Friday, September 28, 2012

A Taste of Our Daily Life

I thought it was high time I gave a glimpse into Ruslan and Nastia's new normal.  I'm not sure this will be of any real value to those who will be coming to this blog to learn what it is like to adopt internationally, but it might at least be amusing to those of you who might like to see what it's actually like here now.
To understand all of this, you would need to understand our philosophy on raising children.  We both feel very strongly that our society is spiraling in the wrong direction and that this disintegration is due not only to indulgence and attitudes of entitlement, but also to a waning work ethic on the part of our generation and those who are up and coming. 
Our society has bought into the idea that entertainment is a need, not an indulgence that should be carefully monitored and rationed.  It has accepted the idea that technologies are playthings, not tools with which to better the world.  America's children hold in their hands the smallest of devices with the most powerful ability to entrap, indulge, addict and enslave anyone who is not mature enough to recognize that power.  These children are using and abusing technologies with our consent, even our facilitation.  We parents are enablers for one of the most destructive forces a generation of children has ever seen in this country, perhaps in the history of the world.  These forces come packaged under the Christmas tree, in birthday wrap or thrown into the shopping cart just for the purpose of keeping our kids occupied so we can "have some peace and quiet".  
If we wouldn't gift wrap a roofer's nail gun and give it to a seven year old, why would we give them a pocket-sized device with access to all the media, internet or anonymous social situations the world can provide?  Why would we be so concerned about their physical welfare and think ourselves such "responsible" parents when we take absolutely no thought for their tender spirits that can be so easily and irreparably damaged?
 This is to say nothing about the work ethic that is so quickly fading into the past generations as if it isn't even necessary anymore.  The media and our materialistic, self-indulgent culture has fed us the idea that it's better to find the easiest path, work the least amount we possibly can and still feel the need to vacation from the little work we do subject ourselves to.  
The fact is, we are not our society.  Our society, our fads, our money, our homes, our material possessions aren't real.  When we leave this life, we will realize that all these things were as valuable as we now see Monopoly money and the little plastic houses we move around on the board.
We are children of God; here to learn to become like Him, here to prove that we will follow Him, here to work and hurt and sweat and struggle and turn to Him when we have to do that.  We are here to prove that we can look beyond this illusory situation and see into eternity, struggling daily to remember our divinity and our purpose in this temporal, and temporary, situation.  Struggling, basically, to become like Him in every thought, in every action, in every decision.
So, we live on a farm.
We wanted our children to know what it was like to get up every day and care for something living; whether they wanted to or not, whether they felt like it or not, whether it benefitted them immediately or not, whether it was fun or interesting or entertaining...or not.
Because that is what it is like to be a parent.  That is what it is like when it's the second day on the job and the third and the fourth and the ten thousandth.
In a child's mind, are their immediate rewards for feeding the chickens?  Nope.  But, over time they realize the benefit it is to the family...thus, themselves...and they learn to love their contribution to the welfare of the whole, rather than seeking solely for their own pleasure.
Does living on a farm require a lot more work on the part of the parents?  You'd better believe it.  Does that bother us?  Not in the least. 
See, we know what we're doing here.  We know why we're here and where we're going.  And when I say "here", I mean on Earth.  We also know that we are not going to be here long...just a sliver of time, really.
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to win a shopping spree?  It seems like a long time ago we saw one actually happen on TV.  A lady was given a shopping cart and she had to run through a grocery store and grab everything she could in some insanely short period of time.
She scouted out the store ahead of time to figure out where the best stuff was to make sure she knew which isle she wanted to start with to make the very best use of the short minutes she had.  When the time started, she ran as fast as she could literally throwing things into her cart, sweeping the shelves with her arms, trying to get as much into the basket as possible.  She missed the cart sometimes as products fell on the floor because her aim wasn't the best, but she was trying her best and, most importantly, she was using her time as wisely as she could...because she knew it was going to end sooner than she could imagine.
That is the way we want to live life.  We have been given this incredible opportunity, full to overflowing with possible joys and experiences and opportunities that will benefit us for eternity.  
When the buzzer went off, the lady had to stop gathering her treasures, but she looked so happy.  She was trying to catch her breath and could hardly talk for the interview afterward, but she was happy with what she had been able to accomplish in her tiny amount of time. 
We'll be the first ones to admit that, like her, we don't always get everything into the basket.  We overshoot the cart and make mistakes and miss the joys we could have had.  We mourn the loss of them, sorry for our wrongs, wishing we could do better.  We feel that way every day.  But we'd rather miss a few joys because we were working so hard at our goal than miss the shopping spree altogether.
So, that is why what you are going to see in this post is different than the typical American family.  We feel we need to be different.  We need to find a way to be better than we are or have been, work harder, play less and learn to love the eternal principle of work.  Once we learn to love what we have to do, what God has asked us to do, we will be content.  We won't need to escape or vacation because our daily, hourly, minute-by-minute demands will bring joy.  And that, we believe, is the secret to a joyful life.

