Wednesday, June 20, 2012

13 days home

I am so very sorry it has taken me so long to post.  I promise that everyday I have been trying desperately to finish this post.  I have been working on it for many days now because I only have seconds really of any free time.  Every morning I think "today is the day I can finally get that darn blog post up"...and then the kids wake up...and well as you can see day after day no blog post.

It's busy, it's crazy, it's challenging, it's stressful, but it's also such a joy!  It's a good busy.

So, I give up on trying to keep the boys' names private, in theory it's a good idea but it just doesn't work.  We end up saying their names every time we shoot video of them and how in the world do you edit that out?  And it's just getting so confusing, they have their birth names, their orphanage nicknames, their 'blog names', and their new names...sheeesh.  So in case you didn't catch their names in the videos...drum roll...Valentin's name is Daniel (Hebrew meaning "God is my judge") and Joey's name is Bohdan (slavic name - Boh meaning "God" and dan meaning "given").

Thank you for praying for their first Pediatrician appointment!!!  Pictures on our way to the doctor...

It went VERY WELL!!!  Having a translator there helped tremendously!  The boys were so good and tolerated everything so well.  The blood draw was a completely different story.  Poor guys, it was very traumatic even with both Tyler and I there and the translator.  It did not help that the girls drawing the blood were not very patient or nice at all.  We got through it and with special treats afterwards the boys don't seem traumatized by it.  But I think the picture of the 3 bandages on Daniel speaks for itself...poor guy!  

We love our Pediatrician, he is very adoption friendly and he takes time to research their countries and what blood work they need and he jumps on getting referrals for us.  However he is definitely just a referring doctor, he does not answer any of our questions very well about things that concern us, he just refers us to specialized doctors.  So we really did not learn much at the appointment.  Both boys' blood work and tb tests came back fine (other then low vitamin D levels which we expected - being out in the sunshine is totally new to them) and only Daniel has one parasite that we are treating right now.  Other then the CP and obvious slow growth and being so skinny (they are both in the 1st percentile for weight and height for their age) the boys are healthy otherwise.

Okay, so I'll back up a bit.  I am not going to talk about the plane rides home, is was traumatic and exhausting for everyone, and I mean everyone sitting in economy class and probably some in business class too.  There were a lot of tears (mostly mine) and really I am glad it is quickly becoming a distant memory.  A necessary step to get us home that I am glad is over, but even in midst of it God was teaching and comforting and we are grateful for that!

Our plane arrived late to the airport and our wonderful friends and family waited at the airport for us for over an hour and a half (even with small children).  God bless them!

I cannot tell you the SHEER RELIEF of stepping off the plane in our hometown and knowing that in minutes we would see our family and we would all be reunited.  I started the 'ugly cry' before we even saw our kids running towards us.  And I completely lost it when my mom hugged me!

My mom meeting the boys for the first time...

Our friends showed up with gifts for the kids, food, and 'thickit' for Daniel (by the way 'thickit' is the greatest invention EVER for children who choke and aspirate on liquids!).

So very grateful to have all the kids together at last...and to be going HOME!

Surprisingly all the kids slept through the night that first night, and praise God they have all continued to since then.  Daniel and Bohdan had no problem switching time zones.  It has been an amazing blessing!  One of the hardest things for me about bringing home a newborn or newly adopted child is the lack of sleep, I have never handled lack of sleep well.  But God in his mercy has given us all rest!  I thought the boys would 'stim' a lot to fall asleep but I was surprised that Daniel does not stim at all and Bohdan only rocks his head back and forth singing Ukrainian songs and nursery rhymes, it's actually quite soothing to all of us!  Everyone falls asleep pretty quickly and everyone stays in their beds all night and even in the morning no one gets up, they just call for me.  I know right, how great is that????

So how is bonding going?  Daniel and Bohdan are fitting in like they have been here all the time.  The difference in behavior with Daniel from the orphanage to here is huge!  He is not fearful at all, his screaming and head banging has significantly reduced.  He loves his new found freedom!  Other then some potty issues Bohdan has not had any significant issues at all.  I am really surprised that is has gone so smoothly.  But then again I am not surprised at all...we serve a big God!  I am not saying it's easy...easy is not a word I would EVER use to describe our days or adoption in general, but it has been better then I ever thought.  There has been no real anger, acting out, sadness...anything.  I can tell Bohdan is very happy, first of all he tells everyone who speaks Russian how happy he is in his new home (isn't that the sweetest thing ever?) and second he is nothing but love, giving spontaneous hugs and kisses all the time.  Again, it's not all sunshine and rainbows but the hard things are brief and minor, we are not having to deal with the big bonding issues that I expected.  The hardest parts have been just the addition of two more bodies in the house and the work that entails and all the lifting and carrying with Daniel.  He is very light for his age but still very stiff dead weight and we are still figuring out how to best carry and move him around the house.  We are still getting a routine down.

