Merry Christmas 2010

December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas to you!!! Thanks for checking in on our family. We had a lot of fun this year, experienced many blessings, but also had some health challenges and hurdles to overcome. Here’s a quick update on everyone.

 John (Dad) – John was promoted to Plant Manager at San Joaquin Figs last January 1. He enjoys his job very much. He is also the Den Leader for Misha’s den and on the advisory board for the Cub Pack. He takes Dima and Sean to their den meetings also. We had a big celebration for him two weeks ago as he turned 50!!!!!

 Laurel (Mom) – Laurel is still Director for God’s Waiting Children doing missionary work and adoptions from Kazakhstan and Ukraine. She is also working part-time for Clovis Unified School District in the Special Education Department. Laurel had knee surgery in March but is back up to full speed now.

 Misha – Misha is 10, will be 11 in February. He is in the fourth grade. He played soccer this year and did well. He’s quite an artist, and his skills improve daily. His drawings are very detailed and colorful. He puts a LOT of thought into each picture he does. He takes on the big brother role around the family. He sets a good example and tries to keep the others in line! Misha is a great swimmer, hiker, and skier! He also loves to grow plants and work in the garden. He gets so excited over a new sprout from a seed he’s planted!

 Dima – Dima is 9 and in 3rd grade. Dima has shown HUGE improvement in school over the past 8 months. He got all A’s and B’s on his report card and we were so proud of him! Dima is very strong and coordinated. He can scale a rope without knots for footholds. He also enjoys tearing things apart to analyze how they work. He builds things and has a whole collection of tools. He will make a great engineer. Dima is a great swimmer, hiker, and tree climber! He is a whiz at puzzles and games of strategy. Dima is also going to be a hot dog skier, or maybe a maniac…time will tell. All we know at this point is that he LOVES SPEED!!!

 Sean – Sean is 8, will be 9 in January. He is in the third grade and making progress in school. Sean is developing into quite a basketball player. He can make a “swish shot” from almost any angle. He played on a team this fall and wants to play again in the spring. Sean also loves Legos and spends lots of time building new creations. He is also intrigued by crystals and gems. Sean has gotten soooo tall and big this year. He went from size 8 clothing to size 12, skipping 10’s all together. He enjoys watching things move, and will love the ant farm he received from Santa!

 McKenna – McKenna is 8 and in the 2nd grade. She enjoys wearing “girly clothes” and fancy shoes. She also loves to play with make-up and nail polish. She and Valerie can play dolls and “house” or “school” all day long. She is very strong-willed and determined, a personality trait which can take her far in life if she can control the energy. In the meantime, it gets her into a lot of trouble!!! She played soccer this fall and did jazz dancing in the spring. She enjoys skiing and is learning quickly. She loves to sing and dance and perform for an audience. McKenna enjoys every aspect of cooking and is mommy’s biggest helper in the kitchen. She is also a beautiful diver and great swimmer.

 Valerie – Valerie is 7 years old and in 1st grade. She is doing terrific in school in all subjects. She’s also a good friend to everyone, especially the new kids or kids that have special needs or shy personalities. She is reading slightly above grade level. She performed in a jazz recital in the spring and was in a musical this fall. She played a Scottie dog in 101 Dalmatians. She learned more about Broadway style entertainment including singing, dancing and acting. Valerie has shown a huge leap in maturity this year. She is very responsible and has a memory like an elephant! She enjoys drawing, coloring, painting, and other art projects. She has a true soft spot for animals, both live and stuffed.

 We took a dream vacation in June to Kauai. We rented a house right on the beach and stayed there for 10 nights. We snorkeled, hiked and looked from treasures in the rocks. It was a wonderful family vacation. We also went camping and went up to Sparks, Nevada for a family wedding. Stanley joined our family this year, our yellow lab puppy. He’s now 1-year-old. He’s a great family dog and very obedient. Makita, our 13-year-old Golden Retriever, loves having a younger dog around to play with. We lost our parrot this year. He was 22-years-old and we’d had him for 17 years.

We are looking forward to the New Year. May God bless you and surround you with peace and hope this coming year.

The Boylan Family

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Christmas Letter 2009

December 10, 2009

Merry Christmas to you! Wow, it’s been more than a year since I updated this blog! That’s only because I now use Facebook instead.

 

We’ve had a wonderful and blessed year in 2009. Our family has continued to bond. It’s hard to believe we went from having 1 child to 5 in 1.5 year’s time! We adopted Sean at birth in January, 2002. He was an only child for 4 years. Then we adopted McKenna and Valerie in 2006 and then Misha and Dima in 2007. 2008 was a bit of a transitional year for us in many ways. But, 2009 has been great.

 

John is working at San Joaquin Figs as their Quality Assurance and Safety Supervisor, though he is also doing some HR and Operations for the company. He enjoys his job and the people he works with. Laurel is still running the non-profit organization called God’s Waiting Children. They do orphan ministries and adoption services in Kazakhstan and Ukraine. God’s Waiting Children is celebrating the adoption of 19 children to their forever families in 2009!!!

