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another progress report

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What Maddie's been up to lately...


- Her language is exploding again.
It seems every time I start to think she's getting stuck in a rut, she takes off at breakneck speed.
She's added all kinds of phrases to her repertoire (and she IS using phrases)...
'I no want to...'
'What you doing?'
'You so silly.'
And my favorite...
"Whyyyyyy?"
Yep. We're hitting some developmental milestones...ones I believe she missed in the orphanage.
EVERYTHING is why. Its driving me nuts, but I'm trying to use it as a teaching opportunity. A way to get more language into her pretty little head.
And I think its starting to work.
She's picking up new words almost every day.
And not only is she saying more words...her pronunciation is getting much more clear.
Can I just say, I LOVE her speech teacher. Love her!
The woman has worked more magic with my little girl in three months than I was able to do in six. I know, I know...that's what she's trained to do. But it makes me just wish we had gotten her in there sooner!


- I fell down the other day. Now, normally I wouldn't admit to being so clumsy... especially since it was down the stairs...one step at a time...on my derriere.
Quite embarrassing, let me tell you.
BUT...
There is good news.
A) No one saw me except for Maddie.
And B) Maddie was concerned. Very concerned.
She ran up to me after I had completed my graceful trip down the steps and immediately started asking me...
'Okay, Mama. You okay?' 'You okay, Mama. You okay.'
And the first thing she told Shad when he came home about an hour later was, 'Mama fell. Owie. She okay.'
HUGE! Absolutely huge!
I couldn't be more thrilled with how much empathy she showed me that day. I have always known she was sympathetic to the kids. She brings them things when they're sick and loves to 'help' me take care of them.
But I had never seen her show any sort of concern for Shad or my welfare until I tumbled down the steps on my rear. (Great mental picture, I know. Don't worry I'm just a little stiff...I'll be fine, although it makes me feel like I'm in my 90s.)

- She's driving Nick nuts.
Those two fight like cats and dogs. I'm glad they're comfortable enough with each other to treat each other like true brother and sister...but ENOUGH ALREADY!
The thing is, she's starting to push Shad and I a bit too. Nothing terrible...nothing we can't handle, but its interesting that its taken this long to develop.
I had been waiting since we brought her home for the other shoe to drop. I thought her laid-back approach to life was a ruse. Something that would disappear once she was more comfortable with us.
But I think I was wrong. While she is starting to push our buttons, there is no hard-core defiance. No melt-downs (thank goodness)...no rages.
She's just trying to figure out what she can get away with...which isn't much.
So I'll take this little bit of boundary searching.

- She's learned to spell her name.
And she can sign it too.
It's so cute.
I'd share it with you on video...but its her real name.
Sorry.
Speaking of signing. My sister-in-law, who is much more versed in all of this hearing-impaired stuff, told me she doesn't think Maddie NEEDS to sign. Yes, its good to teach it to her, but she says Maddie is so verbal...she uses her words well enough and is starting to become understandable enough, that she doesn't think Maddie NEEDS it.
That's awesome! Because while we've been teaching her some things...and its nice to use it to help clarify some miscommunications, we're not great at it.
Its nice to know someone else is noticing how far Maddie is coming along.

- Maddie has become a bit of a tomboy. She's found a baseball hat that she LOVES to wear EVERYWHERE...and she LOVES to watch football.
My kind of gal.
Shad said today that she reminds him a lot of me.
That's it. We're in trouble! :)

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the merriest of Christmases

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sorry I haven't been in too much of a blogging mood lately. There are a few things I'm dealing with right now that have kind of stolen my joy.
I'll blog about it...I just can't find the right words right now.
I'll get back into form soon, I promise.
In the meantime, here's some bullet points to tide you over...

-We had a good Christmas. Maddie LOVED it. She oohed and aaaaahed over everything she and everyone else opened. And she LOVED handing out the presents. It doesn't get much better than that.
Both sides of the family came to our house to help celebrate Maddie's first Christmas. Well...first to us.
It was nice having everyone here...but it made me realize just how SMALL our house is. I think we're really going to need to fix that.

- My kids watch too many movies. This was proven to me tonight as they played Anya's brand new 'Scene It' game. They had barely taken off the plastic wrap when they started answering all of the questions...CORRECTLY!
Way. Too. Many. Movies.

- Today I got an awesome surprise. The ladies from my old Sunday School class sent me a care package full of Christmas presents. I told you these ladies were awesome! :) I really miss the fellowship we had in that little room.

- This week is going to stink! Shad is on call every night through Sunday night. For those of you who are still in a candy-induced coma that would be seven days and NIGHTS! Awful! Absolutely awful! I can't stand it when he's on call, but usually it's only a night or two...at the most a weekend including Friday. THIS is insane. But there's not a thing I can do about it. Its what I signed up for 19 years ago. I only have myself to blame. :>)

- Got a really weird email this week. It was from the facilitator we used to find Maddie. It wouldn't be so weird, except we didn't part under the best circumstances
(nothing serious...just didn't connect personally)...and we haven't heard from him in a year.
It was a personalized email, wishing us a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Maybe he wants our reference.
Snort.

- Can somebody shut off the snow machine...PLEASE! I'd really like to see my driveway again...or maybe the street. I'll take just the street. I would like to be able to pull off my street without the kids taking bets on whether I'll spin the tires.

- I got a neat toy present for Christmas. A digital video camera. Up until now we've either used our old tape machine or the digital camera to take videos. Now I actually have a cute little thing to take my videos with...and the quality is much better. It was Shad and my present to ourselves. We saved up all of our Koh!'s cash to purchase this little puppy. Yea...its not as technically advanced as some. But I'll take what I can get. I'll post some video soon...just as soon as I can figure out how.

- I am buried under a pile of laundry.
A. BIG. PILE.
Okay...not me actually.
The laundry room.
And the dog.
I've lost her a couple of times now.
Lulu's bed is in there but she's decided its more fun to knock over the multiple
(there shouldn't be multiple) laundry bins and make herself a nice bed. Even better...she thinks its fun to pile up the clothes and bury herself underneath them...only letting us know she's there when the kids throw themselves on the pile. Yea. Fun times.
I need to get a handle on the laundry situation. And I will. Its just we're having too much fun around here staying indoors
(because its too darn cold) and watching the stash of movies the kids got for Christmas.
Have I mentioned we watch too many movies?

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good news

Sunday, December 28, 2008

One year ago...
-----------------------

I was going to post the first of a series of profiles today, but guess what?

WE HAVE A COURT DATE!!!!!

And it's only a little over 10 days away!
January 10th.
AAAAAAAGH!!!
I don't know how we're going to do it!
We have to find tickets...
and then find a way to pay for them.
Find someone to take care of the kids,
notify our employers...again...
There is a laundry list a mile long with stuff to do.
Oh yeah...I almost forgot the most important part...
WE GOT PICTURES!!!
No....sorry, I can't share, for now. But can I tell you again just how cute she is?! And I think the kids finally believe she's real.
(Actually I can share, now. - Enjoy! ;)



--------------------
At this point last year we got pretty busy with getting travel arrangements done, so the posts were a little far and few between. Keep checking back. I've got them scheduled...but things should really kick back into gear around the first of January.

