Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Truth Be Told

It is time to spill the beans.

We have some very exciting news.
Let me give you a few hints.
We visited Anastasia and Paul’s birth city.
We spent the day in the car driving around getting notarizations, certificates, and two little red books.

Have you figured it out yet?

Our 10 days were waived!!!!!!

Right after court yesterday we set out to obtain Anastasia and Paul’s birth certificates. After hydroplaning for two hours we were devastated to find out we were half an hour too late. The office had closed. We drove back home with the determination to set out bright and early this morning.

We did—two hours again only to find out that this office wanted a case opened which was something our facilitator had not heard of before. Back home for another four hours to gather a thick stack of documents only to realize that we would barely make it back in time to A and P’s birth city to do the birth certificates. Thankfully a phone call to the woman who would do this ensured us—“Third time would be a charm.”

By the time we had these precious certificates in our hands, the passport office was going to be closing so our facilitator made another call. Yes, the nice passprt lady would wait for us and make sure we got their passports-- today.

We celebrated with McDonald’s and brought home Caleb and Rachel a few burgers—since this was the second day they stayed home with the house owners. When we got home, the kids had a few stories to share. Last night—against Rachel and Caleb’s wishes I had asked the owner Yuri if he would walk them to the store if they wanted something. His eyes lit up at the request—but Rachel and Caleb were not too happy. “We could walk by ourselves Mom.” Of course they could—but since John and I were not here we wanted to make sure they would be safe. Mid morning, Rachel was watching tv and Caleb was finishing up the book 1984 when Yuri walked in and told them it was time to go to the store. Caleb wanted to finish reading and Rachel wanted to watch her show—but no- it was time to go to the store. Caleb tried politely but firmly to say no thank you because he wanted to read but that is when Yuri said that books were not important and it was time to go to the store. So, the good kids that they are walked to the store with Yuri--- the Dedushka they will never have. I think it was Yuri’s highlight of the day!

Oh, and yesterday Luba his wife kissed Rachel on the cheek for helping her fold the laundry. Memories I don’t think either of them will soon forget. I am going to wrap up this post so I could finish chomping on a big, homegrown, pickled cucumber. Yum!!!

P.S. It has been so hard being away from the kids back home. Thankfully we keep in touch through email and phonecalls. I can't wait to be back home with all of them! Thank God we will be home to celebrate Fourth of July with our whole family! Anastasia and Paul are going to think that the fireworks are for them! Won't that be cool? And lastly, I just got an email from another adoptive family who hopes to get together next week!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

We Are the Proud Parents of...

Anastasia Jean and Paul Jeremiah as of 12:38 pm today!

Aren't they beautiful?!!! Court lasted all of 15 or 20 minutes and went something like this.
Judge-- "Do you want to change anyone in the courtroom?"
Us-- "No."
Judge-- Reads all of our paperwork. Then asks us if we want to adopt.
Us-- "Yes."
Judge-- Asks inspector, director, and then prosecutor if they object to adoption.
3 of them-- "No."
Judge-- "Are you sure you want to adopt? And what are you asking for from the court?"
Us-- John answers in one or two sentences.
Court over.
Due to some unexpected circumstances we are all heading back to Kiev in a day or two before flying home this weekend-- but first we want to go back up to the camp.
Thank you for all of your prayers!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Questions Answered

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post ""Are You Rich?"":
First off, I'd like to thank you for letting us follow your experiences. You and John are beautiful and so full of love! God bless you a hundred fold.My questions are about Nastya and Pasha. I'd like to know how long they have lived in orphanages. And do you know why they were orphaned? I'm also curious as to why their names will be "Americanized" verses letting them keep them as is. Someone else asked if the two are biological brother and sister; which I was wondering also.. along with how you came about selecting to adopt them.Many continued blessings to you and yours.

Nastya and Pasha have lived in the orphanage for seven years--- longer than any of our other adopted children. Yes, we were told the reason for their “social orphan” status (meaning that at least one of their parents is still alive). As to why their names are being “Americanized”—well we do that on the birth certificate but we are still not sure what we will call them. We usually encourage the “Americanized” version for school when the name stands out more than usual. Like our son Dennis whose name in Ukraine was pronounced Denise— we felt that making his name more masculine was in his best interest just like encouraging Nastya to go by her full name Anastasia. They will have enough challenges with school that we didn’t want to give them one more. But if at home they still want to go by Pasha and Nastya—we will do whatever makes them feel most comfortable.

Yes, Nastya and Pasha are biological siblings and we picked them because they were the first available children in our desired age range. No other child that was available was passed over before choosing Nastya and Pasha. For us—choosing is just too hard.

Laura has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": Hi! Great to read what you're doing...and cooking! Most of my questions were asked above but I have a different one:Are you at all concerned with going to Court and standing in front of the judge? Our first (and only, unfortunately...) time was nerve wracking but I'm wondering if you and John feel quite comfortable with the process now that you are "seasoned" court goers. I mean -- I don't think the judge could ask you any questions you haven't already answered! ;)Have a wonderful, relaxing day before THE BIG DAY!!Blessings,Laura

Strange as it may sound—we really do not have any concerns with court. We have been through it enough times to know the drill. Besides each time our facilitator has told us what to expect ahead of time. Like if the judge is known to be a tough one, or if the hearings are unusually long—we have known ahead of time. This time around we are told we have a judge that is quick and easy. We’ll see.

Qadoshyah has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": What actually happens to the kids once they age out of the internat? And what age is that? Are they just on the streets? I've heard that some kids age out at 16, but then I've seen you say there are some 17 year olds there. Maybe every internat is different?These kids all look so normal and easy going and could live such a normal life, it's so sad they are in an orphanage.

