Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More Lake = More Family Fun

Today the girls went rock climbing with the other orphans.  When I picked them up they were dirty and tired, but the first thing Albina asked once she was in the car was if we could please go walk around the lake again tonight.  So... after dinner we headed to the lake and went on a short walk.  We also played at the park again.  There was lots of fun and laughing… we are a happy family.  

PS  We are continuing to get everything gathered and taken care of for our home study.  (Still waiting on some results before our case worker can come over and really get things rolling).  We're making progress!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Lake = Family Fun

Tonight I found an activity that Albina and Alina really enjoy.  After dinner I announced that I was going to take Guster on a walk.  Albina enthusiastically told me that she wanted to go as well (she had previously told me she was very tired, so I was surprised she wanted to participate in an activity).  I took Isabel, Albina, Alina, Micah and Guster to the lake and we walked along the trails.  After a bit James and Emma joined us.  We ended up at the park and played on the swings and slides.  It was a beautiful night and was a lovely way for our family to end the day.  PS  James is so great at communicating and getting along with these girls.  He is a great dad!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Do We Have Another Entertainer On Our Hands?

Another Sunday.  We headed downtown to attend the Russian Branch so the girls could understand what was being said during Sacrament Meeting.  There was no way to really know how the girls liked the service or what they thought of it, but they were reverent and respectful as usual.  After Sacrament Meeting we drove back to our home ward building for Sunday School and Young Women.  

Toward the end of dinner we were having a conversation around the table.  Albina, Alina and Micah excused themselves.  Toward the end of the conversation Tori got really upset about what we were discussing and was crying and emotional.  Alina walked in and started comforting Tori.  Then she walked around and made everyone smile and become happy.  Having an upset family was obviously not something she was going to stand by and watch.  So she did something about it.  There was a moment that made me think, “Having this girl in our home would be such a blessing.”  It was at that moment I felt I got my confirmation.

After dinner was cleaned up, Alina was video-taping herself and the family.  We were all laughing and enjoying the moment.  It was so natural and fun and felt like family.  Again I had a thought, "this feels so right!".  

After these two events I felt sure about moving forward with the feelings I was receiving to adopt.

Tonight I finished up most of the paperwork for the home study.  We just need to get things turned in and a couple of things finalized and we're ready for the next step.  It felt really good to move forward and get things done!

Later tonight we watched family movies together and enjoyed seeing our crazy girls perform and such.  I love moments like we had tonight.

Today ended on a really great and positive note.  I've felt so peaceful and happy.  I’m having more happy moments and fewer scared out of my mind moments (although I still have those feelings when I think too much about what I’m really getting myself into… AHHHH!)  ;-)  However, tonight felt so right and so good.  When I feel that way, and I start moving forward it feels right.  

Theater, McDonalds & Cute Boys

Today was cleaning day!  The girls all worked together and cleaned the house and the cars.  Albina kept coming and asking for more work.  She kept saying, "I want more please."  What a pleasant contrast to the usual nagging that takes place on cleaning day.  However, everyone wanted to get their jobs finished because there was a Make-A-Wish get-together for a friend from my girls school.

After they attended the party for their friend, they called to see if they could attend a show that some of their friends were acting in.  We told them they could attend.  They got home late, and were very giddy and happy.  Apparently they had a wonderful time tonight.  Albina, Emma & Isabel attended the show (a silent stage production) while Tori and Alina went and played at the park.  The girls loved the show and Albina told everyone afterwards that she wants to go to more theater.  Then they all went to McDonalds and ate.  I guess (and I can imagine) there were some cute boys there and they were all enjoying themselves far too much… laughing and flirting and such.  Sounded like good teenage fun (with an 11 year old tagging along).

