Tuesday, November 30, 2010

GOTCHA DAY - Video and Updates

So what we have been up to...well, not much ;-). Seriously, we have been amazing busy as you can imagine! For that reason, and that we have not had power for a good bit of the time, I am going to post some unedited videos of our "Gotcha Day" with hopes of a more formal, compiled video to follow. Oh, if you are unfamiliar with the term "Gotcha Day," it is a term used in the adoption community to refer to the day that a child is saved out of the orphanage system.

So what was Gotcha Day like? We were SO excited to be leaving Cherkassy and yet Isaac and I both know that we will miss it on many ways. So as we BARELY fit everything into the cargo area of the car we loaded up and went to the orphanage. Would the children be excited? Ivanna is always excited to get the attention...loving most her bottle feedings that momma got her hooked on and the lotion that I would rub on her hands that get so dry from her habitually putting them in her mouth - institution behavior. She often on our visits would sit in my lap and when I would take out the lotion, she would pull up her sleeves and hold her hands out. Sweet Girl!

When we arrived to the orphanage, after signing a lot of paperwork, it was off to Max's Groupa. How did Max react to our arrival...

As I had posted previously, the real tears came in Max's groupa the night before as we spent a wonderful evening with the groupa workers that we became very close too. I cannot over emphasize what a blessing it was to have this relationship in place. Not only was it a blessing to have the communication (well as much as you can communicate over an Iphone application), but out of a heart that loved Max so much. They gave me information about Max's specific care that was, and has been a huge help. We have the address of one of the groupa workers and will be corresponding with her continually! The care givers that were working on Gotcha Day morning, were also very kind, we just did not have the opportunity to communicate much with them for whatever reason. My heart goes out to ALL of these ladies. They work very hard caring for these children, in this groupa and in this orphanage, quite well, only to see the children that are not adopted being transferred to a mental institution where they know that the care is much different. Because of people who gave to help in this adoption we where able to give them some helps before we left. They all appreciated, so much the Microwave that we bought for them and now have in the groupa so that can heat up foods for the children. They also appreciated the money we gave to the care givers so that they would be able to by Christmas decorations and toys for the children.

I know that for them to see the children adopted rather than transferred was a joy! Both groupas asked if we would take more children...heart breaking.

So we scooped up the children and out the door I took them...FOREVER!!

We then went on a long drive to the capital city where we would have an appointment with the US Embassy the next day. The drive was WONDERFUL. The highlight for me was having Max on my lap asleep while Ivanna laid up next to her papa sleeping as well. That was pretty close to WONDERFUL for me. Of course they cuddled and played much with their fantastic older brother Isaac as well.

Catching Up: The US Embassy and Doctors Appointment the next day, well honestly, was a tough day. Max and Ivanna are very much used to a strict schedule and add to that the fact they were being carted all over the city without a nap or regular eating schedule, in addition to everything changing in their new world, there was much wailing and nashing of teeth. They were NOT HAPPY!

I, however, got all of the paperwork filled out at the Embassy while holding a very tired and unhappy Ivanna, who was not afraid to let everyone know that she was NOT happy. Let's just say my penmanship was less than stellar. Isaac tried to keep a frustrated Max from making to big of a scene. Isaac did a great job, and at times, so did Max.

We then went to the doctor's appointment, at which time it began to snow heavily. Max loved it. Ivanna, not so much! We went into a VERY CROWDED hallway where Niko, our driver and translator, took over. Isaac and I tried to keep the children calm, as they had not had lunch or a nap and it was an hour passed their normal nap time. Here it is very different than in the US. In the United States, when you have a child with disabilities, often you are greated with a smile or a she/he is precious. In this country, people look at you like you have something exposed or have some strange appendage. We were on the front stage in this very crowded hallway, but we did the best we could in trying to keep the children as content as possible and greated the onlookers with a smile!

When we met with the doctor she looked at me deeply and sternly and said, "Why are you adopting children with Down syndrome?" It was said in a way that spoke of a, they are too much trouble attitude. She went on to talk about all of these PROBLEMS that the children have and in the same stern voice kept asking, "and you know about this?" "Yes. I have a child with Down syndrome. They are a blessing. I believe that all children are made perfectly by the Father." She changed gears a bit, and said, "As a women, it would be a burden too great to bare to continually worry about such sick children." This is where I smiled, thanked the Lord for my wife, and said, "my wife is very excited about having the children come home and is able to stay home with the children to care for them." When the doctor left the room, Isaac and I looked at each other and were grieved for the doctor that she was so off the mark in her assessment based on some physical malady.

