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.


Trying to Trust

Today is another round of emails and phone calls to our senators and congressman.  I am doing everything I can on this end to somehow get Hope exempted from this backlog and get her into the U.S.  She simply cannot wait through the weekend for this issue to be resolved.  We very much need to get her home, but I feel like all my efforts have been fruitless.

I hate hate hate this.  There are so many good and wonderful and positive, God-filled things going on in the lives of our two new children.  There have been countless joys and milestones and they are both adjusting so marvelously to our family.  I have so much I want to say and gush to you about!  But my brain is totally preoccupied with this mess.

I can’t think about anything but that my baby girl is hurting and she needs to come home.  And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.  We could be waiting another day or another week; we have no idea.  But barring a miracle it looks like they will be stuck there through the weekend again.  This is so hard, so so hard.  Last night as I went to bed, exhausted and emotionally empty I heard God’s still, soft voice… “Are you still trusting Me?”  Yes, Lord.  Yes.  It seems simple, but trusting right now feels like the most difficult thing in the world and every fiber of my being is fighting against it.

But yes.  I am choosing trust.  God please make my heart glad again, as if the dawn had already come.

Please continue to pray for us.  Some people have inquired about contacting their representatives in Washington D.C.  That is not necessary; ours are already doing all that they can.  This delay has cost us nearly $2000 in transferred tickets, extra hotel expenses, etc.  Our grant fund at Reece’s Rainbow has been put back up, so there is still a tax deductible way to donate funds that we will have access to immediately.  Here is the link.

But most of all just keep praying; right now that’s about the only avenue I have left.  And perhaps that was the point all along.

Too Much to Ask

Yesterday was such a great day, a perfect, lazy, summer day full of all things American.  An afternoon in the backyard pool, a picnic snack, watermelon, lots of fresh vegetables from the garden, spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, red white and blue cupcakes, baseball, and our huge big lovely home with the huge big lovely yard for little ones to play in.

It was such a beautiful day, we were outside from 7:00am to 5:00pm coming inside only for potty breaks, nap and lunch.  The kids loved it, I loved it, they slept fabulously…

Ok so that’s how my post started this morning.  Then the lovely little ones woke up, I spent all morning having a great time feeding and chasing after them, and then I got a phone call that absolutely destroyed any happy feelings left over from my perfectly scheduled, beautifully ordered, wonderful sunshiny day.

Jake and Hope are still stuck in Kiev.  They’re not coming home on the four o’clock flight, I had to cancel it… again.  For the third time we are cancelling a flight.

She still has not had a bowel movement since we picked her up.  She eats and she’s in pain.  We need to get her to a hospital; we need to get her home.  My other kids need their Daddy and I need my husband.  Every rare, unusual delay that could possibly occur in this last week has happened to our family.  I am stressed and tired and sick of “believing in God’s timing”.  I need to have my family on the same continent like yesterday.  But apparently two great days in a row was just too much to ask.

Yes I am very upset and not handling it well.  God is apparently putting coal through the furnace that was never meant to be made into a diamond.  I know so many people are following our journey right now and I wish more than anything I could just be the shining beacon of hope and a pillar of strength in a really tough situation, but I’m just not.  So yeah, I could use your prayers too while you’re praying that Hope’s condition doesn’t deteriorate further and that her visa arrives promptly at 7:00am tomorrow morning (Kiev time).

Strange Sleep


Bonus picture that is cute but has nothing to do with this post ^^^

I erroneously believed that since we had no jet lag, our sleeping patterns would normalize once we got home.  Man was I wrong.  It is 5:30 am and I have been up for two hours.  Stephen woke me up at 3:30 with some light stirring and I put him back to sleep, then got up to check the others, while realizing that I was still dressed and had my contacts in.

I never actually went to bed as much as I passed out while putting the kids to bed.  I had been having strange dreams about travelling and flying, which has been true both nights we have been home.  I suppose I am just really sub consciously stressed about Jake and Hope’s flight in a couple of days.

So anyway, I tried going back to sleep after a while, and I was almost there when the phone rang.  It was my sweet husband who had a minor paperwork crisis (or thought he did) and needed to ask some questions.  (By the way, Skype is so cool!  He can call me from Ukraine!)  So that was fine, but it was like 5am at that point and I was thinking of all the getting ready I didn’t get done before my unintentional passing out last night.

The last two mornings in a row I’ve been up at 4am.  The first night back we all got up super early like that, and so Evangeline fell asleep at around five in the evening, could not be aroused at all, and woke up at four again.  So I was up with her.  Then yesterday the boys both took a four hour nap in the afternoon!  And still fell promptly asleep after a late dinner.

