“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”

James 1:27

Our cell phone number in Ukraine is: +38 097 828 9477. We are 8 hours ahead of Texas time. We can receive text but cannot send them. You can also reach us by email at joniredding@hotmail.com.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Someone else said it for me

I wasn't planning on posting today but when I sat down at the computer to look up some homeschool stuff, I checked out this blog update.  http://cassadas.blogspot.com/2011/09/would-you-do-it-again.html  Once again, it is EXACTLY what we are thinking and feeling.  God has blessed me with these 2 blogs the last few days.  It's so great to know that other people doing this are feeling the same way.  So many times, we hear only the fairy tale stories of adoption.  Adoption is beautiful, even though it's so hard.  So, if you are wondering if we would do it again knowing how hard it is, the answer is in this post!  Here is one of my favorite parts of this post because I struggle with this all the time:  (this is a very specific prayer request of mine:)

"not because i think the feeling of love will most definitely develop. i don't know that they will {He also knows i SO desire this...but i will choose love even if i don't feel it.} this makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and cry. HOW is my heart so ugly that i can't LOVE a person? a person that NEEDS my love. that needs his MOTHER'S love?? i will cry. and i will love. {and i will fail} and i will keep loving."

Monday, September 12, 2011

If I had time to post…

I would try to say something like this:



She is a writer so it sounds much better when she says it, but it’s all the things we are feeling and thinking.  So, if you are wondering how things are going – read her post.  She says it so perfectly.

We started Homeschooling last week.  Tanya has had a great attitude most of the time.  Alex is enjoying school.  Sports have started and we are running around like crazy all the time.  Ryan had a baseball tournament all day yesterday and I took Tanya, Cole, and Jacob.   Ellie had a volleyball game so Jody took Alex (and then Jacob came back with a friend).  Tanya hasn’t quite adjusted to the heat and whenever we are outside she tells me 100+ times that she is so hot, or so thirsty, or so hungry.  I made sure she understood that it was going to be very long and hot, but she didn’t have to go.  If she did, I didn’t want to hear “I’m so hot, I’m so thirsty, I’m so hungry.”  She said ok, and she didn’t complain once about it.  Later in the evening when it had cooled off, she told me “Mommy, I’m no hot.  I’m no cold.  I’m no thirsty.  I’m no hungry.”  Hurray!  Contentment!  She even told Jody when we got home.  It was cute.  I was also excited because she even watched the game and cheered for Ryan (he was a good sport even though I could tell he was a little embarassed).  Most of the time they are both miserable when we are doing something that doesn’t entertain them, so this made me really happy to see her be interested in someone else.

Ok, time to start school.  I have so much to say but no time!  Maybe later….

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Update and pictures

I’m not even sure how long we have been home.  It’s been so long since I’ve posted that I don’t know where to start.  School starts tomorrow.  Alex is going to start in 1st grade.  His teacher is super excited about having him in class.  We had “Meet the Teacher”  last week.  It was going great at first. We went to Ellie’s class and then Jacob’s class.  Alex was happy and helping us put away supplies.  Then when we walked in to his class, Tanya said something to him in Russian that made him cry.  I have no idea what she said.  We just kept telling him how sweet his teacher is and that he is going to like school.  Tanya said he loved the teacher, he didn’t like school.  I think that part of it was that he is scared, but part of it is that he just doesn’t want to do school.  It reminded me a little of when we were in Ukraine and he didn’t want to go to bed.  Crying and pouting has been very successful for him in the past.  It’s his way of manipulating.  We want to be sensitive to his true insecurities and fears but we also don’t want to let manipulation work.  Manipulation is the biggest thing we are dealing with right now.   It is frustrating to see them try and manipulate us and everyone else around us, so we are constantly reminding ourselves where they have come from.  They really can’t help it.  It’s all they know.  Alex thinks if he pouts and whines, he will get his way.  If I tell Tanya I won’t buy her a pair of ugly high top shoes (the kind Justin Bieber wears with the huge tongue – gross!) , she pouts around for a day or two.  Living in an orphanage teaches kids to be selfish and manipulative.  That’s part of surviving there.  They are miserable if we are doing anything that doesn’t revolve around them.  We went to Ryan’s new middle school to walk through his schedule and let him practice opening his locker and Tanya acted like we were torturing her.  It was the same at Meet the Teacher.  There is just so much that they don’t know – things we teach our kids from the beginning both with words and just from example.  Selfishness is ugly.  It’s ugly in me, it’s ugly in Jody, it’s ugly in Ryan, Ellie, Jacob, Cole, and it’s even ugly in orphans.  We get so frustrated with it.  I find myself being frustrated with them but then I get frustrated with myself because I’m not being more understanding and compassionate.  Every hour is an emotional rollercoaster.  Sometimes I’m so tired that I want to just give up.  Then, sometimes I am so honored that God chose me for this huge task.  I seriously can’t believe that He would entrust me with these two lives.  We are struggling right now, but God is faithful and He will show us how to work through all of this. He has proven that over and over.   The day after “Meet the Teacher”, we met with his teacher, the principal, and the school counselor.  It was GREAT!  They were so helpful and understanding.  They truly want to help him and it’s so great.  I’m feelling bad for his teacher because I know it’s going to be so much work for her, but she assured me that she considers teaching a ministry.  (Yes, this is public school Sad smile)  Our principal told me that she doesn’t think it was an accident that he came all the way from Ukraine to Seele Elementary.  Alex was able to play in the classroom and talk to his teacher some more so now he says he is excited for school tomorrow.  We are praying that he will understand what is going on when we leave him tomorrow.  We want him to know that we are coming back.   I’m pretty sure that he will enjoy school once he understands how things work.  Here are a ton of pictures from the last month because I can’t even remember what’s been going on. 


P1020397These are Tanya’s friends from the orphanage who have been adopted here.  Yana is in the process of being adopted.


