Hoping to someday find M's brother adopted in the U.S. -
Myckola Oleksandrovych Markov - 8/26/2003

Monday, December 30, 2013

PAE

I was gonna write a post about how exhausted I am. I even coined a new term: (Post Adoption Exhaustion)  PAE

I spent so much time running around totally wired to get every.last.thing.done for our adoption, and fundraising, and prepping the house for more kids... I had to take care of M's IEP and medical stuff before we left.  She had sedated casting and botox in the spring.  We're STILL trying to sell our house. (still, so please someone buy it!)  everything has been so crazy and then we travelled to Ukraine.

6 1/2 weeks of crazy stress away from my kids and our lives.

Then we came home and had the rush of initial medical appointments, dental appointments, school meetings (craziness!!), and the whole crazy thing of coming home with 3 new boys. forever.

I was so relieved to be back that I was literally falling asleep on our first day home, which I attributed to jet lag.  Just so relieved.  We went to church after two weeks home and I was just siting in my chair during service like, "yes. I can go to sleep now.  There is no paperwork I have to do to make sure my kids can come home."

So, this post was gonna be about how exhausted I am suddenly realizing I have been for apparently most of the year, but then I went to tell my kids goodnight.  I had 6 little people tell me they love me.

I think the exhaustion is worth it.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Three Years



Three years ago Phillip and M touched down in the U.S.

After spending 4 weeks in Ukraine we came home after court.
Phillip went to work for 1 week, then went back to Ukraine for 10 more days to finish the process and bring M home.
I stayed in the U.S. with the boys.
We spent Christmas apart.  
It was honestly SO HARD.

Finally on December 29, 2010 we were together again!



The kids meeting each other for the first time.

The next morning the kids were looking out at the dusting of snow.




The year "after the airport" was one of the hardest years of my life. 
Ok THE HARDEST.

Ultimately though this journey we set out on to bring M home led us to 3 more.

She has taught me so much about love, and acceptance, and made me an expert on how to advocate for my children.  Three years ago I had no idea what OT or PT or an AFO was.  She has shown us that Special Needs really aren't that big of a deal.  I've learned about the damage that's done to a child by being institutionalized from birth.  I've learned how significant my seemingly unimportant role as a stay at home mom really is.  

Loving babies matters.  Bonding matters.  

I've also learned never to write M off on anything.  Things people said she'd never do, she does.  Things I thought she'd never do (and I set the bar high!) she does.  
She has learned to love.  She has learned that family is forever.  She has learned boundaries.

She is sympathetic.
She loves babies. 
She is kind.
She is SO smart!
She wants to be a mommy "just like you mom."

She adores me, and I don't deserve it.

She is the most determined individual I have ever met.  

Sometimes I wish I could go back and do some things differently in our first 18 months home.
I wish I had known more about what orphanage life does to a child.  
I wish I had known better how to help her heal.
I wish that I had not been so frustrated.
I wish I hadn't felt so ashamed for not knowing what to do.
I wish I had found support groups sooner.

I am SO thankful for my adoptive mama friends.  I would be so lost without them!
They truly were the light at the end of my tunnel.
Their advice and support saved me.
  
I've learned so much because of M and its made me a better mom.
Because of her I have gained a wealth of knowledge in how to parent kids from hard places.

There is a quote that says, "Fall down seven times, stand up eight."  
I fell a lot.
But I stood back up.


    

We love you M!
Happy Family Day!!
  

  

Friday, December 27, 2013

Haircuts

I took all 6 kids to get haircuts today.  "Are all the boys brothers?" Add that to the list of stupid things people say when you have a lot of kids.  "No I just take all the neighborhood kids with me so I can pay for their haircuts too." 
The boys wanted designs in their hair like they do in Ukraine. I said OK.  Well...W and D labeled themselves for me.  In case I forget what the back of their head looks like.
His eye looks red b/c we just removed his patch.  Its really fine! His design was thankfully not a letter! LOL!

