monkey Brothers” because they are all such good gymnasts. The ‘gym’ there is just one high bar and we got to watch the 2 youngest boys play around on it some today. The oldest boy is 15 and the youngest is about 9 and they are really good kids. Vlad is one of the younger two (I’m not sure which, they all really look alike!) and he got a hold of our camera and was fascinated. I think he reprogrammed part of it before I was able to get him to give it back so we still had some batteries. Forrest and Darcy have been praying for a family for these boys and we wanted to get something about them up here so you all could join us in those prayers. We had hoped to get a picture of all 4 of them together, but it just didn’t happen. They really need an active family and would be in heaven with a big yard to play around in as all 4 are very athletic.

‘My Brother’

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Just sitting around on a sunny Friday morning.

I called one of the facilitators in Kiev this morning to see if she could better explain why we were still waiting for a court date and found out our city courts are under some kind of investigation and all court dates have been frozen. She said this had never happened before and they usually got whatever date they requested. But because of this investigation our judge has been told she may not see any cases right now. The judge over the whole region is out of town, but will return on Monday and Violetta is supposed to be meeting with him then to request that we be seen because of our situation. So, for now, it looks like the first time we might get a date is Tuesday, but only if he agrees to let our case proceed while the investigation is happening. Keep praying!

During our visit today we looked through the photo album again and, again, Grace is especially interested in pictures of Josiah. We’ve been calling him ‘JoJo’ with her most of the time because ‘Josiah’ seems to be very difficult for her to say. I pointed him out as ‘Leeza’s braat’ (braat is brother) and she got excited and started flipping through each page, finding him and saying something that sounded like ‘moy JoJo, moy braat!’ which loosely means ‘my brother!’ Then she found a picture of Little Grace and said ‘Leeza’s sistra!’ (sister) Something seemed to click today and she’s starting to realize the people in the pictures are related to her.

As many of you have noticed, and I’m sure you heard in that last video, we are calling her ‘Leeza.’ Grace was the name used by the RR site to keep her identity anonymous for safety reasons and it’s the only name we had for quite a while. We were told to not share her real name or location with the public for these sames reasons. We’ve tried to follow that rule, but it’s getting confusing because we call her one thing and then try to write the other name here…and actually her legal name will be slightly different than either of those! So, for the sake of clarification, we have requested that her legal name be changed to Elizabeth Faith. However, for as long as she’s been at the orphanage she’s gone by the nickname ‘Leeza.’ Even though that won’t be her legal name, we have chosen to keep it since she’s already 4 and it just seemed wrong to take her name away from her. Ok, I don’t think we broke any rules with that and it should be far less confusing! :)

Groundhog Day

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Here are two of my four favorite girls. Aren't they beautiful!

Many families who have traveled before us have said they felt like they were stuck in an Eastern European version of the movie, Groundhog Day and I’m starting to relate. Tomorrow will mark 3 weeks that we’ve been gone and our days are all starting to run together. Thankfully we are able to go to church or the whole week would really feel like the same day over and over again. We still have not received a court date. Our judge has apparently said we will get in ‘soon,’ but we have no idea what that means over here. We’d been told it might be Friday, but we were also told it might be last Monday or even the Wednesday before that. Every time the phone rings I pray that it’s Violetta calling with our date.

On a happier note, we were able to see quite a few other RR kids this morning. They were all together in one of the pavilions so we went over to say hello. They all smiled at us and a couple wanted their pictures taken so we were able to get new pictures of them and interact with them a little. After a few minutes Grace got a little annoyed with it and insisted on being picked up and played with alone, which is actually a good sign. She seems to be identifying with us more lately and isn’t calling every unknown couple ‘Mama’ and ‘Papa.’ She’s also starting to allow us to help her with her shoes and clothes, which initially she refused. With our other kids we would encourage them to get dressed independently, but with Grace she still needs to learn what a Mama and Daddy do so every time she lets us care for her is good.

