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

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Are you ready to be part of the transformation?

This is the newest advocacy video by our hosting organization, Children's Cultural Connection.

I love sharing these videos because they really explain WHY hosting is so important.
Yes we're in it!

How It Started

It seems the most common question people have when they hear we are adopting, is "Why?"

There are a TON of reasons why, but today I will tell you why we went the first time.

Four and a half years ago, my youngest son was born.  He was perfect.  A little love bug of a baby boy.  I loved to sit and rock him, just staring at his face while he slept.  He wanted nothing more than to be cuddled.  While my oldest son was also a beautiful perfect baby boy, he was NOT a snuggler so I was all to happy to finally have a baby that wanted nothing more than to be cuddled and rocked.

I can pinpoint the month that I started hearing the whisper in my heart.  It was after we moved into our new house.  My baby was about a year old.  As I sat and rocked him to sleep in his new room, I heard God whispering to my heart, "You see how much you love him?  You would die for him.  There are children just like him who have no one to love them like this.  My heart hurts for them.  You should go..."

Over and over each night I would rock him.  I would hear this.  I was 24 years old.  I had a 3 year old and a 1 year old.  My husband worked a blue collar job while I stayed home with our kids.  We often ran out of money before we ran out of month.  WHAT was God thinking!? Rich people adopt, right?  Not "normal" people like us.

But God didn't stop.  My heart became broken so much that it physically ached for orphans around the world.  I started researching international adoption and quickly found blogs of people who were adopting from Ukraine.  Ukraine, Ukraine Ukraine.  It kept popping up.  I also found the cost.  That almost stopped me in my tracks.  We didn't have money to splurge on extra groceries, let alone the twenty thousand it would cost to adopt from Ukraine.

As my husband and I talked about it, we decided to pursue Bulgaria.  It was cheaper, had a much shorter stay in country, and seemed a better fit.  We figured we had a better chance to raise a smaller amount of money and it *worked* better to not have to be gone from our kids as long.  I placed the call and got things going with an agency, but a few days later they called back to say that Bulgaria was restructuring and the wait would most likely be upwards of 2 years.  Well, that is what a door slamming shut looks like.
*Enter God* "See I told you, Ukraine."

So, despite knowing we didn't have the money or any idea how we would get it, we decided to go ahead and jump.  We found that we could adopt independently from Ukraine for less than what it costs to use an agency.  That meant coordinating with only a facilitator in Ukraine and compiling the paperwork ourselves.  Well, if it could be done, I figured I'd do it.  Speaking of home study, those are expensive.  We had to wait till a paycheck cleared to pay the first installment.  We skipped grocery shopping that paycheck and got creative with what was in the pantry.

Then something my husband had purchased for nearly nothing suddenly just sold for WAY more.
Ta-da.  Home study paid for.

And that was pretty much how it went during our paper chase.  We sold a vehicle for several thousand dollars.  A family member unexpectedly donated several thousand dollars.  A friend left a thousand dollars cash under our doormat the night before we left...

My husband decided that his managerial job that he had worked so hard to climb the ladder for was not worth the hours he had to spend away from his family.  So in this horrible economy, he looked for a new job.  And beat out over 80 applicants to get a position working much closer to home for far fewer hours.  I joke that its the orange dress shirt I bought him, and convinced him to wear to the interview under the guise of, "You need to stand out.  Orange is memorable." but I know it was all God.

We completed our home study and sent it to Ukraine to be submitted.  We got a dossier submission date of October 14th, 2010.  A few papers had to be redone.  The medical had to be redone THREE times due to mistakes by the Dr. office, but we got it all there in time.

Our facilitator emailed us to let us know that we had an appointment date of November 15.  We had two weeks to prepare for travel, and oh how hard it was.  I had to leave my little boys who I had never spent more than a night or two away from for what I knew would be at least a month.  They stayed with my husband's parents, who they love, but watching them pull away from our house the morning we were flying to Ukraine just broke.my.heart.

When we arrived in Ukraine we experienced TOTAL culture shock.  It does something to a person's brain to land in a country and suddenly not be able to understand anything that anyone is saying and to top it off, the taxi drivers run up at you as you walk out of arrivals giving the impression to first time travelers that they just may be trying to steal your luggage and take you hostage for ransom.  Thank goodness our facilitator showed up and drove us to an apartment.

