Psalm 68:5-6

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

I am Stepanie Nance. My family adopted two little boys with Down Syndrome from Ukraine in 2010. I hope to educate and to inspire you. I hope to make you laugh and to make you cry.

Come along for the ride. It's a wild one!

Monday, August 30, 2010


I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner, but I have solved my camera woes! I have a webcam on my little baby computer!!

I'm home from Kansas City again. Theo was having a difficult night with gas pains. I finally had to hand him over to his night nurse crying pitifully and hit the road. I had to be home before 2:30am so that dad could help me get the rental car returned before he left town for his workweek.

Theo is really doing great and I pushed for taking him home last night, but no. The doctors are being cautious. Don't they know how well qualified I am to care for a fragile child? *sigh*

Zhen was not that impressed to see me this morning. What a confusing time it must be for him. one day I'm here, one day I'm not. I'm looking forward to instituting some boring normalcy around here. He finally let me feed him some eggs. I had a fair mess to clean up this morning before making breakfast so I just went ahead and fed him. He a little sweetie pie, opening his mouth ever so slightly.

Notice my orange wristband? That is my speed pass to get through security at Theo's hospital. I love that they take security so seriously there.

Ruby has taken a shine to this new little man! She loves to pet him. She likes to bend over to look him in the eyes and then run away giggling. Too fun!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday morn with Theo

Last night I was praying that the IV site in Theo's foot would last for one more blood draw. He has had labs drawn every 6 hours since last Wednesday and he's suffered for it.

No. It didn't last for one more draw. At least Theo's night nurse was an extremely compassionate and skilled young man. At 4am he spent some time trying to get the IV to the dark. Well, it didn't work and so eventually he needed to turn on the lights and do a needle stick on poor Theo.

That's the difference between this hospital and the hospitals I've experienced at home. I recall clearly how the x-ray techs and the vampires of another hospital would bust into Ralphie's room at all hours with no consideration for a sleeping child or mommy. I recall being thrown out into the hallway in the wee hours of the morning to wait for an x-ray to be done.

So today I get to look forward to driving back home, not knowing when I'll be able to get back, not knowing when Theo will be able to come home. I don't even want to think about it for at least a couple of hours.

I just want to enjoy the day with my cranky little guy. I'll see how many bottles I can get him to eat. I'll see if I can get him to smile and make some eye contact. Maybe I'll get him to snuggle for a few moments. He's really looking and acting much better.

We are getting there!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Turkey booger.

Theodore's blood chemistry is improving. So today he is being transitioned from 50% feeds to 75%. This means 6 - 4 ounce bottles per 24 hours instead of just 4. There is a possibility that this change will throw his electrolytes out of whack again. If it doesn't, then if is safe to say he is progressing.

There is the type of progress that you can measure with blood tests and then there is the other type of progress...the kind that you can experience. My heart was so full today as I watched Theo becoming more alert and less cranky. He was feeling so good that he started smacking himself in the face again! haha!

I know, that is not really funny, but it is reality. Theo sometimes will stare at his hand for a moment or two and then suddenly smack himself with it. I'm sure this sort of behavior originated out of boredom and lack of human contact. I wonder if he will give up this sort of stimulation one day?

Another way to tell that your child is feeling better is when they start being naughty again! Theo was a very naughty boy today and pulled out his booger crusted ng (feeding)tube! This hurt, since he pulled a huge piece of tape off his face as well and he cried and cried. Little turkey! Since he is taking all of his food by mouth, it will stay out for now. I'm hopeful that it will stay out for good!

Other good news today, Theo's thyroid checked out normal! Yay! His heart echo was nearly perfect. Yay! Excellent news for him. As hard as it is to be away from my husband and other children, I'm so happy to be here with him and get all his systems checked out. I'm not anxious about anything. :)

Saturday morning with Theo

Fun, weird fact about my son, Theodore: he sleeps with his eyes open. I'm pretty sure this is uncommon in the general population, but what about post-institutionalized children?

I'd share a photo of this, but I am presently cameraless! I've borrowed cameras from my teenage sons for a few years and now they have both gone away to college. :( I guess I will have to break down and buy a decent camera.

Theo is snoozing right now...I think. (yes, eyes are open) He has endured so many needle sticks in the past few days that most of his veins are blown. Last night the experts were called in to draw his labs. They put an IV into a nice vein in his ankle specifically for blood draws. This morning it is barely working so I don't know how long it will last. If his blood chemisty stabilizes he won't need so many sticks. If it doesn't stabilize he may need a more long term line put in place...central line, picc line...I don't really know.

