Things I’ve Learned

In the last 24 hours I have learned a lot of things.  Here are just a few of the things I learned….

10403142_691594270895165_3282434633116803121_nAbout Our Family

  • We can survive a car ride with all six of us!  At least for twenty minutes…
  • We are awesome together and it is awesome to be together.
  • We’re a normal family.  We love each other to the moon and back, theoretically of course… practically so far we just love each other to Ukraine and back but that’s besides the point.  My point is, we love each other tons, but we also scuffle and wrestle, learn and grow, and live this beautifully messy and chaotic life that only a family could step away from and realize they never want to leave it again.
  • Sometimes it’s ok to bribe the two year old with Skittles at 7:00am in the morning.  Not saying that happened, just saying that apparently there are situations where that is totally acceptable.
  • We have the best husband and father in the world.  We are so blessed to have him.

About the Rest of the Week

  • We are going to be here a while…
  • The Ronald McDonald House will hopefully have room for us on Friday.
  • Daddy, Evangeline and Jacob just left.  They will stay at home for one or two nights so Daddy can get a little work done and we can save on hotels.  Feeling quite alone tonight.
  • My Daddy is taking a long weekend to come help out at the hospital!  So excited for him to meet his new grandkids and to have the extra hands.
  • It’s going to be long and hard, but in a good and necessary way.  This is the road to healing, and we’re glad to finally be on it.

About Nurses

  • The nurses at our children’s hospital are amazing.
  • EKG nurses do not like being asked to wait until morning to run their tests.
  • There are a lot of pregnant ladies here and they look super cute in scrubs.
  • Just because they say something has to be a certain way doesn’t mean you can’t ask so many questions that they finally give up and consult the doctor about it to get away from you.

About Jacob

  • We were very hopeful that he would be able to get a walker right away to get him off the ground, but the OT didn’t think that would be realistic.  His feet are profoundly contracted and will need some time to get to a neutral enough position where standing properly is possible.
  • He needs an MRI just to check everything out and some x-rays and blood work, but other than that he should be fine until we can get him therapy at home.
  • He is super happy to have his Daddy back.  And that doesn’t even begin to describe it.
  • He has a real sense of humor.  We were able to have a translator with the doctor and he was telling jokes all during the visit and loved conversing and interacting.
  • He’s compassionate.  He asked the translator several times why Zhanna was sick, was she going to be ok, etc.  He was obviously concerned and we were able to comfort him, but how sweet to see he cares so much about his little big sister.
  • He kept telling us all throughout the doctor’s visit “I’m not scared.  I’m not scared of anything.”  Our brave boy, denied a real childhood all these years.  So excited to introduce him to the experience of being carefree.

About Hope

  • She is a warrior princess.  I am totally in awe of her ability to endure grueling, painful and terrifying circumstances for days on end with so little resistance and so much joy.  How much she’s teaching me.
  • She will need to be in the hospital for at least a week in order to get her nutritionally stable.  We were hopeful for a much shorter time frame, but God’s hand has been so near to us here it has actually been spiritually replenishing for me to just totally rest in His arms through this.
  • She tolerates her IV so well!  She hardly touches it and hasn’t tried to rip it out once, even though it is preventing her from propping herself up or laying in her favorite position.  So proud of my girl!
  • She is quite anemic, which you can totally guess just by looking at her, but strangely enough her iron levels aren’t that bad.  They’re running some more labs to figure out exactly what time of anemia it is so we can work on getting her the supplements she needs.
  • This girl is going to learn to walk!  The physical therapist believes there is no reason she cannot learn to walk with a walker as her strength increases.  Her bone density looks good and she will be able to bear weight when she’s ready.  In fact, she highly recommends we get her a stander right away so she can start getting used to being in an upright position!  How exciting!
  • And I knew this already, but the nurses are confirming it again.  She has a beautiful spirit and a delightful smile.  She is charming the socks off of everybody… except for the x-ray technicians… and the people with the pokes… She doesn’t seem to care for them much.  Not sure why.  😉

Until tomorrow friends!

It is Finished.

They are home.  We are a family of six and it feels amazing to be together (well in the same city at least) again.  Stephen and I are hanging out with Zhanna at the hospital.  Be in prayer for her, this is tough!!  Daddy, Jacob and Evangeline are at the hotel to get a good night’s sleep.  Daddy sure did earn it!  Will update more tomorrow. Thank you all so much for everything.  Truly.  We love you guys.


