Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bye for now

Well, Anya went home, back to Ukraine yesterday.  It was a very sad day, sadder than I ever expected. Before I went to bed last night I was online tracking her flight, and then first thing this morning I got back on to see that she landed safely.  It was 18 hours of flying with a layover in Amsterdam. She landed in Kiev, Ukraine about 5am Michigan time.  She is now on a 10-12 hour bus ride to Kherson where her orphanage is.  I hope she is doing well, she was a very emotional girl yesterday, and her tears showed just how much she is going to miss us.  Her first good bye was to Todd, Tony and Bella at the house before we left.  Todd could not get away from work to go to the airport, so I decided without his help, it would be best to leave the kids home with a sitter. 

Of course all her crying had me crying.  I tried to be strong and not cry, and I really thought I could do it.  Until I saw her crying.  She cried for the first half hour to the airport before she fell asleep.  We stopped for lunch, and she seemed to be doing okay the rest of the way to Chicago.  It wasn't until we got through the check out counter that she started crying again.  Maybe it's my pregnancy hormones, maybe it's the mother in me, but I felt horrible sending her back to fend for herself in Ukraine.  
Here we are trying to pretend everything is fine.

group picture

Getting harder to pretend...

Francie was able to come along for the tearful good bye.  (yes she was crying too.  Lol, we must have been a sight.)

Anya with her luggage.  I think it weighed about half as much has her.  

Going through security.

Last glance back before going through security

The goodbye wasn't just hard on me and Anya, there were 3 other kids there saying good bye to their families.  Lucky for them (although they do not know it) all 3 of those kids families have already started the adoption process.  Anya's future is still up in the air.  When I brought her to stay with us for the summer, I wanted go give this girl a wonderful 5 weeks in America, but had no real expectations beyond that.  Now I find myself wishing she was a permanent part of our family.  With a baby on the way, due in November, it's bad timing in many ways to be going through an international adoption.  

We are definitely planning on re-hosting her this Christmas... but between now and then, we have some serious decisions to make.  For now I'm holding onto this promise as much as Anya is.

I found out that Anya entered the orphanage on 5/25/2010.  Ironically that is my birthday.   It made me sad to think that while I was celebrating, Anya was moving into an orphanage.  I don't think I will ever be able to celebrate another birthday without thinking about Anya and where she is and how long she has been there (regardless of whether those answers change over time, which I pray they do).

Jill Lenkowski from two ring photography donated her time and talent to take these great pictures at the beach in South Haven for us.  

She loves to smile, now that she got her front tooth cavity fixed.

And here is a post I started a week ago and never finished... but I hate to delete it... so I'm not...

Last Sunday was the first day that Todd didn't have to work since Anya has been here, so we went to Notre Dame University (where Todd graduated from) and walked around campus.  I think Anya enjoyed it way more than I expected her to.  I think part of it had to do with spending time together with Todd, which we have gotten so little time to do that.  I let her carry the camera, and she took pictures of whatever she thought worthy.  I found it interesting to see the things that she found worthy of a picture.  She was constantly wanting to take pictures of Todd and I, statues and squirrels.  She was also pretty impressed, as was I, with the inside of the church.  Reminded me of the churches I saw in Italy with beautifully painted ceilings and stain glass windows.

Anya already gets Todd's passion for ND football.

The Golden Dome

Inside the church.  This picture doesn't do it justice. 

I can't remember what this is called, (I'm not Catholic) but it's a place where you can light a candle for a loved one who has passed away or is ill, or in need of prayer.  Todd helped Anya light a candle for her mother, who I believe passed away around the time she entered the orphanage.  

