Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hug a missionary!

Last night the Stoddards invited us for a second visit to their home for homemade raspberry cheesecake made from freshly picked raspberries. Oh yum. They had some special guests they wanted us to meet.

It turns out they have friends who are fellow missionaries, a doctor and his wife. This couple works with orphans like Zoya here, with medical needs but with no family to help them through it. We learned that not only do these people work with 'kids like Zoya', they actually worked WITH Zoya, even helping pay for some of her medical procedures. Another missionary family was responsible for paying for her cleft lip surgery years ago.

It's funny, 'cause just two days ago I was talking to Sherry White-fighting back my tears, about little Zoya's medical history, and wondering what it was like for her being in the hospital for so many months with no mommy and daddy by her side? Sherry said we just have to believe that God brought 'Somebody' to her to lay a warm hand on her back and to love her through it.

Well would you believe I got to HUG that 'Somebody' last night, Marianna Peipon, and with happy tears in my eyes I thanked her for loving my little orphan girl through what was surely a very traumatic and lonely time. Marianna even said that she has photos of little baby Zoya somewhere on her computer back home which she promised to get to me soon. :)

I am so thankful that God allowed us to meet these angels and share a hug and a tear in rejoicing that Zoya is alive and loved. Makes my heart so happy.

THANK A MISSIONARY!! They deserve it!

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
So it turns out that the documents we hoped to submit last Friday can only be submitted to court on Wednesdays and Fridays. Because they didn't get submitted on Friday, our next chance is tomorrow. Sigh.

It's OK, we will make it.

Anyway, here are a couple of photos from today's visit that you might enjoy.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Good Samaritans, and other things that are getting us through this.....

We were blessed beyond words last night to receive a dinner invitation from this family living here in Kiev. They had heard through this blog post about our craving for mexican food, and reached out in the most loving and Christ-like way, to us homesick Americans. Doug and Suzie have been here with their 4 children for 8 years as teaching at a christian school and ministering to orphans. They served a wonderful mexican casserole...and CHIPS AND SALSA. Ha! We were in heaven. Even better than the food we enjoyed fellowshipping with fellow believers with a heart and passion for orphan care. What a neat family. I really felt so at home, even helping myself to some DVDs in English! Thank you so much for the wonderful hospitality, Doug and Suzie! When John and I left, we said we both want to be that kind of christian, who reaches out to lonely foreigners in a foreign land.

This chalkboard in their kitchen got me all choked up. OK can you tell I am REALLY homesick?

Another sanity saver is being in the company of fellow adopting parents who are equally as frustrated with the slow process. Cancelled appointments. No-shows. Waiting for a document to be signed when the only person who can sign it is on vacation for another week. Lost files. Waiting for clearances. Etc. You get the idea. You see how we're all smiling? It's to keep from crying. 
We had the Loraines, who are adopting a 5 year old girl with cerebral palsy, over for a spontaneous lunch one day. Frozen pizza, ham sandwiches, and squid-flavored potato chips. Now doesn't that sound delicious? Don't be jealous that you couldn't be here to enjoy it with us.

The visits and play dates with Joseph and Zoya are something we look forward to...
....And of course Skpye.

How could we have ever get through this without Skpye???

Pray for good news tomorrow...We NEED to all be together soon.

Family and friends

Man I miss these kids!! I can hardly look at these photos without crying. As John posted earlier, we are humbled, and so grateful to the very generous people who have helped out and have sent photos documenting the fun times together. We know that our children are not perfect and 3 1/2 weeks (+) is a very long time to have children that aren't your own. Thank you Opa and Oma, Marlita, plus several others who have shared your time and love and efforts with our family. We know they are in excellent hands but that doesn't make us any less homesick for them. If we knew how many days we had left, we would be counting them down. Unfortunately the documents did NOT get submitted to court, and today is a holiday. Which means we are still waiting. Maybe tomorrow will bring good news.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ava... What a Beautiful Girl

Many, many thanks to Marlita, Kimberly, Elena, Brooke and Danielle for so graciously caring for my beautiful daughter Ava. I miss her so very much! Thank you for spoiling her and making her feel so special for the past few weeks. She brings so much joy to our family. We could not do what we do, w/o wonderful people like you.

You have all posted great photos of the times you are having with Ava. It brings happiness to me half way across this globe. Here is a recent post from Kimberly:

Great photos Kimberly! Watch out though, it looks like Ava is about to pull your hair! We can't wait to get home and hug all of you. Thanks so much for caring for her and being so kind and displaying Gods love to her! It means the world to us.