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lost in translation

Friday, December 26, 2008

One year ago...
---------------
We left Kiev at 3 a.m. on Friday morning...incredibly tired but excited.
It had all come down to this.
Today's meeting would decide whether we would be adopting from Ukraine. It was a good feeling, a feeling of peace...at least we would know one way or another. And it was completely out of our hands...which, as weird as it sounds, was a good place to be.
As we drove through the empty streets of Kiev (I had no idea the streets were ever empty) we called up the kids...just to check in and hear their voices.
We got the typical responses...
'When will you come home,"
"How much longer, Mom," and...
"I can't wait to see you."
"Just a few more days," we promised, "but first we have to go find out if this is your little sister."
We hung up.
Sigh.
It was going to be a long day.
The drive was interminable, magnified by the fact Meshack and I were jammed in the back seat of a tiny car like a couple of overstuffed teddy bears in a little girl's backpack. Sitting on our laps were three carryons.
We couldn't move.
We had only brought one suitcase with us, just in case we needed to stay the night...but we brought all the carryons with us because they held the valuables...the laptop, camera, camcorder...and we didn't want to put them in the trunk - just in case we needed anything.
You know...granola bars, breath mints, toilet paper, the family photo album...
All the important stuff!
We slept on and off during the trek...all the while our translator and driver chatted back and forth in the front seat like old friends.
They talked...
and jabbered...
and yacked.
I will never again complain that men don't talk. I'm telling you those guys talked the WHOLE 6 hours.
I could hear them even in my sleep.
Not one word of it in English...and not one word of it was translated for us.
UGH!
They could have been talking about how loudly we snored and what idiots we were for paying them to drive us to Odessa for all we knew.
We showed them...
We have a trick of our own...
I'll share it later.
I'm also going to write a post about the driver later. He defied every stereo-typical man comment I and every other woman on earth has ever uttered.
And then some.
He was a piece of work, I tell ya.
Anyway...
We stopped a couple of times to get coffee, gas and to take a potty break. The bathrooms weren't that bad. I've seen worse in U.S. gas stations so that was a pleasant surprise. (I know you all rely on me to comment on Ukrainian bathroom quality...I didn't want to disappoint. ;)
What wasn't pleasant was the ride.
I was freezing. And those who know me know...I don't freeze easily. For some stupid reason I had decided not to wear my comfy white, warm athletic socks that day...opting instead for some black dress socks - you know, the thin kind that don't do anything but make your feet match your black shoes. I don't know what I was thinking. I was wearing my black boots after all...no one was going to see my feet. I guess I was having flashbacks to Alek's adoption when I had to remove my shoes before entering the orphanage.
I didn't want the orphanage director to think I didn't care about the details.
So to appease my vanity - I froze.
I know the car had a working heater...during the first hour of the drive I was just fine. But at one point it started getting cold, and since I couldn't get a word in edge-wise to our translator...I suffered in silence.
I finally spoke up with about an hour to go...but it still didn't get that warm.
Come to find out...the driver had his window partially rolled down.
IN DECEMBER!!!!
Ufta.
We arrived in Kiev around 9 a.m. and immediately set to finding the inspectors office. This was no small feat. I don't think the driver had ever been to Odessa before and while our translator said he had, he sure didn't act like it.
The pair kept stopping and asking for directions about every block or two...another stereotype thrown completely out the window. I honestly think I could have figured out how to get there quicker just by 'listening' to the directions instead of stopping only to hear the first two words out of their mouths and taking off at breakneck speed, and then stopping a block later to ask another unsuspecting pedestrian.
About an hour later we pulled into the parking lot.
Lev jumped out, and telling us to stay put - the first English he's spoken in six hours - ran into the building.
A half an hour later, Lev came back and told us to follow him. We went in the building through one door...immediately turned and walked through another set of doors...then started climbing three flights of stairs at breakneck speed. Lev was running up the stairs...Meshack and I were desperately trying to keep up.
Finally, I gave up and just walked.
I figured he'd stop and wait for us eventually.
We got to the top of the stairs and Lev disappeared through a door...we stood there and waited, not exactly sure what we should do.
He popped his head back out and motioned for us to follow him.
We stepped inside to find a nicely dressed woman, sitting at a desk, looking through our dossier. Lev introduced her as the inspector and said she would be asking us a few questions. We got the usual spiel...'describe your house', 'tell me about your children', 'why do you want another one' and 'why Ukraine?'
We explained to the best of our ability and she must have been satisfied because she told Lev to come back by in an hour...she'd have the referral ready.
So we left.
An hour later we returned and Lev walked out with the precious document.
It's time to go meet the little girl.
We pile back into the car and start driving. Again...Lev and the driver obviously have no idea where they're going. They stopped every few blocks for directions. I felt like just telling them to stop at an Internet cafe and Google it.
Being men, I don't suppose they would appreciate the advice.
We finally pulled onto a back street barely wide enough for one car...let alone two. We drove past some very nice homes and some shacks....then past a large gate and by a church under reconstruction. We got to the end of the street and straight ahead we saw the Black Sea...our one and only glimpse of it.
We turned around...the orphanage had to be there somewhere.
Finally we went back to the large gate...Lev asked a bystander some questions and then told us to get out...we were there.
Wow.
We were kind of surprised. The gate was gorgeous...unlike anything we had ever seen before at any other orphanage we had visited. It looked brand new and would rival anything we had ever seen surrounding palatial homes in the states.
We walked through an opening, down a sidewalk and into a brand new building...at least it looked brand new. The inside was completely renovated...it couldn't have been more than a year or two old. Very nice.
We walked into the office and right into the orphanage director's office. No secretary to make us sit and wait...no chance to take in our surroundings.
We sat down and she immediately began to look through the file on the little girl.
Her name, we learned, is Nastya.
She is three years old...will turn four in February.
She is completely healthy, physically and mentally.
She just has a couple of minor birth defects which make her undesirable to Ukrainian couples. She was born without ears...and has a small imperfection on her mouth.
To Ukraine she's an invalid.
To us...she's perfect.
'Do you still want to meet her,' the orphanage director asked through Lev.
'Absolutely,' we said simultaneously as we heard a commotion in the hallway.
The next thing we knew, a little girl with brown hair and brown eyes pops into the room and immediately brightens it with her smile.
This is the little girl we have been dreaming of.
We had finally found Maddie.
While she was born without fully formed ears, Maddie can hear just fine. She has a condition called bilateral microtia. A rare defect...one that stunts the growth of the outside of the ears and most often leaves the ear canal closed on the outside. It's a pretty easy condition to correct.
A surgery at the age of 4 or 5 open the canal...and a set of cosmetic surgeries reconstructs the ears when she is older. When all of the surgeries are complete, no one will be able to tell she wasn't born with ears. (After we brought Maddie home, we learned she isn't a candidate for the surgery to open the ear canal.)
It's amazing.
We hadn't heard of the condition six months ago. But then my brother and his wife decided to adopt a special needs child from China...and through Kaycee, we learned all about it. She also was born with bilateral microtia...and while she can't hear as well as Nastya, she has made tremendous strides in learning to speak English.
Len, Val, Shad and I are absolutely convinced God has put these two little girls into our lives for a special purpose. If it weren't for Len and Val adopting their precious Kaycee...Shad and I may never have considered Nastya. We would have been too scared. Now we're in complete peace about the decision. We know what to expect...and have no fears...no qualms.
We have the knowledge we need to help her.
And she has the heart needed to complete our family.
The orphanage director and Lev weren't convinced.
I think it's a cultural thing.
Before we had even gotten the referral, Lev had made quite a performance of trying to talk us out of even visiting her. He was convinced we needed to wait to find a 'healthy' girl.
We knew it was now or never. We would either be going home with a pending court date or we would be going home and never coming back.
He finally relented.
Now, he sat here with the orphanage director continuing to question whether we knew what we were getting into. We tried to convince them, they didn't seem to buy it, so we asked questions about her speech progress, how long ago the surgery was that she had on her mouth, if she was up-to-date on her vaccinations, etc. Anything to seem to show the appropriate level of concern, but all the while we knew in our hearts...had known since she walked in the door...
This was Maddie.
And Maddie is a bundle of energy.
She ran around the room, exploring every inch of the place, trying to take in as much as she could. She would go from person to person wanting to be held...only to get down a second later to check out something else.
This is where we have our one and only...okay, two concerns.
She obviously is going to have some attachment issues to work through. There was absolutely no fear in having us, Lev or the orphanage director hold her. We had expected this.
And we've dealt with it before with Alek...granted he was much younger, but for some reason it doesn't scare us. (It's probably a level of naivete.) We are convinced this is our little girl...God will show us how to handle it.
The other is her activity level and her seeming inability to settle down to a task for more than a couple of seconds. It may just be over stimulation - this is what we're hoping for...or it could be early signs of ADHD.
Either way...they're both things we can handle as well.
The doctor let us take her for some play time in the hallway...not exactly the best environment to try and settle her down for reading or quiet play. But we did our best and she seemed to respond.
We do know she responds well to 'nyet'. She knows full well what the word means and complies without much fanfare and no complaint. She is curious about absolutely everything and her gross motor skills are excellent.
She is a chatterbox...she talks about absolutely everything. I don't have the foggiest idea what she's talking about but she wants to make sure you hear her and understand her. I just kept saying, 'da, da, da.'
I hope I wasn't promising to take her to see the Russian circus.
All too soon, Lev came and asked for our decision.
Like he had to ask.
And the funny thing was that we didn't even need to discuss it.
We just 'knew'.
That question set in motion a very busy afternoon...we had so much to do and absolutely NO time to get it all done.
We asked if we could take some pictures of Maddie before we left, but they said there was no time. We would come back later to get some more visiting in and we could take pictures then.
So we left.
We never went back.
By the time we had gone everywhere we needed to...her groupa had gone to bed for the evening and we had to drive back to Kiev.
We had agreed to adopt a little brown haired, brown eyed girl from Odessa...and we had no pictures to prove it.
Nothing to take home with us to show off to friends.
No pictures to show the kids.
Nothing.
Lev sighed loudly as Meshack and I tried to figure out a way to get a picture of our little girl.
It was the last straw.
It had been a long, tiring, draining day. The last thing I needed was someone giving me smack. So as we pulled out of town I did something I had always dreamed of doing while on an adoption trip...
I turned to Meshack and said...
"I'm-a oing-ga oo-ta ing-wra is-ha ittle-la eck-na."
"E-ma irst-fa," he replied.
Let's see him translate THAT!
---------------------------------
Top: I'll give him credit, Lev did eventually return to Odessa to take a picture of Maddie for us. We got this precious pic in an email about a week after we returned home. Above: Maddie poses in front of the Christmas tree last week. Its amazing how much she's changed in the last year. Below: The orphanage sits behind these gates. Beautiful, aren't they?
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home, sweet home