Friday, July 27, 2012


Today after English class I met up with Albina so I could take her up to Girls Camp.  Alina was eating lunch when I arrived and kept asking me something in Russian.  I didn’t understand, so I called one of the boys over to try to translate.  Alina asked me (through him) if next year I would keep the children that came to my home.  I was so confused, but answered with a hesitant, “I don’t know… I guess… Maybe.”  The boy told her that I’d said “Yes”.  Then Albina started pouting and saying something in Russian.  He told me that she really liked our family and wanted to stay with us.  I was completely confused about everything going on.  It seemed like a strange conversation to have out of nowhere.  Then Alina asked if I would go swimming and I told her I had to take Albina to Girls Camp so I couldn’t go.  She had already been noticeably upset, but by the time I left to go to the car she was crying… tears streaming down her face.  I kept telling her to smile and she would try, but didn’t stop crying.  

Once I got to the car I called James and told him what had happened.  He told me to go get another translator and find out exactly what was going on.  I went into the church and Alina was still crying.  I found someone to translate and we went to a room to talk.  I asked what was making her so upset.  Come to find out, she was upset because she thought she was going to have to move to another family and she wanted to stay at our home.  Apparently someone had announced that morning that a number of kids would be moving to new homes (the reason being that the host families weren’t going to adopt, so they were moving them to potential adoptive families or families that could help them find adoptive families).  I explained that she and Albina were not going to leave our home… that we wanted them to stay with us!  The translator got really emotional and started crying.  She asked me in English, “Do you mean forever?”  I answered her, “We’re trying… but don’t tell her that please.”  She told me she understood and explained to Alina that she would be staying with our family for the duration of her stay in Utah.  Alina was elated and started hugging and kissing the translator and me.  I was crying, the translator was crying and Alina was crying. 

After I finished up with Alina, I called James.  We cried together as I shared what had happened.  It was an extremely emotionally meeting and broke my heart that Alina was so sad at the thought of having to leave our family.  Then I got into the car with Albina and typed (through Google Translate) “Alina was sad because she thought she couldn’t stay with our family anymore”.  Albina indicated that she wanted to type something, but I stopped her and said, “You and Alina will stay with our family.”  She looked at me and hesitantly said, “Really?”  Again, I repeated, “You and Alina will stay with our family… you will not leave our home.  You understand?”  She then said, enthusiastically, “Really????”  I nodded and she got a big grin on her face and leaned over and gave me a huge hug.  She was so happy.  It made me glad that James had suggested I get the translator… that would have been so sad for them to have dealt with that misunderstanding any longer!

After that, Albina and I drove to Girls Camp.  Albina was greeted by the young women and leaders.  Everyone was wonderful when we arrived.  I left her in good hands.  Then I drove straight home so James, Micah, Alina and I could go to a Soccer game.  We had lots of fun there (taking pictures and such), but Alina complained that she was tired and wanted to go home, so we left the game a little early.  We got home, relaxed and went to bed (later than expected since once we got home Alina decided she wasn’t tired… instead she wanted to cook and create lots of great sauces for scrambled eggs.  I thought James was going to die when he saw that she expected him to eat everything she’d created.  Haha!)

Such a great day today.  I truly felt so good about adoption after my conversations with Alina and Albina this morning and wanted nothing more than to give them stability in a family.

Here are a number of pictures that Alina took tonight when she got her hands on my phone:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

BBQ and Information Overload

Tonight was the first BBQ for the orphans that are being hosted here in Utah.  All the orphans, hosting families and perspective adoptive parents were invited to attend.  I was so busy talking to people that I didn't get a chance to eat anything until walking out (I grabbed a few pieces of watermelon).

There were plenty of people in attendance that had either adopted, hosted before, had family members adopt, or were still in the middle of the process that I had lots of opportunity to gather information.  While it was extremely helpful (and necessary) to get so much information and insight, I truly felt so overwhelmed and stressed by the end of the evening.  The process of adopting these kids will certainly be long and hard and at the very least, a crazy emotional roller coaster.  (Not that I didn't already realize this bit of information... it was just reiterated tonight).

By the time we got home I needed to clear my head and gain some peace and clarity.  James and I went on a drive and had a great talk.  It was very calming and reassuring to talk with him (it's no wonder I married him and still feel happy about that decision!)  What an adventure we are about to embark upon... is it a problem that I'm already tired?

Nothing a good night sleep can't fix.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Jumping In

The past two days were busy, but fairly uneventful.  We didn't have any activities or classes yesterday, so we spent time as a family and then went and watched fireworks for the 24th of July (A Utah holiday).