I've been to the campus many times, but never walked around and got the tour from Todd.  So I enjoyed the experience as well.  Although it was a very hot and humid day, and my kids both wanted only me to carry them around, so I was definitely ready to go, when we finally left.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Too busy to blog.. (among other things)

I can't believe how fast July seems to be going.  Less than 2 weeks and Anya will be flying home (if you can really call an orphanage home).  We have been trying to make the most of the time she is here.  Every experience is new and fun for her, and of course fun for Tony and Bella, so it's a win win for everyone.  
Part of the requirements for participating in the New Horizons for Children hosting programs, is that you agree to take them to a dentist (dental hygiene and care is basically non-existent in Ukraine) and an eye doctor.  No big deal right?  I found a coupon online through Living Social for a dental exam, cleaning, full x-rays and a flouride treatment for $50.  That seemed like a great deal, so I snatched it up, crossing my fingers that it was a decent dentist.  I have experienced and firmly believe that most often, you get what you pay for, but on the other hand, I am also a sucker for a good deal.  So I bought it, and hoped for the best.  I passed the deal onto my sister who also snatched it up, and luckily got her appointment first.  The report was, it was a very nice dental office and very nice staff.  They also gave Rachael a 50% off rate on the filling that her host son needed, and threw in a free sealant.
The next week was Anya's turn, and she was not thrilled to be going, but the obedient girl she is, went along without a fuss.  My experience was great, for not speaking any English Anya did so good!  The hygienist was a pro at communicating with her, through pantomime, which has taken me weeks to get halfway decent at, and I still feel like an idiot when I am acting things out I don't know how to say.  Her dental exam/report was not so good:  8 cavities, and 2 teeth broken or decayed beyond repair (thankfully back molars that wont affect her smile) that need extraction.  Dr. Mahoney was so kind while in the room examining her mouth. He was asking me all about her, where she was from, why she was here..... the usual line of questioning I get.  After we were done talking and he finished his exam he said to the hygienist, "here is my plan, we are going to fill ...... and extract ..........  It will take 2 more visits at 2 hours per visit to complete the work."   The way he said so matter of fact that this is what would be done, I didn't feel there was any way I was going to be able to say, but what if I can't afford all of that, what has to be done, vs. what should be done? I was just going to have to suck it up and pay for it.  So instead I asked, "how much do you think all of this is going to cost?"  He held up his hand and made a zero with it.  I instantly got tears in my eyes and could barely speak, but he could sense my gratitude.  He said that for all we are doing for her, this was the least he could do.  (By the way, Dr. Mahoney volunteers at a free dental clinic on Fridays, but he did not refer me to the free clinic, he is doing it at his office.)  Oh and later that day, the dental office called my sister, and informed her that there would be no charge for the dental work scheduled for her host son.
There have been similar stories from other host families I keep in touch with.  Bad teeth for the kids, (as I said before, dental care is minimal to non existent for Ukraine orphans) and overwhelming kindness and generosity from their local Dentist.  We have all been overjoyed and overly impressed, especially me, since Dr. Mahoney isn't even my family Dentist.  (But I'm pretty certain he will be in the near future.)

Now for some of the fun....
Last weekend was our local, annual Venetian Festival (aka carnival), which is usually too crowded, too hot, and too expensive for the smart locals, but it draws a lot of crowds from all over Michigan.  With Sunday being the last day, and we had managed to stay far away from it, I considered skipping it all together, no one would know the difference or feel like they were missing out on any fun, if they didn't even know about it.  Right?  So yeah, I may not be one of the smart ones, cause I decided to take them.  Everyone else (all 3 of my sisters) was going.... so you know I had to go.

Other than the extreme heat (mid 90's) and ridiculous prices of food and rides, a good time was had by all.  Tony and Bella are finally 36 inches, (well Bella really isn't quite, but with her wild messy hair, and shoes on, she was close enough, they let her on) so they were able to ride quite a few rides this year.  They of course loved it!  Anya seemed to really like everything too, except the pirate rocking ship, she got a little (okay a lot) scared on that one.  Rachael had to tell them to stop the ride she was so scared.  She especially liked the rock climbing wall.  She is a bit competitive, and was very upset she couldn't make it to the top on her first try, so I bought her a second try, and she made it that time.  Winning a stuffed animal that she now sleeps with every night.  She seemed very interested in wanting to play carnival games, the ones to win a prize for.  Yeah, I'm all about showing her a good time, but I had to say no to that.  I hate those games, the prizes are junk IF you win them, and chances are, YOU WONT.  Total waste of money.

Then we came home and everyone (even Tony and Anya) took a 3.5 hour nap!  That made the whole hot miserable experience worthwhile for me.

