Saturday, July 30, 2011


For your entertainment, we present the Brother/Sister Dance off.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Riding the Rainbow Part 3

Our adoption paperwork process was quite an experience. I'll never forget the day we received our dossier packet by email shortly after our commitment was made. Contained in this collection of documents was our child specific petitions. These petitions contained our prospective sons' real life names and birthdays!

Gora Oleksiy & Dozhikhov Evgeniy Andriyovych

The very information that was needed to request to adopt them! I treasured these names and used them to pray for my future sons.

I had never seen names like these before. Last name comes first, first name in the middle, and middle name last! Very strange and new to me. Of course I did a little research and found that it was due to the patronymic naming system used in much of Eastern Europe. A child's middle name is a version of his father's first name. Zhen had three names, one was a patronym. Theo only had two names listed, no patronym, which caused me to wonder and speculate. Did his mother not know who his father was? Was she raped? Later I learned that the facilitators who obtained this information just didn't think it was important to include. No big deal.

Looking back, I can say that our paperwork went quickly and smoothly. At the time, though, it seemed to be one time-wasting drama after another. Getting the required information about our home from the county appraiser was like pulling teeth. I was convinced at one point that our adoption was over because of the resistance I encountered there.

Among my other possibly adoption-ending dramas was the day I was compelled to track our doctor down AT HOME to get a paper signed before an important deadline. As I stood on his doorstep, dying of embarrassment on the inside, I kept reminding myself that my boys lives were at stake. The very same day I caught my social worker at the salon and then later at hardware store after my notary stamped over her signature!

(It's pretty ironic that we have to prove we are not insane in order to adopt. The process is more than enough to take some of us over the edge!)

One other item of interest in the dossier packet was a blank power of attorney. Looking back, a bit wiser, something in my gut says it is not a good idea to sign and notarize and apostille a blank power of attorney and send it over to an Eastern European country.

It took us from the beginning of February until the end of May to complete our dossier and mail it to Ukraine. Not bad, huh? Our translated paperwork was submitted to the SDA, the Ukrainian adoption authority at that time, on June 3rd. We were invited for an appointment on July 14.

Our process in Ukraine was fairly predictable but periodically punctuated with weirdness. Next time...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Riding the Rainbow Part 2

It might be helpful to back up a bit. I've been riding the rainbow for nearly four years now. Would it be helpful to know how I got here?

I became an Internet research bloodhound after Ralph was born, sniffing out anything related to Down Syndrome and pulmonary hypertension. I also turned into an accidental blogger, to more efficiently communicate with friends and family about Ralph's serious medical condition.

When I stumbled across an organization called Reece's Rainbow, I found to my horror that children with Down Syndrome were treated like garbage in many other countries, hidden away in remote institutions, deprived of loving human contact and necessary medical attention.

My God!! What if Ralph had been born in Eastern Europe?

That thought alone drove me to advocate for children listed on the RR site. I used my blog and my credibility to raise funds for specific children and families. I even got my quilting group to donate a beautiful hand-made quilt to give away. I stayed up late at night to pray for the children one by one and read adoption blogs.

I was sure we would adopt a child with Down Syndrome when Ralph's health stabilized. And as soon as I convinced my husband that it was a great idea! We couldn't get enough of Ralphie! The convincing wasn't that difficult to do.

Two years passed. Ralph grew. He became healthier and more awesome, if that was even possible. Then darling little Ruby came along and delayed my adoption plans by another year. Finally, in January of 2010 at dinner with my husband, on my 40th birthday, the decision was made.

We would adopt a child through Reece's Rainbow.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Riding the Rainbow Part One

When I travelled to Ukraine last summer to adopt Theo and Zhen, I had a really unforgettable experience. The trip was hard, physically and emotionally, but I had friends to smooth the way and give pointers. Thank you Toby and Suzanne, and Ken and Nance. I was also warned about problems with our facilitation team, but I put this information out of my mind. After all, based on the dozens upon dozens of adoption blogs I had read over the years, I could completely trust Reece's Rainbow and their Ukrainian facilitation team. Besides, it was too late to find another facilitator.

Boy did I feel like an idiot when nobody was waiting to meet us at the airport in Kyiv! My husband trusted me to make these arrangements. In my sleep deprived and weary state, having let him down, I had my first nervous breakdown of the trip. Thanks to a friendly taxi driver who showed us where to change money and find internet, we were able to contact friends in the US and get help.

