Friday, August 31, 2012

Post-Adoption Paperwork

Arriving home gives the false impression that the paper chase is over.  It's not.

There is the necessary registration with the adoptive child's embassy, adding them to health insurance, getting their social security number, updating their immunizations and so on.

Registering with the child's embassy requires the sending of their actual passports to the embassy that is most likely in another state as well as copies of the ID portion of their passports and yours.  You must also send the original court declaration with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the return of all those important documents.  All of this must be done within the first 30 days...which may seem like a long time, but it's not when you are adjusting to a new family structure.  The time literally flies by.

When I sent all these important documents off, I stood in the post office, hesistating to seal the envelope, trying not to think of the stories I have heard of postal workers hoarding packages and such.  There I was again...the same situation I had been in over and over during the past year...praying over papers going into the hands of total strangers!

But WAIT!  Sending off the court declaration before contacting your health insurance company may not be the best idea.  I needed to submit a scanned copy (over email, thank goodness) of our court declaration (actual signature page on the original in Ukrainian and the English translated version of the entire document).  If I had sent on the original to the embassy before scanning it for my health insurance company, that might have been difficult.

These are questions and situations that can be addressed long before you even leave to pick up your children.  You can call companies, prepare envelopes with addresses and find out the requirements so it's easier on you when you get home.

Our health insurance takes 10 days to kick in after submitting the forms, documentation and request.  If they decide we don't have adequate information, they can request more paperwork and documentation, extending that waiting period.  This registering of the kids with the health insurance company also HAS to be done in the first 30 days after their arrival home.

Obviously, I didn't jump on this as quickly as I should have.  I focused on our family and our harvest and all that came with bringing the children home...and put off the paperwork for two weeks.  I didn't miss deadlines, but our health insurance still hasn't kicked in yet and I would really like to get them in for their check ups. 

Don't put it off.  While you're waiting for your travel date, pass the time by getting all the facts up front on all the post-adoption paperwork.  Call your insurance company, at least, and get the forms and fill out everything you can.  We could have done everything required for health insurance except sending in our court declaration.  It would have been so easy to do that small step once we got home if I had had everything else taken care of!

Hygiene Hijinks and Other Adventures

I am marking our four-weeks-at-home day with a blog post!  Yay!  I thought it might be amusing, and hopefully useful, to share some vignettes of life here as we get used to the new normal.

 One of the "transition" issues we have dealt with here is the new expectations when it comes to hygiene.  It seems to me that though this orphanage was extremely structured and supportive of the children in many ways, there doesn't seem to have been much in the way of hygiene education.  In other words, no one paid attention to whether or not certain places and parts got washed at vitally important times and no one spent much time teaching hygiene techniques.

Now, don't get me wrong...I'm not being judgmental or disappointed or even disgusted.  The fact is, if I had 150 children to take care of, there would be holes in my training.  Hey, I have eight and there are holes in my training...

So, after several days it became apparent that a certain 10 year old wasn't actually washing her hair.  It was wet when she came out of the bathroom, but it didn't look like it was anything but wet.  Being concerned about her feelings and not wanting to embarass her, I didn't address it at first. 

A side note...the reality with the language barrier is that misunderstandings can happen fairly easily and feelings can be hurt when that was not the intention.  There is only so much that can be said and explained when there are only a few words in the working vocabulary.  Forget heart-to-hearts and long, detailed explanations about why things are the way they are.

Yes, I have a major advantage here because Marsh speaks Russian.  But, the day-to-day responsibility of communication is up to me...and I couldn't be more grateful for the weeks I spent with them in Ukraine.  I honestly don't know how I would have fared these last four weeks if I hadn't had that time to focus on them, learn more about them and get a feel for what it would be like once we were at home, without the requirements of the younger children taking my attention.  As much as I didn't want to be the one over there for those 22 days and as much as I didn't want to leave my little ones yet again, it was a necessary experience and I had no idea how valuable it would be to the peace of our family and my own ability to function properly as the mom to each of these important children.  The Lord knows what He is doing, my friends, even when we think we have it figured out.

Finally, Marsh asked me if she was washing her hair.  I confided that I didn't think so but I didn't know how to go about helping her with that.  I felt badly about bringing up yet ANOTHER point that she needed to change...the change to our lifestyle, our schedule, our culture, our farm, our work and just the fact that they now had parents who had expectations of their behavior, dress and attitudes seemed overwhelming to me when I looked at it from their perspective.