 

Here are a few highlights from the year:

 

v     Misha and Dima learned to ski this year.

v     We visited Legoland over Easter break.

v     Sean played baseball.

v     Misha and Dima were baptized!

v     We went to Santa Cruz beach Boardwalk and Monterey Bay Aquarium over Mother’s Day weekend.

v     We took the kids on their first real hike to Twin Lakes over Memorial Weekend.

v     We spent our 10-year anniversary in South Lake Tahoe with the kids.

v     The kids took swimming lessons at Swim America.

v     We took a road trip to Montana for a Boylan family reunion, stopping to camp and see family in Nevada and Idaho.

v     We spent Laurel’s birthday in a little cabin at Edison Lake in the Kaiser Wilderness. We also took the kids into Mono Hot Springs for the first time.

v     The kids and mom went to Wild Water Adventures weekly during the summer.

v     Valerie started kindergarten!!!

v     We went camping at Florence Lake over Labor Day.

v     Misha, Dima and McKenna played soccer.

v     Valerie took Hip Hop dance and McKenna took tap/ballet classes.

v     All 3 boys are involved in Cub Scouts.

v     We rode on a float in the Clovis Electric Light Christmas Parade.

v     Our new puppy was born on Thanksgiving Day and will come home to live with us in the middle of January.

 

Here is a summary of each child.

 

Misha – Misha is 9 and in the third grade. Though he is still one of the smallest kids in his class, he has grown quite a bit this year. Misha is the more sensitive and reserved of all the Boylan kids. He is quite an artist and loves building things with scrap materials. He has a vivid imagination and often serves as the leader of the pack with the other kids. He is sometimes known as “Officer Boylan” due to the fact he obeys all the rules and makes sure others do the same, or he tattle tales! Misha can be moody or pouty at times, though he’s usually happy-go-lucky. Misha’s now reading at a third grade level!!! This is amazing progress considering he did not even speak English at 7 years old! He enjoys school and has many friends. Misha has a bit of a lazy streak when it comes to doing work or chores, but he loves to be given new responsibilities and learn new things.

 

Dima – Dima is 8 and in the second grade. Dima is also very small for his age but catching up quickly! He has endless amounts of energy. He loves life. He wakes up with a smile on his face and a bounce in his step (sometimes a leap!). He goes to bed the same way. Dima is quite impulsive though and often gets in trouble for doing “not so smart” things (like jumping down our porch stairs on his pogo stick or swinging on our open car door – yikes!). He also talks very fast, loudly, and all the time!!! Dima has a wild imagination and loves to do creative play outdoors. He builds things with materials he finds outside and uses a rock as a hammer. Dima is very smart and learns quickly, though he is still behind at school. He is the best worker and “daddy’s helper”. The other kids will help daddy for an hour or so, then get distracted or bored and go do something else. Dima will stick by daddy’s side all day long to help him.

 

Sean – Sean is 7 and in the second grade. He has made AMAZING progress this year in all areas. He has grown several inches to where he towers over our other 4 kids now. Last year they were all very close in height. He has matured and his behavior is much better than prior years. He enjoys being part of his second grade class, but also has the opportunity to work with two special ed teachers for half of his day at school. He is thriving with this personalized plan for his education. He loves school and has learned how to socialize and make friends this year. He has much more confidence in himself and is able to verbalize thoughts and feelings better. He still plays by himself quite a bit at home, rather than playing with his siblings. Sean has become a very caring and thoughtful boy. He is not too big yet to walk hand-in-hand with mom or dad and loves to get hugs and snuggle. Sean still struggles with anger outbursts and defiance issues, but he’s 100% BETTER than he used to be. He loves to jump on the trampoline to burn energy.

 

McKenna – McKenna just turned 7 on Thanksgiving Day and is in the first grade. McKenna is doing GREAT in school. She’s one of the top in her class with math and spelling and she’s right on grade level with reading. McKenna is very competitive in all aspects, which causes her to be “mean”, as the other kids say. She cannot yet play a board game and lose without throwing a crying tantrum and saying mean things about the person who won! She also has a pouty lip that she uses when she’s not happy about something. We captured this is many photos throughout the year, which will be fun to look back on when she’s older! McKenna is very much a “girly girl”!!! She hates to wear pants or tennis shoes. She wants to wear dresses and sandals or boots everyday. Her favorite color is pink. She does not like to be restricted to “first-grade activities”. She’d rather be allowed to get her ears pierced, wear make up, and walk in high heels!!! She blossoms when given new responsibilities. We have to continually stay ahead of her with new challenges in order to channel her competitiveness in a positive way. She would much rather stay in the house and play dolls than go outside with her siblings.

 

Valerie – Valerie just turned 6 on Halloween and is in kindergarten! Valerie is the BEST helper. She wants to help mom, dad, teachers, other students, her siblings, etc. She is extremely sensitive and caring. She loves school and is doing very well. She also still has a very stubborn streak in her and throws the occasional “two-year-old tantrum”, complete with kicking, flailing and screaming at the top of her lungs. We are anxious for her to outgrow this, as it will hamper her chances of keeping a boyfriend in the future. J Valerie is 50% girly girl and 50% Tom boy! She enjoys playing outside and getting dirty. She also likes to wear fancy dresses and bows in her hair. We think she may have a singing talent developing. She is quick to memorize all the words to songs and she loves to sing. Helping mom or dad is her favorite hobby. She craves individual attention, which she gets daily when her siblings are at school. She also says beautiful prayers and seems to grasp religious concepts more than most kids her age.

 

Daily Life

The word that best describes our family is BUSY! We do several hours of homework each night. Each of the kids requires one-on-one assistance with their homework. Add in a Cub Scout meeting, dance lesson, CCD class, or soccer practice and you have a full day. We are determined to sit at home and have a meal together each night, so sometimes we eat at 4:30 and sometimes not until 7, but we’re always together. We feel that is important. The kids are very competitive with each other since they are so close in age. Though they are best friends and play together very well, they also bicker constantly! The best way to solve this is to put each one to work. The kids help put groceries away, fold laundry, take the trash out, feed the dog, and clean the house. They are great workers and do a fantastic job given their age. We try to make chores a family project and have some fun while we’re at it.  We have a “helper of the day” program which the kids enjoy.