Bonding between the kids has been slow but it's coming around.  Daniel really does not want anything to do with other kids, he likes to play by himself.  He has been isolated, separated from kids by cribs for  6 years so it will take time.  Our 'littles' are still getting used to having 2 'bigs' in the house, admitting to me that they are scared of them so everyday we work a bit more on playing together and sharing and loving.  Bohdan is a bit obsessive with blocks, spending hours doing the same repetitive things with them if we let him so it was a HUGE day a few days ago when he started to share his block and the boys all played with blocks together.  One of our adopted kids regressed significantly when we brought the boys home...and I mean SIGNIFICANTLY.  Like scary 'we are back at square one' significantly.  We have spent some one-on-one time with him/her (won't give away who it is) and it has been a struggle but slowly we are seeing a change back to normal, praise God!

As you can imagine there has been lots of running back and forth to the doctors office and lab, getting the right referrals, making lots of doctor appointments, working on getting adaptive equipment, tons of therapy and making therapy plans, check ups, blood work, stool samples, plus all the therapy Emma is already getting.  We have some sort of appointment almost every day and referrals from our doctor keep rolling in so we just keep scheduling more.  Plus there is just the daily things that need to get done.  Busy does not even begin to describe it.  But again, I would not change it for the world!  It's not easy but it is so totally worth it!  It just leaves little time for things like emails and blog...and some days even just showering.  Just for some humor, here are some of the things I find myself saying most days, "Someone smells like pee, I sure hope it's one of the kids still in diapers," "Didn't I just do laundry???," "Next trip to the grocery store we are getting paper plates!," "We are moving to a color coded system, each child is assigned a color and that is their toothbrush, plate, bowl, and cup color," "Did everyone's teeth get brushed this morning, I can't remember,"  "I just stepped in something wet, please tell me it's water," "Did we turn the water off to the pool? (by the way no we didn't and it overflowed),"  "Oh forget it, we are all staying in our pajamas today," "Remember the time long ago we said we would never let your kids watch cartoons on tv?" "Who got into this (let the finger pointing begin),"  "Oh no, I forgot to defrost one of the meals, who's up for sandwiches and fruit...we have bread right?"  I am certainly not winning any mother of the year awards but I am grateful that even in my lack God still chose me to be mom to these kiddos, and Tyler their dad!

We have been greatly blessed with meals.  Several friends have brought us huge amounts of food!  We even had some dear friends buy us a brand new chest freezer for the garage!  And we have received clothes too!  I know right, we have the most amazing friends!!!!  Thank you to all of you who suggested setting up a 'chip-in' so you could donate towards meals.  You are just too kind!  I might do it if I had time to figure out how to add a chip-in but alas time escapes me and God is providing.  I just cannot thank all of you enough for your generous prayers and support even as they continue!!!!  I continue to be blown away!  And please forgive me for not being able to update you all sooner, I am feeling very guilty because I know how much you love the boys and are eager to see how they are doing.  Thank you for hanging in there and for your patience!!!!

So here is a little about each boy.

Like I said Bohdan is a love bug.  He has such a tender heart and has been nothing but sweet.  We have our moments with him, he of course is grieving and figuring out his place in his new home, but overall he has been a delight!  He LOVES to help me, if I am unloading the dishwasher he stops his playing and comes to help with a big smile.  He also helps with laundry :-)  The language barrier has been tough.  He typically understands what we are trying to tell him or we can use the phrases and words we have learned or use a translation app, but the hard part has been when he is speaking to us and we want so badly to understand what he is saying (we of course understand the important wants/needs like potty, hungry, thirsty, hurt, etc).  The translator we had at the doctor appointment was EXTREMELY impressed with his grammar.  She told us how highly intelligent he was and bragged about him the whole time!  He says the cutest things too, like when the translator told him the doctor was going to look at him, he lifted his shirt and told her "tell him not to forget to look at my tummy too" and he was giving the doctor instructions while he was looking at him.  It was precious!  And we are missing out on those cute things he says, it really is very hard for me, we are missing out on this huge part of his personality.  But we continue to learn more Russian and he continues to learn more English and I know that soon enough we will be communicating well.

Bohdan's Cerebral Palsy seems to only affect his legs.  He has adapted but his walk is a little unstable and long distances are hard for him.  I love to watch him run, he is all over the place and it takes his whole body to do it but his exuberance for life cannot be contained when he runs and it is absolutely precious!!!  He had orthopedic shoes at the orphanage and they let us take them, they are primitive but seem to help until we can get him in some AFO's which I am assuming will help him.  With some therapy (which we are starting this week) and AFO's he is going to do so much better and I have a feeling he is going to love it!  Cognitivly and developmentally I don't see a whole lot of delay, other then what you would expect coming from an institution, once he picks up English there will not be any stopping him!