Finally, one day I found myself putting my foot down quite a few times as she was testing the limits and exercising some of her defiance.  No tantrums, no screaming, no storming about slamming doors or anything like that, but the defiance came in the form of a silent, focused stare away from my gaze.  She had decided that I was asking too much of her.  Too many chores, too much work.  The wonderful thing in my favor is that I already have two children exactly the same ages as our adopted kids who already have those chores, who already work and study daily and know they aren't allowed certain indulgences and receive consequences for inappropriate behaviors.  Even better, there are several younger children that have daily work and study requirements, too.  No one could argue that the two "new kids" were being treated any differently or given more work that is expected of anyone else in our household.

But, on that day, Nastia had had it.  She was done doing what I wanted her to do, done with all the new requirements, done with work and wanting to do whatever she wanted...which is all she had to do at the orphanage after school.

After her second bout with the silent "I can't see you so you don't exist" sort of stare, I got down in her gaze and explained very clearly that everyone works here...everyone eats, everyone makes messes, everyone works.  Period.  She never made eye contact, but she agreed and left to do the chore she was supposed to do with her sister.

I immediately called Marsh and told him, "You are talking to the wall that Nastia is beating her head against today!"  It was a new place for me...a more maternal place, really.  A place I hadn't gone yet, but a place I needed to be.  Suddenly, she wasn't a guest in the house anymore.  And suddenly, addressing the issue of her hair and anything else that needed to have attention wasn't so hard.  I didn't feel like I needed to apologize anymore.  The line had been crossed.

I determined that the best thing to do was to act as if nothing difficult had happened.  I vented to Marsh, listened to his counsel and had time to gather myself while she was outside grinding wheat with Emma. 

Just about 10 minutes after putting my foot down, she came in beaming and triumphantly carrying a full container of wheat flour.  The chore she was refusing to do was actually fun and she and her sister had a ball doing it.

Later that night, Marsh had to put his foot down with her, too.  He knew what had gone on earlier and came ready to deal with it if it happened again.  Sure enough, she pushed against his request too, in front of the entire family, and was carried to her room when she refused to go when asked as the consequence for defiance.  At that moment, I realized that she was probably scared of the things we were asking her to do.  She was most likely uncomfortable with the new responsibilities, and the number of them, and was afraid to do anymore.  However, helping her beyond that and not cottling her into a sense of comfort, helped her realize that she is stronger than the fear.  That day, she realized where the line was and has not tested those limits again.  She has since tackled everything else head-on...attending classes, parties, activities, joining the town soccer team and all other things that have been required of her. 

Oh, and her hair?  She tearfully let me wash it and condition it as she leaned over the side of the tub.  I kept reminding her gently that she was okay, using the happiest tone of voice I could muster.  It made all the difference.  Marsh and the older kids complimented her on how beautiful it looked and she has since tried to maintain the same standard, knowing I will follow up and check it when she has showered.  I know it doesn't get washed each time as well as I would do it, but she's 10 and there is plenty of time to learn how to do it better.  She is only one of eight instead of one of 150, now. 

And she has a mom again.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

One Week At Home

Honeymoon Period

They say there is a honeymoon period in adoption.  I think there is a honeymoon period with just about jobs, new houses, new routines, new anything.  I think it is the natural course of things and should be expected.

The thing is, I didn't go into this with rose-colored glasses.  I didn't go into this with my eyes half shut.  Apply whatever cliche you can think of...I didn't do it. 

I'm a worrier.  I went through every possible horrible scenario imaginable and prayed my way through this whole process.  In Ukraine, I forced myself not to think beyond getting them home because the idea of homeschooling two more children who don't even speak our language was overwhelming, honestly.  I knew if I looked beyond what I needed to do right then, I would lose focus and possibly lose faith.

Now, before you think that I was afraid or crazy or both, it is important to remember that our faith is what brought us to this process in the first place.  If you, dear reader, don't have your own faith in God, this may not be understandable...especially considering my tendency to worry and the possible problems we could face adopting teenagers from another country.  All I can say, after challenging you to gain your own personal faith, is to try to imagine when you have felt, to your core, that you were meant to do something.  Now, if you put all of my musings in that perspective, it might not seem so crazy.  So, knowing that we were meant, even called, to do this made it easier to put aside my fears, which are really just a lack of faith anyway.

Back to my point...I had pretty much run the gamut on concerns about what we were doing so I'm not sure there is a honeymoon period going on here.  There has been no euphoric feeling of "finally being together", no Christmas-morning-like moment of utter joy, no "new baby" has been what it was supposed to be.  And it feels very much like they've always been here...a phenomenon we have pondered with every newborn we have welcomed, too.

Life on the Farm

As I write this, or rather finish it, it is almost two weeks since we've arrived home.  I started this post on Friday night imagining I might just be so on the ball to post at the "week mark" but, just like every other night in the last week and a half, I got too tired to finish it.  And the days are too full to lend themselves to writing...especially since I can't keep my thoughts short enough.

