“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, 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!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

We're pooped!

It's 2:20 am and we are too pooped to post.  And we have got some REALLY good stuff.  I will post it tomorrow and the word "pooped" will have a whole new meaning :)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lots of crying in Zhytomyr today

We headed out today to begin our paperwork at 8:40 am.  We hurried from place to place until 5:00 pm.  We didn't get home until 9:30 pm and we are exhausted.  Liz and I slept only 2 1/2 hours last night.  We couldn't fall asleep and we just kept laughing at ridiculous things.  Today our laughing was worse.  We had one funny incident and then we laughed the rest of the day any time either of us thought about what happened. I know this is probably one of those "guess you had to be there" moments but it has provided a ton of laughter for us today.  Natasha dropped us off at the apartment while she ran to a notary and to the orphanage for the 100th time.  We decided to walk around a little bit.  We found a bookstore with some nice journals and books.  Liz was buying a couple of things so she got her money out of her wallet.  When she started to put her change away, she realized that her wallet was missing.  She knew she had laid it down right by her on the counter.  She started getting really worried and looking around everywhere.  We were trying to tell the ladies who worked in the store what was happening.  They started looking around also.  Liz told me that she knew it was right there and that someone stole it.  I didn't see how that could happen because I was standing right beside her.  I was still looking through her bag and she turns around and goes up to this guy in white addidas shorts.  When I looked, she was saying "...in your pocket.  let me see in your pocket."  So, Liz starts patting his shorts pockets, looking for her wallet.  The poor guy has no idea what she is saying or doing so he looks at her crazy and holds his hands up.  Then, the lady who worked at the store looks at Liz and tells her that her wallet is under her arm.  We were so embarassed.  I couldn't even breath.  I was laughing so hard that I had to leave the store.  Then I looked ridiculous doubled over, laughing by myself outside the store.  Everyone was staring at me because laughing doesn't happen much around here.  I think Tanya was just acting like she didn't know us.  Liz came out crying laughing too.  We couldn't talk for about 10 minutes.  We are crying laughing again as I'm writing this.  I'm picturing that poor guy telling his friends about the crazy American woman who assaulted him today at the bookstore.   The rest of our day was not so funny.  I started writing a journal with all the places we went, what we did, and how long it took.  It got so frustrating that I couldn't even finish.  We spent a lot of our day searching the city for a notary that was open and didn't have a crowd.  I think we went to the notary a total of 4 times today.  We went to the orphanage 3 times.  We went to the hospital 2 times and to the passport office 4 times.  I'm sure I am leaving something out.  Our biggest problem was that when we went to get the passports, they told us that they needed Tanya's old passport in order to issue a new one.  She has had one for her previous hosting trips.  Natasha called the orphanage and they told us that the passport is locked in a room at the orphanage.  There is only one key and the woman who has it is on vacation to Spain.  The orphanage lawyer spent the rest of the day on the phone calling all of the relatives of that person to try and get the key.  Only one person answered the phone and they said that the person we needed to talk to was out in the field picking mushrooms.  Mushrooms seem to be getting in our way a lot lately!  So, Natasha and I headed back to the hospital to try and find the Director since he wasn't answering his phone.  Natasha found out more about his medical condition and found out that he is preparing for surgery on his kidneys.  He will be in the hospital for 2 weeks.  When we got to the hospital, the nurses said he was in his room.  But when we went to his room, one of his 7 roomates said he left for the weekend and will return on Monday.  I guess he will be getting ready for his surgery at home.  We called him again on our way home and he told us that someone would meet us with the key in 20 minutes.  I guess the relative finished picking mushrooms.  We headed to the orphanage and right when we turned on the road to the orphanage, Alex burst into tears and started freaking out.  Tanya had already told him we were only staying for 5 minutes but I guess he just panicked and thought he was going back there.  It was so terrible and to see him so scared made all of us cry.  Tanya was finally able to calm him down.  We stayed outside while Natasha went in and he was ok then.  A teacher walked out of the orphanage and Alex immediately went up to her and told her he was going to America!  We finally got Tanya's passport from a really nice man at the orphanage.  They also had  a passport for Bogdan which we didn't even know existed.  I am so thankful that he found that because it could have caused big problems later.  So, we turned the old passports in and got the new ones.  Isn't this crazy?  I'm not even telling all of it because I'm too tired to write it all.  We are finished in Zhytomyr.  We go to Kiev tomorrow and have our 1st embassy appointment on Monday morning.  We could stay in Zhytomyr for the weekend but I'm too scared that we will run into the boy that Liz assaulted so we will spend the weekend in Kiev doing all sorts of exciting things.  We will be able to fly out on Wednesday morning.  What an answer to prayer!  We went to McDonalds tonight to celebrate getting the passports.  Tanya wanted to ice skate and we had fun watching her.  Alex played on the games while she was ice skating.  She was so cute when she ice skated.  She would look over every time she went around to see if we were watching her.   I was standing where I could see both of the kids.  Every time I looked at either of them,  they were looking at me and smiling.  Alex would yell "Mama" and wave.  Then I started telling Liz how sweet it was and how they have never had someone watch them do anything before.  They've never been delighted in before.  Isn't that so sad?  We thought so and Liz and I were both standing there crying while we watched them.  Alex didn't notice but Tanya was probably wondering what in the world is wrong with her new mama :)  We are thankful to our friends and family who have been faithfully praying for us.  It has been amazing to see God work out all of the details during the process. It seems like every time we do something, there is an obstacle.  Even though we get annoyed at the process sometimes, I have such a peace knowing that God is bigger than these details.  He has gone before us to prepare the way.  When I look back to how I felt a week ago, I am amazed at how God has changed my heart.  I no longer have the doubts that I had a week ago.  I know that God will continue to show me how to do this.  Alex has started to get really attached to me.   Before he would barely touch me.  Now he will lay his head on my shoulder in the car.  Today he got really sad and worried when I left with Natasha for a little while and later when I started to go in the grocery store while everyone else waited outside, he ran after me and grabbed my hand.  I can tell that he is much more comfortable with me.  I am enjoying spending time with both of the kids!  I am ready to be home with them though!