So here are his needs (in order of importance):
Cardiologist - in Ukraine we were told he has "heart problem, but not need treatment" and that is the extent of information we received.  It was not much of a concern in Ukraine because he seemed fine, but now at our high altitude some days he appears a bit blue so getting him to a Cardiologist is a priority.

Dentist - he does not have one single healthy tooth.  A few of his teeth are so black and rotted that they are almost gone and the rest are yellow/orange and filed down or chiping.

Ophthalmologist - he has a hard time keeping his eyes focused, they usually shake and roll up - it looks like he is rolling his eyes but is not.  It is hard for him to focus his eyes on an object.  He has issues with depth perception too, often running into things or not seeing steps, etc.

Occupational/Physical Therapy - for his CP

Orthopedics - for his CP

Neurologist - for his CP

Daniel...our precious Daniel.  This kid is amazing!  Especially coming from where he came from!  How he can still smile and laugh and be so full of life is truly a testament to God's love and protection!  I am ever more convinced that he was heavily medicated in the orphanage.  I can never say for sure but the difference in his demeanor, his behavior, and his alertness now as compared to in the orphanage is shocking!  We could hardly touch him, look at him, or move him in the orphanage without it confusing him and leading to screaming and head banging.  Don't get me wrong, we had great times in the orphanage as you saw in the smiling pictures and video, but what we did not show in pictures or video was the anxiety and self-injury that marked most of our time with him.  He is so much more alert and for lack of a better description, adaptable here at home.  I hope that makes sense, it is hard to describe.  In the orphanage change, even the slightest change, freaked him out.  But here he does not mind change as much.  He does very well here at home and the other day I even took him (and all the kids - thank you mom for your help) to the store just to see how he would do and he did great.  He would get a little anxious and whine a bit every time we turned down a new isle but with a little rub on his head and assurance there was NO HEAD BANGING.  This is huge!  He still bangs his head to express his opinion when he is upset.  I assume the only attention he got in the orphanage was when he did something negative so we are fighting an uphill battle to get past that...and it is a battle...but we see great progress and that is reassuring.  I don't want it to sound like it is easy, again it is SO not easy, it is a daily battle to undo what the orphanage did, but again it is so much better then what I was expecting.  And my goodness, one smile from that kid and my heart melts and all the hard times fade away...and if he laughs...forget it, I am done for!

Daniel's Cerebral Palsy effects both legs, his trunk a bit, and his left arm.  The physical progress he has made here in such a short time has been nothing short of amazing!  You will see it in the video at the end.  He is already army crawling!  It started with just pulling himself with his one 'good' arm, then using both, then arms and one leg, and now all 4.  And the speed in which he does it now is amazing!  I get him dressed after a bath and I go to get his toothbrush and he is gone!  He can bring himself up to sitting all by himself and he can keep himself balanced sitting up more and more every day.  You will see in the video that I stood him up just to see if he would bear weigh (his toes are pointed because of the CP but he still puts weight on them) and not only did he bear weight but he took steps.  I sincerely believe that with therapy he will be independently mobile somehow.  His legs are so much stronger then his left arm, I think it will be his arm that will slow him down more then his legs.  It's a long road ahead and it will take a lot of daily persistent work but the great news is that he is HIGHLY MOTIVATED and that is 90% of the battle!