A Little Quick Housekeeping

Hi Everyone!

Super excited!  Jake and Hope got their visa (as per my post earlier this morning) and they will be on their way home tomorrow!  Please pray for safe travels!

The local paper covered our family’s story.  You can read that here.  Hoping to get a hold of the lovely reporter who interviewed us to get it updated with the awesome news!

My sweet girl is coming home and just in time, her discomfort is increasing, she is not doing well and I don’t know how much longer she would be able to go without care.  We are so blessed that God has interceded on our behalf right when we needed it the most.  Your prayers have been felt friends!  God has used them to do marvelous things.

Thank you all so so much for sticking with us as we finish this marathon, that went a couple miles longer than it was intended 😉

Please continue to follow along and see what love will do for these precious children!  There is so much of this story that has yet to be told, and I am excited to continue it as we move forward and get settled in.

Keep us in your prayers as we will be leaving our home again for a few days to be with Hope at the children’s hospital, as she is being admitted upon arrival in-country.  Pray especially for her peace and comfort.  Hospitals are quite often traumatizing places for institutionalized children who have been abused and neglected in hospitals prior to coming home.  There is no way of knowing ahead of time how she will handle it.  Pray for her!  And also that the painful care, pokes and such, will be at a minimum so that her stress levels might stay down.

Pray also for little Jacob.  He will also be seen and evaluated, which may be stressful.  But most of all, leaving our home is terrifying for him.  We will be staying the night elsewhere and he may think we are not coming back.  This is so hard, even though we are able to get a translator to explain, he just has trouble wrapping his mind around leaving a place and coming back to it.

Thank you again and may God richly bless all of you as you have so blessed us these last several months.


Myself and the three children are home.  Finally home.  Tears well up in my eyes just thinking about how grateful I am to be here.  I can’t even describe how I’ve missed this place; it seems more beautiful and lovely than I remember it.  Hubby and Hope are still in Ukraine waiting for her passport to come in.  This has been a totally unexpected delay, as we thought they would be here six hours ago, but it will probably be Wednesday now.  There was some crazy, rare fluke with the government mail system and they didn’t send the prepared passports to the office in Kharkiv like they always do.  Our facilitator says it has been years and years since she’s seen anything like this happen.  We are trusting God that He’s got it, and there really have been many little blessings in disguise during the delay.

There is so much to talk about and I can’t possibly cover everything, but I wanted to let you all know that we are doing really well, even during the separation.  I have lots of help from family this week, and we are being more than taken care of.  The children are all adjusting fabulously to our new normal, and we will  have a few much needed days of rest and recovery before heading back to pick up Jake and Hope at the airport and heading to the hospital for monitoring.  Below I have some quick updates on how both Jacob and Hope are doing now.  If there is something about the last five days that I haven’t covered and you’re just dying to know, please ask and I’d be happy to blog about it tomorrow!



This boy is doing awesome!  As soon as we pulled up to the house he yelled in Russian “It’s my home!!”  He recognized it from the pictures immediately and was so incredibly excited.  He spent about an hour or so just exploring, and asking me which things were his.  He slept really well in his new bed, although we did have some meltdowns before we got there.  Poor kiddo was totally exhausted as we all woke up at 4:30am yesterday for some reason.  No jet lag though, hooray!

His tantrums are continuing to get fewer and farther between, and less aggressive, although I expect that to vacillate probably for a while.  He is doing really great with his siblings, and they with him.  They act as if they have always just been together and it’s no big deal.  He’s getting very good about learning to apologize and forgive and give hugs after having a disagreement.

The language barrier has not been much of an issue.  There was only one time yesterday when he was so overtired that he kept trying to tell me something I didn’t understand.  But I knew the real reason for his distress was exhaustion, so I was able to take care of him anyway!  I’m learning what his version of Russian means for a lot of things, and he understands quite a bit of what I say.  He follows almost all of my simple commands without any issue or confusion.  His first spontaneous English usage was back in Ukraine.  Stephen had put Jake’s (hubby Jake) shoes on and was walking around the apartment with them and he told Stephen “Take off booties!”  It was great :)

He repeats words quite often, but doesn’t use them a whole lot yet.  Yesterday at dinner after we all sat down he folded his hands before anyone else.  Already learning to pray before meals!  I think he enjoys the prayer, he tries to follow along with us.  Last night I saw him say the words “guest” and “blessed” during the prayer, melted my heart!  He also says “Amen” with us at the end.