Teeth

E came to us missing 3 top teeth. Someone punched him in the mouth in Ukraine at school and knocked them out.  He still had his top right middle one though...until today.  I took them for pizza after haircuts and was like "E! Where is your tooth!?" The kids said he pulled it out and threw it down in the yard.  He was like "yeah. Nee mah zoobya!". Poor baby.  He already has a hard time eating due to low tone in his mouth and not having teeth isn't helping!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!




There are three stages in every work of God:


Impossible.



Difficult.


Done.



We'll let 2013 go down in the books as the year we God did the impossible.
Again.






Sunday, December 22, 2013

4th Advent Candle - Love

Today at church our pastor introduced our new boys to the congregation.  It was originally going to be a "baby announcement" type thing.  I sent our boys' "born in our heart date, but I was asked to give a little background info so he could explain to the congregation what was going on since we obviously didn't just give birth to a 7, 9, and 11 year old boys!

I sent an email trying to summarize our past 1 1/2 years...  I told him to just pick from it what he wanted to share.

Well, I was super surprised when we were being introduced this morning, and he read the entire email!  Phillip and I were nearly in tears at the end because he shared our whole story.  How we started out just wanting to host a girl.  How we found out there were no girls left... and we almost didn't.  Then we saw V's face.  And it was just for summer...  and then we had some sort of completely irrational behavior where we decided to not just bring V back, but bring D for Christmas also.  Then D asked us to adopt them.  And we knew that we couldn't.  We knew there was no way we could do it.  So we told God we would because if it was what He wanted then He would have to show up with $40K and a larger vehicle.  Oh and did He ever.  Then we learned that our boys might be separated, so we chose to host D before we travelled to try to keep them all together.  Then arrived in Ukraine only to find out that the baby was gone...  but we chose to focus on the 3 we had, and we finally arrived back home in the U.S. on the 3rd anniversary of when we landed in Ukraine to adopt Mariah.

So here we are, sitting in our seats just listening to this summary of our past year.  Then everyone clapped...and it was like a dream.  I'm thinking to myself, did we do this?  Did this really happen?

Thank you God that we had the faith to say yes.  Look at what we'd be missing if we had said "no."  

 It means so very much that our boys were recognized and welcomed into our church.  After our pastor introduced us, we did the responsive reading for the congregation and Denis lit the 4th advent candle.

The first three candles are HOPE, PEACE, and JOY.

The fourth candle is LOVE.

As God showed His love towards us, we are to also show love.

It just seems surreal that this time last year, we had just met this boy.  I don't think we even went to church the first Sunday he and V were here because they were so tired.  Now here we are just one year later and he is no longer an orphan.  He is our son.  

Can I just say my heart is really too full to describe how awesome this moment was?  Our hope from sharing our story is not that people think we are awesome.  We're not.  I've had people ask me to help them fundraise because, "You were so successful at it!."  No, I was not.  Really.  It was not me.  God brought that money in.  What we hope comes from sharing our story is that others will have the courage to say "yes" when it is impossible.  Because NOTHING is impossible with God.  Nothing.

And LOVE.  Love changes everything.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lost in translation

This morning D told us "Me click click cheeken dom. Me dy cheeken yist. Cheeken say cluck cluck. Me say OK cheeken."

Translation: I unlatched the chicken door and fed the chickens. They are happy.

This evening we went to Pizza Hut so the kids could use their book it coupons.  There was a sign on the wall... and there was no good way to explain it was a joke.  "Dis say no veelka! Me no veelka!"


They love the marinara dipping sauce...

Friday, December 20, 2013

ELL, Child Study, IEPs - "after the airport"

So we've been home 5 weeks.  We're in the "after the airport" end of the honeymoon phase.  Everyone is adjusting to school and family life.  My new 3 are going to be getting ELL services at school, and while the school has had to get creative with how to give them the help they need, at this point I am pleased that everyone is working to support them.  There is only one ELL teacher in our county so the boys only get 30 minutes/week with her, but the rest of the school staff is working on ways to help them in "Read Well" and "Title 1."  Things didn't go smoothly at.all. with Mariah's IEP, so I was really anticipating more of the same BUT I have been pleasantly surprised so far.  That just makes me so happy.  There may need to be more tweaking a little later, and I will be the first one to step up and ask for more help if my child needs it, but I finally feel like maybe I can take a breath now.