John Urban

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Good times

We've had a couple of days to visit with both kids and overall things are going great. I think Joseph might be a tad bit jealous that we have added Zoya to our little private play group. :)

The cultural and language differences are really getting to us. Yesterday when we arrived for our visit, all the children were sitting on benches watching a puppet show. We thought it would be less disruptive for us to sit with them and watch the show with the kids but the caretakers indicated that they preferred we take Joseph away from the group. Remember all this 'communicating' is happening with signs and body language, not with words. By now all the nannies know that we are here for Joseph so as soon as they saw us they dismissed him to come play with us, but poor little Zoya saw us too and she seemed very confused as to whether she was supposed to come with us or stay for the puppet show. She stood up and started making her way towards us but the nanny yanked her arm and put her finger in her face, and shouted ZOYA!!....etc...and put her back on the bench. Then the other caretakers started talking, and told her that we were here to adopt Zoya too, and next thing you know someone is grabbing Zoya's hand and bringing her to us after all. We were all so confused, and Zoya was clearly confused. Suddenly after they handed her to me she burst into the most pitiful cry I have ever heard and they motioned for me to get her out of there as she was disrupting all the other kids. My heart was so sad at her sadness and I held her and she cried and cried and cried. It was really a sweet time of bonding for us and she eventually quieted down in my arms. I wasn't sure if she was heartbroken to have missed the puppet show, or heartbroken because she had gotten yelled at. Later the music teacher who was witnessed all of this and speaks some broken english told me that "Zoya is very sensitive and feels too much" and said that she was cried because she wanted to go with us and she was sad when she thought she had to stay for the puppet show. How I loved to hear that she wanted us so badly. What a sensitive, sweet girl. I can certainly relate to 'feeling too much'.

A while later, while we were still talking to this music teacher, the orphanage nurse walked by. Zoya lit up to see the nurse, and showed her all her scrapes and bruises, even lifting up her dress to show her something on her back. :) And then she proudly introduced me as her 'mama'. I thought of how long she has been waiting for a mama, and now she has her very own. This made me smile.

Remember how I said I didn't know if Joseph said any words? Well today when we arrived, he spotted us, grinned, and said, "PAPA, PAPA, PAPA!!!"....and ran to John! Oh, I can't tell you what that did to my heart! He is definitely more bonded to John and Zoya is bonding more to me. Although John says that on the airplane ride home he wants to be in charge of Zoya and he wants me to be in charge of Joseph. ha ha!

We have had a blast with the White family, who is here adopting three children from the same orphanage. We 'met' on Reece's Rainbow, so it is nice to be here with them in person, meeting each other's kids and taking family photos for one another. They are adopting three kids- two little girls with Down syndrome and a boy with clubbed hands and feet. They took these photos for us:

We asked the director of the orphanage if there were any pictures of the kids that we could take home with them, for their baby books. And these are the TWO photos, one of each child, that we got. They were the only ones they had. Can you imagine having only one photo representing your first 5 years of life? Something about these photos make me smile: Two russian-speaking orphans with completely different birth families and ethnic backgrounds and histories, now brother and sister and on their way to be Oklahomans.
Zoya is a little uncertain about John still but she is warming up to him.
Today he picked some flowers for her and told her to bring them to me, which she very sweetly did.
Then John told Joseph to bring me some flowers...

What a stinker!

Here is a game that nobody gets tired of....except for the dads. When it was Zoya's turn, Joseph would shove her out of the way, and when it was Joseph's turn, Zoya was 'helping' him up on John's legs. These kids are as different as night and day but we are pretty sure they will fit into our family just perfectly.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Reece's Rainbow Birthday fundraiser for Burke

Today is my birthday! My birthday wish is to help this sweet boy named Burke find a forever family. He pulled on my heart strings because he faces some of the same challenges that Zoya faces. I know he would make a wonderful son for the right family. Could he be yours? You can read more about Burke on Reece's Rainbow by clicking here.