P1020411Some of our friends had a party to welcome Tanya and Alex to the neighborhood.  It was so much fun!

P1020406       Alex was all decked out in his swim gear!  He is actually swimming now all by himself.  I can’t even believe it!  Last weekend he jumped off of the high dive at Camp Travis – and it’s REALLY high!


P1020429  Ellie and Tanya went to cheer camp and loved it!


P1020436  Our first family road trip.  My cousin Valerie got married and we drove 6 hours to Jasper, Texas.  I was pretty proud of my packing even though it went to the ceiling in the car!


P1020437 Daddy and the girls before the rehearsal dinner.


P1020438     Cute!!!


P1020485  Callie and Casey were ringbearers!  So cute!!!!



Of course Cole fell asleep during the wedding!



The kids all loved dancing with their cousins.  It was the first time Tanya and Alex got to meet everyone.  My family is so much fun.  My little cousins are all grown up!


Valerie's wedding

All of these beautiful girls are my cousins.  They were all in my wedding and now here they are.  I can’t believe I am going to post the next picture but it’s just so everyone can see how precious these girls were and still are.  I tried to figure out a way to photoshop my bangs but couldn’t.  Terrible, I know Smile

joni's wedding

These are all the same girls!  It might be fun for you to try and match them.  The twins might be a little tricky!  I can’t even tell you how much I love these girls!!!!



Jacob was shy about dancing but we finally got him to do the robot.



Ryan even danced a little.  I love this age.  A year ago he would have never danced!



Alex didn’t dance but he loved helping clean up!



Cole and his cousins.



Thanks to Granny and Grandaddy the kids got to go to TBarM camp.  Ellie, Ryan, and Callie went to sports camp where they stayed overnight.



Jacob and Casey went to Day Camp.



Tanya has been playing soccer a little.  So far, she really likes it.



My baby turned 5 on August 2nd.



Mimi and Papa came to visit (Jody’s parents)



Brooklyn and Bryce came to visit too and we took all the cousins to Landa Park to ride the train.  My sister-in-law, Angie, helped me organize my kitchen and breakfast room to make room for Homeschool stuff.  It was a huge help!



This is Cole getting his teeth cleaned for the 1st time.  He was so excited.  We had 7 dentist appointments in 1 week.



We got to take a mini-vacation to the JW Marriott last weekend.  The kids had fun swimming and riding the water slides.  The Venegoni’s were there the day before us so the kids got to play together for one of the days.



All the kids at the pool.



In the Lazy River


We also went to Schlitterbahn last week.  My friend Mimi won tickets for Tanya and Alex.  The rest of us have season passes but we haven’t been able to use them because tickets cost so much.  They had a lot of fun but I didn’t take any pictures.


So, that’s some of what we’ve been up to!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dr. Visit

The appointment went good.  We were told we would have a translator but there wasn’t one.  Jody called on Wednesday to make sure we would have one and they told us we would.  Then I asked again in the office while they were checking vitals and they still said yes, there would be one.  But, then nobody ever mentioned it again.  That was the main reason we drove 3 1/2 hours to a Dr. appointment.  We have to go back in a month to get the results from all of the bloodwork.  We did love the doctor.  She does think that Alex probably has Cerebral Palsy – a mild form.  She wants us to see a Geneticist and a Neurologist to find out exactly what’s going on.  I also have to make appointments to see an Audiologist, Speech Therapist, and Physical/Occupational Therapist.  Looks like we will be spending a lot of time in Dr.’s offices.  She suggested that we put him in Kindergarden and see how it goes.  We called to register for school and they told me that our Kindergarden is full.  If he can’t get in, that means that he will have to go to a different school in our district.  I am really praying that something changes and he will get in to our school.  But, I also know that God might want him to be somewhere else so I’m not going to freak out if it doesn’t work.  Even though that would mean another place to drive, another set of school programs, teachers, PTA, Principals, field trips, parents, ect.  It would be really convenient for 3 of the kids to be at the same school.  Ryan will be at the Middle School this year so I will definitely have 2 schools, 3 seems like a little too much.  I’m planning on Homeschooling Tanya this year and hopefully getting her ready to go to 8th grade next year.  Me, homeschool?  I can’t even believe it.  I’m planning to incorporate shopping into our curriculum as much as possible!  She will know percentages so well.  If this shirt costs $29.99 and it is marked 40% off, how much will it cost?  Real math!  Isn’t that peoples biggest complaint about math?  Why do I need to know this, when will I ever use it?  Now Cole is telling me that he wants to homeschool too.  I think I can handle homeschooling Pre-K.  Plus it will save some money.    I’m tempted to just keep going because I have lots to say but I’ve got to get to bed.  I’m trying to get a lot of sleep this weekend because Jody is leaving on Monday and will be gone all week.    Here is one picture from the Dr. visit!  He had fun sticking stickers all over himself.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Doctors and Dentists

