Adopting Grace

The journey to bring our little girl home

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A New View

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Our group brought watermelons for the kids and I am pretty sure they ate their weight.

We had the opportunity to go to one of the village orphanages with Forrest and his family today and it was interesting. It’s not the invalid orphanage (we’re still hoping to get to visit that later in the week); this is one for 8-15 year olds and it houses about 40 true orphans and 80 who live there during the week because they don’t have family to take care of them most of the time. It’s hard to tell how much structure is really there because it was a Saturday and that’s obviously a relaxed day for them, but we didn’t see many adults and the kids were free to play outside or watch TV. We chose to stay outside, hoping they would come out and play and it didn’t take them long to join us. Forrest’s family has spent each Saturday with them for the past several years, playing and doing Bible lessons, so they have pretty good relationships there and the kids warmed up to us pretty well. I played Frisbee, jump rope and tug of war with Vanya and Nastya while Philip showed some of the older boys tricks he could do on the pull-up bar. Once they saw some of the games on his phone he had them hooked (Josiah, they loved your coloring game!). We’d brought watermelons with us so we got to eat ‘2nd breakfast’ with them and the boys ate an astonishing amount of melon! This is a real treat for them and the kids ate so much they weren’t hungry for lunch. We went back out and Darcy handed out some little toys she’d brought and we played volleyball with a beach ball she’d brought too. The kids here don’t have much interaction with males and it was obvious they wanted Forrests’ attention and just kind of hovered around him all day. This was a very different orphanage than what Grace is in…certainly not the worst, but a far cry from hers. I teared up having to leave Vanya and Nastya as they had been my buddies most of the morning and I was already trying to figure out how we could fit 2 more kids in our house, knowing that there’s no way we could just take them home with us. I know we’re blessed to have this kind of access to different orphanages and I’m not sure what God wants us to do with it yet, but I know it’s changing me…there’s just no way to be there and know that they have no family and not have it affect you. It hit hard again after our visit with Grace when we hesitated outside one of the other doors. From the sound of the cries it was obvious these were younger children and then we realized one of them had to be newborn because it still had that ‘waaaa’ kind of cry that only the smallest babies have. I got choked up again thinking about this little baby in there, being taken care of, but not being loved by a parent.

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean this post to be so depressing. We had a great visit with Grace today and had a wonderful dinner with 2 other RR families (one of whom is on their way home Monday!), but at the end of the day I keep getting those kids faces in my head and wondering why there aren’t parents here to take them home.

2 Weeks

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The apartment complex we are living in. We are in the light blue row on top.

Today marks 2 weeks that we’ve been gone and I’m getting antsy for a court date. We still haven’t heard one (but are praying to hear from Violetta soon) so we’re just trying to find the blessings in being here. It is fun to get to explore another culture, especially one that is not touristy at all so we get to really see what life is like for the locals. This place is an odd mixture of modern Western-style buildings and businesses on one street (not modern toilets, just modern buildings!), but a mile over has extreme poverty with old women selling whatever they can to make it through the day (berries, peanuts, random personal belongings) and houses that are little more than a concrete shack. The rest of the city is a mix…you can tell there was money spent at different times in the past to clean things up and modernize, but it’s been a while. Clothing is important here, but costs about the same as at home, which is very expensive for people who are doing extremely well to make $200 a month. Food is very cheap here, compared to what we pay at home, but when I look in the babuska’s shopping bags I usually only see a loaf of bread, some pasta and Vodka. Almost everyone here would say they are Christian, but it’s hard to tell how many could be considered ‘born again’ Christians. From what I can tell many people are very devout in praying to a saint, keeping icons on their dashboards and kissing pictures of the saints in churches. Modesty is required/encouraged in Orthodox churches, which means women should have a head covering and shouldn’t wear mini skirts, but see-through blouses are fine. They have small families; 2 kids is a large family and we’ve gotten surprised looks each time we say how many kids we already have and that we are adopting another one.

We had a good visit with Grace today. Roger (from Ireland) was there visiting his daughter and one of the French families was there (and taught me how to do a proper French greeting) so we had a good time visiting and letting the kids play. We brought some clothes for Grace to try on so we have a better idea what size she is. I was pretty sure she looked like a 3T, which fits well enough, although the pants were pretty long. We had to go buy some shoes because her feet are so little; she’s actually in the same size shoes Little Grace is wearing at home. She seemed to enjoy trying on new things and liked that the shoes were easier to get on and off than her therapy boots.

I think we’re going to just take a slow evening here tonight as I’m not feeling so great. I’m pretty sure my body is not liking all the added fat that seems to be in the diet here and it’s hard to avoid when I’m frequently not exactly sure what I’m eating! We’re planning to head out to another orphanage tomorrow with Forrest and his family, which we understand is where Grace probably would have been going if we weren’t able to come get her. We’re not really sure what to expect, but we’re grateful for the chance to go. Violetta still hasn’t heard back from the judge about our court date…please be praying that we’ll get a date for next week!

