Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Days 11.2 and 12.2--Father's Day and Monday

The first thing I did on Father's Day morning was bring out the cards the kids made for Daddy before we left.  I snuck them into one of the suitcases and held them until that morning.  He LOVED them and the kids' personalities just poured out of each card.  Being away from them for so long and then to have that "contact" really pointed up the unique and wonderful differences between the children.

The next thing we did was check our email for pictures of our son's ribbon cutting.  His eagle project was the main focus while we were home waiting to come back to Ukraine and the ribbon cutting on his NBA-sized basketball court for our little town happened at our town celebration on Saturday.  As sad as we were to miss that much-anticipated ceremony, we were SO glad to have been home to help support him in accomplishing it!  We are also so grateful to the angels who helped him see the last details through in our absence. The timing worked out very well, so we are certainly counting our blessings in the midst of challenge!
The moment he (and everyone else) worked for!

Sure enough, there were pictures on our email.  It was Chris' Father's Day gift to his dad, Marsh said.
Fabulous Father's Day breakfast!
Then the phone rang...it was Chris singing "Happy Father's Day to you" to the tune of "Happy Birthday".  He got to talk to almost all of the children and then came to the glamorous breakfast I prepared:  cold cereal for him and cottage cheese for me!  I know, I shouldn't have...but, hey, it's Father's Day.  Why not pull out all the stops?  :)

Within just a few minutes of breakfast, it was time to leave to visit the kids.  We did our research on going to church, but found that the meetings happen only during the hours we had with Ruslan and Nastia.  So, we decided to forgo meetings so we could be with them.   We did, however, stop by the building and pulled a missionary out just after the opening prayer.  He came out and immediately said, "Are you the family adopting from the orphanage?"  We were kind of speechless as to how he could know that, but it turns out Kevin Radzinski (ukrainetoutah.blogspot.com) had met the missionaries on the street and told them about us.  We had a quick little chat, got their contact information and headed out the door. We now know where the building is and when the meetings are held.  We would like to take Ruslan and Nastia to a meeting in Russian so they can have a better idea of what is going on when they get home.

Our driver stayed outside and waited for us while we were in the church.  When we returned, she mentioned that she had seen a woman with a child in a wheelchair, with cerebral palsy, coming into the church after us.  She said both the woman and the child were smiling.  She was so impressed that under such difficult circumstances, they could smile.  It really meant a lot to her and sparked a conversation with Marsh about how important it is that we focus on what really matters in life.  It impressed ME that a smile, when it wasn't apparent anyone was watching, could be life changing to another person.  We just never know who is watching and what our actions will do to them...for good or not-so-good.

Upon arriving at the orphanage, we had a wonderful talk with the kids about what we believe and were able to give them each their own copy of "For the Strength of Youth:  Fulfilling Our Duty to God" (https://www.lds.org/youth/for-the-strength-of-youth?lang=eng).   We had picked up Russian copies on our last trip.  I was so grateful we had them!  They are perfect for giving them a clear, direct understanding of what standards they will live in our home.  Our standards not only differ from the world, but are light years away from what the overall culture is like here in Ukraine.

Over the last two days, Ruslan has studied it on his own and shared the parts he felt were most important.  We've read sections with them that we felt were most applicable:  modesty, media, friends, family.  They each have their own copy, but Ruslan being 15 is much more interested in these issues youth face.  However, it's great to help Nastia understand the importance of the sanctity of womanhood, modesty and respect for women since she has been raised in a culture that looks upon women as objects of desire and nothing more.  I am so grateful for this tool...it has opened up wonderful discussions with them and they will be much more comfortable coming into our home knowing how they are expected to live, dress and behave.

The most wonderful thing about it is that they agreed with these standards and recognized the value of them and the contrast between them and their current culture. After our first talk about these things on Father's Day, there was such a reverent spirit in the room.  Most of the children are gone to summer camps and no one but the weekend staff and security guards were on the grounds.  The weather was perfect and the room was so peaceful.  We opened up discussion about their mom and let them know that we want to know all they want to share about her.  We told them that we know she is aware of them and is working in their lives, that they will see her again.  They said they believed that, too, and shared with us that they missed her kindness.  Ruslan misses "everything about her". They miss the way she made their favorite foods for their birthdays.  We assured them that their memories of her were important and Marsh encouraged them to write down the details of their memories of her and their lives here so they wouldn't forget them as they come into a new way of life.
Smiling at Chris' eagle project pictures
Just finished reading a couple sections
of "For the Strength of Youth"

We decided, then, to pull out the Father's Day snacks for celebration (we noted on Father's Day that they never ate treats we brought, so Monday we got chips and nuts instead.  They devoured them!  Well, "devouring" is a relative term since they never touched anything else we brought.  They always took it with them, though, and I assume they shared with their friends.)  Marsh showed them the pictures of Chris' ribbon cutting and some pictures taken during the process itself.  Ruslan wants to be a Boy Scout, he said, so he was very interested in the project.   Marsh played our favorite Ukrainian violin music and then Ruslan asked about hearing my music.  We didn't have the CD with us that day, but brought it the next day.  He's so cute!  He gave me a big thumbs up, a huge smile and said, "Yes, you sing!"

Notice that the Pringles are the only things
being eaten!