When we ended the exam, the doctor, really enjoying her time with Isaac while she was examining Ivanna, I was getting chest xrays for Max, had changed her tune a whole lot and said, "Bless you for taking these children, I wish the best for you." Bless us? We are doing nothing great. We are the ones receiving the benefit of having an opportunity to have these wonderful children be a part of our family! We have the opportunity to see the Lord work in an amazing way. We ARE BLESSED!

The doctor did confirm that Ivanna has a severe heart murmur. We will have that checked upon getting home and poor Max is the king finger sucker. So much that the skin on two of his little fingers have sores on them. We will work on this habit more as he gets established.

We went grocery shopping returned to the apartment. Shortly after we got to the apartment, the power went out. Not fun when it is 16 degrees out with a projected high the next day of 10 degrees. What did we do? All four of us got in bed under a couple of covers and snuggled to sleep. A couple of hours later, the power came back on, praise the Lord (and thank you to those who prayed).

Today it is an interview at the US Embassy and then we should get the necessary Visas. Tomorrow morning at 5:30am, we fly home to enjoy a family thanksgiving dinner on Friday, I hope! Pray that nothing gets delayed. I met another Reeces Rainbow family at the embassy and he stated that someone told him that Visas are being delayed for some reason. I am hopeful ours will not be. Our tickets are purchased and I know that our Lord will come through as He continually does. I appreciate those that pray on our behalf.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Sad Reality Shared

I just skyped with Phillip and Isaac on what is expected to be their last morning in the region we are adopting from. They are now up and getting ready to head over to the orphanage, fill out the necessary paperwork, get Ivanna and Max dressed and take both children out for good. I will admit, I am a bit jealous of this day. I did so yearn for this day as we prepared for the adoption. However, I also know that being home with the rest of my children was needful for me - I missed them so much. So, I wrap up this evening with a butterfly of excitement in my tummy. I am thrilled that Max and Ivanna will be starting their new life today. I am filled with joy at the thought that Isaac and my husband will be cuddling Max and Ivanna all day - and I praise Christ for everything He has allowed for us to experience in this adoption. I praise Him for allowing us this very special opportunity, and for adding to our family in this way.

I also wanted to share a post that a friend of mine published on her blog. I have linked to her blog before. She and her husband adopted a little boy named Aaron - from within the walls of an institution. They were the first to do so with regards to this particular institution. While difficult to read, I believe it is needful to illustrate exactly why it is so imperative to step in and adopt these children prior to being transferred. However, even after they are transferred, let's not forget about them. They are still needing to be rescued. Two children who are adoptable are within this institution: Brady and Heath. Both boys have Down syndrome. I will continue to not just pray for them, but to post and remind ou of them. They need a family. Will things be a little more difficult given their age and the fact that they are coming from an institution? Sure. However, I'm so glad that my Saviour didn't look down at me and declare me "too much work" to be hassled with.
Here is the link to the blog post I speak of: A Sad Reality Part Two:


This is Brady. He is six and was transferred to the institution this summer.

This is Heath. He tugs at my heart. I see Justus in his face.

Psalm 23:5 - Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Do I have enemies? Sure! Enemies of what is pure, honest, lovely, just, and right. My enemies come in all shapes and sizes and manifest themselves in so many ways in my life. Most often, however, the enemy is the one that I stare at in the mirror every day.

There is so much going on as far as complexity, yet on this birthday my Lord and my God has truly prepared a table before me. He has given me every provision and blessing that I could imagine. There is nothing on this earth that I would rather have happening on this birthday, aside from having my whole family present, then what will happen this day.

In a way that only God can orchestrate, our dossier was submitted to the SDA in Ukraine on Charrissa's birthday and the children will be leaving the orphanage FOREVER on my birthday. Why? Because He is God and He continually reminds me that He is over it all. There is not one detail that my Lord does not know about. There is nothing too small or big for Him. I love it when He shows His hand in this way. It is no different than on our wedding day, when my wifes grandmother came to my wife and said, "do you know what today is?" My wife said something along the lines of "my wedding day." To which, her grandmother said, "it is my and your grandfather's 50th wedding anniversary." Amazing! These are just little things and there are dozens more where God is, well, just God, showing Himself in wonderful ways and it is awesome!