In our region, Crimea, we had the good fortune of renting an apartment by the month. This way we paid a little over $17 per night. Not bad, huh? I'm so glad we made our own lodging arrangements. We enjoyed Christian fellowship as well, making friends with local missionaries and Ukrainian Christians. We opted for public transportation and walking in lieu of a daily driver. This alone easily saved us many hundreds of dollars.

Never once, did I feel unsafe or threatened. Perhaps it was all the prayers being said on my behalf. Even walking through wooded areas where homeless men were camped, or footpaths between ugly, hulking concrete apartment blocks, or stepping over passed out drunk people, I felt confident and safe.

Out of deep appreciation for the people who helped us along in Ukraine and a desire to share my unforgettable in-country experience, I set up a private blog for the families who would be heading to Simferopol. Here I shared tips on riding the bus, where to eat, what apartments were available, site seeing and so on. Why shouldn't everyone have a great time in Crimea while adopting? It is a tourist destination, after all.

To be continued...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Theo's wheels.

Look what Theo brought home from physical therapy today! WOW!

You don't even know what a difficult time I had getting these boys to stand next to each other. Isn't it amazing to compare the size of these children, Zhen, (age 4), Theo (age 5), and Ruby (age 2!)? Do you want to be blown away? Keep reading...

Here are Zhen and Theo together almost a year ago:

Theo was TINY! Even Zhen was much smaller. The changes in these two are so dramatic, but I don't see it happening. I have to look back to fully appreciate the way these two have grown and changed. It makes all the tough times worth the while.

Adoption = Redemption

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hanging around the house.

Ralph is four years old now. He's really blossoming!

Each week his speech therapist tells me what a hard worker he is. He sits still and pays attention like a big boy. He has great receptive language, that is he understands nearly everything I say to him.

But, he's so typical in so many ways. His favorite new word, and he really on has a few real words, is "No!" Ralph's word for no sounds like the "n" sound and is usually accompanied by folded arms and a toss of the head. He's a little stinker, I'm telling you! And when he says "no" he means "heck no and you can't make me!"

Any ideas?

Poor little Ruby is still recovering from her ear infection. Little darling is having a rough summer. Thank goodness she has a big sister! When the little boys get too rough she can slip away with Rose and play dress up.

It's been so hot here that the little kids go around in diapers unless we are going somewhere. And we don't go anywhere but therapy on Wednesday and Thursday mornings. We are so bored that we have resorted to games like this:

Perhaps the extra money I'm spending on air conditioning is balanced out by all the laundry I'm not doing? Wouldn't that be nice?

Sunday, July 17, 2011



1. (of a substance or object) Able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.
2. (of a person or animal) Able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions
3. Theo
I cried myself to sleep the evening after I met Theo for the first time. The last time I cried out to God like that was when we didn't think Ralphie would survive shortly after he was born. I don't have the words to describe my rage and heartbreak.

One year after we found Theo in such awful condition that we were reluctant to even share about it on this blog, he is gaining the confidence and strength he needs to walk independently. Just look!! He just started doing this today!!

Yesterday, Theo was playing around in the living room doing his little planks and pike positions. He really wants to be a big boy, walking and running like everyone else. Suddenly I noticed that he was slowly raising his upper body...he was going to stand up! Stand up without anything to pull up on!

I began to involuntarily squeal! Actually, it was more of a scream. Theo did indeed stand up but I screamed so loud I scared him and he fell back on his butt!! I'm continually blessed to call myself his mother. My boy keeps smashing low expectations. He's tough. He's a survivor. He IS resilient.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Rushing to the pool party.

Just got home from our annual baseball swimming party. We finally got wise and arranged for a babysitter for the little ones. I had a much more relaxing time without chasing children and counting heads and being nervous in general.

I wasn't about to sit by the side of the pool today. Who wants to sit in 100+ degree heat and watch others enjoy splashing in the water? Not me.
One problem, I didn't have a suit and we were running late. Rose said, "Mommy, how about Target?" Sweet, bright girl! We stopped there on the way to the party and I found a suit on sale for $10!

Too bad the pool water wasn't cold and refreshing. It's just been so hot here for so long that the pool felt like a bathtub. Yuk. After dinner as the grownups sat around chatting I felt really uncomfortable. I kept shifting around in my chair. It felt like I was sitting on something, but there was nothing in the chair.

By the time I figured out what it was, it was 10pm and we were on our way home. I couldn't wait to the suit off and remove the plastic hygienic shield. That's what I get for being in a hurry!