 

The kids are at such a fun stage. They are so easily excited by new things and they ask a ton of questions (sometimes too many questions, all at the same time!).  Our car rides get rather interesting to say the least!!! That’s what happens when you don’t allow video games, don’t have t.v. or cable, and make your kids go on long car rides without a movie playing! They are being raised the “old-fashioned” way and so far it’s working well. J

 

From our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We are hopeful that many more families will step out in faith to adopt a child (or two) in 2010! May the blessings of this Christmas season bring you joy, peace, and hope. God bless.

 

John, Laurel, Misha, Dima, Sean, McKenna, and Valerie Boylan

Okay, so I’m a week late in posting reflections from our girls’ orphanage visit last year, like I had promised to do last weekend! I am really enjoying reading all of our blog entries from this time last year when we were in Ukraine adopting Misha and Dima. Before I start into to today’s reflections I want to just mention how blessed I feel to be here at home, on a Sunday, with my husband and all 5 kids – together as a family. Last year on this date, I was really struggling. John, Valerie, and Sean were at home in CA and I was with McKenna, Dima, and Misha in our facilitator’s very small apt. in Ukraine waiting for our passports. We were in that apt. for 2 weeks going stir crazy. The couple we were staying with were most gracious, but none the less, they don’t have kids and they are not used to 3 active children living in their apt. with them! Being away from John and the other two kids was very hard.
 
Last year, we made the 17-hour train ride from Kyiv to Lugansk to go visit the orphanage where our girls lived. We have had many people ask us if this was a good idea. "Won’t it bring back bad memories for your girls?" "Aren’t you afraid that they’ll think you are going to leave them there?"…comments like that. Each and every adoption is unique. Each child has their own experiences and background. Every orphanage experience is different. And, each adopted child’s attachment to their new family is different. I cannot recommend that all adoptive families take their kids back for a visit. But for our girls, this was a good experience. Our girls are very attached and secure. They have nothing but positive memories of their time in the orphanage. The orphanage staff there just adores our girls and cried when we walked in. They rolled out the red carpet for us during our visit.  They let us go upstairs to see the groupa area where they lived and slept. We saw many familiar faces there. One of the caregivers working upstairs could not even speak she was so emotional about seeing the girls. Not many people make the loooooooooong trip back to Ukraine, then all the way to Lugansk just to visit the staff at the orphanage and say "thank you". We felt we really wanted to do this. We are so appreciative to the staff for all the individual love and care they received in their early childhood that gave them a great start to life. The director has made many improvements to the orphanage, which was nice to see. There were photos of children that had been adopted hanging all throughout the building. Our girls found pictures of themselves in about 4 different places (that’s because we have sent so many photos in the past). Both girls were very quiet while we were there. They did not like the ladies trying to hug them or talk very fast to them in Russian. They enjoyed observing but didn’t want to get too close! Then, later that day after we had left the orphanage, the girls got silly and animated – telling pretend stories of what they think happened when they lived at the orphanage! They asked when they can come back.
 
One of the most enjoyable parts of this day was being able to track down our driver, Leonid. He had changed his cell phone number but through the help of our missonary friends calling Leonid’s son, we got his new number. He walked to the orphanage to meet us and visit with us. He was very touched also that we came back to say thank you. He could barely speak English because he was out of practice. We were also amazed by the improvements to the city of Lugansk. The car-eating size pot holes were all gone. There were lots of new buildings and stores. The city has been cleaned up.
 
Both John and I could have easily driven right to the orphanage. The route was so engrained in our minds after making 2 trips per day for a month during our adoption in 2006. The rest of this day we spent enjoying the fellowship of the missonary family we were staying with. We were so happy and grateful that we were able to go back to Lugansk to visit.
 
Later today I will post about the changes in our girls from 2006 to now!
Laurel
 

17 hour train ride

November 19, 2008

One year ago today, we were in Kyiv boarding a train for a 17 hour ride to Lugansk. This was quite adventursome and fun, but also the HOTTEST I’ve ever been in my life. It must have been over 100 degrees in our little sleeper cabin, with no way to open a window or door. There were 5 of us sleeping on 4 beds in this heat. I felt as though someone was sitting on my chest when I’d try to take a deep breath. We could look outside and see the beautiful freshly fallen snow, but inside the train the heater was stuck on HOT with no way to adjust the temperature.  The train stops at EVERY little town along the way, so getting unterrupted sleep is impossible. I’ve never been so happy to get off a train and out into 20 degree weather! I stood out in front of the train station for a while with no coat on because I was so relieved to be out of that train. Ukrainians STARE or should I say GLARE at you if you don’t have your coat bundled up with a scarf, hat and gloves but here was this California standing there holding my coat over my arm because I could not stand the thought of putting it on after being so hot all night on the train!
 
We were all in a great mood and filled with anticipation and excitement to be back in Lugansk, the city where we adopted Valerie and McKenna. This is also the day we met our wonderful missionary friends who live outside of Lugansk. They picked us up at the train station and let us stay at their house that night. It was a very enjoyable little trip. I’ll write more about the orphanage visit tomorrow.
 
Laurel
P.S. It’s fun to be reflecting back on last year in Ukraine while sitting here with high speed internet access, in 80 degree CA weather.

NEW Website!!!!!

November 15, 2008

Check out our new website! You’ll see some familiar faces! After 2 years in operation, we finally have our website up and running.
 
 
We welcome comments or suggestions to the website, especially if you find any typos!

Our Boys FAMILY DAY Today!

