Family Pic Nov 2015

Family Pic Nov 2015

Thursday, August 30, 2012

We're Back!

I am back in Ukraine with my brother Bret and my son Ethan.  We arrived in Kiev on Monday and took the morning express train here to Kharkov early yesterday morning.  We spent almost the entire day yesterday starting all the paperwork applying for Avery's passport and visa.  Then we did some grocery shopping and settled into what I now call my "home away from home."

This morning Valentin and Tatiana picked us up to get Avery's passport and visa pictures taken.  She was very happy to see us (as were the other children in her groupa).  And Ethan was very excited to meet his new sister!  He thinks she is very cute.  He was very helpful in trying to keep her behaving during her first car ride, walking in the city, and being in public.  Anytime we are walking somewhere, Avery is very good at holding hands and walking with us.  She sat very still in the car, just taking everything in.

When we first sat down to wait in the passport office she became a bit nervous.  I was anticipating she was going to have an "episode."  I pulled her onto my lap and tried to keep her distracted.  Thankfully it never escalated.  As she became more comfortable, she started a bit of hyperactivity, but it was manageable.  And just like Avery adores her new daddy, she seemed to warm up to Bret very well.   We hope it isn't confusing to her that Bret is "da da" which means "uncle" and "papa" means father.

After we were finished in the passport office, Tatiana needed 10 more minutes to make sure the paperwork was finished properly.  So we went ahead to the car to wait for her.  We gave Avery a little blinky ball to play with.  I am well aware of how much she like to throw things so she can watch someone "fetch."  I relayed this to Bret and Ethan.  We were all standing there around her waiting to intercept a long shot.  But sure enough she managed to wing it passed us and down the street.  It was a downhill slope, so it was rolling fast.  Bret and Ethan went running down after it, stopping traffic in doing so.  All the while, Avery was in stitches.  It was pretty funny and I couldn't help but laugh myself.   When they returned, the ball went in the car : ) All in all the outing was a success.

When we got back to the orphanage, we were able to stay and play with her for a half an hour.  We took her on a walk up the street and then let her swing on the swing set.  Her nanny, Luda, came out and told us it was time for her to eat.  Luda is such a sweet lady and she knows enough English to communicate fairly well with me.  Watching Luda interact with Avery warms my heart.  She is so good with her.  I get the impression she has spent a lot of one on one time with Avery.  One day she showed me a folder of information some volunteer therapy groups had given to her to work with Avery.  I am so glad she has had someone to provide some stability and therapy for her.  Luda is very happy she is being adopted and tells me Avery has a lot of potential.  We know this of course, but it is comforting to know there are nannies who truly care about some of these children and can see their worth.

Here are some pictures taken at the passport office this morning:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Rejoicing and Praising God

It is a good morning indeed.  We are rejoicing and praising God that Marina is now Avery Marina Schwenzer with Steve and I as her new parents!!  By law, we now wait 10 days for the court decision to become official.  Court was very easy and quick today.  In the courtroom were two citizens who act as jurors/witnesses.  They were the same two gentlemen who were jurors for court when we adopted Julia and Aaron.  One of them is very friendly and mentioned to our lawyer that he remembered us from before as well.  He is very sweet as he came into the courtroom, while the judge and other members recess to make decision, to give us a "thumbs up" and to shake our hands.  He did the same when we adopted Julia and Aaron.  After the recess, the judge came back in and didn't even sit down to read the court decree.  Last time the judge read the entire 3-4 page document.  It was nice that this judge only read the important parts to the courtroom.

Edward, our lawyer's son, who has been driving us to the orphanage everyday, was kind enough to take care of Evan while we were in court so that Kacey could join us.   He let Evan play with his cell phone and this kept him happy for a good while.  He said Evan was pretty good for him, pushing buttons and opening every compartment in his car.  Edward's wife is pregnant and they are due to have a baby boy at the end of August.  This was good practice for a soon-to-be new daddy!

Today we will have lunch, pack up, and head to the train station around 6pm.  Thank you all for the many prayers during this first trip and for court today.  Please continue to pray for our safe return home on Wednesday!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Last visit.....

......for our first trip was today.  Tomorrow we have court at 11 am, 4am EST.  Assuming everything goes well in court, we will take the 4 1/2 hour train back to the capitol tomorrow night.  Our embassy appointment is on Tuesday.  And very early Wednesday morning we fly home.  We have booked our flight to return on Sunday, August 26.