Grandma watches as Dad and Nastia skim the fresh goat milk supply for the day.  We make butter almost daily with the cream and also use it for ice cream and whipped cream.  We make cheese and soap out of our milk, too.  The buttermilk that is leftover from making butter is used in all our recipes because I try to make most of our food from scratch.  And, yes, Dad goes to work after doing this every morning...after running two homeschooled teenagers to and from 6:30am seminary.

Though the kids work more than most kids their age, there is certainly time for play.  Above, the girls enjoy playing during their short soccer season.  Ruslan's team had our oldest son as their assistant coach.  This is our little town's soccer league that only plays through the month of September.  I can't imagine playing a sport for several months.  It takes too much time away from the family to be gone so much, but a month out of the year is fine and the kids all made new friends and learned great new skills.  Thank you to our wonderful, volunteer coaches that made this year such a great experience!

Ruslan is the class clown here at home!  He always has us rolling in laughter.  The kids can always count on him to be entertainment.  Just recently, our second-youngest son told his grandparents, "We don't need TV, we have Ruslan!"

While Grandma was visiting, Dad took everyone up the nearby canyon for a jaunt.  Mom stayed home to get something done...funny, I can't remember what it was.  Guess I missed the cart that time.

With eight children, you'd better wait for "$2 Tuesdays" at the Museum of Ancient Life!  There are a million pictures from this outing, but I won't bore you with them.  Just know that we have two 15 year old budding archaeologists on our hands who wanted photos of themselves with each and every facinating artifact!

GOTTA watch the BYU football games at the grandparents' house!  This is exactly why I am able to write this post tonight...there is rarely down time or uninterrupted time here at home.  Tonight is a rare exception because Dad took all the kids to watch the game...and we won 47-0 so everyone has come home happy!

Princess Lu with her entourage.  Don't tell me farm kids dont' have time to play!
Notice the computer center behind the kids...all our computers are in the most public place in the house and are connected to the internet through a small device we take with us when we leave the house or go to bed.  Computers are not allowed in bedrooms or in private areas.  It is our philosophy that as the children learn to navigate within boundaries that are safe, they will be prepared to take on the responsibility of using computers and other technology when they are mature enough to handle it.  Until then, it is carefully monitored and time with technology is carefully rationed. 

We liken the use of internet and other technologies to a highway.  We would never let an untrained driver or any of our children, no matter what age, run around on a busy freeway.  They are sure to be killed.  They run the risk of spiritual death being allowed to "run around" on the internet just as easily as physical death on a highway.  However, we as adults can safely navigate the freeway because we are trained, know the rules and have enough self-discipline to follow them.  There is a time and a season for all things and childhood is not the season for technology or unsupervised internet use.

Peach canning!  Ruslan is sporting his favorite Ukrainian soccer shirt.  Look at the concentration on their faces!  We ended up with 26 quarts of home canned peaches.  

One of our potato plants died early so I brought Ruslan and Nastia over to dig up the treasures underneath.  If you've never harvested potatoes, you haven't lived!  There were squeals of joy as they found more and more as they dug deeper and searched around finding different sizes of Yukon Gold.  That early in the year, the skins are thin and steam up wonderfully.  They were so proud to eat their harvest!