Being away from my family yet again is so difficult. We have been so blessed to receive much assistance in the way of childcare, meals and such over the past two months. I don't really feel like I can ask any more from our friends and family. It just feels like so much.

My poor husband. He is the most capable father that I know. He takes the job meds on time, cleaning poop disasters, disciplining with gentleness and love. He's just carrying the majority of the load again and I feel bad. He is an usher at church tomorrow but we've decided that Zhen cannot handle the church scene just yet. What to do?

I just want to say again how amazing this hospital is. Children's Mercy rocks our socks. What a blessing to have this level of care for my new son.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Find Yourself

I took a little literary licence with this Brad Paisley song.


When you find yourself
In some far off place
And it causes you to rethink some things
You start to sense that slowly
You're becoming someone else
And then you find yourself

When you make new friends in a brand new town
And you start to think about settlin' down
The things that would have been lost on you
Are now clear as a bell
And you find yourself
Yeah that's when you find yourself

Where you go through life
So sure of where you’re headin'
And you wind up lost and it's
The best thing that could have happened
‘Cause sometimes when you lose your way it's really just as well
Because you find yourself
Yeah that’s when you find yourself

When you meet the one
That you've been prayin' for
And he's everything that you want and more
You look at him and you finally start to live for some one else
And then you find yourself
That’s when you find yourself

When we go through life
So sure of where we're headin'
And we wind up lost and it's
The best thing that could have happened
‘Cause sometimes when you lose your way it's really just as well
Because you find yourself
Yeah that's when you find yourself

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I was appalled and heartbroken the first day that I met Theodore. What had happened to this sweet boy? Was he always so frighteningly thin?

I don't think so. I found an old photo of him on a poster in one of the grouppas. He was smiling and looked healthy. A little chubby even. Somewhere along the line something went terribly wrong. Maybe it was the wheat allergy. Maybe it was a bout of pneumonia.

Right now Theodore appears to be suffering from refeeding syndrome. His body and metabolism had deteriorated to the point that it couldn't handle the additional calories and nutrition that I was giving him. How could I have known? His blood chemistry is all messed up. He will have to have calories increased at a very slow rate while receiving supplemental phosphorous, potassium and more.

I really don't like being so far away from Theo. He's only been mine for a short time, but it truly feels like someone is missing here. I'm headed back in the morning to spend a few days with him. I need to rent a car so that James can have the van for all the other kids. The engine light is on in his work car, plus I don't really ever drive it anyway. I'm so not looking forward to the drive.

But I can't wait to see my beautiful son again!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


If you haven't heard yet, Theo is in the super huge regional childrens' hospital.

I brought him up for evaluation at the Down Syndrome clinic. Last night he stopped eating for me and started running a fever. I agreed with the docs that he needed to be admitted.

We are looking at perhaps a week worth of testing and feeding rehab. I feel very blessed to have such a place to care for his every medical need. He's a tough little booger. How he survived four years in the orphanage I will never know.

The doctor is calling his malnutrition and physical condition quite severe. The thing is...that over half of the children in the orphanage look the same as Theo. They need rescuing. It IS an emergency.

I will be leaving him here to take the other children back home. I said that I would never do that, be we do what we must. Don't we? Thanks for your prayers and good wishes!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yes, still alive.

Yes, we are still alive! Barely!

What an interesting week I have had with these boys. We went nearly straight from the orphanage to the train station a week ago Monday. The train trip was really pretty easy as it was an overnight train.

After a couple of days in Kyiv we endured the longest day flying home. Zhenya had some trouble on the flight from Kyiv to Frankfurt, but slept nearly the entire two flights after that. Poor Theo didn't sleep at all on the way home, and by extention neither did I!

Adjusting to the time difference was more difficult upon coming home than it was when we left. I also have several new children to care for, so who knows. I'm still wiped out today! I'm trying to decide if I have enough energy to do the grocery store with all these little people. Dad is traveling again.

The kids seem to genuinely like their new brothers. Ruby likes to pet them on the head and run away giggling. Ralph has pretty much ignored them altogether, though. I think he is probably wondering when they will be leaving! ha!

Zhen is a great eater and is acting pretty content overall. He prefers to play by himself and goes into the bedroom and shuts the door. He has some agressive tendencies, but so far they have only been directed toward me.

