Saturday, May 23, 2015

TRAVEL - the 10 day waiting period

After our court date, we had 10 days to hang out in the town visiting Gianna.  It's a law in Ukraine that any court decree has a 10 day mandatory waiting period afterward during which anyone can appeal the decree.  Then after the 10 days it is final.  That time ENDS TOMORROW!!!  Tomorrow we will sign Gianna out of the orphanage forever and we will have a new daughter living with us!  Cue freak out!

During this period we have gone to the orphanage every day to visit Gianna.  7 of the 10 days we walked, the other days we took a car depending on the activities of the day.  It took about 40 minutes each way.  Most days we visited between 10-12 and one of the days we visited from 4-6.  Those are the orphanage visiting hours for people like us.  We have had sunshine and clear skies every single day and today looks no different.

These flowers are amazing.  They have little snails living on them, and no matter how wimpily you kick off the thistle heads, they always sail 10 feet into the air! :)  A fun walk activity.

One day the whole family walked together

We did various activities with Gianna, most of the time we made our rounds on the playground equipment, then went in the shade to color or draw or dig through mom's purse for lotion and coverup to play with.  The last few days I brought nail stickers and stuff and practiced braiding her hair.

Her favorite, the merry go round
practicing braids

nail stickers

The rest of the days, we tried to have a variety of activities to entertain the boys.  We tried to make each day a little different for our sake, too - to break the monotony a bit.

There are a few playgrounds close to the clinic.  Carrie and Drew took them to these often while we visited Gianna.  This ride was their favorite - it was pretty close to Cedar Point worthy.

This play place was also a favorite activity while we visited.  It was at a shopping center close to the orphanage.

One day we visited the orphanage together as a family. (they allowed us to do that one time)

We visited the Ackerman fortress one morning.

It was really fun climbing around on the stairways and walkways at the fortress.  Kian was delighted to see a "real castle"!

ice cream was a popular evening activity, of course.

Carrie helped him after it dropped on the ground for the 3rd time.  Breaking the parts off where it fell made it smaller and smaller and we were afraid he wasn't going to have any ice cream left to eat!

A few evening we had a taxi take us downtown to visit the restaurants and parks.  The parks have various activities, like riding around in RC cars...

playing on the statuary...

eating at the fine dining establishments...

...and saying hello to the gnome statues.

Another morning we visited the Black Sea.  It was a delightful time of dipping our toes in the ice cold water, eating ham and cheese and chips, and building sand castles.  The boys loved it and so did we.

So now our Bilgorod time is coming to a close.  I think we sufficiently filled our days with good family time, and now we are ready for Gianna to join us on the rest of the journey!  Pray that Gianna feels peace, and if she feels sad or scared that I am able to comfort her even though I don't speak the language.  Continue to follow as the story unfolds!

Updated adoption reading list

A while ago I did a post about the adoption books I've read.  Well, that list has increased enough, I think it's time to update that.  Each book has had its relevant parts and I've learned a little something from each one.  I have indeed, once again, read each and every one of these books cover to cover and taken extensive notes on many.  After reading so many books about the challenges of adoption, it still does not deter us from our goal.  It makes me grateful for the resources out there and the information I learn.

**= faves  ones in red are the new ones.

**Toddler Adoption by Hopkins-Best:  First opened my eyes to the unique challenges that the toddlers have when being adopted.  Too young to understand what's going on, too old to be unaffected by the confusing move that's happening to them.  This book threw me for a loop but gave me a lot of hope.

Mei Mei by Bowen - pictures of Chinese orphans.  One look in their empty eyes and you feel a little queasy.

Welcome Home! by Lisa Schwartz - a collection of essays written by adoptive families.  So very interesting to read about the way things were done in the past compared to now.  Also to hear perspectives after 20 years have gone by, and some stories from the adoptees.

**The Waiting Child by Champnella - a favorite.  The world stopped and I couldn't put the book down.  I had to know if Xiao Mei Mei comes home!!!

Adopt Without Debt - Not a lot of new information, but was helpful to see how others did it.  It can be done!

The Grace Effect - required reading.  Zack and I read it together and we were intrigued by this family's perspective on the plight of the orphans in Ukraine.  Many of the things in the book were confirmations of what we've heard from many, many others.

When Work and Family Collide - an easy read about keeping family a priority.  A great reminder.  Recommended by someone we met from Christian Children's Home of Ohio.

**How We Love Our Kids - A game changer in parenting.  Learn about yourself and how you parent and small changes can make a huge difference.  A great, great book.

**The Connected Child by Karen Purvys - Dude, if I could just download this whole book to my brain, that would be greeeaaatttt.  All about forming attachment, enhancing brain chemistry, and helping your child process sensory input.  It's like seriously cool stuff.

**Parenting with Love and Logic - the nuts and bolts of our parenting theory.  So, so, cool and so, so, doable.  Every day I think about this book.  We've been practicing some things even on our very young ones!

