Monday, January 28, 2013

catching up.

For those of you wondering, I first wrote of our children here.  Six months later, we realized that we were their family after I wrote this.  It hit me how much I loved them here.

As for how things are going, we have lots of hang time.  Since the bus fiasco we have been hiring a driver.  We see them on Sunday, Wednesday, and Fridays.  Now that we are driving, I can't IMAGINE what it would have been like to ride the bus that far with these winter road conditions.  Many times a trip we slide perpendicular to the direction we are trying to go, we hit bumps and I have bounced out of my seat, I have hit my head on the roof of the van, but we have only had to actually push the van once.

Communication with the kids is always fun.  We speak almost no Ukrainian/Russian, and they speak little English, although as time passes it has become clear that they understand more than they let on.  I look forward to the benefit of the google translate app, but until then it has helped me decipher the wash machine.  As far as talking to the kids, we make a lot of faces and hand gestures, and we play a lot of card games.  They really love Uno.  They have a very beat up deck, and we play some fierce games.  They are trying to teach us Ukrainian rules to Uno, but we are unable to completely determine the exact way to play.  Mostly because after I try to use a move they have done, they tell me I can't do it.  I think they don't want me to win.
Here are some photos of the kids:  (the green dye is medicine for the chicken pox sores)

We have a court date set for February 5th.  We were hoping for sooner but the weekend, another family's adoption, and the judge's schedule dictated otherwise.  
On the days we don't visit the children, we actually get to spend time with the other family.  Meet our new friends Kim, Courtney, and Nastia Snodgrass.  They hail from Texas and have never adopted before or spent this much time in Kiev, so Scott and I are showing them the ropes.  We have walked all over the place and we took them to a great mall using the Metro.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

How it is...

We met the children on Thursday.

I'll just let that sink in for a minute.  I don't know about you, but I'm still reeling a bit from it.

Ok, here's how it went:

We arrived in the morning and all of our kids were at school exccept for Vika.  She is nearly done recovering from the chicken pox.  She also has quite a stuffed up nose!
We got to meet her first.  She was very shy and it was pretty heavy that we were there and her siblings weren’t and all the pressure was on her to meet us alone.  Someone suggested she show us to her room.  She shyly but firmly reached for my hand and practically dragged me up stairs.  She was much more comfortable in her room.  She showed us her bed and the other girls' beds while we were crowded by a couple of the other girls who were also recovering from the pox.  after that, she will snuggle very comfortably but not clingy on mine or Scott's lap.  

Alina and Sasha were brought back from school to spend the day with us.  It was so obvious that they had been hoping every day that today was the day, and finally it was.  Alina was giddy.  She is so happy and excited.  She has a very bubbly personality that is infectious.  It was awesome to see her hope come to fruition.  

Sasha is such a great boy.  He loves sports and electronics and is really great with both of his little sisters.  He is content to play a game on my phone, but he would sit and lean into us and whenever he passed a level, he would just lean over and say, "look, look." to make sure we knew he was doing well.  He loved that small reassurance and affirmation.  We will need to remember to always be ready with approving words.

Masha goes to trade school in Kiev everyday.  It is about an hour and a half commute each way.  While we were waiting for her all day, she had no idea that today was THE DAY.  She walked in the front door, and saw us, but until Alina raced up to her, cupped her hand over her ear and whispered that WE WERE FINALLY HERE, she had no idea.  To say that she was surprised would be an understatement.   When she looked at us for the second time, she smiled the biggest smile.  

The other children had spent all day with us, but we only got to stay for another 30 minutes by the time she came home. 
She had many questions.  
Is it warm where we live? (Clearly a little bummed hearing about Chicago weather, but she took it stride.)
What is the situation for her for school?  
How about the other kids?
Many MANY questions about what kind of job she can get.
Postal work
The list goes on
 I finally told Masha (facilitator) to assure her that she did not have to decide her future today, tomorrow, or even next year.  She had all the time in the world to decide.  We are here for here and she didn't have to do anything for a while.
Do we go to church?
Can she change her name?  (We were wondering if we would be asked this)
It is obvious that she is yearning for a fresh start.  We told her she could pick a new name but that we wanted to have final say on it in case she chose a name that had an unfavorable connotation in the US.  We also said we wanted to give her a family middle name.  We are letting her pick from the 3 names we have for the girls, and then will shuffle the other ones.   Naturally then the other kids want to change their names too, but we are not going to do that.  We will let them pick which nick name naturally comes from their names:
Alexander (sasha) can stay sasha or be called Alex or zander, I guess.  ( I don't like Lexi for a boy so it is off the table)
Alina can be Ali or Lena or Alina
Vika can be Vika, or Tori or Vicki, but seriously, she is so a Vika I don't imagine that changing.  We are game for the other nicknames though, so be ready.  
Who knows what Masha will come up with.  She said she wanted to think about it.  