Our fabulous friend, Bob, shows the family how to replace the master cylindar for the brakes in our old farm truck.  We hoped this truck would be a great way for us all to learn how to fix engines. 
We can't just be good, we've gotta be good for something!

Who said corn harvest can't be fun?
Now that harvest is pretty much over, I can tell you that many of these corn stalks were fed to our goats, but several dozen of them grace our front deck with pumpkins in between.  We grew indian corn with all those fabulous colors, but our sporatic watering, thanks to several weeks to and from and in and out of Ukraine, made for very small ears.  We left them on the stalks and, if observers look closely, they are part of our fall decoration out front.  The girls were just thrilled to open and expose these little, colorful cobs on our huge corn stalks.

The girls are shucking corn and preparing it for blanching, kernel removal and then freezing.  The next several batches of peaches and the first tomato harvest are waiting while the day was spent on the corn.  We did get to it all though...dozens of quarts of peaches, tomatoes and stewed tomatoes (with peppers and onions from our garden) as well as gallons of frozen corn were part of our harvest that weekend. 

And that is a glimpse into daily life here as the summer winds down.  We've been home about two months and this is what we've spent a lot of time doing...working together.  The kids have all started piano lessons and homeschool classes and there is news to share and more to come! 
Just not tonight... ;)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What a Year of Prayers Will Produce

Our sweet four-year-old son has been praying for a year that Ruslan and Nastia would come to live with us and that the "paperwork would be okay" or that "the paperwork would get to Ukraine".  It was during this year that his prayers turned from the kind where Mom and Dad feed him the words to say, or the kind where he says the same things in every prayer, into the thoughtful, heartfelt pleading with God to bring about the desires of his little heart.  I think I could say that this little man has come to know his Heavenly Father much better during the course of this adoption as he has asked for blessings and seen them come to fruition in miraculous ways.  And that would be true of all of us.

Because the blessing of having his new siblings with us has been realized, his prayerful requests have changed a little.  He now prays in gratitude for the fact that Ruslan and Nastia are here and that they are "nice to us".  Occasionally, he will pray "for the paperwork" and one night I found out why.

A few weeks ago, after I had listened to his nightly prayer, I was sitting on his bed talking to him when he said, "Mom, when Ruslan and Nastia go back to Ukraine..."  I can't remember the rest of what he said because I was so surprised to realize that he thought they were not going to stay.

When we moms suddenly receive the understanding that our children don't see life or the world or us the way we thought they did, it is a humbling and disconcerting feeling.  I asked myself what impact it would have to explain to him that they are never going away.  Fortunately, four-year-olds are resilient and positive about life and this little man is so loving and so open with his love, that I didn't have to be concerned for more than a moment. 

His response when I told him they were never going back?  A surprised smile...and then he went on to talk about how much he loves Ruslan and Nastia. 

No wonder the Savior said to become as a little child.

Now that he understands that they are going to stay, his prayers have changed yet again.  Tonight, he prayed "for the paperwork to stay in Ukraine".  I figure it was his attempt to ask his Father in Heaven to keep things the way they are and make sure he gets to keep two people he loves so much.  It amazes me that this child is still praying so faithfully about this topic.

So, what does a year of praying produce...besides cute four-year-olds and mommy hearts that melt?  I think it produces miracles.  How can a God ignore the voices of His little ones?

It produces faith, even in a child this young.  It produces a relationship with God, a vision of His purposes and an understanding of His ways.  I think my little man has learned that his Father in Heaven is actually listening, literally cares and guides our lives according to His divine will that has our best interests at heart.

There is nothing I would want more than to have my children know their Heavenly Father intimately and desire to go to Him in prayer and pour out their hearts to Him.  If a four-year-old praying for a year can produce all of that, imagine what decades of it can do.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuberculosis and Other Medical Wonders

We spent the day before the doctor exams telling the kids how much better it would be here than in Ukraine...nicer doctors, prettier rooms, skinnier needles.  "Oh, it won't be as bad as it was over there!", we assured them.  So the morning of the appointments, off we went...20 minutes late.

See, just before we were to depart, Nastia went into the garage for a while.  I noted that she was out there and wondered what she was up to, but I was racing to get all 8 kids out the door (we were doing flue shots, point in trying to make two trips to the doctor's office, right??) so I didn't go check.  She's responsible and very smart, after all, so I wasn't worried.