I think that what happens to the kids when they age out is different depending on the region they are in and how the director feels about the kids. I gather this because I have heard different stories for different Internats. But speaking of this particular Internat that Nastya and Pasha are in—the kids get to remain in the Internat until they finish school. We met a few kids were already 17 and still living in the Internat. Often times they can continue living there until 20 or so if they are going to school. After that, they receive some sort of financial help to further their education and monies to obtain a place to live. While this all sounds fine and dandy—remember the kids are still doing all of this without a family to encourage and support them. Though a child is not eligible for adoption after they turn sixteen, they can still be adopted until they turn eighteen if they have a younger sibling that they are being adopted with. One thing that I have seen over and over with the children—that has changed my mind about them—is that even though they are fifteen, they are years behind emotionally. Here I thought there was little time left to shape their hearts and minds when in reality it is never too late to reach these kids.

newmom2 has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": Keep up the blogging, I have one, what age was Rachel when she left the orphanage? My heart aches for the children left behind... esp. Luba and Luda...Just wanted to say that I am enjoying your journey with you... and sending you prayers for a safe and quick journey home. (love the note from Annalyn)

Rachel was 10 when she left the orphanage. Thank you for your prayers.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": I have several questions!! They are not so much about A & P but more about where they live. I look at their sleeping arrangement, and that they wear the same clothes over and over again and I cant help but wonder if they have a problem with lice or mites?? The orphanage doesn't look dirty by any means...but sometimes those bugs just appear out of thin air!!

We’ve not seen any lice or mite issues but Rachel has told us of such incidences.

My last question, might be rather personal, but with soooo many hormonal girls and boys living together with pretty much no supervision...what happens if a girl becomes pregnant? How do they control those "desires" so to speak.Thanks!!Sarah

My husband John asked our facilitator the same question--- it happens. If one of the girls get pregnant we were told that they have to go to the hospital—they can’t stay at the Internat. I asked how often two orphans fall in love and get married after they age out of the system. That happens to and often times they can go on to live productive yet simple lives. One of our daughter’s half sister is living proof of that. At the time we adopted Anna, her half sister did not want to be adopted because she wanted to stay with her boyfriend. Now almost five years later she is married to that same boyfriend and they have a son.

Chris has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": This looks like such a wonderful experience for you to have shared with Caleb and Rachel. Since you asked, I have one question that seems a bit silly, but I was wondering how clothes are handled with these older children. I know for younger ones like our son, the caregivers dress the children, but for these older children, do they have a community closet or do they have their own clothes? You commented on what Luda and Anastasia were wearing, and I noticed some other girls dressed more conservatively so I was just wondering how they ended up with the clothes they wear.By the way, the dinner you've cooked looks delicious as do the fresh cucumbers and tomatoes!

The whole clothes thing has me wondering too. If I had to guess I would say that the older kids get to pick what they wear—but that they have to wear them for many days at a time. Calling it a community closet sounds about right. Nastya surprised us the second time we saw her—she was wearing what looked like Underoos. She was all leg—and no one seemed to think anything of it except us. Another time she had on a short skirt and was wearing eye shadow. In reality our hands are tied until court— then we will be able to suggest and provide something a little more modest. Thankfully, her intentions in wearing something so short seemed really to stay cool and nothing more.

James has left a new comment on your post ""Are You Rich?"": So did John superglue the crown in, or did he really lose it?We are praying for you guys! Thanks for all the updates. I pray we can do the same very soon.God bless

Big sigh~~ John swallowed his tooth. Thanks for the prayers.

Holly has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": I would love to know about how this adoption experience has been...I know you did an independent adoption and didn't ask for specific kiddos through RR like you have before...maybe when you get back you can share more.My heart is broken for the HIV angels over there and I would love to GO for 2! :)

Actually we used the help of God’s Waiting Children. They are fantastic! This adoption experience has been amazing—but then again they all have been! Anytime you want to know something just ask.

Becky has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": I have questions about the language barrier with A & P, the other kids at the Internat and other kids you have adopted in the past. How exactly do you communicate? How much of their language do John and you know and how much English do the kids know? How does this affect the adjustment period once home? How does this affect schooling?

Our knowledge of the Russian/Ukrainian language is not great—but John can read it and with the help of sign language we always manage to get by. We have picked up the basics and with the help of our facilitator we have been able to communicate the big stuff. The kids are eager to learn English—and they are like sponges. We anticipate that the first few weeks home will be a bit frustrating—but Nastya and Pasha will have each other. We will have a few weeks with Nastya and Pasha before school starts and I think that time will help them learn enough language to get by in school. We will work with the school in helping them acclimate to their new surroundings. Since both of them attended school here in Ukraine, the school atmosphere will not be foreign to them.

Also, as a family who has adopted children of all ages, is there an age (or placement amongst other kids in the family) where the adjustment is easier/harder? I imagine it is all very individualized and there are so many uncertainties, and I don't even know if my question makes any sense, I just know that when you have posted about disruptions on your other blog it seems as though it is something that is often brought up.

If you ask most professionals I think they would say that the younger the child the better the chance of things working out. However, I have seen situations where a 2 year old was disrupted, a 14 year old disrupted after being adopted as a newborn, and a 15 year old disrupted after being home only a few months. If you ask me, I think that children have a harder time adjusting if they come into a home where they are overwhelmed with material things and privileges that sets the bar higher than the parents intend to keep it at. When children are first adopted they have so many new things to get used to that having the same small boundaries as the orphanage is the one thing they find comfort in. Of course, I am not a professional, but you asked my opinion and I gave it to you.

Was answering "Are you rich?" hard? I mean, because even financially, I am guessing almost everyone in the US would seem rich to the kids at the Internat (or maybe that is a false assumption).

Yes it was—because compared to the rest of the world we are incredibly rich but I did not want Nastya thinking she was coming into a family that would give her whatever she wanted nor did I want her to go bragging to her friends.

How'd you choose A & P and does it break your heart that you can't take all the kids home?

