Saturday, August 1, 2009

5 months!

Lena has been home with us for 5 months now! She just celebrated her 14th birthday and it was funny because she didn't want to be called 14 until that day. We had her birthday party the Saturday before and she kept telling us she wasn't 14 yet. I think she just wants to feel like she's going to be with her family for a while and not growing up too fast. We bought new linens for her room that she picked out so it would be more "her" room and she didn't want to wait for anything. It's so amusing, because she hasn't had anything uniquely hers in so many years but she didn't want to wait 2 months for bedding so she picked something that she could have in a week.

However, I have to say that she is not greedy with anything either. With one of her gift cards, she bought me a necklace that says love and has 2 hearts. She spent half the gift card on me and I tried to refuse it and told her I wanted to spend it on her, but she said "no, mom" you buy me things too! She was so appreciative of everything, but did learn how to give "hints" of what she needed.

My mom is taking both girls to a "camp" Sunday afternoon through Tues. afternoon with a friend who has also been a long time missionary. It is designed to be a time of spirtual growth. Brianne has long been tuned in to God's moving in her life, but a personal relationship is something new for Lena. We are praying it will be a significant event in her life.

People ask me what grade level Lena is on and there's really no answer. She came here knowing only the alphabet and some of the sounds correct and some incorrect. Now, she's reading on about a 3rd/4th grade level (although pronunciation is interesting at times), writing on a 1st/2nd grade level and developing sentences and learning about parts of speech, antonyms, etc., and doing 6th grade math. That's alot of learning in a different language in 5 months (only 3 during the school year, but we've been doing 1-2 hours 3 x week in the summer too). We are very fortunate to be able to homeschool her and meet her needs at all those different levels. In the Ukraine, she was 5th grade across the board.

I am also thankful for Brianne's help in explaining things to her and to both Blake and Brianne for sharing all that they have with her. God has done a great work and it is amazing to watch life unfold from a perspective other than our own. It has allowed us to not be completely wrapped up in our own lives and needs. I am so thankful for that because it is easy to fall into that trap. We are looking forward to 4 more weeks of summer and a 20th anniversary vacation for Trent and I in Panama on a fishing trip. It's been a whirlwind year and a little breather will be so nice:)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

It's been 2 months!

We've been home with our newly adopted daughter, Lena, for 2 months now. Everything has been moving so fast that I haven't had the time or even thought about updating our blog until asked by several people. I do plan on trying to update now once a month. Lena is adjusting very well. We have been glad to see that she hasn't had the "sad" moments that she had while she was here last summer. When we hosted her, there were many times that she would look teary eyed or like her mind was wondering and we were worried that she missed the Ukraine and her sister. She has now shared more of what her homelife used to be and it is really sad to hear. I will go into that more next month.

Now that we have been back for 2 months, we've only seen that once or twice. I think this summer she was more concerned that we wouldn't come for her. The difficulties that we faced this summer with both girls feeling like they had to compete with each other (being so close in age) has subsided to minor instances and both seem to have relaxed now that our situation is permanent. Brianne and Lena have so much fun together and have become not just friends but truly sisters. It is wonderful to see them paling around together. Brianne has been very gracious and enjoys explaining things to Lena. Lena is a quick learner and very eager to try new things.

Lena wants to understand everything that I talk about and everything that I say that we are going to be doing or the places we are going. She asks alot of questions which wears me out at times, but really helps her knowledge of our language and culture. She is speaking English in short sentences now and we have begun to help her with using the correct words. We do spelling tests, phonic, reading, writing and listening skills in English every day. It is helping to hit it from every angle. I bought her an easy Nancy Drew book and a BoxCar book this week and she finished the first in 1 day and is 1/3 of the way through the second in 2 days. Of course, comprehension will be slower, but we plan on working on that this summer. Her desire to learn and succeed make all the difference.

I feel so thankful that we are homeschooling because it allows us to focus on each girls strengths, weaknesses and character. I feel like it has allowed Lena to move at a much faster pace as well.
She has said two prayers aloud now at the dinner table and we are explaining our faith as much as possible along the way. She also reads Bible verses each day and has told me that she is thinking of volunteering for reading in her Sunday School class!

