What time is it in Ukraine?


Friday, April 15, 2011

Bitter Sweet (it's a long one!)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9

We were reminded of this verse as we read through our devotion on Proverbs 31 Ministries today.  Thank you Leah for introducing this site to me!  For the whole devo, click on this link:    http://devotions.proverbs31.org/2010/12/dont-overthink-it.html  It’s about worry.  When Todd read it he laughed because he thought I wrote it!  Haha

So, where do I start?  Sigh…it’s been a LONG and emotional two days.  I’m trying to think of where I left off…

Wednesday Night: 
12 hour train ride to Kherson.  We slept 2 hours and were exhausted when we arrived.  It was a hot ride but thank goodness we brought movies with us.  We both read quite a bit as well and prepared ourselves as much as we could for the orphanage visits.  One of the biggest problems on the train ride was my small bladder!!  GRRRR!  I’ve been so thirsty but that means lots of trips to the bathroom.  Thank goodness I packed lots of baby wipes and hand sanitizer!  I turn every handle with a baby wipe and I’m not kidding, I used ½ a package on the train line alone.  I only brought two packages so I’m getting worriedL  For anyone traveling overseas...prepare your bladders!  I haven’t been able to use one public restroom because of the stench and toilet in the floor!  OMG…sorry if that was too much information but I just had to get it out in the open…and for comic relief! J  Our poor interpreter. Oksana, has already noticed the pattern and can tell from my face what I’m searching for…

Thursday Morning: 
We went straight to an office building to pick up a psychologist then to the orphanage.  Our luggage did not fit all the way in the taxi so the trunk was left open.  We only brought two suitcases, two backpacks, and a computer bag.  Once at the orphanage, we waited nearly three hours to meet 3 year old Sasha.  Once he arrived we spent about 20 minutes with him and his caregiver.  It was the strangest situation…there were about 6 workers in this room, all working on paperwork or talking.  No one in this area was with the children.  There were many people walking around the orphanage with masks and we were all required to wear “booties” over our shoes.  To add to the strangeness, there were bookcases full of books and toys but none of them were out for play.  It was very strange…and sad.  We then met with the director and a Baptist pastor (he just happened to be there and she invited him since we go to a Baptist church) and had coffee for over an hour.  At this point, we were just fighting to stay awake.

After playing with Sasha we dropped off our luggage headed to the grocery store.  By the time we got home it was around 4 or 5pm.  We were exhausted, dirty, and had not eaten anything all day.  We then discovered our stove did not work to cook dinner.  We ate a sandwich and I finally slept for 13 hours…Praise God I was able to sleep! 

I can’t remember who told me this, I think another woman who adopted from Ukraine, but I was told, “Adoption is not for the weak of heart”.  I’ve thought about that so much lately.  I have always been the “weak” one…I mean, I cry at Hallmark commercials.  I try to make a joke out of everything so everyone thinks I’m this “carefree” person, but those who really know me, know I’m a ball of stress and wear my heart on my sleeve.  How on earth am I going to handle this adoption process?????  Well, the strength of Christ Himself, that’s how.  I’ve prayed over and over for the story I’m about to share, because the last words our coordinator, Natalia, told us was “Do not cry at the orphanage”.

I found this song when I was searching for worship songs:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPYaRJOWznk&feature=related
It’s about adoption called, “Everything to Me” by Mark Schultz

We left our apartment around 9:45am for a 10am visit with 3 year old Sasha, our second visit.  We spent nearly an hour with him and spent some time doing cognitive assessments on him.  Thank you Becca for the list you gave us!  See, Sasha can’t walk without assistance.  He has tetraparisis but I thought it looked more like Cerebral Palsy.  He recently had surgery and with some physical therapy and additional surgeries, we thought we could help him overcome these disabilities.  However, we had some cognitive concerns after we met him the first time.  After making a list of different skills to test, here is how our second meeting went:

First of all, they introduce us as “Mama and Papa”.  Thankfully we had been warned by another adoptive parent.  Second, they blow us kisses…so cute!  Third, they are precious, innocent, sweet children. 