Love and Logic Magic birth-6 years - tips for a challenging age.  Some helpful insights.

**Loving Our Kids on Purpose - inspired by Love and Logic, it puts the principles in a refreshing Christian perspective that is also freaking hilarious.  (Weird, I know).  Zack and I laughed until our guts ached.  What a great book.  Our favorite of all time.

**The Complete Book of International Adoption - recommended by a fellow prospective adoptive parent.  This book is the international adoption 101, start-here resource.  A great beginning course on everything you are going to need to know.  Shows you where to start.

In On It - what adoptive parents wish their families would know.  A good book, but I can't quite bring myself to make my family read it.  It's a great resource on adoption terminology and sensitivity.

The Edge of Unthinkable - recommended by a friend, this is a great book from the perspective of someone who went through the foster system from an abusive background.  A very important read.

Successful Adoption - the same type of "101" book as The Complete Book of International Adoption, only with a Christian perspective.  That was nice to read those Christian insights.

Adopting the Hurt Child - this one frightened me and had me in tears in the first chapter.  What some children go through just leaves you feeling like a big cloud of black in a dark hole in the bottom of a pit.  They don't mince words in this book, and the stories are horrific.  That being said, they present a lot of hope and tools for healing.  Next on my list are the sister books, Parenting the Hurt Child, and Brothers and Sisters about adopting sibling groups.  Wish me luck!

Welcoming a Brother or Sister Through Adoption - This book was gold in knowing how to help biological children when integrating an adopted sibling.  I went to a seminar by the author which was also cool.

Our Own: Parenting and Adopting the Older Child - Wonderful resource specifically regarding the challenges of adopting an older child.  Provided information about school, language, and siblings that other books only touched on.  So many practical ideas and interventions.

The Out of Sync Child - Specifically about Sensory Processing Disorder, something common in children from orphanage settings.  Also provided a lot of insight into my biological child, Logan.  Everyone processed sensory information differently, this book opened my eyes to that world and helped me appreciate everyone's unique abilities.

**I Love You Rituals - recommended by the counselor we will be using when home.  This book was AWESOME.  It teaches you all sorts of rhymes, games, greetings, etc to incorporate into your day.  Kian and Logan were wonderful guinea pigs and love the little games and things.  I even tried one already on Gianna and she picked it right up.  This would be a wonderful read for any family, but especially in those families who are fostering attachment or going through changes or challenges.

Attaching in Adoption - the book I read directly before the travel process.  All sorts of ins and outs regarding attachment.  The How To manual.  Laid out the different attachment styles in a helpful and detailed way.  The "Phases" were so helpful in laying out how building attachment works, whether starting as an infant or as an older child.  Goes through challenges and how to address them.  I took more notes on this book than any other.  A very helpful resource.

Building the Bonds of Attachment in Deeply Troubled Children - a gut-punch of a book.  Outlines a narrative of an attachment troubled child and her journey in American foster care.  Comments about the tremendously difficult task the therapeutic foster mom faces as she builds the attachment bonds with this child.  SO helpful in its realistic approach and also terrifying in its own way.

The Blessing - a book gifted to the moms in our mom's group.  It talks about the unconditional love that parents should show to their children, and how to ensure that children know and feel it.  A great read, refreshing after all the heavy adoption books.

This Means War - a dramatic book about the realities of the spiritual battle involved in foster care and adoption.  It was unapologetically negative - the author wanted those going into foster care or adoption to be totally aware of the difficulties they may face, so that they know their need for God's help and they do not go into it with unrealistic expectations.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

TRAVEL - restaurants

A note to Ukrainian restaurants:

1. Americans are ok to have in your establishment.  Even though we are loud, we tip well if told that tipping is accepted in Ukraine, and while in "vacation mode".

2.  An English menu pretty much guarantees that we will visit more than once.  Even if translated poorly.

3.  You don't have to go get the English speaking person who doesn't know all that much English anyway.  If you just talk to us and make enough gestures, we'll get the drift.  Or better yet, we don't have to talk at all.  I'll just point to things.

Mmmmmm, Ukrainian food
*gobble gobble gobble*

4.  Whatever you end up bringing, I'll eat it anyway.  Everything is super good, even if I don't recognize it.  I'm just happy that you didn't throw me out for not understanding you!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Saturday, May 16, 2015

TRAVEL - Bilgorod

Day 1 completed, day 2 nearly so.  I'm starting to feel like I can do this!  Our visits have gone well and Gianna is eager to see us each day.  The walk to the orphanage is doable and it means we don't have to pay for a taxi - even though it's only a buck fifty. :)  The exercise does us good.

