Sunday, July 13, 2014

Where we were...Where we are

It has been a long time since I have
blogged.  There are several reasons for this and all of them have to do with this hectic rush hour I call life. As you will read later, Novograd-Volynsky (NV), the town where Georgina (Larissa's) orphanage is has a lot of things. Two things it does not have is air conditioning and consistent internet.  Novograd-Volynsky is a quaint little town infused with a lot of activity.  The first night there we walked to the park and it seemed that there were people everywhere.  Families filled the downtown area and there were shops, cafe's, and beautiful churches. Novograd-Volynsky is located on the Sluch River in the Zhytomyr Province. This city has a very dynamic history both as a cultural hub and as a location of a WWII concentration camp.  Interestingly enough, the kids that fill the streets in this unique town go to school in the same building that Hitler ordered the deaths of thousands of Jewish POWs.  With all of the interesting history this town brings, we were more concerned about the past and future of a little girl named Larissa. We had been waiting a long time to meet this little angel and we just wanted to go and see her for the first time. Earlier in the afternoon, we sat down with the orphanage director and the orphanage doctor and determined that Larissa has quite a medical history.  We knew she had a heart condition, hip dysplasia, strabismus, and fetal alcohol syndrome.  What we learned is that she was also born at 32 weeks.  It was determined that some of her mental delays were also a result of this premature birth.  Larissa's mom was a heavy drinker and smoker and I guess after all of that she really is lucky to be alive.  After our meeting we went to the playground and were told that the nannies would bring Larissa out in just a little bit. We sat there anxiously for about 10 minutes and when she finally came through the orphanage door she was dressed in this snazzy white dress with black polka-dots.  She had these pink and white shoes on and her hair was neatly combed. She looked beautiful!! She ran up to us and yelled mama and papa; she smiled and gave Debbie a big ole hug.  She then reached for me and did the same. We enjoyed the moment, but this may have been a bigger horse and pony show than observation day in a public education classroom. It was obvious she was told to act a certain way to impress us, but we had been here and done that and we knew that this would be the first and last day we saw her in that nice dress.  We played along, though, and were really just very excited to finally meet her.  They could have brought her out in a potato sack and we would have been just as excited. We just were happy to have the chance to finally get to know her.
When we adopted Stasik, we spent a lot of time alone with him away from the other kids. At this orphanage our bonding time with her was on a playground....with 20 other kids.  Now, I do not know the definition of bonding in the Ukraine, but if it is time spent watching your little girl running around, swinging, riding bikes, tackling other kids, climbing the fence to get contraband cherries, and listening to her get scolded by nannies for disobeying every directive.....then we bonded like super glue!  What we did discover, though, is that this girl is a little firecracker.  She may have been born early, but it was probably because she couldn't sit in one place anymore.  You know how when water is heated and particles start moving so fast that they create entropy, controlled chaos?  Yea it was like that, except for the controlled part.  The only time she came to see us was when the nannies told her to come give us a kiss or something.  We were like, hey it's ok, she doesn't know us...don't tell her that because we are gonna spend the next few years teaching her not to kiss strangers.  We just wanted to watch her and see how she interacted with other kids.  That was our main concern.  Would she get along with Carter and Stasik at home. For days we went to the orphanage at 10:00 and 4:00.  We watched her on the playground and gave her hugs when the nannies sent her to us.  She really wanted nothing to do with us.  Who can blame her. She is on a playground with other kids and she has no idea who we are.  We knew this would take time and we were ok with it.
The nannies at the orphanage call her Laura.  I guess it is short for Larissa, but most likely it is because they have to say it 103 times during recess., Laura nimoshna, Laura come over here, Laura...  It was all in Ukrainian, but we got the jist of it all.  So you might ask are we concerned about her behavior? Well, maybe a lot. We are used to a slower pace with two boys with down's syndrome; we are not sure we can keep up with her.  I guess that is a good problem considering she is lucky to be alive. I guess she does not want to lose another minute of any day.
After spending days there we had to fly back home.  We spent a couple of weeks back in Texas waiting for our court date.  We showed pictures to the boys and told them her name.  Unfortunately, we have not had internet at the house either so this is why this blog is so late.  Tonight we are back in NV, internet is working and I am typing away.  More about the last couple days in the next post.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Ukraine in the membrane

