I attempted to complete this post at the end of week one, but time slipped by. The first three weeks home have been great. We truly give God thanks for being so gracious. There have been so many positive changes in the kids. As Amy last mentioned earlier, the kids are sleeping through the night from about 8pm to 6:30 am and have continued to do so. We have a pretty good evening schedule with showers, meals, and bedtime to ensure that we are heading for the bedrooms around 7:30pm, yes even on weekends. Also, for meal times we now have assigned seats and after dinner chores for Sara and Nathan. Sophie and Nathan both love lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, bananas, apples, nuts, dried fruit, and dill pickles. They always ask for bread and one of their favorite condiments seems to be mayonnaise or sometimes greek yogurt. Nathan is pretty eager to try anything new at least once or twice. He loves fajitas and stuffed bell peppers. He also eats almost much as I do. Sophie on the other hand seems to be more skeptical and watches Nathan and Sara to see what some things are before she tries it. We have been keeping a bowl of dried fruit and nuts on the table during the day, but have not had any of the hoarding issues that we had commonly read about. Again, when we visited the kids in the orphanage, they always had lots of fruit… and candy available in their room.
We are all experiencing change right now, Sophie and Nathan of course, but also we all are learning to do things as a family of six. We now plan entrance and exit strategies when we go places. In addition, I can not say enough about how great an example Sara has been to the kids. With the new routines, she has really risen to the role of the eldest child, even when it may mean that she has to go to bed earlier on the weekends than before. We have had far less of the “one more minute” responses when asked to do something. Even at receiving correction herself, she has done much better accepting it than some of the weeks we were in Ukraine. She has been really helpful around the house at doing things without complaining. On Fridays, I pick her up from school, we eat someplace great, and she comes back to the office with me for the rest of the afternoon. She gets to finish her homework and spend time with me. We had told her many times before we left for Ukraine, that it was not by accident that God was leading us down this road at this time and he has a special part for her to play in it within the family.
In general, we have had just small issues with sibling rivalry that we have to work through each day. In many ways if there were no language issues, it would seem like they have been apart of the family the whole time. One funny thing Ian asked regarding Nathan in one of the first few days was “When is he going to learn to talk?”, we explained that he just speaks another language. Therefore some of the issues involving Ian is just miscommunication or not understanding. Sara has a better understanding of how to communicate with Nathan and Sophie given she already knows them. The boys will both do things to irritate the girls. Ian does not understand why Sophie wants to sometimes play with his trains, but has no problem if Nathan wants to. Sophie does not want Ian playing with their doll house, etc.. Again, overall they play pretty well together. I know this entire post may sound too good, but it is nothing we have done, but all unmerited favor from God. For what ever reason, this is what God is allowing our transition to be right now. Amy and I were prepared for the possibilities to encounter so much more during the transition. We are very thankful to God that for now it seems to be going good and when issues come up in the future, God is still good, sovereign, and able to sustain. I write this to remind myself later.
Family worship has also gone pretty good, it is short, but a good experience. It normally consists of opening in prayer, Jesus Story Book Bible, a song, and prayer again. We are really thankful for the many little things each day, even if there are bumps. Also, the kids have been to church three times now, we stayed home just the first weekend. We have kept Sophie and Nathan in the service with us and let Sara and Ian go to their classes.
As for discipline issues, as we mentioned, most have been acts of selfishness with not wanting to share, unkind words, and learning “I am sorry” and forgiveness, something we all struggle with. Both Sophie and Nathan tested us mostly in the first week or so by seeing if they could get away with not listening to us. They would ride their bikes further up the sidewalk than we allow, not sit at the table when told, run from us, etc.. One example with Nathan that happened the first Saturday was when he was learning to ride his bike and was getting frustrated. He threw his bike down and took off walking up the street. I told him to come back while I walked towards him and he then began to run, while smiling at me. I then ran and caught him, made him come back and take his bike to the garage. I made him come inside and sit with me on the couch. He was crying at this point and in what little Russian that I knew, I told him he had to “listen to Papa”, “Do not run from Papa”, “Papa will help Nathan”, and “I love you”. After 5-10 minutes, we went back outside and I helped him ride the bike again. I think that was probably best, Amy has told me that I tend to lean on the sermon side when disciplining Sara so the limited language was helpful.
Again, there are so many changes that we have seen in Sophie and Nathan, but I think the biggest is in Sophie towards me. Nathan has always been pretty glued to me and that is even more so now, but Sophie has never shown me affection until a week ago. The first weekend she came home, she was tired, jet lagging and having a rough afternoon having fallen down a few times. While Amy was trying to comfort her, she raised her arms out for me to hold her. I got to sit outside for about 15 mins and hold her in my lap while she ate a snack, something I would do with Sara or Ian. Still, she would not really let me give her hugs in the morning when I would leave for work or when going to sleep at night. However, that seemed to change Sunday night, a week ago when I put the girls to bed. I was also not only able to hug her and kiss her, but she went and laid her head on my chest and hugged me back. I almost cried and thought to myself that she could stay up as long as she wanted. I told Sara to watch, telling her see God is answering our prayers to change Sophie’s heart. I reminded her of all those evenings of us praying for God to begin to warm her heart for us. Amy and I ‘s prayers continue that God would not stop what he has started Sophie’s heart, but he would change all of our kids’ hearts and open their eyes and ears up to his great unmerited favor that is seen in Jesus Christ. That in the same way he has now grafted Nathan and Sophie into our family, he would graft all our kids into his family.