We brought Sasha a cookie on the first visit and he devoured it!  On the second visit we brought him a banana.  We wanted to see if he could open and eat it.  Well, he grabbed for it and tried to eat it with the peel.  I tore open one side and our interpreter asked him to peel the rest…again he took a giant bite and started eating the peel ‘n all!  Well, needless to say, his face was priceless after tasting that bitter peel!  I tore the rest of the banana and he shoved it all the way in his mouth and began choking!  I grabbed it from him and we showed him how to take little bites.  This poor baby was starving!!  He couldn’t eat it fast enough…and he didn’t really know how to chew!  It seems all they eat is mushy foods and soups, therefore, he doesn’t really know how to chew food.  Later in the visit the ladies who work there are eating cookies and tea and he RUNS to their table and cries for a cookie.  He again, shoves the whole thing in his mouth and swallows it whole.  It was so sad.
We asked if we could use toys at the orphanage and they agreed.  We brought out some stacking cups and colorful blocks.  He tried to eat the blocks and he was unable to consistently stack the cups in the correct order.  Sasha was easily distracted and would dart from one activity to another.  He loved a “duck on a stick”.  He would push the duck and “quack, quack” with it…he really liked this toy and could walk with assistance.  Sasha’s favorite toy was the rocking horse.  Oh man, he loved it!  He would get on the horse and rock and rock and rock.  He would do the “clicking” noise made to tell a horse to giddy-up as he rode him.  Then, he would quickly stick his tongue in and out of his mouth and babble in the cutest way and made us all laugh!  Sasha also loved books.  He used his baby talk to ask for a book and would sit on Todd’s lap and open it.  However, he didn’t notice that it wasn’t right side up and would get distracted easily.  He also loved Todd’s beard.  They don’t usually see men in an orphanage so he loved to touch Todd’s stubbles.  Then, Anna, Sasha’s main caretaker came in and Sasha did not want to go to her.  She asked him why, and he told her he did not want to go to “groupa”.  He thought she was taking him away and we could tell he wanted to stay in the room with us and the toys.  Some other tasks we tried included hiding a ball under a cup…he was unable to find the ball.  Sasha also had difficulty sorting objects and his language was very delayed.  I heard him say words, but I didn’t hear him use phrases at all.  We expect that there will be delays with any child we adopt from an orphanage.  However, the delays we found seemed to be greater than a year behind.  Our estimates were nearly two years behind.  Some things that surprised us were his fine motor skills.  He was able to repair the handle on his duck and he then problem-solved the stacking cups.  Overall, we noticed he crawled a lot more than he did the day before and has difficulty walking on his own.  He is stiff all over his body and will occasionally shake when attending to tasks.  He was unable to pay attention to one task more for more than 15-30 seconds at a time and was most content on the rocking horse.  The scariest part was the "stares" he made and he didn't respond when spoken to during those short spurts of time.  Sasha gave us a hug and blew us a kiss good-bye and then we went to the hospital to get an evaluation from the doctor.  It was difficult to part.

My suspicions were correct, he does have Cerebral Palsy and microcephaly was confirmed.  After taking notes and getting into the “task oriented” mode, we were able to hold back the tears and ask questions.  After visiting with the doctor, she confirmed our initial decision to not adopt Sasha.  Although everyone at the orphanage and hospital have much hope for Sasha, it will require a lot of time, money, and surgeries, as well as mental, physical, and psychological rehabilitation that might not ultimately work.

After visiting Sasha and the hospital, we travel to buy cookies and candy to visit Sam.  We are warned…Sam is worse off than we anticipate and our translator is very, very worried about us.  We are told he is unable to walk, unable to talk, and unable to show emotion other than a permanent grin on his face. 

