Archives for May 2014

Short but Sweet

Our second visit was much less stressful, too short but definitely sweet.  First of all, no paperwork!  Hooray!  We went just to visit, so the kids were not so restless and everyone was more relaxed.  We didn’t go inside today; they instructed us to wait and they would bring him out.  So I was worried that no one even knew we were there.  I walked around the side of the building and saw all the kids outside playing; Juri was sitting in his wheelchair.

One of the nannies spotted me and said all kinds of things to which I could offer only an apologetic look and a “We’re here to visit Juri?”  When she heard his name she nodded and left to go get him.  I thanked her and wheeled him over to where we were sitting.  When he saw me he was so excited!  He started waving and saying hi and talking to his nanny really fast in Russian.  It was great, and he was even happier when we turned the corner and saw “papa”.

We got to give him his first present, which he was thrilled about when I handed it to him, but then he had no idea what to do with it, so Evie very generously offered to help him open it.  He loved the Hotwheels we brought and guarded them like precious treasures!

Just like yesterday, the kids got along fabulously; Evie and Juri play well together and when Juri was on Jake’s lap and Stephen got upset about something and ran to Daddy, Juri put his arms around Stephen to comfort him.  It was SO sweet!

I got a bit of a closer look at his legs and torso area.  He’s definitely in need of some therapy to work out all those muscles.  He has pretty bad scoliosis, which is just so frustrating because from the pictures we had before his back was absolutely not like that even just a year ago.

Bonding seems to be going well so far on both sides, which is great!  I got to see him interact with one of the nannies a bit today and that was just plain hard to see.  It wasn’t abusive or mistreatment at all, just institutionalized care.  And knowing that’s all he gets all the time is hard.  It is very practical, hurried, with little patience or room for error and without any sense of deep love or compassion.  The dignity of the children is not protected in the same way we would protect the modesty and dignity of our own children.  It’s just not a family environment and all children should grow up in families.

One benefit of having to wheel him back over to the nanny for a change of clothes was that when we started over there he started whining and almost crying.  I could tell he was saying that he didn’t want to leave us!  I was able to calm him down and communicate that we were just getting new clothes and not going away, but it was nice to know that he was upset at the idea of our visit ending.  It means things are going well!

Overall it was a great visit, it was cut short, just one hour and we’re not going back this evening.  With the kids here two visits a day is just too much.  I would love to see him more than we are, but I keep telling myself that the separation is only temporary and this is the necessary way we have to do this so that he can be in our family forever.

Leaving him was harder today than it was yesterday and I’m guessing it will be harder tomorrow.  I am dreading going back to the capital for our second referral.  It is going to be terrible to leave him for so long.  He cried when we left because he couldn’t take his new cars with him.  I gave him a balloon and a little rubber ball to take, but those weren’t his favorite toys by far.  Hopefully we can explain better tomorrow about that.

Here is a picture of all the kids.  You can’t see his face in this one so I think it’s safe to share :)

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Love and Grief

We had our first visit with Juri today.  I have spent the last few hours trying to decide how I want to describe everything we saw and experienced.  There is so much that it is totally overwhelming.  After lots of Facebooking with fellow adoptive parents about all of the things we saw, we are feeling a bit better, but we do want to be honest about what is going on.

Adoption always comes from loss, it’s hard, and we are very much grieving for Juri and the things he has lost.  He has had so much hurt and neglect in his short life, it is difficult to even imagine what he might be going through.  We would really love your prayers for peace and wisdom on our part and for healing for our son’s heart, mind and body.

Juri is much much more delayed than we were prepared for.  Skills that we know he had previously are gone and he seems to have regressed substantially.  This is very common in the orphanages here for various reasons.  But the good news is that he should regain those lost skills fairly quickly once he comes home.

But now that that is all out of the way, let’s get to the fun part!!  Juri is a sweet, lovely, fun boy.  We absolutely adore him.  He is much taller than we thought he would be!  We know that they have not told him yet why we are here, but I think he is figuring it out on his own.  He almost immediately started calling Jake “papa” and not long after started using “mama” for me.

The little bit of Russian we have has been super helpful.  I used several of the phrases I knew, and although we couldn’t understand each other completely I do think it helped with bonding.  I am going to learn a couple more phrases for our visit tomorrow that I wish I had had today.  “I don’t understand” being one of them!  He was very talkative with us and just seemed tickled to have someone’s attention.