Tonight it just so happened that our favorite people were working in Max's groupa. I asked if they would be willing to say something on a video to Max before we left so that I could show it to him later on (this was done via a translator program on my phone - not always perfect but better than cherades by a long shot). They actually invited Isaac and I into the groupa and they showed us the area and all of their toys that they have for the children. I was able to play with all of the other children in Max's groupa - well after we were done the little ones that were in bed when we started, were up and playing with all of us. What a joy! They showed us Max's bed, his toilet area, and his many favorite toys. They really love him here and do a great job of caring for him. This group of care givers in Max's groupa are fantastic. In communicating to them, I thanked them for doing such a great job and asked them how long the children are allowed to stay in the orphanage. The answer was not older than 6 years old - which confirmed what I was told when we were heading to this region. Max will be turning 6 on February 5, just over 2 months away. Thank you Lord for allowing us to save this wonderful boy. Thank you for opening our eyes. Isaac and I had a WONDERFUL time with these workers and bid one another a tearful good bye, as they will not be working tomorrow morning when we take Max and Ivanna on their next step toward home and one big step out of the orphanage.

What will I be doing on my birthday? I have been given the honor of escorting two amazing children, hand made by God, out of an orphanage system. I have been given the honor of preventing them from going to a mental institution, where they would have lived out their days, and I have been given the honor of loving them for the rest of their or my life. This will be an amazing birthday for sure.

My cup runneth over!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works. - Psalm 26:7

During a season in the adoption process that honestly is seeming a bit "transactional", I am thankful for an opportunity to share some things I am thankful for.

1) I am thankful for a love that endures forever from my Lord and Saviour...For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:38-39

-Thank you Lord for showing me an example of how to love. I am forever learning and desirous to love like You.

2) I am thankful for my wife. She is my completer, my best friend, and an amazing partner. I thank the Lord for His providence in providing her to me...Who can find a virtous woman? for her price is far above rubies. -Proverbs 31:10
-May I be a better leader and companion. May I love her better...Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it - Ephesians 5:25 (and again thank you Lord for your example).

3) I am thankful for my children (biological and adopted), who continually bring me joy and blessing...Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them - Psalm 127:5a. Each one brings a special beauty and blessing to our home. Yes, I love the adopted children as much as I do the biological ones, and am just as thankful for them. It was said by someone that I could not love the adopted children as much as the biological ones. All I can say to that thus far is that it is no different than when I met my new born children for the first time and am always amazed at how I immediately love them like I do all of the other children. Thank you Lord for putting that in me.

-May I love them more like you love...The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. -Psalm 145:8...and have the wisdom necessary to lead them and teach them. Thank you for your example.

4) Thankful for being brought to Eastern Europe to adopt Max (Matthew) and Ivanna.

-Max (Matthew): So full of laughter and very intelligent. He will be six years old in February. They send children to the Mental Institution at six. Just a couple of months away. To think that your laughter, wit and love would have been locked away and snuffed out by a society that does not understand that you are perfectly made by a loving Father and Creator who has a perfect plan. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. - Psalm 139:13-14

-Ivanna: Oh girl, I thought that you were going to be a quiet one. You were just lulled to sleep by the room you have been in for five years of your life. The expectations and interactions were little and so you did little. Just a couple of short weeks and you have gone from one that would not eat, were tiny, and would not interact to WALKING, LAUGHING, BOSSING, and ARE ALIVE and LOVE to BE LOVED! You give me so much hope and trust in the power of our Lord and of His kind of love. I will never forget the Ivanna that was so limp and lifeless that I met and just yesterday I came to visit you and you where hanging to the edge of the crib like a monkey...playing and joyful. I love you and am thankful for you and know that you are still a skinny minny, but am thankful you are in my life. You are growing me!

5) I am thankful for friends who pray and walk with us! Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. - John 15:13
-May I be a better friend and more giving. Thank you for giving it all...for loving me enough to purchase my redemption through your shed blood on Calvary's Cross.