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

One year ago...
----------------
Ahhhh...
We're home.
We got in late Sunday afternoon to a very chilly Kansas City (there's more snow here than in Kiev)...
But we got a very warm welcome from three great kids...
Oh, and a dad and brother too! ;)
It's good to be home.
Yesterday was spent sleeping, playing, trying to put everything away...
Oh...and shoveling.
After Mom, Dad and the kids left we got another eight inches of snow, so Meshack and my brother hauled all of our luggage in from where we parked across the street, up the driveway through the snow and into the middle of my living room.
This morning Q-ball helped his dad shovel the drive and sidewalks.
While they were doing that I was throwing everything in the fridge out.
Since there was no electricity for the better part of a week - everything had to go.
Not so bad really...the fridge and freezer needed cleaning anyway.
Oh...And I've already done five loads of laundry.
Can I tell you how much I love my dryer?!
I will never complain about it again.
I promise.
Oh, I've also been doing a lot of cooking.
I had almost forgotten about our traditional Christmas Eve meal - everything Russian. And while I really could do with a nice, traditional American home-cooked meal, it will have to wait until Tuesday.
I sent Meshack to the store for the ingredients for our favorite meal out of our trusty little 'Please to the Table' Russian/Ukranian cookbook. We're having stuffed meatloaf, garlic baked mashed potatoes and a green bean dish that I can't pronounce.
Next year I think we'll try to add borsch.
If there's one thing I've learned on this trip (and believe me there are many lessons learned)...it's that borsch isn't so bad.
If you can find the right recipe.
The kids have enjoyed hearing about their new (not so baby) sister.
Unfortunately we still don't have a photo. Still a long story. I promise to tell you soon...I just have a lot of other stuff to do, like hug my kids, eat chocolate and sleep.
I'm slowly going through my memory bank, typing stuff up for you so you'll get all caught up soon.
I promise.
In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas.
------------------------
P.S. - Yes, I know this is an outdated photo of our house, but there was no way I was going out in the freezing temps and deep snow just to take a new picture. Not even for you my beloved blogging buddies. I love you...but not THAT much! ;)

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Excuses, excuses

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two days left before Christmas and I still haven't finished 'the letter'.
I am so lame.
I'm supposed to be a writer for heaven's sake and I can't even finish a simple missive.
Okay...its not that simple. We've had a lot happen in the last year. AND I'm a perfectionist and I've gone over it 50 times to make sure its okay.
Then I'll find a mistake and rewrite the whole paragraph.
I really need to get a life.
The problem is now I've printed off so many drafts I don't think I have enough ink left to print the letters.
Brilliant, huh?! Of course its the perfect excuse.
'I'm sorry your card and letter is so late. My OCD tendencies got out of control.'
I'm sure that'll go over real well with the relatives.
Anway...
Not all is lost. I have been soing some worthwhile things this week.
Like making these little beauties. (the picture doesn't do them justice.)
I promise to share the recipe with you, if you promise to let me know what you think of them. My kids, parents, in-laws and I all think they're heavenly.
Of course it could be just us...
Let me know.

BUTTERSCOTCH HAYSTACKS

1 bag butterscotch chips
1 cup peanuts
1 to 2 cups chow mein noodles

Melt butterscotch and then dump the peanuts and chow mein noodles in. Mix it all together and drop by spoonful onto wax paper. Let them harden and then snarf 'em. They'll go fast.

Merry Christmas! :)

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oh, no you di'in't

Monday, December 22, 2008

At the dinner table tonight we were talking about our day. The kids told their dad all they had accomplished - watching some TV, playing dolls, trading baseball cards - the usual...when the topic of how cool Christmas vacation is came up.

Alek - 'Dad, you should be on vacation too. It's cool.'
Dad - 'I'd love that.'
Me - 'I'd like to have a vacation too.'
Alek, incredulous - 'But Mom! You're ALWAYS on vacation.'
Me - 'Ex-cuuuuuse me?'
Alek - 'You don't go to work anymore...so you're ALWAYS on vacation.'
Me - 'Believe me, Alek. Staying home is no vacation.'
Alek - 'But, Mom, you WANTED to stay home.'

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hang on a minute

One year ago...
----------------------
Alright...I know I'm jippin' you out of some great reading material, but I can't post much of anything tonight.
I've got to pack! We leave in about eight hours for the airport!!! ;)
Please be praying for the kids at home...they've all come down with a nasty fever and cough combo that has left them feeling pretty rough - and grandma wondering if they need to go to the doctor.
Hang in there kids! We're coming home!
When we do finally get home, I'll fill you in more on Maddie's story and what the timeline looks like.
Hugs to every last one of you who've been following our story.
Hang in there..
It's not over yet.

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one year ago

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I spent a lot of time watching Maddie today.
Just watching and enjoying.

We met my parents and brother and his family for dinner today to celebrate my Dad's 69th birthday. But for Shad and I today was a celebration for another reason.
One year ago today, we met Maddie for the very first time.
One year ago today -
It doesn't seem possible.
While we don't have any pictures of our first meeting with Maddie
(Our facilitator was in a huge hurry and we had left our camera in the car.) I have something so much better.
Memories.
Tucked away in the recesses of my mind is a video tape of a little bundle of energy with dark brown eyes, light brown hair and a smile that lit up the room, running straight into the orphanage director's office, climbing up on her lap and chatting away in her cute little Russian accent.

