Nails Down A Chalkboard

Most of you know the challenges we have had with Asher and his ADHD. Just for us to survive and for him to be able to calm down and focus at all, we put him on Concerta. Once we increased his dosage to 36, we noticed tics. It's been at least seven months and they haven't gone away, in fact they have increased. The motor tics break your heart to see but are not particularly annoying or disruptive, at least at home. But sometimes they cause him to be a bit of an outcast at school. The vocal tics, however, are like nails down a chalkboard. We have been working on a more natural solution for his issues for a while, including chiropractics. One doctor suggested that he stay away from red dye for starters. I had never noticed a direct correlation...until July 4th. For more than two days, his tics were so constant that it was like living with an incessantly barking dog. I couldn't stand to be in the same room with him. We tried to think what in the world had suddenly made his body go nuts. Then we remembered that he had a popsicle with red #40 on Saturday and a drink with red #40 on Sunday. For our child, that stuff is poison! Those of you who know me well know that I am not Miss Organic or natural everything. But we are staying away from that stuff!

After combing through the Internet, we have also started giving him Elderberry syrup, magnesium supplements, and taken him off milk. As of this morning, we lowered his dose of Concerta to 27. I have to say, today was a whole different ballgame. He still had tics, really crazy ones, but about 1/4 of the amount of the past two days. Thank God! I was on the verge!

But this has given me a whole new appreciation for those who live with this disorder and those who are in the house with people with this disorder. And I am so thankful for the Internet and the information available there! But mostly, thank you, God, for Your continued provision and healing for this little boy!

More Than We Could Have Hoped For

It's Spring Break so of course yesterday consisted of an MRI , dental appointment, ADHD appointment, and blood work. We received amazing news as a result of two of these. After Annalise's surgery, we were told that excessive fluid in her brain had cause some of the white matter ( her brain) to wear away. We also suspected that she could need a shunt to drain the fluid. Her MRI yesterday revealed that her brain is NORMAL! This is mind -blowing, no pun intended. If you want to call it a miracle, go ahead. Now, a normal-looking brain does not mean that she definitely will be free of challenges but it is a great place to start!

Yesterday's blood work was for Asher's hepatitis. When we got him, he tested positive for Hep. B. He had blood work done that showed elevated liver function . But when he had an ultrasound, everything looked normal . So the doctor ordered more blood tests. The result ? His numbers are close enough to normal that essentially he doesn't have it. Now he will need to be checked again in 4-6 months but we are praying for him to be healed.

Thank you again for all of your prayers for these little miracle children.

A Very BIg Deal

Today, our little girl, Annalise, experienced the miracles of modern medicine and the Hand of God- a beautiful combination. A couple of months ago, we discovered that her head shape was due to the fact that she has no sutures in the front of her skull. A CT scan revealed that her brain was under pressure caused by the lack of space. So today, a neurosurgeon cut through the bone .....maybe you don't want all the details. The bottom line is that after almost five hours, her skull became a jigsaw puzzle, consisting of bone and plastic screws and plates allowing the plastic surgeon to reshape her head, creating space. She has been a real champ. Her head is wrapped in a bandage turban, giving her the appearance of a Q-tip. So far she looks pretty good but we anticipate swelling to set in soon. She has been experiencing nausea, which has prevented her from doing one of her favorite things:eating. So instead, with morphine in her IV, she is getting to participate in another of her favorite activities: sleeping. We'll have at least a day in ICU then a couple of days in another room. After that, she'll be home for a few weeks.

Some have asked if she'll need to wear a helmet. No, she won't. But she will have to be careful for a few months. That is probably going to be the biggest challenge.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers. I'd also like to thank my parents who came down to watch the kids, as well as, Page's parents who came to support us through this time. We also were blessed to have our pastor, Gary Franklin, pray for and sit with us until Annalise was safely through surgery.