Steve stayed back at the apartment today, while Kacey and I made the orphanage visit.  Kacey and I were playing with stickers with Avery and two other girls.  One little girl stuck about 30 stickers all over my shirt.  Avery was sticking the stickers on her own shirt.  All of the sudden, Avery got up, walked away, paced a bit, and then started her yelling/crying outburst.  When she saw me get up towards her, she ran to where we usually start our walk by the road.  She looked back at me and held her hand out.  She was letting me know she wanted to go on a walk.   I told Kacey I would be back and off we walked up the road, around the corner and up another road.  We turned around and walked the same path back.  The whole time, she simply held my hand and walked very calmly and easily with me.  Once in a while, she would point to something and speak some unintelligible one syllable sound.  I responded by naming whatever it was she was pointing to.  She does her best to mimic.

At the same point we had stopped on our last walk, she started looking worried and began to cry/yell.  Then she sat down on the grass by the side of the road like we did before.  She motioned for me to sit down next to her.  As I sat, she immediately started ripping off every single sticker the other girl had put on my shirt.  Now before we left for our walk, I started getting the feeling that these outbursts may have something to do with jealousy over the fact that Kacey and I were sharing our attention with two other girls.  By the time we sat down on the side of the road and was very purposely taking the stickers off me that the other girl had put on me, I was more convinced that this may be her problem.

When we returned back to the groupa, she ran around and began crying again.  I quickly picked her up and took her to an area where we were alone, so she wouldn't feel she needed to compete for attention.  Meanwhile, the nannies were gathering up the other children to go inside for lunch.  Kacey packed up our toys and brought them over to us.  She immediately ran into Kacey's arms.  Jealousy is our only guess at this point.  Interestingly, she does not react by lashing out at the other children.  If jealousy is the issue, this is why it is hard to be sure this is the case.  The only other clue we have to go on is what ultimately soothes her.

Everyday brings about different thought processes as to how Avery is going to acclimate to our family and what we can do to head off or make things easier in this adjustment for all of us.  Today had us wondering how she will feel about the other siblings she will ultimately have at home!  She certainly will have to adjust to sharing my attention there.   We hope that as she feels the love of being a permanent part of our family and where many more of her physical and emotional needs are met, that no matter what the issue, these outbursts will diminish or disappear.  It will be interesting, but we gladly welcome the challenge!

When it was time to take her in for her lunch, we asked Tatiana if we could go inside to show Kacey where Aaron used to eat, play, and sleep.  The nanny obliged and we were led into a room where the little ones where all sitting on small plastic potty seats.  My guess is they have to go potty before they are able to eat.  In the next room is where all the beds and cribs are.  It looks like a room from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."  The beds are so narrow and short.  They are very cute.  I showed Kacey which bed used to be Aaron's and the nanny showed us where Avery sleeps.

It was time for me to say goodbye for a few weeks, and Kacey a bit longer.  Tatiana spoke with the nannies briefly as to my question of whether they think Avery will understand my absence for a couple of weeks.  They said they think she will.  Tatiana spoke to Avery about this, but her lunch had been placed in front of her.  She was much more focused on wanting to eat.  The nanny spoke a brief instruction to Avery and she promptly nodded to Tatiana and said, "Da."  Whether she truly understands or not, the nannies expect her to politely acknowledge when being spoken to.  Kacey and I said our goodbyes.  Now we look forward to court tomorrow!

Friday, August 10, 2012

We have a court date

We learned last night that we will be having court on Monday, August 13, 2012.  We ask for you to join us in prayer that all goes smoothly and in our favor.  Our facilitator says everything should be fine and we have nothing to be worried about.  This is comforting to hear.

We will spend the weekend here and hope to visit Avery one more time on Sunday.  We will be heading home on Wednesday for the 10 day waiting period.  Right now we are trying to figure out exactly when I will be coming back.  My 27 year old brother will be coming back with me, since Steve cannot take any more time off from work.  I will also be bringing our 7 year old son, Ethan, so we can get about 2 weeks of schoolwork completed while here.  Kacey has already been getting some of her schoolwork started while here too.

Anyways, we have visited Avery yesterday and today.  Aside from another two episodes, one each day, she has been calmer.  These two fits have been hard to decifer what has caused them.  They seem to come out of the blue.  She instantly gets a panicked look on her face and just starts yelling and aimlessly running, as if she has no idea where to run to or what she is running from.  Its very difficult to know what to do.  Today she seemed like she was in some kind of pain.   There are a lot of bees flying around the area where we play......I guess its a possiblity that she could have gotten stung.  There was no one around to translate and she cannot talk well enough to let anyone know.  She was scratching at her rear end and yelling in repeated outbursts.  The nanny was talking to her during some of her calmer moments, but then she would go back into her fit again.  I sat her on my lap and tried to console her.  She seemed to like it, but would grab at her rear again and wiggled down.