After sending the big ones out to get into the car, Ruslan came hurrying back in and said, "Keys.  Car, door, no" and shrugged his shoulders as he gestured that he had tried to open the door to no avail.  Dread set in as I realized I had left my only set of keys IN the car so they would be there when we needed to leave.

I went out to the garage, my mind racing with possible solutions and that hopeful-yet-doubtful thought that maybe, just MAYBE, one of the other doors was unlocked.  Alas, the doors were locked.  ALL of them.  It occurred to me that I had never shown Ruslan and Nastia how automatic door locks work and where the button was that did it.  Oops.

I went back into the house, called Marsh (who was 30 minutes away with the only other key) and then decided I better take matters into my own hands.  I called the police (which was a humorous experience considering we live in a very small town) and then I called the doctor's office to tell them we'd be late.  They were willing to wait through their lunch hour for us!  Sweet people.

All the while, my intellegent children were out in the garage, jimmy-ing open a window that has a lock which doesn't always work very well.  Within a few minutes of me joinging them outside, they had squeezed Ruslan's long, skinny arms through the window.  He had no frame of reference for where the lock was or what it would feel like.  Oh, boy, we were learning so much so fast!

So, Emma reached HER long, skinny arm through and unlocked the door!

Just then, the police officer showed up.  He sat there in his car with a look of either interest or suspicion as all these children were running around, celebrating and piling quickly into the car.  "You got it open?", he said.  "Yes, the kids just broke into the car and unlocked the door!", I said and then realized that I had probably not chosen my words carefully enough considering my audience.  We laughed about it and he pulled away just before we did.


It was a good thing I had notified the office that we would be late, because they were already in the mental mode that they were going to lose their lunch break.  We arrived 20 minutes late and then, it took us two hours to get through both kids' immunizations and physical exams.  It was all the typical stuff, including weighing, measuring height, checking for scoliosis, etc, but it seemed to take a loooong time.

The eye exams were something I hadn't thought through...the choices for the posters the kids are supposed to read are either objects or English letters.  Now, if your child knows the names of the English letters, you're okay.  But, if they don't, you're up an interesting creek.  And don't count on understanding what they are staying when they name the objects, either!

If you're taking your child in, review the names of the letters or find out what objects are on the poster and learn the Russian names for them. :)

Typically, the children from Eastern Europe will be tested for TB.  Their test will most likely come back positive because (as our pediatrician explained to me) they vaccinate for TB over there...we don't do that here.  So, their bodies will naturally react to the test because the vaccination is in there.

Another important note...the TB test is to be read 48 hours after injection.  Make sure you plan on going back for the 48 hour don't do things like have your appointment on Thursday so the 48 hours falls on Saturday and then forget that the doctor's office is open on Saturdays.  Oh, and taking pictures of their arm at the 48-hour point doesn't cut it...the doctor has to feel the location as well as visually examine it.  They'll just have to retest if you do silly things like this.  Ask me now I know.

The lady who brought in the TB testing stuff had little lollipops in her caddy.  I think every needle-wielding medical person should be armed with lollipops.

To catch up on immunizations, Ruslan had 5 shots and Nastia had 4.  Needless to say, there were tears from Nastia at the reality that she would be shot so many times.  Ruslan also had his blood taken.  Prior to the shots, I requested that they use Emla, or something similar, to numb the injection sites so the children wouldn't have too much pain.  Emla is a topical cream that numbs the skin 20 minutes after application.  The only problem is that they cover the area with a tape-like bandage to hold the Emla on.  Nastia was crying over the removal of the tape before the injections even started.

Lollipop, anyone??

Ruslan tensed up so much during his turn, that the nurse couldn't get the fluid injected into the muscle with one of his shots.  And he was being SO very brave, too...taking it like a man, even with his lollipop hanging out of his mouth.

Later, when Marsh talked with them about their experience, Ruslan said that in Ukraine they inject directly into the vein rather than being shot right into the muscle of the arm.  He prefers the Ukrainian way, apparently.  So much for it being better in America...even with the Emla.  Hey, at least we have lollipops and nice, bright colors on the wall, right? 