6) I am thankful that My Lord continually shows His hand. It is wonderful to watch Him work and know that it could only have come from Him! They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! - Psalm 107:23-30
-May I have more faith to trust in You that You would continue to show Yourself amazing! I never want to stop being amazed at your marvelous works.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Just a little update -
Phillip and my oldest son, Isaac - are still both in country finishing up the last details before coming home with both Max and Ivanna. On Tuesday they spent the day running around to both children's birth regions (a bit of a drive to both cities) and got new birth certificates then they even had time to go back to the orphanage and grab both kiddos and take them to the appropriate agency for passport applications. This was a HUGE move in the right direction and also a BIG answer to prayer that so much was accomplished in one day. We were unsure if he was even able to get both birth certs in the same day due to the hours of operation vs. travel. So the fact that everything was done in one day is awesome! Now ... we wait. We are waiting for the passports, which usually take four days. So, with the weekend being smack dab in the middle of our wait game, that puts us at Monday. Monday is a BIG day. That is the day the kiddos will forever say goodbye to the orphanage. Of course, anything could happen to delay this, but this is the plan. Monday will also be the day that Phillip, Isaac, Max and Ivanna travel back to the capital. Once there they will take the children to the embassy for their medical checks which is required for visa. The embassy thing is a two day procedure. The visas should be given right away, after the required paperwork is filled out and checked and kids pass medicals. Then ... they fly out!!!! So ... again I ask for prayer. That this will all go smoothly. That the children would transition well, that there will be no delay with embassy, that the travelling from region to capital will be safe, and that they can indeed fly out safely next week. THANK YOU!!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Phillip took two videos on his i-phone. I can only seem to upload one, but will try the other one later. It is simply amazing to see my daughter (so HAPPY to be able to say that) already progressing. It speaks LOUDLY to the importance of even a LITTLE investment. She is blowing my socks off and she isn't even out of the orphanage yet. Phillip and Isaac continue to visit her and Max everyday, twice a day. Soon Max and Ivanna will say their goodbyes to the orphanage. I ask that you pray that both children stay healthy during the time they are still in country applying for visas and while on the plane home. Please pray that this next step of acquiring new birth certificates, passport application, and visa medical checks will go smoothly and expeditiously. I am ANXIOUS to have my family ALL together again.

Just look at my precious girl. Do you remember how she was when we met her on November 1st? The progression since then is astonishing - and I praise the LORD for it all.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Back Home

Well, after flying for approximately thirteen hours, being reunited with my children at home and enduring a terrible stomach flu yesterday - I'm back! ;)
My journey home began Tuesday morning with a two hour drive back to the capital. My driver was a bit late in picking me up, and unfortunately that made us late to the embassy. However, it was wonderful that they still saw me and allowed me to fill out the I-600 (petition for orphans) and a medical declaration/affidavit stating that I knew of their medical problems.
After that I headed over to Melissa's apartment. She has also adopted a little girl with Down syndrome. Unfortunately, she is stuck in country a little longer waiting for some unexpected things to clear up. It was nice to spend the rest of my afternoon with her, as she graciously allowed for Justus and I to spend the night in her apartment prior to flying out early in the morning. She and I also met up with the Cornish family - adopting "Monroe" and "Aleksa"- at TGIF in downtown. It was great conversation with good food.
Niko met me at Melissa's apartment at 3am. He helped me get through the airport - and I left Maxim's and Ivanna's country at 5:35am to begin my long journey home. Justus slept for the first flight (a little over two hours). We stopped in Frankfurt, grabbed a coffee and made our way through that maze of an airport. We then flew for nearly ten hours and landed in Seatac. Going through customs was easy, but long! When I finally made it to baggage claim and saw my kiddos pull up in Aunt Donna's car - I about jumped off that curb. I was SO EXCITED to see my sweet treasures!
The next day I was so sick with what I think was a stomach flu. Thankfully that has passed, and now my body seems to be adjusting to the ten hour time difference well. I am so glad to be home, but I think it is Justus who is the happiest. His demeanor is much better since home, and he hardly cries or fusses. This was NOT the case when we were in Europe.
So ... now what? Well, Phillip and Isaac are still there and finishing up the last few things to finish our adoption. Our waiting period is actually already done - as of Saturday (today). However, due to business days - it will really be Tuesday that we receive the court's decrees. After that, the race begins. They will go to the children's birth places and request birth certificates - then they can get passport applications done (this takes about four days - but please pray it just gets done asap) and then they go back to the capital to take the kids to the embassy for visa clearances.
THEN ... they fly home. We are "guessing" that the beginning of December should be when they can fly out. We appreciate your prayer.