Let's get real for a moment, he is very much a 36 pound baby.  Please hear me that when I say that it is in no way a judgment or complaint about him when I say that.  I would never blame him or judge him for what the CP and orphanage have caused.  I don't want anyone to misinterpret what I am saying, I am simply stating the way it is.  He is 100% dependent.  Some of that is simply the CP but a lot of the self-care type things are a result of the orphanage.  He has the physical ability to feed himself but he was never given the opportunity.  Sadly despite our efforts he still will not feed himself.  It breaks my heart that he will either throw or play with cheerios on his tray.  I know he is hungry and he wants the cheerios but he is so conditioned that feeding happens by just lying there whenever it suits someone to feed him.  So so sad.  He has no concept of expressing hunger, the orphanage did away with that.  The great news is that I have been able to get him to come to the spoon to take a bite if I hold the spoon a little away from his mouth.  So we are starting the very basic concept of him coming to the food.  And we continue to work on hand over hand getting him to put cheerios in his mouth.  I really do not mind feeding him at all but I want him to begin to not just be independent but to 'feel' independent.  To be able to express needs and wants and to be able enjoy some freedom from being on someone else's schedule.  Cognitively he is no where near being able to understand the concept of potty training.  Mentally he is very much a baby.  I don't know how much is the CP and how much is just not being able to have opportunity.  Language and communication are almost non existent.  He has the physical ability to help with dressing and other self-help things but sadly despite our efforts to teach him he still just doesn't 'get it'.  I don't know how else to explain it.  I feel like I have to say again that I don't want anyone to misinterpret what I am saying.  We knew all this and we were prepared for it, I am not complaining AT ALL about having to care for him, I consider it an honor.  Even if he stays 'baby like' we will day after day feed him, bathe him, brush his teeth, change his diaper, carry or transport him around, etc.  But for his sake I want him to have some freedom, I think it's important for him to feel independent.  I have high hopes for him all the way around, but if I am being honest I believe the physical aspect of his CP will be much easier to progress in then the cognitive aspect.  Other then the physical strides he has made I have been so delighted to see how amazing his play skills are!  He takes such delight in figuring out toys and playing with them.  In the orphanage all he did was throw toys so it has been such a joy to see him enjoy toys.  Again, you will see in the video :-)

Most of all, it is such a delight to see Daniel's world open up, to have a front row seat to his 'new life'.  It is so much fun to watch him splash in a pool, get excited about reaching a toy he pulled himself to, squeal with delight over being able to stand up, and all these new experiences that bring joy to a little boys heart!  And again we praise God for putting such happiness in his heart despite what he has been through!  I am not joking when I say it is an honor to be his mom.

So here are his needs (in order of importance):
Occupational/Physical Therapy - we are starting this tomorrow and it is going to be huge for him!!!  The Occupational Therapist will also help us with feeding.  He cannot swallow liquids without choking so we thicken all his liquids.  He can chew foods but can only handle very small chunks.  We have to leave him sitting up for at least a half hour after eating too because he throws up easily.  We are excited for a feeding evaluation.  They will also help us with getting the right equipment for him.  We have him in a stroller which works but there are too many hard things for him to bang his head on, he really needs a more specialized stroller/wheelchair.  Carrying and lifting him all around the house is hard.  We don't mind it but we have been told there are great hi/lo type chairs and adaptive equipment that will help us with everyday tasks so we look forward to learning more about that.

Speech Therapy - we also start this tomorrow.

Neurologist - for his CP

Dentist - his teeth look much better then Bohdan's but his breath is horrendous.  It has us wondering if he has an infection or something in his mouth.

Ophthalmologist - I think I have mentioned before that one pupil does not seem to react much to light at all so we wonder if he can see out of that eye at all.  He has at least some vision because he will pay attention to things.

Here are some more pictures and a video

Thanks Nana and Pa for the pool!!!  I think it is a big hit!!!

Since I shared recent pictures of Bohdan and Daniel, here are our other blessings

I think we took like 50 pictures with dad acting goofy behind the camera to get all the kids to look hoping ONE would turn out...not too bad

Helping dad with yard work

The kids have so much fun in the back yard and I am so happy Daniel and Bohdan are getting some much needed sunshine!  Picnic lunches are the best!

Sheeesh, for taking so long to get a post up I sure did make it a long one didn't I????  Again, thank you all SO MUCH for your continued prayers and support!!!  Thank you for your patience, I am so sorry if I worried you by not posting :-(  I want to say that I will post more often but I should probably not make that promise.  I know how invested ya'll are in these boys though and I know how much you love them so I will work very hard at keeping everyone updated.  I know I have said it a million times but we could not do it without you!!!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Prayer for Pediatrician visit

Just a quick prayer request if you all would be so kind :-)

The boys will see our Pediatrician tomorrow and will also get blood work done.  Please join us in praying that God will ease their little hearts and minds because it will be so scary for them.  We are getting an interpreter for Joey so that we and the doctor can explain what is going on, even then I am sure it is going to be overwhelming.  For Valentin though it is going to be very rough because he will not understand at all why he is getting poked and prodded.  I honestly have no idea how we are going to be able to draw blood from him, he is so strong!

We are trusting God and appreciate the prayers.  Thank you all so much again!!!!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

No place like home

Sorry for the late post.  We are home and are doing well I just have not had much spare time to blog...imagine that :-)  We are really doing well, I am not just saying that.  There are struggles, tears, and stress but overall things are going SO MUCH BETTER then I expected, I am so very grateful!  I want to write so much about the trip home, the airport welcome, the generosity of people giving meals, new routines, funny stories about the kids and the things they say and do, and how well the boys are doing...but I really just don't have the time right now.  I am sure you all understand :-)  I will come back and write more but I thought I could at least share some pictures and video.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Day 49: Catching up on the last few days

I feel like I have so much to write to catch up on the last few days and so very little time to write it.  So this post will probably be very long and all over the place but I want to write things down quickly while they are still fresh in our minds.  Sorry no pictures :(

I can finally tell you that our boys are Ukrainian adopted from the Kharkiv region.  You have probably noticed in the videos that we call Valentin "Danya" and Joey "Dima".  These are their nicknames from the orphanages, not their new names.  We have their new names all picked out and officially on their new birth certificates and we will slowly start working those names in but for now we stick with Danya and Dima.