We just listened most of the time, and when he wanted something he was pretty good at pointing.  I don’t think he gets to play in the dirt often (like at all!)  We did a lot of playing in the sand boxes and he kept looking at the sand on his hands, trying to rub it off and giggling about it.  I would help him clean off his hands which would make him laugh more and then he would point to his clothes and his wheelchair for me to wipe those off too.  It was lots of fun!

Whenever he would ask for something I would hand it to him and then say in a repeat-after-me tone of voice “Spasibo” and he was hesitant at first, but then would always repeat it to say thank-you to whoever handed him the toy or cookie.  Which, by the way, he loves cookies!  The nannies said he loves food and will eat anything and everything.

After his third cookie I said “Nyet” no more cookies!  But Evie kept handing them to him, so he started asking her!  After that it became a game, he would try to get Evie’s attention for cookies and I would say “nyet, nyet, nyet” with a big smile and he would try to convince me in Russian.  I think he thought his sweetness would change my mind!  He seemed very taken with Evangeline and Stephen and was really listening when we told him their names, though he didn’t repeat them.  We did get him to say a few English words like sand and car.

We had a whole hour with him to ourselves with no translator, which was intimidating but lots of fun and it turned out very well I think.  We can’t share any pictures yet, hopefully soon!  For now here’s a picture of the sign outside his orphanage which means “Welcome!”

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Here we go!

IMG_0289As I write we are currently on the overnight train to Juri’s city.  Here I am in our little compartment right after we boarded while we were waiting to go.

I tried to sleep but couldn’t so I’m writing you instead!  I may or may not have a chance to post this before we go to meet Juri for the first time.  I really hope I do, (I did!  I’m going to get a shower too!  Woohoo!) but our train is set to arrive at 6am and we have to meet with the orphanage director at 8:30am before she leaves, apparently Friday is a day where they get off early so our facilitator had to arrange this special for us to even have a visit tomorrow.

I know it’s a half hour drive from our apartment to the orphanage and we have to make a stop at the store to buy treats for the kids at the orphanage since apparently that is  very important.  I am feeling very nervous to meet him, and a little frustrated that the morning is going to be so rushed.  I won’t have time for a shower or to practice the little bit of Russian I know.  I won’t have time to mentally prepare myself for this really huge event.  It’s just incredibly intimidating!

It’s also a bummer that we are getting here on the weekend, which I assume means we will have less visits with him before we will need to go back to the capital to get Janna’s referral.  I feel like we are going to meet him and get everyone really excited and then we’re going to have to leave again for a week or more. But I just have to leave it in the Lord’s hands.  He knows what we need and what Juri needs and He’ll make sure we all get those things, so I need to let go of my vision and just let Him do His thing.

In any case, prayers would be appreciated.  I assume by the time most of you read this our visit will be over, but perhaps a few of you are night owls or very early risers and can say some quick prayers for our meeting today.

Oh also, I’ve had so much to say I keep forgetting to mention!  There is a group of dear ladies that call themselves the “Anonymous Angels” and they choose one or two families a month to gift with a matching grant.  This month they have chosen our family!  We truly couldn’t be more grateful.

For those who don’t know, a matching grant is a grant that we have to fundraise for first, once we meet their amount they will double it!  Our matching grant is for $600.00, so if our FSP can read $18,680 (I believe that’s the exact amount) within the next couple of weeks, this group of ladies will donate $600.00 more!  So every dollar you give now will essentially be doubled!!

I wish I could promote it a little more, but with the travelling it’s been a bit tricky, and we want to spend our time online to share our journey with you as well.  If you would like to donate toward our matching grant you can give a tax deductible gift here: http://reecesrainbow.org/63824/sponsormueller

Alright, I think that’s all for me tonight.  Next time you hear from me I will have some very exciting updates!! Can’t wait to share all about our sweet boy!

DAP Appointment

Today was our DAP appointment!  We were able to see Juri’s file and we go back tomorrow to pick up his referral!  After we get that we will pack up all our things and take the overnight train to the city where his orphanage is.  We are super excited!  We learned a little new information about our guy, but nothing surprising and it was quite brief.  We will get a much more detailed report of medical and social information at his orphanage.

We also finally found something to transfer our pictures!  So here are a few you can enjoy from the trip so far…

A quick family photo before our first flight to Chicago.

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She looks like a pro traveller already!  With her nook books and her juice.  Yes, I was watching that like a hawk…

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Stephen’s preferred way to pass the time.