Theo is amazing and heartbreaking at the same time. He is constantly hungry and will eat until he overflows. I'm trying to give him as much as he wants, within reason. He officially weighs 13 pounds 1 ounce. I am totally disregarding his weight from the visa medical appointment. That appointment was really a joke. Did I tell you how they weighed him? I stood on a cracked old bathroom scale with him, and then again without him in my arms and the nurse recorded the difference.

We visited our family doctor yesterday to get a baseline for his weight. The doc suspects that he may have additional genetic issues due to his size and peculiar odor and has referred us to a children's hospital for some testing. These are tests that he definitely needs, and although I do not share the doc's suspicions it will be interesting to see what kind of results we get. If I had not seen so very many tiny children at the orphanage with the same starved appearance, I might agree with him.

Yesterday was a hard one for Theo and I. Lots of crying. Lots of Theo smacking and punching himself. Lots of me trying hard to figure out what he needed or wanted at the time. But I tell you, I love that kid to pieces. I couldn't imaging loving him more if I had given birth to him. Knowing how I love him, you will surely forgive me for what I'm about to tell you. Yes, he is wearing pink. I was unprepared for such a tiny boy and the only clothes that fit him are Ruby's old things!

Today, things are a bit brighter. I totally fed him way too much this morning and he spit up a lot. But right now he is playing on the floor and having a great time. He is pretty strong and has good energy. I helped him practice standing for a bit. He seems to enjoy that. It is so good to see him enjoy something, to see him smile, to hear him babbling. I just love the way he rocks himself to sleep. Yes, it is sad that he needed to learn to comfort himself, but it is so cute the way he clasps his hands and closes his eyes while rolling back and forth. He appears to be praying fervently.

The fact that he is home with us now is the answer to many others' fervent prayers. Thank you.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Now What?

We are home now and things are looking good so far!

We gave Zhen free reign in the child-friendly part of the house to see what he would do. We didn't want to restrict him. He has been in heaven! He loves to play with the big plastic trucks. He goes into his bedroom and closes the door and just plays and plays. He's quite happy to play by himself for now. That's fine.

Zhen does not know how to crawl! He crawls on one knee and one foot. It's very awkward, sort of like limping. He was encouraged to walk at the orphanage. The caregivers were forever forcing him to walk to me. But, I don't want him walking just yet, knowing that he never had the opportunity to crawl. The coordination that is takes to crawl properly builds important pathways in the brain. I'm happy for him to crawl as long as he likes.

Zhen has been sleeping since 1pm when I laid him down for a nap. Now it is 7:3opm and I'm he just feeling very relaxed here? Has he been sleep deprived? Is he just trying to adjust to our time zone? Am I going to pay for this later tonight? haha!

Theo is such a little love. I found out that he can roll over and he can hold his head up while laying on his tummy. He is a restless and light sleeper, forever flopping around. He often sleeps with his eyes open! He always rocks himself to sleep in a certain way. He claspes his hands and laces his fingers as if to pray, then he rolls back and forth very strenuously. Apparently he does't/can't get to sleep without doing this because he didn't nap at all while we traveled and while I was holding him all day.

Theo is so tiny. You cannot imagine unless you see him in person. I wanted to take him into the doctor's office today, just to get an accurate weight on him. But, the doc was out of the office today so I guess we will try again on Monday.

I'm just concerned. I know that I'm feeding him enough. I know that he's not throwing up like he did at the orphanage. But, what if? What if he has lost weight over the past few days? What if he gets sick over the weekend? There is crud that has been going around this house for the past month. He just doesn't have a sliver of reserve in his little emaciated body. He absolutely could not have survived transfer to the "house for invalids," as they call the mental institution in his birth country.

So now what? It feels good just to be home with the boys but I know they have other needs. Theo needs a dentist, bad. He also needs a nutritionist and possibly some sort of rehab therapy. Zhen needs to see a cardiologist and also to be tested for lead and parasites.

I'm the type of person who would have had all their appointments lined up already if it had been possible. Now my brain is in a jet-lag induced fog and I can't decide what should be done first.

Home Sweet Home

Let me tell you how beautiful Wichita is, just in case you never thought of it as a pretty town. Last evening I flew in over Manhattan, over Marion Lake, Hillsboro, Newton, and Maize! As we continued to descend over the city toward the airport I noticed all the little neighborhood ponds and the wide streets. The whole city seemed to sparkle. Maybe I've been gone too long! We are just so blessed to live in such a beautiful place.

Here is what I say walking down the ramp at the airport:

There were so many people there to greet us. I was surprised that so many people came to see us return at quitting time, 5pm.