Maxim sucks his finger while he is tired.

"Psssst ... I get to go home with you!"

Full of giggles.

I simply love this picture. Just love it. I love her expression and how it is set against the sky - as if that truly is her limit. She is doing so well. Many of you have commented or emailed and stated that you have noticed a big difference in her since we first met her on Nov. 1st. That is true. She is blooming, and she isn't even home yet. Better yet, the groupa told Phillip that they have noticed how she is changing since we have been there. That is a huge blessing, as it testifies to the importance of even just a little investment in these babies. Can't wait to send them updates - so that they can see the importance of loving and caring for these children. So that they can see that we truly love them, and the unlocked potential develop.

Smiling more...

Ivanna is so funny. When she is excited or doing something new or fun, she will hold out her little arms and hands just like this.

I miss that little face! Can't wait to have my WHOLE family home. Christmas is going to be VERY special to me this year ... and a whole bunch of fun!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gifts and Bossy Britches

Today, at the evening visit Phillip and I went and gave gifts to the two groupas we are working with. First we walked into Ivanna's groupa, yes even past the stark waiting area I described in an earlier post. We held out the bouncy seat - that costs a bit over $100 here - and motioned that it was a gift from us. Phillip also had his translator on his phone, and they understood. The babushkas smiled and welcomed us in to help show them how to use the seat. I was even able to put little Masha into the seat for demonstration. Ohhhhh ... I was so excited. I had been eye balling that baby for awhile now, and I gave her a good squeeze before placing her in the seat. We took the opportunity to take pictures. If we look hot and sweaty, it is because we are - man that place is stifling inside! Then another babushka (the very sweet one) showed us Sonya. You will see pictures of her below. She is actually approx. 15 months old and we were told about her disability. I felt like weeping right there. Her future is bleak. Phillip asked to hold her and I was able to get a good shot of him holding her. Please pray for little Sonya. She is so very precious. Then the ladies ushered me even further into the groupa. I was so very pleased to be able to see where my Ivanna had been sleeping. Yes, a small room with many cribs - but everything was clean and tidy. The other room was where they did all the changing and bathing. I was surprised to see bathtubs even! We were also able to give a microwave oven to Maxim's groupa - of which they stated was a need for them.
Like I said earlier, it is not that these people do not care for these children. Resources, knowledge, and people are just limited. I have to say that as I watched Phillip hold Sonya, and the babushkas smile and thank me in Russian over a tiny gift like a bouncy seat - my heart broke - yet again. Ohhhh, if I could I would do this all the time. Go in, offer encouragement, hold babies, teach them about Down syndrome, make relationships ... care for these fatherless. I'm tellin' ya ... there is very little that rivals this feeling of providing all these things to these people. My faith - has been challenged.
Today was actually my last visit here in the orphanage, as I am planning on flying out on Wednesday to come home. It was bittersweet. I SO miss my home and my children still in the U.S. - but... I tell ya, it is VERY hard to look at the faces and say goodbye - not speaking about Maxim and Ivanna. Those two sweethearts I will see again, and forever hold. I speak about the children who still live in this orphanage waiting for families. The walk back this evening was the same. Same ole' smell of leaves being burned. Same old beat up sidewalk. Same view of apartment building after apartment building. However, as I clung to the arm of my man - the walk seemed a bit sweeter tonight. I took a good whiff of the air - just to remember. I soaked in the run down apartment buildings, and this time felt such a burden for these people, that they would be brought the gospel - hope. That is where the answer lies.
Phillip and I (wow cheesy smile, Charrissa!!!) next to the bouncy seat we brought to Ivanna's groupa. A little sweetheart named Masha is demonstrating. Such a sweetpea!

Meet Sonya. She is beautiful, small and I will be praying for her.

This particular babushka LOVES Sonya, and is so very kind to us.

Me, showing them how to rock with their foot. They are a very busy groupa with many children. Yes, that is "Lorie" in the bottom corner.

Phillip holding sweet Sonya.