We have spent the days since we came home orienting Ruslan and Nastia to their new lives and the expectations of living in our family and on our little farm.  We aren't raising animals or food here, we're raising kids.  The animals and gardens are for the purpose of training the children and just happen to have the little benefit on the side of providing much of what we consume.

The children all have daily chores, most of which must be done twice a day because of the heat and the need the animals have for water.  They all have chores inside the house to keep things running somewhat smoothly, maintain some level of cleanliness and make sure Mom doesn't wear herself completely out.

We decided long before bringing the kids home that they would begin right away with responsibilities.  No vacation, no acclimating, just rip the band-aid off as quickly as possible.  :)  The other kids had all helped with the planning and preparation of what each of the two new kids would be doing, so as soon as they were here, they just slid right into their roles.

You know, come to think of it, there probably is one honeymoon that has gone on.  I think Nastia has had a level of newness and excitement that is wearing off now.  Ruslan knew exactly what it was like here and nothing much has changed since last summer except his bedroom.  He's been planning for a year what he was going to be doing here and what it would be like, anticipating what his new life would be.  But, for Nastia, it's been an adventure...until the last couple of days.  I won't go into that here, but I can assure you that reality is sinking in for that girl.  :)  It's okay, though.  We all go through that with something new and she'll be fine...and stronger for it, too.

Future Posts

There is so much to share, so many new experiences, so many fun things that have happened and watching the kids see and do things for the first time.  I compose the posts in my head, but lack the time to get them down.  I'll try to be better...I even take pictures of potato digging, peach canning, bean snapping, garden weeding, corn shucking, kids on the swings in front of the sunset, Nastia teaching herself how to ride a bike.  I mean to post them...I just need to make a time to do it.

There is so much to talk about, too, for the adopting families in the future...bumps we've run into (like hygiene issues...washing hair does not mean just getting it wet and YES we wash our hands after using the bathroom), traditions they aren't used to (the fact that the TP can actually go into the toilet...and down), paperwork that needs to be accomplished (registration with the embassy, putting the kids on health insurance...all within the first 30 days...which seems like a long time but it isn't when life takes over) and the list goes on.

So, I'm off to bed...which, after a full day of peach canning and laundry with a toddler, four middle kids and two that don't speak the our language, is REALLY inviting! 

(In case you're doing the oldest is at a conference at BYU all week.  This gives Ruslan the joy of being the man around the house...a reality that he got to experience today while he hauled peaches up and down stairs for a few hours this wonder his scrawny arms are starting to show some muscle definition!  Gotta a love a farm.)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Home At Last

I'm going to hop on here quickly and let everyone know that our world travelers got home safely. The four younger kids and I cleaned the house this morning and then headed to the airport. Everyone was very excited. We met Pop and Nana (Alisa's parents), Bumpa (Marsh's dad), and a dear friend, Irina Cline at the airport to meet Alisa and the four older kids as they arrived in Salt Lake City.
As they turned the corner and came down the escalator, they noticed our greeting party and we all waved. Emma and the little boys couldn't wait to meet Nastia and see Ruslan again. Lucy and James also really ached to snuggle Mommy again.
Emma was a little anxious over how Nastia might feel about her. She wondered if there would be distance between them since she wasn't able to be there in Ukraine with her like Patty Lyn was.

As they reached the bottom of the escalator, Nastia bee-lined directly to Emma with a big smile and gave her a giant hug. Emma was ecstatic. They have been bosom buddies the whole evening and are now bunked down together.