Sent from my iPad

An Eventful Week

Last week was pretty eventful. We put Asher on ADHD meds. Why? Because living with him is like living in a pinball machine. Next, Annalise got glasses. She also learned that she has to wear a patch for two hours a day. Yeah, that's been really popular. Then Thursday before bed, she split her chin open and got seven stitches. Thank God the Vasylevkys were in town. Lena talked to Annalise the whole time. It didn't keep her from crying...a lot , but it helped and we learned that she loves Spider-Man. Here we are in Urgent Care— with Vasylevska Lena.

First Day Of School

God showed up, big time today, as He has throughout this whole journey. The kids were not easy this morning. They had to wait to go to school because the other kids at school are taking the CoGAT test so it was suggested that Asher and Annalise go in after that, giving them half days through Thursday. I told the kids three things to remember, which are in the order of importance to them: 1) I will pick you up from school, 2) I love you, 3) If you work hard, you will do well. Annalise's teacher met her in the office and our girl practically ran to her. First praise! Asher and I had some time to kill so we went to the media center. Our next door neighbor, who he met on Saturday, came in. Then in the hall, another little boy who was over on Sunday was there. Praise #2. Then we went into his class and he slid right in mid-lesson. Praise #3.

In the four hours the kids were at school, I received an update from the principal (all was well), Annalise's teacher (all was well), then a phone call from the teacher at 1:55(Annalise wanted to come home), an update from the counselor in the car-rider line (Annalise shut down while getting assessed in ESOL),plus an after school email from Asher's teacher, saying he was PERFECT. What!? Seriously? That right there is an act of God! Praise's #5 and #6 plus a bonus praise that they made it through the day!

This faculty and these students are SO precious! Students have been learning Russian online and one or maybe more have downloaded a free app to communicate. Both kids were happy when I picked them up and Asher said there were so many friends. Here is an excerpt from Annalise's teacher: "I can’t tell you what a lesson in compassion this has been for everyone! We are all blessed!" Every kid is a praise! I've lost count now!


God Bless Arbor Springs Elementary!

On Friday, we had a meeting at our local elementary school, Arbor Springs, to discuss how to educate Asher and Annalise. Page and I, accompanied by our good friend, Laquinta Montgomery, an educator who works at our church and has taken a keen interest in our kids, walked in and the first person introduced herself as the Director of Special Education for our county. She happens to live around the corner. The next person introduced herself as the Special Ed. Support Specialist for our school and she lives across the street. The others I knew from school. So from the very beginning, it was like discussing our kids among friends. The bottom line? They basically said, "We got this. We'll take care of your kids. This is not the first time we have handled children like this." I almost cried. This morning started rough! BOTH kids were a real handful. Then I realized why when at 10:30am I found Annalise crashed on the couch and Asher in his bed. They were in the pool for four hours yesterday so I guess we just wore them out.

At the end of school today, we went to meet the teachers and the kids' new classmates. Annalise got Kiersten's beloved Kindergarten teacher who has moved up to second grade (I think just for Annalise). When we got to her door, Mrs. Barthlow was there, eager to meet Annalise and the students reflected her enthusiasm. Our little girl, who is afraid of so much, walked in and hugged her. Then she went over and sat down in the chair that had been saved for her. I told her I'd be back in 10-15 minutes, after taking Asher to class. She was FINE! No tears! No whimpers! She even looked happy! Thank you, Jesus!

Then it was time for Asher. He chatted the whole way, trying to talk to the principal and vice-principal, counselor and nurse. The main thing he wanted to communicate was that he did not want to ride the bus and wanted to be sure I would pick him up after school. We got to Mrs. Kelly's fourth grade class, Kiersten's all-time favorite teacher. Again, she and class seemed so ready to embrace him. Asher asked, "Does anyone in this class know me?" I think he asked that because over the weekend he met four kids from the school. A little girl said, "My grandmother speaks Russian". I looked down and realized that it was our neighbor from down the street, one of Kiersten's friends whose mom works at Chick-fil-A, by the way.