The Bazaar

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It is truly amazing how much underwear they have for sale.

We’ve had the chance to wander around one of the bazaars recently and they are a lot of fun. It looks like a shanty town, but inside is a crazy maze of little stalls that look like they should have primitive wares, but instead have fur coats, house decor, food, all kinds of clothing and shoes and even wedding supplies. You could seriously buy everything you need for a wedding in the ‘wedding district.’ There’s an underwear district that’s enormous, which is funny because it’s all almost identical. And the shoes! Philip was laughing at me because I kept finding ones I liked and then realizing they had a 5 inch heel attached…I’m WAY too much of a klutz to ever think I could walk in those things. Philip almost found a great price on some new tennis shoes for himself, but their available sizes are pretty hit and miss and they didn’t have his. Forrest and Darcy told us about another larger bazaar in the middle of town that we’re going to try to check out soon.

What is it about kids and shoes? Anyway, Grace enjoyed playing with them, just like our other kids.

We visited with Grace in the afternoon today because it’s still chilly and we didn’t want to interupt the morning play time in the big room like we did yesterday. I think we’re getting to see a little of the ‘real’ Grace finally because she kept trying to break a few of the toys we were playing with instead of behaving well like she has been. She tested us a bit to see if we would make her mind and realized pretty quickly that even though we bring the fun toys and snacks she’s going to have to follow the rules. She also had a good time trying on our shoes, much like our other kiddos like doing.

And we had another marshootka adventure. We must have hit rush hour on the way home and instead of the 15 people it was supposed to hold we ended up with about 30. As our driver zoomed past our stop we realized he must have yelled back to see if anyone wanted off there…since we didn’t understand him we hadn’t said anything. The next stop was about a mile down the road, but it wasn’t raining and we got to see a little different part of the city. We finished up the day with dinner at Forrests’ house and the kids did a traditional ‘bread and salt’ Ukrainian greeting for us, complete with their holiday outfits. Darcy made borscht for us and it was delicious!

Prayer requests: Please keep praying that we receive a court date soon…hopefully we’ll hear something tomorrow. We really want a date for next week so I can come home. And we have a praise…another RR family had ‘Gotcha Day’ yesterday and officially have Milana in their custody. Praise God!

Rainy Day

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This very well may have been the first time Leeza had ever seen crayons. She figured out what to do with them quick enough!

As we headed out today we realized Ukraine doesn’t have something we hadn’t even missed until now…gutters. The temperature has dropped and it’s rainy and the streets are flooded. Without proper drainage there’s 4 inches of water covering many roads and the sidewalks are a mess, making walking a challenge since the only walking shoes I brought are sandals. But we made it! There is frequently a man standing near the front gates and we always just assumed they were workers taking a break. Today the man came out to us and seemed a little agitated and wanted to sort of search Philip. We realized he was interested in what was over Philip’s shoulder and once he saw it was just a back pack he smiled and waved us in. It took us a minute to figure out what he’d thought it was…from the front it looked a bit like a gun slung over his shoulder and I guess he thought we were trying to walk in armed! The thought of Philip walking around with an AK47 makes me smile…we don’t even own a BB gun!

They looked a little surprised that we came today, but found a spare room for us to play in. The big playroom we’d been in yesterday was obviously filled with several groupas and it sounded like they were doing excersizes or something in there and having fun. We were next door in a smaller room that we’re guessing is a therapy room and break room for the doctors/therapists. They would periodically come in to make tea or change clothes as they got off their shift (one guy stripped right to his undies in front of us…we quickly averted our eyes and pretended like we didn’t notice!). Grace seemed familiar with some of the stuff in there and as a tour of doctors came in we couldn’t understand what they were saying except that one of the pieces of equipment was used to help kids like Grace. We had a good time singing, wrestling and letting her play with crayons. She didn’t seem to know how to use them and I’m beginning to wonder if they let the kids this age ever practice ‘writing’ or coloring. Forrest has told us they don’t ususally start educating them until they’re 5 or 6 so they may not have access to crayons at this age. I haven’t seen a single book anywhere in the orphanage yet.

We’ve finally gotten the hang of the bus system here so thankfully we didn’t have far to walk and today’s bus didn’t break down (yesterday we had to get off half way home…it sounded like it had lost it’s transmission along the way). We have a short walk from our bus stop at the bazaar to our apartment and we were trying to pick the least flooded way home, not paying much attention to the cars whizzing by on the road…until one hit a puddle by us and we got sprayed! We made it home a big soggy, but thankful it had happened on the way home instead of the way there. On such a wet, cold day we both thought naps sounded great and although it’s hard to be away from our kids one of the perks is getting to rest and just take a slow day.

Yeah, we all do cheese smiles well!!

About paperwork…we had hoped to hear a court date today, but Violetta said there’s still one paper she’s waiting on from Kiev before we can get a date. Sasha was waiting for it at the train station today so hopefully it came. Please be praying for a date soon…after that’s done I can start heading home and our 10 day waiting period can begin.

Everyone Sing a Long!

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