Friday, May 20, 2016

Last visit

We just returned from our last visit with Ariya before we head home for a week.  As she came down the stairs and saw us waiting she ran over and greeted us each with a hug.  It was wonderful.  We had such a nice little visit.  I say little because after 40 min. or so she decided she had enough of us so she marched back into the orphanage and blew us goodbye kisses.  It was nice that she was so receptive of us today.  It is hard knowing now she won't see us for a week.
Tonight we are taking the overnight train to Kiev and we will catch a flight home on Sunday.  We will be home for the week as we try and get our other kids organized and make sure all is good at home. Then on June 1 we have to be back in Krivoy Rog for court.  Then lots of paperwork and boring stuff until we can take Ariya home!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

An update

A couple days have passed and Ariya seems to have settled in to her new temporary home.  The staff there seems nice and she seems to like them.  Truth be told she prefers them to us!  Yesterday when we visited it wasn't a particularly good visit - at least for myself.  When they brought her out to see us, she put up a decent protest.  She did not want to be with us so they had to lead her outside and basically tell her to stay there with us.  We did get her to then play on some playground equipment for a bit.  She has shown a preference for Thad for sure, which I understand but it has made it a little hard for me.  At one point I was sort of chasing her back and forth around a playset and she and I were laughing and enjoying ourselves.  I thought we were making good progress when she suddenly spit at me.  Ha!  Apparently she wasn't as pleased about our progress as me.  Here is where this blog gets real honest.  Ariya has built some walls and some coping behaviors.  Survival of the fittest.  I have been spit on, slapped and flipped the middle finger more than once.  I have read enough books and blogs on adopting an older child and I was prepared.  At least I thought I was.  I admit that it hurt even though I know it is sort of normal for where she is at.  My head knows these are defensive behaviors.  My heart still expected a little girl who would be overjoyed to have me as her mother and would greet me with hugs and acceptance.  Not yet.  So during our first visit at her new location we were outside playing and a group of other children came outside around where we were.  We had brought some inflatable beach balls so we blew them up and tossed them around.  Ariya got pretty overexcited and a bit naughty.  She is a born leader and boss for sure.  While she was wound up a staff person came and took her away to visit the dr.  She was protesting and didn't want to leave.  That was the end of our visit - her being dragged away.  It was a bummer.
However, today (Tuesday) we visited her again.  This time she came to us willingly and let Thad hug her.  We went outside once again to play.  We had a good visit.  She loves to teeter totter and to swing.  At one point Thad picked her up and we took a bit of a walk while he held her.  This was a big deal.  Even better is that she - on her own - leaned in and gave him a kiss.  She then leaned over to me and gave me a kiss as well.  Definite progress!  For now though we are her minions and she is our leader.  She tells us what to do and where to go.  Underneath that tough exterior there is a tenderhearted loving girl.  She had a wet one wipe that I had given her and she gently wiped another child's face and hands clean.  If she doesn't like something she will protest but she also will give in.  She is wanting to establish herself on the pecking order.  She has had to do that her whole life.  After an hour with us she decided she was finished being with us and she went to the first worker she saw and asked to go inside.  She calls all the workers "mama".
We have a court date of June 1.  We also know that the court will waive the 10 day waiting period after court.  That was amazing!  It rarely happens.  It is just another reaffirming sign to us that God is clearing the path.  We have decided to return home for the next week prior to court.  Our original plan did not have us staying here that long so we need to go home and see our kids, rearrange child care, get things squared away for Thad at work, and such.  We will come back in time for court and finish the process.
Here are some pictures of the passed couple of days!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Another move