You may be wondering how in the world they are going to do school with essentially no language. Page tells me there is something called "crisis mode" which forces a person to acquire language. Because they have been home with me, this hasn't kicked in. It starts tomorrow! They will have ESOL intervention and I am sure math and reading interventions will begin soon as soon as we can jump through those hoops. There is a lot of really hard work ahead but it will be exciting to see how these two progress.

There was one more random thing that happened today. We were at the park in Tyrone waiting for Caleb and Kiersten who were at piano lessons. A mom came with her three kids. Guess where she has lived for the past six years? Russia! Even the kids spoke Russian! What is really weird, though, is that Asher didn't engage her in conversation. It was almost like he didn't even realize she was speaking it. Her language was great so it wasn't that. He is starting to imitate more English so he may be beginning to reach that point where he is sort of between languages. Either that or he was so determined to leave that he just didn't really care what she was speaking. Yup, that was probably it.

On the Eve of Travel...

In May I also made a post entitled on the Eve of Travel. And here we are again on the eve of travel finally headed home. We had no idea it would take this long in Ukraine and I can say we are all exhausted but so grateful to finally have our kids and to be on our way home. This last week has been quite the experience. We have had moments of pure joy and wonderment watching our kids begin to experience a new life, but we have also had moments that were not of pure joy and wonderment watching our kids begin to experience a new life. To be honest we have even had moments where we’ve said “what have we done?” But then in only a moment we realize we would do it all over again for the sake of these kids. We head home tomorrow not knowing what the days ahead will bring. We have worked hard at not “romanticizing” this adoption and keeping our minds focused on the reality of what life will be like ahead. Our kids have many challenges ahead of them, such as learning a new language, why you should not run up to a perfect stranger and start hugging and kissing on them, or walking by a random car and try and open the doors. We know the next days and weeks ahead will be unlike anything our family has ever experienced. But God once again has proven his faithfulness to complete the journey he called us to this far. And we trust that he will complete his work in the lives of Annalise and Asher in HIS time.

Thank you all for your prayers and words of encouragement over these last months. We can’t tell you what it means to us to wake up each day and open up the “door” of our computers to see so many friends and family standing with us through this journey.

Our Heroine

As you have seen on our previous post, we have visas in hand and will be coming home soon! Thank you so much for your prayers about the visas as well as our tickets. God provided tickets for Sunday afternoon, leaving Kiev around 2:30. We are a little concerned about the one-hour we have to change planes in Amsterdam. This is the connection Page and the kids missed a couple of weeks ago due to weather. But our wonderful travel agent, Crystal, worked a HUGE discount from the original quote. THANK YOU! It was a very long day. We spent three hours at the doctor's office, most of it waiting. She gave us frightening diagnoses of our children which we are refusing to believe until U.S. doctors run tests and spend time with them. She also said both had tested positive for T.B. at one point so we had to have chest x-rays. Asher did great, Annalise was hysterical. But thank God, both were clear! Besides health, the big deal is that without treatment, this is one thing that can keep someone from being admitted into the U.S..

Our afternoon appointment at the embassy was basically a non-event. This amazing journey ended in almost a whisper.

Below is our heroine, Olga. She has been with us every step of this journey, through all the joys, frustrations, set backs, logistics, paperwork, and secret deals. We truly could not have done this adoption without her and we are so very grateful! I got teary as we had to say good-bye to her today. But the flip side, is that it means we no longer need her and are on our way home! Praise God!

One Step Closer

I love this photo from Gotcha Day, walking out of camp.It also depicts that we are one step closer to completing this process. Thank you so much for all of your prayers. We went to our first embassy appointment and our Ukrainian passports will be in our hands by morning. The kids' medical exams are tomorrow morning and our interview is at 2:00. If all goes as it should, we will be on a plane Saturday or Sunday. We are struggling with tickets. We wanted to use reward miles but would not be able to until August 12th. We have ruled that out because we are all ready to come home and Page needs to work. The other option is like the cost of a ticket to Africa per child. People have suggested Aeroflot or Ukrainian air but quite frankly, during this time of turmoil, I'm not comfortable with either option. Our wonderful travel agent is trying to find better options. We'd appreciate prayers about that, in particular.

