Adopting Grace

The journey to bring our little girl home

Browsing Posts tagged orphanage



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!

Day 27

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We’ve been gone 27 days today and my time here is (hopefully) winding down. Today was ‘Gotcha Day’ for the Clarke’s from Ireland. They are officially Alina’s parents today and we are so happy for them! We

Oh yeah, and we brought a load of diapers. Everyone seemed happy!

weren’t there this morning when they got her, but apparently she was a bit upset when they walked through the gates with her…she’s never been outside the orphanage grounds and that must have been pretty scary at first. She has a lot to discover now and I bet it’s been a busy day!

We spent the morning going to another orphanage in the region. It is nothing like Leeza’s, but is probably where she would have been sent soon. I’m not sure what to say about it on a public blog except to ask all of you to be praying for the children we saw today.

A Court Date


Yeah, we feel this way too sometimes. She is getting pretty good at this face. :-)

We’ve finally been given a court date for this Friday at 12:30pm. That also marks 1 month since we’ve been gone. There are some beautiful things about this country (like our daughter!), but trust me, I will be on the first plane out of here once court is over! The court system in our city is in a mess. One judge is on leave for a month. Another is sick and on indefinite leave. The last one, who has agreed to see our case, had to renew her license and it’s not good again until this Friday so that’s the earliest we could get in. We’re not sure what happened to the investigation of the courts that we’d heard about last week. We also found out today that one of the papers that was given to part of our team from Leeza’s birth town, which is needed for this court date, is a copy instead of an original so it’s inadmissible in court and they will have to go back out there before court to get the original. And because of a translation error there is now a problem with the fact that Leeza just turned 4. Our home study approved us for a child up to the age of 4, but when it was translated it made it sound like we could only have a child under the age of 4. I wanted to scream that if they’d given us a court date when they should have she wouldn’t have even BEEN 4 yet, but I figured that wouldn’t do much good. Our facilitator has said we can get both of these kinks worked out before Friday and if they’re not that judge is going to see this American Mama do the ugly cry right there in her court room. Assuming we don’t have any other problems I’m hoping to get to Kiev Saturday and hop on the first flight to Chicago I can find.

Since I have another week here I might still get to see the invalid orphanage. Forrest has been trying to get in with us for a couple weeks and is having trouble getting the director on the phone. They are more picky about who comes and when, partially because the kids don’t see many people so their immune systems aren’t as strong as they could be otherwise. However, offering to bring a load of disposable diapers usually seems to gain him admission so we’re hoping it will be a win-win situation. The process of deciding where each child will go as they age out of the baby house is a bit mysterious, but we believe this is where Leeza would have been going soon since she can’t walk and isn’t potty trained.

Speaking of the cutie, we had another good visit today. She found the music function on Philip’s phone and spent the morning rocking out to Toby Mac. She’s agreed to call me ‘Mama’ now (instead of just ‘ma’) and she’s trying to say please (it sounds more like ‘clease’). Manners here are very different and we decided we could wait to teach her some things, but saying ‘Please’ was not one of them. She’s catching on quickly and is learning to be a little less harsh when she asks us for things. We’ve had a few other firsts this week that somehow make her feel more like our daughter…she has officially pooped and peed on us. And we didn’t really care. Not that is wasn’t gross…it always is…but in my mind somehow you’re not really a parent until you’ve had a diaper explode on you and you still hold that little person close to you because you love them. And then you run to find the wet wipes!

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.



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 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


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


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


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.



We had just come out of the orphanage here and were getting ready to go play on the playground. Much like her sisters and brother, Grace loves balloons so we brought a new one today.

We got to go to church this morning with Forrest and his family. Their church is in a Chinese restaurant that they rent from 10-12 on Sundays, but the restaurant isn’t actually closed so people would randomly walk in and order stuff. It started smelling really good and by the end of service and I was getting hungry! There was a girl there who translated for us so we could understand what the ‘preacher’ was saying. They take turns doing sermons and today’s main sermon was given by a young man (maybe late 20’s) who is a welder and they’ve been teaching him how to teach the Bible. He did a very good job and taught on Joshua 1:8. It was a very good reminder to stay close to God always, but especially now when we know so much is out of our hands and we need His blessing to be successful in the jobs He’s given us. As we sang songs, several of which we could recognize as Russian versions of American praise/hymn songs, it made me think about when the Bible says every tongue, tribe and nation will one day praise God. It was difficult to sing English words as they were all singing Russian ones, but we could listen and it was neat.

Forrest helped us walk over to the orphanage today and it was a longer walk than we expected. It took about an hour, but we had a chance to just talk with him and ask him tons of questions we’ve been coming up with. He helped translate with Grace a bit and helped explain that the pictures we were showing her are of her new home. I don’t think she really understands, but we’ll keep telling her and hopefully it will help the transition. We also got our first picture with all 3 of us since Forrest was there to help.

This is for Josiah. Here is the large plane that is in the middle of the park. You couldn't go it, but it was fun to walk around.

We braved a ‘martooshka’ on the way home. I know that can’t possibly be spelled correctly, but that’s what it sounds like. It’s their version of a city bus. We still haven’t found one that will take us the whole route, but it helped some and it was better than walking through one of the neighborhoods again, which is a little rough and isn’t really a place you want to be later in the day. We picked up some ice cream on the way home out of curiosity…it comes in a tube kind of like ground beef at home and we’ve been told it has a different consistency here. We’re looking forward to a quiet evening of eating it, watching a movie and just relaxing.

By the way, we shot a couple videos recently…one of our apartment here and one just for the kiddos at home. We miss you guys and love you SO much!