They don't remember us at all.  When I showed them the picture that I took so long ago, they started to vaguely remember.  All they knew is that someone said they were coming.

We learned that they have been in the states TWICE.  They have been to Colorado and Georgia.
It was cool to see them hear me remember the things they said to me and how they looked and everything about the day that they don't really remember.  It was sinking in to them we have cared about them for a while.  It was so special.  

The kids wrestle and play and Vika has been allowed to really beat the big kids up.  (sound like anyone else we know?)
The next day, Friday, we visited with the children again.  This time, Sasha was also home from school with a headache.  We played some games, the kids were all over the iPad, we ate lunch with them, but had to leave before Masha got home from school.  We needed to leave because of what was planned for the 19th...

We had been staying in a hotel in Fastiv, but that was not going to work long term.  It is difficult to drive to the facility from Fastiv, there is not really a bus, and while we could probably hire a driver from town, we would not be staying in the hotel, but renting an apartment.  If we were to rent an apartment, there would be no access to internet for weeks.  While I know our children at home are in good hands, we didn't think we could go that long without access to a the very least an email, so we opted to rent an apartment for a month+ in Kiev.  It is big enough to fit us all and we won't have to move until we go home.  This is why we left early on Friday, so we could get settled into the new place.
The flaw of this plan is getting back to them to visit.  Here was the plan.

Take the Metro redline for 2 stops.
Get on the blue line for 4 stops
get off and find the bus depot
find the #172 bus
ride this for at least 2.5 hours
get off at the train station stop in the hamlet one over from where the children are
text our Masha and she would walk 10 minutes to retrieve us 

I imagine you are wondering how this went.

So what happened?
We couldn't find the Metro by our apartment, so we walked to Independence Square.  Really not a bad walk except for the sheet of ice covering everything.  EVERYTHING.  It will be a miracle if one of us doesn't come home with a broken something.  Seriously.  There was also a steady freezing rain.  By the time we got to the Metro, we were ourselves covered in ice.
We had no problem with the Metro from there.  We got off at the 4th stop and were told to look for all the buses and find #172.
Here's the deal.  There are lines of buses in 5 different areas around the Ocean Plaza where we were.  Some are parked with no driver, some are constantly arriving and leaving.  There were 5 or 6 different places to check for our bus.  Conveniently we had a note with the name of where we wanted to go written in Ukrainian so we could show it to the driver.  If he answered affirmatively that it was the correct bus, there was more to the note.  This part asked him if he would tell us to get off the bus when we reached the right stop.
Unfortunately we never made it that far.  We finally found bus #172, but while that is the number we are supposed to look for, these particular 172's don't leave the city.
We stood outside for about 2.5 hours.  Someone told us that the right #172 would come at 1:30.  Since we were freezing by then and we had about 45 minutes, we went into the Ocean Plaza mall.   I really only know how to order a Big Mac meal at McDonald's, so that is what we had.  We tanked up, warmed up, off loaded, and then went back outside to see if the bus would show.  We had a number of phone calls with our facilitator, who felt badly about the whole deal.  She was looking at the schedule on line and it said it should be there.  She did say that when she called to ask, she was told that we could get on the metro and go 3 more stops down the line and then we would be able to catch the correct 172 bus with no problem.  This was verified by another driver who spoke a little English and was sympathetic to our pathetic note-toting icy selves.
1:30 passed and the bus never came.  We decided that even if it did come, it was now too late to go.  We got back on the Metro to Independence Square and started the walk back to our apartment.  
Part 2 of the EPIC FAIL.
We were probably 2 blocks from our apartment when we just became too tired and all the landmarks fell out of our head.  Our 30 minute walk turned into an hour and a half before we were able to make it back to our place.  There is nothing more frustrating than being only a couple of blocks from where you need to be but not being able to get there!

Well, I see that this is quite a long post, so I will talk about Sunday's visit tomorrow.  
HINT: it was great!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What was, what is, and what will be

We are finally here in Ukraine.  The flights went well, our apartment couldn't be more perfectly located had I chosen it my self, and our SDA appointment went smoothly.  Our facilitator Masha is exceptional, and we have visited all of our favorite restaurants.

I am full of excitement, eagerness, joy, hope, and flirting around the edges, hiding in the very thin shadows are our old frienemies...false pride and fear.

What are they doing here uninvited?