Steve and I decided to take her for a walk.  She took our hands willingly and we started out by walking around the grounds inside the gate of the orphanage.  She was perfectly fine as soon as we started walking away and remained calm.  We walked to the far end of the grounds and saw an opening in the fence to the road outside the orphanage.  We went through it and walked the road the rest of the way back.  Again, she was fine this whole time.  We are not sure if she was simply distracted by the walk or away from whatever had initiated the episode.

As we turned a corner onto another road that borders the orphanage ground, she wanted to pick up a strange, orange colored berry along the road.  We have no idea what it was, so we didn't let her eat it.    She is always trying to scavenge for food.  One day she tried to pick up a cup on the side of the road that had something in it.  She is also always trying to drink the bubble solution.  Remember the day we brought water??  She drank and drank and drank.  Her lips are always chapped which is not normal in the summer time.  She is obviously not properly hydrated and is also very hungry.  So when we stopped her from eating the unknown berry, she started acting up again.  She was trying to smack our hands.  I grabbed ahold of her hands, sat her down in my lap in the grass along the side of the road and just held her.  She did the whole routine again of trying to bite my hands and throwing her head back against my chest.  I just held her till she calmed down with a soothing voice trying to get her to settle herself.  She did calm down rather quickly and then enjoyed my soothing touch and voice so much that she didn't want to continue the walk!  She just wanted to sit with me.  So we stayed here for another 10 minutes of so.  Then Steve started walking back to check on Kacey and Evan.  Very soon after I stood up with her and followed Steve.  She was compliant with me carrying her back.  She was calm and went in for lunch when we returned.

She is a very sweet girl who has so much potential.  We cannot wait to get her out of here and home.  We long for the days when she is with us all day long, enjoying the company and love of our whole family together.  I know it is coming soon, but it is still hard waiting for it.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Another two days at the orphanage

Yesterday and today we visited the orphanage.  Yesterday, Avery's nanny was not there.  We notice that Avery's behavior is much more mischievious when she is absent.  We brought some balloons again, and took the suggestion of not tying them, so she can let go and watch them wizz around while the air is going out.  She did seem to like this for a while.  But then she let go of one and it gained such height as it let the air out, that it landed on a roof.  She REALLY wanted us to get it down and even brought it up again today.  We obviously couldn't get it.  Kacey was off playing with a few of the other kids and had tied one balloon off for them.  Avery instantly saw this, ran over, grabbed it, and had it popped in no time flat.  It seems to be a bit of a compulsion/obsession of hers.  Towards the end of our visit, when all the other kids go in for lunch, we tried to get her to sit with us and calm down a bit.  She is always moving and we want to try to see if she can sit calmly with us for a bit.....especially if she is going to have to sit through long train/plane rides to get home.  She did fairly well.  She did sit on our laps, but was moving from lap to lap and in constant fidgety steps!

When we arrived today, the first thing we did was have Edward ask the nanny if we could take Avery for a walk.  She said that it was fine as long as we stayed in the shade.  This was certainly okay with us as it was turning into quite a hot day.  I think today is supposed to hit 100.  Thankfully, most of the play areas are covered in plenty of shade.  So Steve and I left Kacey and Evan, who were already engaged in play with some of the other kids, and took Avery for a walk up the shaded, dirt road along the orphanage grounds.  She seemed to enjoy this!  She walked between us, holding our hands the whole way.  Upon returning, we did the usual pushing on the swing, the merry-go-round, and playing with the toys we bring.

When all the kids went in for lunch today, Avery decided she was finished with playing nicely.  She started chucking all the toys over the fence.  We assumed she did this just to watch us go fetch them.  When she got no reaction from this, she decided to start turning over play structures and playpens to presumably get us to stop her.  This was typical behavior that Aaron presented during our visits a little over a year ago.

Her nanny was was just us.  How can she push our buttons?  Kacey made her pick up the slide she tipped over.  She complied, but ran over to the playpen, to topple it.  Kacey stopped her and she laughed.  Kacey held out her hand for Avery to take it to come with her.  Since she was not eliciting an angry, rebuking response from us, she decided to smack Kacey's hand.  Kacey sternly took Avery's hands and told her "nyet!"  Now she had her.

This is where her fun begins.  Avery started trying to bite and pinch Kacey's hands to get her to let go.  When Kacey let go and started walking away, Avery ran up behind her and smacked her in the lower back.  Kacey turned around and held her hands again, this time not letting go as quickly.  Now Avery started crying and throwing a fit.  Kacey held firm and brought her to me.  I pulled her kicking and thrashing onto my lap and just tried to hold her still.  She was screaming, biting, and throwing her head hard against my chest.  I reacted the same way I did with Aaron.  I simply contained her lovingly until she calmed down, so she knew she was not going to win the battle, and praised her when she did calm down.  In a matter of a minute, the fit was over and she was decidedly going to be nice again.  Fun, fun!!!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fun with Daddy!