I'm looking forward to 106+ degree heat all of next week. NOT!! Fall cannot come soon enough.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

More real life...

I debated whether to publish this or not. The last thing I want is for people to think I hate my life! But, I'm committed to keeping it real. You can find beauty and love in a harsh environment. See?
I noticed that Ruby's right ear was red and swollen yesterday. I suspected an outer ear infection. This morning she woke me up crying and I saw that the redness had spilled out onto her face. Time to see the doctor.

But, Thomas had to be at church at 9am for his Thursday summer youth activity. And Theo had therapy at 10:30. And Zhen had therapy at 11:30. I didn't want to wait until after lunch for Ruby to get seen.

I had to make a decision, and quick.

I grabbed the little kids out of bed and...oh goodness. Poop. I quickly threw Zhen into the tub. Did you know that anti-bac hand soap is pretty decent shampoo? There was not time to get little kids dressed so I stuffed their clothes and shoes in a bag and we loaded up the van.

Thomas was on time, but I was stressing out about taking 7 children to the minor emergency office. I was fortunate to run into a friend who took four of them into her home and fed them some breakfast while I took Ruby, Zhen and Theo to the doc. Half a circus instead of the whole crazy one!

I dressed Zhen and Theo in the waiting room and put their shoes on while we waited in the exam room. Ruby received quick and efficient service today and we were out of there with a prescription in no time. On the way out to the van I happened to look down and noticed something on my shirt. Guess what?

I thought I was so careful picking Zhen up out of bed! The half dried out baby wipes in the van just couldn't cut the poop. Oh well, nothing to do but put one foot in front of the other. I had just enough time to pick up the other kids and head across town to therapy.

I treated the kids to McD's while Theo has his PT, and then let them play in the playroom while Zhen had his speech therapy. Poor Ruby. I had to keep her strapped into the stroller while the other kids played. I wouldn't risk her exposing any other potentially fragile kids to her brand of ear and skin germs.

I couldn't stomach dragging all the kids into the grocery store pharmacy that we use so I dropped all the kids off at home. (And I changed my shirt!) Big brother Chipper was home from weight training so he had the privilege of feeding them lunch while I took a time out at the grocery store to get Ruby's medicine! ha!

Did I mention that all morning long certain children kept reminding me that I promised to take them to the pool today? Oh yeah. I took them. For 30 minutes. It was the very best I could do with dad out of town and my only teenager in football camp every evening. There was more drama involving paperwork, signatures, and a whacked out printer/scanner that I'd like to punish severely.

I lived through all this. I tried to love through it, too.

Tonight my husband is home again. My children are sweetly sleeping. All is well.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Or else.

Every afternoon until bedtime Zhen's good eye gets patched. We cover up his good eye to force his brain to use and improve vision in his bad eye. It's a mind trick.

Can you imagine any self respecting 4 year old allowing this monkey business? Nope? Neither can I.

But it is what it is. And I'm his mother. And I will not put his eye doc's children through college for nothing. He will wear the eye patch. And he will wear his glasses. Or else.

Each day I put on the patch. I give him an opportunity to wear it like a big boy. I put his glasses on over the patch. I give him an opportunity to wear them like a big boy.

No? No big boy today?

Ok, then we get the no-nos out. Having his arms straight makes it much harder to get the patch and the glasses off. Well, at least it slows him down a bit.

The stinker has learned to use his feet to take off his glasses and eye patch. He can also wiggle out of the no-nos like Houdini. This is when I pull out my big guns...the footie pajamas!

Too bad it's 100 degrees outside today. I don't think this is a good way for Zhen to live everyday, but it's what are dealing with right now. And right now is all I've got. He's actually pretty happy once I get him suited up and he can't mess with the glasses and all.

I just realized how much he needs a haircut! That will be an adventure for another day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Eyes of a Child

In the eyes of a child there is joy, there is laughter
There is hope, there is trust, a chance to shape the future
For the lessons of life there is no better teacher
Than the look in the eyes of a child

On occasion you will hear me complaining about Zhen's eyes. Seriously, why couldn't the orphanage arrange to have his cataract removed when he was a baby? Then his vision could have developed normally as he grew. The sad truth is that in Eastern Europe, babies with disabilities just don't get the medical care that they need.

Then I stop whining. And I'm thankful. For I remember a bright and beautiful boy that I met at church in Ukraine last summer. Meet Andrei...