November 15, 2008

It’s been a special day for Dima and Misha today. One year ago today was when a judge in a small courthouse in Ochakiv, Ukraine announced that Dima and Misha were now Boylans! Congratulations boys for surviving your first year in the family. 🙂 We celebrated by letting the boys pick what we did tonight as a family activity. They chose to go miniature golfing. It was the first time for all 5 of our kids. After golfing we went to a restaurant – which the kids LOVE to do since it’s such a treat. When you have five small kids, you don’t go out to eat very often for many reasons!!! 
 
It was a looooong day one year ago today. We were at the courthouse from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., with a few breaks during the day. Poor Kostya had to stay out in the car and babysit our 3 kids (Sean, McKenna and Valerie). We thought it best to not take the kids into the court hearing with us because they are not the best at sitting still and staying quiet for long periods of time when they don’t understand what is being said or what is happening! Both Dima and Misha and their orphanage directors (they were in different orphanages) had to be there. Dima and Misha sat together, in the same chair across the room from us. It was cute to watch Dima wiggling and Misha trying to get him to sit quiet. The boys were relatively good considering they had to sit there longer than an hour. When the judge called them up individually, he asked them to recite their names and answer questions about their desires to come to America and to be adopted by us. Dima went first and did great. Then, it was Misha’s turn. He got up there and the judge asked his name – "Misha". The judge asked his last name and Misha got tongue tied. Dima piped up from the sidelines with his last name at the time. The judge and everyone in the room cracked up.
 
This judge made us come early in the morning for the "prelimary hearing" then return at 2 p.m for the actual adoption hearing. Then we had to return at 5:30 for the decision. When we adopted the girls, all three things were done at the same time and we weren’t there more than 2 hours. Since Dima and Misha’s adoption was our second Ukraine adoption, we were not that nervous to go to court. Prior to court for the girls’ adoption, I could not sleep.  I was a nervous wreck. This time we were not worried and we took everything in stride like seasoned experts!
 
                                        
Here is a pic of the courthouse and also a family picture of us standing ourside the courthouse in Ochkiv that I just love.
 
All of the kids seem to have a good understanding of what Family Day is and why we celebrate it. Sean doesn’t have a Family Day since he’s been with us since birth…but he has a birthgrammy who treats him pretty special. Well, actually she spoils him rotten with gifts and candy and toys and anything else she thinks he wants. She usually sends things for the other kids also, which is so very nice of her. So, Dima and Misha and Valerie and McKenna understand they get to feel special and celebrate on Family Day while Sean gets his occasional pampering from his birthfamily. Also, Sean has the advantage of baby books and albums of photos of his toddler years. The other kids were not here at that age so we don’t have any young photos of them. It all balances out and believe it or not, the kids all seem to understand.
 
I will post some other thoughts and reflections and photos from tonight’s celebration this weekend.
Laurel

Reflections #2

November 6, 2008

As I was washing my second load of dishes (in the dishwasher!) and washing my 3rd load of laundry today, I couldn’t help but remember that one year ago we were in an apartment in Nikolaev with no running water – 2 adults and 3 small children with no water! We also had no luggage, as American Airlines lost it in NY and it took 5 days to get delivered to us in Ukraine. These inconveniences may seem large, but at the time we handled them well. We knew we were there to adopt Misha and Dima. We were SO THANKFUL that it all had worked out and that we got the referral for Misha, who we had hosted 6 months prior. The lack of water and luggage was definitely hard, but we kept it all in perspective. I often tell our adoption clients that once you go through an international adoption, you will be a different person. You come out of the experience with a deeper faith and understanding of what really matters in life. You are in a country where you don’t speak the language, you don’t have any of your comforts of home, you cannot drive, you are dependent on other people for EVERYTHING – and these are people who you’ve never met before your arrival into Ukraine. When you come home, the smaller things in life do not seem to bother you as much. It’s easier to shrug things off. I also tell our clients that an adoption of any kind is not for wimps!!!

 

Tonight I was listening to Dima speak. I reflected on how far he has come in the past year. His pronunciation of words has improved so much. His confidence has risen to new heights. He is happy. He is so very smart. He has a bounce in his step (okay, sometimes it’s a jump or a run) but he’s so full of positive energy. He craves to learn new things and loves a good challenge! He gets so excited over the simplest of things. (Last night I gave him our old phone book and you would have thought I had given him a $100 by his reaction!) This is the same boy, who one year ago, would not look us in the eyes. He frowned most of the time and had a very distrustful look on his face. He was very resistant to simple commands. If you told him "no" to something, he would run away from you (one time in Ukraine he ran away from me, jumped a fence and went out onto the sidewalk of a busy road). When he got mad, he would hit me, spit at me, try to ruin whatever he could get his hands on. One night in our apartment in Kyiv, he kicked me. He would go into these trance-like episodes where he would moan loudly and curl up into the fetal position. He also would open his mouth and purposely let the drool cover his chin and chest. These episodes would go on for 30 minutes at a time. He also would wake up screaming at night. I slept with him but that was no comfort. When he’d wake up screaming, he would push me away, kick me, and fight me to the end. There was no comforting him. You just had to keep him safe and keep talking to him in a loving voice. I have to admit, that the last few days in Ukraine (when I was by myself with the two new boys and McKenna) I was really worried about what we had gotten ourselves into. My final day in Ukraine, I had a total meltdown. I did not know how I was going to handle Dima on the trip home. But, I’ll go into that story later when we approach the one-year mark of our home-coming. I did expect to have a long, hard road of adjustment and attachment with Dima based on his behaviors the first few weeks. Well, we were fooled. Most of the behaviors I have described to you John has never seen to this day. As soon as we got home, Dima started to relax. He was still resistant and did the drooling and moaning episodes….but he slept through the night with no screaming from the very first night home. He has NEVER hit, kicked, spit, or tried to hurt me, John, or any of his siblings. I now realize that his actions in Ukraine were done out of fear. It breaks my heart to think back about how scared he must have been to act out like this. Now that we really know him, we understand how out of character all that was.