I already answered how we chose A and P in a previous question—and of course it breaks my heart for all the children left behind. No child should be without a family.Also, another age question.

What are the age requirements for adopting an older child?

As to adopting an older child I think there has to be at least fifteen years between the child and youngest adoptive parent. So if you want to adopt a fifteen year old, you would have to be at least thirty years old. Someone please chime in if I am wrong.Thank you for blogging about your experiences there and about your life in general.

Martha has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": I have enjoyed being along for the journey of your last three adoptions. Each one is so special and unique, it is no wonder you keep going back again and again.I am curious if the children will be allowed to continue speaking their native tongue when you return home or will this be discouraged and why?

We would love for Nastya and Pasha to continue speaking in their native tongue—but I just don’t think that will happen. None of our other children kept their native tongue and so I don’t know why we would expect anything different with them. But… we were looked down upon by the orphanage director because Rachel couldn’t speak or understand her native language anymore. Oh well—our children are now Americans and if their native language suffers at the expense of learning English—I can live with that.

Matt Penman has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": When you posted your need for prayer, we stopped school and gathered in prayer for your family. We continued on with school and I checked your blog an hour later and read that God answered our prayers. Thank you for allowing us to share in your journey. You blessed us so much with our journey, it was nice to participate a little with yours. Sarah is learning how much we went through on our journey to bring her home, although she is acting out now, I believe your blog is helping her to cope with her past. We love you guys and can't wait to read your blog each day. Love,Jennifer

Jennifer, thank you for your prayers. I am so happy to hear that Sarah is reading our blog too. Maybe we can pick her up a little souvenir.

Matt Penman has left a new comment on your post "Camp": Christine,It is so amazing that you are at the same camp that we met Sarah. We might have walked by your kids without even knowing it. Your trip has brought back so many memories for all of us. Sarah is trying to process all of it, and with God's help, she will overcome! :) Love,Jennifer

How awesome is that! I will try to get a few more pictures to share.

Allison has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": Hi Christine!!So I"m loving seeing what you and Jenn Dove are cooking up. Can you write down and email me (or post) your "recipes" for these? I am going to need some help branching out from the typical things we eat here while we are in EE. I'm not one that can just "whip something up from a few ingredients". :)Thanks so much! I can't wait to hear all about court!

I can’t speak for Jennifer, but I don’t have any set recipes. For the four of us, I melt about four tablespoons of butter in a skillet and throw in six or seven small, chopped potatoes and one cut up carrot. When they are almost done cooking, I add some chopped up ham, green onions, and salt and pepper. I vary the amount of ingredients depending on what I have on hand at the time. My secret to tasty tomatoes and cucumbers is squirting fresh lemon over them and sprinkling them with salt. To make toast, I melt butter in a skillet and lay pieces of bread inside. As they soak up the butter, they turn a nice golden brown in the skillet. Another thing I make is rice. Brown it in some butter first and just remember to use twice as much water as rice when you cook it and you should be fine.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": I love reading about your inspiring story.I don't want to offend or upset you but I am just wondering if long term your visits with all the other children in the orphanage helps or hurts them. I feel such empathy for the other children who are not being adopted and I wonder if its too sad for them when they see such loving parents and other children being adopted when they stay left at the orphanage. I will be praying that every thing goes well in court and for a safe journey back to America.

I have thought the same thing. On one hand I can’t imagine how love and attention could hurt any child but then on the other hand I imagine our affection stirring up jealousy that it isn’t them being adopted. It kind of feels like a lose lose situation-- but that is where I rely on our Heavenly Father. By spending time with them I know I am doing what I was called to do—God will just have to do the rest.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": So, what exactly is in that yummy-looking dish -- ham and green onions -- what else? Another question -- are you going to go to Rachel's orphanage?Best always.JEBAtlanta, GA

I posted the ingredients for the potato dish in a previous answer. As far as visiting Rachel’s orphanage—I just don’t think she is ready. She hasn’t really asked- but she would probably go if given the chance—but my Mommy extincts say it just isn’t the time—yet.

The McEacherns has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": Those tomatoes and cucumbers look SO good! One of my favorite Ukrainian staple dishes!I think I asked before, but how (and when) did Rachel come to join your family? Obviously, she's originally from Ukraine, but that's all I know. And you mentioned that her bio family came to say good-bye before your trip, so I'm a little confused!

Rachel joined our family through an independent adoption when her first American family decided that they were not the right family for her. We adopted her when she was eleven. They kept her two biological brothers who we keep in contact with. The arrangement has turned out to be a wonderful one given the circumstances.

Are A&P picking up any English yet?

Too early to tell--- but I am sure that as soon as they no longer have a translator the desire to learn English will increase tenfold!

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": Dear mom and dad,i think that that is very sweet and i can not tell you guys how much we mis you all and we ca not wait for you to come back!!LoveAnnalyn Reed

Hi Annalyn—thanks for all of your sweet comments! We miss you too!

Jamey & Catherine has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": Hi Christine,I have a few questions too...1.You and John seems to know a lot of Russian, do you both speak quite fluently or just from things you've picked up and learned along the way?

Hardly. See previous answers.

2.When you get back home will you put A & P into school right away in September or keep them home for a little to adjust?

The plan is to put them both in school mid-August. Pasha in third grade and Nastya in fourth—but plans could change if we see that they are further ahead.

So many more questions I would love to sit with you for a day and just chat but I know you have a pile of others to answer too. Someone once asked me about Oksanas Orphanage and Kazakhstan and could I describe life there in 15 words or less ( You don't have to use complete sentences) if you had 15 words to say how would you discribe the internat, Ukraine, the kids etc. what would you say? :)

Fun question—let me think for a moment. The outgoing, cheery, lovable children make the dreary, dark, boring, hopeless Internat a place I love!


Mommy to the Monsters has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": It's such a blessing to read your blog...Seeing the faces of the kids just breaks my heart. Just out of curiosity what are the requirements to adopt from the Ukraine? Do they allow singles?

