Friday, May 15, 2015

The return to 3G

One year.  It's already been one year since I was doing this with these two...

And Adam was doing this, with these two...

That moment you touch down, turn your phone on and see the beautiful words “Verizon 3G”.  Deep sigh of relief.

Money belt and passport free, we made it to our hotel after a painfully anguishing journey from Frankfurt to Dulles.

It didn’t matter though, we were in America.  America, where outlets don’t require adapters, showerheads are affixed to walls, clear tap water runs from every faucet and even signs in Spanish make you feel at home.  We weren’t quite home yet, but it was a beautiful thing the day we landed in Washington, D.C.  One year ago. 

But the interesting thing is that for as homesick as I was and as eager as I was to return to my family, a year later I can’t wait to go back.  I would so quickly jump on a plane back to Ukraine if given the chance.  Naturally, that country will always hold a special place in my heart as it is part of our family now, but it’s more than that.  I truly fell in love with it, with the people, with the way of life.  There is so much that I miss.

The daily adventure of having to “figure things out” like how to buy groceries as you have to create labels for the produce you purchase in grocery stores there.  And you better not take a picture of the sign (or anything else for that matter) to carry with you to the scale in order to make typing in the name of the item you wish to purchase a bit easier lest you be stopped by security, made to feel like a criminal, and asked to erase the picture from your iPhone’s camera roll.

The drive back and forth from the orphanage daily.  Narrowly avoiding pot holes unlike anything we have in America.  Becoming so accustomed to the ride that you could anticipate the dips, valleys and bumps with your eyes closed.

Sitting in awe on the dinkiest stool ever in the kitchen of the teeny apartment that you now call home as you Skype with family and friends a world away for FREE with internet speeds beyond any I’ve ever experienced in America.   There are some benefits to being a post-Soviet country!

Incredible 50 cent cappuccinos from the back of the man’s car parked each day in front of the SDA.  The street vendors eager to not only make a deal, but also make a friend as they visit with so many couples beginning their time “in country” in pursuit of the child or children they hope to welcome into their family.

Meeting in person the people you’ve “known” via social media for a quite a while who are walking the journey alongside you.  The way those people become friends solely based on the fact that you are both there to find Ukrainian children to whom you will give your last name.

And the borscht, oh the borscht.

As I relive all the memories in my mind, I am astounded that one year ago we were a family of six on paper but still not yet in person.

The anniversary of the day we went from a hand-sewn, notarized, blue stamped paperwork family to a real-life, flesh and blood family is tomorrow.

His mercies are new every morning and GREAT has been His faithfulness to get us this far!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

She wore white

When we hurried to Target that September afternoon to scour the aisles for the perfect Halloween costume (because they were 40% off with Cartwheel and I had a coupon!) I didn't think beyond the satisfaction of knowing that I got an amazing deal on four costumes and could check that off my list.

The costumes were placed in closets and for the most part remained untouched until October 31st when naturally a few adjustments needed to be made to the not-so-designer outfits my children were to wear that evening.  So elastic was sewn in the place of broken velcro on boot bottoms, mermaid tails were pinned to ensure no dragging on the ground and shoes were made to fit a bit more snugly in preparation for walking that just right length of neighborhood to accumulate not too much candy in a few hours.

With three girls I am keenly aware of the fact that if one asks me to curl hair or paint fingernails, it means that I will be curling three heads of hair and painting 30 nails.  It's just a given, so when I give the first "yes" I anticipate giving two more.  After curling Charlee's hair she bounded down the stairs, which meant I would hear either one or two sets of footsteps scurrying up the stairs shortly to say, "Mommy, can you do my hair like Charlee's?"  I was not disappointed when Kate rounded the corner and asked just that.

This is when my Halloween became a moment I will never forget.

With dress ironed and hair curled Kate stood before me and asked one simple question.

"Mommy, can you on this?"  Translated, "Mommy, can you put this veil on my head?"

A veil.

She chose to be a bride for Halloween.  Of all the costumes on the face of this planet (or at least in the aisle at Target) she chose this pretty white dress, with gloves and a veil.

A bride.

I answered her question with a simple, "Sure," and proceeded to place the veil on her head.

In that moment, my heart skipped a beat.

It was a simple request, really, but the magnitude of what it symbolized overwhelmed me.

Standing before me was this girl, this girl who has been calling me Mommy for just six months, completely unaware of just how significant that moment was, even if just for Halloween.  I had to hold back the tears as I carefully placed the veil atop her little head.

She stood before me wearing a gown that represents worthiness, purity, love and commitment.  Though she wasn't going to be walking down an aisle that night, I was awed as I considered the Lord's love.  His love that gives us worth, makes us pure, loves us the greatest and never forsakes us.  Because Kate is our daughter, we can offer her only a glimpse of that love, but she will know love in a way she never would if she were still in that Ukrainian orphanage.  And Lord willing, she will know His love one day.  For now I pray He would use us, however imperfectly, to reveal that love only He can offer.