This morning on the way to English class, I took Emma and Isabel to the church to head up to Girls Camp.  Albina and Alina were sad to say goodbye and kept saying, "I'll miss you!".  When I explained to Albina that she would be joining the girls in two days to camp she was thrilled!

After I took the girls to English class I went home and called about getting started on our home study.  I can't believe I'm really starting this process!  It's such a big and scary thing to jump into.  I got the information on the criminal background check and got everything filled out and mailed off.  On my way to the post office I called my parents and told them about the girls.  I'm not sure how they really feel (I think they are likely a little skeptical about taking on such a huge life altering change), but they certainly weren't unsupportive of us and our ability to make an informed decision.

The girls continue to be happy and seem to like our family very much.  We are hoping to head to St George to visit family before they head back to Ukraine.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Tonight after church, we picked up the translator that was assigned to our family.  She came over for dinner and visiting.  We had a lovely evening.  It was so great to have a translator.  We sat and talked and talked… we were able to ask questions and get more information from Albina (Alina wasn’t really interested in sitting around and talking). 

We learned all about their family and lots of interesting things about Maksym (Albina seems to have a close connection to him).  Maksym has a different father than Albina and Alina (his father is Greek) and has big dark brown eyes.  Albina said that he is very smart and can be a bit stubborn.  She said that when he gets into trouble, he just looks at you with his big eyes and you can’t help but melt.  He likes TV, soccer and poetry.   

Additionally, we learned more about the difficulties they've endured in their life and the heartbreaking events that took place that caused them to end up in an orphanage.  

Albina asked a lot of questions about why Americans want to adopt internationally.  She asked if we requested that they stay with us or if they were assigned to us.  We said that we had requested them.  She asked why?  We told her it just felt right, that we were drawn to their pictures and wanted to get to know them.  She told us that when she came into the room at the airport she looked around at everyone and hoped that we were the family she and Alina were going to stay with.  We asked why?  She replied that she thought we looked cute and loving and like we would be the best family.  It was lovely to think that she was drawn to our family as well.   

After dinner and conversation we went and roasted marshmallows and made smores.  It was a wonderful evening and so amazing to have a translator in our home.  I wish she could just move in with us for the duration of their stay… oh well.  I suppose we need to figure out communication without a translator if/when we adopt these kids.  

I got an email from a dear friend today that I had emailed and asked some questions about adoption (she has adopted 2 of her children).  She told me that $66,000 for 3 kids is a bargain.  Crazy to think that such a huge amount should be considered a bargain!

My favorite quote from her email was the following:

Advice?  Get ready for absolute emotional insanity. 


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Families Are Forever

Today after waking up Alina walked by my room, saw me on my bed, and blew me a big dramatic kiss.  What a great way to start a day!  Alina is a very loving girl.  Twice while making breakfast she brought me pictures with hearts and the written words, "I love you".  Then she would give me a big hug and kiss.  How could I not love these girls?  I have noticed that Alina is very open with her love and feelings, while Albina is a bit more guarded.  I wish there was a way to communicate better so we could make a better emotional connection.  I wish I knew more how they felt and what they thought so we could know them better.  I want to really understand them.   

After breakfast we all got ready to leave for Temple Square.  Once we arrived on Temple Square we requested missionaries that spoke Russian.  Two darling Sister Missionaries arrived (one missionary from Russia that grew up in an orphanage and another missionary from Latvia) and took us on a tour.  The first missionary spoke to Albina and Alina while the other missionary tried to keep us aware of what was being said to Albina and Alina.  We learned that Albina and Alina know a lot about Jesus Christ and the Bible.  Not only do they know the stories, but they know the moral behind each story.  The sister missionary said to me: “These girls have been prepared to come to your family.”  Toward the end of the tour we went and saw the Christus Statue.  While sitting in that room one of the sister missionaries asked me if there were any questions I wanted to ask them while they could translate for me.  I said that I couldn’t think of any, but shared my desire to know more of their thoughts and feelings.  I told her that if she became aware of any thoughts and feelings they had throughout the discussion that I would appreciate knowing.  She asked if I wanted her to tell the girls that I wanted to know them better and I said, “yes”.  She spoke to them for a bit and then told me that Albina told her that it was easy to know how Alina felt because she frequently draws her feelings.  I told the sister about the heart pictures this morning.  She said, “See.  You know how she feels about you!”