Not surprisingly, we learned more about our kids today. Neither one are much for walking. Asher has already decided that taxis are the way to travel. On our way home from the embassy, we wanted to get Annalise some different shoes for walking. It was going to be a long subway ride with one transfer. We didn't make it to the first stop before the crying started. We traveled as far as our transfer station (about four stops) then got out onto the street. Even in Russian, she couldn't articulate why she was so upset. But the subway was incredibly loud, hot, crowded, and underground and for now, not an option. But to Asher, it was like a ride at an amusement park.

Since we were done for the day, the kids and I went swimming at the Dnieper River and had a good time together. A motor boat went by creating a "tide" at the beach which scared both of them. When I explained what it was, Asher started waiting for the next one. Annalise got used to them but didn't seem that excited.Another exciting thing was the washing machine. Asher wanted to know all about it so I let him help me do a load of wash. Exciting stuff! Wait until he gets to use the dryer!

We had the pleasure of Oleg,Lena, Aaron Ash, and Alyosha's company for dinner. What a blessing! I was thrilled that they cooked and it was nice to have them explain a few things to the kids. Plus Aaron brought us our lost luggage. I did contribute chocolate chips cookies. That was another first for the kids. From their reactions, I think they will love Sunday afternoons at our house-cookie time.

Today was not without it's timeouts(time ins) and tears. But it also included laughter, bonding, kisses, and a little boy insisting that we pray.


Many Firsts

I warn you in advance, this is a really long post. We are deep in the weeds now. Well, we have 24 hours under our belts. It has been a huge learning curve already! Last night was pretty rough. I am not going to lie. Because of that, I was bracing myself for a difficult train ride today with the kids but it turned out to be wonderful and we praised them a number of times for that. Thank God for technology! I know that it cannot be a babysitter, but it sure comes in handy. Besides, Asher and Annalise have almost no tech experience. Most kids by this age have had something electronic in their hands for many years already. Two words: Leap Frog. At one point in the trip, Asher looked up with his headphones on and Angry Birds on the iPad. He gave a thumbs up and said, "Mom, this train is excellent!'

We got custody of the children around 4:00 yesterday. I got emotional when I asked Annalise if she was ready to go home. We put new clothes on them and walked out of camp. It was strange because our first visit with Asher, we had 10 people in our entourage. This one, it was just us and Sergei waiting at the car.

We went to Green Garden to say goodbye to the orphanage director, made a stop at Slavic's house to thank him for introducing us all, then headed to Kharkiv. The first thing they were intrigued by was the elevator. Then we showed the kids their clothes but they were more interested in the few new toys we brought.

We went to get pizza for dinner (and discovered Annalise doesn't like it). Maybe she'll come around. Restaurants are a new experience for them, obviously. Fortunately, we had a sweet waitress and the place was empty most of the time. That was important because Asher kept yelling for her by name (which he learned by asking). He wanted to know about our train tomorrow, her life, whatever. (I tipped extra).

Next it was bath time. The plan was to bathe one at a time. But as Page was drawing the bath with the first one in it, the second one jumped in. The thing is, this was the first bath they had ever had. They have only known showers. So we let them "swim" for 45 minutes, keeping the mop handy to clean up the splashes. I had to just keep thinking of them as toddlers.

We gave the kids the Williams Family traditional chocolate milk before bed. As we were making it, Asher wasn't listening to our "be careful" warning and he knocked the full glass to the tile floor. Fortunately it didn't break but it was a colossal mess. We weren't happy and he knew it. He asked if we were going to punish him. I said, "No, it was a mistake." He said, "Well, yes."

Another "first" was the taxi we took today. Ahead of time, Asher told me he was really excited about taking one. By the end of this evening's trip to Oleg and Lena's house, he was on a first name basis with the driver. The escalator at the train station with luggage was a scary "first" but the kids handled it great.