At that moment, Shad and I fell in love.
Its a scene I will never forget.
I wanted to share our visit with you. A year ago, I left my Finding Maddie readers a bit in the dark. I told them we had found Maddie, but I didn't have the energy or the time to write this post until four days later. So its a little early for my 'One Year Ago' posts on Sage Brush...but I'm going to cheat.
Enjoy!
One year ago...
---------------------------

We left Kiev at 3 a.m. on Friday morning...incredibly tired but excited.
It had all come down to this.
Today's meeting would decide whether we would be adopting from Ukraine. It was a good feeling, a feeling of peace...at least we would know one way or another. And it was completely out of our hands...which, as weird as it sounds, was a good place to be.
As we drove through the empty streets of Kiev (I had no idea the streets were ever empty) we called up the kids...just to check in and hear their voices.
We got the typical responses...
'When will you come home,"
"How much longer, Mom," and...
"I can't wait to see you."
"Just a few more days," we promised, "but first we have to go find out if this is your little sister."
We hung up.
Sigh.
It was going to be a long day.
The drive was interminable, magnified by the fact Meshack and I were jammed in the back seat of a tiny car like a couple of overstuffed teddy bears in a little girl's backpack. Sitting on our laps were three carryons.
We couldn't move.
We had only brought one suitcase with us, just in case we needed to stay the night...but we brought all the carryons with us because they held the valuables...the laptop, camera, camcorder...and we didn't want to put them in the trunk - just in case we needed anything.
You know...granola bars, breath mints, toilet paper, the family photo album...
All the important stuff!
We slept on and off during the trek...all the while our translator and driver chatted back and forth in the front seat like old friends.
They talked...
and jabbered...
and yacked.
I will never again complain that men don't talk. I'm telling you those guys talked the WHOLE 6 hours.
I could hear them even in my sleep.
Not one word of it in English...and not one word of it was translated for us.
UGH!
They could have been talking about how loudly we snored and what idiots we were for paying them to drive us to Odessa for all we knew.
We showed them...
We have a trick of our own...
I'll share it later.
I'm also going to write a post about the driver later. He defied every stereo-typical man comment I and every other woman on earth has ever uttered.
And then some.
He was a piece of work, I tell ya.
Anyway...
We stopped a couple of times to get coffee, gas and to take a potty break. The bathrooms weren't that bad. I've seen worse in U.S. gas stations so that was a pleasant surprise. (I know you all rely on me to comment on Ukrainian bathroom quality...I didn't want to disappoint. ;)
What wasn't pleasant was the ride.
I was freezing. And those who know me know...I don't freeze easily. For some stupid reason I had decided not to wear my comfy white, warm athletic socks that day...opting instead for some black dress socks - you know, the thin kind that don't do anything but make your feet match your black shoes. I don't know what I was thinking. I was wearing my black boots after all...no one was going to see my feet. I guess I was having flashbacks to Alek's adoption when I had to remove my shoes before entering the orphanage.
I didn't want the orphanage director to think I didn't care about the details.
So to appease my vanity - I froze.
I know the car had a working heater...during the first hour of the drive I was just fine. But at one point it started getting cold, and since I couldn't get a word in edge-wise to our translator...I suffered in silence.
I finally spoke up with about an hour to go...but it still didn't get that warm.
Come to find out...the driver had his window partially rolled down.
IN DECEMBER!!!!
Ufta.
We arrived in Kiev around 9 a.m. and immediately set to finding the inspectors office. This was no small feat. I don't think the driver had ever been to Odessa before and while our translator said he had, he sure didn't act like it.
The pair kept stopping and asking for directions about every block or two...another stereotype thrown completely out the window. I honestly think I could have figured out how to get there quicker just by 'listening' to the directions instead of stopping only to hear the first two words out of their mouths and taking off at breakneck speed, and then stopping a block later to ask another unsuspecting pedestrian.
About an hour later we pulled into the parking lot.
Lev jumped out, and telling us to stay put - the first English he's spoken in six hours - ran into the building.
A half an hour later, Lev came back and told us to follow him. We went in the building through one door...immediately turned and walked through another set of doors...then started climbing three flights of stairs at breakneck speed. Lev was running up the stairs...Meshack and I were desperately trying to keep up.
Finally, I gave up and just walked.
I figured he'd stop and wait for us eventually.
We got to the top of the stairs and Lev disappeared through a door...we stood there and waited, not exactly sure what we should do.
He popped his head back out and motioned for us to follow him.
We stepped inside to find a nicely dressed woman, sitting at a desk, looking through our dossier. Lev introduced her as the inspector and said she would be asking us a few questions. We got the usual spiel...'describe your house', 'tell me about your children', 'why do you want another one' and 'why Ukraine?'
We explained to the best of our ability and she must have been satisfied because she told Lev to come back by in an hour...she'd have the referral ready.
So we left.
An hour later we returned and Lev walked out with the precious document.
It's time to go meet the little girl.
We pile back into the car and start driving. Again...Lev and the driver obviously have no idea where they're going. They stopped every few blocks for directions. I felt like just telling them to stop at an Internet cafe and Google it.
Being men, I don't suppose they would appreciate the advice.
We finally pulled onto a back street barely wide enough for one car...let alone two. We drove past some very nice homes and some shacks....then past a large gate and by a church under reconstruction. We got to the end of the street and straight ahead we saw the Black Sea...our one and only glimpse of it.
We turned around...the orphanage had to be there somewhere.
Finally we went back to the large gate...Lev asked a bystander some questions and then told us to get out...we were there.
Wow.
We were kind of surprised. The gate was gorgeous...unlike anything we had ever seen before at any other orphanage we had visited. It looked brand new and would rival anything we had ever seen surrounding palatial homes in the states.
We walked through an opening, down a sidewalk and into a brand new building...at least it looked brand new. The inside was completely renovated...it couldn't have been more than a year or two old. Very nice.
We walked into the office and right into the orphanage director's office. No secretary to make us sit and wait...no chance to take in our surroundings.
We sat down and she immediately began to look through the file on the little girl.
Her name, we learned, is Nastya.
She is three years old...will turn four in February.
She is completely healthy, physically and mentally.
She just has a couple of minor birth defects which make her undesirable to Ukrainian couples. She was born without ears...and has a small imperfection on her mouth.
To Ukraine she's an invalid.
To us...she's perfect.
'Do you still want to meet her,' the orphanage director asked through Lev.
'Absolutely,' we said simultaneously as we heard a commotion in the hallway.
The next thing we knew, a little girl with brown hair and brown eyes pops into the room and immediately brightens it with her smile.
This is the little girl we have been dreaming of.
We had finally found Maddie.
While she was born without fully formed ears, Maddie can hear just fine. She has a condition called bilateral microtia. A rare defect...one that stunts the growth of the outside of the ears and most often leaves the ear canal closed on the outside. It's a pretty easy condition to correct.
A surgery at the age of 4 or 5 open the canal...and a set of cosmetic surgeries reconstructs the ears when she is older. When all of the surgeries are complete, no one will be able to tell she wasn't born with ears. (After we brought Maddie home, we learned she isn't a candidate for the surgery to open the ear canal.)
It's amazing.
We hadn't heard of the condition six months ago. But then my brother and his wife decided to adopt a special needs child from China...and through Kaycee, we learned all about it. She also was born with bilateral microtia...and while she can't hear as well as Nastya, she has made tremendous strides in learning to speak English.
Len, Val, Shad and I are absolutely convinced God has put these two little girls into our lives for a special purpose. If it weren't for Len and Val adopting their precious Kaycee...Shad and I may never have considered Nastya. We would have been too scared. Now we're in complete peace about the decision. We know what to expect...and have no fears...no qualms.
We have the knowledge we need to help her.
And she has the heart needed to complete our family.
The orphanage director and Lev weren't convinced.
I think it's a cultural thing.
Before we had even gotten the referral, Lev had made quite a performance of trying to talk us out of even visiting her. He was convinced we needed to wait to find a 'healthy' girl.
We knew it was now or never. We would either be going home with a pending court date or we would be going home and never coming back.
He finally relented.
Now, he sat here with the orphanage director continuing to question whether we knew what we were getting into. We tried to convince them, they didn't seem to buy it, so we asked questions about her speech progress, how long ago the surgery was that she had on her mouth, if she was up-to-date on her vaccinations, etc. Anything to seem to show the appropriate level of concern, but all the while we knew in our hearts...had known since she walked in the door...
This was Maddie.
And Maddie is a bundle of energy.
She ran around the room, exploring every inch of the place, trying to take in as much as she could. She would go from person to person wanting to be held...only to get down a second later to check out something else.
This is where we have our one and only...okay, two concerns.
She obviously is going to have some attachment issues to work through. There was absolutely no fear in having us, Lev or the orphanage director hold her. We had expected this.
And we've dealt with it before with Alek...granted he was much younger, but for some reason it doesn't scare us. (It's probably a level of naivete.) We are convinced this is our little girl...God will show us how to handle it.
The other is her activity level and her seeming inability to settle down to a task for more than a couple of seconds. It may just be over stimulation - this is what we're hoping for...or it could be early signs of ADHD.
Either way...they're both things we can handle as well.
The doctor let us take her for some play time in the hallway...not exactly the best environment to try and settle her down for reading or quiet play. But we did our best and she seemed to respond.
We do know she responds well to 'nyet'. She knows full well what the word means and complies without much fanfare and no complaint. She is curious about absolutely everything and her gross motor skills are excellent.
She is a chatterbox...she talks about absolutely everything. I don't have the foggiest idea what she's talking about but she wants to make sure you hear her and understand her. I just kept saying, 'da, da, da.'
I hope I wasn't promising to take her to see the Russian circus.
All too soon, Lev came and asked for our decision.
Like he had to ask.
And the funny thing was that we didn't even need to discuss it.
We just 'knew'.
That question set in motion a very busy afternoon...we had so much to do and absolutely NO time to get it all done.
We asked if we could take some pictures of Maddie before we left, but they said there was no time. We would come back later to get some more visiting in and we could take pictures then.
So we left.
We never went back.
By the time we had gone everywhere we needed to...her groupa had gone to bed for the evening and we had to drive back to Kiev.
We had agreed to adopt a little brown haired, brown eyed girl from Odessa...and we had no pictures to prove it.
Nothing to take home with us to show off to friends.
No pictures to show the kids.
Nothing.
Lev sighed loudly as Meshack and I tried to figure out a way to get a picture of our little girl.
It was the last straw.
It had been a long, tiring, draining day. The last thing I needed was someone giving me smack. So as we pulled out of town I did something I had always dreamed of doing while on an adoption trip...
I turned to Meshack and said...
"I'm-a oing-ga oo-ta ing-wra is-ha ittle-la eck-na."
"E-ma irst-fa," he replied.
Let's see him translate THAT!