My sweet friend, Debbie Marks sent these blankets to Matthew (Maxim) and Ivanna. They both have their names on them. It's their VERY FIRST blanket. Their VERY OWN! We are in Maxim's groupa waiting area here. THANK YOU to Debbie and her Mom!!! (her Mom made these)

Debbie not only sent these blankets, but clothing and gifts for these kiddos and the other ones at home. She has been a constant source of encouragement. I LOVE ME SOME DEBBIE! ;)

Oh, and did I mention how Debbie and I met all because we both share the BLESSING of having a child with Ds? Her little Harley is ADORABLE!
Maxim LOVES it! ;)

These pictures are funny! BOSSY BRITCHES Ivanna! That girl doesn't talk, but she is bossy! ;) She will now take your arm and put it near her bottle then with the same arm push your arm to her mouth where she holds open her mouth. This means: FEED ME! This is a BIG difference from the Ivanna we met on November 1st, who would not even take a bottle then.
Pushing Papa's arm.
"Get that bottle Papa!"

Anyhow, please pray that my flight would go well. I have some embassy stuff I need to do tomorrow. So, first, I will drive to the city again and get that done. Then I will stay the night with another adopting Mama and her sweetpea. Then I fly out Wednesday morning. I get a little nervous flying, especially given that Justus has been VERY fussy lately. Phillip will stay here and finish out the waiting period and application for passports and visas. We are guessing he will be home beginning of December or so. See you all ... soon.
** Forgot to mention **
Maxim is sort of sick. He had a fever the other evening. Now, no fever, but he sounds really "junky" in his lungs. He wheezes pretty bad when he breathes. I think this is a common thing with him, and so I suspect asthma. Please pray that he does get better and has good health for his remaining time here in country. Really want to get him checked out by our pediatrician.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Gift

We were playing outside this morning with Maxim and Ivanna, when Lydia - one of the ladies from Maxim's groupa came and asked for me to follow her. I took Ivanna out of my arms and put her in Isaac's lap. I followed her obediently back into the orphanage and up the stairs to Maxim's groupa.
When I walked in Lydia started to beckon to Natasha to come out. Out Natasha came with a pretty little gift bag. She sheepishly handed it to me, and they both motioned for me to open it.
Inside was a beautiful little figurine depicting two white doves. They had also filled out a card, all in Russian. ;) I immediately started to cry. How very sweet. These ladies, who have cared for, loved on, nursed through illness and watched Maxim grown - thought to give ME a gift. I was overwhelmed.
I called my translator and asked her to translate the card, as Natasha read it. It basicly stated congratulations to me as we were adding Maxim to our family and how they knew he was a beautiful child and would do so well.
Despite the language barrier, difference in culture - we all three stood there in Maxim's groupa and wept; hugging and kissing one another on the cheek. I will NEVER forget this moment. I motioned to them both that they were in my heart, that I was thankful for the gift and that I LOVED Maxim so much.
These two ladies have been the most welcoming. They have gone out of their way to try and communicate to us regarding Maxim and various other things. We have their address and plan on sending the asked for pictures of Maxim growing and thriving. We also hope to be a blessing to them with other shipments as well.
Have I said what an incredible honor this whole journey has been? If not, let me say so now -
I have hope to not forget it.

Phillip pushing Maxim (in our stroller) and Justus and Ivanna (sharing a stroller).

Maxim is pushing the bag back and forth and thinks it is hilarious! Ivanna keeps trying to eat those strings on her hat. Silly girl. Justus is just "hangin"

Last night's visit, Isaac playing with Maxim.

In the safety of Maxim's groupa waiting area - and from the encouragement from Natasha, I took off most Ivanna's clothing. It is SO hot in this room, poor baby. When I peel off the layers she always looks so tiny to me. Tonight I scratched her back, she loved it. Natasha keeps trying to confirm that Ivanna really truly is almost five years old (her birthday is November 26th). She then will point to Maxim and I can tell that she is saying that they are the same age, but different in size. Maxim is also pretty tiny, but well nourished. I had a tranlator confirm my assumption. Yes, Natasha is suprised that Maxim and Ivanna are the same age, but so different in size. She cannot believe she is five.
We also celebrated Isaac's birthday yesterday evening. We went to the mall/market area - got some Tiramsu, and fixings to make chicken fingers, garlic mashed potatoes and beets at home. It was yummy. Happy Birthday Isaac!!! He turned twelve!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Vast Contrast