Once we arrive at the preschool orphanage, we wait about an hour before visiting Sam.  We are already weepy and I know this is going to be difficult.  We walk into his play room and are greeted with 5 children.  They of course love us…we have cookies and candy!  We see Sam, and he walks (yes, he walks without assistance!) to us for a cookie.  He is smiling the whole way up to us!!!  He is small, very small, about the size of a 1-2 year old child.  He eats his cookie and looks back and forth to both Todd and myself.  I then get a large truck in the corner and “beep beep” it to Sam.  He grabs the truck and pushes it away from him and me.  We chase it down and play with it for a while.  He never really pushed it back and forth to me though.  Another little boy, age 7, loved Sam and played with us.  We would push the truck between our legs and all the kids loved this!  We played, “Ring Around the Rosy” and Sam caught on when we “All fell down”!  We would say “boom!” and hit the floor and he thought that was fun-ny!  We also played “London Bridges” and “Duck, Duck, Goose” and he smiled the whole time.  Not once did Sam speak…and his expression never changed.  One arm was longer than the other and he walked kinda like FrankensteinJ  In my opinion, it looks like he has a form of dwarfism.  We are told he suffers from severe osteomyelitis and the infection has affected his mental development.  He was extremely difficult to potty train and the doctors have “no hope” for him developmentally.  The sweetest moment I had with Sam was when he looked up at me with his big eyes, dimples, and curly blonde hair…chocolate cookie all over his face, and smiled a huge grin while taking my hands in his.  He is a happy little boy and we feel very lucky to have had the chance to meet him. 

It’s so weird how this is unfolding.  When we met Sam, it was like seeing someone we hadn’t seen in a long time.  Until we met him, both of us have felt “trapped” and like “no one else will do”.  We haven’t really been “excited” about adopting because we always have had Sam in our minds.  Now, we have a huge sense of peace and freedom because God allowed us to meet him.  Wow, God orchestrated this meeting and has healed the heartache we’ve been feeling for so many months.

We were able to follow Natalia’s directions and we did not cry while at the orphanage.  In fact, we really haven’t cried until writing this post because we weren’t allowed.  However, God has answered our prayers in so many ways…now we know.  We are at peace in knowing that these two boys were not created for our family.  We know that they need prayer and love and to know God and we are so satisfied in finally having peace about these two little ones. 

Now, we wait some more.  We are going to be in Kherson until Sunday night.  We’ll take the overnight train to Kyiv to apply for our 2nd appointment.  Then we wait in Kyiv.  Once we get our 2nd appointment we will travel to wherever it is we will meet another little person.  Please pray that this is a quick appointment.  Also, please pray that we meet our child on this appointment.  For Ukraine adoptions, you are only allowed 3 visits to the SDA, then you go home.

PS--We chose not to take pictures or videos of our time for many reasons and wanted to protect the privacy of families that adopt these children because they are theirs.


  1. What an emotional ride!! We are praying hard for you all often!

  2. Because I know how hard it was for you to not to cry, I didn't cry through your post. :) Ok, truth betold...I got teary eyed- but that was holding back!

    I am so glad you got to see Sam. What a beautiful blessing that was even though it was tough.

    Thank you for keeping us updated through this journey.

    We are praying for you!

    Ok, I am going to go and work on not crying about the kids not knowing how to eat or play with toys. The hard truth reality.

  3. I am sure many would say that when you travel and do good for others, it seems like it is about what you are doing for others. Right? Like on a mission trip. I am doing ____ to help ____. When in return, it really is about being blessed and changed by those you are helping. I am seeing your blog as this. Your posting and descriptions are blessing me in so many ways. I am just blown away by your experience and I am SO lucky to be able to read about this. Thanks for sharing this experience. BOOO I missed saying hi on SKYPE, today! I know Ashlee was excited!!

  4. Hi Todd and Alicia! Have been praying and will continue to pray. You guys are doing awesome! I am so proud of you for many reasons, but especially that you are seeking God's Truth, staying close to Him and pouring over His Word. He has directed your path...right to Ukraine, and will not leave you hanging! Continue to take care of each other's hearts. And Alicia, it is no surprise that I really like you! But I like you even more after knowing your opposition to odd numbers! :o) Love you guys!