Please remember that the whole reason Joseph has a family today is because there were so many generous people who donated towards his adoption grant. These grants really, really help these children find adoptive families. Somebody did that for Joseph (which eventually benefited Zoya), and I am asking you to help me give back to Reece's Rainbow, by helping Burke. Below is a chip-in button. It is so easy to donate. THANK YOU for helping my birthday wish come true!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

adoption progress

Today we spent most of the day running around signing documents, stating our intent to adopt two specific children from Ukraine, and requesting approval from the authorities to do so. We have to have approval from so many different individuals and offices, each one translated and notarized. Once all relevant offices have consented to the adoptions, we will be able to request a court date. I expect that we might find out what our court date is sometime next week. Depending on which judge gets our case we could have court within days or weeks.

Our facilitator told us not to take it personally, but some judges do not care about us or about children, and others do. If you are praying, you can pray we get the judge that does care about us and about children, because that will determine how soon we get our court date. We'd rather not stick around here for another 3 weeks. When we asked our facilitator for an estimated timeline, he answered, "Am I look like God?" 

Regardless of how soon we get court, we will have to come home without the children, and will return probably in August to finally bring the children home. Just so you know, we are not doing anything wrong for it to be taking this long. It has everything to do with adopting a second child as well as the region we are in, which is less adoption friendly than other areas.

Today our visit with the kids was way too short, because of all the running around we had to do. Joseph spotted us and his face lit up. He looked at his nanny as if to ask if he could come play with us. Once she nodded, he bolted towards me. Well, in my mind he bolted towards me. There I was, with my arms open wide, ready to receive him, and he ran right past me, giggling, and into John's arms. OK so he is a daddy's boy. That's fine by me. 

We only got to see him briefly because our main purpose there today was to start the adoption process for Zoya. The social worker had to witness our having contact with her before she would sign off on the adoption. Finally we are at a point where we can start making progress. We had about 30 minutes with her doctor and caretakers to ask every question we will ever get to ask about her life, her first family, her medical history. Can you imagine trying to cover, in 30 minutes, all the questions she might ask me someday? I doubt I covered it all. Later I wished I had asked who named her. I didn't think to ask until later, and I think she would want to know this someday.

One of the questions I had to ask was....Does Zoya, or any of the children for that matter, understand the concept of a family? Do they even really know what a mommy and a daddy are and do they understand the concept of adoption? The worker said that yes she very much understands that we are adopting her. They also told us that the kids do understand what a mommy and daddy are, because some of the children do have mommies and daddies that come to visit. But they said that every child longs for their own mothers to come for them, and they all are convinced that their own mothers will come....... someday.
At this point in the conversation I just burst into tears. It was overwhelming to think of all the little faces we have seen here, waiting for mothers who will never come for them.  What a broken world we live in, where the sins of the fathers and mothers have such a profound effect on innocent little souls. How I wish I could make all the bad in this little girl's life go away but I know that only Jesus can heal her hurts and pains. We have committed in our hearts to love her fully whether she ever  loves us back or not.
Isn't that what Jesus does for me?
In our very short visit today, she was a little bit shy, but seemed very happy to see us. John picked her some wildflowers and she smiled so sweetly and she posed for my camera. Of course now that she has learned there is a viewer she wants to see each and every photo, which is very entertaining for all 3 of us. We pushed her on the swing for a bit and then her nanny came and motioned that it was time to eat. Zoya whined a little bit, and clearly wanted to stay with us to play and swing, which I loved very much. But we blew kisses and said we will be back tomorrow for a better visit. We also learned today that she loves pretty dresses, jewelry and chocolate. My kind of girl. Once, on New Years, she ate an entire box of chocolates and broke into a pretty bad rash. Today I gave her my bracelet which hung WAY too big on her skinny little arm, but she wore it proudly.
Here are a couple of photos my dad sent me this morning. Looks like my boys are having a good time in Mexico! I guess I'll stop feeling sorry for them now. ha! 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fatherless no more....

our first meeting with Zoya....

We met her officially today!! After a meeting with the orphanage director to review her social and medical history, Zoya was brought in to meet us. Interestingly, another adoptive family, the Whites (adopting 3), were there, and we got to see each other meeting each other's kids. It was really special to be in on that, kind of like witnessing child birth....of triplets, ha!  I believe the Whites captured our introduction video, but getting the video from their video camera to this blog might be a little difficult, so you'll have to use your imagination for now. Zoya was dressed pretty with her hair all fixed up, and was already smiling when they brought her in to us. She went right up into John's lap. 