We are staying in the third floor of a Christian medical clinic.  They are like a multi-physician practice and the third floor is a series of hostel-like rooms.  There are community bathrooms, showers, and kitchen.  It's cheap and perfect for what we need.  There are enough larger common rooms for the kids to play and not be confined to one room as in a hotel.  There is another family staying here.  They are refugees from Donetsk in the conflict region.  They have been here for about a year now I believe.  The couple is very nice, and have a little girl Kian's age.  They were fast friends and have played well together.  There is an older boy and a little 9 month old dude and a grandma.  They are a warm and friendly presence.
Playing bubbles with Victoria and Victor

We have found out which groceries we like best, as well.  Everything is so cheap and fresh, we have sincerely been enjoying the food!
Our Ukraine groceries

Thursday, May 14, 2015

TRAVEL - trip 2 begins

So the trip here was not the easiest thing I've ever had to do... There was never a time when I wanted to break down and sob, but I wasn't necessarily enjoying myself.  I had to remind myself that my child is NOT the first NOR the last to cry on an airplane!  Logan had such trouble staying confined to the seat.  We walked around some, but it's just not as nice as it seems when your kid is big and the aisles are small.  Never failed, every time we lifted off what when Logan decided he had to pee in the potty.  Kian did pretty well with the entertainment part, but he did not sleep at all which was rough.  My children, like many, get noisy and restless the tireder they get.  Like a stream of whiney nonsense-noise.  It's a lot of fun.  All that negativity aside, though and the trip was only 6/10 on a 1-10 scale of unbearableness.  And it's over, so that's a good thing!  :)  Carrie and Drew were wonderful to have along, they helped a lot.  We were afraid that some of the transport pieces were going to be difficult because we did not bring our car seats (they don't use them in Ukraine like we do in the States).  That was a non-issue, though, because we took a shuttle from the hotel to the airport, and then a bus from LaGuardia to JFK.  Then... we were in Ukraine and it quit mattering. :)  We were so so so so tired when we arrived in Belgorod after about 30 hours of travel, and the kids were beyond.  Logan had fallen into his third nap/trance and Kian was playing ADHD style to fight off his stupor.  They were in Carrie and Drew's quality care while we were taken on some paperwork tasks.  Then with those done, we were finally able to sleep off some of our jet lag.  I've never experienced my children falling asleep so fast as they did that night.  Supper and baths and books and BOOM asleep before we had the lights out.  Pretty similar for us.  We stayed up to do a few minor things to get ready for the court and then we were asleep the moment our heads hit the pillows.  This morning was court day!  I wish someone would have told me to write down some of our answers to the court questions, so we didn't have to start every question with "Um".  But with the help of our translator's briefing on what types of questions they would ask, it went pretty well.  The best part is, they concluded that we should be Gianna's parents!  We were granted permission to take her on a celebratory outing to eat and to the park.  Then we hung out at our hotel with her until we had to return her to the orphanage.  She was shy at first when we all were together (Kian and Logan included), but she warmed up to them over time.  She was so excited about the doll and necklace we gave her.  She colored a bunch while I did needlepoint and it was really sweet to see her so quiet and focused on a task.  She was also very excited when I showed her the clothes that I brought for her.  She wanted to try one of the outfits on and I was glad that it fit her.  After we returned her to the orphanage I made supper and we went on a short walk to the grocery store and Logan passed out soon after.  Kian followed soon after.  All in all a very full, exciting time so far!!!  Now starts the waiting.  In 11 days the court decree becomes final and we can sign her out of the orphanage.  We will be trying to find things to fill all 11 days and make them somewhat interesting, in between our visits with Gianna at the orphanage and to find things for the boys to occupy their days.  The adventure continues!!!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

TRAVEL - ready again


Trip #2, here we come!  Hang tight Yulianna, my sweet!

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Pink is our little one's favorite color - so this crazy nesting mama went a little crazy.  Pink crazy.  She requested her room to be painted pink.  Pink it is!

She loves dolls.  The kids have a doll with one outfit, and I had some infant clothing that I loved and bought just in case we had a girl.  I have such trouble giving them up because they are so darn cute, so I decided to take a few favorites and refashion them for the doll I have.  I thought the results were pretty cute. :)

Little pantlets after


Also, I went shopping.  There are so many cute hairbows at Sol's in Berlin and I went a little nuts.  Just a little nuts, cuz I want her to be able to choose her own when she returns.  So I consider it harrrdddly nuts, and mostly okay.

Oh yeah, there was a tutu also.  And the headband is from Save and Serve so it doesn't count. :)

There's tons of pink in my laundry basket! It's really cool and exciting!

We leave on Tuesday, and the next several days are simply packed with getting things ready.  Ready to go, and ready to come back. :)

Saturday, May 2, 2015


Well, since yesterday was a holiday, the SDA probably won't get to "approving" our court date until Monday, but our facilitator said to go ahead and book tickets.  She is fairly certain we'll get that date. :)  Now we just wrap things up here again and get ready to head out again!  We've been enjoying the fine weather and getting as much outside time as possible.