I've been trying to find a second to sit down and post but it just never happens.   It's already after midnight so I'm going to try and stay on topic - Dr's and Dentists.  I will hopefully find time soon to post about how everything is going.  If I don't do it soon, I will forget.  I would love to tell you all the hilarious things that Cole has said since we've been home.  (Cole, my baby, who turned FIVE yesterday!)  I reminded  him that he told me he would stay four forever and he sincerely said, "I know Mommy, but I just don't know how to do that."  I wish I could freeze my kids at their ages right now.  I LOVE IT!    Ok, I'm already off topic.  We are in Houston right now.  We have an appointment at Texas Children's tomorrow at the clinic that specializes in International Adoption.  We are hoping to get a better idea of what's going on with Alex.  It's just so hard to know what is just a result of neglect and what are permanent physical and/or mental delays.  They mentioned Cerebral Palsey in Ukraine but he has never been diagnosed with anything.  I do think there is more going on that just neglect and institutionalized behaviors. One of the most obvious things is that he drools all the time.  He holds his mouth open and drool is constantly dripping out.  I am really hoping that we can figure out a way to get this under control .  He carries a paper towel and we remind him a billion times a day to wipe his chin and close his mouth.  If anyone has dealt with this and has some ideas for a solution I would love to hear it.  I know this bothers me much more than it should.  I'm really praying about it because I don't want to be grossed out by it.  Speaking of things that gross me out... let's talk about teeth.  We took Alex for an exam and xrays.  He has 10 teeth with who knows how many cavities and 3 teeth that need to be pulled.  I think that leaves about 4 teeth that are ok.  Maybe this is contributing to the drooling?   Our dentist referred us to a pediatric dentist who can put him to sleep and do all the work at once.  We have an appointment for August 27th.  Alla (who works at the orphanage and came to chaperone the kids on the hosting trip) went with us to the dentist appointment to translate.  I don't know how it would have worked without her.  She is so sweet.  Tanya LOVED seeing her and spending the afternoon with her.  We went to lunch after the dentist appointment and Tanya told us (through Alla) that a couple of her teeth were hurting.  I took her to the dentist also and he said that she had one tooth that had a horrible infection and needed to be pulled and another that needs a root canal.  So, we had the one pulled yesterday.  They gave her Versed and she was CRAZY!!!!  It was funny but it was also stressful.  I hate being in the dentist office and I had to sit there and hold her hands and feet down.  She kept poking at the Dr.'s face and trying to get up.  Later she told me that the Dr. had candy all over his face and that the light above her head had frogs on it that were talking to her.  The dentist suggested we cut back on the dose next time :)  She hasn't had much pain from the extraction and keeps begging me to give her more of that crazy medicine.  It took a long time to get the tooth out.  The dentist said it was the worst he's ever seen.  It was so decayed that it broke into a bunch of pieces and he had to get them all out.  He said the infection was so close to the bone.  I'm not sure what all of that means but it's a huge improvement that I can even talk about it.  Next week I might be able to post about slobber :) Today was my turn at the dentist.  I had to have 2 teeth filled.  I've known about them for 2 years but keep putting it off because of how much I hate going to the dentist.  Today I had them filled and they told me that they both need crowns.  Great, those are about $1000 each.  I have been needing to have my bridge fixed also and have been putting it off.  That means I need at least $5000 worth of work in my mouth.  Wow!  I still have 2 cavities that need to be filled and then we will do the crowns.  I will just have to wait on the bridge and hope it lasts a little longer.  I wonder how much a full set of dentures costs.  I know it would be cheaper in the long run :)  I have such horrible dental anxiety that he gives me the maximum amount of nitrous oxide (even with my cleanings).  Today, I fell completely asleep which was awesome until I woke up laughing hysterically.  I could hear the dentist assuring everyone that I was just laughing but I couldn't make myself wake up and stop.  He said I laughed for about a minute and provided some great entertainment for them.  It was a little embarassing but it was probably the most relaxed I've been in several months.  I tried to go back to my dream but couldn't remember what it was.  I know it was great though!  I've got to get to bed.  I will post more about the Dr. appointment when we get home.  Please be praying that we will get some really helpful information.  I will post more about how we are all doing soon!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

1st Week!