After the Christus we went and saw a movie presentation about the family.  It started in one room and worked through 4 rooms.  By the second room I was an absolute wreck.  I told James to go to the next room without me because I had completely lost my composure.  I thought I was going to break down to the point of audibly sobbing uncontrollably.  I got myself back together and met up with everyone in the final room.  By the end of the final room my entire family (besides Micah) was weeping.  We were so overcome with emotion.  I wasn’t sure exactly why I was so emotional, but I knew it had to do with these beautiful children.

After the tour we walked to Deseret Book and purchased each of them the Book of Mormon as well as a Bible in Russian.  Then we went to get some food.  While sitting and eating, Albina was reading through our pages of “Russian Phrases” that we have to help us in communicating.  She read and read and finally looked up and said to James and me: “I am happy to be a part of our family”.  It was the first time she really expressed any feelings to us.  We walked around after we ate and then headed to DI to shop for some clothes (the girls needed church clothes and a few other items to help them over the next few weeks while they will be here).  We had great luck and were able to find some cute things.  Alina was in heaven picking out everything pink!  Albina also seemed to enjoy trying on clothing and getting our opinion on what looked nice.  She was very open to our input.  They also got some shoes for hiking.  After DI, we went to Walmart and purchased underwear (Alina was SO excited that she found Spongebob Square Pants underwear!  Haha!) and socks.  We also got some paint and some embroidery floss so they can do some arts and crafts projects. 

Once we arrived home, we made some snacks (popcorn, crackers, and fruit) and sat down to watch a movie in Russian (it had subtitles in English).  It was almost exactly like Spiderman, but the hero in the movie was the owner of a flying car instead of a spider-bitten super powered person.  Not the most brilliant movie, but the kids seemed to enjoy it. 

As soon as the movie was over, everyone went to bed.  I think everyone was worn out from a long day of activities.  It was a good day.  I felt happy and comfortable with having 6 kids throughout the day (although Micah is struggling with the fact that currently he isn’t the center of the family!)  Albina seems to be opening up a little more emotionally.  She has been laughing and smiling more and seems to be happier overall.  Alina has been happy the majority of the time since she has gotten here (not that Albina hasn’t been… she has just been more guarded and not as obviously happy).

It still makes me nervous when I think too much of adopting three more children.  But just going about my day and spending time with these kids feels so natural and wonderful.  I really love these girls already!

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Activities Begin!

This morning came too early.  I woke up after only 3 ½ hours of sleep and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I dozed a little on and off for the next little while and then got up to make breakfast.  Alina and Albina were anxious to help with breakfast.  They flipped pancakes, cracked eggs, measured ingredients, helped set the table and so forth.  I thought I heard Alina call me “mom”, but I wasn’t sure.  It was an enjoyable breakfast time filled with lots of laughter and fun.

After breakfast we all got ready to go meet the rest of the orphans and hosting families for swimming.  On the way we needed to go get swimming suits for the girls.  There was constant laughing and singing and funny noises.  Communication was a bit difficult at times, but not overly frustrating (at least for me).  Once we got suits taken care of, we headed to the pool.  I jumped right in and spent the next few hours watching and playing with kids.  It was tons of exhausting fun.  Here are some of the swimming highlights:

1.     Every time Alina would get on the diving board or get ready to go down the slide she would call out, “Mom! Mom!”  Once I would look she would say, “1-2-3…” and then jump or slide.  As soon as she came up out of the water she would immediately look for me and give me a huge grin. 
2.  Albina was very helpful and wanted to make sure everyone was okay and taken care of.  She kept offering help to everyone (do you want a drink, pizza, to jump, to slide, etc.)  She was very aware of people and tried to be sensitive to their needs.
3.     Alina does not know how to swim, but she is fearless and she DOES NOT like wearing a life jacket.  We bought her a noodle at the store this morning and she used that to help her remain afloat.  However, she was constantly letting go of it when she would fall into the pool.  This made for a little drama each time she jumped in.  We tried to have Tori or Emma on either side of the pool so they could rush in and prevent her from drowning.  However, in spite of our system, I still had to jump in to “save” her a few times.  It was crazy how fearless she was and how much fun she had even though she was constantly flailing and needing help.
4.     Before we left the pool, Alina went to the cooler and snatched another soda and sneaked it into her backpack.  She looked up to see that I saw her take it.  Immediately she put her finger to her lips and said, “Shhhhhhh”.  Then she smiled and laughed.
5.     While at the pool there were moments that I would think, “How would I be able to handle all these kids if I had one more?” (meaning Maks).  It was a lot of work to keep track of six kids AND it was quite exhausting!  However, on the flip side, I was constantly counting kids and making sure I was keeping track of everyone.  Whenever I would count kids I would have the feeling that someone was missing.  I kept thinking that it was weird that I had two additional children with me and still felt like someone was missing… Maks?
6.     Alina is a total spitfire!  She is crazy and fun and full of energy.  She has the most adorable smile that could light up any room and a laugh that makes everyone join right in.  Albina is older and more mature and tries to say and do everything right.  She is absolutely stunning.  Just a gorgeous girl.  And so sweet.

Tonight after we got home from swimming we took everyone to In-n-Out.  I was so nervous about ordering for these girls.  Obviously I’m trying to understand what they like and don’t like.  But the communication is a little difficult, and I’m never really sure that I completely understand.  They all ate without complaint, but I just wish I knew that I was getting them exactly what they wanted so they felt completely happy and satisfied.

After we arrived home from dinner Albina went right to bed (@ 6:30pm).  She was exhausted and asked if she could go right to sleep.  It didn’t take long for her to fall asleep.  Alina, on the other hand, was still wired.  She forced herself to stay awake as long as possible.  (Side note: she doesn’t like hot tamales, and Micah gave her a dog treat to give the dog and she didn’t realize it was for the dog and popped it in her mouth.  She doesn’t like dog treats either and she ended up in her room crying from embarrassment… so sad, but fortunately it didn’t take long for her to be ok!)  We worked on some Russian phrases and she tried to help us pronounce things correctly.  I don’t know how much Russian I remember, but it made for a fun evening.  At one point someone mentioned Michael Jackson.  Immediately, Alina said, “Michael Jackson?” and jumped up and started doing the moonwalk.  It was hysterical!

Finally, after lots of activity, Alina fell asleep on the couch.  I took her to her room and got her tucked in and kissed her forehead.  She smiled her beautiful grin and rolled over and fell right back to sleep.

left to right: Albina, Alina, Emma, Micah, Isabel & Toria

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I've Seen That Smile Somewhere Before

We arrived at the airport at 11 PM (about an hour before their flight was scheduled to arrive).  I was so incredibly nervous.  I felt absolutely sick to my stomach with nervousness.  After meeting with all the other host families and going over everything that would be taking place over the next few weeks we sat back to wait for the kids to arrive.  My nerves continued to make me crazy until they walked into the room and right past us.  As soon as Albina and Alina walked through the door I recognized them from their pictures.  I was overcome with emotion and had to turn around to the wall so no one would see me crying.  I had to work really hard to avoid becoming a complete emotional wreck.  I regained my composure and prepared to be introduced to these two beautiful girls.  They approached our family and we introduced each other and discussed a few things while we had a translator available.  At one point during the conversation, we told the girls who they would be sharing a room with.  When Alina found out that she was sharing with Isabel her face absolutely lit up with joy.  Micah asked if they liked our family and they responded in the affirmative (so either we made a good first impression, or they were just very polite). 

We took the girls to the car and made our way home.  On the way home we tried to communicate, but it was a little challenging (Albina speaks a little English and Alina speaks little to none).  Unfortunately, when we arrived home we realized that Alina was very carsick and felt like she was going to throw up.  She was crying in the back seat and obviously very uncomfortable.  However, we got her some fresh air and water and it didn’t take long before she was her happy and silly self. 