Tyler got to our region early Monday morning but his bag did not.  It's almost comical the mess it was trying to get his bag to Kharkiv.  Finally we just told Luftansa to get it to Kiev and leave it there and we would get it when we went to Kiev.  So finally Tyler has his bag.  It's so funny how the things that used to bug us now make us laugh.  It's like "yep, we are adopting, of course the bag got lost."  The only problem was that the stroller got lost too and so when we picked up Valentin on Gotcha Day we did not have a stroller and did not have time to go buy one before we left for the orphanage.  "Yep, we are adopting, of course the stroller would get lost" :-)

On Gotcha Day we picked up Joey first.  When we walked into his room he said "mama" and ran over to me and gave me the biggest hug!  He had no idea that it was the day he was leaving the orphanage but it was as if his little heart knew!  He changed into his new clothes we brought and his nanny tried to get him to say goodbye to his groupa, but he just wanted to GO!  It was chaotic but I tried to say goodbye to all the kids in his groupa.  Oh how bittersweet.  The joy of walking Joey out of there but the gut wrenching sadness of leaving those kids behind.  My favorite nanny was there and I was so excited that she got to be there to say goodbye to Joey.  She cried so much and it broke my heart.  She truly loves him and took such good care of him.  She cried but smiled at me and I could tell she was saying to me that she was sad but so happy he was going home with us.  One of the older boys at the orphanage came to say goodbye to Joey and he also cried, it broke my heart too.  How hard it would be to lose a friend and to know that they have a family while you do's almost too much.  Through the sadness though we had something to celebrate, JOEY WAS FREE!

Next it was time to get Valentin.  When we walked into his building I was so excited to see the therapists from TEAMworks Ukraine there.  I have been emailing a few of them back and forth because some of them had met Valentin on a previous mission trip and were so helpful in explaining what he was like to us (thanks Abby and Amy).  They have been following our blog (hey ya'll) and have been praying for us so faithfully.  I knew they were planning a trip back to Valentin's orphanage and I was so excited when I found out our trips would overlap and I would get to meet them!!!!  It was a chaotic time and we were hurried so I did not get to talk to them as long as I would have liked.  I was so sad I did not get more time with them but it was so so so wonderful to meet!!!  Please please please read their blog and consider supporting their work.  I still have not been able to piece together a post about what I witnessed in Valentin's room (the only room I was ever allowed in there) but I can tell you the work that TEAMworks Ukraine does is SO DESPERATELY NEEDED!!!

Remember that Joey spent years at Valentin's orphanage before being transferred to the boarding school orphanage nearby last September?  So the doctor and care takers recognized and remember him.  The doctor was SHOCKED that he was walking so well and was speaking fluent Russian!  The doctor and care takers at Joey's new orphanage (boarding school) explained to us how much he had flourished in their care and we learned just how right they were.  He must have gone to the boarding school extremely delayed and just look at him now!  What a little attention, stimulation, and teaching will do!!!  I am so glad that the doctor and care takers were so shocked, slowly I believe they are starting to see that these kids are not helpless through the example of the kids who have flourished since leaving.  The doctor and caretakers completely surrounded Joey and were cheering and so joyful at everything he was doing.

Finally I got to see my sweet Valentin.  He smiled as soon as we walked in the room and kept his eyes on us as the caretakers did their best to change him into the new clothes and clean diaper we brought.  I have never seen them treat him so well, they were gentle and nice.  I think they might have even bathed him, he still smelled (poor guy) but certainly not as bad.  Wow!  Tyler swooped him up in his arms, never to be put back in that crib or that room again!!!!  We said goodbye to the TEAMworks Ukraine group and with no fanfare from the orphanage staff (sadly) we took that boy outta there and did not look back!!!  VALENTIN WAS FREE!!!