Over the last two days, the boys have built a ship and worked a 500 piece puzzle while we girls have made jewelry, a paper mosaic and painted our nails.  Ruslan would break away from his intense concentration on their projects to admire Nastia's nails or comment on her jewelry.  He always wanted to see what she was showing off to me.  I LOVE how supportive he is of her.  No wonder she loves him so much.

The ship is almost finished!

We've offered to go outside with them, but they always kind of shake their heads or scowl and say, "No, we like what we're doing." Monday, though, we did take a walk around the orphanage and practiced english.  I had decided it might be best to start with the most useful phrases like, "What is this?" or "How do you say...?"  That way, they can get information they need to learn to communicate more easily.  We walked around practicing that phrase and learning vocabulary of things around us like "car", "tree", "flower", "child", etc.  They taught me the russian (and I had to ask "What is this?" in russian) and then we'd do the english.   On our second trip around the orphanage, we played "Find the..." and reviewed the vocabulary:  "Find the flower", "Find the fence", etc.  It was good and we laughed at each other a lot.

Later, at the apartment I was washing the dinner dishes and russian phrases were running around in my head.  I realized that because I am listening to it so much, I'm picking it up without really trying.  I can even pick words and short phrases out of songs on the radio.  I suddenly realized that the best thing for their language will be to get them home.  The other kids will do a great job teaching them and reviewing and practicing.  They will enjoy it, too.
Nastia showing off her creations

We've had several hours of completely uninterrupted time with these kids over the last few days. We've had almost three hours a day since Saturday which computes to almost 9 hours together so far.  By the time we leave, we will have spent 15 hours of one-on-one time with them.  Since our daily lives at home will not allow that, I told Nastia on Monday that at home, she will get to make jewelry and do nails with her sisters more often than with me.  I worry that we will get home and she'll feel neglected after all this attention.  Ruslan just smiled and nodded at my comments.  He knows what it's like at home!  But, being homeschooled, they will all have more time with me than they otherwise would so it will be okay.

I am trying not to feel overwhelmed for them and all they are facing coming into a new culture and language while fighting my own concerns about being overwhelmed.  While I've pondered on these things, I've considered that the real problem with "being overwhelmed" by the needs of several children is the attitude that we deserve our "me time".

This is contrary to what our culture tends to think about the concept of "me time", but I'm putting it out there for consideration.  In my pondering, the thought has come to me that it is better to consider ourselves (as parents, wives, mothers, fathers, husbands) as vessels and tools of the Lord rather than individuals with personal needs.  Of course, we need time with God, time to study His word, time to be inspired by His Spirit, but unless that is all done with the purpose of serving Him, it is useless.

My service to Him, at this time in my life, is the care and teaching of the precious children He has given to me.  If my focus is that "my time" is time to grow closer to God for the purpose of bringing these children closer to Him, then the time, energy and effort I spend on them will be building and rejuvenating as I do His work, rather than draining and a sacrifice of personal needs. 

On the contrary, if my focus is "How am I going to have enough energy and time to give them all that they need?  When will I have time to fill my own cup?  When will there be a moment for my needs?", then the work becomes a draining sacrifice of self.  It is in submitting to God's will and acting as His agent that it is His effort, His strength, His spirit, His grace that comes through me to others, rather than my effort, my strength and my spirit that is taxed.

"...he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."
Matthew 10:39


  1. Alisa, as I read your writings I am always so touched and impressed with your attititude! I love your dependence and faith in our Father in Heaven, how you hang on to Him and trust Him. You remind me of Corrie Ten Booms sister.. how even in the toughest times and the most unlikely circumstances she gave thanks to Him, and trusted that there was always a better purpose. And her faith won out.. as yours has. I have learned so much from reading your blog. Thank you for your faith and your beautiful spirit.

    I am loving these pictures! They are beautiful children, and you are beautiful parents. Your question reminds me of when I was homeschooling with an infant and toddler, and my toddler had me up most nights and up early in the morning. I was so exhausted! I prayed for help, and the story of the Savior in Matthew 14: 13-14 came to mind.. I think that is the one. He needed time alone as He had heard of John the Baptist's death. The crowd followed Him, though, so He turned to fill their needs. I think this story shows that even the Savior needed time to rejuvinate. He often went to the mountains to pray. He also at times gave some of that up to care for those that needed Him. But remember.. He did need the time and took it when He could. In fact, my favorite story of the Savior is when He walked on water and Peter wanted to walk out to meet Him as He approached the boat. Wasn't the Savior out praying alone before He came out to the Apostles in the boat?

    My prayers are still with you and your family! I hope to sometime meet your Ruslan and Nastia!

    Blessings to you! Brenda

  2. What beautiful pictures of the kids! I am so happy to finally see a few more pictures of Nastia. How come your posts always make me cry? Here I am blubbering again. I learn so much from your family - thank you!

  3. Thank you for putting into words the feelings I've often had when people tell me I just need time for myself.

  4. There's power in this post.

  5. Thank you for your last 2 paragraphs. We've been home almost 3 years with our kiddos and are still adjusting - blending adopted with bio and all their needs. I often find myself thinking your very words "How am I going to have enough energy and time to give them all that they need? When will I have time to fill my own cup? When will there be a moment for my needs?" You are right. It will drain you. Your reminder to lean on Him, serve Him, and depend on His strength is so timely and so right on.