Catching up on the last couple of days

There are very vivid memories I have of Ukraine from the last time we were here.  It was very cold, snowy,and wet.  The sun rarely came out and it was 30 degrees below 0. It seemed everyone wore black and nobody ever smiled.  Now at that temperature I was not smiling much either, but there just seemed to be a dark cloud over this country.  When we decided to adopt here again I have to say that I was not looking forward to coming back to the land of gloom and doom, but I knew our mission and coming here was part of it.  Well you always hear people talk about first impressions and giving things time; this is one of those great examples.  Now I am not saying the difference is night and day, but the town of Kiev is just much more vibrant and people just seem happier.  Maybe the Cold just depressed them or maybe a new government gives them a sense of pride or hope again. I don't know what it is, but I have enjoyed walking the streets of Ukraine's capital city. Along with more smiles, I have seen and learned some new and interesting things.

Two days ago we went back to the DAP office to get our referral for Georgina. We found out we will be headed out on Monday and will hopefully get to meet her on Tuesday.  Although we are enjoying our stay in Kiev, we are so ready to extend our journey to the Zhytomyr region where her orphanage is. It is so strange and exciting to think that both her life and ours is going to change forever in a couple of days. With everything that we know about her, she knows nothing about us.  In fact, she has no clue we are even coming.  That just seems so surreal to me, but is a reality all orphans have.  I assume that many wonder if they will ever receive something better...and then for some one day they find a family. What an honor it is for us to be a part of that.  I wish so many more families and orphans could share this type of experience. Of course with all the excitement we have with our new family member, it is impossible not to miss our boys at home.  They are being well entertained by family and friends, but leaving them has been very difficult.  Hopefully they will understand and one day this whole thing will be an amazing bedtime story we tell them at night..."The story of us".
Getting our referral was very easy and as always we have a lot of time to kill so we went out to tour Kiev after we were done.  We are hanging out with some other adoptive parents and we are having a good time. We are all here for a return trip so the familiarity of Kiev and our process gives us all something to talk about.  I have found that Kiev is definitely a city of maybe's and whatever's.  It has it's own unique fashion and principles governing behavior....and I use the term fashion lightly. In context, fashion is a revolution; trends leave and come back around over time. Here in the Ukraine, it is a hodge podge of decades and I think nothing is in style or out of just "is". So that brings me to the maybe's.  Ummm...maybe I will wear a bra today..or... maybe I won't...maybe I will wear underwear today...or...maybe I won't.....maybe I will wear shorts today...or...maybe I will roll my pants legs up over my knee.....maybe I will wear a skirt that covers my butt...or...maybe I won't.  Then there are the whatevers.."Hey man that AC/DC shirt doesn't look right with those turquoise shorts and yellow Sperry's"  Response, "yea, I thought maybe I would change before I left the apartment, whatever."  The biggest whatever came when we left the DAP and headed back to the apartment. As parents of two boys that we are trying to potty train, we know timing is everything.  Potty before you leave the house, potty at your next stop, potty when you get home.  It is part of it that takes planning.  Apparently in Kiev you don't need a plan...just some strong biceps and good aim.When a two year old needs to pee, just pull her pants down, hold her like a Nerf super soaker and aim her at a tree. Nope, don't worry about the two Americans that just walked by....if there is a tree, let her pee.  I spent the day taking pictures, but I passed on this one, I will let you do the visual..  No bathroom for my kid to pee.....whatever!!  Don't get me wrong, I am not fact I think it is awesome that a person can do and be whomever they want and no one cares. Maybe we need more of this in the U.S. In fact I think the only guy getting strange looks was the American wearing the maroon fighting Texas Aggie T-Shirt.  Guess I should have worn it with my yellow and blue plaid shorts!
Yesterday we walked out of our apartment in Kiev and our street was a ghost town. Police officers
everywhere directing pedestrians and restricting auto traffic. We continued to walk to a coffee shop when a US motorcade ran through. In one car John McCain and in the other Joe Biden. Of course we follow the motorcade on foot as far as we could go until a secret service guy stopped us. He looked at my Texas A&M Shirt and asked if we were American. We said yes and he came to shake our hand.  We asked him what was going on and he told us "your Vice President is here." Apparently, Petro Poroshenko, the new president was giving an inauguration speech right around the corner from our place here in Kiev and Amtrak Joe and John "maverick" McCain were here to support the guy they call the "candy man". U.S. snipers were right across the parking lot talking on their phones before they walked off with rifles in tow to get to their perches. Just another day at work I guess. Later in the day there was a delegation at St. Sophia's Church and Biden was meeting with dignitaries from several countries including Russia and the Ukraine. The Ukrainian revolution and current election could prove to be a pivotal time in Ukrainian history and it was neat to be here to see some of it.