 

Misha has had an amazing transformation in personality as well, but in a different way. When we hosted Misha, he was rather quiet and a bit shy. He would eat NOTHING but fruit and ice cream. He would not try any new foods. He was very obedient and helpful. But, he showed very little emotion and was not affectionate at all. In fact, when he was with his orphanage group leaving LAX, he did not even turn around to say good-bye to us. He acted like we were not even there. When we first arrived in Ochakiv to reunite with him, we were surprised that he came running over to us and hugged us. He was very excited. But as we watched him during the next month we were there, he was always the one to hang back and not get involved with his peers. He would watch others play or fight or chase each other. He would hang out by himself, looking at the ground. When he would be called away for lunch when we were visiting, he would just take off and not even wave good-bye as he left. He was in the youngest group at the orphanage where he lived with kids as old as 17. He would sit back, with a very serious look on his face and take it all in –usually very emotionless. This is the child that now sees me from across the playground at school and comes running full speed to give me a hug! He’s the child who sometimes talks NON-STOP. He is the oldest child in our family so he is now a leader and he takes the role very seriously. What a change from his role at the orphanage. Misha has a nickname at home – Officer Boylan. The boy will nark on any of his siblings for the smallest of infractions. He will be sitting at the kitchen table looking down the hall and announcing that Sean just washed his hands but forgot to use soap! One night, from the kitchen he told me that Valerie was not using toothpaste as she brushed her teeth. He also is one to want to know all the rules and makes sure to remind his siblings of the rules. In church, if Dima starts to fidget Misha will say "Dima, sit still!" Misha adjusted to our family much quicker than Dima. I think the fact he had come for hosting definitely helped. Misha knew what life at our house would be like and he was excited. He refused to show emotion when he knew he was going back to the orphanage at the end of the hosting. But, after we adopted him, he was old enough to realize that this time he was coming to stay forever. He feels comfortable showing his emotions now. Misha speaks very, very well for only being home 11 months. He is the most creative child I have ever met. He can design and build the most amazing things for an 8-year-old boy. We have no doubt he will likely be an engineer someday. He is also a "peace-maker". He likes to share and help people. He is very sweet.

 

Believe it or not, it is hard to remember what life was like with just one child (Sean) 2.5 years ago, or with only 3 kids (Sean, McKenna and Valerie) 1 year ago. We feel like we’ve been a family since the beginning. The kids look and act like siblings who have been together since birth. We have been truly blessed.

 

Anyways, sorry to ramble on so much but it is fun reflecting back on the past year. It’s interesting for me to think back to what we were doing on this day in Ukraine last year.  It’s also inspiring to sit back and think about how far the boys have come and how much they have blossomed.

 

Stay tuned for more reflections as we approach our "Family Day" next week. We will celebrate our Family Day on our court day, November 14,  because we were all together on that day. When I was able to finally take Dima and Misha from the orphanage, John and Valerie and Sean were already back home.

 

 

Thanks for reading! Also, I am sorry for any typos. I’m too tired to go back and read what I’ve written!

Laurel

 

One Year Later…..

October 31, 2008

Ohhhhh, the memories!!! They are flooding back……

 

One year ago today we had our SDA appt. in Ukraine for our second adoption there. We sat outside on the steps to St. Andrew’s Cathedral in the crisp, cool, autumn air as we waited for our invitation to come up the stairs. We had all 3 kids with us – Sean age 5, McKenna who was about to turn 5, and Valerie who would turn 4 the very next day! We were a little nervous, but more excited than anything. It was sooooooo much better than our first appt. at the NAC for our first Ukraine adoption in 2006. For our first adoption, it was snowing heavily the day of our appt. and you had to walk through some back alleys and shady-looking places to get to the NAC. We were a nervous wreck and had not slept a wink the night before. This trip, we knew more what to expect. And, the new SDA was a big improvement.

 

Our time finally came….a nice lady came down to the sidewalk and motioned for us to come inside and follow her. We went into a nicely decorated office with a Psychologist, an interpreter, our kids, and our facilitator. We requested to adopt Misha, age 7, the boy we had hosted and fallen in love with 6 months earlier and his younger brother, Dima, age 6. They showed us their files and we felt such a sense of relief. They told us that Dima had a heart murmur (which he does not have). They also told us that the boys have a younger brother in a baby house who was not available for adoption. They said the brother has some sort of heart problem and never would be available for international adoption so they granted the separation of the older boys from the younger brother. Besides, the boys do not even know they have this brother. None of the three boys had ever lived together and they all have different bio fathers.

 

We were so happy to be back in Ukraine and reuniting with our friends there we met during our first adoption. We also were blessed to meet some new friends who we had previously conversed with via e-mail only. The weather was crisp and cold, very fall-like with leaves falling off the trees and the wind blowing them every which way. We spent our first night in a room on a barge – the YWAM missionary base for Kyiv. We had no hot water, but after 24+ hours of travel, a cold shower feels great. J Our missionary friends had arranged this for us since it’s much cheaper than renting an apartment. It was cozy but served its purpose. We slept for 12 hours that first night, trying to adjust to the time difference.