We are surviving!  I'm just taking it day by day or it's too overwhelming.  The kids have been adjusting really good.  It is just so constant.  I have to know where they are and what they are doing every second.  I have to keep a really close eye on the kitchen because they like to eat all the time.  As soon as I look away, one of them grabs something they aren't supposed to have.  Alex asks me for food all day long.  He mostly wants sweets but he also asks for bananas and juice constantly. He had one huge screaming tantrum the other day which all of our neighbors heard.  I can't believe he can scream so loud.  It started when he didn't get to do something that he wanted to do.  It lasted about 15 minutes but it seemed like forever.  At first he was just screaming and crying and then he started yelling "Taaaaanya" over and over.  We made him stay on the couch and I told him that he could not go see Tanya until he stopped screaming and crying.  I also told him that he could not swim or have candy but he kept screaming.  Finally, he stopped.  We calmly told him that we love him but he cannot scream and cry when he doesn't get to do something.  I told him when he was happy again, he could get up and go see Tanya.  He smiled and it was over.  He did ask to swim several times during the day and we reminded him that we couldn't swim because he did not obey.  He started to pout some but got over it quickly.  Later in the day, he wanted to go outside but we said no.  He started to do it all over again but we reminded him that if he did that, he would have to go sit on the couch.  He got over it pretty quick so that was good.  Bedtime has been amazing.  When we first start to walk upstairs, he stops and shakes his head.  Every time I think "Oh no, here it comes" but then he comes up and does everything we tell him.  We are trying to be very structured with bedtime which is completely unlike us but I do think it helps to have a routine.  We should have started doing that 11 years ago when Ryan was a baby.  Bedtime with Tanya is really sweet.  She likes to come and hug me four or five different times.  It's so sweet.  I tell her how much I love her and that I'm so glad we found her.  She is doing great.  She gets along really good with other kids.  It's hard because sometimes I feel like I have to keep her entertained all the time so she doesn't get sad.  I know it's hard to be around all these people who don't speak your language.  One thing I notice is that sometimes she will start fussing at Alex and make him really sad.  He will be fine and then she starts saying a bunch of stuff to him and he starts pouting and whining.  Then, she will go to comfort him.  I'm thinking that it might make her feel good to be needed.  I think she provokes him to feeling sad so that he needs her.  She is doing it more and more as he seems to need her less and less.   She always watches to see if I am looking at her and a couple of times, I have turned to catch her hitting him in the head pretty hard.  Same thing - he cries and then she comforts him.  That's another reason I have to be watching all the time.  Even when we are swimming, I keep my eyes on them the entire time.  Most of the time she is really sweet though.  It's hard for me to tell her no because I feel like I am still building a relationship with her.  She asks me all the time for candy or to play the computer.  If I say "no", she keeps begging and asking 100 more times.  It's tiring.  If it was Ellie I would just say no and tell her that if she asked again she would never get on the computer for the rest of her life :)  Really, they are both really sweet kids and they are very helpful.  I didn't deserve them!  Sometimes Tanya will notice me doing something and just start doing it for me - like sweeping or laundry.  Today I threw something out of the fridge that was bad so she went through every item in the fridge asking if it was ok or bad.  We went to church on Sunday and it went great also.  Jody had a brilliant idea that he would take Alex early and show him around while there weren't very many people around.  They went in Cole's classroom and he loved playing in it.  They have a little kitchen which he loved.  He kept wanting to go back so when it was time for church, he went right in with Cole (the 4 year old class).  He stayed in there for about an hour and then they texted us that he was asking for Papa.  So, Jody went and got him and he came to the church service for the last 15 minutes.  We could not believe that he went it without us.  I know that so many people are praying for our adjustment and God has been so good to answer those prayers!  I'm trying to get up before the kids so that I can have some time to read my Bible and pray before I start the day.  When I haven't had time, things just aren't right.  My first thought when I woke up this morning was, "I don't think I can do this all over again today."  That's the truth, I can't do it.  But thankfully God can.  I have an app on my phone that sends me a Bible verse every morning.  This morning it was  Lamentations 3:22-23 "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  So, right after I had that thought, I read that verse.  Thank you God!!!!  Even though I feel consumed sometimes, because of His great love I am not!!!  Oh how I needed to hear that at exactly that moment.  I needed to be reminded that His compassions never fail - even though mine do all the time.  I love that it was a verse about compassion.  When something bothers me or I am frustrated or annoyed with something that one of the kids is doing (oh how I hate admitting to you that I can get annoyed by them), I am constantly wondering what's wrong with me - where is my compassion?  Although mine fails so many times, His is perfect!    I'm thankful that He is there guiding me through all of this and that He can make up for all the mistakes that I am making while we try to figure out how to do this!  I am so thankful for meals!  Dinners are taken care of so I'm only having to worry about breakfast and lunch and I still feel like I never leave the kitchen.  I can't even imagine what it would be like if I had to cook dinner.   Thank you sweet friends!  Oh, I've been thinking more about the pool thing.  I told my friend Christina that to me a pool would be like a ministry.  I would be serving my neighbors and could also have church stuff here too.  So, maybe it would be ok to use my tithe for a pool payment?  I'm trying really hard!  Ok, I know that I can't do that but I do want a pool REALLY bad!  We have been swimming every day (except tantrum day) and the kids love it.  Alex is doing so great.  I think it's really good for his coordination too.  He has an appointment in Houston at the International Adoption clinic on August 4th and we are anxious to find out more about his condition so that we have a better idea how to help him.  He does have a lot of the symptoms of Cerebral Palsy but we just don't know.  It will be so good to go to that appointment.  He has a dentist appointment this Friday so I will let you know how that goes.  I haven't been doing a very good job of taking pictures but here is one of my Red Power Ranger and Dash showing off their muscles tonight!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Our First Few Days

I have a few minutes to blog while Jody and Alex are outside watering the yard.  Our 1st night home went great. We got home from the airport late and let the kids look around the house.  I gave them some Melatonin also. Everybody showered and then we had everyone get in bed.  I asked Tanya if she thought Alex should sleep in the room with her and she didn't want him to.  So, we took him to his bed with the boys.  He started to pout and fuss a little - which is how the fits usually start but he did lay down.  Jody started reading a book and although he didn't pay any attention he fell asleep within minutes.  The next night I gave him Melatonin again but he did have a little fit - 15 minutes or so. He was yelling and kicking and we told him to stop about 20 times.  Finally he just turned over to pout and he fell asleep.   The days are hard because I have so much to do with preparing meals, laundry, and cleaning and I have to be watching Alex every second.  He will go outside by himself or play with something dangerous.  He only looks at or plays with something for about a minute and then he is on to the next thing.  It's so exhausting, but I know he is just curious. He has been happy most of the time but he has had several fits when we have told him no.  Once he wanted to go outside and I wouldn't let him and another time he wanted to turn the water hose on and Jody wouldn't let him. Both times, he cried and and looked at us very angry.  Then he pouts and walks off fussing at us in Russian.  When we call his name, he just walks faster.  This is something that we are realizing is a form of manipulation.  It's very common in children who have been in an orphanage.  They have learned to survive with manipulation.  I can tell that Tanya usually gives him what he wants when he pouts or cries.  Yesterday when he had one of his tantrums, I went and got him and made him sit next to me on the couch.  I told him that while he was crying, he had to sit there.  In a couple of minutes, he stopped.  I asked him if he was happy now and he smiled at me so I let him get up.  I think he understood "happy".  This morning, Cole was pouting and whining so I made him do the same thing.  Alex watched the whole time so I hope that he is also learning through watching us parent the other kids.  As long as we are swimming, everything is great!  No behavior issues at all and he can't run off.  I cannot believe how great they both have done swimming.  Tanya already knew how to swim.  The kids were all diving off the rock so she tried it.  She did it perfectly!  At first Alex would barely get in on the steps.   He wore arm floaties and one of those blowup basketball goals the first day.  It was so goofy looking!  By the end of the day he was jumping off the side of the pool into the water.  Then yesterday, he jumped off the rock waterfall that is about 3 feet high.  He was doing so good and he loved it!  I bought him a much cooler tube and I told Liz to hide the basketball goal.  I was really impressed also because he did start to pay attention to the other kids a little.  He usually doesn't really notice or interact with other kids.  They were all running and jumping in together so he got out and joined them.  It was cute because it took him forever to swim to the side and get out to do it each time but my friend's little boy Jack would tell everyone "OK, let's wait for Alex" and then we he finally got there, they would count to three and run and jump in.  Tanya has had fun playing with a billion different kids.  It has been a little tough for Ellie sometimes because everyone is dying for Tanya's attention.  Cole can barely think of anything but Tanya.  He wants to be by her all the time.  She is so sweet to him.  He was putting on his shoes and he wanted her to tie them but she didn't know how.  Jacob taught her in a minute!  It's just so sad that nobody has ever taken the time to teach her something so simple.  She and Ellie are having a blast.  Last night, I was watching the slideshow from the airport and I looked at them in the kitchen and they were passing each other and they stopped and gave each other huge hugs!  So sweet!  I showed them the slideshow and we all cried.  I just love it!  Thanks Nicole, you did such an amazing job with it!  I'm glad it's the weekend and Jody's home.  We haven't decided what we will do yet.  Alex is already asking for swimming.  It's so hot that's pretty much all we can do, so I guess what we are deciding is where we will swim.  Granny and Grandaddy are coming home today.  They can hardly wait to meet the kids.  AnnMarie and the kids are coming tomorrow.  I'm thinking that we REALLY need a pool.  With 6 kids, it's hard to go to someone's house to swim.  Plus, I have to take so much stuff with me - towels, sunblock, floats, goggles, toys, ect.  We have been so faithful doing Dave Ramsey for the last 4 or 5 years - getting out of debt and staying out of debt.  (We had only our house debt before the adoption but we did have to use a credit card for $11,000 for flights)  I am thinking that after we pay that off, it might be worth it to break our debt free cycle for a swimming pool for next summer :) Probably not a good idea, but it sure is tempting.  Here are a couple of pictures from swimming.  The goofy one with the basketball goal is on Liz's camera so I will post it later:

Here are the boys.  We eventually had 4 families there swimming and there were 20 kids!

My precious daugthers!

Alex finally jumped in without the tube, but only when Tanya did it with him.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I have been so busy since we have been home.  We've been swimming at Liz's house for the last 2 days and it has been great!  Bedtime was great the first night and not so great last night. We swam for 3 or 4 hours today so I'm hoping he will fall asleep easy tonight.  He won't watch movies or that would be perfect.  We just started "Cars" so we'll see.  I will try to post more if I ever get a second.  Right now I feel like I will never have a free second for the rest of my life :)  We are happy to be home!  This is a slideshow of pictures from the airport that my friend Nicole took.  I love it!!!!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Coming Home and Transition

We will be home Wednesday night at 7:21 pm!  We fly into San Antonio on United airlines.  I have been thinking about the best way to make our transition to normal life.  It is going to be tough.  I have to pray and think about everything I do because what feels natural isn't always the right thing in this case.  So many people have asked about bringing the kids gifts when we get home.  We are so thankful that we have so many friends that want to love on our kids!  We have been thinking a lot about it and we really feel like right now gifts aren't the best thing for the kids.  They will be adjusting to the bounty of American life and we want to be sensitive not to overload them with material things.  We want them to know that love is not "things" but rather family and friends.  This is what I'm talking about when I say that I have to think so much about every decision we make.  It's so tiring!  I'm struggling right now with what to do about sleeping when we get home.  Alex's bed is upstairs with the rest of the boys.  Tanya and Ellie are sharing a room downstairs.  I know he feels very secure with Tanya but if I let him start sleeping with her the transition might be even harder later. I just don't know what's best.  Maybe someone has experienced this and I would love to hear your opinion.  Bedtime tonight went great.  Last night during Alex's fit, I called Natasha and she explained that if he did not obey me and go lay down, he would not have any candy or sprite tomorrow. He had a terrible fit so all day today he was not allowed to have any candy or sprite.  Natasha kept reminding him that he has to obey me.  He wanted gum at the embassy and I wouldn't let him have it.  Tanya explained why he couldn't have it and it made him really bad.  He was terrible at the embassy.  He got over it until he wanted candy again and then he would pout and try to make himself cry.  I just kept telling him (through Natasha) that because he chose to disobey last night, he could not have candy.  Lots of pouting today!  I felt terrible.  I wanted to give him candy but I knew I had to stick to it.  And it worked!  He laid down right after his shower tonight.  It took him a while to go to sleep but I think that he's just so excited!  I just kept telling him "Good Boy".  Every once in a while, he would look at me and say "Mama, zaftra, America?"   Zaftra is tomorrow.  His actual words were "Mama, afa, uh-eh-ee- uh?" because he doesn't pronounce very many consonant sounds.  We have been working on a few and he can do them but when he says words, he only pronounces the vowels.  It's so sad because it's like no one ever bothered to help him say words correctly.  Tanya always understands him and tells everyone what he said - even in Russian.

Today we woke up at 9 but didn't get out the door until noon to go eat lunch.  A taxi picked us up at the restaurant and took us to the Embassy.  I had to sign some papers in the embassy and then we had to wait about 30 minutes for the kids Visas.  While we were sitting there, another couple walked in.  It was a blog friend who I actually talked to on the phone once before about adoption stuff.  We email each other all the time and here we are in Ukraine together!  I also met another family who I've been reading their blog.  We also met a dad who leaving tomorrow with his 2 children. We will get to see most of them again at the airport tomorrow.   We were supposed to go to visit Natasha and Inna's grandma but it was raining so we couldn't go.  Instead we went to the Dolphin show which was really amazing.  All the seats were really close and they did amazing tricks.  We loved it and I think the kids really enjoyed it too.  We think it was actually better than the dolphin show at Sea World.  Really!!!  We had to say goodbye to Inna tonight and we were sad.  We will see Natasha in the morning at 4 am when she picks us up!  Ok, I have got to start packing.  We went back to the chocolate factory today and bought more chocolate.  It's so heavy so we are trying to arrange all of our bags with even weight so we won't have to repack at the airport again!  Oh, how I can't wait to be home with my whole family together!!!!!