This morning I went inside to Ivanna's groupa first, as I typically do. I usually get her first then head over to Maxim's groupa with Phillip to get him. Then we all go outside to the playground and meet Isaac and Justus there to spend time together. Well, this morning they were doing some kind of medical procedure with her - of which I am not entirely sure. I was told to come back in twenty minutes. I did, and was not permitted to take Ivanna outside. So, we stayed just outside of her groupa door in the hallway and spent time together while the others (Phillip, Maxim and Justus) played outside.
While I fed Ivanna her juice, I looked around me and was reminded of the thought that had occurred to me a couple of days ago: how different Maxim's and Ivanna's groupa were from one another. I speak about the waiting area just outside the groupas. Maxim's groupa had various pictures on the walls in the waiting area. All pictures of children from within these walls, playing or smiling. Ivanna's groupa: not one picture of a child. Maxim's groupa had a carpet down on it so it gave it a more "homey" feel - Ivanna's has a cold hard cement floor with no covering (this is in the waiting area). Ivanna's groupa has a terrible smell as soon as you open the doors. It assaults your senses and reminds you that you are indeed in an institution type setting. The surroundings are a bit dull, and depressing just outside the groupa - as you can tell from the pictures. Maxim's groupa, while very modest - is surrounded with typical things you see that would accompany that of having children around. The pictures, the toys, the carpet on the floor, and the little cubbies to keep their items in. Both of these "waiting" areas serve the same purpose - but one is more welcoming, and the other is stark, as if there isn't a need to welcome visitors, or ready children to play outside.
A vast contrast in both.
Also of difference is how each child, both with Ds, are faring. Ivanna has been raised with all pretty disabled children. Alot of moaning in her groupa. Children rocking back and forth, or crying. There is no music being played. No going outside. No need to get dressed in day clothes.
None of that.
Maxim has been raised in a groupa that consists of children with a range of abilities. When we greet Maxim, he is usually playing, snacking or doing something else that requires activity. We have even met him, while he is still outside with his groupa.
It is difficult to get some of the ladies to smile in Ivanna's groupa.
For the most part, Maxim's caretakers are full of joy, and you can tell they try and love on these kiddos.
How has the difference affected each child? I truly don't know. I think it interesting though. I see a big delay in Ivanna. Maxim, is doing much better. Will I ever be able to pinpoint why Ivanna is so much more delayed? Not sure. It doesn't even matter anymore, because from this point on - her little world is about to change. However, I think the differences in environment for each child does vouch for the importance of investment in each child. How small things, like smiling, touch, a pleasant home - can affect children.
And lest you think that Maxim would have been better off left to his loving caretakers. Let me remind you - that this little boy turns six in February. What does that mean? Well, that means that he would have been taken from this groupa that smiles, plays and snacks and placed into a mental institution. His sentence for life. All the joy you see in his eyes - would have been forever locked away - all because he has Down syndrome.
Here are some pictures that I was able to snap while Ivanna and I played in the hallway.

This is a picture of the doors to Ivanna's groupa. These doors open into a "waiting area" of which I describe above. Her groupa is number six. She has that number on all her clothing. Won't it be nice when she no longer has to wear a number?

This is a picture that I snapped that is out of a window just prior to opening those doors into her groupa. It is at the top of stairs. Looking down you see rubble. That is quite common here. Buildings are very ... run down looking. Just about every building looks as if it needs repair ... except the cathedrals. They all have pretty brass rooves.

Again, looking out the window at a different groupa playing outside. This is just below Ivanna's groupa. You can hear the cries coming out of the windows if you are outside here.