I tried to take a nap with them, but it was not in the stars.  Something always kept happening that I would need to take care of and eventually I gave up on the sleeping during the day thing.  Maybe today I will manage it!  I’m about to go wake up the childrens and schedule the day so hopefully they are all ready for an early afternoon nap (that isn’t too long) and then bedtime promptly at 7pm.

Wish me luck.  Not only would it be lovely to sleep more normally, but getting a good routine started before Jake gets home would be a huge blessing!  Speaking of which, Hope’s passport came in and they will be able to make their Wednesday flight!  We found out today that the delay was caused by the airplane that was shot down last week, the same day we were travelling home and her passport was supposed to arrive in Kharkiv.

Our inconvenience is nothing compared to the tragedy that hundreds of families are experiencing today.  We will be together soon; they will be waiting until the Resurrection.  Please pray for these precious souls and those they left behind.


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.

We Made It

We are in America with our family.

And that, my friends, is just about the only thing that went right today.  I have never had such a horrible travelling experience in my life.  Jake is stuck in Kiev for another five days because of a rare technical delay at the passport office.  We aren’t home yet.  Still at  a hotel for tonight.

I have nothing more to add.  Perhaps tomorrow.

Good night America… missed you, but I miss my husband and daughter more, quite honestly.

Running on Empty


My heart is full… we are finally together!  When Jake put our Hope in my arms this evening and I had a few precious moments with her before things got crazy again I was so happy and relieved; the tears just came.  Holding her while watching my other three children play on the floor, all in the same room, I can’t even express the joy of it.

My cup is overflowing.  My heart is full, my arms are full… my hands are full and so is my plate.  I have one day left in Ukraine and a million things to accomplish in that short time frame!  But the last few days have taken it out of me.  Physically, emotionally and mentally I am running on empty; we all are.

We could use your prayers.  Pray that God would strengthen us to be good parents even in the hard moments.  Pray that that our Consular Officer will have mercy on our little girl and make an exception so she can get her visa on Friday.  She didn’t really eat much for us today and I would be worried sick about her deteriorating if she has to stay in Kiev three extra days over the weekend before making it to the children’s hospital in Saint Louis.  Pray for supernaturally restful sleep for everyone.  It will be a very long day tomorrow and we all need to be on the top of our game.

Please no advice.  We really have everything under control.  But there is so much outside of our control that we very much need prayers for.  And if I do need guidance about transitioning traumatized, fragile children while travelling or any parenting advice I have plenty of experienced mamas I promise I will ask.

Nor do I need spiritual advice on praying harder or trusting God more, I’m sure I know anything and everything you’ve got to tell me.  Yes, I probably need to hear it, but not it isn’t going to help me right now.  Just keep us in your prayers, and if you see a spiritual deficiency (I promise there are many) just say extra prayers for that.  It’s not that I don’t want to hear it, I am just running on empty and have literally no energy to process any well-meaning advice other than possibly “Go get some sleep and drink some coffee.”

And with that, I am going to go to sleep… and maybe we’ll have time for coffee in the morning.  After I finish paperwork anyway…

The Day Between

Today is the day between our new children’s Gotcha Days.  And earlier on our Facebook Page I wrote this update…

For some reason I can’t access my blog. *GASP* Hopefully will be getting that resolved soon. In the meantime, we are doing great here. We had one little meltdown from Jacob leaving the playground and besides the bedtime craziness everything has been smooth sailing!

I am so proud of how well our new son is taking every new thing in stride and learning so quickly how family dynamics are different than in the orphanage. His interactions with his new siblings are already getting softer and less defensive, although we did have to have a lesson in hugs today! Lol!

Jacob and Hope also met each other briefly and all five of us were together for a brief few minutes! Tomorrow it will be forever!! Can’t wait! Stay tuned for a more in-depth update hopefully in a few hours. If my blog lets me in….

So here is the more in-depth version! I did get the blog problem resolved obviously. :)

We are doing really great. I expected these two days to be so much rougher than they have been. I won’t lie, it has been stressful with everything going on and there have been moments of panic on my part. It hasn’t been especially pretty all the time, and in fact, sometimes it’s downright ugly.  But our newest addition is blending in fabulously and he seems to be having a great time!

We just left the playground, though, which he did not want to do at all. And he cried most of the walk home, but by the time we got to the apartment it was clear he was just milking it and he wasn’t getting any attention so he gave it up. Nothing like the tantrum we saw at the orphanage last week; it was a very mild normal kid tantrum. I’ll take it!