This blog is like our family journal and I try to write things down so I don't forget them.  E has significant speech problems and possible hearing loss.  He also has significant vision problems.  He was given an unfair label in Ukraine because of how these things affected him, and I have made it my goal to make sure he gets what he needs here.  I also suspect APD or SPD, but that remains to be seen.

He is the sweetest little boy and has fit in so well with our family.

We also just had another IEP meeting for M and that went well, so I signed the paperwork to make it all "legal and binding" today.  She's having issues with the bus and people putting their stuff under her feet, and squishing her against the window.  That got put into the IEP as well though, so I hope to have it all taken care of.  The good thing about her is she totally knows what is supposed to be going on and she will tattle on anyone who doesn't do things the right way.  She is a great advocate for herself.

She also got sent to the principal's office for hitting kids on the bus.  I'm not sure HOW because she can hardly hit with her right arm and she's up against the window with her left... so yeah.  She said she did it though so she got sternly scolded and sent back to class.  I'm actually glad they did that because she tends to get away with a lot more than she should simply because she's "disabled."  M's mind is NOT disabled so she will use that to her advantage sometimes!

D had Polar Express Day today and to my surprise he wore his pajamas after being horrified I sent the little kids in theirs yesterday.

Today was early dismissal and the start of Christmas Break!  Yay!




School Fun

We have had pajama day. Polar Express Day and Christmas parties!!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New Special Shoes

M calls her AFOs "special shoes." She has called them that since we got her first pair right after adopting her.  Well, her doctor decided it was time to try SMO's.  She is doing so great and is excited about shorter braces :). She got casted for the new ones at her last appointment.

Also sick is...

This one also had strep.  He isn't a fan of medicine!

Monday, December 16, 2013

An Update and pictures


First off, thanks to everyone who was praying for Wy.  He spent 2 days in the hospital and was released this morning.  His ultimate diagnosis was a scratch that got a secondary infection.  Somehow the scratch also got poison ivy in it.  Evidently he is horribly allergic to poison ivy and THAT is what was blistering his skin and spreading all over his body.  His pediatrician and the ER doctors thought he had MRSA or impetigo and placed him on isolation on the children's floor.  I do not usually panic because I can't stand not being able to think, but I spent some moments panicking.  
His culture finally came back this morning as strep.  He had a strep infection ON his ear which is probably why he had strep throat when I took him to the ER for his ear last week.  

In any case, he is on the mend now and this mama is SO relieved.

We also had an IEP meeting at school today for M.  Phillip went instead of me because I was still in the hospital with Wyatt.  I was supposed to go Christmas shopping with my brother today, but ... two weeks of Wy being sick and then hospitalized was totally unexpected.  I am exhausted and the other 5 kids (3 who have only been home a month) missed me.  Our bank account hasn't seen a paycheck since before we left for Ukraine and its not loving us either.  Phillip did great at the IEP meeting though.  
M will receive an extra OT session per week which I felt she needed, but didn't think they'd ever agree to.  Not being in compliance with her IEP while we were in Ukraine put them in a precarious position though.  Her IEP process has always been stressful, but I think everyone is on the same page now.  Having her private PT attend certainly helped.  

Over the next few weeks we will be trying to get ELL services for our new boys.  E also needs speech therapy.  I will be taking him to a private therapy center for an eval because his speech is truly a mess.  Little man has several things going on, but the most noticeable is his extremely garbled speech and inability to chew properly.  He also stomps and clomps around the house a lot, running into stuff, and the poor child has fallen down the steps at least 10 times.  Not even M who has CP falls down the steps.  We really can't figure out why he keeps doing it, but we've made him hold the rail and ascend or descend VERY SLOWLY.  His poor vision could be playing a part, but he really needs a more extensive evaluation by a professional so we can get him some help.  I don't buy the diagnosis we were told in Ukraine.  He's not intellectually disabled.  He just can't speak clearly.  In Ukraine though, they equate sounding "stupid" to "being stupid."  No one even thought to check his ears... which is what we are doing next.      

Two week ago we had a few family photos taken.
It was super important to have an updated picture of all of us.
Our family has been in the process of changing and growing with hosting 3 times over the past 1 1/2 years.  We've been together, apart, together, apart, and...
finally now, we are complete! 




Sunday, December 15, 2013

Update on Wy

At the ER we were told they were admitting Wy for a non-responsive staph infection. MRSA, impetigo, staph...its all the same thing. Scary! I was told he would need to be at the hospital for days to get it under control.  They put him on the children's floor and started IV antibiotics and steroids.  The culture came back negative last night so we waited till this morning for the second one.  It also came back negative.  The doctor told us this morning that his ear is infected, but its not staph.  They *think* that he got something in the cut, most likely poison ivy.  Then he had a strong allergic reaction to it that spread through his bloodstream and started breaking out all over his body.  The good news is that its not staph that is all over him.  The steroids are helping the itching and the blisters.  The antibiotics are helping everything else.  I am so so so relieved. Hearing your little guy has an infection that isn't responding to anything that should kill it is terrifying.  I am horribly allergic to poison ivy so this explanation makes sense to me.  Poison ivy blisters my skin off as well.  I guess my poor baby got into it somewhere and this very random series of events led to what happened.  We are still at the hospital as he is still uncomfortable and gave every a good scare yesterday.  They want this stuff gone before they let us go home.  He still has an IV and is getting medication.  Thanks for praying for him!  I was a real mess!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Pray

Please pray for "Wy."  For 2 weeks now he's had an infection on his ear that started as a small and seemingly insignificant scratch get progressively more and more infected.  We've been to the ER once (where they did NOT culture his open oozing wound) where he was diagnosed with strep in his throat and staph on his ear.  Since then we've been to the Urgent Care twice where they've taken two cultures.  We're waiting on the doctor to call us with the results now.  He's on multiple antibiotics but the infection has spread from his ear to his neck, back, torso, and isn't showing any signs of getting better.  They think its MRSA but its not responding to the MRSA drugs.  We've tried colloidal silver, Thieves oil, Tea Tree oil, and several other things.  NOTHING is making it better and it continues to spread despite him being on two kinds of oral antibiotics as well.

I've never been actually scared for any of my children's health, but I am today.

Please pray for him.  I think we are probably headed to the hospital for IV antibiotics once the culture comes back and they know what strain of staph he has.

Please pray for our family.  We have had a nightmare of a week.  We are no strangers to spiritual warfare, but the assault that has been this week has left us wondering what we have done to be on the receiving end.  Family, school, health, finances, EVERYTHING.  Its honestly scaring me.  Its so bad we can literally feel the force of what is coming against us and we need the prayers of our friends and church family.  Please.

Our pastor wants to share our story at church this Sunday.  At this point it looks like we won't even be able to be there.

Please pray for my baby.  I have never been so scared for him.  This was my worst fear while we were in Ukraine.  I am so thankful to be here with him now.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Slava Ukraina!

Everyone should be watching the events in Kyiv as Ukrainians protest for their freedom.  

Four of my children are Ukrainian and American citizens.  

This country of our heart needs our support.  
They want to be independent and they won't let their government continue to oppress them and force them to join with Russia.  They want to be part of the EU.


Go to www.kyivpost.com for live updates.

This is the Euromaidan in English Facebook Page

This is important!  

Last night the Berkut (special forces police) tried to remove the peaceful protestors from Independence Square by force.  People were gassed, they were beaten.  People have been arrested and charged simply for protesting.  The live streaming at one point had a woman saying, "Europe do you hear us?  We want to be independent!  We don't want to go with Russia!  We know you can hear us!"  They are asking for the bank accounts of their corrupt politicians to be frozen because they have their money in foreign bank accounts.  They want sanctions on their president his political party leaders.  They are asking for him to resign so they can hold new elections because he is NOT listening to what his country wants.

Our government issued these statements:

“The United States expresses its disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kyiv's Maidan Square with riot police…and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity, read the statement. “This response is neither acceptable nor does it befit a democracy.”

"As church bells ring tonight amidst the smoke in the streets of Kyiv, the United States stands with the people of Ukraine. They deserve better."

Our country fought for our freedom and overthrew an oppressive government in a revolution.  We should be the first ones standing in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.




SLAVA UKRAINIA!


and yes... I realize my kid held his flag upside down.  We will work on a re-take after school.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Three Weeks


We've been home three weeks now.  Typing that seems like such a short time.
The boys have been to an IA Clinic at a Children's Hospital.
We've done chest x-rays, blood work, gotten referrals for pediatric dentist, orthodontist, ophthalmologist, ENT, audiologist, and are trying to figure out speech therapy.
We've gotten prescriptions for parasites and fingernail fungus.  
We found out our little guy is actually 75% for his age LOL!
We have appointments for more fillings in the teeth, and are getting ELL services set up at school.
We've crammed a lot into three weeks.  

Yet the biggest change has been in my boys.
"Mam me pakopayet ranook ee yist schola ok?"
translation = "Mom, I figured out how to buy breakfast at school every morning this week.
(they use words they know I understand lol)
And to think I was WORRIED how they would EVER figure out how to buy lunch if they needed to.

Our adjustment has been exhausting.  We are dealing with survival of the fittest type orphanage behaviors mostly.  There is not a lot of kindness or consideration for others shown in an orphanage so we are working on that here.  Everything has to be "fair" or pouting ensues.  They all tried to sit in the front seat of my van one day after school.  4 boys in one seat all on top each other and all yelling at me about the other 3.  It was ridiculous... we drive down our driveway to the house and yet its some sort of thing to smack each other over and cry if you have to sit in *gasp* the backseat with the other children.  

I know where the behavior comes from of course.  A lifetime of nothing EVER being fair.  Its take or be taken from.  Here though, we don't do that.  I've told them over and over and over again, "Our family is KIND.  We LOVE."  E summed it up one day in Ukraine when I scolded him for hitting someone and we told him that at our house, we don't hit.  
He said, "In America I won't hit.  Here, I hit.  They hit me."

We've also had to deal with swearing in Ukrainian.  They thought I didn't know what the words meant.
Well, I understand the language better than they thought and I can type Cyrillic into Google translate what I don't know.  The look on the boys' faces when I jumped all up in their mess for calling each other a B@)#h was priceless. (for real though boys!?)  The other fun one is @$$hole.  Its such a long drawn out word in Ukrainian.  The American version is easier to say, and I hope they never learn it.  I however now have a list of Russian swearwords printed out on my fridge that I refer to.  
Its a great way to add to your vocab.  

They also call each other "You cow!" or "You pig!" all the time. Now those I really just laugh at because really.  One boy said, "Oh I didn't say HE was a cow, I said that I was a cow.  I LOVE cows."  Oh?  Well cows sleep outside kiddo.  If you want the full experience and all since you love cows so.very.much. 

Denis has probably been the one who has just transformed.  He has gone from a distant, withdrawn, shell of a little boy who didn't even try to communicate with us and spent weeks zipped up to his nose in the same jacket to a funny, happy, boy who is always saying "Oh mammy ohn mah... what is dis Enlesko-oo?"  He is trying so hard to learn English and went from dreading school to loving it.  

Overall we are doing well.  The boys are happy to be here and they will eventually learn what it means to be loved unconditionally.  They take correction pretty well for the most part, and they do try to be good, but it breaks my heart that they seem to think being punished for breaking a rule means we don't love them.  
V asks me almost every night, "Mom was I a good boy?  You love me?  No more Ukraine?"