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This was on our cross-Atlantic flight where we had the free TVs!  He is learning how to enjoy the joy of sound through headphones.

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This is the playground we took advantage of for our stir crazy kids in between flights.

 

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Our very first apartment building! :)

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The view from our apartment window.  You can see the Victory Monument on the left-hand side.

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And this is how the kids spent their morning after partying through the night.  I call it, the jet lag hangover.

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Evangeline sitting on the steps outside the church near the DAP office as we waited for our appointment.

 

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The Matryoshka doll key chain one of the friendly street vendors gave each of the kids.IMG_0125


In the Details

When a master artist paints or quilts or creates a work of art, what is it that we tend to marvel at?  Sometimes it is the creativity of the image or thing that was made, the very idea of it is awe-inspiring.  But more often, I believe it is the intricate detail that such artists put into their work that makes it truly amazing to experience.  That was true for me this last thirty hours as we traversed four different airports on two continents with our little ones in tow.

God’s hand was so evident in all the details.  I’ll be perfectly honest, we should not have survived this trip in one piece.  There is no way that either of us were experienced or knowledgeable or patient or wise enough to have survived such an endeavor!  It is only by the grace of God that we are here now.  Each time I thought I was at the end of my rope, that I couldn’t keep going, God provided.  He made a way every single time.

Whether it was the considerate German lady who gave Stephen a sheet of stickers during his meltdown in the terminal when I was carrying five bags with no one to help me.

Or the sweet Muslim mother who shared her kids’ snacks with us just seconds after I made the realization that I had neglected to buy some before we boarded like I had intended.  I mean, honestly, there is no way she could have known!  But God knew.

Not to mention the Iraqi woman who enjoyed playing “tickles” with Stephen the last two hours of our long flight when I was totally out of tricks to keep him going.

He gave us just enough time in our layover for me to post my blog and finish my updates AND to rest my eyes for just long enough to not feel like I was going to pass out whenever I stood up.

And then there was the security guard at the Frankfurt airport who (immediately as I boarded the bus with a sleeping four year old and couldn’t figure out how I was going to manage the strength to stand up for the shuttle trip as sleep deprived as I was) told the lady in the single seat by the door to move for me.

Or even the spinach omelette breakfast on our last flight that was exactly the type and amount of protein I needed….

God was in all the details.  He sustained, protected, nourished and guided us through.  Not only was He there providing us with the physical necessities for our journey, but also sustained us emotionally and spiritually through His faithfulness.  This is not a journey we could make without the blessing of Christ’s Church or the knowledge of God’s blessing upon our travels.  As we left all things familiar behind and took our family into unknown, uncomfortable and difficult situations, we needed more than anything to have those clear nudgings that God was certainly with and for us on our trek.

I am in awe of his great compassion and mercies; what a beautiful blessing to put ourselves in positions of vulnerability and uncertainty so that we can see God’s love for us shine even more brightly.  Blessings to you all back home, you are constantly in our thoughts and prayers and we miss you already!

And so it begins!

We are in Frankfurt on our layover!  There is a little mini playground here and we are incredibly exhausted but still in good spirits.  We have a four hour stop before moving on for our final flight.  Here’s a little taste of our journey so far!

We ended up with much more carry-on luggage than I was hoping for, because we wanted our checked luggage to make weight.  So that was interesting traversing the airports with two children and four bags plus sweaters and the baby carrier!  Our first flight was pretty uneventful.  When we checked in with security, Jake was talking with the TSA official about our passports and Evie piped up “And we also need a plane,” like we were ordering food at a restaurant.  It gave us a good chuckle.

She did stickers and nook books on the first flight.  I tried reading her a “real” book, but it was a tiny airplane and so loud that she could barely hear me talking right next to her.  Stephen slept the majority of the way, which helped everyone’s mood for the duration of the afternoon.  They both really enjoyed watching take-off and landing and being “in the clouds”.

The Chicago airport was way bigger than the first, it’s like a little city unto itself!  I had never flown through Chicago before and I just didn’t know what I was in for.  I am pretty sure we walked about half a mile to get to our connecting gate.  That was quite the adventure.  Jake carried all the bags (my hero!) so I took the kids to the first bathroom we spotted.  I had Stephen in the Toddler Tula carrier and held Evangeline’s hand.  There was a line in the bathroom and several gracious ladies skipped us ahead upon hearing the little one’s plea that she needed to go!