Blake takes it all in stride and for someone who sometimes has difficulties when routines are changed, he has done incredibly well for having a new member of the family instantly. He really wants Lena to play with him and she complies much of the time. He thinks that she is great "most of the time" and often asks her to say something in "Spanish". He has a hard time understanding that since Spanish is a different language and she speaks a different language why she doesn't understand it! Both girls enjoy cheering for him at his baseball games.

Brianne is a great example of striving to do your best in school. She takes MOST lessons seriously and wants to excel. Lena has watched how she works and wants to be just as diligent. I have seen Brianne grow so much and am glad that we didn't back off of the decision to adopt Lena when we had struggles last summer. She is independent in many of her lessons and I can see how homeschooling is helping to prepare her for doing lessons on her own at college. We plan to work on Spanish w/her this summer while Lena is focusing on English. This will be the first summer that we do some lessons through the summer. I think it will be beneficial and will keep all 3 kids moving forward academically.

Brianne's strength's continue to be writing and art, but she is also becoming more athletic. She is still taking tennis, but also taking volleyball now and interested in being on the competitive team. I am so thankful to have had these years of working w/her in every aspect of her life and really thankful that God brought me back after surgery a year ago. It has been a crazy but amazing year. I am blessed to have a wonderful husband and now 3 awesome kids!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Potential Adoptive Parents notes

Just a few notes for those traveling to the Ukraine:

I am simply adding to a much more detailed list.

Take some hard copies of pictures of your family and house. Also, if you take a picture of you with your prospective child, print it while there to have to give to the judge if he would like one.

Small gifts from Wal-mart or Oriental trading are great for the class for the going away party for your child. I bought large balloons that are the thicker kind for bopping, not just party latex. The boys loved them. They also loved the hotwells cars and the girls lipgloss went over well. On the return trip I took one barbie that sang in English and 1 small lego set that made three different vehicles to leave for the class. The barbies and legos are VERY expensive there. I also took chocolates that are from the US, like York Mints, Reeses PB cups, etc. Most of the girls like magazines that they can cut pictures from.

Games to do w/the class or your child really help bridge the language barrier. Old maid was great and you can use it for concentration. Black Jack was easy to teach and spoons they loved. We left the cards for them too. One day, I took chenille stems which packed easy and we made designs, one day beads and made bracelets.

Purell and hand sanitizer wipes are a must. Plus I took very small pkgs. of hand soap, shampoo and laundry detergent that I bought from I think. They were about 1x2 inches and so I carried the handsoap in my pocket. Most bathrooms don't have soap. We saw ladies in offices carry their soap dishes to the bathroom w/them. I also took travel toilet seat covers which fit in my pocket. Many public toilets have no seats and some (like in the Donetsk airport) don't even have a toilet, just a hole in the ground . The train toilet was NASTY. Go ahead of time and don't drink much b/c it is over night. The train was horribly HOT AND SMOKY! We felt like we were suffocating and did not sleep much. The plane ended up being $100 - $150 and the train was $20 each w/4 people to a tiny compartment. But for this situation, the extra money was worth it to us. If you go by train, you need SHORT sleeves. We only had long johns to sleep in and could hardly stand it. they do have sheets and pillow cases. Take a bottle of water.

I took a very small sound machine and was really glad b/c we were right on busy streets 2 times in apartments and it helped block out noise. It worked w/our adapter/converter on low. We had to take a different converter for our computer b/c it has 3 prongs. Check yours.

For the long plane rides, ear plugs don't block out all noise, but help make it more enjoyable. An eye mask helped me to sleep for a few minutes here and there. Keep the salt, pepper, sugar packets in put in a baggy that you carry in your carry on. It is great to have when you are in Kiev for just a couple of days in the beginning and the same at the end.

Keep a book or cards, small notebook and snacks in your backpack at all times. We never knew when we were going to be in an office waiting for a couple of hours, or an extended time in several offices, notary, etc. Many times we didn't stop to eat until late afternoon. You need to keep running while you can b/c sometimes offices close up early, people leave early or the electricity goes out.