As Dr. Peterson talked about the use of flouride for Nastia, I told him I thought maybe it was a little late for that.  He turned and looked in her mouth with his flashlight and said with a wry, big-brother-like smile, "Yeah, you'll be wanting a dentist."

Next, he referred us to a pediatric surgeon that would examine Ruslan for a physical abnormality he has.  He wanted to make sure it wasn't going to affect his future life, so he suggested we visit a specialist.  He described the surgery that would fix the problem and said we were going to be very grateful that we had insurance.

At that point, I started to cry.  Just a little.  Just the "Oh my goodness I am totally overwhelmed with what just happened and what is going to happen and I just can't do anythign but cry about it" kind of cry.  I laughed and said, through my unwelcome tears, "Anyone know an investor who would like to help the Morfords??"

And then I suddenly realized how totally unfaithful I was being at that moment.  Why should I worry about where the money would come from to take care of these children when the Lord provided the entire means to get them here in the first place?  He didn't bring them here to not receive the care they need.  He brought them here for His purposes and He would see to it that they were cared for properly.  And anyway, He had just provided extra income that would cover the expense of our other son having his wisdom teeth removed and there were other blessings to note.  Why would I question Him now?

I apologized and choked back my tears and said, "I do have faith, really I do!  The Lord will provide!" to which Dr. Peterson said, "Yes, He will.  And, actually, I have a brother-in-law who is a dentist.  Let me see what I can do."

Whether or not that specific help actually pans out, doesn't really matter.  I needed the moment of realization that I was not exercising my faith and that I needed to trust the Lord to follow through as He had so many times before.  Lately, He has taken care of so many things.  There are miracles and blessings happening all around us all the time.  We just need to open our eyes to see His hand.


Now, one thing that is better than Ukraine is that we have cool stickers at the door of most doctor offices.  Dr. Peterson's is no different.  We left with neat-o stickers and tasty lollipops and smiles on our faces.  They may have been smiles for "glad that's over" rather than "that wasn't so bad", but at least they were smiles.

We saw the pedatric surgeon today and he doesn't believe Ruslan's condition is life-threatening, but we will do a few more tests to make sure he won't end up with problems later in life before we toss the idea completely out the window. 

As Marsh and I sat alone today with Ruslan waiting for the surgeon to come in, Ruslan asked why this was happening when he was perfectly fine.  We were able to explain to him that this condition has been something he has dealt with his whole life and he may not even realize that it's causing him problems.  We also told him that we are his parents and we want him to be all he can be and do all God wants him to do in this life.  We assured him that we loved him and wanted him to have a happy, full life.  If that appointment was only for that conversation, it was worth it.

In the meantime, both kids won their soccer games tonight and are now resting comfortably as some of the big hurdles are over and life is rolling along.  Their English is improving and they are healthy and happy.

Really, we couldn't ask for anything more...cavities, physical abnormalities, shots and all.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Doctors and Dentists

Prior to leaving Ukraine with the children, it is required that the children have full physical exams, blood work, x-rays, the whole gamut.  Their records were put into sealed envelopes...and when I use the word "sealed", I mean glued shut with a seal where the flaps meet.  Those envelopes were given to the embassy, never to be seen again.

I did receive Ruslan's chest x-ray which was carefully packed and brought home with us along with their immunization records which are, of course, incomplete according to US standards.  There was only his x-ray because he has metal pins in his rib cage.  He was shocked to realize they were there and decided immediately that he was "Bionic Man" since he was made of metal.  We've had a good laugh about that and continue to tease him over his bionic-ness.  He absolutely loves the attention and since he's so skinny and frail compared to his American familial counterpart (strapping young Chris who is now taller than his mother and just about as strong as his dad), it gives him a sense of strength.  :)

I wasn't really happy to know that there would not be any health information coming home with us than just the immunizations and that one x-ray.  However, there is a lot of comfort in the fact that our favorite pediatrician will be the one to give us all of that information now that we're home.  Tomorrow is the day we visit him and Nastia is especially dreading catching up on her immunizations.  Because of Marsh's experience with the healthcare in Russia and Ukraine, we are sure Nastia has more anxiety than is necessary now that she lives in America.  She described having to lie on a table and receive many shots when she arrived at the orphanage.  It was terribly scary for her and without her mother there to comfort her, I'm sure it was that much worse.  We have tried to assure her that it will be better here and tonight she told us she wasn't going to cry when she got her shots.