About two years ago, Andrei was having some problems with his eyes. His parents took him to an eye specialist in Kiev who recommended laser surgery! Cool huh?

After the laser surgery was performed, the doctor came out to talk to the family and said... "Oops, we made a mistake and your son is now blind in that eye". (Can you even imagine?! The word "malpractice" comes to my mind.) The doctors did not operate on the other eye at the time, (thank God!) but said that it would need surgery in the future.

Over the course of the next two years, Dema and Marina, Andrei's father and mother, home schooled Andrei because the doctor said that a blow to the head or a fall could make him permanently blind. Now, I ask you, is that any way for a young boy to live, in fear of getting bonked on the head or falling down? No rough housing with his little brother? No running?

Now Andrei is now down to 50% vision in his one good eye.

What a nice looking family! Andrei's father leads the singing at church and teaches young adults. His mother is the church pianist. This photo is a couple of years old.

Last Friday, Andrei was having some problems with his eye and so the doctor wanted to take his eye out (!!!) and coat with silicone to help preserve the eye. Well, instead of that (sheesh!) we would like to get Andrei to the United States as quick as possible so that the doctors here can work on him. Marina had an appointment today at the US embassy in Kiev and thankfully, she was able to get the visas they need to leave Ukraine right away.

In a couple of weeks Andrei and his mother will travel to Chicago. A doctor there believes that he can help save his one good eye. A nearby church has agreed to host mother and son for one month while Andrei receives treatment. The good doctor cannot treat Andrei for free, but he will reduce his fee. What a great opportunity!

In keeping with our mission to improve the lives of children in Crimea, Project TLC would like to assist this family with their expenses. We will dedicate contributions received over the next two weeks in order to preserve what is left of Andrei's limited eyesight.

The total projected need is at least $2000, so please share this far and wide, and donate as you are led. You may use the Paypal button here:

Or you may send your gifts to:

His Kids Too!
219 – B Delta Ct.
Tallahassee, FL 32303

*note Project TLC on check memo

God bless you!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

At the ballpark with the littles.

The summer rec league baseball season is quickly coming to a close. I don't always get to see my children's games because I'm home with the littles, Ralph, Zhen, Theo and Ruby. It has been quite hot lately and I don't like to take them out in it.

It was a little cooler tonight and I wanted to catch Thomas' game so we loaded everyone up. The ballpark was practically dead with only two games going on. It was nice to let the littles have a little room to run.
Grandma came along, too. I'm glad because I wanted to try out my zoom lens tonight. I got some good action shots of the team.
Ralph had fun pushing his brothers and sisters around.
He had to really put his back into it!
Theo loved being outside in the fresh air. He's always happier when we are outside. The weather will be heating up again tomorrow. I'm so glad we got out of the house tonight.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Resourceful or redneck? You decide.

We had a lot of fun on the 4th of July. Thomas and Chipper have been working a big tomato patch in exchange for fireworks. Together they earned about $200 worth of fireworks, so we had to get started while it was still light!

We had a ton of rain the night before, but we still enjoyed snuggling on a damp blanket in the grass.

Oooh! Aaaahhh!

Last night Chipper came home from football camp and told me that he didn't get to participate because we had not turned in a physical form for him yet. *Sigh. So early this morning I took him to the chiropractor to get his stuff signed. I needed to get home by 9:30 to get Ralph and Theo to therapy on time.

While I was gone with Chipper, my awesome babysitter, Thomas, fed Theo breakfast and got him dressed and ready to go. I got home just in time to throw Ralph and Theo in the van and take off for the east side of town.

Ralph's speech therapy was first, thank goodness. I found Theo's hair smashed full of dried on breakfast...and...he needed a fresh diaper. What to do? I took him to the bathroom and gave him a bath in the sink! He loved it! The hand soap smelled really good, too. I'm still trying to decide if I'm resourceful or just redneck.

No matter, he was clean and fresh for his physical therapy a half hour later.

Friday, July 1, 2011

New specs!

At long last! Zhenya's new glasses have arrived!

What do you think?

He doesn't seem to mind wearing them...until he's done wearing them. Plus, I have to patch his good eye every afternoon. Sooooooo, he's got his no-no's on under his long sleeved shirt. LOL!

Those arm restraints make him look like a little tough man!

So far we are loving those unbreakable Miraflex frames! I can't wait to get a pair for Theo who, if possible, is even more destructive than Zhen!