Independence Square (Maidan Nezalehnosti) is where we have seen the most change. When we were here in the winter it was a beautifully lit and decorated street. A large Christmas tree marked the center of the square and it was bustling with spirit. It had the feeling of holidays and reminded me very much of an American city with shops and restaurants all within walking distance. After the revolution many of the buildings along with paved walkways and roads were destroyed.  Now, the streets and sidewalks are lined with tents and inhabitants that have chosen not to leave.  There are signs posted and all sorts of propaganda isolated to whatever causes they may have.  We have been told that many of them are waiting to get paid for their service to their country, but we can not say for sure. The Guardian Angel that overlooks the square remains the same, but what she views                                                       below her has changed dramatically.
In the square is a buffet restaurant we like to eat at for dinner.  It is very cheap and you can just point at food and smile. They load your plate(s) and when you sit down and eat you have a smorgasbord of items that you have no idea what they are.  What's more fun than that? After we eat we walk the streets and watch street dancers, street wannabe dancers, meditators, a guy that plays a violin, a guy that plays an air guitar, a guy with a real guitar, a guy on a piano, and a guy with a pot bellied pig.
By far the musicians are the best street performers, but there is a break dancing group that is fun to watch.  Guys between the ages of 22-35 doing windmills, flares, back spins, and head spins. Oh, if I were just a few years younger.....  Not sure what the guy was doing with the potbellied pig, but apparently whether you have talent or not you can make money down on the square.  I would not expect too many of them to be on Ukrayina maye talant (Ukraine has talent) anytime soon. Oksana Merchenko or Simon Cowell was not in attendance.
Yesterday we walked down to where our DAP appointment is where they have a bunch of shops.  We walked down a hill for about half a mile just looking at all the trinkets people are trying to sell.  We bought Georgina a handmade pink Ukrainian bonnet and Debbie bought a pink floral fedora.  All in all a good day. As fate would have it on our way back to the apartment there was a street singer singing Georgia on my Mind.  How random is Debbie and I started singing along..Georgina on my Mind!!
Tomorrow we head to her region and I will post again as soon as I can. Dasvidanya!