So we squeezed into the first open stall rather than waiting for a handicap to open up and when we came out a very surprised woman asked “How did all of you fit in there?!”  I just laughed.  Not sure how to answer that question?  Haha…

I then opened up my laptop to post some pictures from our first airplane ride only to realize that we didn’t have the right cable to upload pictures from my camera.  Oops… one of the airport staff directed me back to the previous terminal to an electronics store, so I took the kids and we started making the five-ish minute trek back when Jake calls and said they were starting passport checks.

We should have turned around, but we started running!  (Which the children quite enjoyed, I might add.)  We got to the store, were told that no one in the airport had such things, and ran back to our gate.  I am really, really hoping our facilitators can direct us to one once we get to Kiev.  I will be EXTREMELY disappointed if I have to wait to share all of our pictures!

Once we rushed back to the desk at our gate, Jake was waiting while they seemingly did nothing with our passports in no sort of hurry while the lines piled up to board.  They told me I could go so I took Stephen to go get our bags (all of them) and just made the decision to get in line.  All Stephen wanted to do was ride the flat escalator walking thing that was right next to us and run in front of every “truck” that drove by.  When that didn’t work he started trying to ride the suitcases.

I, on the other hand, only had one hand to wrangle him and that arm was weighed down by two bags.  It ended with lots of screaming and pitiful looks from everyone in the airport.  A sweet German lady standing next to us gave him a few stickers which cheered him up just long enough for Daddy to finally get back with our boarding passes after standing at the desk for Stephen’s boarding pass.

Of course that wasn’t the end of it though.  After having spent ten minutes at the desk trying to get Stephen’s ticket accurate in the system, we were about to get on the plane when they told Jake that his boarding pass was now not right.  I was determined to get overhead compartment space so I went ahead and boarded with Stephen (and all the bags… again….)

Let’s just say that must have been an incredibly comical sight.  One passenger asked if she could help, and I said “Sure!” but Stephen was running in front of me and I couldn’t stop to ask her what she’d like to carry so I kept moving and she never got up.  Lol… A flight attendant eventually helped me get everything together after asking incredulously if all those bags were just for me and the baby and me pathetically explaining that we were travelling with my husband and daughter who they wouldn’t let on the plane.  Haha… yeah…

Stephen and I were finally situated, but then there was still the issue of my husband not being able to board the flight.  I called his cell phone trying to make a game plan in my head for getting our travel agent on the phone with the airline and telling myself that I could NOT cry because that would not be helpful, when who appeared behind me but my dear husband.  I was so incredibly relieved in that moment!

He said that they finally let him board.  He didn’t know if they actually got it fixed or if they were just tired of messing with the computer.  Either way it didn’t matter, we were on our way (all four of us!) to Germany!  We also had some added bonuses on the plane: free movies, TV and games for the kids on the seats, realizing it was only an 8 hour flight and not a 13 hour flight, and another sweet mama who shared her kids’ snacks with our little ones.

So yes, we are certainly having an adventure, and we’re not even there yet!

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane!

Don’t worry, we will be back again!

The first leg of our trip is complete!  We made the two hour drive to our hotel and we will take the shuttle to the airport in the morning.  Our first flight leaves at 10:20am to Chicago where we’ll have a two hour layover.  Then from there we have a connecting flight to Frankfurt, Germany.  That will be about thirteen hours long, getting us in Germany in the wee hours of their morning on May 27th.

Once there we will have a four and a half hour layover before boarding the flight to our final destination and arriving in Juri and Janna’s country at 1:15pm their time (aka 6:15am CST).  That will be just under a full 24 hours of travelling for our crew, which I am sure is what fond family memories are made of.  😉

We beg your prayers for our safe travels during all this time, for peace and good sleep on the flights, for no lost luggage and that God would grant us grace and patience as we traverse the airports during our long journey.

This will be my last blog post stateside until our sweet children are home!  I might make a quick Facebook update or two, so be sure to check our family’s adoption page as well.  Many blessings to all of you who are following our journey back home and praying us through!!

Six Weeks is a Long Time

Six weeks is a long time, and I have been hearing that a lot lately, usually closely followed by “What will you be doing all that time?”  Haha… well as six weeks is long, so is the explanation to that question!  So instead of answering everyone individually here is a quick play-by-play of how our time in Ukraine will be spent.  But do remember, this is just our very best estimate of what it will look like.  The adoption process is very fluid in Ukraine and everyone’s process and timeline looks a little bit different.