Physically he is doing well too.  He is sitting and pulling his legs into positions that I didn’t know they could stay in without some sort of pressure putting them there.  His flexibility is already improved since being in the orphanage.  He is very self sufficient, doesn’t usually need help with pottying or dressing himself and he finds ways to climb on all sorts of things.  His groupa room was on the second floor of their orphanage, so he is very good with stairs, which is great since his bedroom is on the second floor here too!

The nannies had told us that he doesn’t have favorite foods and that he eats anything.  That held true for about two days and he has now decided he doesn’t have to eat absolutely everything he’s given because there will be more 😉  Unfortunately, his taste buds have taken a turn for the worse and he is only wanting sweet things.  The only thing he ate yesterday that was not sweet were the fresh cucumbers from our garden.  No salt or anything, just plain cucumber and he ate about a whole one!  I tasted it though, and it was seriously the best cucumber I have ever had.  So grateful for Jake’s dad who has been working our garden for us while we were away!  Or maybe it’s his garden, because I’m pretty sure he’s done about 98% of the work and is generously allowing us to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of his labor :)

Ok so that’s all I can think of at this moment about my new oldest son.  His first time home and he is the man of the house right now since Daddy is gone!  Can’t wait to see how we do today, our first full day at home!  It’s totally killing me that I am right next door and can’t go to church this morning.  I have  missed it so incredibly much, both Christ and His people.  But I know it’s just not going to be possible today, I can’t wait for our first Sunday back though!  It will be absolute Heaven on Earth.  (Quite literally.)



Alrighty, now for precious girlie!  The updates that are bolded are written by Jake, the rest will be my commentary.

Ok, seriously, its probably just babble but I’ve clearly heard her say “mama” 3 times in the last hour.  This is so awesome!!  She is incredibly intelligent and understands speech very well.  It actually wouldn’t surprise me if she is wondering where mama went (even if she’s just talking about her nannies at the orphanage…)  It must be totally strange for her to have a man being her sole caregiver!  But even if it’s just babble – she is BABBLING!  She can physically say the word “mama”, which Since she understands and can physically make the sounds, it means she will learn to associate it with it’s real life counterpart and start using it appropriately.  It could take a long time, but she wants desperately to communicate, and now that we know she can – I feel totally confident saying she will.  (If she’s not already!)

I’m amazed by Zhanna. We got here and were told in strong terms she was more or less a vegetable. Not even close! She has wanted to play and cuddle all morning with me. She seeks me out and wants to play with whatever I’m holding. I get a little upset thinking about how many behaviors she has, seemingly because she just didn’t have a family to give her what she needed most all these years. As I write she made it all the way across the bed to grab my ipod and scramble the icons for me. She’s been babbling all morning, talking about things in her way. She giggles when I give her new clothes. She’s a real delight. I’m trying to go for walks with her to prepare her for the sights and sounds of our journey home. She doesn’t like these at all. Hopefully she’ll improve over the next couple days.

This was so great to hear!!  All of this exploring and play is a huge improvement from when I was there the first couple days.  I am so so excited that she is starting to break out of her shell and that she is actually seeking out touch and affection again!

Happy to have three females in my home that feel no restraint is needed when telling me I messed up the food.

More seriously, I think Zhanna’s tummy is having some grumpiness over the baby food from the grocery store. In any event she’s been so active all day, moving across the bed to cuddle with and be close. She loves holding my ipod, I presume b/c I’m always using it which means it must be fun. She’s also yelled just to get me told her b/c as soon as I do she has a huge grin that I catch in the mirror. I’m learning to tell the difference between when she’s really in pain or scared and when I’m just not doing something her way. She’s good at telling me the latter!

Not sure what that first sentence is referring to… ahem.  😀  But this is also such a great sign.  She has started vocalizing her needs, which she also did for her nannies.  Very, very good progress.  Hopefully her tummy starts feeling better!  Trying not to change her diet too much before getting back to the states and being under care of a doctor.  But Jake also told me this morning that her thighs are starting to look like they’re filling out a bit!  Praise God!  I can’t wait to see if she gains some weight between her Embassy medical last week and being admitted on Wednesday.

Feeling so blessed and at peace with everything today.  Travel day was HARD.  But this will all be more than worth it in the end, and I would do it a million times over to have the privilege of calling these children my beloved son and daughter.  They are worth every bit of heartache, cost and inconvenience and all the hardship has seriously been zilch compared to the joy of being their mother.

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