SIX Months

Six months since Chris and I got the kids from the orphanage….

Six short, long, happy, hard, crazy, months.

I don’t do well writing regularly, as you may have noticed…or forgotten since you don’t expect much of this crazy lady, but these milestones seem worthy of an update. Some to satisfy someone’s curiosity and some for our own reflections…some day. Some day Chris, myself, one of the kids, etc will look back and read. Chris and I just did it yesterday. We needed a date reference for some paperwork, the computer hard drive with the pictures that would help us find the date has been possibly wiped out 😦 , so we looked to the blog. Looking back and seeing photos of that first night in the hotel, seeing them smiling and trusting from the beginning. It all seems long ago now, but six months can be long or short, depending on the season.

From the beginning, I made a mental note that the first year would probably be the hardest. Three new kids at once. Them learning about how things work in our family. Us learning more about their personalities and past than we could in those superficial classroom visits. Me not speaking Russian. Them not understanding English. And 300 other things that someone more eloquent could point out.

And here we are. Half way through the first year. Now, whether or not my prediction that the first year would be the hardest is yet to be known. After all, how could anybody really ever know which year will be the hardest? And who am I to say God isn’t preparing us for a harder year in the future? It was just a way of reminding myself, in advance, that I didn’t expect smooth sailing.

Yes, it has been hard, but not to the exclusion of not having victories and happy moments. I will say it has been the hardest year I can recall, but I don’t attribute all of the reasons to our new family size.

Communication. This has gone from me asking Chris to “Tell them, this.” and “Tell them, that.” about everything. It was so frequent that he was exhausted and at some point stopped translating everything I asked him to translate. But the kids and I were from different worlds and I felt left out if Chris was talking to them and not translating for me, or they felt left out in our regular family conversations because we didn’t want them to know what we were saying or Chris may only have translated the general idea. It is hard being the one who doesn’t understand what is going on!

The first week of church, with Chris’ mom still in town to help us, I was a frantic control freak about the seating order. (Sorry Mom.) Yes, this is my usual tendency anyway, but I expected major problems. Of what sort, I’m not sure. But I didn’t know if or when we’d be able to sit through a regular church service without issues. We do! Now this doesn’t mean there isn’t much discussion of “who” they want to sit near and strategic placement of adults and big kids between the less experienced ones, but we do it. Every week. And Chris sits at the piano until the sermon begins. They do well. Are they listening? Probably not much, but how many weeks did they sit there admirably well when they didn’t even understand what was being said? Many. It is hard enough to be good for 1 1/2 hours when you understand, let alone when you don’t.

Last spring, as we anticipated the arrival of the kids, I pulled back from every commitment possible because I didn’t know what my new reality would be. I wanted to focus on our family and the adjustment process. We wanted things to be gradual and not overwhelming for them. But it was the end of the school year so I remember attending several large events right off the bat. Mom B. had to go back to her real life in Florida. Chris had to go back to work because he had taken many days off to travel as we were visiting the kids and completing the adoption process. Then he was working so much that he couldn’t go to Florida with us for the summer, but we didn’t know how to best handle living in an apartment in a big city with so many kids, so I jetted across the ocean and we all came out alive at the end of the summer. And then they learned English along the way because they had to since dad wasn’t there to translate and the big kids didn’t want to translate parenting remarks to their new siblings. And I was impatient and angry and overwhelmed and wondered if we had chosen right or wrong by wanting to spend the summer in freedom, but away from Chris. It was hard. But they have great memories and experienced so much. And Chris finally did join us for a short while at the end.

So summer was over and we came back to our life of work and school to find our real “new normal”. Five kids at our Christian school in Kyiv. Three kids returning. Two new kids speaking functional English, but not on grade level in school. Not always bringing home a good report, but loving being at the same school as their big brother and sisters. Playing, very much, the part of the annoying little brother and sister, according to the big kids. They are still learning so many things. But they have made so much progress! Communication is no longer an issue. Not meaning they speak grammatically correct for children their age born to English speaking parents. No! Of course not, but leaps and bounds and heaps upon heaps from the amount of English they knew back then. Denya and Ana understand almost everything and can express themselves surprisingly clearly. Sometimes I ask them to repeat or tell them I don’t understand what they are saying, but the majority of the time it is amazing to realize how much they have just naturally caught onto. Edik too, but a little slower with him speaking English. He understands most everything.