 (Once again, if you are an adoptive family, don't hesitate on the health insurance.  It is only now that we are able to go see our pediatrician because I waited until the second week to get that ball rolling!)

Marsh wishes we had weighed and measured the kids as soon as we got home so we could see what one month here might have done for them.  I know Nastia has gained weight and Ruslan's bicep actually has muscle and definition now (thanks to carrying water buckets to animals twice a day and working out with his new big brother).  This bicep definition is not something he cares to hide, of course.  Quite often we have received a very proud showing of the weekly improvement.  :)


Yesterday, Chris had his wisdom teeth removed.  This created quite a stir among all the children.  Since then, there has been a lot of focus on teeth and tonight, flashlights were used by younger siblings to check out Chris' battle scars.  He is doing remarkably well, but has still had to recuperate and is careful when he eats his mashed potatoes, ice cream and yogurt.

Nastia has watched with concern as he has been dealing with all of this.  Sometimes the look on her face seems to show that she is hurting for him.

Then, tonight I made a major momma boo-boo. 

She had curled up on the couch and put her head on my lap, happily resting in her PJ's after their first soccer game win.  She was showing off her just-brushed teeth, so I took the opportunity to use one of those handy flashlights to check out what was going on in there...something I hadn't done yet.  As far as I can tell, she has about six cavities, all of which are visible and one that looks like the entire tooth will need to be removed.

Now, I may seem like an irresponsible parent for having waiting so many weeks to take a look inside her mouth and if you feel like it, go ahead and judge me.  But, this is one of those cases where you've got to walk a mile in someones moccasins before you can start passing judgment.  I know that if I were not the one traversing these waters, I'd probably think I was either irresponsible or lazy, so have at it.  It's tempting to go on with my way-too-long list of reasons why I haven't done that yet, but let's just say that if you've never lived on a farm while homeschooling eight children (two of whom don't speak your language) during harvest time while adjusting to two children from another country while they adjust, too, you might want to slip those moccasins on for a minute and come on down...

So, back to my boo-boo.  After taking a good long look all around in her mouth, I made the monstrous mistake of telling her that it looked to me like she had six cavities.  (Honestly, it could be more.)  She curled up in a ball and just burst into tears. 


Chris tried to comfort her by showing her how well he's doing and reminding her that his surgery was just yesterday.  She looked at him and said, "You, four.  Me, six!" and went back to her tears.  We tried to explain that Chris' dental work was totally different from what she would need done and that they would likely let her sleep through the procedure.  She wasn't comforted.  Language barrier, maybe??

Marsh and Ruslan were gone at the time, so I just stroked her hair while we waited for the family translator to come back and clean up my mess.  Not long later, Marsh returned and explained everything.  She calmed down after family prayer.  We reminded her that the Lord promised us His spirit as our comforter and that she can call on Heavenly Father to help her not worry so much about these things.

In a while, all of this will be history.  But, today, we are still dealing with a child who is afraid of the unknown.  All she has to rely on are her memories of life in a country where everything (and I mean pretty much EVERYTHING) is worse than here in the blessed United States of America.

If I had my wits about me (and I share this in hopes that it might get some mental wheels turning in families that are in the process of adopting from a foreign country), I would have taken them on a field trip to the dentist's office or the pediatrician's office before announcing that they were going there for some undesirable activity.  Unlike in Ukraine, the offices here are often colorful, entertaining and inviting.  This kind of environment would immediately comfort a child like Nastia who would be enchanted by the attractiveness that is so absent in her native country.  Nothing seems as scary when there is familiarity and fun attached to it.

After tomorrow, her anxiety will decrease because she will have met our wonderful pediatrician and that hurdle will be cleared.  But, maybe I'll take my own advice and head over to the pediatric dentist's office prior to check ups and such. 