As we drove away from the orphanage our facilitator received a call and the conversation got heated.  They stopped the car and the conversation lasted a while.  Now at this point the kids are legally ours with new birth certificates and passports so there was nothing anyone could do to take them back but I worried as the conversation went on and on and got more heated.  Finally she told us that the director of Joey's orphanage is furious that we took him on a national holiday because he had the day off.  Or he was furious about something else but regardless he was FURIOUS!  We drove back to Joey's orphanage and were instructed to stay in the car with the kids.  Yikes, this was getting dramatic!  My facilitator and her husband (our driver) went inside for about 15 minutes.  Finally they came out and we left.  We asked what happened and we could tell she was frustrated.  She said in all her years of doing this she has never had so many problems with a director.  Remember in a previous post how rude and creepy he was to me?  She said that he was mad and she explained to his assistant that the boys were ours, that she had provided the orphanage with everything they needed and we had followed all the legal requirements.  But I guess that would not appease him.  Sad really.  What really worried me at that point was how he is so against international adoption.  Will any more kids ever get out of that orphanage????  Our facilitator had tried to work with him saying she could find families for other children and his answer was "no".  How Satan has such a hold on that man.  In the end it's the kids that suffer and that is what is so frustrating.

While we were still in the car she shocked us with some information.  She said the director had tried to change his mind about letting us adopt Joey about half way through the process while we were at home after the court date.  We worried we had done something to cause this reaction in him but we were nothing but kind to him.  We played by all the rules and answered all his question nicely.  And he was decent to us in the beginning, I don't know why he turned so suddenly.  Our facilitator fought hard for us but he was obviously still bitter.  To think that Joey was almost taken away from us...I can't even think about it!  But praise God, the enemy did not win!!!

Both boys did so good on the car ride away from the orphanages.  We stopped to get visa pictures taken and then our facilitator dropped us off at the baby store near our apartment so we could get a much needed stroller for Valentin (to replace the one the airline lost and was somewhere in Europe).  There are some funny stories.  Joey kept exclaiming "Dima America" everywhere we went, it was so cute!!!  Valentin obviously has not learned how to play with toys because toys are so new to him so he throws them.  In the car Joey was sharing his blocks with his brother and Valentin would throw them and Joey would pick them up and hand them back to him.  This went on for a while.  Joey said something in Russian with a sort of exhausted type voice and our facilitator told us he said "I am tired of him, all the time it's 'get me this', 'get me this'".  We busted out laughing!!!  Brothers already!!!

Our missionary friend (the ones who kept our luggage for us) came over to say goodbye and sent us off with some gifts.  We will miss you guys!!!!

Both boys LOVED the bath!!!  They needed a good scrub and what a blessing from God and answer to prayer that neither were scared of the bath.  It is VERY hard to bathe Valentin because he is so stiff.  He can sit up on his own when he is relaxed but goes stuff when he is excited.  It took both of us to bathe him so we will have to figure out a way to bath him at home.  I will certainly be asking my CP moms for advice there!  The stiffness makes it very hard to change his diaper and his clothes (plus just his size - he looks small but is solid).  All these things we are learning as we go.  I am not saying that we didn't think of these things before, we did, now we are just experiencing them.  One day we will get very efficient at it and get it down, right now we sort of fumble through it.  We are so happy though that really both boys have handled all the chaos and change SO well!  God is good!  Joey can brush his own teeth but let us do a really good brush.  His poor teeth are a MESS!  If they are not black they are yellow/orange and near rotting.  I sure hope these are baby teeth for his sake because he will need extensive dental work.  Poor guy!  It was clear right away that Valentin has never had his teeth brushed and he so desperately needed it.  His teeth are in better shape but his's hard to even be next to him.  Poor guy!  He did not like us brushing his teeth but he let us do it.

After the scrub down we had a little time to relax so we all sat on the bed and played.  Then it was time to go to Kiev.  They both loved the train and Valentin did so well sitting in his seat.  We wondered if he would just slide right out of it since it did not have a seat belt but our strong little boy held himself up and balanced the entire 4 hour train ride.  We got to ride the new express train that just started running from Kharkiv to Kiev recently and it was so nice to have a 4 hour ride compare to the previous 6 hours on the normal train and 9 on the overnight train.  At this point we were all so exhausted, especially Valentin, but the boys refused to sleep.  I guess I would too with all the new things to do and look at.

We got to Kiev late and had an early US Embassy appointment so none of us got much sleep but the boys did great in bed.  I though the different beds would freak them out a little but they did not.  Really the only thing that has freaked them out is elevators.  And to be honest these tiny very old and very run down elevators creep me out too but being on the 5th floor with a stroller and luggage we don't have too much of a choice.  To my surprise Valentin did not stim (self-sooth) to fall asleep at all.  He moved around a bit then rolled himself on his tummy and fell asleep.  Joey stimmed to fall asleep (rocked his head back and forth) but it really was not that bad.