They used to allow singles but not anymore. As for the requirements, I don’t think there are many.

Jennie has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": Above posters have asked the questions I was wondering about other then what happened with your hubby's crown? Did it fall out for good did he go to a dentist and if so was it any diferent then one you would go to in the United States?

See above for answer.

Michelle has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": i'd like to know:- A & P ages (which is older?)
Nastya is almost 12 and Pasha is almost 10.
- what you'll call them at home!
We will suggest transitioning them to their “Americanized” names but won’t push it.
- how you came to know of them
See above answers.
- if they're bio siblings, and if not, how you decided to adopt them together
They are siblings.
-if you'll be visiting the orphanage Alex & Dennis came from this trip
No, we will not be visiting this trip.
- if you're all staying until everyone's home, or if some are leaving after court
Still up in the air.
- do you think this is it for kids? going for 15? :-P
That is like asking if I can predict the future—which I can’t.
- what do your kids at home think of these new kids being older? i think i remember reading awhile back (maybe when you decided to adopt Alex?) that some of the older kids didn't want you to adopt kids who weren't young, so i was wondering how they're all doing with A & P being older.
I think Nastya and Pasha will fit right in! I think the kids are at the age where they will interact with their new siblings just fine.
also, would you be comfortable making a list of ALL your family (new kids & parents included!) with birthdays next to names? or if you don't want it online, would you be willing to email it if i gave you my email address? for the LONGEST time i've wanted to send birthday cards & gifts for your family, but i don't want to skip anyone so i've never done it for fear of missing someone's birthday & leaving them out. :-)- michelle
You are so sweet to think of all of us. Please email us—but be sure to include your birthday too!

Carey and Norman has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": These vegetables look amazing! Yummy!!I'd love to hear more about the adoption process in the Ukraine. How would families consider a particular child who is waiting. What timeframe they should expect to travel if they began the process now. What kind of costs? Who would you recommend to use as a facilitator? Thanks for sharing!

The adoption process for Ukraine is quite easy. The dossier is simple. The more open you are to age, gender, and special needs, the quicker the process is. After you do your homestudy, apply for Immigration, and gather your dossier documents, you then submit them to the SDA. A few weeks later they either ask you to update a few documents or invite you for an appointment—usually a month after that but sometimes you will only get one weeks notice. The time in country can vary depending on how good your facilitator is, what region you go to, and whether or not any issues come up with the children’s paperwork. Most families should expect to not have their 10 day waiting period waived—although it does happen once in a while. In total the process takes around five weeks.

:)De has left a new comment on your post ""Are You Rich?"": After your post about French Toast the other day, I just had to make some for dinner and it was so good and the kids and I talked all about your adventure and your new children! We are so happy for you all and thank you for letting us all be a part. How is Rachel doing? I think of her often in the country of her birth and wonder how she is reacting. Continue with you beautiful trip and we are praying the 6 of you home safe and soon.peace

Rachel is doing fine—thanks for asking. I think this trip has been a good thing for her and for us. Thanks for your prayers.

Hevel has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": What region are you in? Is it an actual Russian speaking area or a Ukrainian speaking one? What language does Rachel use to write to her new friends? Is she interested in bringing her language skills back up?

Hevel, we have chosen not to share the city or region we are in until after we are home. Rachel will have our facilitator translate her English written letters. At this time, I do not think she is going to try and relearn her native language but she has fun remembering certain words.

Gin has left a new comment on your post "One More Day Before Court": Oh! Lots of questions! Is Rachel's russian coming back? What language does she use with her new friends? Also, any ideas on the care package initiative? How long till you can bring Nastya and Pasha home? Any fears on bringing to older kids home? And do you think you'll keep in touch with Luba and Luda? Sorry for so many questions, but this is all really new to me and I hope to find myself adopting at some point in the future, so I'm very curious!

Rachel remembers words here and there but not enough to carry on a conversation. She pretty much uses sign language to communicate like we do and it serves her well. We are praying to bring Nastya and Pasha home as soon as we can but you can never tell in Ukraine. We are not concerned bringing either of them home—but we anticipate some drama. I hope to keep in touch with the kids we met at the Internat through snail mail. When we get home I plan on printing the pictures we took of the kids and sending them. I think they would like that.

Kelly has left a new comment on your post "Camp": I have a sneaking suspicion that sometime soon the Reeds might just be adding a certain 15 year old into their family...just a suspicion. Glad you are having such a wonderful trip. Is there a possibility your wait may be waived tomorrow? I hope so!!

Kelly, I smiled when I read your comment but alas there are two girls—Luba and Luda. And lest not forget the ones that really touched John’s heart too. I think the need never ends—and I think that there will always be those that we feel we left behind. This is something that I don’t have an answer to at this time—but I know that my heart is tugged in a million directions concerning the children left behind. All I can say is that now our main goal is to get Nastya and Pasha home so that everyone can adjust and enjoy being a family. If our wait is waived tomorrow and we get home sooner than we planned—Hallelujah! We can pray!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

One More Day Before Court

Rachel and Caleb have been well received by all the kids-- and have even already exchanged letters with a few. Going a step further-- I think a few of the girls have crushes on Caleb. And for one special boy-- Rachel has a little crush. But John and I would approve-- just in five or so years. :) Anyway, tonight John sat with Rachel and helped her write a few letters to the friends she has made.

You can find potatoes, green onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers almost anywhere around here. Many Babushkas sit outside their apartment with their mini veggie stands selling anything from sunflower seeds to cucumbers to jars of honey. This is a dish that I often cook us for dinner with the food we buy from them.

To make the meal complete, I add some cut up ham. We all think it tastes great-- even Caleb who merely picks out the green onions.

We picked up some deep purple tomatoes at the open market the other day. They have so much flavor!