Behold, I am making all things new.
Revelation 21:5

Then I was reminded that her name, her legal name Katya, means pure.  So, as she stood there in white, I saw her pureness anew.  And I am reminded to pray for the man the man who will take her to be his wife one day, that he would be God fearing and cherish this little girl of ours.  And I pray for the Daddy who will have to give her away.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

1 Month Home

We hit the one month mark as a family of six.  Looking back, I can't believe it's been only 4 weeks since I was last in Ukraine.  And just over 5 weeks ago, I was still making my daily visits to the orphanage from 3:30 to 6:30.  I am astounded at how much has changed in such a short time.

Many people have asked if we have found our "new" normal.

My answer:  "Yes, every day we find a new normal."

It becomes normal that I walk to the bathroom to see the toilet seat in the upright position.  A problem we didn't have just 4 weeks ago.

It is normal that each night at 8:30pm you will find Adam and I hovering over a bowl of ice cream as we breathe in a sigh of relief that the kids are all in bed.

We normally purchase much larger quantities of fruit these days with no waste...not even an apple seed goes unconsumed in our home by our two newest family members.  Occasionally, I will find the stem laying on the carpet near the Uno game we played just hours prior.  Yes, we still play Uno.  Even that in our home is normal.

Hearing four children in unison yelling "Mommy watch this" while in the pool is completely normal and even expected.  AND, the ability to tune out all but the first child who got my attention at that particular moment is also normal.

Responding to questions and statements like, "What o'clock?", "Mommy you stay this", "May I be excuse me please?", "What time I stand up?", "May I have more vater?", "Can you help me with my sunscream?", "Me no like thisis eat"...all normal.  I don't even hear that Kate and Max aren't fluent in English.  Until we are at the grocery store and the person standing beside us in a given aisle begins to notice that my 4 and 6 year old speak better English than my 10 and 11 year old.  I forget that their broken English isn't "normal" because it is to me.  And more than it just being normal, it's amazing!  They have come so far in such a short time with very little effort to formally teach them.  Normal now is that we rarely use Google Translate or even call a translator.  Sure there are many times I wish I could sit and have a real conversation with them, but I know it will come in time and probably sooner than I would ever expect.

Normal includes lots of time spent together as a family, or at least me and the kids when Adam is working.  Normal is fewer playdates, less time spent away from home, quicker and much more efficient trips to Sprouts and later bedtimes.  It is togetherness.  It is messy, sometimes ugly and not usually real pretty.  But it is good.  It is being sensitive to their limits, according to their ability to self-regulate and adjust to new and changing environments.

Has the month been amazing?  Yes!!!  But not because it's been perfect.  Far from it, in fact.  Thankfully, we didn't expect perfect, but choose to see the victories of each day, no matter how small, as something to be celebrated...over ice cream.

One of the greatest challenges is reminding myself that just because these kids look "typical" does not mean they are.   Reminding or informing others of this is also difficult at times.  It is easy to forget that they have pasts that include trauma, things that are part of their stories that are even unknown to us, that they don't know how family works, what family truly means.  They have an idea of what it is like to have a Mom and a Dad but it is romanticized (and why wouldn't it be?).  So, they challenge boundaries and authority.  It's their way of asking, "Do you really care?", "Will you really follow through?", "Do you really love me?"  And it is exhausting, but we are in it for the long haul.  This love is unconditional and nothing they will or will not do will change it.

So, if we seem antisocial it's because we kind of actually are.  And as much as I thought that might bother me, it actually kind of doesn't.  There is so much to learn and so much growth that is happening amongst the six members of this family that I want to create the firmest foundation possible as early as possible so that we all have a secure understanding of who we are as family and how this family operates.

Normal includes constant repetition of statements like "Family sticks together," "Family looks out for one another," "Family forgives," "Family respects."  The benefit of repeating these statements over and over again is that it reinforces for ALL of us that every thing we do, say or do not say has impact.

Also normal is learning to turn to the Lord more quickly, with greater need and more dependence on Him to meet the need of that moment.  We are in a place of great dependence on Him knowing that with so much we simply have to trust.  Trust Him to lead us, trust Him with our fears, trust Him with our questions and the great amount of unknown we face.  

So, lest you thought we had it all figured out, you now have a glimpse into the fact that we do not.  If you're wondering how we are doing, the answer is "Well."  Again, not perfect, not amazing, but there are moments that I feel we are not just surviving but actually thriving.  Moments when this does seem normal...and quite honestly there are more of those moments already than I ever would have expected at this point.  There is a long road ahead...for each of us.  Adoption does not define our family, but it has changed our family.  The reality is we are two parents with four kids, we just happen to have 21 years of unknown amongst our newest son and daughter.  But it doesn't matter.  Not that their pasts don't matter, they very much do.  What doesn't matter is how we came to be the family that we are.  What matters is how we go about it from here on out.