Days 1-4: Arrive in the country’s capital and head to our first DAP appointment to get our first referral.  It takes a couple of days for all the paperwork to be complete.

Days 5-9: Travel to the first child’s region (region 1) to meet our child, be there 3-4 days to accept their referral.

Days 10-12: Train ride back to the capital to pick up second referral, be there about 2 days.

Days 13-20: Travel to our second child’s region, (region 2), be there for about a week to visit and accept their referral.

Days 21-24: Travel back to region 1 to have court, be there a few days.

Days 25-32: Travel back to region 2, have court, be there about a week.

(A quick note on court.  We have to go to court for a judge to determine that we can adopt the children.  After court there is a 10 day waiting period before our adoption becomes final and we can take custody of the children.  So, that’s why we have another week or so of just visiting before the paper chasing starts!)

Days 33-36: Travel back to region 1 and do paperchasing for a few days.

Days 37-40: Leave that region and go back to region 2, do the paperchasing there.

Days 40-43: Take custody of children in both regions (which involves more back and forth if you hadn’t guessed!)

Days 44-47: Travel back to the capital for medicals, Embassy paperwork, visas, etc…

Day 48: Fly home!

Now that works out to an estimate of about seven weeks, but you get the idea.  Remember you have to take everything I say with a grain or two of salt because these are just my best estimates, and have absolutely no bearing on what might actually happen when we get there.  I’ve never done this before!  And no one’s process is like another’s.  Although we all have to have these elements in there somewhere, when those things will happen are totally on the timeline of the government officials we will be working with.  We also have two local holidays in June that may or may not cause mild delays.  We shall see!  Thank you for following our journey, we are so excited to share it with you!!

Packing Day!

One week from today our entire family will be living in the same country for the very first time!  And this week is the last week we will be at home sleeping in our beds with our babies far far away.  I am so thrilled I can hardly stand it.  Today is packing day at our house, getting our suitcases geared up and ready to go!  Tomorrow is our deep cleaning day, getting the house all in order and set to welcome us home after our long journey is over.  Sometime in there we will also need to take a freezer inventory so we know what we have to eat when we get back!

Thursday my dear father is coming into town to spend some time with us, and we’ll have lots of errands to run to finalize things up for the adoption.  Friday is grocery shopping day for Saturday which is going to be a marathon freezer meal cooking day.  I hope to have at least a month’s worth of food so I won’t need to cook when we get home!  At least for a while :)  And I have already been asked, so yes, I’ll post the details and menu for all of you lovely people.

Sunday is our last farewell at church, and then we hit the road!  We will stay overnight near the airport since our flight goes out in the morning.  We covet your prayers as we prepare to embark on this incredible journey!  Like our page on Facebook so you will be sure to get all our updates while we’re there!  https://www.facebook.com/muelleradoption

If this is a dream…

I don’t want to wake up!!  We finally received our travel dates on Monday.  HOORAY!!!!!!  I would have posted sooner, but life has been a whirlwind since then!  We leave in less than two weeks, on Memorial Day!  We are so incredibly excited and busy and nervous and happy!  I can’t believe that the day is finally arriving, after waiting so very long.  This isn’t a dream, but last night I did have a memorable one!  I dreamed we saw our sweet son.

We went to his orphanage to go pick him up and he was so excited to meet us.  He loved everyone, including his new little brother and sister.  It was just lovely!  We were talking a perfect mix of Russian and English.  Apparently, he knew exactly all the phrases in English that I didn’t know in Russian, so we were able to communicate flawlessly!  I know this is (quite literally) all a dream… but it was lovely nonetheless.

And then our fairy tale meeting was abruptly interrupted by some kind of war going on (hmm… I wonder where my mind got that idea from).  I bring it up, though, because it leads to a really cool part.  So in all the chaos, eventually Jake and our other two kiddos where taken onto a submarine and I was knocked unconscious.  When I woke up they were gone and Juri was being held by a girl whose father was from the opposing army.  She looked about 12 or 13 and she was saying terrible things to him about how she was his mother now and how we would never love him.

I went right over there and took him out of her arms and told him over and over “Я твоя́ ма́ма.”  He relaxed into my arms, feeling completely safe, and there he stayed the rest of the dream as we went off to find the rest of the family :)  It was all so nice, and it made me even more anxious to hold my son.  I miss him so much and I haven’t even met him yet!  There are lots of things to be done before we go, so I will try to update a little before take-off, but hopefully not too many posts from now we will be across the Atlantic!

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