Since tomorrow will be like today-- I figure now is as good a time as any to answer questions. So if you have any--- please feel free to ask. It will be nice hearing from you.

"Are You Rich?"

A few days back during one of our visits, Nastya asked me, “Are you rich?” Of course, I didn’t know that was what she was asking and so I responded with what. She asked again, and I asked her to repeat herself because I still didn't understand her and so she asked again. I tried to move onto something else then maybe I could understand her, but she was adamant in knowing the answer. She finally asked our facilitator to ask me.

“Are you rich?”

Hmmm, I thought for a moment.

I wanted to shout-- Of course we are rich! We are rich in love! We are rich with children! We are rich with our health! And we are rich because you are joining our family!

Yet, I didn’t think that was the answer she was looking for. I told her that no we are not so rich with fancy cars and expensive vacations but we are rich enough to be able to care for two more children-- Pasha and her. I promised her she would always have food to eat, a bed to sleep in, clothes to wear, and a roof over her head. I wondered if that answer would suffice. Ahhh, what the heck! I went ahead and thre in what I originally wanted to tell her--- yes we are rich in love, and with children, and with our health!

To that, she smiled—and went back to her beading. She seemed content with my answer.
Today we went on a walk after sleeping in till noon. We knew it was going to be an incredibly hot day and I said outloud, "Oh how I wish it would rain today." Fat chance since there was not a cloud in the sky. We began our hot walk to the store. We shopped for french toast fixings and began our walk home. The clouds began darkening the sky and before we knew it it was drizzling. "Too bad you won't get a chance to see a Ukraine downpour where the streets become rivers," I told the kids." Then what do you know-- it began to rain harder.

Yes, we were caught in a down pour. Yes, the streets became rivers. Yes, God cooled us off.

Once the rain went back to a drizzle we walked home. It was very nice.

P.S. John no longer has to worry about losing his crown.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


The sun was shining bright as can be this morning. Hardly a cloud in the sky compared to past days which probably meant no rain today. Oh well, it was a beautiful day to be up at the camp even though it would be a hot one. We drove through the Holy Hills to the camp.

The camp is in a summer town that was hustling and bustling with tourists from all over the country. Reminded me of Pismo Beach-- but in the hills not by the ocean.

It didn't take the kids long to spot us and our arrival spread like wild fire through out the camp. Faces we thought we may never see again suddenly appeared and we picked up where we last left off.

The camp was different than what I expected--- it was more like a boarding school-- but with a soccer field, basketball court, and swimming pool.

We saw these cute cartoon like statues everywhere.

The boys wanted to impress us with their riding skills as they all shot past us on their bikes. I counted at least six.

This is the first building we walked into. On the second floor is the cafeteria. John followed Pasha into eat lunch later in the day and was happy to see rice, meat, veggies, bread, cheese, and compote on the kids' plates.
Here is a very sweet eleven year old girl named Nastya. She has a fifteen year old sister.
Luda was happy to show me where her and her friends sleep.

Luda introduced me to her friend Oksana who is only eleven years old. She too has an incredibly sweet disposition and it was like Luda was advocating for her.

Out in the halls of where the older kids sleep is where the kids hang out during the day. My heart broke to see the interaction going on between these kids. Too much skin, sitting too close, inappropriate language, and the smell of cigarettes on the boys' breath. I was not shocked to see this-- but it was hard to not feel helpless. Just a few minutes earlier when I had first seen Luda, I thought her shorts were a little to low on her hips so I walked up to her and picked them up and gave her the "you should know better and I care about you so this why I picked them up" look. With her, I feel comfortable doing so having spent numerous days with her at the Internat-- but with these strange kids from other Internats, I felt I would be overstepping my bounds. So instead I offered to take their picture and straightened out their clothes and asked them to show their teeth when they smiled. It broke the ice and I got them to reposition their clothing without them really catching on.

I was surprised when we were offered water from the faucets. The kids drank it and since their was the strong smell of chlorine John and I felt it would be safe.

Here is a beautiful painting on one of the buildings in the camp.

I passed out these necklaces to a few of the girls. Our daughter Nastya had already ran off with her two friends to put hers away in her room so I took a picture of the girls that stuck around. The two girls in black are sisters ages 11 and 15.

Luba seemed sad today. Rachel said it was because her tooth hurt. I am not so sure. For some reason I got the sense that she realized what she was missing by not having a family and my heart ached for her in ways I wish it didn't.

Pasha is loving our attention. He always wants to be around us and especially loves having a Papa. John said he saw Pasha smile bigger than ever when they went on a walk and John asked to hold Pasha's hand and then began singing in Russian something like, "Ya Lyblu Pasha! Eta Musica Fantastica!" John kept singing it louder and louder and got the other kids to join in to. Pasha loved it!

When it was time for lunch, the caretakers would march the kids to the cafeteria while singing a song. It was fun to watch. Even the older kids did it to.

Doesn't you know who look too cool for school? When it was time to go, Caleb gave his glasses to one of the older boys. It was a very nice gesture considering that Caleb loves those glasses. But Caleb also knew that it probably wasn't as much as the boy would love them.

On the drive out of the town, we passed this building. I thought it was cool.

In the hills you could see this huge statue of a man.
The town we were in is also famous for having the oldest church in all of the region.
On the drive home, I slept. Just a few minutes ago, I called home and talked to most of the kids. It was nice hearing their voices. Lots of love to all.

Back From Camp

We left at 8am this morning--- just got back an hour ago.

Lots of pictures-- lots to share-- I will begin the job of cropping down photos so they will upload and I will prewrite my post in Word.

See you in a while.

Meanwhile, how are all of you? Any of you enjoying a three day weekend?

Friday, June 25, 2010


We have Interpol clearance! Instead of staying couped up in our room we decided to go for a walk. A few houses down our phone started to ring. It was our facilitator in Kiev telling us that we have clearance! Unbelievable! Court is at noon on Tuesday, June 29th! We are so excited!