This morning when we woke up, I could see Asher through the door. He was self-comforting, thrashing his head back and forth, sometimes with his arms wrapped around himself. It was heart-breaking. I haven't said much about Annalise. She's been a real champ for the most part and surprisingly independent. She's had four meltdowns for various reasons. We were warned ahead of time that crying was her way of getting what she wanted. But in her defense, she's a pretty sensitive sort and this whole thing is hugely stressful.

When I sat down to write this tonight after putting the kids into bed, I was holding my breath, waiting for the disruptions because last night was a circus and not the fun kind. But thank God, not letting the kids nap for 2 hours (which is the routine at camp) and trying to wear them out today, plus consequences, and not having to share a bed, etc, have all contributed to absolutely not one peep! I am shocked and amazed and incredibly thankful to God! Seriously! By the way, if Page were not here to do this with me, I would be in serious trouble. This is an all-hands-on-deck period and I am so thankful that he is the man he is!

I need to give a shout out to Alyosha Vasilevsky, Oleg and Lena's 19 year-old. He met us at the train station, organized a taxi, made our beds at the house, practically forced me to give him a grocery list so he could buy our food, and was very nice to our kids. What a great guy!

Gotcha Day Eve

Camp today was a very short visit. I dropped off some goodies for the kids in Asher and Annalise's group but instead of having the little celebration I was hoping for, their leader decided it best to pass things out little by little another time. Oh well. Sweets aren't much of a consolation prize for not being adopted but I wanted to do SOMETHING for them.Asher, however, seemed to get caught up in taking orders for gifts, as in sunglasses or something. Then another boy said he wanted a phone. (I'm sure Caleb and Kiersten would like a phone.) They will be a little disappointed when all they find is juice, cookies, and candy in a plastic container. Another little girl must have told me six times that she wants to go to America.

Page arrives around 11:00 tonight on the train with Olga. One bag got lost in transit. We'll catch up to it when we get back to Kiev. Fortunately, Page brought all of the kids' things last time.

We don't know our timeline for GOTCHA DAY tomorrow and we'd appreciate prayers about that. Olga needs to get the court decree from the judge, which won't be finished until lunch time. Yes, they have had 10 days to prepare it. Next, we need to sign something with the orphanage director. I don't know if this will happen at Green Garden or the camp. Then, we get the kids!!! We learned on Friday that there is an inspection of sorts taking place at the orphanage tomorrow which could throw things off. Please pray that this won't prevent us from getting Asher and Annalise. We would love to be able to take the 6:00 pm train to Kiev tomorrow but our schedule is so tentative that it would be unwise to buy tickets. That is all I know for now. By the way, if you are a control freak or have patience issues and feel the Lord is wanting to work on you, this process is perfect!

So Tired

I didn't write this post earlier because I was SO TIRED!I had stomach problems during the night so I didn't sleep well. This wasn't the best day for that to happen. Apparently, I have the same bug that Caleb and Page have at home. Thankfully, Olga had some drugs and the Lord gave me a reprieve.

First thing in the morning, we went to Green Garden to get permission to take the kids out of camp. When we picked them up, I sat in the back seat between them because I wanted to be with them. Annalise must have asked me at least 20 times when we were going to get to our destination. Actually, it was the same set of questions over and over. "Where are we going? When will we get there? When are we going to America? When are you taking us?" Then she said she wanted a watch. I told her she could ask Santa for it. Ah, a new set of questions: "Where is Santa Clause? I want to see him. When is he coming?"

At one point in the trip, Sergei noticed the dome light go on. Asher had opened the door just enough to make it happen. In his defense, cars are a novelty so he wants to see how everything works. But I quickly realized that I had to be in the back to watch him. That is an example of the fact that there is so much knowledge we take for granted, like how a door handle works, or the function of a stoplight, or a copy machine, how to properly hold your silverware, and how to cut your food, or understanding that you don't touch a stranger's toy or ask for his snack.