Liz want to add a little bit to the blog today while I pack!  Here she is:

Hey friends!  What a privilege to have been given the opportunity to travel with Joni to Ukraine for the very special purpose of bringing HOME her babies!!!  WOW.  I feel so blessed to have been given such an intimate experience of international adoption right before my eyes.  As a Christian, it is so beautiful to see the similarities between this earthly adoption and the spiritual adoption that as believers in Jesus Christ, we  experience!! One of my favorite pictures I took, was a picture of some paperwork that Joni had to fill out in order to complete the adoption.  The title of the paper was "FORM 1-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative."  Isn't that the coolest thing?!!  From orphan to heir!  I just loved that! "Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory." Romans 8:17 

Each of you who know Joni personally would be SO proud of the way she has handled everything over the last week.  This process is not for the faint of heart.  It is tough...but SO WORTH IT.  Truly! She has done an incredible job already- even as it has been very, very tough at times. Your prayers are evident!

Lastly, I wanted to address a question that has come up a lot.  Many of you are asking how you can help once the kids are home. Joni feels so loved and cared for and thinks she has the best friends in the world!!  (WELL...of course she does, right?!!)  We all love her!!  That is why we are all wanting to know how we can help her family as they transition home.  I would suggest that if you want to give, think of ways that you can give in such a way that their WHOLE family is a recipient instead of gifts directed just towards Tanya and Alex because of what Joni mentioned above.  Meals are awesome!!  There is a care calendar that is going around and that is truly great.  For others of you, giftcards to restaurants are another idea....Think of this as a gift of time that you are giving their family to bond or a much needed date night for Joni and Jody.  Even grocery store giftcards and clothing stores would be soooo good.  That way Joni can use these as needs arise for the children, but have more control over what is purchased and how it is given etc.  I will also say that the cost of adoption, as you know, is staggering, and there are many more costs ahead as they look toward dental bills and medical bills etc.  So, I know Joni is forever grateful for everyone's generosity already and maybe this will help you with other ways to continue to give and bless her family of EIGHT!!! See ya'll soon!  xoxo  love, Liz

Monday, July 11, 2011

A couple of days in Kiev

I just erased this long explanation about bed time tonight.  I will just say it was terrible.  It has been terrible every night but tonight I was in tears.  It's so hard.  I feel like I have to think so much about every little situation.  What is the best way to handle this?  I don't know and I'm so exhausted from thinking about it constantly.

Ok, enough about that.  Here's what we've been doing the last few days.  Yesterday, Natasha and Ina picked us up and we went to see some more of Kiev.  It is really a beautiful city.  We first went to a church where they have caves (tombs) that you walk in to.  I just asked Tanya what it was called and she said "Kievskachalablakabra" I think.  We paid to go in to the church and to see the caves.  We had to cover our heads with scarves and wear long skirts to go in.  It was very different from what we are used to.  They believe that walking through the caves cleanses your soul.  Natasha said it is a little scary because people will yell very loud as the devils come out of their souls.  We walked in a packed line down this hallway that was about 3 feet wide.  Everyone carries candles so it was very hot.  Liz and I both started feeling very clasustrophobic.  We told Natasha and Ina we changed our minds and we would wait for their clean souls outside :) haha!   But they were feeling the same so we all left.  I'm starting to have a little panic attack just thinking about it.  After that, we went to the Museum of Water which bored the kids to death.  We learned about how the water system in Kiev works.  Our guide spoke English which was great.  I couldn't blame the kids for being bored because I would have been bored if it was in Russian.  The kids did like the part where we played with bubbles and sand for 10 minutes.  We also learned that there are twice as many rats living underground as there are people in Kiev (and I think she said any large city).  8 million rats.  Gross!  They had some things to play on outside so I let the kids choose one again.  They enjoyed that.  Alex liked riding but he watches Tanya the whole time to make sure she is there. I bet he says "Taaaaanya"  2000 times a day with an inflection that I can't even explain.  It's cute, most of the time :)  Maybe I will change her name afterall.    :)  We went to the Doll Museum but they didn't have any more shows.  There was a little parking lot where we parked but there were no spaces available  so we just parked next to one of them.  Natasha said we shouldn't have to pay because we parked outside the lines.  It was $10 grivna per hour ($1.20 U.S.).   We were there 3 hours.  When we got back Natasha gave him $10 grivna and told him that was enough.  He said that she should give him more money but she told him we shouldn't have to pay anything because we didn't park in the lines.  He said he hadn't had time to paint new lines yet, but accepted our $10 grivna and went on.  Things just work differently here.  Natasha dropped us off at the apartment and we walked around Kiev some more.  There are these huge steps with water flowing down them and we had fun walking around on those.  Alex loved it!  I can't wait for him to go swimming!  We ate dinner at TGI Friday's and we have never been so happy to eat American food.   When you are finished eating, they don't just bring you the ticket.  You have to get up and go ask for it.  Liz was going to ask so she asked me how to say ticket.  Of course I have no idea, so I told her "kishneekla".  She asked Tanya "Is that right?" and Tanya nodded yes so off she went to ask!  Tanya and I were laughing so hard, waiting to see what the waiter would say.  Too bad he saw her coming and said, "ticket?"  So all she had to say was "yes."  I should have never started that because now Tanya is teaching us crazy words for all kinds of things.  We can never tell if she's teasing or really teaching. We got home later than we planned so we bathed Alex and then Tanya bathed.  Then we started the nightmare of getting Alex to go to sleep.  I won't go into that because my blood pressure has just returned to normal after tonight's episode.