Friday, June 6, 2014

DAP it up,we are going to see our Girl

New Picture from DAP file
Well after a restful night on our cinder block bed we woke up anxious to get going.  We had a DAP appointment at 11:00 am and the next couple of hours would tell us a lot.  There was nothing routine about today.  Our boys did not wake us up, there was no coffee brewing in the pot, and Debbie tried to eat cereal slathered in buttermilk.  When you don't read Ukrainian you just never know what you might pick up at the store.  Eating out and shopping can offer many surprises when you finally get a taste of what you purchased.  After her buttermilk surprise, Debbie had the choice of wearing yesterdays clothes or today's clothes that she wore yesterday.  Her luggage was still lost and so far we had no word on where it was.  I think she still looked great and adding pink shoes instead of her black ones was a nice touch.  One thing we were told before coming to the Ukraine was to pack umbrellas.  Of course, with everything we had going on the last few days we forgot.  It is no wonder that when we stepped outside to head to the Department for Adoption, it was raining. Buttermilk on your cereal? No umbrellas in the rain?  No problem.  For those of you that know us you know that this is how we roll.  So we walked in the rain to our destination as anxious as we were wet.  Some things that we have not shared is that there was a chance we may not be able to adopt Georgina.  In all adoptions, there are never any guarantees and we were told that some of her paperwork may have changed and she may no longer be available for us.  In order to know for sure, we had to fly over and sit down before a DFC representative to find out.  When we finally sat down we determined that there was still medical paperwork that the DAP needed in order to proceed with the adoption. For those of you not
What a little doll- Another new picture
familiar with Ukrainian adoptions, there is a policy that does not allow foreign families to adopt Ukrainian children out of orphanages until they are 5 years old.  Due to a declining population, the government gives first dibs to Citizens of Ukraine before opening it up to international couples.  In our situation, Georgina fit certain criteria that made her an exception to this policy; meaning she had special needs that exempted her.  What we did not know is if any of these medical concerns still existed or had been rectified.  This was the crux that made this situation very tough for us.  As a parent, you would never wish harm on your child, so what do you wish for?  We basically waited for
paperwork that said she still had medical issues so we could receive the referral for adoption, but at the same time wished that she no longer had the medical issues so she could be healthy. We also knew that even if she is healthy, there is no guarantee she will ever be adopted. I quietly prayed and the left
the decision in God's hands.  I knew that no matter what information we received it was his plan and we would not question it.  She turns 5 in December and Debbie and I had already talked about returning to get her when she was of age. After an hour of waiting we finally received news that her updated 6 month medical report listed her as still available for special needs adoption.  Our emotions were mixed, but we now know we can go meet her, bring her home, and get her the medical attention she needs.  Tomorrow we will return to the same office and pick our adoption referral and hopefully be on our way to see her soon.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

New Living, Jet Lag and Lost Luggage

Well the lat 72 hours have been hectic.  We have managed to move from one house to another, close on a house, and somehow get on a plane to get to the Ukraine.  We have received a lot of great news, but timing is everything.  It is definitely hard enough to pack for a trip where you don’t know what the weather will be like or what else you will need, but packing suitcases from boxes that were moved from one house to the other is quite the experience.  I am sure we forgot plenty of things we will want, but we made sure we packed everything we need.  I believe I have slept 4-5 hours over the last few days and Debbie is not far behind me.  Our two boys, Carter and Stasik, share the excitement of a new home, but the anxiety of moving has placed a heavy toll on them as well.  Add that to the fact that we are leaving the country is a whole different ball game.  Our friend Anna took the boys before we boarded a plane so hopefully they will forget we are gone and will not get too upset about us being gone for a few days or weeks.  Last time we went to get Stasik, Carter did not take it well and that has been a concern every since we decided to adopt again.

So here we are landing on Eastern European soil with no idea what to expect.  Our media makes Kiev and other regions of the Ukraine seem dangerous and now we will get to see for ourselves.  The flights leaving from Dallas/Fort Worth seemed to be the shortest we have ever had, but this is probably because we are both sleep walking.  Neither of us have slept and now we have to try to stay awake in order to get on a schedule that is 8 hours ahead of ours at home. We had two layovers and I believe on one flight we had dinner and breakfast within 3 hours of each other in order to compensate for time change.  Needless to say when we arrived, we were not very hungry but extremely sleepy.  We thought we would get off the plane, get our luggage, and meet our driver that takes us to our apartment.  Instead, we were lucky enough to wait in line for 2 hours to report luggage that the airline lost.  No trip we take is ever smooth; there is always at least one thing that happens that is unexpected and I am sure this will not be the last. Debbie finally filled out the paperwork and off we went to good ol’ downtown Kiev.  Usually we go to the store and buy groceries before we get settled, but I fell asleep on the trip from the airport and I think we were both just ready to lie down. We were in our apartment at 4:00 pm slept until 9:00pm, we got up and went to the market for food and then back in bed again.  Tomorrow morning we go to our DAP appointment and find out more about our new little girl Georgina.  Jet lag and lost luggage has made it quite a day!!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

It is time to begin again

Over the last couple of years we have spent time focusing on Stasik, whom we adopted from the Ukraine and brought home in Feb 2012. In that time we have also talked about the possibility of adopting again. Through this process we have found the most beautiful girl for our boys to call their sister.  Georgina is her name and from here on out,...she will be on our mind!