And there is more!

Tomorrow morning we are going to get up early and go up to the camp to spend the day!

We are all very excited!

Praying for Interpol

We got word today that a stack of Interpol documents has been misplaced. Our paperwork was in that stack. Families who began the clearance check after us have already gotten theirs back. Our facilitator has petitioned the Embassy on our behalf. We are going into a three day weekend here--- nothing will happen during these days. Please pray for miracles. It can happen.

Today is the first day I feel homesick. I miss my kids. I miss my bed. I miss talking to friends and family. I miss being able to get in my car and just go. I know I sound spoiled but I guess I am just down after hearing about our Interpol. I know that I need to stay focused on Him and keep my eye on the prize. Sometimes I don't do what I know I need to. I am even cranky with John, Caleb, and Rachel. Shame on me.

Your prayers are much appreciated.

FYI-- you know who. I am going to pick up a few of those brooms I think. Hope they fit in our suitcase.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Open Market

Today we had our facilitator drive us to the open market. We paid close attention to the 2 mile drive so that we could walk back later. It usually closes around 2pm so we got there before noon to make sure we had plenty of time to browse the rows of merchants.

We enjoyed looking at the toys. So simply made-- nothing mechanical-- yet so cute.

These are the kinds of brooms we see everyone sweeping with around here. Maybe I could bring you back one Annalyn-- LOL. :)

On our way back we saw this statue. The old woman in the left hand bottom corner of the picture caught our attention more. She had to be the saddest old lady we have ever seen.

We have seen many disabled people here. This man seemed to have no trouble getting around with his wheel chair.

Isn't this car so cute? Adam-- I promise to find one just like it at home for your first car-- okay?

John forgot about his loose crown today and it fell out while he was eating an ice-cream cone. Lucky me got to put it back in.

We pass under this tunnel everytime we go to the market. The night before we walked over it along the train tracks. Today, we went under it. Just as I was taking this picture, I stepped into a pothole and fell down. Not fun-- but I am alright.

We bought this fun headband to take home as a souvenir for one of the girls. Rachel and I took turns wearing it home.

Caleb noticed all of these lady bugs mating. They are everywhere!

Right down this street is where our house is. This is the second man we saw here in a wheelchair. Personally, I am happy to see more people in wheelchairs out and about. They should not be shut in.
Not only are there potholes everywhere but there are also manholes missing their covers. One step when you are not looking and you may fall and break your neck-- literally.

This is the home where we are staying. Don't let it fool you-- it not only is a big house but it has the most amazing garden.
Back at the market, I wanted to buy strawberries so bad we bought them from the only Babushka we saw selling them. The berries were pathetic, little looking things but we bought them anyway. It felt as if our purchase may have been the only one the Babushka had all day and at three grivna we could afford it. She wrapped them in a plastic bag so by the time we got them home they were crushed and fermented. Still, I was determined to wash them and make some jam. The lady of the house Luba joined us in the kitchen. She looked at the berries strangely and when I told her, "Harashow," she shook her head in disgust. By this time I felt defeated-- no strawberries for us-- but she invited Rachel to her garden. Five minutes later Rachel brought in strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and other little fruits. I was impressed. Really impressed. All this time I had been looking for strawberries at the open market and yet all I had to do was ask Luba. I followed Rachel back out to the garden and Luba gave me a tour. On their one acre of land they had all kinds of fruit trees, fresh herbs, vegetables, berries-- you name it-- they grow it. She named them all for me. Except Basil and Cilantro-- they haven't heard of them.

Pray Warriors Unite

We have been ready for court since this past Tuesday but we have been waiting for Interpol clearance. It should be here-- but we have yet to get the approval needed for court. The judge handling our case will squeeze us in whenever we get this approval so please pray with us. The Dove family is in the same boat so please pray for them to.

Heavenly Father we pray that our Interpol clearance will come today so that we can have court. Amen.

He Wanted Some Eggs

Well the kids are off to camp. They were supposed to leave at seven in the morning. Oh how I wish we could be there with them. Instead we are going to the open market to look for balloons for them, some fresh fruit, and maybe a few souvenirs.

I forgot to mention that John's crown came out yesterday. It happened while chewing gum and when he brought it to me I thought that he was kidding. Nope. So he laid across the hood of the car while I played Dentist Christine and placed it back in the right way. All the kids were around us and they couldn't stop commenting on how crazy the whole situation was. Thankfully it is back in and John is now chewing on the other side.

Another thing I want to share-- sure to give you a good laugh because it did me, was when John asked for eggs. He went into one of the stores and didn't know the name for eggs. When the store owners looked at him strangely because they had no clue what he was asking for-- he did this. He started clucking like a chicken, then pretends to pull something out of his bottom and then pretends to hold a round object in his hand which he then calls a "Meeach" which mean ball. Needles to say they understood my funny husband. Who says you need to know the language in order to communicate? I think John got his point across quite well-- don't you?

P.S. So many of you have left comments and private emails about wanting to help and possibly starting something to send care packages to the kids left in the orphanage. I think that is a great idea. I have the address. I also would love for families to be touched with these children's stories that may lead them to adoption-- so please feel free to share the post "Impacting Each Other Lives" with anyone who you think would read. Thanks! You are so right! God can move mountains!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What We Did Today

Like I mentioned in my previous post, the kids thought the glow sticks that could be connected into a necklace or bracelet were so cool. They had never seen anything like them--- even the 17 year old boy that Pasha gave one of his sticks to had not seen them before.

I brought flashcards and John played all kinds of games with them. Not only did they have to shout out the right answer but then John would hold up two cards and ask them which answer was bigger. Most of the time they got the answers right-- and even the 17 year old boy enjoyed playing.