Once we got into the house we gave the girls a tour and showed them their rooms and bathrooms and such.  Alina wanted to unpack and hang up all her things (she only had one outfit, some pajamas and a hairbrush).  Both the girls got their baths and got ready for bed.  After baths we met for family prayer (something they had likely never experienced before).  Everyone was kneeling except for Alina and she decided that this was the perfect opportunity to show us how well she could Cha-Cha.  We all laughed and then showed her how to kneel, fold her arms and close her eyes for a prayer.  After prayer we gave our usual hugs to our kids and Albina and Alina took their turn right along with the other kids.  Everyone was tucked into bed and tried to calm down and get to sleep after a very exciting night.

I got into bed and felt so much joy.  I couldn’t get to sleep because I kept thinking about how these girls had only been in our home and with our family for such a very short period of time, and yet… they already felt like they belonged here.  Could that really be possible?

Picture at orphanage before the kids left for Utah

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Short List Of Preparations For Arrival:

In preparation for Albina & Alina to arrive in our home, here are some of the things we did:

1.  Drove 4 hours away (so 8 hours total travel) to pick up our new dog, Guster (we had already planned on doing this, but it got pushed up since our week's schedule got revamped).  I realize that I am a little crazy and perhaps some would say that my priorities are a little out of line, but I had promised Micah we would get his dog this week... so what was I to do?

2.  Spoke with the adoption agency and found out how expensive it was going to be to adopt three children from the Ukraine (EEEEEKK!  We were not prepared for this in the slightest!).

3.  Cleaned the house.

4.  Organized rooms so there would be proper sleeping arrangements as well as storage for the kids.

5.  Cleaned the cars.

6.  Planned meals and grocery lists for the next 4 weeks (I'm always surprised at how long menu and grocery planning take... really?)

7.  Went shopping.

8.  Tried to stay calm, cool and collected... what is wrong with me?

Here is a picture of our new dog:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Life Altered

I awoke to begin what I believed would be another typical Monday morning.  However, as I checked my email that morning, I realized that this Monday could be a turning point for myself and my family.  One of my emails that morning was about a hosting program for Ukrainian orphans.  I actually opened and closed the email twice before I finally gave in and read the entire email (along with attachments).  James and I have discussed adopting before, but we were certainly not looking to do anything soon (we've thought about possibly adopting a little boy to balance out our family and give our son, Micah, a brother).  I decided to glance at the options for young boys.  Although there were a number of boys and very cute boys at that, nothing really resonated with me.

I knew that I couldn’t possibly adopt multiple children (that would be crazy, right?), but continued (out of curiosity) down the list to the sibling groups.  Within those groups there was another little boy that had two older sisters.  Completely uninterested in this idea, but still curious, I opened their pictures.  The little boy (Maksym, age 5) was absolutely adorable and reminded me of Micah.  I was a little more interested.  I scrolled over to the 10 year old sisters picture (Alina).  I was surprised to see that she reminded me of a younger version of my daughter Emma.  Very interesting.  Lastly, I scrolled to the final picture of the 16 year old girl (Albina).  Upon seeing her picture I said aloud, “Oh!  WOW!”.  She had a similar look to my other two daughters, Toria & Isabel.  I was immediately drawn to these kids (in spite of the fact that they were a sibling group) and took the email and pictures to my husband.  We agreed, without much discussion, that we were definitely interested in hosting Albina and Alina (Maksim would not be coming to the US since he was so young).  We called the man that was arranging the hosting and spoke for quite some time.  He told us that we could certainly host Albina and Alina and made arrangements to come visit us in our home.

Meanwhile, I showed my kids the pictures and told them about the hosting program.  They all had a similar reaction to myself while looking at the pictures and immediately wanted to know if we would consider adopting these kids.  We explained that it was too soon to make such a decision, but that we were certainly open to adopting if we felt right about things as we moved forward.

Meanwhile, I can't stop thinking about these kids.  These kids I've never met.  Never did I expect to wake up this morning and suddenly consider adopting three kids from the Ukraine.  What a life altering thought…

This blog is the story of our Adoption Adventure!