The US Embassy and the medial appointment they require were not too bad.  I don't know if I have mentioned this but when Valentin gets upset about anything he takes his head and bangs it as hard as he can on the hardest thing he can find.  Then he goes into a screaming cry that no matter what we do we cannot calm him down.  It is extremely frustrating and extremely sad to see a child self-injur as a means of showing frustration and communicating.  He loves to watch cars so when we went into the US Embassy building he was frustrated that he was not outside watching cars.  Knowing this we tried to comfort and distract him before he realized we were inside.  Didn't work and usually doesn't.  We have however become quite quick to grab his head before he has a chance to bang it.  You have never seen two people move so fast!  It's so sad that he cannot communicate with us or understand when we tell him we will go outside and see cars again.  So this threw him into a screaming fit (and trying to bang his head which kept one of us holding his head).  This happens a lot, and I mean A LOT, but it is extra hard with everyone starring and while you are trying to hear the agent at the Embassy and get everything done at the long appointment.  Joey tried to be patient but he started losing it too and hitting the wall and stuff.  The Embassy is no place for poor kids to have to stand/sit around so long at the small little window (like a bank teller)!  It was tough.  I am not complaining at all, just telling it like it is.  It's not all sunshine and rainbows.  The medical was better.  Valentin still screamed a bit and whined a lot during the wait but it was better with no head banging.  The wait was long but we got a VERY KIND doctor.  He was so good with Joey and Joey let him poke and prod without any problems.  I think Joey was happy to hear someone speak Russian to him.  The doctor let us leave Valentin in the stroller because putting him on the table would have started another fit that would have lasted a good 10 minutes.  We were so relieved that we did not put Valentin though that!  A little more waiting and we were done.

The cutest thing happened on the way back to the apartment.  It was raining...oh I have to break here and tell you how miraculous our God is.  It has been raining a lot in Kharkiv and Kiev since we got the boys.  It's not quick or easy to get them in and out of cars and buildings so every time we prepare that we are all going to get soaking wet.  Wouldn't you know it each and every time we have had to be outside it stops raining long enough for us to get done what we need to get done.  God is so good!  Okay, so anyway we were driving back to the apartment in the rain and Valentin noticed the windshield wipes.  He laughed HYSTERICALLY every time the wiper would move.  It is probably the cutest laugh ever!  I mean pure joy belly laugh.  So the entire ride he would laugh and then we would laugh because he was laughing and on and on.  A whole day of screaming melted away with that moment of laughs!

When we got back to the apartment I finally had time to look at all the documents (court decrees, birth certificates, etc.)  I was so shocked to see the names of the boys' birth parents and to see the document where Valentin's birth parents gave up their parental rights and to see Joey's birth mom's death certificate.  I can't even process it or find the words to express what went through my mind and heart reading that.  Adopting from China was so different because the kids are abandoned so there is no paper trail.  The birthparents could be anyone and even though I wish so much that I had information about them to give my children, we also don't have to know the sad history or circumstances surrounding everything.  I thought it would be better to have that information when we adopted from China but now that we have it with the boys, I am not so sure.  Seeing real names and real documents made it all just so...real.  Am I making any sense?  It was just such a mix of emotions, mostly extreme sadness for my boys.

Today we had our second appointment at the US Embassy and it was so much easier.  There was only one other family there so it was nice not to be full of so many people.  The boys did better too.  And praise God we got their US Visas!!!!  The VERY LAST thing we need to GO HOME!!!   WE ARE D-O-N-E.  We leave in under 12 hours on Day 50 of this journey!!!!  Lord willing our flight gets in at 6:42 on Thursday and at long last our family will be together!!!!

We know there are challenging days ahead as we all get adjusted, work on bonding, tons of doctor appointments, start navigating therapy services, start acclimating to our new 'normal', learning how to parent 5 children, one of them who is unable to do anything independently and another who knows zero English, all the while trying to give our original 3 the same attention as before.  So many new things to figure out and work through.  But, at least we will ALL BE TOGETHER!!!  I hope none of that sounds like complaining, it is not.  It will be hard but we are so filled with joy doing the work God has called us to.  The sacrifice and any sufferings are so worth serving God and serving these kids!

We would GREATLY appreciate your continued prayers!  As all my adoptive moms know, the real work (and the hard work) begins when you get home.  If any of you in our area are feeling extra generous we would GREATLY appreciate meals.  We are not picky about food and we would never refuse a free meal :)  We hate to even ask for anything more seeing as how amazing all of you have been to us already.  But some have asked how they can help us at home.  Meals are the biggest help.

I may not be able to blog for a few days as we travel and get settled at home but I promise I will be back with updates, pictures, and video :)

Thank you again to all of you for walking this journey with us and for all the donations, prayers, and encouragement!!!!  I cannot thank all of you enough!!!  And praise God, yep I am going to say it again, HE IS SO GOOD!!!