 

We were able to pick up our referral for the boys that same day and headed by van down to Nikolaev. We met up with Kostya, our friend and facilitator, after midnight that night. He had arranged an apartment for us, with an air mattress on the floor because the apt. only had one sofa bed. Well, John and I elected to sleep on the air mattress and make the 3 kids sleep on the pull-out bed. J Kids will sleep anywhere. Air mattresses are MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE than any Ukraine bed I’ve ever felt. Oh, I must not forget to add in the fact that all of our luggage was lost in New York so the 5 of us were traveling in the same clothes we had worn on the plane the day before. It took 4 days to receive our luggage. In the meantime, we had NO WATER in our apartment. We were on the 9th floor of a nice apartment building and the entire building was out of water. Each day we thought the water situation would improve…but it didn’t. After two weeks we finally found another apartment that had running water. J (Note: it was hard to find an apt. owner who would rent to us because we had three small children with us.)

 

The next day, Halloween Day, and Valerie’s 4th birthday….we headed out with Kostya to Ochakiv to see Misha again and meet Dima for the first time. It was an hour drive from Nikolaev to Ochakiv, but an enjoyable drive with lots of countryside. As we pulled up to the orphanage, Misha happened to be walking outside of the school house. He had no idea we were coming for him. He (and a few other boys who we knew through the hosting program) came running to us. We really didn’t expect Misha to give us too much of a welcome because he was very protective, quiet, and rather shy. I had braced myself for a lukewarm reunion, at best. Well, he fooled us with his enthusiasm and hugs. What a relief!!! We then told him we were there to adopt him and take him home. He beamed from ear to ear and jumped right into the car! His director let us take him with us to Dima’s orphanage to go meet him for the first time. Misha had met Dima before but didn’t really know him as they had never lived together. (You sure can’t tell that now – the two boys are closer than close, inseparable!) We all (John, Sean, McKenna, Valerie, Kostya, Anya, and I) walked into the directors office of Dima’s Desky Dom. The Director was out on vacation but the assistant was there to help us. She phoned to Dima’s groupa and asked them to send him to her office. A few minutes later, the door opened and in walked a very scared-looking boy all by himself. He was so tiny! The poor guy had no idea why he was being sent to the director’s office. His world was about to be rocked!!! He was about to receive a family – Mom, Dad, two brothers and two sisters. Could he comprehend this? I don’t think so. Kostya explained to him who we all were and that we were his new family. Then Misha showed Dima photos in an album of our house and family and got him all excited about coming home with us. Dima told Kostya that he was happy to have a new Papa because there was a boy in his groupa that kept kicking him and he wanted Papa to protect him! Isn’t that sweet? That’s the very first thing Dima said when he learned why we were there. It melted our hearts.

 

We then were allowed to take Dima outside and walk down the block to play in a camp right next door. Dima ran straight for the car and jumped in. He was READY to go home with us! We had to explain to him that it would be about a month until he could come home but that we’d be coming to visit each day. It was fun to just watch both boys. I was pretty speechless that day. It’s a weird feeling to be shown a boy you don’t know and told this is your new son. We knew we’d grow to love him but I have to admit, it is a rather strange feeling at first.

 

The next day, when we returned to Dima’s orphanage was when he earned the name “the D-Monster”. We played with him in the little toy room inside. He was a WILD MAN! He talked non-stop, went from thing to thing, wanted to show us everything he could do. I really thought to myself, “Oh boy, we now have another child with ADHD!” He was very emotional and would run out of the room if we told him “no” about something. He also came out with pink and blue shorts, with lime green tights. His shorts had a pink flower on them, obviously meant for a girl. It broke my heart. I just stared at him and promised that we’d never make him wear tights or girl’s clothes again once we got him home!!!! We quickly learned that he LOVED drinking out of our water bottles and he would devour whatever snacks we brought with us. The child was an endless pit.

 

I have decided to reminisce about our trip and adoption experience via this blog over the next month – sort of reliving our experience in honor of our 1-year anniversary as a family. I can’t wait to elaborate more on what Dima is like today, but I think I’ll wait until I have a chance to write more about the experiences and trials we had, before I get to the happy ending. He’s gone through amazing transformations. He was our “surprise adoption” that obviously was no surprise to God. If you want to read about either of our adoption journeys, you can go back to the entries posted between 2-27-06 to 4-1-06 and then our second trip 10-28-07 to 12-14-07.

 

You want to hear something funny? Yesterday I was talking to the kids about Friday being the 1-year anniversary since we met Dima for the first time. I told Dima, “When you first met us you thought we were Martians from outer space! You didn’t understand a word we said to you” and he said, “Yes, I did moooom…you’re just kidding!”. After further discussion, I realized that Dima truly does not remember when he spoke Russian and could not understand us. He feels that he’s always been able to communicate with us. He also does not remember much about the orphanage or people there. I think he may be suffering a little post traumatic stress syndrome. He hasn’t even been home a year yet and he does not remember when he couldn’t speak English.

 

Anyways, I will continue to post memories and reflections of our trip last year over the next month. But for now, I’d like to make a tribute to our son, Dima, who we met 1 year ago tomorrow and has changed our lives forever!!!

 

Blessings,

Laurel

 

P.S. That last post about the toilet was from John, not me!!! I’m not that handy. J

 

P.S.S. Our new website for God’s Waiting Children will finally be up live next week so watch for the announcement.

….well, you know the rest, however, they sure do a number on stopping up a toilet!