I wasn't expecting to see Richard. I'm so glad that he was there. It was one of the highlights of the day. Theo is DONE being held. It was too much for him all day. He didn't sleep at all for nearly 22 hours.
Thank you to Carissa for taking these great photos. We were too caught up in the moments to think about getting the camera out.
I'm so happy to be home and reunited with my husband. Can you tell?

Thursday, August 19, 2010


James here!

Just a quick note.

Steph, Wes, Theo and Zhen are home! They made it safely and on time.

Everyone is wore out and sleeping well. Zhen is tucked in his new bed and hasn't moved since I layed him down. Theo fell asleep on the way home and has been sleeping since. The little guy didn't sleep a wink on the way home.

The rest of the kids were so happy to see Momma and meet their new brothers. FINALLY!

More to come when Stephanie can write. Pictures of the homecoming to come too!

I just wanted everyone that has been praying and following to know that they are home safe and sound where they were meant to be!

GOD is good and has blessed us with a journey we will not soon forget.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010


One last quick update before we head for home!

Today we had medical appointments in the morning and visa appointments in the afternoon. I'll write more about those later. The important thing right now is that we have visas and immigration packets for the boys!!

We were gifted with a stroller but it is on it's last legs. I pray that it makes it through the airports tomorrow. Tonight we saved the last bit of wear and tear on the stroller and took a taxi to TGI Friday's to hang out with some other Reece's Rainbow families. What a fun time we had! I've never met an RR family that I didn't instantly love.

Not wanting to wait for a taxi to take us home we decided to go ahead and carry the kids and walk. What a difference a month makes! James, you will be happy to know that I barely broke a sweat on the way up the hill tonight. The apartment we have this time is a bit further away and up yet another hill. Even carrying a 12 pound boy I made it home easily.

We leave the apartment at 3am and I still have to repack everything. I hope that I have enough water and baby snacks to make it home. Tomorrow will be interesting to say the least. Can't wait to see my children but most of all my other half. Living on the moon has given me a greater appreciation for you. *smooches*

Monday, August 16, 2010

Quick Update

Hey Everyone! James here.

I just wanted to let everyone know that Stephanie, Wes and the boys are on a train headed to Kyiv! They should be there Tuesday morning sometime. Then embassy appointment, Clincal visits. Then they will be on the plane heading home early Thursday morning (Ukraine time), and arriving home in Wichita at 5:05 PM Thursday evening.

Everyone here at home is excited to finally get everyone home and together at last. We still have to get one crib set up and one bed moved out to make room. Yes we have been putting it off, so I guess it is time to get moving.

Please keep Steph and the boys in your prayers. Pray that the kids handle the change they are experiencing. They have left the only routine they have ever known. Pray for a peaceful and restful train ride and then the long plane rides.

This leg of our journey is about over and we are looking forward to the next.

Psalm 37:4 Says "Delight in the lord, and he will give thee the requests of thy heart."

He has definately given us much. Not only these 2 sweet boys, but so much more.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

On the edge.

It seems as if I'm living on the edge of a great abyss. One wrong move and it is all over! I think many adoptions here are like step away from total catastophe at any given time.

Does that frighten you? I hope not.

I remember another time when I felt this close to the edge. It was the time when Ralph was born and I had no idea if he would survive or not. I learned to fly blind then. I learned to let God be in control. I had no other choice.

Later, when life settled down a bit, when we got comfortable again, I found that I had taken the wheel back into my own hands. I was in the driver seat again. Not where I needed to be. I missed that total surrender. I needed it back.

This experience in Ukraine has been bumpy, strange, heartbreaking, totally special and unforgettable...warts and all! I am where I am supposed to be. I'm doing what I am supposed to be doing. I always want to be able to say that.

The closer I get to the end of the journey, the more emotional I get. I think about the little kids that I will never see again. I think about the kids who will never have a family of their own. Each of them deserves to be loved, simply for being a creation of God.

This morning at the bus stop I heard some soft crying. I crossed the street and I noticed a black puppy struggling under the bench at the bus stop. It was howling in pain. It must have been hit by a car and crawed off the road. My bus arrived just then so I got on and left. I couldn't help but cry for that little pup. I'm such a dork.

I had to pull myself together or my day would be ruined. Crappy, unfair, hurtful things happen every day, all over the world. The only reason I was upset is because I witnessed the hurting puppy. I don't cry every day for all the hurt puppies all over the world. Why today?

