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 not...it'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 breath...it'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!!!