---------------------------------
Top: I'll give him credit, Lev did eventually return to Odessa to take a picture of Maddie for us. We got this precious pic in an email about a week after we returned home. Above: Maddie poses in front of the Christmas tree last week. Its amazing how much she's changed in the last year. Below: The orphanage sits behind these gates. Beautiful, aren't they?

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WE'VE FOUND MADDIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

One year ago....
------------------------
Can you believe it?!!!
We've found our little girl!!!!
It still doesn't seem quite real.
After 321 days of paperchasing, waiting, praying and searching, we finally found our Maddie.
She is a little 3-year-old (facilitator had the wrong age) brown haired, brown eyed beauty in the Odessa region. And the issues that we had feared would be huge, are so small you can hardly notice them.
Now all we have to do is bring her home.
And get a picture of her...
long story...really long.
I'll fill you in later.
But first, since today is our last full day, we have some errands to run.
Yep, we're still coming home.
We thought about having Meshack go home to be with the kids for the holidays and then returning for court, but it looks like we won't go to court until after the Orthodox Christmas...so I'm coming home too.
That way I can save some vacation for when we bring Maddie home and I'll have a chance to rest.
Sigh.
I'm coming home...
And I've found my little girl.
It doesn't get much better than that.

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when you least expect it

Saturday, December 20, 2008

One year ago...
-----------------------------
You all know the rollercoaster ride we've been on in the last few days and weeks. We've had to hold on to the roll bar with one hand, while downing a bottle of Pepto with the other.
The ride was nauseating...and we wanted off.
Now.
But then we got a call this afternoon asking us to take one more trip on the rails. And we have decided to take a chance.
We have a referral!
It's for a little 4-year-old girl in Odessa, who has a couple of issues, which at first glance seem to be manageable.
We don't know anything else...not even her name or birthday. We didn't have an SDA appointment so we haven't seen a file or even a picture. We've just been told about her. We're going completely blind.
We leave early in the morning (3 a.m. local time - 7 p.m. at home) for Odessa - by car. We're hoping to visit her first thing in the morning, make a decision and go from there. Nothing like waiting until the last minute...and making a life-changing decision under pressure.
Whew.
Someone hand us the Drammamine.
We're getting back on!

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at the eleventh hour

Friday, December 19, 2008

One year ago...
--------------------------
Actually, eleven hours, 58 minutes...
She cut it pretty close.
Our American friend who came here hoping to adopt a little girl six weeks ago, may have finally found her daughter.
She went to her appointment yesterday without much hope. Her only chance lie in the fact that she got an unprecendented third appointment.
NOBODY gets three appointments.
Surely, there would be a little girl in the files for her to visit.
Still, she told us before she left for her 3 o'clock meeting that she expected to be back in the early evening to start packing for her flight home the next morning.
When she returned, instead of packing for her flight home to Louisiana, she boarded a train bound for the Odessa region last night.
She met the little girl this morning and fell in love.
Good things do happen here in Ukraine.
We may not be one of the success stories...time will only tell. But I am thrilled in the fact that this little girl will soon have a Mama who will love her, protect her and encourage her.
She will be in a loving environment full of possibilities.
Praise be.

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this, that and the other thing

Thank you for all of your guesses.