Gage

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We had a good visit with Grace this morning and had a chance to meet one of her favorite care workers (or maybe a doctor/therapist?). This lady has stopped us several times to visit with Grace and they both seem to like each other quite a bit. Today she motioned that she would like her picture taken with her, which I’m glad to have. I believe she said her name was Nadia.

Gage is still in need of a family

I’ve been watching one of the other children there the past few days, wondering who he was. He looks to be about 4 or 5 and had very small, withered legs…which didn’t stop him AT ALL from zooming around in his wheelchair. He is usually playing with another little girl (an RR child whose parents are hoping to get over here soon) who can’t walk and he’s usually got a smile on his face. I went looking through the RR site today and realized I’d been watching Gage, who is listed on THIS PAGE.  Reading his bio there I found out that he is living at the baby orphanage on borrowed time and will be moved very soon. Very similar to Grace, the only thing ‘wrong’ with him is that he is unable to walk…cognitively he is an average 5 year old. He has no business being left here, much less being put in a crib for the rest of his life. (Quick note…even if he did have cognitive impairments he wouldn’t deserve what is waiting for him, but somehow it always hits me harder when I realize that this child will fully understand what is happening to him and why). We were able to watch him working with a volunteer who comes and helps the kids work on some pre-school skills and he ended up being in parts of a video we took. The thought of this little boy being moved soon makes me want to cry and I’m not sure what to do about it…except put it on here in the hopes that God will move someone to adopt him. It may sound like a far-fetched idea, but it’s exactly the way that God brought Grace into our family and I pray it’s the way Gage will find a family too.

A Date…Maybe

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I sent out a plea for prayer last night and today we finally got a few answers, even if they weren’t what I really wanted to hear. It turns out we’ve haven’t heard a court date because our judge has been out of town and our Interpol paper is taking FOREVER to get here from Kiev. The judge is supposed to be back today so our facilitator is trying to get in to her today or tomorrow and we’re asking for a court date for this Friday, which is when that Interpol paper should be here. I had really hoped we could get our date earlier in the week so I could be on my way home this weekend, but it doesn’t look like that’s a possibility. Assuming we get in Friday I would then need to find a way to get back to Kiev (hopefully I could get on the plane or train Saturday) and I just petitioned the US Embassy for an appointment on Monday to sign my papers. In the states I wouldn’t be too worried about this time line working out. Over here I’ve learned not to assume anything is going to happen on time. Please keep praying that we’ll find favor with all these people and that we can get on with this process and get home.

We had a good visit with Grace today and now I’m off to see if I can bake some bread. This should be an adventure as our oven doesn’t actually have any temperature settings…you just adjust the flame to something that looks appropriate and go with it. Here’s to hoping I don’t make a hockey puck!

…later in the day…

Ok, so we heard that there is an option for me to fill out the Embassy papers once I get back to the States and then have them rushed back over here, which might help me not get stuck in Kiev over the weekend waiting for the Embassy to reopen. We’ll have to wait to see when the judge agrees to see us before we can figure out which scenario makes more sense.

And the focaccia isn’t a hockey puck, but it’s certainly not focaccia either! It didn’t rise much so it’s more like a soft cracker, but it’s kinda of good. I’m wondering if I bought some weird kind of flour. Or maybe it could have something to do with the fact that I didn’t have anything to measure ingredients in except a baby bottle.

Where’s the Basil?!

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Ok, we’ve been here long enough that I’m still enjoying the bread and ice cream, but I want something that tastes like home too! I figured tomato soup and focaccia bread would be pretty easy to pull off…but not when you can’t read or speak to anyone. :) It’s taken 2 days to pull together the ingredients for the meal, but I think I’ve finally got enough of it together to make something that’s at least similar to home….assuming that’s actually yeast in those little packets and the flour isn’t something weird. We spent an hour in the bazaar sniffing different herbs, trying to find basil. We met a few friendly-ish babushkas and got plenty of strange looks, but struck out. Thankfully Philip noticed a picture that looked like basil on one of the packets in the grocery store so we think we finally found it!