The kids love the camera. Ever since I promised to mail them pictures, they have been asking to take photographs with us, with each other, and individual ones.

It has been fun.

Nastya wanted to make sure she introduced her friend Anya to us. Here she is with the glasses. I thought she was around six years old and I could have believed eight, but when she told us she was ten I was shocked because of how tiny she is. Isn't she adorable?
The kids wanted to show us their tiny, baby kitten. It looks way too young to be away from its Mama but I think with the kids caring for it, it will be okay anyway. I hope.

The girls loved painting their nails. They were thrilled when I had our facilitator tell them that they could keep the polish as long as they promised to share.

Here is Carina, Luda, and Sveta. They are close friends-- the girls who took me out for the photo shoot.
Aren't they just beautiful?

After saying our goodbyes, we headed home. After lunch we went for a walk down to an area that has a bunch of little stores in a park like area with benches to sit on and people watch. The store owners loved us when we went inside and asked to buy all of their Seputchkas-- around 2 kilograms for eight dollars.

Caleb and Rachel enjoyed divvying up the candy they bought for friends and family.

Tonight I made french toast for dinner. I added milk to the egg and Caleb ate it no problem. Still, he won't drink it in cereal, but at least it is a start. This kitchen is interesting. Every time I want to turn on the stove, I must first turn on the gas and then light the burner with a match. I also need to plug in the exhaust fan and close our bedroom door so the smell of the food doesn't permeate the bed sheets. Got that? Oh, and then I need to turn off the gas, unplug the fan, and make sure that I don't grab the hot handle on accident when I move the pan. But, I am getting used to this kitchen and it really isn't that big of a deal.

Since they don't have syrup here, we used powdered sugar and Caleb topped his last piece of french toast with ice-cream-- so we are not missing syrup yet. Eventually though, I think it would be something we would like to have again.
There are still so many things I have not told you about like the train ride here. How could I have forgotten? Did you know that the train had to make an unplanned stop because some kids threw a washing machine on the railroad tracks and we ran over it. It is a wonder our train did not derail-- but John watched the train men detangle the scrap metal and throw it aside. Also, we could not get tickets for one cabin-- rather we had two beds in one and two in another. Thankfully one woman was willing to trade her bed with one of ours, but the other guy would not budge. In the end we ended up all staying in the same cabin anyway because Rachel and I shared a bed.

Impacting Each Others Lives

I must start out by saying, “Many blessings to all of you who have taken the time to comment. It has been such an encouragement to keep posting even when Internet is excruciatingly slow. Though I don’t have time to respond to all of the comments like I would like to, I am keeping them in the back of my mind and plan to answer all of them when we are back home. Thank you for all the birthday blessings for John—I read him many of the comments and he felt the love.”
We knew this day was coming. Today was the last day we got to spend with the kids since they are heading off to camp tomorrow. The camp is much further away and we are already paying $40 a day for the drive to the orphanage so it would be even more to drive out to the camp everyday. Still, we plan on splurging in a couple days and driving up to the camp for hopefully, the whole day because all the kids are so worth it.

We began with our routine of seeing Nastya and Pasha first thing and they were very excited with the glow sticks we brought them. Such a commonplace thing in America-- but here--- to these children--- they might as well have been bars of gold. I know we haven’t had court yet, but still I already call them—my children--- well my children shared their glow sticks with their friends. It warmed my heart. I think they truly understand what it means to the other children to get a little enjoyment out of our visit to the Internat as well, even though we are not adopting them.

We did a couple of other things which I will share in an "extra" evening post because I want to get to the heart of this one.
We all went outside and spent time with the children. Today many of the girls stayed close by me because I brought nail polish and toiletries. The older girls blessed me in ways I will never forget. Being so close to them today changed my ideas about older teenage girls in Internats-- and they will forever have a special place in my heart. It was a privilege to paint each of their nails yet they acted like it was a privilege having their nails painted by me. Phooey—little do they know how much joy they brought me. My heart was brimming with a mixture of joy and sadness as I held each of their hands in mine and painted each of their tattered, scraggly, dirty, worn, bitten to the quick nails. A few of them even had infected cuticles dabbed with green medicine. I felt bad for even noticing--- a part of me knows they are beautiful children of God and another part of me wanted to wash their hands and give them some Mama love---- oh how they each could use some Mama love. It was quite windy as we painted nails so of course the polish became lumpy and their nails looked like a mess, yet to them—they felt beautiful as I kept telling them, “Ochen Craseeva.”

This post is so hard for me to write but I feel that these children’s stories need to be told—so that it may change the hearts of others. These children do not belong here in this Internat- they belong in families like yours and mine. Anyway, most of them wearing the clothes I first met them in four days ago, I felt unworthy to be wearing fresh clean clothes with freshly washed hair and clean feet. Why should I have all of these luxuries when they have none? What did I do to deserve so much? What did they do to deserve so little?

I watched as an older girl who at first was very standoffish with me, tried to impress me by doing another girls hair. Impress me, she did, as she French braided the girls hair round and round around her head like a Jewish round hat that lays flat on boys’ heads. It was really beautiful and she beamed with pride that she could show me something I had never seen before. At one point she bent over and I could not help looking at her bra. The wires were both sticking way out of each side poking her and yet for this moment—she was happy…. content. Little did this girl know the example she was to me-- not the other way around.

Luda, the girl that at first would have nothing to do with having her picture taken--- showed me even more of her true personality today-- and what a joy that was.! She not only was extremely helpful in painting all of the younger girls’ nails but she then asked me to follow her and two of her best friends somewhere. I had no idea where I was going but I felt honored that they would invite me to go with them. As we walked through a beautiful field with fruit trees they pointed out a pack of empty cigarettes and shook their heads in disgust. I agreed and was secretly so proud of them for choosing not to smoke. They went over to the “perfect” tree where they wanted me to take “senior” like pictures of them. This was so much fun. At first they would not smile showing their teeth but after I told them how much prettier their smile was when they showed teeth they began showing them proudly. And you wouldn’t believe how much fun they were having. And I would snap their picture when they were laughing and smiling their biggest and happiest smiles and when I showed them their picture they agreed that they looked beautiful. After a while, they insisted that I get a nice picture of myself and they took great care of my camera while they snapped photos of me. At one point I adjusted my shirt so my bra strap wouldn't show and each of them quickly checked their own bra straps.