Ruslan looked tired, but very excited to be "Home".
We stopped for some dinner at a buffet on the way home and it was fun to see the kids realize that they could have whatever they wanted and however much they wanted. Nastia especially took advantage.
Then, as we were getting ready to leave for home, both Ruslan and Nastia came to me and said, "We can’t wait to get home and see our rooms." Nastia added, "I really want to see our rabbits. I love rabbits."
So we drove home, and, once there, most of us went out to do chores and show Nastia the farm. Chris was already zonked, so we helped him get to his bed. Poor guy.
Nastia was in heaven. Emma showed her the ropes on feeding and watering the rabbits (the chore she requested) and then they went to the swings. They were flying high in a matter of seconds, laughing and giggling together.
Ruslan reacquainted himself with the dogs and goats. He told me, "They remember me."
Pretty soon we all gathered at the swings. Every part of it was in use. All the swings, the ladder, the slide, and even the side posts had someone swinging, climbing or leaning. Ruslan was joking around and making everyone laugh. Nastia was swinging high with Patty Lyn and Chase. Emma was pushing Lucy in the toddler swing and James was climbing around the ladder and slide.
Nastia suddenly exclaimed, "This is so much fun to be all together doing this." It was great to hear her feelings.
A few minutes later she said, "It is such a wonderful evening. We are spending our time in a great way." I translated for Alisa. It was fun to watch Nastia find so much joy in her new life.
We finally came inside and got ready for bed, then the travelers shared their trip spoils and surprises. When that was done, we sang a song and said a family prayer, and everyone headed to bed.
Emma and Nastia resurfaced at one point to get a drink of water.  I took the opportunity to ask Nastia if she was comfortable in our home. She quickly replied, "Yes, very comfortable!"
Of course, challenges will come. We won’t kid ourselves. We know we’re just passing through one door of challenges into a whole new set, but for now, we’re enjoying the memory of our first happy evening with the faith that life’s ongoing journey will provide many more worthwhile moments ahead scattered among the challenges.  It tends to be the typical recipe of life and we choose to embrace it.
Thanks for all your prayers and thoughts that have helped us get to this point.
I should clarify that I am enjoying this evening’s memory, because Alisa has long since passed out. Jet lag. Poor kid. This has been quite an adventure for her. I don’t expect her to be up earlier than ... 5pm tomorrow J .
Alisa woke up a few moments ago and asked me to take Lucy, who had also fallen asleep next to her on the couch. Then she asked me where I was going to put Lucy. I told her I would take her to her bed. I have the TV on watching the Olympics and Alisa then asked me how we were getting KSL. We only have rabbit ears here for Television, but we usually get KSL, so it was a bit of an odd question. I took Lucy to her bed and when I returned, Alisa admitted that she had forgotten that they had returned home. She thought she was still in Ukraine, so that’s why she wanted to know where I was putting Lucy and how we were getting KSL on the Television. Pretty funny stuff.
I’m sure things will be back to normal soon.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Day 20.3--WE ARE DONE!!!

We blissfully slept in this morning...well, the kids did...I don't know what my problem is but I feel like I'm on alert all the time.  Last night, Ruslan specifically asked me what time we were waking up and was absolutely thrilled to know we weren't getting up at 6am.

Our driver came at about 1pm with the medical forms all sealed up in an envelope that was stamped on the seal.  Very official.  We went straight to the Embassy, all passports in hand this time and everyone fed and no one throwing up.  Today, we knew the drill...which was nice. 
The US Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine

The same guy helped us again and he also knew the drill...which was also nice.  We were soon sitting and waiting for a bit.  The only other people there were American women who were also adopting and waiting for the visas to be all ready.  It was so nice to talk to them!  One was adopting a little 13 month old girl with a cleft palate.  The cleft goes all the way up to her eye.  This woman's children are mostly grown, the youngest of which is 15.

The other woman was adopting three children, two that were brother and sister and one that was unrelated to the others.  This is her second adoption in Ukraine and the first was a real challenge.  We talked about the amount of faith it takes move ahead when things are so difficult but we know it's what the Lord requires us to do.  This gives them six children, two of which are biological.  She was great, a fast friend and we exchanged email addresses.  Her name is Natasha Jones.  :)


The lady at the window who was finishing up all our stuff, had me raise my right hand and swear that everything in the papers was correct to my knowledge.  I was kind of surprised to have her ask me to raise my right hand and when she asked me the question, it was like a scene in a movie where you get sucked into someone's mind and they flashback through all the memories of their lives.  My mind reeled through all the paperwork and records and everything we've done this year.

Soon, we were sitting again and waiting.  Not long later, I was called up to another window and there was the same man again.  He said, "First of all, I want to congratulate you on your adoption..." and then he handed me their passports with the visa page all neatly inserted, the immigration packets that were as thick as most of my other paperwork packets and stapled shut.  He then told me that I needed all these things in my carry on bag as I went home and that these children would be American citizens as soon as they set foot on American soil.  He told me where I needed to go in customs in the airport and some other information.  I suddenly felt the weight of the responsibility I had carrying all of these documents with me! about pressure.

We left the Embassy and decided we needed a party again tonight...why not?  This is big stuff!  We have Ice Age 2 on the laptop and ice cream tonight.  :)

We will have another outing day with dear Zoya tomorrow to say our last goodbyes to Kyiv and Ukraine.  We leave at 3:45 am Friday morning (6:45pm home time) for the airport. 

I can't wait to hug my little babies again.  I'm glad we've worked out some kinks while we've been here...this has been really, really important time together.  But, it will be so good to be home.  I know Chris and Patty are more grateful for The United States of America than they ever could have been without this experience.

Thank you for all the support and prayers.  I know you are out there and that we have been included in your petitions to Heaven.  Without you, this would have been a harder time.  Your faith has helped clear and smooth our path on one of the most important and challenging journeys of our lives thus far.

We will keep making blog posts on occasion to keep you updated, but I know it won't be nearly as frequently as they have been!

Thank you again.  Thank you for your donations, your love, your attention and your prayers.  We love you all and pray for you in return.