Friday, May 30, 2014


May 16, 2014.

Finally, the journey was over.  We made it home.

Waiting patiently.

The welcoming committee

So much excitement

Eager to spot Mommy.


Running to their absentee Mommy.

Father and son reunited on American ground.

My how I missed these two precious girls.

Mom and Dad together in the same city, the way it's supposed to be.

"Here Max."  Andee makes her first attempt to befriend her brother.

Now what?

I think Andee grew up by about three years since I last saw her.

Grandpa meets his oldest grandson.


"Anyone wanna count hryvnia with me right here in the middle of the airport?"

Sisters reunited and now with the same last name.


Finished.  Complete.  What a breath of fresh air to be united/reunited as family.

Of course, the fresh air feeling only lasts so long when you're dressed for much cooler weather and walk out the airport doors and inhale the 105 degree temperature air of Phoenix.  To me though it was a blessing.  The heat has never felt so good.  Our son, however, might have disagreed.  As we walked outside he turns to me and says, "Woah.  HOT.  95?"  And there's a strong probability he was referring to degrees Celsius since that's the system he knows.  If that's the case, he was telling me it felt like 203 degrees Fahrenheit.

To which I replied, "No, son, it's more like 105 and it doesn't stop here."  Thankfully he couldn't understand the latter part of my statement.

And so the adjusting begins...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Homeward Bound: Part 3

Not four hours later the kids and I woke to my alarm.  We quickly dressed, packed up what few things we had unpacked four hours earlier and headed downstairs to enjoy breakfast courtesy of the meal vouchers given us by Lufthansa.  We each attempted to make up for "dinner" the night before with some serious fruit consumption.

At 6:30 we hopped on the shuttle back to the airport.  Back at the airport, with bags checked and security cleared we sat at the gate awaiting our flight to Denver.

All was well until one of my children got sick while we waited at the gate.  I completely expected it.  I had this feeling that this day wasn't going to be easier than the day before.

There are times, and I believe they happen in any adoption, where the spiritual warfare is so great that there are only two choices to make: cry and pray or laugh and pray.  The prayer part has to happen regardless of the other chosen response.  Thankfully today I was able to laugh (inwardly) and pray as I tracked down the nearest janitor to ask for a trash bag to use in case said child got sick again.  I thought to myself, "Well, this 100+ gallon size bag should carry us through to Phoenix and fit nicely inside my backpack along with the stack of at least 200 paper towels he gave me."

My sick child refused to take the Dramamine that I brought with me prior to the flight so I knew this was gonna be another fun adventure.  I purchased Sprite and some pretzels from a vendor nearby and we stood in line to board.

Thankfully 10 year old children are more self-aware and so when they vomit on an airplane, they have pretty good "aim."  Barf bag number one filled.  I called for a flight attendant to discard the bag and when she came she acted like she couldn't believe I didn't want to sit and hold the bag for the duration of the flight.  "No Ma'am, I don't exactly enjoy holding other peoples' vomit and that large trash bag you have been carrying through the cabin seems like a nice spot for it.  Besides it smells no worse than the "food" some of these folks paid to eat just moments ago."

Well, let's just say the vomiting continued, but I'm done talking about it.

We landed in Denver.  Phew.  Off to find our next flight.  The gate number was really high and having flown through Denver on multiple occasions the thought occurred to me that the really large number could be indicative of a very small aircraft.

Yep.  When we rounded the corner in the wing of the terminal directing us toward those larger numbers, I spotted our personal-size aircraft.  Okay, it wasn't horribly small, but everything's relative when you have a sick child.  "Perfect," I thought, "the motion on this little plane is totally going to help settle my child's stomach."  Oh, and the fact that we were seated in the last possible row...conveniently located adjacent to the restroom.  Oh my.

I was extremely thankful when my sick kiddo chose to be pro-Dramamine this flight.  Phew.  Aside from some crazy turbulence and the constant stink as passengers cycled in and out of the restroom (I had no idea that nearly an entire plane full of people would need to use the restroom on a1.5 hour flight.  Seriously people, just go before you board and hold it the rest of the way...I've heard it's good to exercise your bladder.)

As we descended into the desert valley that is Phoenix, Max commented, "Wow, it's pretty."  Inwardly I laughed as I thought, "I couldn't disagree with you more."  I didn't think telling him that his new hometown is actually not that beautiful would help things so I kept my opinion to myself.

One short, vomit-free flight later, we landed at our final destination!  Never thought it would really happen!

It seemed to take forever and a day to get off that airplane.  Excitement levels were rising, as were nerves just a little.  Kate was mostly cool, calm and collected as she was probably thinking, "Been there, done that, and just happy to be home again."  Max was more eager and yet hesitant as we walked through the terminal knowing at some point we would be greeted by Dad, Charlee, Andee, Grandma and Grandpa.

Walking through Sky Harbor never felt so good to this mama.  We made it.
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