 

We have had an ongoing "mystery" this summer – the mysterious occasional over flowing of toilet in the designated "Kids Bathroom". A few hits with the plunger seemed to take care of things, however, a week or so later and, again, the Monster-in-the-Septic began to rearl his ugly head again. I called out a plummer to snake out the drains and for awhile it seem to take care of things. Then….. out comes one of the kids yelling, "DAD! THE TOILET’S FILLED UP!!!!!" I had to face the inevidable fact that in order to "slay the beast", I was going to have to pull out the toilet. Anyone who has had to pull a toilet before knows that it is not that hard to do; it’s just not all that fun…. and I will leave it at that.   After pulling it, I snaked the drain and found no toys or other contriband items that are not suppose to be down there (you know….those misc items that kids think look "REALLY COOL" as they spin their way down.) So I wrestled the toilet outside, convinced that the "obstruction" inside of it. The boys took a particular interest in what I was doing and asked all the usual "boy questions" (I’ll leave this alone too. ).  I put a hose through the bowl – nothing. It was when I put the hose through the bottom that Dima announced, "Hey Dad! A stick!" Sure enough, a small twig measuring about 5 inches long came out. At that moment, I called for a "Family Meeting", where we had a "discussion" about what goes down the toilet and what does not.

 

The mystery of the Monster-in-the-Septic had finally been solved!

Our kids are best friends

August 20, 2008

There have been so many joys and special times this summer with our family. It’s been hard to keep up with the blogging! So many times something will happen and I’ll think to myself that I need to blog about that, then I forget or am too tired by evening! So here it goes…..

 

The greatest joy this summer has been watching the close friendships of our children (ages 4-8). As most of you know, I work from home. I was wondering what this summer was going to be like with all 5 kids home all day while I’m trying to work. Well, I can tell you it’s been GREAT. The kids play well together and they are so creative and self-entertaining. They get into group projects where all 5 will play school or build a fort, or ride bikes around the race track daddy plowed for them. Then as the day goes on, the kids will divide up and play with just 1 or 2 siblings. The fun part is watching who is with who and what they are doing. For the first 4 months the boys were home, Dima and Misha hung out together, the girls hung out together, and Sean would go back and forth between boys and girls or playing by himself (which he loves to do). But now we’ll find Misha and McKenna working on an art project while Valerie and Dima are outside drawing with chalk in the driveway. Then a few minutes later Sean and Valerie have buddied up on the grass in the front yard while Dima, Misha and McKenna are building a train out of patio chairs in the backyard.  And, then there’s the group “hide and seek” game as well as the “you can’t catch me” game!

 

The kids swam in our pool at least once if not twice every day this summer. They love the diving board. They do flips, cannon balls, and many silly things on the diving board. They play “sharks” on the rafts and enjoy shooting each other with the water guns. The funny show begins when the boys stand on the end of the diving board and ask someone to “shoot them” with the water gun. I have to say Sean wins the award for being the most dramatic with his fall into the water. They crack me up!!! The girls do this little jig, shaking their booties before they jump in. They are so silly and fun. Misha learned to swim with 4 swim lessons in May. Dima took about 12 lessons but both of them are fish now.

 

We read parenting books early on that recommended staying away from t.v. and video games to maximize children’s imagination. Well, that advice worked!!!!! We do not watch much t.v. around here – don’t even have cable or a satellite. We also don’t allow any video games accept for Leapster Learning games. Our kids are self-entertaining and creative – it’s wonderful. It also helps that Misha and Dima came from an orphanage with very little toys so they made everything out of paper or junk. Those skills have proven to be quite helpful. You know those children’s reading books that have the lift-up flaps on the pages? Well, Misha makes those out of paper. He draws the pictures then tapes flaps of paper over parts of it and draws another picture on the flap. The other day Misha and Dima made 3 foot high cut-outs of mom, dad, and Sean. They cut out each body part and taped it all together and colored it. There is a photo of it in the most recent album to the side of this blog. Very creative!

 

The kids had many “firsts” this summer. They went on their first hike in Yosemite. They went camping in our new tent trailer. They got pulled behind a boat on a large inner tube. They rode in and learned to paddle a canoe. They visited Monterey Bay Aquarium. Dima and Misha went to the coast and played in the ocean for the first time. We went bowling and to a Grizzlies baseball game. They visited Chaffee Zoo and StoryLand and PlayLand several times. The kids also went to two week-long vacation bible schools and Misha went to a Cub Scout Day camp for a week.

 

We have had several Ukrainian guests over the summer which has been fun. It’s given the boys a chance to practice their Russian skills, which are very rusty! Dima is very resistant to wanting to speak any Russian at all. Misha understands everything being said but is having trouble speaking Russian.

 

As most of you now, I am the director of God’s Waiting Children, Inc. We brought 33 Ukraine orphans to the US this summer for hosting. 19 of them are still here until September 1. We have been so blessed by this experience, once again! We have wonderful host families. All the kids are doing very well. We have had the opportunity to spend quality time with many of them – 5 of them have stayed at our house at various times this summer. Our kids love them all and enjoy being around them. I will be flying with our orphan group from Ca to NY to help the orphanage director during the first leg of their journey. We have an outing at the Bronx Zoo planned for the day before they head back to Ukraine. We all love these kids so much. It will be sad to see them go back but we know we have made a difference in their lives and we’ll stay in touch with the kids when they return to the orphanage.

 

I tried to talk to Misha (our oldest son) about his memories of his hosting experience with us last year (March of 07). It’s so funny to hear him talk. He does not remember what it was like to be here and not speak English. He told me that he understood everything we said to him last year! That’s because he speaks fluently now and he doesn’t remember not being able to communicate with us. I also remind him that he would not eat a thing when he was here for hosting. He thinks I’m kidding. He’s such a great eater now that he doesn’t remember not wanting to eat anything we ate.