Passports to come home!  They are standing in front of the building where they issue passports.

Alex was so excited to hear from Papa this morning!

On our way to the bookstore :)

Alex loved riding on Liz's back.  The kids were so good all day long.  It takes a lot of patience to wait like this.  We waited in different places all day long!

We did find time to stop for ice cream!  This is right after Liz's wallet was stolen :)

This is the nice man that finally found the passports for us.  He was talking to us yesterday and this lady walked by and asked if we were going to adopt him!

Tanya loved ice skating.  I wish Ellie was here to skate with her because they both love it so much!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

They're really mine!!!

What a day!  We went non-stop today.  Liz got to experience what we've been doing the past several weeks.  I hadn't realized how normal this crazy life is feeling to me until I heard her reactions.  We started by going to the courthouse to get our court decree.  We stayed in the car while Natasha (same as Natalie but we are now calling her Natasha) went inside to meet the lawyer.  It took about an hour because there were many mistakes on the court decree and they had to fix it.  Then we followed the lawyer to her apartment to get some of my documents that were accidentally given to her but I will need them at the US embassy in order to leave the country.  And yes, we had already told her that we needed these documents before we left Ukraine and Natasha reminded her yesterday also.  Next we headed to the orphanage to get more documents.  I'm not sure what it was, but I don't even ask anymore.  The orphanage lawyer is on vacation but she was willing to meet us anyway.  Praise God!  When we got to the orphanage, it seemed like something was wrong.  There was a lot of commotion in the directors office and everyone was talking very fast.  I had to sign a billion papers and then they told us that the director is in the hospital with kidney problems and he is the only person that can sign the documents that we need.  Sounds impossible right?  Wrong, we will just go to the hospital to have him sign there.  Really?  We were excited that we would get to see the inside of a Ukrainian hospital.  So, for the next 15 minutes they discussed who would go with us to the hospital.  After the discussion Evalina, the orphanage lawyer, disappeared.  We were all in the office waiting and we asked what we were waiting for.  Natasha said that Evalina went to figure out who was going.  About 15 minutes later, she returned with a handful of mushrooms.  So that was what we were waiting on!  It has been raining so much that there were mushrooms growing in the field in front of the orphanage.  Everyone was very excited about this.  Finally we headed to the hospital.  We got out of the car and it started raining pretty hard.  We were now in a huge hurry so we couldn't go back to the car for the umbrellas.  We went to several different buildings before we found the right one.  The hospital was awful.  We peeked in a couple of rooms and there were 6 to 8 people in each one.  All of the lights were off.  They went to the directors room and he came walking out in his regular clothes.  All they told  us was that he was in the hospital for his kidneys.  He signed the papers and said some really nice things about how he hopes that we will be happy and that God will bless our family.  We gave him our donation and he said that he wanted us to know that he will buy a copy machine for the orphanage with the money and he will not keep it.  I'm not sure what the other $940 will be used for but there are a lot of things they need.  We went back to take Evalina to the orphanage.  Natasha went inside to do something and Liz and I decided to explore a little.  We went around the back of the orphanage and found another playground and soccer field.  We heard Natasha honking the horn so we hurried out front.  She had been looking for us and was a little worried.  When we got in the car, she said "I kindly ask you girls to stay with me.  It has been about 7 minutes I have been looking for you."  We teased her about that being the meanest she could ever be.  We made up those 7 minutes and more on the way to Chudnov because she drove so fast.  Liz was scared to death.  She passed every car on the road.  In Chudnov, we went to some building that we thought was abandoned from the outside.  When we went in , we were sure that it was the wrong place because we didn't see anyone and all the lights were off.  Natasha knocked on a door and it was the right place.  I guess they just like to work in the dark.  This is where we had to get new birth certificates for the kids with our names on them.  So now legally, I gave birth to 2 children in Ukraine.  That's what the birth certificates say.  We waited for Natasha in the lobby for an hour and 15 minutes.  While we were there, we met a man name Yuri.  He spoke a few words in English but mostly he spoke to us in Russian for the entire hour and 15 minutes.  This must have been his smoke break.  