Chris and I were reminded again in the paperwork process yesterday of how small Edik was at birth. It didn’t register or stick with me when I heard the initial report because there were so many other things simultaneously going on. A flood of information, if you will. He was only 28 weeks old at birth! A premie weighing only 1.2 kilos! This is the other reason it didn’t “stick” with me. I didn’t know the exact conversion and then didn’t go back and do the math. Let me tell you. This boy weighed just 2.6 pounds. That is just 1/3 the weight of my two smallest babies. He was not strong. He did not have a nurturing home environment. I don’t know how long he stayed in the hospital and what sort of care he received. Is he faring well all things considered? Yes! Could he have thrived even better in an American hospital and with different circumstances the first 4-5 years of life? I’m certain. Did he or we get to have a say in these matters? Of course not. So it is good for us to be reminded when we are impatient with bed wetting, language in comparison to his siblings, when we wonder why he doesn’t move like a “normal” kid his age. “Hello!” He is thriving. He is learning. It isn’t at the same speed as a “normal” kid, but he hasn’t had a “normal” start in life. He is happy. He is teachable. He is our son.

Lots of people ask how the other kids are with the adjustment of the new kids. They are fine. Not perfect. Not without struggles of jealousy or impatience. But everything has changed for them too. They do well. Chris and I now split our attention more ways than before and it changed all at once, not gradually. They have ups and downs just as we do. Moments and seasons of compatibility and moments and seasons of irritability. Yes, I have heard, “Why did we have to adopt?” But I have also heard, “I didn’t have anyone to play with when you were in the orphanage.” We have two little five year olds who play together exceedingly well everyday while the big kids are in school. We have two bigger boys who build forts and play Legos and soccer and boxing together. Ana loves playing with Niya and Edik each day after school. Ellie is the most nurturing and patient older sibling. They are all learning and growing through the experience. It isn’t always easy to be part of a big family, especially if you are quiet and don’t like the attention a large family draws or the noise we generate, but hard things can be good things. For example, it is teaching them life doesn’t revolve around themselves. It gives them endless opportunities to put others first, to wait patiently (whether for the bathroom or mom’s attention), to share, to be happy for another, and more.

“Has it been hard?” Absolutely.

“You are so (fill in the adjective: good, nice, patient, kind).” Yeah. Right. I guarantee people wouldn’t say things like that if they knew the thoghts I’ve had, the words I’ve said, the selfish and immature behavior I have exhibited.

While I never for a second thought “this will be easy”. It isn’t like we really knew what to expect either. Adoption has made me more aware of my sin than ever. (Both adoptions. Every day.) Everyone has different lessons to learn and in different ways, but for me, it was sort of easy to think, “I’ve got this parenting thing figured out.” It was pride, people! “I can do this.” “My kids (this and that.)” “We do (this and that).” “I trained them.” “I taught them.” Me. Me. Me. I am daily learning lessons. I have a lifetime of refining that will take place. I am not a perfect example, but thankfully Jesus is.

I have no regrets about adoption, even though it is the hardest thing we have ever done, and I absolutely believe these children were meant to be part of our family. May God bless our ongoing adjustments and growth as a family.

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3 1/2 Months

My last entry was written when the kids had been home with us just 3 1/2 weeks. We were high over the Atlantic Ocean on our way to Florida for the summer (mostly) without Chris. Fast forward to now and it has been 3 1/2 months since they have been home (adopted).

We had a full summer. A fun summer. A long summer. A short summer. A hard summer. A great summer. All of these things and more. I didn’t write more in depth for several reasons:
-I couldn’t. Truthfully, I was often just surviving as a new mom of seven, separated from Chris by an ocean.
-I didn’t want to. I didn’t feel our adjustment phase was meant to be posted on the internet.
-I didn’t know what to say.