He did have a really difficult time going to sleep last night and that was exhausting for everyone. I am praying for a better situation tonight.  If he spends three hours fighting sleep for the rest of the week we are going to have a really long week.  (Wrote this earlier in the day, he actually had a fabulous night and was soundly asleep with the others right away!)

Evangeline and Stephen are doing marvelously with their new brother. They’ve had to learn some new boundaries, as Jacob really needs his space.  Yesterday, whenever one of the kids got close he would go straight into defensive mode and start hitting at the air and yelling. I have a feeling he usually got attacked when other kids got that close in the orphanage. He’s not used to this hugging and affection stuff coming from other little ones.

But Stephen has been thrilled to have him here so far, and he was the first person Stephen thought of this morning. He woke up and asked “Uri?” And later that morning he went over to give his new big brother a hug. Jacob was not appreciative of this and pushed him away, which I used as an opportunity to have a family hug lesson.

I said “Jacob, nyet.” And I sat him on my lap and explained (in English with lots of hand gestures and example hugs) that hugs are good things and Stephen just wanted to give him a hug, and that it is nice to let people hug us. Then I invited Stephen over and he got his hug and Evangeline gave a hug, then Evangeline and Stephen gave each other a hug, and lastly Stephen proceeded to give hugs to the rest of the room.

It ended with lots of laughter and smiles all around. He tolerates Stephen’s touches now. Stephen likes to occasionally walk up and hug people or pat them on the back or look over their shoulder to see what they’re doing. It’s really very sweet, but Jacob had a hard time with it at first and we had to really watch to make sure no one accidentally got hurt by reflexes. But this afternoon Stephen patted him on the shoulder and there was absolutely no reaction! Things are getting better, he is learning so fast.

Jacob is also quite the cleaner. I think the nannies are pretty strict about that at the orphanage. He made his bed and tried to make mine too, lol! He also loves the playground, but gets super preoccupied with cleaning all the garbage off of it (and here there is a lot of trash). Needless to say he got a thorough hand washing when we got back inside! He also seems to have designated a night stand as his shelf. Whenever we would give him a clothing, a toy or a book to look at he immediately went to that shelf and put his things in the drawers. We’re also getting better at sharing! Slowly but surely!

We had paper chasing for Hope today and everything didn’t go super smoothly, but it all got done on time and we are still on schedule for the week! She had to get passport pictures, and since I wanted to have time to visit her at the orphanage before Gotcha Day, the kids and my mom and I drove there while Jake was doing paperwork.

I was nervous about whether she would be ok or not since we haven’t seen her in so long, I should not have been concerned! As soon as she heard my voice she got a huge smile, and when she actually saw me she was giggling and kicking her legs she was so excited. It was the best reaction, and my heart was so full to see that kind of joy from my little girl!

FabFiveWe got to watch the nannies feed her so I know how much she eats at each meal, and then we got to walk out with her! We went back to the apartment where Jake was waiting, as he needed to take her for passport pictures. So all five of us were together for about fifteen minutes. It was great! And tomorrow it will be for forever!

By the way do you see how handsome my husband looks in that lovely pink carrier?!?!  How manly is that!  The things a doting father does for his little girl.  I think I fell in love all over again just seeing it.  :)

Poor baby girl had a hard time with the pictures though. She didn’t like it one bit and it took them a while to get one that would work. Jake said he saw quite a few of her anxious behaviors on the trip back to the orphanage, which broke my heart as she was just all smiles on our drive in. I hope it doesn’t make her nervous during Gotcha Day tomorrow!

And I’m off to pack AGAIN and to do some Embassy paperwork before bed!

Please continue to keep us in your prayers. Here are some immediate prayer requests we have…

Prayer of thanksgiving that Jacob is doing so well AND that he fell asleep in minutes tonight!! Also prayers that this ease in transition would continue for him as we make the long journey back home.

Prayer for our family as we separate for several hours tomorrow so that Jacob can be in Kiev on time for his first Embassy appointment and Daddy can finish everything up in Hope’s city.

Prayers that the Embassy would have soft hearts tomorrow as we ask for special timing on getting Hope’s visa. We will need them to be open a little later Friday in order for Jake and Hope to make their Saturday flight.

Pray that all would go smoothly in the morning so that Jake and Hope can make their 1:00 pm train.

Pray for patience and strength and wisdom for Jake and I as we learn how to parent these two new precious ones along with our others and make the adjustment to a family of six.

And, of course, for safe travels!



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