Leslie, you're right, if I would have taken all four kids, it would have taken forever. Thankfully the three older ones were in school. That's why I decided to try to outrace the pending snowstorm. Since today is the last day of school before Christmas break, I figured the snow is a lot easier to deal with than taking four fidgety kids into a Social Security office next week.
Rachel's the winner! :) I'm impressed. It was about 3 1/2 hrs total from door to door (not including a stop at Mikky D's). Not too bad. The longest part was sitting and waiting for them to call our number.
Thankfully, Maddie loves raisins, suckers, coloring, reading...
Good thing they called us when they did - I was running out of goodies! :)
By the way...they asked for three forms of ID...actually I gave them the COD and adoption decree and then they asked me for her shot record.
'Shot record,' I asked. 'What do you need a shot record for?'
'For another form of ID.'
'Ummmm...would her PASSPORT work?!'
The card will be here in two weeks.
If anyone from Wyoming is looking for the Social Security Office in Cheyenne...it's located in the 'Bureau of Land Management' building on the second floor.
Bureau of Land Management.
Some days I am absolutely convinced I am living in a wild west movie. First it was ice skating cowboys, then the 'Bureau of Land Management and last night...Shad's present from a client.
A roll of Elk sausage.
It smells.
I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth (appropriate, don't you think, now that we're living in Wyoming) but I think we'll be re-gifting it to Shad's dad, who actually hunts elk and likes that kind of thing.
I think we'll stick with the traditional sausage.
I got one early Christmas present last night that I wouldn't trade for anything.
Nick decided to accept Christ as his savior last night.
And I had the honor of helping him.
After he had prayed and ran in to tell his Dad all about it, I tucked him in bed and watched him fall asleep.
I am so thankful for the little gifts in life. I have been there to witness each of my three oldest children as they've made a commitment to Christ.
All three of them have come during the Christmas season.
What a blessing.
This next decision isn't as life changing, but I'm hoping it will help make life around here easier.
I have found myself spending a lot of time on the computer lately, and letting other things slide like ummm...dishes, laundry and house cleaning. All the stuff I should be doing...but would rather not.
Anyway...I don't want to stop reading all of these blogs, so I have decided to take a cue from one of my bloggy friends (I can't remember which one right now - was Eliane or Christina?) and split up my blogging reading by days. Thanks to Google Reader I have put some in a Monday folder, others in a Tuesday and so on.
This way I'll be sure to read each one, hopefully it will leave me more time to comment AND I'll still be able to get my housework done. I've been using it for about a week now and I've already noticed a difference.
So if you don't hear from me on the first day you post an awesome blog, don't worry...I'll be coming around in a couple of days. And chances are, I'll have more time to leave you a pithy, witty little comment.
At least I hope so.

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on a mission

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I told you the other day we still have one big hurdle to jump in the adoption process.

The social security number.
We need the number so we can file our taxes.
And we need to file our taxes, so we can get our refund.
And we need that refund to BUY OUR HOUSE!
So this morning I'm taking on that last hurdle.
I'm driving to Cheyenne to apply for Maddie's social security number.
Anyone want to guess how long it will take me?
Closest guess (including driving time) will win my admiration and respect! :)
Wish me luck.

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it all comes down to this

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

One year ago...
---------------------
We woke up this morning excited.
Over the weekend, we decided to visit a little boy in a region eight hours away by train.
We had talked with our pediatrician on Friday and after hours of research we decided we could handle the little guy's epilepsy diagnosis.
But God must have other plans.
Thirty minutes after we called our facilitator with the news, he called back to say a French couple who visited the boy a few weeks ago, rethought their rejection of him and have come back to adopt him.
I'm happy he is getting a new family, but it means we're out of options.
The SDA psychologist recommended we visit a little boy who has a problem with his arm, but she won't let us come back in to review his file. We either take the referral or we wait for a second appointment.
We can't even remember what the little guy looked like, let alone be able to tell you what his diagnosis' were!
So we've chosen a third option.
We're coming home.
To be honest this experience has not been pleasant, and it is taking all the strength I have not to become bitter. But bitterness only corrupts and I won't let this experience to that to me.
Technically, we still have one more appointment available to us. But waiting here during the holiday season will do us no good. According to our facilitator, no new appointments will be given until after January 10th. And while we know going home will move us to the back of the line for a new appointment, we are quickly running out of vacation days and the longer we stay the more it costs.
And not just financially.
It's also tough on our three little ones.
We've only been away a little over two weeks, but so much has happened in that time.
They endured an ice and snow storm which knocked power out in our hometown for the better part of a week. For three days they lived in a cold house with my parents, huddled in front of a fireplace, hoping the electricity would come back on. Mom and Dad finally decided to take the kids and head home. They are all now in Colorado warm, dry and having fun. But the daily phone calls are full of 'when are you coming home Mom,' and 'How much longer, Dad?'
So we're heading home.
Our tickets are for Dec. 23...we're trying to come home sooner, but all the flights are booked.
Imagine that.
Sigh.
We had hoped this trip would lead us to Maddie, instead it was just a really expensive vacation.
And it's wasn't even close to relaxing.
More than likely this is it.
We have missed the opportunity to adopt completely.
I don't know...maybe we mis-translated God's neon sign. Instead of Ukrainian maybe it was written in Russian, Spanish or Telugu.
Or maybe it was written in English and this adoption process has warped our brains too much to be able to tell.
Sigh.
We're coming home.

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where in the world is it?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I'm in trouble.

I've lost Maddie's COC.
Her 'Certificate of Citizenship.'
Yea. I told you I was in trouble.
I can't find it anywhere!
I know exactly where it was in the old house...and I remember saying to myself, I'm going to put it here so it is safe and I can find it when we get to Wyoming.
BUT I CAN'T FIND IT!
I wouldn't be in such a huge hurry to find it, except that I need it to apply for Maddie's social security number.
And I need that social security number so we can file our taxes.
And I need to file our taxes, so we can get our refund.
And I need that refund to BUY OUR HOUSE!
Aaaaaaaack!
Yes, I know. This is something I should have looked for a long time ago. But I honestly thought I knew where it was.
I was wrong.
And I know. I should have applied for the social security number before we moved. But I was so overwhelmed with the move and everything else it was all I could do to do one adoption thing at a time. And at the time I was concentrating on getting her Kansas birth certificate.
Pray. Please Pray.
I have to find this thing.
Soon.
-------------------
Edited to add: I FOUND IT! It was where it should have been all along. Isn't it always?! Somehow I overlooked it the first thirty times I looked in that folder. Thank you for your prayers. Whew! I feel so much better.

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foto fun

Monday, December 15, 2008

Well, we had fun this weekend.
I say we, but really I mean they.
The kids.
All I wanted to do was take their pictures. Four angelic children, all look doing their best to convey the joy of Christmas. That's not too much to ask, is it?
Evidently it is.
First, Alek gave me nothing but grief. Evidently he's too old to be doing this kind of stuff. He's too cool, you know. And then there's the fact that his SISTER had to sit next to him. Oh, the horror!
Anya is always game to have her picture taken...and I can see why. I wish I could say she gets her looks from me.
Nick is a case. The boy has an aversion to camera flashes...he blinks EVERY. TIME! But I think I finally figured a way to trick him. I used the red eye reducer on my camera, which made him blink the first time before taking the picture a second later.
Maddie. Hmmm...what can I say about Maddie?. Well, she had a pretty good attitude through the whole thing. And she had fun. But the concept of sitting still was completely lost on her...AND she wanted to see each picture as it was taken. I was finally able to convince her to wait until we were completely done.
Whew.
I'm glad Christmas and the accompanying letter only happens once a year.
With that in mind...I need mailing addresses people. If you want to learn the real identities of my kids, reminisce about all the stuff you read on this blog for the last year and receive a Christmas card, email me your address and I'll get it right out to you.
Right after I write the letter.
It may be awhile.

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picture perfect

One year ago...
------------------------------------------
Just to prove we are actually in Ukraine and not on some remote desert island, I have attached some pictures we have taken of Kiev.
Enjoy!