No words necessary today....the post title and pictures say it all : )

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Second visit with Avery

When we arrived this morning, we were told Avery was not there. Her nanny, Luda, said she was swimming and we could wait for her. Then she explained to Edward, who had accompanied us today, that we could go where she was swimming.  But as we walked around the back side of her building to head over there, we ran into Avery with another nanny bringing her back.  So I assume she goes swimming somewhere on the orphanage grounds.  Maybe a small wading pool?

This time she was only in a pair of underpants.  Again, I hope these pictures do not bother anyone, but this seems to be the way they keep her dressed here.  Maybe today it is just because she was swimming, I am not sure.  But there is really nothing that I think I can do about it at this point.  I have to share these pictures or none at all.

Luda then instructed us to go up the hill to visit with her up on some benches away from her building and groupa.  She said something to the effect of getting Avery used to being away from her.  Maybe she is particularly attached to Luda.

So Kacey took Avery's hand and we all went up to the benches in a shaded grassy area to visit.  She instantly wanted to get into the pink Strawberry Shortcake backpack we brought for her.  She seems to like the balloons the best, but her intent is to instantly try to pop them.  We try not to blow them up so much so they don't pop as easily, but she just becomes more determined to accomplish the task.  I tried to get her attention to show her how to play with the balloons by hitting them up in the air or hitting them back and forth, but she would not stray from her main intention.

She is very much like Aaron was in the beginning.....extremely overstimulated, wants everything immediately, and flits from one thing to the next VERY quickly.  It's difficult to keep up.  She grabbed a hold of one of our water bottles and we let her drink some.  She kept drinking and drinking and drinking......we hoped this was okay.  She finished 3/4 of the bottle.  It wasn't long before she had to pee.  She kept holding herself and then eventually just pulled down her underwear, squated in the grass and tried to go.  But she couldn't get her underpants out the way.  After a few tries, I decided that she must have done this before and is allowed to do this.  Again, I am not really sure.  But I thought it would be better to help her not get it all over her underwear and sandals, so I helped her take her underwear off and she went A LOT!

It is very different visiting in the summer time vs. the end of winter (when we were visiting Aaron and Julia).  Most of the toys we brought over here are indoor toys.  Outdoor toys are too big and bulky to bring.  We did buy her a ball here.  We brought a few pink tennis balls.  When I handed a tennis ball to her, she immediately threw it far away into some flowers and turns around to look for another one.  She didn't understand the concept of going after the one she threw.  She liked the bubbles for only a minute.  Balloons seem to be her favorite.  We would like to try to get her to do something other than constantly try to pop them.  We don't have an endless supply and at the rate she pops them, we'll be out by the end of the week.  We would appreciate any suggestions on how to get her to stop trying to pop them?  When she succeeds, she is very satisfied with herself.  It is cute and it makes her laugh, but like I is short-lived and once they are all popped that's the end of it!  She continues to ask for more : ).  And any time she gets bored with anything else we take out for her, she asks for more balloons.  She says a certain two syllable sound and puts her hand to her mouth like she is holding a balloon and blows.  We know exactly what she wants!

The one calm things she likes to do is sit on our laps and look at our picture books we brought for her.  One album is pictures of our home and all the rooms inside.  The other is a photo book of all of us.  Today she verbally mimicked the words I spoke, while I was telling her what was in each picture.  She also loves it when we would pick her up, hold her upside down and over our shoulders.  Steve and Kacey did this for a while, but they soon got very tired.   Without fail, every time they put her down, she jumped back up into their arms for more.  And she can be hard to hold onto because she doesn't stop moving.  Kacey described her as "squirrelly!"

Our visit today was about an hour and a half long.  It was a fun, entertaining, and tiring experience!  We understand that anytime these children get out of their routine or have visitors, it is very exciting and overstimulating for them.  And they do not understand the significance of how much there life is going to permanently change.  We distinctly remember Aaron being very exhausting to keep up with during our orphanage visits.  Having gone through this before, it makes us all the more anxious to get her home with us and in our routine.  Once we got Aaron home and made it through the initial adjustment period, things were much easier.  And after he learned English, we were cruising!   We are optimistic that Avery has the ability to learn to communicate with us, whether it be verbally, with sign language, or a combination of the two.

When it was lunch time, we walked her back down to her building.  When she walked in, Luda instructed her to go to the bathroom to wash her hands before her lunch.  I was glad to see this.  We will be visiting again tomorrow morning.