We woke up this morning and went to the U.S. Embassy to apply for the kids Visa's.  I filled out a bunch of paperwork in the car before we went but then I had to fill them out again inside.  There was a huge crowd of people outside waiting in line.  We went right to the front and went right in.  We asked Alexi what all of the people where doing there and they said they were applying for Visa's for vacations to the U.S.   What a pain.  We are trying to get Alex, Natasha, and Ina to come visit us in the U.S. and I kept thinking about how awful it will be to wait in that line.  The embassy appointment was pretty easy and the man working there was really nice.  I was surprised he was Ukrainian - not because he was nice but because it wasn't an American working in the U.S. embassy.  I had to pay $804 to get the kids visas.  Then we went to have the medical exams.  We waited in this crowded hallway while Alexi went to several different offices.  Then he brought a nurse out to get the kids.  As soon as she came to get them, Alex started crying and holding on to Tanya.  He must have had some pretty bad experiences with doctors.  I hate that he will have many of them when we get home, but we have to do it.  They had to get a blood test and they listened to their heart beats and checked their eye sight.  They asked a few questions and then I had to pay $220.  Today was an expensive day.  Oh, and we also paid for plane tickets home which ended up being about $3200.  Oh how I underestimated the costs of this!  It is all worth it though!  Alexi dropped us off at Double Coffee and we ate a delicious lunch - thanks Mike and Michelle for showing us that place!  Natasha and Ina picked us up after that and we went to a market where I could buy a Ukrainian shirt and a table runner. After that was the highlight of our day when we went to Roshen Chocolate Factory.  We bought a ton of chocolate and then got home and wished we would have bought more.  We are going back tomorrow to get more :) We ate dinner at Oliva's which serves Italian food and it was so good.  Alex is doing so much better eating.  He used to have food falling out of his mouth when he ate and he had no idea how to hold a fork.  We've been giving him a spoon and teaching him to keep his mouth closed when he eats and it's been much better.  Sooooo much better, actually.  He tries so hard to please everyone.  It's really sweet, he tries to do everything we tell him.  Except at bed time I guess.

Tomorrow we have the 2nd embassy appointment at 2:00 pm and the visa's will be ready at 3:00 pm.  We have some fun things planned for the afternoon with Natasha and Ina.  Have I mentioned how awesome they are?  I read about everyone paying translators to take them around town and I realize how lucky we are that we have 2 new friends to do it instead!  They even bought our dinner tonight.  I keep trying to pay for things like parking and food for them but they will hardly ever let me.  Plus, we have so much fun when we are with them!  Tomorrow we are hoping to visit their Babushka (grandma)!  We would like to meet their parents too but she said they might be shy because they don't understand English.  We are so anxious to be home and we fly out of here on Wednesday morning at 5:45 am.  Please pray for our flight with the kids to go smoothly.  We get home at 7:21 p.m. Wednesday night in San Antonio (it's the same day because we have an extra 8 hours lost during travel).  A couple of people have asked if i wanted people at the airport or not, and of course I always think "the more, the merrier"!

Tanya and the giant toilet at the water museum.

Alex in a giant bubble.

Natasha, Ina, me

Alex riding the train

Tanya was hilarious in the bubble.  She drew a crowd!

Tanya posed for a picture with every statue that we walked by.

This is probably the only swimming he has done in his life.  At dinner tonight he told Natasha he wanted to swim in the bathtub.  I made a huge bubble bath and he would have stayed in there for hours.

My sweet girl!

Tanya and Mama's feet in the waterfall.

This is standing on the waterfall steps.  Our apartment is about 2 blocks from these buildings.  There are always a bunch of people walking everywhere.

Alex and Tanya.  It's funny because Alex usually poses for a picture by putting bunny ears on his own head.