At our SDA appointment, we were shown a lot of files... but many of the children were very, very sick.  Our homestudy was for minor to moderate correctable special needs so we had keep in mind what we were approved for.  There was one chid that stood out simply because of a date on her paperwork.  It was my youngest son's birthday.  Now, in Ukraine they write dates differently.  They put date/month/year not /month/date/year like we do.  So, the date wasn't really his birthday BUT TO ME it clearly was.  That was our sign.  We decided to go visit her.

When we arrived at her orphanage after taking an overnight train, we got to meet this little girl for the first time.  She had cerebral palsy that affected her walking so much so that she couldn't walk alone, but she tip toed in holding the hands of a worker and asked, "Are you here to take me home?"

Um yeah.  We signed the papers before we left that day despite being given the opportunity to think it over.

We spent 3 more weeks in Ukraine before we finally had court.  We visited her each day for several hours and had the chance to see some of the other kids.  Our time there was very closely monitored and we weren't allowed to interact with anyone other than our daughter, but that place and those little faces that walked the hallways left a deep imprint on our hearts.

We ended up spending Christmas with our family on two separate continents.  My husband in Ukraine completing paperwork and myself and our sons in the U.S.  Finally on December 29th, daddy and Mariah landed and we became a family of five on U.S. soil.

The next year was spent getting Mariah therapy and medical attention for her cerebral palsy that had gone grossly neglected in Ukraine.  We also struggled to work through orphanage behaviors and attachment issues.  I won't lie, it wasn't easy.  It was hard, easily the hardest thing I have EVER done hard.  Becoming her mom has stretched me and forced me to learn new things and new parenting methods that I never even had a clue about before her.  But, I promised to be her mom.  I certainly flubbed things up and failed miserably many times, but I got up each day determined to start over and try to do it better.

And gradually the good days came.  Instead of counting how many bad days we'd had, I would realize that we had been through a run of good ones.  Of course we'd have a good stretch and I'd think "yes!" then we'd have a run of bad ones.  Four years in an orphanage leaves a lot of baggage for a child to unpack and sometimes I didn't know how to help or just became too frustrated to care about *why* she did things.

But we kept going.  I researched things.  I found a great online support group.  We kept on going, celebrating the little victories.  Gradually the little ones became big ones and one day I turned around and realized we had found our new normal.  Yes, it took longer than I thought it would, but we did.

Some might say, "Well you had such a hard time adjusting with her; now that you've gotten it all back together; why would you want to mess that up?"  Because we cannot forget what we know.  We saw children with sad hollow eyes so hoping we had come for them too.  

God clearly says we are to care for orphans and widows.  He never says we are only supposed to do it once.  I pretty much think He meant we are supposed to do it until there aren't anymore.

In the summer of 2012, we decided to host a child from an orphanage in Ukraine.  We tried to host a little girl, but that didn't work out.  Seems everyone wants a little girl... so we chose a boy.  Well, the boy we chose got adopted by a French couple (yay for him!) and couldn't come (obviously) so we chose another boy.  He couldn't come either.  We chose another boy.  A few days later, yep, he couldn't come either.  We were now down to literally one boy left to choose.  He was older than we had wanted to host, he was part of a sibling group that was larger than we would consider adopting, but we decided "OH what the hey!" we could give him a good summer in America anyways.

Oh oops.  God forgot to say that it is indeed possible to fall.in.love. at first sight with 7 year old boys.  Looking into his outrageously blue eyes pooling with tears at JFK airport was most definitely the moment that did me in.  Yes, he was ORNERY!  Yes, he was a handful and then some.  Yes, he needed constant correction and discipline for the first few weeks here, but he stole my heart.  He wanted a mama and my heart said "Pick me."

Sending him back after the summer was over was hard.  I stood in line at departures watching this little guy and his sad face waive, and waive, and waive until he was...gone.

