Thanksgiving

This weekend marks one year that we received the long awaited phone call that we had an appointment with the SDA.  Happy to share last year’s photo and this year’s.  We are thankful!

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Summer 2012

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This is the first of a few catch up posts I have planned, really over due! This Summer was full of swimming, VBS, playdates, bike riding,  dental visits, crafts, etc… We had so much fun and it was great to … Continue reading

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Catching Up

Next week we will have been home for 12 weeks – WOW!!!  Obviously our life is busy so who has time to blog about it 🙂  We are continually amazed and thankful at how well Nathan and Sophie are doing.  We are finding that routine is necessary for everyone in the family to be happy and we go over and over expected behaviors before we go to the store, church, friends’ houses, etc.

We went back to the UAB International Adoption Clinic and had a great report on both kids on their overall health and attachment to our family.  We got some really good insight into some behaviors we were seeing with Nathan.  He often appears restless, hears every little noise, notices everything, etc.  The doctors said he is hyper-vigilent, which is very common for post-institutionalized kids, and we were given some good resources to read.  Over time as he becomes more secure in his environment we are praying that these tendencies will become less and less.

Language is coming along.  Both of them seem to understand pretty much everything that is said to them.  Sophie seems more willing and confident to use her English words and is forming short phrases and sentences. Nathan acts more shy/embarrassed.  When he asks for something in Russian that I know he knows how to say in English I ask him to please ask in English.  He of course smiles and I help him say whatever it is correctly.  Probably the funniest thing with the language is the amount of Russian that Ian is picking up.  I am teaching both of them letters and sounds and math concepts –  moving through the Pre-K and Kindergarten curriculum that our school uses.   Nathan and Sophie are both able to sound out and read 3 letter words. Yay!!!! Nathan seems to really enjoy math and catches on quickly.

Behavior issues we have faced have not been too bad.  Sophie has a hard time receiving discipline from Chris and will remain standoffish and stubborn.  Each week we are seeing more and more of an improvement in this area.  For both of the kids whenever they are to be punished we have found that it is best for them to sit in the “think-it-over” chair until they are ready to listen and apologize for their behavior.  They quickly caught on to “I’m sorry/I forgive you”  We are continuing to work on obeying the first time, making nice faces to others, not pouting, happy hearts, sharing, saying please, etc.  The behaviors we saw in Ukraine from Nathan were:  pouting and crying when you scored a point against him in futbol, and him saying “I’m the boy who always wins” and storming out of the room.  He has come a long way these past few weeks.  He is learning to ride a bike (falling quite a bit) but getting right back up, smiling, and trying again.   Behaviors we saw in Sophie: each day we were greeted with a glare and told don’t touch me, I don’t like you, and she barely tolerated me sitting by her and never touched Chris.  We never hear those words, she is happy, sings and giggles, snuggles with Chris and says I love you.  We still have a long way to go but are so thankful for the way God is transforming their hearts.

Some of the sweetest times have been at bedtime reading bible stories.  They both seem very interested and Nathan is usually the first one to get the Bible storybook and sit down.  Sophie has asked a few times if she could pray out loud, whatever she said sounds sweet.  I could understand something about “very much listening” – maybe she was asking for help to listen to mama and papa 🙂

We just came back from a weekend vacation to Gatlinburg with 2 other families.  The kids did great and it was so fun to watch them experience the mountains and a family vacation for the first time.  A bear visited the cabin 2 nights in a row to see what we had left in the garbage.  Nathan was very interested in this of course.  When we pulled back into our neighborhood he said, “Home.”  I asked if he was glad to be home and he said, “Yes! No bear!”  Now whenever we talk about bears he says, “Bear. Trashcan!”  I’m sure he’ll always remember this vacation!

Papa’s sous chef

Snack break at Barnes & Noble

Hiking

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3 Weeks Home

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.

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First few days as a family of 6

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The first few days home have been really sweet.  We had great flights and smooth transitions between the flights – totally God’s hand.  The first flight from Kiev to Paris, a Ukrainian man was going to be on the same flight … Continue reading