Nothing like a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down...right?

Hair and Siblings

Tonight, Nastia asked me to wash her hair.  ASKED me to wash her hair.  I'll tell you, I don't think I have felt more important in a long was like having her give me a gift.  I had no idea I would feel that way about such a change in her desires until the moment it happened.  It felt as if there was another wall suddenly crumbling and she let me in even more.  She opened a door I think I only subconciously realized was closed.

The truth is, there is a surprise around every corner.  I feel like I should have expected that this might happen one day, but I didn't.  I have decided I can't ever feel like I know what I'm'd think after all these years I would have already figured that out.  I'm sure I'll go full circle and end up needing to figure it out again in some fairly short period of time.  But, for now I'll just try to enjoy this moment and work to make sure we keep moving in the direction of tearing walls and building doorways.

Now, about siblings...

Months ago, the thought had crossed my mind that there might end up being some tension in the heavenly brother/sister relationship Ruslan and Nastia had in the orphanage.  We were, after all, taking them out of a situation where they spent very little time together and could find safe harbor with friends if they ever got on each others' nerves.

In the orphanage, they slept in separate areas, went to public school in different grades and played with different friends on the playground outside.  They ate together when they felt like it but rarely interacted the way brothers and sisters usually do.

They have been through the greatest of life's trials together and Ruslan was the father she was lacking.  This is very common among sibling sets in orphanages and some older children embrace the role while others shun it.  Ruslan embraced it.  When we were in Ukraine, we watched him take sweet and gentle interest in what she was doing, complimenting her and encouraging her.  We knew of their private decision to not allow one to be adopted without the other, even deciding that since their chance of adoption together was so slim, after Ruslan "graduated" from the orphanage, he would find work and support her until his support was no longer needed.  They had planned to find an apartment together and Ruslan would find a job to provide for both of them.  It was storybook enough to take our breath away.

Then we brought them here.  The dynamics of their lives and their roles were literally changed overnight.  Ruslan became a younger brother, Marsh took over the father role and Nastia, rather than being the baby of the family, suddenly had younger siblings and a mother again.  Never mind changing the culture, language, expectations and living conditions.

We homeschool and live in a fairly rural area with a little farm on 2.5 acres.  We work together, eat together, play together, pray together, do everything together.  As you and I well know, that is recipe for angst occasionally.  :)  And Ruslan and Nastia are not immune to the typical brother/sister relationship we so hoped they would somehow avoid!

It didn't start until about the end of the second week we were home.  A few days into week three, Marsh asked me if I realized that Ruslan was saying things to Nastia that weren't all that nice and that Nastia was doing things that irritated her brother.  Of course, it was all happening in Russian so I had no idea it was going on.  Marsh was able to talk with both children about the issues and began working with them to resolve some of the concerns.

I have since begun to tune in to the little Russian comments happening between them and can put a stop to it myself...amazingly.  I also had a full conversation with Ruslan in Russian about how much he liked my cooking.  (I was quite impressed with myself...but then I started to wonder why I'm learning so much Russian if he's supposed to be learning English...)

So, the reason for my writing this post was because of what happened in a brother/sister squabble between the two of them made me smile so I had to share.

Nastia was doing something irritating to Ruslan and Ruslan pushed the door closed (or something like that) so Nastia, who was perfectly fine, tried to cry about her arm hurting and blame Ruslan, claiming total innocence (like I've never seen this act before).  I, of course, went to Ruslan to get his side of the story and he claimed innocence as well. 

At that moment, Nastia came out of the girls' room and started talking to Ruslan about what he had done to her and then he came back with his rebuttle.  I stood there smiling was all in ENGLISH.  It was the first time I had ever heard the two of them speaking English to each other and it was in an argument.  Hilarious.  And it probably shouldn't be too surprising, either.

Upon mention of the fact that they were speaking in English (and bringing to light the fact that they were both at fault in this case) the issue dissapated and that was the end of it.

So, as much as I dislike the brother/sister issues that occur, maybe they have some grand purpose for these two kids.  If nothing else, they will learn to speak the language because they had no other way to get their way or be heard in a moment of heightened emotion.  Nothing like necessity to encourage survival.