Let me tell you--- these girls are so easily influenced and my prayer is that even though this time is so short in the grand scheme of their whole life, I hope that I made a difference to them—because I know they made a difference to me. They showed me their crosses from when they were baptized and told me how they love God. This makes me very thankful to hear of their salvation and yet I know they are starving for His Word. How I wish there wasn’t the language barrier because I would have shared so many things about God’s love and grace for them. If only….

Like always—the four hours flew by and before I knew it we were saying good-bye. I gave away the toiletries and nail polish and I went into my purse and found some extra ponytails to give to Luba who I will never ever forget. After giving Nastya and Pasha a few extra pieces of gum, I secretly gave the rest to Luba along with more ponytails as I squeezed them into her hand. She quickly looked in her hand and whispered, “Spaciba.” We both smiled.

It took all of me to keep from crying.

As I climbed into the car, the kids were having Caleb autograph the backs of their hands. It was painful for us to say goodbye.

Such a dangerous thing to spend time with the children. Of course it is a blessing beyond anything I have ever experienced and yet come time I have to leave—the void I fill in my heart is one that can never be filled until I get to see their faces again.

And yes Karyn, I gave big hugs to as many children as I could. I also had our facilitator share this with the kids, "You are all such amazing, respectful, wonderful kids. You have made the Reed's visit one they will never forget. They thank you for being so welcoming. They also want you to know that if they could, they would not hesitate to bring each and every one of you back to their home because they think you are all so terrific. Have fun at camp."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday-- A Great Day

It has been raining here off and on-- but it has not been very humid thankfully. The weather could not be better-- there is no air conditioner here but we all sleep comfortably.

We headed out to the Internat around 10 am this morning. We didn't leave until after 2 pm.-- yet the four hours flew by and we were sad to say goodbye.

As usual, we started our visit with just A and P in the waiting room. The other kids are not allowed to be in there so we have privacy.

We brought a nice craft to do with Nastya while John built Legos with Pasha. Adam pre-built a ship for them to try and copy.

I brought pens, crayons, color pencils, stencils, and tons of paper.

A and P enjoyed drawing with us. They are very creative.

We stayed inside for an hour before heading out to be with all the kids.

John drew their names in 3-D the way they write them in Russian. They thought it was so cool that Pasha tried to copy his Papa.

Once we were outside all the other kids ran over to us-- friendlier than the day before. Within minutes I brought out the pencils, stencils, and paper for them. They asked where they could draw and I showed them the window sill-- but it was wet and dirty. I impressed them by pulling out some American toilet paper and wiping them all down.
The kids were very easy to entertain. I wrote their names in English. I told them their equivalent American names like Pasha is Paul. I wrote the names of what they drew, the alphabet, and anything else they asked. Many of them knew the alphabet and were eager to learn whatever English I was willing to teach them. At one point I wondered if Pasha and Nastya would think I liked the other kids more so I had our facilitator explain to them that I love them very much and will always love them and that in a few days they would go to their new home in America with us where they would have lots and lots of toys and things and yet all the other kids would still be here in the Internat. I wanted them to know that I just wanted to spend some time with the other kids so that they could have some special memories for themselves. Pasha seemed pleased to hear this and actually felt relaxed to go off and play with his friends a little more knowing that no one was taking his place-- but still every once in a while he would run up to me and give me a hug and I would rub his head and kiss his forehead.
Even the 17 year olds liked hanging around us and doing whatever we had for them. I did some paper folding stuff and one girl named Luba made me a very pretty paper tulip. Many of the kids drew pictures of me too.

While I did this, John played volleyball with many of the kids.

Caleb shared his IPod with the kids and was impressed when they brought out speakers and plugged them into it so everyone could hear the music. All of the kids were very respectful of our cameras, phone, and IPod-- and a few of them had phones of their own.

At one point, all of the kids wanted their pictures taken. Here is Denis with Rachel. He is great--- but he is also already 15 so his time is running out that he could be adopted.

Here is a group photo.

This boy (I forgot his name) wanted to shake John's hand for the photo.

These two sisters have really impressed me. If I had to say I had "favorites" beside Nastya and Pasha, it would be these two girls hands down. Their names are Luba and Luda and their parents are Gypsy. Aren't they gorgeous? And they are so helpful, so respectful, and have the neatest personalities. At first, Luda, age 15, on the right refused to have her picture taken. Overnight she seems to have come of of her shell when I told her how beautiful she is and that I would send her the photos once I got back to the U.S. That is when the whole pen pal thing came up and before you know it we were exchanging addresses.
If you want to adopt two girls that are not only beautiful on the outside but in the inside too-- just like my girls are--- I would beg you to consider these two sisters. You will not be sorry you did.

Here is Alexander. He is such a good boy. Sweet and polite. And I think he has a little crush on Rachel just like a few other boys do.
It was sad to say goodbye, but it was the kids' naptime. Later this evening, we went out for pizza for John's birthday. This is the second time we have went to this place for pizza and I must say it is pretty darn good. So are the salads. We have had the Cleopatra salad and tonight we had the Caesar salad. Even Caleb thinks the pizza is yummy.
Before we went home, we stopped by the store and I bought some ice-cream thinking we would have sundaes for John's birthday but our facilitators surprised us with an ice-cream cake for John. They even bought these candles and had to cut off part of the seven because there was not a number 1 candle.

Happy birthday John-- and happy belated Father's Day!