(And still don’t, but I don’t want the blog to completely die even though I have a love/hate relationship with it. I am thankful for those of you who check in on us and who pray for us so I try to keep it alive).

The kids and I were in Florida approximately 6 1/2 weeks before Chris was able to join us. Then we had 2 more weeks together as a family before returning to Kiev (for our final school year). Our main job was to pass the summer playing. We didn’t have a big agenda, but purposefully added some framework. Swimming lessons lasted for three weeks. Church on Sundays, of course. A summer Bible conference. Two different sets of friends came to visit from out of town. Two different sets of family members came to visit from out of town. We saw grandparents, aunties, cousins, local friends. Ellie had a little baking business. Aiden turned 10. More water play than I can count. There was lots of fun and good memories made.

Yes, it was hard traveling with the kids and being without Chris for so many weeks. But yes, it was a good trip. No, I don’t regret it (the trip to FL was voluntary and a hard decision since we knew Chris couldn’t get away from work, but we felt a catch 22 with so many kids and our housing situation in Kiev).

That was mention of what we did, but you are probably more interested in the kids and how the adjustment is going. I think very well. We love them and feel they belong in our family. They seem to love (or at least like) us too. I think they are happy to be with us and feel a welcome part of the family. Of course we’ve had growing pains and a learning curve. It would be silly to say things are wonderful and perfect, but I do feel it is going as well as can be expected. Praise God! We are learning about them. They are learning about us, about how to live in a family/our family, they are picking up English quickly, they have cheerful hearts and smiles.

We read Bible stories in Russian and English and Denya has seemed familiar with several popular stories as well as Biblical teachings. His church experience sounds like it came from the orphanage bringing the kids to an Orthodox Church. I don’t know how regularly this would have happened, whether or not the kids liked it, etc. I have also heard some things from him regarding religious ideas that we don’t endorse. But, they are teachable moments and he has a good memory and is receptive to what we say.

School has begun for the five oldest kids and that was a huge praise! We wanted the new kids to go to the same school as our other kids because we love it as well as the obvious simplifying with one school schedule/calendar/transportation logistics over two. The kids were tested, accepted, put into classes with marvelous teachers, and look forward to it each day. Denya wished for there to be school even on the weekend.

Edik and Niya stay home with me everyday so far. We have slower mornings, walk the dog, go to the park, read books, and they play together quite well for large blocks of time. I drink too much coffee, do better at my personal reading, putter around the house trying to address piles of randomness that have been ignored for far too long, plus all the usual laundry, meal prep, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc. Any member of the family could tell you that this doesn’t mean our house is cleaner than before, but hopefully gradually less cluttered. I am staying home more than usual this school year and at least for the immediate future. Not that I don’t want to be out. One of my favorite places to be is volunteering at the big kids school, but Chris and I are still weighing cost as well as what is best for our youngest new son.

That was a massive simplification of our life since June 11. Perhaps I shan’t wait so long before writing next time?

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3 1/2 weeks

It has been 3 1/2 weeks since the night we arrived home with the kids forever! I didn’t intend to go so long without writing. In fact, I hoped to stay current for those of you following our story. However, just as it hasn’t been the case in the past, I don’t seeing it be a reality now either. Still, I can give an overview and it will save you and I both lots of time.

We were so thankful to have Chris’ mom stay on several days after we arrived home. Also, she deserved to finally get to meet the kids after coming such a long way to help us in the process of bringing them home! Our home was never tidier…and probably never will be again, but I enjoyed it while it lasted. I think she enjoyed experiencing our Kiev life more this time than when she, Dad B, and Grandma H visited for a short time in the past. It also probably made her happier than ever to return to the US of A. (Despite the friends I’ve made in Ukraine I feel the same way.)

We jumped right in with Chris needing to go to work the very next day. Mom and I navigated all the new…everything surrounding the kids being part of a new family. We needed lots of Google Translating, motions, and being led by the hand to show what words meant.