 

I have been taking Valerie, McKenna (adopted 2 years ago) and Misha and Dima (adopted 8 months ago) to bible classes in Russian. It has really helped Misha and Dima to freshen up on their language skills. Amazingly, the teacher says McKenna speaks Russian without an accent! Valerie says she understands what is being said. We are going to try to take them whenever we can. I would love it if they could keep up some of their Russian language. I tease Misha that I need a translator for God’s Waiting Children so he has to maintain his Russian. It’s been a great experience for him to be around all the hosting kids this summer. If I ask him what a child is saying, he gets embarrassed and acts like he doesn’t know. But, when I’m not paying much attention to him I catch him explaining things to some of the kids in Russian and then coming up to me and telling me what one of the kids just said. We were at a restaurant with one of the hosting kids one night and Dima tried to sit next to me and Anya. Misha said, “Dima move, I need to sit next to mom so I can tell her what Anya is saying!” So, he is staring to accept his role as translator!

 

Misha is very happy that one of his best friends from his orphanage in Ochakiv just got adopted and lives only a few minutes from us. The reunion of these boys the first time they saw each other a couple weeks ago was awesome. They now talk on the phone regularly. We took Mason with us to an ice cream social at the zoo the other night. It was very nice to see Misha and Mason together again and both boys look so happy. They have a special bond that they will carry throughout life.

 

At the start of this post I shared the joys of having 5 children so close in age. Now I’d like to share the reality of having 5 kids so close in age. Welcome to our world….

 

“MOOOOOMMMM, he took my dollie!”

“Well, she kicked my car”

“Well, you hit my foot with your car”

“Well, you were in my way”

“He’s repeating me” “Now, he’s following me around and repeating me!”

“She’s in my room!”

“She’s sitting too close to me. She’s touching me”

“Stop looking at me”

“Can I go in the shower first?” “No, I wanna go first!”

“I wanna unlock the front door”

“Nooooo, you’re not helper today. It’s my turn to open the door”

“Nooooo, you were helper yesterday. Today it’s me.”

“Noooo, you were helper already. That’s not fair”

“Moooommmm, how come she was helper yesterday and today. That’s not fair.”

 “No, you can’t help, it’s my turn to help”

“Moooommmm, he threw my stuffed dog down the hall”

“I didn’t throw it, I’m playing chase with it. I pretended it ran down the hall”

“I wanna help you make dinner” “Can I go with you to the store? PLEASE?”

Kid 1 “I wanna sit on mom’s lap” Kid 2 “No, I wanna sit on mom’s lap” Kid 3“I NEVER get to sit on mom’s lap. That’s not fair”

….so you get the picture.

 

Then, there’s the “trying to get all 7 of us out the door early in the morning routine” It goes like this:

“Okay everybody, go potty, get your shoes on, and get buckled up in the car”

“Mom, I can’t find my shoes. I looked everywhere”

“I can’t go potty. She’s already in there”

“Can I take my doll in the car?”

“I don’t want to wear those shoes.”

“Can I take my pillow?”

“Wait, I don’t have my 6 toys to take with me”

“I wanna sit in the back. You sat there last time”

“Moooooommmm, he won’t let me buckle my seat belt. His car seat is in the way.”

“He keeps touching me”

“I can’t get my seat belt hooked.”

5 minutes down the road “Mom, I have to go potty – I forgot to go”

Then comes the “how much longer ‘til we get there? This is taking FOREVER. We’re NEVER going to get there!”

We arrive at destination to find at least one kid does not actually have shoes on – they skipped that step in their excitement to fight for the back seat!

 

Once we actually get the gang loaded into their 5 car seats and on the road, we typically have good conversations or songs in the car. The kids crack me up with the questions they ask and the observations they make. The conversations between them are priceless sometimes. It does take patience to get them all moving in the same direction in a timely manner but they are pretty good at it. I imagine it will continue to get easier as they get older.

 

The conversations about God and Jesus and the angels and heaven are hysterical. I wish I could record all the explanations the kids have for our life cycle. They talk about how fast the angels fly. They talk about how their broken toys will be repaired and waiting for them in heaven. (Don’t know who told them that). They argue over whether God made something or Jesus made it. Then tonight, Sean said “Mom, God is Jesus so Jesus did make people”. He doesn’t quite get the trinity relationship yet. They ask many questions every time we drive by a cemetery. Tonight Dima asked me if Jesus made his popsicle. Every night that Valerie prays, she thanks God for Mary and Joseph in addition to our family members – she started doing this on her own after reading bible stories. The kids’ prayers are getting more thoughtful. They also ask many questions about death and how long it will be until we all die. All normal stuff but it’s fun to hear them so inquisitive. The funny part is that with 5 kids, one will ask the question and another child will pipe up with their answer instead of waiting for mom or dad to answer. The child’s answer is usually good for a chuckle and then additional conversation from the others.

 

Well, all new excitement starts next week with school. McKenna will start kindergarten, Dima and Sean will be in first grade, and Misha will be in second. Valerie will go to three mornings of preschool. And, mom now has 4 classes to volunteer in, in between work and household chores. I am not happy to see the summer end. We have had a wonderful summer filled with loving memories. It was our first summer with Dima and Misha.

 

It’s so weird to think that for 4 years Sean was an only child. I remember yearning for another child. Little did I know that only two years from that point I’d be the mother to 5 children!!!!! I can’t imagine how boring life would be with only 1 or 2 kids. We are blessed, that is for sure!

 

Thanks for stopping in to read our blog. Sorry I haven’t been better at updating it. I will add more photos this week. Please leave a comment so I know who is still reading our blog after all this time!

 

Cheers and blessings!

Laurel