We didn't have the money to host him for summer.  So we most certainly didn't have it for Christmas hosting, but let me tell you that the heart doesn't care.  My husband listened to his and surprised me by saying he had paid V's host fees and oh yeah... his brother's too.  WHAT!?  Two boys for Christmas!?  Its what credit cards are for, right?

God forgot to tell us that you can indeed fall in love with 10 year old boys too.

Sending those boys back to their orphanage after they spent Christmas with us was heart wrenching.  HEART WRENCHING.

But don't you know God uses pain to move you?  We realized that if we had fallen in love with these boys, it was what God meant to happen all along.  Yes, there are FOUR of them total.  So?  When you put names and faces there in place of a number it suddenly isn't about how CAN we possibly do this!? When your heart is breaking and you feel that you've sent your sons back to an orphanage, its about how can we NOT?

They've been failed over and over by the people in their lives who should have cared for them the most.  People who were able to look at them and then walk away.  I don't want to be added to that list.  God brought them into our lives for a reason.  We are going to chase His calling once again to Ukraine.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  John 14:18


To donate to help us bring them home please visit Here

Move It Move It

While we were hosting the boys this Christmas, we got the movie Madagascar 3.  The kids looooved it and they especially loved that the tiger in the movie spoke with a Russian accent and his name was Vitaliy!

Little Brother learned picked up a cute English phrase from the movie.

Perhaps you can help our adoption fund "Move it move it" today?  Its been sitting at the same amount for a few days and we need to "move it" to start working on paying our USCIS and agency fees.

You can make a tax deductible donation here.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

Etsy Giveaway!

My friend Becky who is a fellow blogger and adoptive mama of two little girls from Ukraine, has offered up a custom made doll or any item in her Etsy Shop of equal or lesser value for a giveaway to help us raise money for our adoption.

Here's how I will do this.  Everyone who donates $5 or more for the next 7 days will be entered to win.  I will end this giveaway for the doll at 10pm next Friday night and randomly pick a winner.
I will post the winner on my blog.

You can donate HERE.

Come back after you have donated and leave me a comment letting me know.

If you want an extra entry, share this post on Facebook or your blog.
MAKE SURE to tell me if you do!

Every dollar donated is getting us closer to bringing them back home.


Why Does It Cost So Much?

I think a lot of times when people see how much international adoption costs, they get overwhelmed.  Both those who want to adopt and those who want to donate.  They see a figure like $40,000 and think, "How can $10 help?"  Or "I can never afford that."

Well, let me break the fees down for you.

Our home study is one of the first things we have to have done.  It MUST be complete before we can apply to USCIS to approve us to bring newly adopted children back into the U.S.

Our home study fees are:

$300 application fee
$1900 new home study fee.  Must be paid before any visits with a social worker.
$300 in online adoption training classes (required by our state)
$200 post placement visit fee.  3 visits required after adoption.  Fee is per child.

We also have to fingerprinted by our local Police Department for background checks. $50 each

USCIS fee for 4 biological siblings is: $720 for I600A form and $85 per adult to be fingerprinted.

Then of course we have to fly to Ukraine.  Airfare is about $1k per adult for a roundtrip ticket.
We will most likely come back after court which means we will then have to fly back again.

These are the fees broken down for what we'll need money for in Ukraine.  It says for 3 kids, but of course we are planning on 4 so some fees are X4.  Thankfully the agency & foreign fee have a cap at 3.

Inter-Country Adoption Fees for the adoption of 3 children   Estimate
Agency fee       $5,900 (three children)      
Foreign fee     $15,000 (three children)

Travel Expenses
Round-trip airfare SF-Kiev, 2 adults ($1,400-$3,000 per person)     $2,200    
In-country travel (train/bus) ($300-$800)       $600  
Child’s airfare, 1-way Kiev–SF ($500-$1,000-Per child)         $700          
Airport transfer ($30-$60)         $50      
Hotel/Apartment (Kiev/Region)         $1,000      
Food     $1,000

In-Country Costs (paid in Ukraine)
Driver/Translator $20 per day when needed       $100-$300
Travel within/out region for paperwork       $100-$300
Facilitator lodging/food per day       $30-$60
Facilitator transportation to and from region ($50-$200)       $150
Child’s Visa       $230 per child        
Child’s medical exam for U.S. Embassy        $110 per child
Passports $300-$500       $400 per child      
Possible Miscellaneous fees $200-$400       $200-$400 
Orphanage Donation       $1,000 per child (Can vary)      
Notary/legalization/expedite Fees ($750-$2,000)       $1,500      

We've done the math.  Add everything up and it totals to within a few dollars of $40,000.  There are always extra fees.  Getting all documents notarized and apostilled costs money.  Medical visits for medical paperwork for our home study and our dossier costs money.  Driving to be fingerprinted in Norfolk, 3 hours away, costs money.  

Its many things that all add up to that big scary number.

But here is how you can help.  

We have already paid the $300 application fee for our home study.  Thanks to the people who donated to us through Adopt Together we were also able to send $650 of the $1900 fee to our home study agency already.  We only need another $1000 donated to have our home study fee completely paid for.

The next big fee we will face is USCIS.  $720 + $85 (mom fingerprinted) + $85(dad fingerprinted).

Then we have our adoption agency fee.  This is the agency that coordinates our documents for us, tells us what we need to get together and coordinates with our facilitator to have it translated and submitted in Ukraine.  Their fee for 4 children is $5,900.  

These are the fees we need paid before we can go to Ukraine.  These are the fees we need paid for all of our U.S. side paperwork to be completed and approved so we can go get our boys.  

What we need *right now* is the final fees for our home study.  We need the final $1277 to pay for our online training and the remainder of the home study fee.

$1277 is not so big and threatening.  Can I get people to share this post or blog about us and link back to this blog?   Can I ask people to possibly donate $10 or $20?  Because $1277 is what we need today, and every single dollar matters.  Every.single.one.  

There is no price tag to be put on the life of a child.  
Help us get to them.  Every dollar spent getting there has an eternal value.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


We are officially fundraising!

Click here to view our fundraising profile!  We understand that not everyone can donate, and that's ok!  But everyone can share our profile on Facebook or Twitter via this link.  If you have a few moments, please add us to your blog.  You never know who might see it and want to help.  Also, any donation given through AdoptTogether is a tax deductible donation to a non-profit organization.

We have a HUGE financial mountain to climb, but we serve a big God and we are very excited to see what He is going to do!    

We're almost there!

I'm in the process of setting up our Fundraising Profile through AdoptTogether.  Hopefully it will be live by tonight or tomorrow and we can start fundraising for real!!

Stay tuned because I am going to need everyone to help us spread the word via facebook, blogger, and twitter!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Looking for Suggestions from other SN Mamas

I'm calling this post,

Ode of the frustrated mama with a special girl who just wants to be treated normal.

Also known as a vent, and meant to be taken as just that; a vent and a struggle to find *our* normal in a world that doesn't see us as such.

I actually write "Do not hold her hand" on M's name tag when I drop her off for church or any class now. I'd write more, but that's all there is space for.  Her form has a more detailed explanation.

Despite that, I find people are continually holding her hands, elbows, and today an older child kept picking her up all during class.  M was MAD when I picked her up from class, as angry as I've ever seen her.  She said that she kept telling the girl to stop but she would not.  This is a recurring problem for us and I hate to be "that parent," but adults and children alike won't keep their hands off of her everywhere we go all in the name of "helping."

I don't want to single her out as different but we have to find a way to address this.  She is 6 1/2 & has worked really hard at PT to be able to stand up & walk herself not to mention that "helping" her actually makes her fall over.

She will tell children to leave her alone (they tend not to listen) but if its an adult or teenager she tends to feel that she *has* to do what they want.  Sometimes because of her (better but lingering) attachment issues, she will then fawn all over whoever is *helping* her & giving her extra attention because she thinks they want her to act *sweet*  It goes back to being in an orphanage, getting the caretaker of the day and trying to impress them over, above, and beyond the other children so they'd like her.  

I want to yell, "Newsflash!  She doesn't LIKE YOU.  She isn't BEING SWEET.  You are making her nervous by getting affectionate and her reaction is to desperately try to make YOU like HER by turning on the fake charm that served her so well for 4 years as an orphan.  Yes, she'll smile at you, hug you, and even sit in your lap and cuddle; but its because you are reminding her of her former life where caretakers came in and out on shifts and she did whatever she could to get affection and attention from them."

But I smile and say, "Yes she is sweet."  Then walk away grinding my teeth.

I WANT to say "Stop it. She doesn't need your affection.  She has parents."

But I say, "Remember, BG hugs & kisses are for who? Family! That's right, only family."

I want to say, "Please don't help her get up.  She has worked so hard at physical therapy to learn how to stand back up on her own.  Don't take that from her.  She is proud of it!  Let her do it!  Yes, she will fall, BUT SHE CAN GET BACK UP!"  There was a time she couldn't do that!  Don't take that from her!  Yes, she is slower.  Yes, she walks a bit differently.  Its ok!  There was a time she couldn't walk at all!  Do you know how hard we have all worked so that she CAN WALK?  Don't take that from her!"

But I say, "She can do it.  She's fine."

I want to say, "Don't hold her hand.  It throws her balance off.  By holding her hand you are more likely to make her fall.  Then you will want to help her stand up.  Then you will make her fall again.  Then you will think she needs to just be picked up under the arms and carried to her destination.  NO!  Ask her if she needs help.  She will usually tell you 'no.'  Don't take her freedom away by assuming she needs to do things as quickly or efficiently as other children.  There was a time that she had no freedom.  She had to wait for people to carry her to the bathroom.  To the table to eat.  Up stairs.  To her bed.  Don't remind her of that time by taking away her independence.  She has worked too hard, WE have worked too hard to have that taken away."

Instead I say, "She's fine.  She can do it herself."

Does this happen to your kids? Suggestions?  I'm not trying to alienate her or make anyone scared of being her friend (or mine!) because most people are trying to help, but there has got to be a way to get people to respect her personal space without me having to give a speech & be "that parent" wherever we go.

Even taking her to the park or gym when other people are there is stressful because everyone assumes she needs help.  Yes, she may fall.  Yes, she will stand back up.  And yes, she will probably fall again.  Its ok.  She missed that stage as a toddler and she needs it now.

Her legs may not work as well as other children's but it doesn't mean her brain isn't working or that she needs to be treated like a baby.  Yes, she's small for her age, but if she says "STOP! I can do it myself!"  then for goodness sake; leave her alone!  Trust me, she'll tell you if she needs something.

Color me frustrated!  I don't open up about this side of things often because I am so afraid of being judged by those who haven't walked a mile, but my feelings are valid because I am feeling them.  If you ever wanted a look at the inner workings of a special needs mother's brain, here is it!  All we want is for our kiddos to be happy and and accepted for who they are and not noticed for what they cannot do.

This post is also featured on Ellen Stumbo's blog at http://www.ellenstumbo.com/being-real/

Saturday, February 2, 2013

McKie Splint & Therapeutic Listening Therapy

M goes to physical therapy once a week and occupational therapy once every two weeks at a wonderful therapy center.  We have been so blessed with the therapists here.  The business owner who is also M's PT has two adopted children from Russia so she has been AMAZING with M from more than just the therapy aspect.  

M's right arm has some spasticity in it, as she is more right side affected by her CP.  We've tried Kinesio tape and a TENS unit, both with some success.  Most recently we ordered her a McKie Splint. The advantage to this is that it can be worn all day, it won't peel off, it can be re-applied immediately after removing, and its washable.  Plus ITS PINK!

M's Occupational Therapist is trying something new with her.  Its called therapeutic listening.  M has a hard time focussing due to what I *think* is performance anxiety and just worrying so much about something being "too hard" that she will pretend she cannot do it or purposefully make a mess of it.  We're not really quite sure WHY she does some of the things she does, but we both know that she is capable of much more than she will actually DO most of the time.  She is actually quite a brilliant child who has mastered the art of pretending NOT to be.  Therapeutic Listening is supposed to (and I'm paraphrasing here) help her brain focus on what she is doing and NOT on whatever else might be running through her head (like convincing people she cannot do things).  Its supposed to help lower anxiety and improve focus.  We've done two sessions and while we're not sure yet if we've seen any results, M definitely really likes wearing the headphones :)

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