The long hallway to my right. I think this goes into a type of sick room or area. Anyhow, it is where all the nurses and doctors come from carrying boxes of medication for the children.
Another outside picture just showing the roof, etc.
You might get the idea from these pictures that the orphanage is in dire need of repair. However, this is how most buildings look here. The orphanage is actually VERY clean inside. It is older looking inside, with old cement floors and very primitive looking structure. However, they are doing the best with what they have.
We have a great relationship with the staff here. We were reminded that after our court hearing. The representative from the orphanage told us that they liked us very much. Another lady from Maxim's groupa jokingly implied to us in Russian that we should adopt the other two sweetpeas from his groupa. Oh my, if I could I would - they make my heart melt.
Again, this region is a great one as far as our adoption has been concerned. We are thankful.
*someone asked about clothing sizes for Maxim and Ivanna* - I think I am set for Ivanna. I have lot's of things leftover from Chloe and Ellie. They have her in 24 month clothing here, but it is short in the legs. So, I think size 3T will be big - but will work. Maxim will probably wear a size three also.
Thank you to all those who continue to pray. This is not over yet. There is much to accomplish by way of passports, visas etc. Every prayer uttered on our behalf is appreciated.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ivanna Makes Progress

There is a lot to mention in this post. I will try to scan over court. Yesterday morning, we "happened" to find out that court was actually that evening and not the next day (today) as we had anticipated. That was fine, really - no arguments from me. We found out because we had called our facilitator to help translate for us while we were at our morning visit and the babushkas needed to tell us something. Anyhow, we were told to be ready by 4:00pm because court was at 4:30pm.
We were ready ... and waiting at the corner of the orphanage gates. Our translator was late due to traffic, and we were stressed. Great! This is exactly NOT the impression you want to make on the judge - tardiness.
At about 4:30 or right around there, our translator (sweet young woman) pulls up with our driver and off we went ... again dodging traffic, but this time I didn't care that we were passing in what should be no pass zones... just get us there! ;)
We walked into the guarded courthouse and went up cement steps that had seen better days long ago. We gathered in what could be called a foyer, but just a really big hallway and ... yup ... you guessed it ... waited. Even though we were late - we waited. BUT, this is a PRAISE because that meant we still were okay - no tarnished image due to tardiness.
The judge showed up: woman. The orphanage lawyer was there: woman. Another representative from the orphanage: woman. The prosecutor was present: woman, and two representatives for the jury: both women.
Poor hubby - outnumbered.
We were told quickly how things would go - stand everytime addressed. What questions would be asked, and on and on. I was so nervous because all I could really see and focus on was that big ole' cage in the room that they keep the inmates in. YIKES ... talk about intimidating.
We decided that Phillip would do the speaking. (I quietly decided that I would do the praying) ... and our sweet translator would try and keep up.
Really, it was truly no big deal. There were a few questions regarding our size of family. Could we care for two more special needs children with how many children we have already? Would the government give us monetary help? What was our income like? Would we be putting them in daycare and if so, would we be paying the bill?(we think this particular question was asked to see if they were simply going from one institution [orphanage] to another type of government supplemented institution).
A few more questions, and reading of the new names - and we were done!
Now we wait ten days for the court decree to be given, and it to be deemed official and then we are off and running for passport applications, etc.
Explanation of their names:
Matthew Maxim
(Matthew was his photolisting name, and we are keeping it because this is how so many people know him and have been praying for him - but Maxim is his real birth name - and so, while his first name is technically Matthew, we call him Maxim)
Ivanna Marie
(Ivanna was her photolisting name AND her real name. Marie is a family name that every woman in my family has as a middle name)
Now... for the good stuff ... pictures.
Ivanna is making progress with taking fluids. When we first saw her, she was so dehydrated. I tried to give her "my" bottle I had bought, but no go. Then I would spoon apple juice in her mouth. Well, I am happy to say - that today she took TWO whole bottles from me and wanted more.

I love seeing them together. Ivanna really loves watching Maxim. Maxim is always playing, goofing off and giggling. She will smile at his antics. Pretty cute stuff.

She was so cute. She will take your arm and pull it to her so you know she wants more juice. Pretty smart little girl.

Maxim is enthralled with books.

The following pictures of Ivanna in the leaves is from yesterday, but with court being in the evening I did not post them. She was so cute. She sat in the leaves, and then tried to eat them. She put her little hands on the dirt, and then very quickly removed them - as if she was startled at the feeling of it. I have a feeling this is the first time she has felt dirt, or sat on the ground for that matter. Well, she is a Browning now - and I am sure that Chloe and Ellie will give her great mud pie making lessons.

"Oh, what are these crunchy things? They must be for munching on!" For a girl who is on liquids, she sure likes to put things in her mouth. Soon it will be the right kind of solids - food not leaves sweet girl.

Ewwww ... dirt.
Funny girl - there will be so many new things to discover!

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