Well that stinking pride is always around and fear is his good buddy.  Pride likes to try to hold a mirror up between me and God so that when I am striving to keep my eyes on Christ, sometimes I see myself as he whispers, "look at what YOU are doing.  YOU are so capable, YOU are so doing it right."

During times like these I experience misdirected anger at wonderful good news spreading organizations like Operation Christmas Child.


Pride can make you do anything.

I got angry thinking that I have been shouting for months, years, along with you other wonderful advocates about tragically horrific situations involving precious children who have NOTHING.  WHO NEED A MOM AND A DAD.  AND A BED AND A SANDWICH. FOREVER.
14 year old girls who've been allowed to waste away to a mere 14 pounds.  4 year old boys whose little legs are criss-crossed underneath them because they need surgery.  Children who have horrific scars across their chests because they live on the street and fell asleep on a hot water pipe for warmth.


All day.

Everyday this is happening.  I have the photos, I've met the children, I've looked into the eyes of the workers who struggle to do the little they can as they plead with me, "don't you know any families?"

And the chorus in my ears when I come home and share is, "I could never do what you do."

And that's when Pride grabs a foothold.  Did you catch it?...what YOU do.

Huh.  You're right.  I do a lot.  I do it well.  I rock at this.  My 6 kids, from 3 countries, with the AIDS  orphans and the HIV.


I don't even realize that poison is in my head, creeping into my heart.

Until it's Christmas time and the big push for Operation Christmas Child comes around.  The videos show the poor children, orphaned, abandoned, clinging to their box of dollar store gifts.  Kind hearted women tear up as they exclaim how when they realized these children might not get a present for Christmas, well it broke their heart a little.  So I bought a gift, wrapped it and sent it, and now I am good for another year.  I know that I can't do anything about the fact that that child has no family, but here's some stuff once a year and now I can sleep at night.

This is the story pride tells me as I feel alone in my agony over all of these lost children.  Throw a brightly wrapped present at them and it's all good.  The sheep go back to the safety of their homes, with their big TVs and 2 cars and 2 kids.

But the Holy Spirit slaps me around a bit and I see what is really happening.

God allows us to live and dwell WITH Him.
As the eyes of our hearts open and we SEE Jesus, we SEE what He is doing, what He is willing to do WITH us, the pride is ripped away and the beauty of how God has worked together all things for our good shines through.  In our weakness HE is strong.

Someone who is full of fear about everything can be paralyzed by the all encompassing tragedy of the orphan.  Fear tells them there is NOTHING they can do in the face of that.
But Jesus whispers, "come shopping With Me.  Buy one of my precious children this small token that will meet the desire of his heart so that he might see Me."
Because of that simple act of obedience, shopping with Jesus, a child knows that across the world someone loved them, prayed for them, provided a gift just for them, because they got to be WITH Jesus.  As they hold their gift they realize that they can be WITH Jesus too.

And just like that, the Holy Spirit convicts and removes my pride and I can see Jesus again.  I can parent my children WITH Jesus again.

Now as I sit in my temporary Ukrainian kitchen, listening to the snow melt, I feel fear try to weasel his way into my bitter sweet musings.

What are those, you might ask?

I am a woman in transition.

I am balanced on the precipice of change.  I cried more about leaving on this trip than I ever have before.  I joke that perhaps the hole in my heart is getting smaller.  I hugged the kids tighter, kissed them harder, wrote them notes. Cried most of the way home. But maybe I was listening to fear a little too.

The old has gone, but the new has not yet come.

Our old life, with our 6 kids from the 3 countries, with the former AIDS orphans and the HIV had become home.
We love each other.
We have adjusted to each other.
We had our rhythm, our groove.
We will never have that again.

When that thought arises, fear says, "maybe I can do some work here!"



All the things people say when they share all the reasons why they can't do what we are doing run through my mind.
Don't think I don't think those same things.
What if they hate me?
What if they are angry?
What if they are violent?
What if they run away?
What if we don't ever have what we used to have again?

But the Holy Spirit is still with me.  Jesus is with me.  We do this WITH them.  I can't do what I am doing.  Only WITH Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit, in the palm of the Father, do they do these things through me.


The truth is
We still love each other
We will adjust to each other.
While we will be marbles on glass for a while, we will make a new groove together.
We will never have that again, but we will have this: a family with 10 kids.

More truth is
They may hate me... for a while.
They may be angry... for a while.
They may be violent... for a while.
They may run away... for a while.
We will have something new, build on top of the foundation of what we used to have, knowing that the ultimate foundation our family has been built upon is Jesus, and he is WITH us.