Today was another day of emotional highs and gut wrenching lows.
We started our day at 6 am loading up the car to make our way to Polyvanivka from Dnepropetrovsk - about 40 miles north. Once there we were met by a few of Ariya's caretakers who asked that we give them our Facebook links so they can follow her journey. We paid off that driver and piled into a new car with Ariya, one of the head doctors, and a new driver for the 150 mile trip to Kryvyi Rih in the South West. Ariya was very sad and did not want to go, and had to be coaxed to come along. I just kept asking myself how many times has she been displaced at the hands of adults? - only to start over with new people, new challenges, new pecking orders. While I know what I am doing for her is to finally put a stop to it, it hurt to be the catalyst for her world changing again.
We enjoyed three uninterrupted hours in the car with our sweet daughter and got to know her better. She warmed up to us after some time and she has proven to be very kind, funny, very independent, a little ornery, and more. There is a depth to her that is going to flourish and will be a cherished journey to watch unfold. For the time being she is tolerating us, but allowed us to hold her hand, and she fell asleep for a short time with her head on Lorene's lap.
Toward the end of the harrowing 150 miles, Ariya being to sing along with a talking/singing/dancing doll we bought her. It did my heart good to hear it. I have always felt that a child who can muster a song is a child that is not utterly broken. Ariya was very pleased with herself. smile emoticon
Finally we arrived at the new orphanage where she will spend her last weeks in the Ukraine - and where the toughest part of my day unfolded. It is an adequate space and from what we can see her needs will be met here. Sadly, for all the tenuous bridges we made with her in the car ride, they all came crashing down when we were told we could not follow her into the orphanage. She first begged to stay with us, and then giving up on us - you could just see it in her eyes - she asked that her new backpack be given back to her and they said no. So off we drove leaving our daughter behind - her things taken away - confused and betrayed and again abandoned to her fate in a strange place. It is an emotion unlike any I have ever felt. How does a man reconcile putting your child in a "worse" place in order to get them to a better place. It is madness. Of course I understand "what must be done". But I challenge any man to try it, and not be permanently changed by the experience. My heart will forever be hurt by this memory.
Ironically, because no documents were yet processed by the orphanage that says she exists, we would not be able to get permission from the local ministry to see her. So next we drove from place to place trying to convince the powers that be that she exists. Having successfully done that, we were able to once again ask to have permission to see her. The day felt increasingly desperate as we tried to navigate a sea of paperwork that would normally take weeks and do so in hours. But again, in our most desperate moments, doors began to open, and approvals started trickling in.
So, the day ended with our interview with the inspector (the second time we've done this now since being here) and an observation period with Ariya. This was the highlight of my day as they trotted her back into the room. And she snubbed us both! I offered her her backpack, and she denied it. She was truly betrayed by us and it would take a while to bring her back. It scared both Lorene and I as it did not make for a great initial "showing" with the inspector, who are already suspicious and skeptical of us. But in the end (after much self deprecating behavior on my part, such as running away from a wind up duck and otherwise rolling around on the floor) we managed to build back a small bridge with Ariya, and what appears to be the approval of the Director and Inspector.
So where does that leave us? With many unknowns. Because this process has been one-of-a-kind, there is plenty of concern that the court will throw us out. We do have all our paperwork in order There is nothing that should be considered unorthodox, except for the speed at which we accomplished so much. We are literally afraid that the court will find it "unbelievable". And it so many respects it is! Our next step is to get our court date. It sounds like it will be out too far out to achieve on this trip. So we will have to come back for that, then again to get her. A week ago I would have been destroyed by such news. Now - it is the new normal, frown emoticon
We have no choice, but to trust in God. There is nothing else we can do. And my friends, I can tell you, if you've ever been on that bitter bleeding edge, you know it is not a warm fuzzy blanket with angles singing trumpets and unicorns flying about and roses bursting out of the ground.
It is dirty, tiring, terrifying, and raw.
But for one little girl, it is worth it.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A time for rest

This weekend has been a time for us to regroup and relax a bit.  Tomorrow - Tuesday - we will get up early and be taken to Ariya's institution where we will ride with her and their driver to another large city about 4 hrs. away.  This is exciting for us because it is a necessary step to allow us to bring her home.  It is not so exciting for Ariya.  She will once again leave everything she knows.  She will be stuck in a car with 2 virtual strangers who can't even speak her language.  She will then be brought to an unfamiliar place and expect to call that place "home".  I can only imagine how hard this will be on her.  She has lost so much in her 12 years.  She has been taken from all she knows too many times.  The thought that she has to say yet another goodbye tomorrow breaks my heart.  She is not going to understand.  Please pray for her emotional protection.  Tomorrow will be a hard day.
While here we have had the chance to meet an amazing woman that I am so glad to call a friend.  Sasha works endlessly in her free time to bring medication, clothes, supplies, to orphans here.  She gathers donations for institutions like Ariya's.  She visits those in need at the hospital, at orphanages, and at homes for the elderly.  I admire her so much.  We were taken around the city and had a wonderful weekend.

Friday, May 13, 2016

My God works miracles

Folks today was a day of miracles.   I can not go into details of everything that happened today but suffice it to say that the impossible was made possible.  Many pieces had to fall into place.  Many different officials had to agree to things that have never been done before and the institution she is currently at had to be on board.
This "institution" came with some surprises for me.  I came expecting a cold, stark and unfriendly place.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Yes, it is very remote.  Yes, it is very poor, and understaffed. And yes, they still carry around many outdated thoughts and beliefs regarding the disabled.  BUT, they were so warm and receptive.  At our first meeting there they brought out the most delicious and elaborate lunch for us.  Just for us.  It was such a kind gesture.  They have decided to trust us and our amazing facilitator in spite of having NEVER had a child adopted from there before.  The director is a little unsure of our intentions - he wonders the true reason we would want to adopt "such a child".  However he has decided to trust.  It boggles my mind.
We now have a plan moving forward.  On Tuesday we will go with a driver to pick up Ariya at her institution.  We will then travel from the city Dnipropetrovsk  to Krivoy Rog and bring Ariya to another institution that will care for her until we are able to have court.  At that point the process should be the same as we had originally planned.  There are still a couple of details that need to fall into place but we are confident that all will work out. 
Thank you all so much for your prayers the past couple of days.  Rest assured that we felt them and we know those prayers were heard and answered.  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A long hard day - I mean days

Message from Thad:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

We are here!!!

After waiting what felt like an eternity we will finally be meeting our new daughter in just a couple days.  Tomorrow morning at 10:00 we have our meeting with the adoption authorities and will pick up Ariya's referral.  Once we have that in hand we will travel to her region and finally meet her!  
Jet lag is a pain, we both feel like we are walking around in a fog.  
Our apartment is in an ideal location - within walking distance to the large city center - Independence Square.  
Here are some pictures.  Next time I write I will hopefully be able to let you all know that we met Ariya!
             This is the outside of our apartment building.  We are on the 3rd floor.
                                   This is the inside of the building.
The view from our window