There is a great quote from the book, The Connected Child. Not all of it applies to our kids but it helps to understand what we may be dealing with. "From a developmental standpoint, for example, it's not uncommon to find within a single harmed youngster: the trust and bonding needs of an infant the independence needs of a two-year-old the shame issues of a three-year-old the concrete thinking of a four-year-old the reasoning skills of a five-year-old the street smarts of a sixteen-year-old ....all wrapped up in the body of an eight-year-old!"

We got their first set of photos done then went to lunch. On the way, we were going through an underground passage lined with kiosks and Asher was greeting the shop keepers. This stood in sharp contrast to their usual attitudes of indifference.(Many of them act like they couldn't care less if you live or die.) It was pretty cute.

At the restaurant, Puzatta Hatta, I got them each a plate of dumplings and they spilt a cabbage slaw. They were thrilled that all of that was for them. I don't think they had ever eaten those things before even though they are very traditional. But they LOVED them.

Next we headed to the Ukrainian passport office. As usual, it was slow but, at least, air-conditioned. We went through almost everything I brought to play with and unfortunately we were still working on the documents.That's where things got a little tense. Finally, we went out in the 90 plus degree heat and took the kids to a good play park, which incidentally was built by President Poroshenko's chocolate company. Asher wandered off twice but not far. It actually surprised me a bit. I was hoping being in a strange place that he would stay with us.

Finally, we headed back to camp. This time I warned Annalise not to ask "When are we going to get there?". I did tell her that when she saw the sunflowers, it would be close. (I forgot that you actually see them for about 45 minutes of the journey.) So instead of asking, "When are we going to get there?" she changed it to, "When will we see sunflowers?" Pretty funny kid.

Great News!

Today we continued paperwork. First we headed to Novo-Vodolaga to get Annalise's new birth certificate then on to the tax office. Thankfully, both birth certificates were perfect. YAY! The other great news is that we will actually be able to scan the kids for their passports tomorrow! We had been told this could happen as late as next Wednesday so that is huge! It will mean driving to camp to pick up the kids, then bringing them into town , then returning them by dinner. The six hours in the car will be totally worth it, though. I am excited to have them on my turf and to be able to treat them a little bit. Please continue to pray for this country. The turmoil here caused some initial inflation going from about 8 hrn/$ to 11 hrn/$. It held steady at 11.70 for weeks but in the past week it has steadily climbed to 12.05. That wouldn't be so disturbing if it were taking place over months. But that is not the case. As an American, this is a bonus. But we have many Ukrainian friends who will suffer because of this.I guarantee you that salaries will not keep up with the rate of inflation.

"Mom, watch this!"

Today we began the "good-bye" process. Because my schedule is not 100% predictable this week, I decided we should start passing out gifts today. Once the kids understood what we were doing, they got a lot of satisfaction watching two of their leaders open their gifts. Those women, Natalia and Ludmilla, played their parts well and fawned over their presents which absolutely delighted Asher and Kiera. Excuse me, I mean Annalise. (That will take some getting used to. But she told me today that is what she wants to be called.)I got to be "Mama" today because the kids went swimming. There was a lot of "Mom, watch this!" and "Mom, did you see that?" Even though they have been calling me "Mama" since day one, today gave me the chance to really feel like their mom. My heart was full. They cannot wait until next Tuesday. God has been preparing them and they are SO ready to go. I got to FaceTime with Page and the kids yesterday. I have to say it was pretty weird seeing Caleb and Kiersten on the other side of the screen with Page. I am so happy for them, though, that they get a little time at home before school starts. We are going to pick up Asher's new birth certificate this afternoon since Olga worked her magic this morning. Pray that it is perfect!

It Takes A Special Person...