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Getting to know one another

The past 2 days have been very tiring for this mama!  Yesterday upon arrival in Kiev we headed to the doctor for the medical exam required by the US Embassy for the kids’ visas.  The exam was very brief and Nathan and Sophie did great.  After that we headed straight to the embassy for the visa appointment.  We did not have time to stop for breakfast and it is not served on the train, so when a little one’s tummy is hungry and you are driving in Kiev traffic the outcome is not so pleasant.  Sophie threw up in Sasha’s car – yuck!  Thank goodness he has leather seats and rubber floor mats, easy clean up.  She cried a little, but let me comfort her and clean her up (not a big mess on her, thankfully).  The embassy appointment was quick and once again the kids were great, stayed right by my side and were friendly to everyone.  After the appointment we got settled in to our apartment, took a little walk around the neighborhood, and played at a nearby playground.  I managed to cook an easy dinner for them while they watched tv and then it was time for baths.  I had heard that bath time could be scary or great – ours was great!  In the orphanage they just have a shower, so I’m thinking this is really the first bathtub they have ever been in.  They both took turns taking a bath, I’m trying to work on privacy, they don’t get much of that at the orphanage.  Splashing, bubble blowing, and swimming in 12 inches of water is pure delight for them.  We watched a movie together, snuggled on the couch, and then bedtime was really easy.  They both followed my directions for brushing teeth (another activity they really like) and were asleep in 10 minutes.  They slept all night – Sophie rolled out of bed 3 times, but never woke up, kind of funny.

Today was a little livelier and some personalities came out.  After breakfast we headed out to play for a while at the playground.  There is about 5 inches of snow on the ground, so we bundle up good, run around for about 30 minutes and then come back inside.  They learned a new word today – push – I pushed them on the swing for 30 minutes straight, the whole time I heard, “Push, mama, push!”  We came back in and played on the computer together, starfall.com.  We went through the whole alphabet, saying letters and sounds, and then playing a short game for each letter.  It was a great activity as far as learning how to taking turns, using a mouse, etc.  They were both able to remember a few of the letters and sounds.  After lunch we went to the embassy to pick up our visas – this is the last thing needed, so we are cleared to leave Ukraine!  We were there with another adopting family, actually the dad and his new daughter, mom is back in the States with the other siblings.   We met Erik and Heather in December at our first SDA appointment, you can read about their journey at http://www.erikandheathteradopt.wordpress.com.   We all went to McDonald’s together and it was so nice to meet their daughter, hopefully we’ll be catching a movie or something tomorrow together.  I took the kids out to dinner by myself tonight – it went so so.  Sophie did not want to eat and had a bad attitude.  I didn’t push the issue.  In general I had my ups and downs with both of them today.  They are trying to push their boundaries and see what they can get away with and I know they are a bit overwhelmed with everything they are seeing for the first time.  By the end of the night they were happy as they went to bed.  One more full day here and then we are headed home Friday!  We arrive in Huntsville at 10:20 Friday night – looking forward to being home!

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Gotcha Day!

Yesterday was Gotcha Day!  It happened so fast and I’m just now sitting down to write about it at 11:15 pm the next night!  I arrived back from Turkey and was allowed back in to Ukraine – very grateful for the opportunity to go, a much needed distraction.  I was updating Daniel on the trip and he got the call from the passport agency that they were ready so we picked them up and started to make our plans to head home.  We ran around all day yesterday getting last minute documents signed, packing, and picking up Nathan and Sophie.  We did not plan a big going away party as is typically done.  Sophie had commented several times over the weekend about being scared to leave her friends and caregivers.  They suggested we just come in and not make to much of a fuss.  This was a great plan!  When we came in Nathan was so excited and Sophie ran to the corner and cried, heartbreaking for me.  The director came with us and really helped with the transition.  Nathan was so excited about his new clothes (they are not usually allowed to bring anything from the orphanage with them) he immediately started undressing in front of everyone – he loved everything we brought him.  Sophie needed more convincing (actually lots!) but we got her dressed and then she became excited and was telling everyone goodbye and was all smiles as we left.  There are 3 kids remaining in their group.  They were all very sweet when we left.  One super cute little guy was crying – that pretty much did me in, he was one of my favorites.  I, of course, cried as I thanked the caregivers for taking care of Nathan and Sophie and hugged the other kids goodbye – so sad to leave them behind, praying that a family will one day come for them.  After that we headed back to the apartment grabbed our suitcases and caught a midnight train back to Kiev.  Nathan and Sophie loved the train and slept really well – thankfully!  Update to come on our first day and night together tomorrow.

Shout out for Daniel!  He has been such a blessing to us these past 3 months and I will have to add PATIENT!  as this process is typically 6 weeks and he has been with us every step of the way, away from his family, missing holidays, etc.  He has really gone the extra mile from bringing little gifts to the kids, taking Chris to the banya, bringing special treats to Sara, even stepping in and visiting Nathan and Sophie this past weekend while I was gone.  He has really worked long and hard helping us bring Nathan and Sophie home.  We are so very thankful to have him be a part of their story and know that the Lord’s hand is on him.

Nathan and Sophie's play area

Nathan and Sophie's classroom area

Nathan and Sophie's bedroom

Very excited about his new clothes!

Hugging a sweet friend goodbye

waiting for the train

Blowing kisses - da svee danya Dnipro!

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