Liz and the kids.  I can't even tell you how great it has been to have her here with me.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Poopka means poop and we had a very poopy day yesterday.  We got all of our stuff together and headed to Kiev.  I started feeling car sick on the way so I switched places with Liz so I could ride in the front.  Soon, we found out there is a smell worse than the stinky man who rode in the car with us when we first arrived.  It's called a "pook" which is a toot in English.  Alex had horrible gas and he was laying on Tanyas lap with his little bottom aiming right at Liz.  At that point during the day, we thought it was the worst smell ever.  But, we found out later that it wasn't.  We checked into our new apartment and Natasha left us for a few hours.  We went to walk around a little and eat dinner.  We were all by ourselves.  I can't order so Tanya has to do it when Natasha isn't here.  She usually orders whatever he asks for and he eats about 1/4 of it and we throw the rest away.  He wanted juice and they gave him a huge glass of juice - which is weird because everything they serve here is so small, except beer and this glass of apple juice.  Alex went to the bathroom 3 times while we were at the mall.  I was thinking that maybe he just liked to play with the hand dryer but you had to pay to go to the public restroom so I decided that we would just come home.  It was pouring so we walked home in the rain.  It was only about 5 minutes.  We came home and Alex went to the bathroom.  He told us on the way home that he was tired so I thought it would be a good idea to take a little rest.  Tanya was explaining to him that they could lay down and watch T.V. before Natasha came.  He didn't want to lay down and was crying and kicking his feet.  He did that for about an hour.  Tanya kept telling him things but I think it made it worse.  (more about that later)  Natasha came to get us and brought her sister Ina.  It was so much fun to hang out with both of them.  Really, they are so fun!  We went to some beautiful parts of Kiev.  There was a park where they have some little amusement park rides and the kids each chose which one they wanted to do.  They had a lot of fun.  It's really hard to know how to handle everything.  We aren't home so it's so nice to stay busy but I don't want them to think that this is what life will be like at home - spending money all the time, ordering whatever food they want, getting to do everything that looks like fun, listening to the TV and radio sooooooo loud, staying up super late.  I know the transition to normal life will be a little shocking.  As I'm typing right now, Tanya is watching TV on the loudest volume and Alex is listening to the radio in the next room as loud as it goes.  It's driving me crazy, but Liz says I should let it go.  I'm so thankful that she will tell me that!  Ok, back to yesterday.  After the park, we went to a huge mall.  It was so fun to walk around and see the different kinds of shops.  We didn't buy anything because it's all so expensive.  I have been wanting to buy a Bible in Russian to bring home with us so we went to the bookstore.   We asked the guy who worked at the store and he had no idea what we were looking for. He told us they had a "sex bible."  What????   I said, "God, Jesus." and Liz said "Holy Bible".  They took us to a section of the store with religious books.  We looked but couldn't find anything that looked like a plain old Russian Bible.  While we were looking, Alex came over and told Tanya "Hochesh toilet"  which means that he needed to go to the bathroom.  I looked at him and saw his expression completely change.  Then I looked down and saw diarrea running down his leg.  Then he started walking so it was trailing behind him all over the floor.  I was telling him to stop, stop, stop!!  So, he stood there and just kept going ALL OVER THE FLOOR.  Liz and I just stood there stunned at first.  Liz thought he had thrown up so she wiped his mouth with a towel.  We really had no idea what to do.  All four of the grown ups just stared at each other!  Liz and I started digging through our backpacks for whatever we had to clean it with.  Alex was just standing there looking at us and then what did we do?  Started cleaning and laughed to tears, of course.  Then he thought it was funny too.  I'm so thankful for his reaction because he could have stood there crying instead which would have made it 100 times worse. Seriously this was the grossest moment of my life.  I did ok, but gagged once and I don't know how I didn't throw up.  It was everywhere.  Mostly down 1 leg and all over his shorts, sock and shoe and the floor.  I couldn't believe the amount of paper towels, kleenex, toilet paper, and wipes we had in those 2 backpacks.  We covered every inch of poop.  Tanya was embarassed and immediately walked away and acted like she wasn't with us.  She was funny.  Natasha went to the store to buy kleenex and Ina went to the bathroom and stole a trash bag.  We wiped and wiped and wiped until we had it cleaned up.  It proably took 30 minutes.  We headed for the bathroom while Natasha and Tanya went to buy some shorts to wear home.  When we got to the bathroom we had to take off his clothes which spread the poop even more.  We rinsed his shoe and cleaned him up again.  He had to wait in there naked for about 15 minutes which he thought was hilarious.  Ina and Natasha do not have children yet and they were amazing!  Ina even carried the bag of poop rags and shoes to the bathroom.  We threw away the shorts, underwear, and socks.  Natasha and Tanya came back and they bought a towel because all of the clothes were too expensive.  So we wrapped him in the towel and headed out of the mall.  Tanya walked way in front of us the whole time.  He saw her and started running, yelling "Tanya".  So, then his towel falls off and he is naked in the mall.  Liz got to it pretty quick though.  Then he walked by us the rest of the way.  We couldn't wait to get home and get him and us in the shower!  So that's our poopka story and it was horrible.  Nothing worse can happen!  The shoes are in the washer now for the 3rd time.  I am going to make sure they are clean. AnnMarie - I know you have been so sad that you couldn't be here.  Maybe this will make you feel a little better :)

We are exhausted today.  We are about to go eat dinner.  Tonight I will post about our day today.  I'm dreading bedtime because it is exhausting.  Every night Alex doesn't want to go to sleep.  He has a fit when I tell him to lay down.  He will cry, kick his feet, throw pillows, and look at me very mean Although it's frustrating and exhausting to me, I know that he doesn't really understand what I'm saying.  The other night when Natasha explained to him what I was saying, he went to bed right away.  Tanya tries to get him to lay down but I have had the feeling that she is trying to scare him into obeying me.  Last night when he was having a fit, Tanya started to talking to him.  I understood the words "zaftra" and "internat"  which is "tomorrow" and "orphanage".  This was the first time that I knew she was trying to scare him so I told her not to say that.  I called Natasha and had her explain to him that he had to obey me and go to bed.  If he didn't he would not be able to go and have fun tomorrow.  I would stay with him at the apartment while everyone else went to have fun.  At first, he was pushing me and kicking me and wouldn't let me put the phone to his ear.  But, I am much stronger than him and I just held his arms and put the phone up to his ear.  After he listened to her, he was fine.  He went to bed pretty quickly after that.  He cried because the light was off so we turned it on and then after a little while he cried again because the light was on.  But other than that, he laid down and went to bed.  I hate that he feels so insecure about his future with us.  Not being able to communicate is hard.  Really hard!!!  I really wish we could understand each other.  They are both great kids with good hearts.  It's so hard emotionally because I know they can't help it when Alex is being disobedient or when I know Tanya is trying to manipulate him by scaring him, but it still frustrates me.  Then, I feel guilty that I am annoyed and frustrated.  I have been feeling like this less lately.  I'm really praying about it and asking God to keep my focus on them instead of me.  That changes everything because then I can see them through His eyes and look at them with love and compassion.  Most of the time it's great and I am so thankful that God has chosen me to be their mom.  Other times my selfishness gets in the way and my thoughts go all kinds of ugly places.  I'm thankful that God is showing me this and showing me how to overcome it too.  I want to love them just like He loves me!

Ok, here are pictures from today.  I had to post the pictures of the pooping incident because it was so awful.  I will come back and erase them someday because I don't want him to be embarassed, but for now - I hope you can laugh at our misfortune!  We did!

Ina and Natasha - such beautiful girls!

Random guy doing exercises in the park.

Tanya and Alex in the bumper boat.  There was no one to bump so Alex just drove it in circle.  At this point I was thinking "I hope he doesn't get motion sickness."  I would have actually preferred that to the poopka.

Tanya was so cute jumping.  They shot her up so high and she loved it!

This is the scene of the "accident".  This was after we cleaned up the poop.  It was all over the floor between the 2 baskets.

This is after the poopka.  That's Ina with the poop bag.  Tanya is walking as far from us as possible.  Liz carrying the poop shoe and dropped it.  The other one had poop on it too, it just wasn't as bad.

I bet Natasha and Ina are really excited about having kids now!

Alex was a great sport!