Today has been all about documents.It takes a special kind of person to have the patience, tolerance, and attention to detail needed to handle this job. Fortunately, we have that person in Olga. This morning we drove about 20 minutes to Green Garden Orphanage to pick up the existing birth certificates of both kids. Next we headed about 30 minutes to Novo-Volaga, Kiera's birthplace, to drop off the papers to have a new birth certificate made reflecting her new name, etc. On the way we had to hunt down a notary for some passport documents. So Olga waited in line to drop them off and was told to come back in two hours. In the meantime, we went to turn in Kiera's birth certificate documents. Olga waited in another long line to only get to drop them off. They are supposed to be ready Thursday. Next stop was the social services' office where Olga dropped off Kiera 's dad's death certificate from Russia. Then we headed back to the notary where Olga had to wait again to pick up the notarized documents. We drove the 45 minutes back home and took a break before our afternoon rounds . First we met up with the lawyer from Green Garden to get Asher's existing Ukrainian passport which we didn't manage to get this morning. I am very grateful to this lady for coming into town, locating it ,and bringing it to us. Then we walked to the birth certificate office (which also happens to be the wedding hall) to get Asher's new birth certificate made. Unfortunately, the head of this department fell ill and went to the hospital today. So Olga was shuffled upstairs, downstairs, upstairs, downstairs, upstairs( I'm not kidding) and downstairs again. Okay, the first two we were just trying to figure out where to go. So after more than an hour of this and more waiting, the lady came out and told us that we were missing a document. This is a letter that Olga already asked the court for and was refused. Olga made a phone call to our "magic" lawyer. In the meantime, we wallowed in a scoop of chocolate gelato. But Praise God, we just got the call that we will be able to pick up the letter tomorrow morning. Thank you, Lord! Do you see what I mean about a special person? This is Olga's job! She doesn't like the system but puts up with this on a regular basis anyway! But think of the lives that have been changed as a result. Thank God for Olga!

(Don't worry, I won't always give you the rundown of every piece of paper. I just thought you should get a good glimpse into the system. )

First Day On my Own

When I came to camp, I was informed that Asher was getting his hair cut near the nurse's office. He opted for three stripes above his right ear and seemed terribly pleased with himself. He said I was doing a poor job of brushing him off but I redeemed myself. On the way from the office to the dorm, I started to tell him about court and he "shushed" me. Finally I understood that he didn't want us talking about adoption in front of other kids, even though I was being quiet and they were behind us. I know there has been a lot of talk going on in our absence but don't know any details. Apparently, Kiera is calling herself Annalise these days. (That's the middle name we gave her.) I love it! We may have our "Anna" after all. She also has been calling our little guy Asher and "brother" while we are not there and keeps telling people that she wants to go to America. Both kids can hardly wait.

It was a good visit, mostly because we talked the whole time. First we worked on "goodbye" stuff. I had taken photos of some of the gifts I brought for their leaders and teachers. We made a list of recipients and the kids chose gifts from the photos. Then Natalia, a really nice leader, came into the room and she told me about Kiera and Asher. She was uncomfortably candid in front of them about some of their shortcomings, especially Kiera. Poor kid. What is strange is that some of her insights were opposite of what we have observed. So much just "remains to be seen".

I was a bit shocked to learn that apparently, a few of Kiera's siblings were at the sanitorium when she was there! I asked Kiera about them and not for the first time, Natalia said she didn't understand. Kiera didn't even have a chance to shrug her shoulders. Maybe this exact thing is part of Kiera's issue. They don't even give her the slightest chance to think for herself. Natalia also confirmed that Kiera has probably been institutionalized almost her whole life.

Time went by quickly and the kids walked me to the car. Sergei, our driver, gave them a 25' ride to the camp gate. They loved it! Since I was alone, Sergei felt sorry for me so he invited me to his house for lunch. Valya, his wife, is a fabulous cook and makes homemade bread every day. I entertained them with my new method for shucking corn . (Thank you to whoever posted that on Facebook.) Tomorrow we will resume document preparations.


Our Day in Court

A surreal day indeed. When the judge handed down her verdict Beth and I embraced and cried. We were granted permission to adopt, permission to change birth certificates to reflect us as parents, and to our surprise granted permission to start paperwork right away rather than waiting until after the 10 days which is the normal requirement. Asher and Kiera will become our children officially 10 days from today. We are praising the Lord and headed to McDonalds to celebrate!