The paperwork wasn’t complete upon arriving in Kiev. We still had many hoops to jump through to complete the process for USA immigration visas. It took us three extra weeks, but I think it is because we weren’t “desperate” to go home to the USA. We were already home and had tons going on with Adeline, Ellie, and Aiden finishing up the school year the following week; end of year program, track meet, friends hosting my kids before we parted ways over the summer, etc. All of this with Chris working lots and adjusting to three new children too (and them to us, of course).

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Summer

As I indicated a post or two ago we also hoped to travel for the summer. Our plans came crashing down when we found out that Chris could not take the leave we had been hoping for, not even just the time to accompany us there and quickly return (for all of our safety and sanity). We then had to face the dilemma of deciding between going to Florida without him or going crazy in our fifth floor apartment. Neither seemed acceptable so we brainstormed more and talked about pursuing a rental home with fenced yard, pool, etc. for the summer. However, certain aspects of that option weren’t sitting well with us either. So we did the best AND worst thing for our family and decided I would travel to Florida with seven children, unaccompanied by Chris.

I call it the best thing for our family because the kids and I have nine weeks scheduled in Florida to take a break from Kiev city/apartment confinement and instead, be in our hometown with family just a few miles away. We can swim, run, climb trees, ride bikes, kayaks, and other summer pleasantries in the scorching Florida heat.

But I also call it the worst thing for our family because we aren’t together which is never desireable, but even more so because of the new children. Our new kids are supposed to be bonding and attaching to their new parents/primary caregivers; mama and papa. How can this important phase for our family take place without papa? It was a dilemma I didn’t want.

And that is where the story picks up because I am on the airplane as I write this post.

It was a whirlwind getting to our too-early-in-the-morning-flight on time, but we miraculously made it. Note to those of you going through this process: Despite taking the normal line out of the airport regarding passport control and exiting to the USA with our USA passports, they took a considerably longer time to scrutinize the Ukrainian children’s passports and even requested the adoption documents. I felt tense, not because I feared we were unprepared (legally), but because of the extra time it added when we had already cut it too close. As it was, we had to cut people to get to the front of the passport control line because of our flight time, and then delayed to the point of me sending the American children ahead since their passports had been handed back first. I figured they’d be more likely to hold the plane if four children’s mamma was “still coming”. Yes, Denis, Ana, Edik, and I were last to board and we even got to hear our names called over the speaker to report to the gate. So please, take my advice and don’t show up only an hour early despite the terrible feeling of getting a family to the airport at 4:45 a.m. It ain’t early enough for a 5:45 flight. “Duh.” I know you and I knew that already, but the things fatigue and other external pressures does to the mind is a strange phenomenon.

And another word to any other crazy, traveling-alone-mammas-with-newly-seven-kids out there, don’t haul along your two oversized and heavy car seats for the children “especially for the long flight” if you have a 5+ hour layover in Frankfurt. Please, learn from my mistake and just pack them with the other checked baggage. It will be a big enough task to wander the airport wilderness for that long without them in tow and not drive yourself and your easily embarrassed 13 year old daughter crazy. Let alone not being able to exit the airport as previously assumed (and mentally planned) to help kill time because A) the Ukrainian kids are not allowed to exit into Germany with a USA visa (even though the Americans can), and B) you must exit into the general area for the baggage storage area where I thought we could ditch the seats during that time. Thankfully, free carts were in surplus, but it was a major headache since we couldn’t take them up or down escalators, on the airport train, or through security limes. We did lots of loading and unloading the seats with each change of scenery, which I assure you was necessary to pass the hours. I told the older girls they could be thankful they weren’t Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years since the modern airport was considerably more temperature controlled, stocked with food, smooth floors, seats, and distractions of trains, escalators, etc. and we had still had more than our fill. 😉

So, yes, now all eight of us are crashed in a general vicinity of one another with endless movies and drinks, bathroom breaks, and “Close your eyes. It is time for a nap.” on the nine (?) hour flight from Germany to Orlando.

I would say it is going well. Even though when I did the journey without Chris last summer (with only four kids), I made several statements and mental notes NOT to repeat the experience. So for this good report, I am thankful to God, as well as for those of you who prayed for our travel day and also have continued to pray for our family adjustments.

Still reading? Whew! Tell me what you’ve been up to and whether or not we will visit with one another before I leave Florida on August 8. No, I don’t plan to travel beyond Inverness. But feel free to come to us!

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The End & The Beginning

This is the end of one chapter, but also the beginning of one new. It is called Adjustment and Finding Our New Normal. I don’t know how long it will last, but it really won’t be our new normal. The biggest three kids will finish the school year on Wednesday (may 22), we will continue working on travel requirements for these three kids, unknown number of medical appointments once they are enrolled on our insurance, and Lord Willing, head to Florida beginning about the second week of June. Maybe our new normal won’t begin until late August with a school schedule. (Chris and I are currently working on figuring out where they will attend in the fall. I have toured three Ukrainian schools in addition to wondering about the school where the other three attend. Time will tell. This is a specific thing you can pray for, in addition to my biggest hurdle: language barrier!

We praise God for many specific points including:
Safe round trip travel a total of 4 times (two driving-one time on the winter tires in March, one time on the summer tires in May, and two via train)
No mechanical or tire problems
No police stops
Favor of short or no wait times at most locations
Majority of friendly officials in city of Zap especially
No (known) mistreatment of the children
Good or decent orphanage conditions (compared to some stories we’ve heard)
No known allergies or outstanding health issues
Siblings reunited and happy to see one another, share with one another, help one another and get along

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Day After THE Day

That isn’t the greatest title, I know, but picking up where I left off….

(As you may recall, THE Day was when we got all three kids into our care and out of the orphanage forever!)

I set my alarm extra early Thursday since we wanted to get to the hotel breakfast ASAP to be early in line at the passport office. Plus, I didn’t know what to expect with the kids whether in waking early, taking long to get ready, or to eat breakfast. All was smooth as possible with them waking gradually, getting new clothes, brushing teeth, STAYING DRY. (Woo-hoo, I wasn’t sure with the little one who we discovered yesterday likes to go lots in a short period of time.) We had a fancy breakfast, the kids ate lots (which we are encouraging so they will G.R.O.W.!). And we made it to the passport office by 8:30 a.m. Our attorney went in to try and get us to be seen ASAP, but we only succeeded in accomplishing Denis’ passport process. We had to return by 12:45 for the other two kids. Major bummer. We were hoping to hit the road for Kyiv this morning, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Instead, we returned to Edik’s orphanage because we discovered yesterday that in our hasty departure we had left his photo book behind. While we stayed in the van, Chris went to scout it out, and also returned with a toy he had purchased for Edik in Germany. This was a surprise because we hadn’t realized we didn’t have it yet. Chris said one of the little boys called him Edik’s American Father when he walked onto the playground and volunteered Edik’s toy. Wow!

Next back to the tax ID office, then to kill time at a playground. The two boys found a tree to relieve themselves near (commonly done here, even by adults, but we cringe, of course). Thankfully, I found something more civilized for Ana and I without too much effort.

Back to the passport office early, just in case. Ana and Edik are eventually processed too. Whew! We hit the road because they likely won’t be ready until Wednesday of next week.

Thus begins the longest car trip of their lives…
I won’t break it down by the hour. They did well having gotten somewhat used to the idea of seat belts and staying in until we say it is okay to unclip. I had one small bag of trinket toys and books which lasted a short while. But they each napped, although short, ate snacks, sat nicely, and were good sports about the whole thing. They are excited to get to Kyiv, brother, sisters, and Grandma. We tell them they will sleep in their new beds tonight. Too bad we are expected to arrive after bed time on a school night (for Adeline, Ellie, and Aiden), but it can’t be helped.

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The Rest of “THE Day”

I left off last time right before we got the kids on THE Day in anticipation on our drive. Moving on: (Give me grace on changing tenses, over using the commas, other punctuation, and cringe worthy errors. I am going for general content and these writings have been pieced together as I’ve had down time while traveling, but not without interruptions. Sometimes “now” was actually “then”, etc.)

It was still morning when we arrived into Berdyansk where we went first to the downtown Social Services office. We waited around for the social worker to be ready to ride along with us to the orphanage. She was kind and happy for us. Her job was to help with all of the final paperwork, and I can’t say I understand anything I was signing or that we took the time to ask. There was so much going on and we trust our attorney(s) completely so we left that part up to him and just signed away. I remember everything happened really quickly once we got to this point. So much waiting and close supervision leading up until then, but now, FINALLY, they were telling us the kids can change their clothes into whatever we brought them.

Chris made several trips out to the van between the kids small suitcase that we brought with clothing size options (not precisely sure what was going to fit as we had been guessing based on the tags we stole glances at during our previous visits), as well as sports and clothing items donated to the orphanage.

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The good-byes began. Denya with his class, Denya and Ana with their orphanage director and two teachers. Daddy holding Ana. It was sweet. I could tell certain people were teary-happy for them/us. I felt the same way. Happy, but sad at the quick good-bye, thankful for these adults who seem to be employees with a heart for the kids. I think Denya and Ana had a best case orphanage scenario. More photos, more good-byes and hugs. We asked as many quick questions as possible, but it was clear that the director was on her way out and we were free to call anytime, especially since we live in Kiev. Phone numbers and email addresses exchanged. For some reason we couldn’t go take a photo of Ana with her class so I don’t know what sort of closure, if any, she had there. But when we asked to go take a photo of her class they began the task of filling a thumb drive with photos for us to take home in the office. I haven’t seen it yet, but  was so surprised.

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Then it was time to load into the van where we almost instantly had protest from Ana. I haven’t purchased her car booster seat yet so I figured Niya’s Britax Roundabout was better than nothing for the long trip ahead. (I had a different one along for Edik.) She identified it as Niya’s and we heard on again, off again comments about it the rest of the way to Zaporizhya (babyish, uncomfortable, etc.) In her defense, she has probably never ridden in one, let alone one that is a bit small, and at this age. I understand. Both she and Denya clearly were not car or seat belt trained prior to this. We had Denya in a standard adult seatbelt, even though he needs a booster too, due to his small height. Both of them felt they could unclip and pop in and out of the seat on a whim to get this or that (it was only a 2 1/2 hour drive). Thankfully today has been much better in the car. Edik wasn’t an issue with the car seat. He is younger, his is properly sized, and he sees Ana accepting it today.

They are previously used to a different sort of freedom that my other kids didn’t have. Our other four kids are trained to obedience, coming when called, stopping when told, etc. You know, just basic safety, respect, and all the other things you expect from Chris and I. Well, as I mentioned yesterday, we all have a lot of learning ahead of us. Them to listen and obey the first time as well as the repercussions from not listening and obeying. And us patience and keeping in mind that they, perhaps, are not being naughty, just wild from not being taught things like: street safety, the importance of “STOP”, knowing mom or dad mean business when they call my name, or say “no” to something, etc. We’ve had whining (which seems to be cultural for some reason as well as something mom can’t stand), nagging, disobedience, teasing, kids talking over one another, talking over adults, and more.

Yes, it is somewhat overwhelming for me as I like things “under my control”, but I keep remembering they are clambering for hugs, being held, and attention because they are so starved for it. Despite a “good” orphanage, it doesn’t substitute for the love of parents or a family. A teacher working a shift doesn’t have the same attachment, despite being kind or having fondness for the children.

Back to our day. We got gas in the van on the way out of town as well as some snacks (lunch) and water bottles. This was a great treat to them! Pretzels, snack bars, cheese triangles, and probably something else I forgot. We looked at the countryside and called out “goat”, “sheep”, “cow”, etc. as opportunity arose. Of course, I was the only one saying those words since Chris and our attorney know the Russian forms.

We drove into Zaporyzhya, straight to Edik’s orphanage. We didn’t need a social worker this time. I don’t know why. Overall, his orphanage has been less warm toward our presence, his departure, etc. More paperwork, then it was the moment Denya and Ana had been waiting for; seeing their brother for the first time in maybe two years (we still aren’t clear on the dates). They picked him up, hugged, kissed, commented on how he had grown, etc. He accepted them, but in a more business like way (he is the most reserved of the three).