Monday and Tuesday I had to work, so they were stay home with the babysitter days for the kids.  Francie came over on Monday and brought a stack of movies with her.  Asked if Anya could watch any of them.  I told her that she could, but not sure she would want to, since they are all in English.  I was wrong.  She watched 3 movies that night.  Legally Blonde, Miss Congeniality, and Savanah Smiles (my pick).  She seemed to like them all.  I can't believe she has gone 3 weeks without any TV and then sat down and watched 3 movies in English.  I wonder how much she picks up about what's going on in the movies.  I typed into the translator when she was watching Miss Congeniality "Do you even know what's going on?"  She typed back something that didn't translate properly, and all I got out of her answer was "police".  So who knows, but she obviously enjoyed them.

Wednesday, (yesterday) we got up and drove 2.5 to my sister Natalie's house for a day of boating.  I knew Anya would love it, but was pleasantly surprised to see that Tony and Bella loved it too.  Tony was my dream child for the day, Bella showed her naughty side for a good part of the day.  I told my sisters at one point, Bella is they type of girl that gives 2 year olds a bad rep.  She can be pure naughtiness and she does it with a smile on her face, like she knows exactly what she is doing.  I think there were several times I thought to myself yesterday, "I'm sure glad I'm having another boy." Not that I don't love Bella to pieces, but she is a handful, and I'm not sure I could handle another one like her.  Thankfully she is adorable and that seems to help.  If you ask her "Bella, why are you naughty?" she will say, "I don't know", then she will turn to Tony and say, "Tony, why am I naughty?" and Tony will say, "because you __________________, why did you do that?" (fill in the blank with whatever naughty behavior she just displayed.)  And Bella will say, "I don't know."  It's really kind of funny to hear them talking between themselves.  
While boating I saw a side of Anya come out that I had only suspected from small things I'd seen over the past few weeks here and there, but this girl has a fierce competitive streak to her.  She loved being pulled on the tube, and hated being told to give someone else a turn.  She never fell off, she held on with a death grip.  She decided a rule should be made, that whenever you fall off, someone else gets a turn, of course she said this while she was stuck on the boat watching others tube.   I think she was on the tube about 90% of the day.  She got the title of "tube hog"by all the kids.
All set with our new life jackets, ready for a fun day on the boat.

Sergeiy and Mason

Kristen, Anya and Katya

Our Boat Captain, Natalie

Sergiey (Rach's host son)

Rachael and Mason

It was SO hot, I had to get in the water.  Shockingly kids wanted in too.  That was a bit challenging.

Katya, Anya and Kristen

Ben, Sergey, and Jack


Rachael's boys  (I love this picture)

a whole bunch of kids

Tony loved the boat!!  

Bella not too thrilled with life jacket she picked out.

Anya was made to come in off the tube to give someone else a turn, and she was pouty about it, until Natalie told her she could drive the boat.  

The Ukrainians (Sergeiy and Anya) battling it out.  Adam whipped them around the lake for a good 20 minutes until Sergeiy finally fell off. They were tough though, Adam gave them a pretty tough ride, we were all impressed.  

Of course Anya won!  She wouldn't have it any other way.

We boated till the sun went down! 

The last ride of the day and she fell off ruining her perfect record.  She was begging for one more time, she didn't want to leave with a fall as her last ride.

Me and Bella

Annie and Rachael  (Annie is Rachaels friend from Lansing, who came up for the day with 4 boys.)
Annie, it was so great meeting you and your kids.  I'm really glad you made the trip.  The boys seemed to have a great time, and Oleg is so sweet, glad he was able to join us for the day.
my perfect in their own special way kids. 

A bunch of bummed kids that it's time to go home.
On my way home from boating yesterday, I got a call from the local newspaper, (The Herald Palladium), they responded to my letter I sent them, asking them if they had any interest in writing a story on these kids from Ukraine, and yes they do!!!  I'm so excited, I have no idea what I will say, or what they will write, so I'm kinda nervous about that, but I am excited to get these kids and the program, New Horizon's for Children, some media attention.  Maybe the article will get others in the area involved, and if it results in just one kid, beating the odds, and finding a forever family, then it will be a good thing.