Our translator told us that while her nanny was getting her dressed up, she asked if today was the day she was getting a mommy and a daddy? Oh, my heart. I wonder if she already knew we were 'the ones'? Who knows. This precious girl has already faced so many challenges in her short little life and has been waiting a very long time for a family to love her and a community to embrace her. Please love her with us. Our visit was very short because it was lunch time. But before she went back, she went to the candy jar in the director's office, and picked out candy for everybody in the room, and went from person to person handing out candy. She blew kisses when she left and we promised to come see her tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I love....

I love these beautiful brown eyes.....
....And these sweet, chubby hands....

...And here is a photo that makes me laugh. I took it on our way out of the orphanage today. Notice how all the other little boys and girls are sitting nicely on the bench? Well look who bolted off to play in the garden hose. Look at that expression. And that poor nanny. hee hee.

About Zoya

Thank you for your love and support! We really appreciated all the kind and supportive comments we received on our last post. Sometimes we wonder how crazy we must come across to some people, but then we feel totally normal, and in fact quite boring compared to some of our fellow Reece's Rainbow friends, like the Whites who we met today and are adopting three children. :)

Zoya has two different nannies. One who allows her to come 'talk' to us, and one who doesn't. One day last week, when she had the strict nanny, she saw us coming and she broke away from her group and began to run to us. Her nanny caught her, yanked her arm, and yelled "ZOYA!" Broke. My. Heart. We felt so bad for her. So for the rest of the afternoon we ignored her waves and smiles, because we didn't want to get her in trouble again. :(

But tomorrow we will have our official permission to visit her, and she won't get yelled at anymore for running to us. It's been a long wait for all of us!

Here is a picture we snuck of Zoya on the second day we met Joseph. My zoom lens came in really handy that day. It was the day the kids were having their outdoor baths, and she was sitting in the stroller waiting for hers. She was mesmerized watching John tossing Joseph up in the air (which he was terrified of the first time but has loved it since!) Anyway, this is the expression she had on her face the day she first saw us playing with Joseph. I like to imagine she was wondering if she would ever have a daddy who would put her on his shoulders, and toss her up in the air. :) 
Little does she know.....

Zoya is a beautiful girl and does have some special needs but we are going to leave it at that for now. There are things we know and things we don't know about her. But regardless of what is in her file or isn't, she is a deserving girl who has been waiting for a forever family for a very very long time. She has lots of brothers and sisters at home who are so excited to meet her. We see lots of potential in her, and we can't wait to see her blossom and grow in a family. OUR family. :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

The latest adoption twist...

Have I dropped enough hints about what the twist might be? If you know me at all you know how difficult it has been to keep this quiet for so long.

I wanted to wait until everything was official before I announce so sorry for keeping you in suspense until now. All this time we've been waiting on an SDA appointment to adopt a second child. We finally got the call this morning at 8, while we were still in our PJs, that they would be there to pick us up in 15 minutes. Yikes. No time for a shower or to iron clothes but there was nothing stopping us from making it!

So who are we adopting?

 Remember that little 5 year old girl in the pink hat that has been climbing up into my lap, and playing with my earrings and my fingernails? The little girl we have been exchanging smiles and waves with? Her name is Zoya, and we should have her referral tomorrow. She seems to be longing for us as much as we are longing for her, so we are looking forward to Wednesday, when we can officially visit her as her prospective adoptive parents, and not just as "Joseph's playmates".

Backing up a couple weeks, remember I mentioned Joseph's SDA appointment being a little stressful? That is because we hoped to be able to get her referral along with Joseph's but as it turns out because we didn't know her full name and DOB ahead of time we had to start the process all over again and wait for another separate appointment. It was hard to wait, but she is so worth it. And we couldn't be happier.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bandaids, hugs, and water hoses

It is beginning to feel a little bit like Groundhog Day, the movie, around here. Same routine every day. Ham, eggs and toast for breakfast, ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch, a two hour visit with Joseph, pasta with ham and cheese for dinner (or TGIFridays)...blog....bed. Start all over again.

So pardon me if my posts are redundant.

Here Joseph is on the swing with his friend Lilya. She is just a month older, has Down syndrome, and was saved from the mental institution just in the nick of time by her adoptive parents, the Zoromskis who just passed court and will return for her in a week or two.

In Ava's region the children from the baby house are transferred at age 4 but at this orphanage the children are blessed to be able to stay until they are 6. Joseph, and Lilya, will both be 6 in the fall. Lilya's mama told me how humbling it was to receive pictures of Lilya from her file, the file which was being put together for her transfer in August.