Next stop...America!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Day 47: GOTCHA DAY!!!!!

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,
Is God in His holy habitation.
God sets the solitary in families;
He brings out those who are bound into prosperity;

Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!
Sing out the honor of His name;
Make His praise glorious.
Say to God, “How awesome are Your works!

Come and see the works of God;
He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men.
He turned the sea into dry land;
They went through the river on foot.

Oh, bless our God, you peoples!
And make the voice of His praise to be heard,
Who keeps our soul among the living,
And does not allow our feet to be moved.

You laid affliction on our backs.
You have caused men to ride over our heads;
We went through fire and through water;
But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.

Come and hear, all you who fear God,
And I will declare what He has done for my soul.
I cried to Him with my mouth,
And He was extolled with my tongue.

If I regard iniquity in my heart,
The Lord will not hear.
But certainly God has heard me;
He has attended to the voice of my prayer.

Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer,
Nor His mercy from me!

O sing to the Lord a new song,
For He has done wonderful things,
His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.
The Lord has made known His salvation;

He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
With the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
Shout joyfully before the King, the Lord.

- Psalms 66, 68, and 98

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Day 45: Seriously Day 45?

Poor Valentin was fairly lethargic again today :(  And his eyes are still so so red.  My facilitator is calling the orphanage doctor to try to find out what is going on with him.  Please join me in praying that God will heal him, especially with Gotcha Day coming in just 2 days!!!!

When I went to visit Valentin I went into his room and made sure I loved on the other 3 children in there while the nannies changed Valentin's diaper and clothes.  His diaper is always super full but today he had pee all over his shirt and down his leg.  When they took the diaper off it was incredible how full it was, I have seen almost 4 years worth of constant diapers and never have I seen a diaper that full of pee.  Some even ran onto the changing table.  How long had he been wearing that diaper?  Since I saw them change him yesterday?  Could that be?  No one wiped him or the table they just threw another diaper on him and put clean clothes on.  I have not talked yet about the smell in his room and on him but you can imagine.  Well imagine and then multiply it by 10.  To be honest I am not sure he has ever received a bath since I fist met him.  He had to have right?  Maybe he has but there has never been a day that he seemed clean or did not smell.  Can you tell I am just about done with him being at that place!

Anyway they put him in the stroller and I rolled him down the hall.  In the room off the common area there was some sort of visit happening.  There were teenage boys and girls in uniforms putting on puppet shows and singing and dancing.  It was really fun to watch, until it dawned on me that children like Valentin never get invited to these sort of fun events.  How hard would it be to put some of the special needs kids into srtollers (and I have seen that they have plenty of strollers there) and let them watch too?  Why do they flat out ignore kids like Valentin like that.  I really do not get it.  And the more I see it the more I am saddened at how hardened people's hearts are.  Today I just am tired of it.

But today whether they wanted him there or not Valentin got to see it.  He of course would never be invited into the room but I turned his stroller to watch as he 'danced' to the music.  He and I clapped along.

Us being there and watching was not well received and we were met with either stares or being ignored like we didn't even exist.  Honestly guys I was just about in tears.  I could not believe that disgust, judgement, and prejudice.  I had to start praying or I was going to lose it.  I just kept smiling at everyone and praying under my breath "God give me grace.  Help me to show the same grace you have shown me.  Salt and light.  Salt and light.  Salt and light."

And do you know what happened next?  All the kids in the room were given a juice box and a candy.  One of the teenage boys came out of the room and brought my Valentin a juice box and a candy.  I cannot tell you what that meant to me and probably what it meant to Valentin.  That tiny little act of kindness absolutely melted my heart and turned my day around.  I could not believe this brave boy standing up for what is right and offering a special treat to my son.  I don't think he will ever know just how much his tiny act of kindness meant or how I will never forget it or his face.  Thank you God :)

I had a lot of fun at my visit with Joey and his groupa.  I did not take any pictures or video but it was so cute as his groupa sang songs for me.  There is one little girl in his group (the only girl) and she is so precious.  She is non-verbal but just the sweetest thing you have ever met.  He was trying desperately to sing the songs but was too busy blowing me kisses.  Precious!  Then it was off to play with blocks :)  Remember that I was saddened that Joey was not speaking to me in Russian?  So not the case now!  He talks on and on at me.  It is so hard because I want so badly to know what he is saying but he does not seems to mind, he just talks on and if he is asking me to do something he just shows me as he explains it to me.  It is so cute, he is my little Russian teacher!

Gotcha Day is in 2 short days!!!!  Tonight hubby will begin his trip back here, I cannot wait to see him and bust those kids outta there!!!