I love them so much.  It breaks my heart that they just don't quite get what forever is yet.


Forever means you will never be alone again.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Authenticity has never been so hard



"I refuse to be fake, but authenticity has never been so hard."



These words were spoken to me by another adoptive mom.  She gets it.  The balance between expressing to others how things really are in your life, and then holding your breath for the judgement and misunderstanding that seems to often come.  

I refuse to be fake because others are walking this same road and need to know they are not alone.  
I refuse to be fake because people who are considering this same path, need to know what its like.  
I refuse to be fake because its exhausting! 
I refuse to be fake because its a lie.
I refuse to be fake because who we are now is ok with us.  

I refuse to be fake, but authenticity has never been so hard.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Quote

"There will be haters. There will be doubters. There will be non-believers, and then there will be you – proving them wrong."

Sunday, December 1, 2013

2 weeks home

Ok, so its been a few days more than two weeks :)

On the way to Thanksgiving Dinner

D pinky wresting my little brother


Eli was so over taking a photo, but I thought my brother should have a pic with his mini-me.

First Sunday going to church with SIX

Playing the Wii

Closet Murals

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Support

I just wanted to take a moment to say that if you know an adoptive family, please take the time to send them an encouraging message, text, card, blog comment, or phone call.  They are fighting the spiritual battle for the life of a child (or children), often for months and months as they wade through the process, and they need to know you care.  ESPECIALLY if you are their pastor or small group leader, but also if you are their friend or neighbor.  What I've found is that adoptive families often choose to adopt because they understand brokenness.  What that also translates to is that understand not having anyone because they do not have anyone they can count on.  Often they do not have the support of a strong Christian role model.  Often they do not have the support of parents.  Often they do not have the support of their own family.  They might still be struggling to come to terms with loss and abandonment in their own life.  While this leads to a great empathy and understanding of what it feels like to be an orphan, it also means they need you.

So please, take a moment and let them know you care.  If you attend a church, let your pastor know they could use an encouraging word and lots of prayers.  Maybe they've had a bad experience with "the church" in the past and are afraid to ask this for themselves.  Set up meals for them when they come home.  Ask if their kids need anything.  Not everyone is called to adopt, but those who do need cheerleaders.

We are not "special" people or some sort of superheroes.  We are just normal people who couldn't let children grow up without parents, and often we've already experienced a lot of loss in our own lives that tends to leave us a bit jaded and skeptical of people.  I'm speaking both from personal experience and from a lot of conversations I've had with other adoptive moms.

WE NEED YOU.  We appreciate a kind word or gift sent more than you can ever know, even if we are too neck deep in paperwork or frazzled from jet lag to properly thank you.
WE APPRECIATE anything done to offer congratulations or help.  Anything.    

I'm really thankful that this time around, we have had some of our own cheerleaders.
It has been wonderful to know that people care.


Monday, November 18, 2013

From Kyiv to the U.S.A.

We went to the WWII Museum in Kyiv while waiting for visas



We went to Varenichnaya Katoosha for a couple meals

We took a few photos in Independence Square

Our layover in Munich after being accused of child smuggling in Kyiv.
I took zero photos at the Kyiv airport.  I was too worried they would find some other reason to be hateful.

My *sweet* kids taking advantage of me closing my eyes.



Ahhhh my babies!  45 days I was away. 

First day home in the U.S.

E with his morning cup of Chai

The boys doing some snacking.

Friday, November 15, 2013

We're Home!

We got home last night after about 24 hours of travel.  Finally all of my babies are together under one roof and they all slept well!  Luggage is everywhere.  People have brought food and clothes.  I am exhausted but the kids have been so good!  At some point I'll post pictures :)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Desvahdaynya Detsky Dom!

Gotchya Day Clothes

Saying goodbye to friends

Kids banging on the windows yelling "bye"

Last photo at the detsky dom

walking away for the last time.



We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life; but those who make their journey home across time and miles, growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them,are carried on the wings of destiny; and placed among us by God's very own hands. --Kristi Larson

 

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