The Baby House houses children of all kinds from birth to age 6. Then, from what I understand, the healthy children are then transferred to an internat, or orphanage for older children and the disabled children are sent to mental institutions. I believe, although I am not positive, that the HIV+ children go to a special internat just for HIV+ kids.

As I've mentioned before, Joseph has been blessed to be in such a nice place, but he would not have been here much longer. We are so honored to be able to give him a home and a family before it is too late.
Today I put bandaids on his knees, and he patiently watched me, then ripped both bandaids off and handed them to me. Oh well, it was nice to feel like his mother even for a little bit.

When I look at these photos that I post, I realize it must appear that it is totally natural for us to be here parenting this boy. In reality, we feel very much like we are playmates for now, and not much like parents. Keep in mind we are strangers in this place. We do not know the boundaries or the rules, and we cannot understand each other. As I mentioned before Joseph obeys his nannies very well but he does not listen to us! Who can blame him though? He can't understand a word we are saying!

Nevertheless, we do enjoy our 'playtime' with him, and are looking forward to the day when we can really do things our own way, and not worry about what the rules are and who is watching us.

Afternoon play dates are my favorite, can you see why?

We have tried bringing bubbles, balls, balloons, cars, and play-dough to our visits, and Joseph is not interested in any of them! He wants to play with one thing and one thing only. The water hose. We did turn the hose on one day for him, just a small trickle, and let him water the flowers and wet himself a little. He was in heaven!!

Shortly afterward the nannies came running and hollering "Nyet!! Nyet!" 

So every day we have to have the same conversation with Joseph....that "Nyet, Nyet",  he can't play in the water hose here in this place, but that when he gets home, to his forever family, he has two big brothers waiting for him there who will do lots of big brother things, and that water hoses are on the top of their list too!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Skype conversation, and Father's Day

Last night, when we were Skyping with our kids, Jude said, "Dad, do you remember when you guys adopted Ava and we were at the airport waiting for you and you walked through the gate with her?......Well, can you run this time?"

Ha! I went back and looked at Ava's homecoming video, and sure enough, John is walking with Ava while the kids wait patiently to meet her. How interesting that that is the detail that would stand out in his mind.

We will spend Father's Day today (It is Father's Day, isn't it?....remember I don't have my calendar) visiting the orphanage and spending time with Joseph as well as exchanging smiles and waving across the playground to another child that we have our eye on (wink).

I remember on our second or third date, when John pulled out his wallet and proudly showed me pictures of his nieces and nephews (well and his grandma too)....I remember thinking yes, this is the kind of guy I can envision spending the rest of my life with. He is beyond what I could have ever envisioned, a wonderful husband, amazing father. That he would travel across the world to be the daddy to a little orphan.....twice.... makes me love him even more. Happy Father's Day honey!

And a Happy Father's Day to my father! I love you! Thanks again for being a great grandpa to my kids. It means the world to us that you are caring for our children while we do this. They love you so much and it is obvious they are having a great time.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Good news! The signature we have been waiting on is now on the adoption documents, which means we can now proceed with the adoption of Joseph. Meanwhile we will continue our daily visits as we wait for our court date.

I played with the night setting on my camera last night. Here is a night shot from our apartment. We are on the top floor.

This is what we saw on our walk home from the orphanage today: 
This dog is patiently waiting for its owner to come out of the hair salon! I wonder if the owner is one of the nannies at the orphanage. That is the ONLY explanation!

This sign and these balloons were on the gate of the orphanage today. I would love to know what the sign says. Does anybody know?  There didn't appear to be anything special going on inside the orphanage, but surely it means something special?
There were ladies all over town carrying flowers of every kind (and they all carried them upside down). Is today some kind of Valentine's Day or Mother's Day in Ukraine? It is the only explanation, because John didn't suddenly have an urge to buy me flowers.

If you are traveling to Europe, remember this is what the outlets look like:
Which means you will need one of these....and one of these....
John told me that we must let people know. You'd hate to be here without one.

You know you are homesick and you've been away far too long.....
When you are craving MCDonalds!!! That is what we had for dinner tonight.

Yes, we are homesick!

Here are a few things that we are missing:

1. Mexican food
2. Ice
3. Church
4. Nellie the Dog
5. Free water
6. Netflix
7. Driving
8. English
9. Chinese food
10. Fishing
11. iPhone
12. Wi-Fi
13. my calendar
14. variety of clothing
15. bathrobe

And most of all: