Monday, March 17, 2014

Does arm wrestling count?

We get to visit the kids daily for three hours, usually in the afternoon.  This is the period allowed for bonding.  In our case, a bit of bonding has already occurred, especially with Kate because we hosted her over the summer.  And even with Max some bit of a relationship has been established because of my initial visit and our Skype calls.  But true bonding won't really happen until we get outside these four walls.

However...  we are beginning to feel that the activity that bonds us to Max the most up till now is arm wrestling.  Okay, maybe not, but it sure is a whole lot of fun.

Round 1 with Dad.

Not gonna lose.

Even Mom got in on the action.

Mom was doing well until the tickling fair!
 What we are quickly learning is that having a boy opens up a whole new of competition.  We expected this, but it's been fun to actually see it play out.  Just about everything Max does, he does well.  And if there's something he's not particularly good at, he will be by about the third time he makes an attempt.  He is still working to master shuffling cards, but I have no doubt he will be a pro by the time he gets to America.  He watches me intently each time I shuffle a deck of cards.  He thinks my "fancy trick" of making a bridge with the cards to bend them back is pretty amazing.  I remember thinking the same thing watching my own mom do this many years ago.  He'll have it down much sooner than me, of this I'm sure.

Today's visit also included some play-doh molding.

And some more hands-on activities with Dad.  What the kids like to call "helicopter" where Dad swings them around until he and they are dizzy, sweaty and exhausted.  Then we quickly rub the scuff marks off the floor from Max's shoes so as not to be "found out" and to avoid getting them into trouble later.

An interesting observation we've made during our visits is how eerily quiet it is at the orphanage.  I mean, you think about how many kids are there and while it's not a large number (usually between 45 and 55), it's still children.  And children are noisy.  Our two back home make more noise during our Skype calls than we've heard the entire time we've been here.  It's very strange.  Orphanage days are very structured, which makes for very structured children.  Things must be just so.  I don't know what the repercussions are when they are not "just so," but there must be some.  Max takes care to place stuffed animals back exactly as they were on the rug after we play cards and to move the chairs back to the exact same spot on the floor as when we entered the room.  Scuff marks are removed.  Play-doh crumbs are wiped clean from the table and floor.  Some of this is just normal responsibility, the same things I like to see in my own home as I teach my girls to be good stewards.  But some of it seems to border on excessive.

What I wouldn't give to ask these kids questions about what their life here is really like...and this is a "good" orphanage.  Just breaks my heart when I reminded that these kids haven't had the opportunity to be kids as much as our two back home.  At 3 years old, Andee has experience more true childhood than Kate has in 10 years.  Which is why they all play so well together.  Kate is making up for lost time as a child when she plays dolls and dress-up and play-doh.  It's sweet to see them take so much joy in the things that are just typical childhood experiences.

Discovering play-doh.
Getting creative.
Moving on to "helicopter" again.
Selfie just before our time together came to a close for the day.
As the days pass our connection to these two precious kids grows by leaps and bounds and it appears theirs does to us as well.  We are asked repeatedly while together, especially by Max, "You go 7:00?," while he knows we have to leave at 6:30.  We arrive around 3:45 and by 5:00 he is looking at the clock, checking to see how much time we have left for the day.  Today there was more discussion about when we will go to Kyiv together.  They know that we must go there before we can leave for America.  They want specific dates and it kills me not to be able to give them those yet.  We say "in a few weeks," reminding them that it will be soon.  But what is "soon" to a child who has been waiting in a orphanage their whole life?  At times I wish they were told nothing about leaving until just days, or moments, before stepping foot outside the walls of orphanage life.  I guess I just want to protect their hearts, because that's what mommies do.

We say our goodbyes and each day it gets harder.  The kids linger that much longer, their faces saddened just a little bit more.  Such a hard place to be.  We don't want to see them sad, but it's encouraging to know that they don't want us to leave.  They want out of there, that's for sure.  So we continue to wait expectantly...we hope in the Lord.

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