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Our immediate goal was to take a walking excursion to a passport photo type place. We had barely been let out of their sight with him and now we were suddenly all holding hands and walking several blocks away. It was probably overwhelming to him as nap time had just ended and everything on the outing very well could have been new too (because of orphanage life). Passport photo successful. We journeyed back to the orphanage where they said we could change his clothes now. Back to the van with the three kids to select his items. Back to the orphanage to change his clothes.

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Our attorney walked/ran to a nearby office (social workers?) for more business. Suddenly it was time to go “hurry, hurry” to accomplish more legal stuff before business hours ended. We requested to take a photo of him with his group. The answer was negative because we aren’t allowed to photograph the other children. Okay, “What about with his teachers?” The nice lady declined. Drat! She was the one I recognized and was nice to us, and seemed to be sad to see Edik go. Another teacher did accept. “Click, click.”

“Good-bye, good-bye.” We were on our way out.

“Oh wait, now we can take a group picture.”

Okay, “One, two three. Good-bye, good-bye.” (Hurry, hurry, we need to accomplish this important paperwork before business hours are over for the day.)

Again, it seemed strange to me after waiting so long, and such strict conditions leading up to this point, and now it seemed to happen too fast.

Edik, just like the other two kids leaving their orphanages, came trustingly and willingly. I didn’t see tears or sense hesitation from any of them.

We waited in the van while our attorney went back to the previous office (Social Services) Chris procured water, and a much requested bag of sunflower seeds. Don’t know why it seemed so important to the kids (requesting this specific item), but it was. The seeds occupied them although I learned I will not be providing sunflower seeds, in shell, ever again for kids in the van. We had many bouncy roads which spilled containers unintentionally, as well as childish hands.

Next we hurried back to the notary. (Wait, wait, wait.) We didn’t make our previously scheduled appointment so were being squeezed in.

One translated conversation in the van was Denya asking, “Edik, do you remember when I helped you do everything?” So sweet and so sad. We assume Denya filled the role of care taker on many occasions due to the family situation. He remembered his little brother as a baby and was very concerned about him from our very first meeting. He has shared his sunflower seeds (and patiently peeled them for his little brother), let his little brother backwash in his water bottle without batting an eye (because Edik finished his own and had to use the restroom no less than four times in a couple of hours. -oi!), helping him dress, and more. I see love and sharing between the three of them that will hopefully be a good lesson for our other kids.

After the notary we rushed to see about passports and that is where our business day ended. They were, indeed, closed after six p.m. The sign showed that they opened at 9 a.m. The following morning (Thursday/today) so our game plan was to be the first ones in line the next morning.

We checked into our hotel, left again for a dinner pizza celebration, and I cringed several times through the meal thinking we had made a mistake with choosing a sit down restaurant. We had kids up and down from the table, little guy eating dropped sunflower seeds from pockets off of the floor, jacket (that he wouldn’t remove) sleeve in salad dressing plate. It wasn’t the worst sort of terrible, but they don’t know restaurant behavior doesn’t include clearing your own dishes (like it does at the orphanage) so they paraded behind the waitress before we could stop them to help when she began clearing. Yes, it was cute since I knew where it came from. We explained a bit about the difference in paying at a restaurant vs. helping at home. Edik wasn’t impressed with the he pizza. He willingly ate salad, but all we could coax into him was a bit of crust and a little pizza with the cheese removed. Denya and Ana, on the other hand, ate until they were content and wanting no more.

Journey back to the hotel. We make the pull out couch bed with the sheets, introduce the new pj’s toothbrushes, toothpaste, teeth brushing timer.

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Lots of excitement about the new…everything. Hotel, mama, papa, siblings reunited, sharing a bed. Oh boy! It took longer than mama wanted for them to settle down. There were multiple lectures, lots of Ana tease touching when the brothers were drifting off to sleep, and I ended up turning her head down to their foot of the bed which brought tears, but she finally drifted off to sleep (which was my “finally 😉 ” comment last night. They were all in the same positions this morning, but more bunched together. Maybe because of sharing the one European style duvet which usually isn’t conducive to sharing with two people, let alone three. Or maybe they were just comfortable and content.

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