We’ve also got to put this picture in because the outfit is so crazy. We’ve been brining some of Grace’s clothes to the orphanage during our visits to make sure they fit and because she seems to enjoy having new things to try on. The temperature here has been up and down a lot lately and it’s maybe a little cool for a sun dress, but Little Grace and I had picked out a dress for her and I wanted to see her in it so we brought it yesterday with a little jacket. The dress, jacket and shoes didn’t match all that well, but we didn’t worry about and she didn’t care. However, part of the culture over here is that if the temperature is below about 80 the kids must be bundled up so we got fussed at for trying to take her outside without tights on. We had to put these crazy orange ones on her. The poor kid looked like a fashion victim, but she seemed happy enough. I thought it was fitting that she peed through her diaper onto them by the end of our visit. :)

Ukrainian Potpourri

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Just little things we’ve noticed since coming here…

-There are very few American cars. The first one we saw had a flat tire…our cars just can’t handle the beating they get over here.

-Watching women walk on 5 inch heels on these sidewalks is incredibly entertaining.

-The 70s are still alive over here…every time I see a man dress in head to toe white with pointy leather shoes I want to giggle.

-The 80s are still alive too…rat tails, acid washed jeans and rhinestones are all the rage.

-Restaurants put boxes of tissues on the tables for you to use as napkins. I’m guessing families with little kids don’t go out to eat much.

-Weddings are much different. They have their service at a gov’t office and then go around town taking pictures in front of all the important monuments and taking pictures. Most people don’t get married in church because that means you can never get divorced. If you marry with the gov’t and then later decide you want to stay with this person forever you can then go get remarried in church.

-Ice cream comes in tubes, mustard, salad dressing and yogurt come in pouches (like Capri Sun) and they only have about 10 kinds of cereal but a whole aisle of different kinds of ketchup.

-They eat pickled watermelon.

-Natural hair color is not popular here…at the very least most women have hight lights. More often it’s bleach blond or a strange red color.

-Man-purses are everywhere.

-You will easily be identifiable as an American if you wear tennis shoes or any type of cargo pants.

-They think it’s odd that we immediately remove our deceased family members from the house. They keep theirs there over night to say good bye and then go bury them.

-There’s a hot dog chain here that really needs to re-do their name…it looks like ‘crap dogs’ in English!

-There’s a reason no one uses shopping carts at the grocery store. You better only buy what you can carry because you have to carry it all the way home by hand.

-They get their money’s worth from their tires! They’re all Russian-made and poor quality so they don’t last long on these streets, but instead of just throwing them away they recycle them! They are used as planters, play ground equipment, decoration and to mark pot holes (which are common because the lids are stolen for scrap metal. They just shove a tire in sideways in the hole and you better avoid it while you’re driving!

-No one drinks just plain water; it’s always at least tea or coffee, even for little kids.

-Their bread is amazing and doesn’t have a bunch of preservatives like ours does, which means you better not buy more than you can eat in about 2 days.

-They have a national obsession with sunflower seeds. They love them! We passed huge sunflower fields on the train that must have been beautiful in summer.

-The crosswalk signs downtown show people walking, but those out by the orphanage have running people. I suppose it’s their way of warning us that we better get out of their way!

-The skinniest of women in Kiev are the ones we kept seeing eating huge ice cream cones. I want to know their secret! An ice cream diet sounds great to me. :)

-When you order a hot chocolate here you get exactly that…melted chocolate in a mug. It makes for a very rich drink!

-We’ve seen quite a few street performers here, but 2 guys in full military outfits singing and playing guitars are my favorite so far.

-We did find one American style toy store here and most of the dolls looked pretty normal, but this one was a little creepy. This is also the store where we were stalked by guards with walkie talkies as we took our purchases to the cash register. They didn’t seem to care that we had shoes with us, but the $1 hair clip was kept under lock and key and they practically escorted us to the register with it. I’m guessing hair clips are stolen a lot here?