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more help needed

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I must be a needy person this weekend, but I could really use some more help...I can't figure out how to get my header to go all the way across the top of my blog.
Yea. Earth shattering - I know.
I used to be able to do it, before my photo editor shot craps this weekend. There's something major going on with my computer, but I'm too broke to fix it. If I just disappear someday, please know more than likely I'm fine. Its just that my computer and my laptop are both thinking now is the best time to give up the ghost.
Anyway...
If anyone knows of an online program that will let me stretch the width of the thing just a smidge beyond 100 percent, I would be most grateful. The one I tried - fotoflexer.com is nice, but it won't let me stretch it at all.
And if you share your secrets, I promise to be very grateful and send up extra prayers of thanksgiving for you. ;)
Who knows...I may be even willing to mention you in my blog and make you famous.
BTW - Don't you just love the new pics of the kids. I need to share the results of our weekend photo session in front of the tree. Cute stuff I tell ya! :)

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cab ride from you know where

One year ago...
-----------------------
Three hours.
That’s how long it took us to get from the train station to the apartment last night.
Three hours.
Insane.
It took us that long to get to get back from Vinnytsya on the train!
Evidentally the problem was that we arrived at rush hour. But their rush hour is like none I’ve ever seen. The closest thing I can compare it to would be the traffic coming out of Arrowhead Stadium after a Chief’s game…but spread that over an entire city and you can see what we were facing.
Sheer gridlock.
For miles.
You know, if they would just obey common traffic laws, they probably would be alright, but when you mix in people driving through alleys and down sidewalks to the nuts who are creating their own third lane, you are bound to get chaos.
And that’s what it was. Sheer chaos.
I have never had another motorist yell at me before. Our cabbie was cussed at probably no less than three times last night.
And he probably deserved it.
At one point he headed down an alley only to come across a dumpster parked in his way. So what does he do? He bumps into it with his car and moves it out of the way!!!
The first time he decided a sidewalk was a extra street lane I about had a conniption. By the end of the night I was used to it – well, almost.
I don’t know how many people almost lost their lives last night due to his driving.
And I don’t know how much damage he did to his car every time he high-centered it on a street curb.
We got stuck twice, but instead of getting out and pushing it free….he just kept revving the engine and rocking back and forth…ON A SIDEWALK! People were walking all around us as he did this. Each of them gawking at us…I’m sure wondering how much we were paying this nut.
All the while our translator is sitting in the front seat as calm as can be.
I asked him later if that kind of traffic was common.
He shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘Yeah.’
At one point I was thinking that driving in this country wouldn’t be that hard to learn.
They drive on the same side of the road.
The street signs are recognizable…it’s just the aggressiveness I would have to get used to.
HA!
Yea.

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shopping help needed

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Anyone know where I can find two of these?

I emailed the person who originally showed them off on their blog, but they're in the middle of a move and I'm sure have more important things to do than to answer the email of a crazy woman from Wyoming looking for the perfect present for her Russian/Ukrainian princesses.
She found them somewhere on the Internet.
Any ideas?

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24 hours in vinnytsya

One year ago...
-------------------------
We are heading back to Kiev.
It wasn’t Maddie.
She was a pretty little girl, with light brown hair, huge hazel eyes and a smile that lit up a room. She had on a yellow jumper with a pink sweater and flowers in her pigtails.
She proudly showed me her ‘La-la’ – a doll with bright yellow hair and one eye that didn’t open all the way.
She played with a stuffed ‘sabaka’ with Meshack and pretended to growl at him…all the while with a huge grin on her face.
She was firmly attached to her caregivers – to the point that it took a half an hour for her to hand me a doll.
And another 20 minutes for her to let me touch her.
But that didn’t bother us…it was a good sign.
She knows whom to trust.
She knows who takes care of her.
She knew we were strangers.
That’s miles ahead of where so many orphans are.
But when she turned and walked out of the room with her caregiver, we knew.
She wasn’t Maddie.
It wasn’t the physical issues. We knew from our SDA appointment that there would be some small signs of Cerebral Palsy.We could have handled that.
Unfortunately, it was what wasn’t mentioned that has us turning around and going back.
My heart is breaking thinking of her. Knowing it is nothing she has done. Nothing she could help.
It all sits on Meshack and me.
We know she has more issues than we are able to handle...and that’s our problem.
Our fault.
If I could I would take her home in a minute.
But I can’t. I know my limitations.
Does that make me a bad person? – Just because I know what I am and am not capable of?
If so, so be it.
I admit I don’t have the patience of Job. I don’t have an unlimited source of energy.
And I don’t have what it takes to parent a special needs child.
At least not one with this many special needs.
If it were just the Cerebral Palsy I think I could do it. It wasn’t severe. She was able to walk and talk. She was able to run in her own cute, awkward little way.
But I don’t have it in me to parent a child for the rest of their natural life.
And that’s what it looks like she will require.
It’s the most difficult thing I have ever done.
A lot of tears went into this decision.
A lot of prayers….And hours of lost sleep.
What we can’t figure out is why God had us meet her? (And I am still convinced it was of God. - There were too many coincidences to make it happenstance.)
Was it so another family could find their Maddie or Zoie or Claire?
Was it so we would open ourselves up to other forms of special needs?
Was it to bide our time until Maddie became available?
Or were we supposed to adopt her and we just missed out on one of the most special blessings on this earth.
We won’t know in this lifetime.
We won’t know until we stand before the Father to answer for this decision.
My peace comes in knowing it was a decision we made together.
We had one of the most clairvoyant moments of our marriage.
Absolute agreement, on every single issue.
That never happens.
So we have a peace about it.
But what we don’t know is, where we go from here.
We have no idea.
Meshack refuses to discuss it until we get back to Kiev.
He’s tired.
He’s angry.
He’s sad.
And he’s frustrated with the whole process.
Part of us just wants to pay the $400 change of date fee and jump on the next plane we can find and head straight back to our kids.
But the more reasonable, sensible side will take a serious look at going through this whole agonizing process again.
But how in the world can we do it?
How can we set ourselves up for this incredible disappointment again?
Because we know that out there somewhere is a little Maddie or ‘Matt’ie…just waiting for us to find him/her.
That’s how we’ve explained the process to our three sweethearts at home.
God helped us find them. In the midst of a former communist country, far from home, a little boy (girl) sat waiting for their mommy and daddy to find them.
And right now in the middle of Ukraine, in a babyhouse with a hundred other beautiful children, our Maddie/Mattie sits waiting.
We just need God to help us find her.

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choooooo choooooo (stream of consciousness)