We had no idea what he was saying and kept telling him "Ya nopinyumiyo" (phonetically spelled the best we can come up with) which means "I don't understand."  He just kept talking and we tried hard to figure out what he was saying but we never did.  It was exhausting.  Finally Natasha came out with the birth certificates and we headed to camp to pick up the kids.  Alex (which we are now trying to call Bogdan) saw us at the gate and ran to get Tanya.  He was so excited and kept running back to peek at us.  They took a while to come because Tanya was saying goodbye to everyone.  I just can't even imagine what she felt like.  She is leaving everything she has ever known to go with people who are basically strangers in a country where no one speaks her language.  While I am so happy to finally have my kids, my heart was breaking for them, especially Tanya.  She really understood that she was saying goodbye to her friends and that she will most likely never see them again.  It took so much courage for her to make the choice for herself and her little brother.  I know she is excited about going but this is such a huge change.  I can't even imagine what my life would be like now if I had to make such huge decisions at 13.  While they were saying goodbye, all of the girls were crying and the boys were teasing them about it.  The older boys who graduated are at camp now until they head to trade school in August.  It's a completely different atmosphere with them there.  I could even tell that all of the younger kids act different when they are around. They are very intimidating.  We were in a huge rush on the way back from camp because we needed to get the kids passport pictures made and go to a notary again.  Yarik called and said that he and Yura were at their house so we stopped by there on the way home.  I had a bunch of clothes for them and a computer so that they can keep in touch with the kids by skype.  We only had 10 minutes so we took a few pictures and had to leave.  We really hope they can come and visit us at home.  These boys are both so sweet.  I wish we could have spent more time with them.  I could tell they have started to work on the house a little.  They put something up to cover the window and they have cleaned out a bunch of the trash that was inside last time.  I can't believe they are going to live in this house for the summer.   It's really terrible.  They met us on their motorbike.  Yarik was driving it so fast and his face was scratched from a wreck he had recently.  They both saved their money from working and put it together to buy the bike.  I was pretty impressed by that because that is a hard thing to do when you don't make much money.  We left them, hoping that we will see them again soon.  We hurried back to Zhytomyr (45 minutes) and on our 2nd try we found a place that could take passport pictures and get them to us in 30 minutes.  We drove all over looking for a notary that was still open but we couldn't find one so we will do that tomorrow.  We were trying to get everything in Zhytomyr done today so we could go to Kiev tomorrow and hopefully leave on Sunday but it didn't happen.  Maybe tomorrow we will have a better idea when we will be leaving.  The kids were so good while we were running around all over the place.  Alex was so excited and keeps asking when we are going home and when we can swim!  He also wonders where Papa and Ellie are.  We moved to an apartment we stayed in last time and it's so much better.  Tanya and Alex had fun looking at all of their new clothes tonight.  We went to the mall to have gelato and coffee. Bedtime went very smooth.  Alex was great.  Tanya and I looked at a few magazines together and it was fun.  Today was so just like the rest of this process - an emotional rollercoaster.  I was so happy to get to take the kids with us, but so sad to see Tanya hurting.  It was heartbreaking also to watch all of the other kids turn and walk back to their rooms after we said goodbye.  While I know they were happy for Tanya and Alex, they are going back to a life of loneliness.  No one will be there to tuck them in their beds tonight, and no one to care if their feelings are hurt or be proud of them when they do something great.  It is so sad.  Ok, sorry this is so long.  I don't have Jody here to hurry me and tell me how nobody wants to read something this long :)  Liz is actually doing the opposite and telling me more details to add :)   Jody, I will quiz you later to make sure you read this entire post!

Liz and I at the orphanage in front of the Ukrainian national symbol. (I think)

Evalina, the orphanage lawyer, with her mushrooms.

More mushrooms

The director signing at the hospital

Our new friend Yuri holding the Chudnov flag.

Tanya and Alex Redding's birth certificates!

1st hug in 10 days!

Friends at the orphanage saying Goodbye.

Tanya and Alex leaving camp.

Tanya was sad to leave all of her friends.

Alex couldn't wait to ride in the car!

Yarik and Yuri on their motorbike

Yarik and Alex

Yura and Alex

Tanya and her oldest brother Yura

Yarik, Alex, Tanya, Yura

The kid's house

Front door to the house

Inside the house

Mama and Tanya with our delicious lemon gelato.  What a great way to end our crazy day!