I carried protein bars, jerky and oatmeal from home. They were great for the backpack and for sharing w/our driver/translator. The oatmeal was great if we hadn't had time to buy something to fix for breakfast and for early morning flights. We all took chewable Acidolophilus while there most days and didn't get sick. You can buy them in the pharmacy section of most drugstores or large grocery stores.

Someone suggested a bungee cord for drying clothes. We used ours a little but there's plenty of places to hang them. We did small loads at a time and dried heavy stuff like jeans on the radiator. (Just remember to turn it off when you are leaving:) Someone suggested a stopper for the sink. I took 3 sizes and none worked. We bought regular sponges so we would have them to wash with and used them to stop up the sink.

We didn't blend in very well. Everyone wears dark clothes, mostly black, probably b/c as the snow melts everything becomes a muddy mess. Women wear very high heel stylish black boots, a few daring reds. I had on tan insulated hiking boots and a blue ski coat!!! My feet were comfy though, but black would have been better. Take things that dry easily. I took a long skirt for court and it was hard to keep out of the muddy snow (and yes, I wore long johns under it).

Credit cards work at the large grocery stores and some restaurants. We used ours a few times just until we made sure we wouldn't have to get any money wired over. You have to alert your CC company that you will be making charges out of the country and most charge a small fee on each transaction, so ask. Ours was minimal, a few cents on each purchase. Always have cash as a back up. One restaurant refused our card each time. We think they just preferred cash b/c of the bad economy and luckily we had just enough gryvna! Check prices on everything. We neglected to check the prices of freshly squeezed juice and ended up spending $45 on 4 glasses one night.

Most of all, be patient and prepared. This is not the U.S. Things can be slow and unpredictable. However, it ended up having a real pull on us. I was actually looking forward to going back the second time.


The last week that I was gone, Brianne (our 12 year-old) gave a presentation at my mom's church in Hamilton at their Wednesday night missions time. First she spoke to 8-12th graders and then she gave the presentation a second time to Elementary and Jr. High age. This was the first time for her to ever give a speech in front of a large group. She selected the pictures that she wanted to show from our trip to the Ukraine and made a power point from them. Then she decided what was important or interesting to tell about each picture. Her focus was to make others aware of orphans who live around the world from us and what their world is like. Hopefully, it will bend someone's heart toward these kids even by word of mouth from someone there to someone else. God works in mysterious ways and He can even use a 12 year old to accomplish His purposes.

She was very nervous about the presentation and had second thoughts about doing it. She followed through knowing that obedience has its rewards. She said that she truly enjoyed talking to the group and wants to do this more....traveling to places and returning to tell others about the people who are in need there. She said that the presentation went very well, but what was most surprising was the true joy she felt from following through on something God called her to do that she needed to rely on Him for the strength and courage to get through. Even to the point that we tried to e-mail the presentation from home the week that I was home and it didn't work. I tried to e-mail the pictures to her from Chicago on my way back to the Ukraine and about 1/2 came through. I had to e-mail the rest from an internet cafe after we walked to find one with 4 out of 5 Ukrainians telling us there wasn't one in the plaza where we were looking. Finally, Lena and I found it and got the rest of the pictures sent to Trent. By this time, Brianne had already gone to my mom's house. Trent was trying to e-mail the rest of the pictures directly to the youth minister. They prayed that they would arrive on time and they did after Brianne and Meme had already arrived at the church. God's timing! Brianne thinks He was testing her faith. I told her it would be the first of many times and that would mean many blessings.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Let me know if any of you are interested in hosting any of the children who we posted on the blog. I can put you in contact w/a hosting organization that can check and see if that particular child is available. I'd love to find these children host families so they can enjoy a vacation here or even be introduced to a family here who would love to adopt them. There are no guarantees that a particular child will be able to be adopted, but I have seen it happen many times. These kids deserve love and a family as much as any of our children here. It also gives them an opportunity to know Christ that they might not have there.

We are home and doing well. We did some shopping for clothes today and had our first day of homeschool with 3 now. She has been all smiles since recooperating and getting well!