Friday, December 12, 2008

One year ago...
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Would you like to go for a train ride?
I’ve got three hours to kill and two hours worth of battery on my laptop so I thought I would let you tag along and we could chat. It’s been awhile since I filled you in on the little details of our trip.
Just put your luggage on the top bunk, have a seat and make sure you take your coat off. It’s hot in here.
Let me catch you up on our morning.
It started early. We got up at 5 a.m., worried we weren’t going to have enough time to get everything together before Lev and the driver arrived at 7 a.m.
We didn’t need to worry.
Lev didn’t show up until 7:30 a.m - and he didn’t have a driver with him.
He thought we were going to take the Metro.
With all of our luggage? HA! I don’t think so.
We may not be willing to fork over $250 for a ride to Vinnytsya (He found a cheaper driver – he REALLY wanted to go by car! ), but we’re not suicidal. We’ll hand over $30 for a cab ride to the depot, thank you.
An hour and a half later we pulled up to the depot and climbed out.
Talk about packed.
There were people everywhere.
We hoisted the bags out of the trunk and made a beeline for the ticket counter.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going (I was trying to keep from bumping into a babushka) and I tripped over the door jam, falling flat on my face.
My facilitator kept walking…
Meshack was too far behind me to see…and all the natives just stepped around me.
No one stopped to make sure I was alright (I’m fine, thank you.)
No one stopped to help me pick up my stuff.
And no one laughed at me (at least on the outside).
They all just kept walking…like herded cattle going through a chute at Meshack’s clinic.
I didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or really teed off.
I chose neither. It’s just another reminder of the stark difference in cultures between Ukraine and the west.
I found another HUGE difference just a little while later.
After we purchased the tickets, (second-class - its not so bad), we decided we had better take a bathroom break before getting on the train. So Lev led us to a back room where we paid 30 cents to use the bathroom.
I walked in…
And I walked right back out.
Thank goodness for McDonalds.
There was one across the street with a western toilet! I bought a ‘vater, nyet gaza’ to appease my conscious for using their facilities.
I’m now good for at least four hours…maybe more.
I’m rationing water and chewing lots of gum just to be sure.
We’re passing through some little village right now. I’d ask Lev the name, but he is asleep…recovering from a nasty cold. He’s refusing my motherly advice. He’s taking Echinacea shots and cough syrup. He says he’ll be fine. He won’t even take the cough drop I offered him to help sooth his throat. I guess I don’t blame him. I’d be a little nervous to take medicine from another country too. For heaven’s sakes, I brought a whole medicine cabinet with me just in case I caught something!
Well, that town went by pretty fast.
The countryside looks a bit like northern Minnesota. Trees everywhere (remember, I’m a Kansas/Colorado girl – trees are few and far between)…but it’s also flat. And through the trees I can barely make out some farmland.
I bet it would be pretty in the spring and summer.
Here comes another little village.
Hey!
There’s a house!!! I knew they existed, but all we’ve ever seen are apartment buildings!!!
A house.
A real house.
Wow.
I have to admit I’m a little nervous about meeting the little girl.
We don’t know what to really expect…and we don’t know what kind of reception we’ll get from the orphanage. It sounds like they rarely have people come in to adopt. I got an email from a reader last night who said they had adopted from Vinnytsya last summer and were one of the first ones to adopt from there.
She also gave me all kinds of information on Vinnytsya. (Thanks, Leslie)
Unfortunately, we’re going to a small town south of there by about 50 miles. We can’t afford to stay in Vinnytsya and drive everyday, so I think we’re going to be stuck without some conveniences, as Lev would say.
The Aspen trees have changed to pines now. It’s very green…
The guys are sleeping…
I think a 2-year-old and myself are the only ones awake in this car. Every once in awhile you can hear her jabber (at least I think it’s jabbering…it could be fluent Russian and I’d have no idea.)
We just passed a shrine of some sort. It looks like it may have been a train accident monument or something. It was right along the train tracks and there was nothing else around. Just a mound of dirt and a huge orthodox cross.
Hmmmm.
As crazy as it sounds, I would really love to take a quiet walk through these woods. It’s been nothing but tons of people around us for days. Days upon days upon days of people talking in a language that I can’t even begin to understand…except for the occasional ‘nyet,’ ‘da,’ and ‘immodium.’
Some quiet time alone with God would be nice.
Did you know my name is Russian?
Yea, shocked me too.
Evidentially my full name has Russian origins. Several people here have commented on it. And it was one of the first things our facilitator, Sveta said.
I assured her that, no, my parents aren’t Russian. They’re German. Actually, German, Dutch and American Indian. I think in the geneology somewhere it shows that some of them may have made a stop in Russia along their way to the U.S. But, we’re German.
It may have been too much information.
Hey. There’s another small village…with some houses. And those houses look new! Brand new. They kind of look like something that may have been built in the U.S.
Right next-door is a run down home.
Wealth and poverty are neighbors in this country.
The ride has really been pretty smooth. I actually didn’t realize we had started moving until I looked out the window. No jerky stops or starts.
There was only one spot where it got a little jerky…but it didn’t last too long.
These trains may not be state of the art, and the windows may be so dirty it looks like it’s foggy outside, but I can’t complain about the ride.
My boots are holding up pretty well - my feet too. I haven’t worn my tennis shoes since we got off the plane last Monday and I really don’t miss them too much. The boots make me feel like I’m blending in, even if I’m not.
Lev and Meshack say I don’t blend in…but what do they know? They’re men.
I think I am. People are constantly asking me for directions or for the time.
Wish I could help them out.
I just smile and say sorry in English. They usually shrug and walk away.
We’ve been on this train for an hour now and we haven’t made a stop yet. I’ve typed three pages worth of copy in Word and gone through two Strawberry Low-Fat Nutri-Grian Bars (Melinda are you proud of me?)…and only a quarter of my water bottle. Pretty good, I’d say.
Oh…we’re slowing down. We must be getting ready to stop.
I’ve tried taking pictures out the window, but it’s so dirty, I’m sure the pictures won’t come out.
All of the trees around here look like they have HUGE bird nests in them. Now that the leaves have fallen, it looks like the trees have little balls of twigs stuck in them. Upon closer inspection it looks like maybe a plant or something is growing the trees to make them look like that. It’s crazy. These trees look like something from a Dr. Seuss book! The one that just passed was FULL.
A guy just stopped by and offered me his stack of magazines. I’m not sure if we was trying to sell them to me or was just being extraordinarily nice. I just smiled and shook my head. He walked away.
Yep…we’re stopping.
We’re slooooowly slowing down. We must be going all of 5 mph right now.
If we stop anywhere near a sign, I’ll let you know where we are.
There’s no sign.
That stop lasted all of maybe five minutes.
Just long enough for people to get their junk and get their tail off the train.
And once again, you could barely tell we had started rolling again.
Someone is out in the hall making choo-choo noises to the 2-year-old. They walked by and the baby smiled at me.
Too bad by the time he’s an adult he won’t remember how.
We’re back to aspen and other deciduous trees now…and the farmland teases me from the other side of the tree line.
To all of you back in Kansas…stay warm…and stay inside. I hope you get your electricity back soon. Mom and Dad, there are a ton of board games in the bookcase by the fireplace. It should help keep the kids busy.
It’s funny.
Everyone warned us about the cold weather here…but we’ve been enjoying daytime temperatures in the 30s and 40s, while at home they’re dealing with a huge ice storm and highs in the teens. I think we’re having a balmier winter than they are.
The trees thinned out there for a moment and what I saw, reminded me of Kansas. A couple of hills, with a plowed field in front of them…just like home.
The baby down the hall is crying again…and Lev just got up to use the facilities. Didn’t his Mom ever tell him to go before he left the house?!
We’re slowing again.
Now Meshack is headed to the bathroom…or the ‘toilet’ as he keeps calling it. He thinks it makes him sound much more Ukranian. I just can’t bring myself to calling it a toilet. It sounds so crude.
Besides…if it’s the hole in the ground version, it’s not even a toilet.
I asked Lev how I would know which train station we were supposed to get off at. He gave me a quizzical look.
‘Well,’ I said. ‘If you and Meshack are sleeping, one of us has to be aware of when we’re supposed to get off this thing. As much as I’d like to visit Belarus…I certainly don’t want to go there today!
He laughed at me.
He had set his alarm on his phone.
We still have an hour to go.
I have 40 minutes of battery power.
Meshack just came back and said something to me about the toilet. If he’s complaining about it, it must be bad. So I’m sorry…you’re not getting a first-hand report on the conditions of the toilets. I’m not going anywhere near them.
Meshack is taking pictures of the compartment now. I may share one with you, if I don’t look like too much of a dork.
Every once in awhile we go past a train crossing. As near as I can tell, there’s a person sitting in a booth waiting for the train to come by. As it approaches, they go out and pull the gate down, so no one can cross. Not exactly efficient…but it does the job.
The trees have thickened up again.
Those of you getting ready to travel…here’s a word of advice. Stay away from the fizzy water. It’s terrible. If you go into a grocery store and can’t figure out which water is which, just look for the BonAqua label with a LIGHT blue lid. That’s the water with no gas. It is everywhere in Kiev - kind of like Aquafina. I tried looking at the label to see if it is made by the same company, but wouldn’t you know it, the whole thing is in Cyrillic.
We just passed a house not even 15 feet away from the train tracks.
How can those people sleep at night?!
The ride is starting to get a little bumpier. Not nearly as smooth as in Kiev.
It’s noon now…and I’m starting to get a little hungry. What I wouldn’t give for a Schlotszky’s Turkey, Bacon Club right now. All I have are more Nutri-grain bars and chocolate covered pretzels…and those are supposed to be part of our gift bags to the orphanage workers.
Oops…we just went by a crossing and the arm wasn’t down. Someone must have been sleeping on the job.
Well the battery is running out so I had better close for now. I’ll be sure to let you know how our visit goes, in the meantime…das vedanya.

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