Crappy, unfair, hurtful things are happening to precious children every day, all over the world. We don't cry for them because we don't witness what is going on. We don't hear about it. We don't know about it. We don't want to, do we? Because then we might have to get a little closer to the edge.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


You can't make up the kind of weird stuff that has happened here. It just never seems to end. A little surprise, a little drama, or a little "what?" just about every single day.

Sometimes I'm given a bottle of tea for the boys. They drink it hot. Did I mention that it is HOT here? Sometimes there are floaty things in the tea. It's real tea...I think. No big deal right?

Friday I was given a bottle for Theo to take outside. I do not take the bottles outside because I'm a klutz and these are glass baby bottles. I would shatter them for sure. So instead I sit down and give him a drink before we head out.

I noticed something big floating. No big deal. Wait!

It was a bug. A good sized roach. Gag. Oh dear.


Friday was not quite as hot here in Crimea. It has been a pressure cooker her for nearly two weeks. Some people say that this is the hottest summer in 1000 years!

Since it was a cooler morning, look what we found when we walked through the gates on Friday...Zhen and friends out for a stroll.

Zhen likes him some Wesley!

Honestly, I think this kid just prefers to hang out with men. I think he is tired of all the women in his life pushing him around!

These women even make him wear shoes and a hat. The kid can't catch a break here.

He has figured out how to make this vibrating toy work! Smart little fella.

Smart fella with lightning fast hands.

Those eyes. They just turn me into a puddle.

Getting curious about the camera.

This poor old stroller is held together with packing tape. I like to look at the photo of this empty stroller because it reminds me that my boys will soon be outta here!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

For the dads out there...guest post from this dad.

How it all began for me...

Most of you know the story of how we got to this point in our adventure. You have heard Steph’s story. I kinda stayed back and watched as things happened.

Ralph was born and it changed our whole way of thinking and our way of seeing people with special needs. I have a cousin who is almost 30 now that has Down Syndrome, so I was no stranger to it. We have a friend whose daughter has DS and she is over 40 now. But to have a son who has DS, we would never imagined. When the midwife told us that Ralphie had DS, we both looked at each other and said what a blessing! That was pretty much our reaction to have God give us a gift like Ralph, to trust us to care for him and bring him up in God’s word.

Well, my loving wife being who she is, started researching and learning all she could about Down Syndrome and Pulmonary Hypertension. How common it is, what it is, how to teach and give them all the advantages of learning. Well it was during this research that she found a website called Reece’s Rainbow. It is a group that helps children with special needs around the world find forever families that will love them and raise them. Not only do these kids have DS, but all sorts of health issues, disabilities, fetal alcohol syndrome, HIV. You name it they have it. I guess in some countries, when a child is born with a disability they are taken from their parents and put into an orphanage or institution of some sort. They would be a burden on society and are no good to society. How sad is that? Stephanie started raising money for these kids and being a great advocate for RR.

It must have been sometime before Ruby was born that she came to me and asked if we could maybe adopt a child on RR one day. I pretty much just blew her off and said, uh yeah, well maybe. I don’t know we have 9 of our own now. She just went about her business and left me alone. She would show me kids all the time. Lets see there was Maxim, Charley, Igor, Anystasia, and many, many more. I felt for these kids, wished someone would adopt them. She would drop hints every now and then that she sure wished she could adopt one of these kids. Stephanie was never pushy, she would just show me a new kid, send me a link to read about this family or that family adopting a child or 2 or 3 in some cases.

Little did I know that God was working on my heart as well! As Stephanie was showing me pictures of children, God was opening my eyes. Things were good, good job, great home. He was saying to me, look you have everything you can possibly need. You need to sit down with your wife and really look into this adoption. I struggled with it, I knew what I was being led to do. but like so many of us we fight it, hold out, go against what we are supposed to do. Then one night I was out of town for work, when she sent me a picture of “Alec”. What a cute kid, in danger of being transferred to an institution for the rest of his soon to be short life. I prayed for guidance and clarity, wisdom. I had just gone to a seminar put on by Fred Stoeker, and he talked about having oneness with your wife and what it meant to have that and what it took to have it. The sacrifices one has to make to have that kind of relationship with your spouse. I knew what I had to do!

It was Stephanie’s birthday when I got home, so I took her out to eat. We were enjoying our dinner and conversation when I said look, I know you have been asking me about adopting a child from Ukraine. Well, I said, what will it take to get it done? If this is what you really want and what you feel led to do then let’s get it done! Oh, by the way Happy Birthday! Well that was how Alec came to be part of our family.

That was one addition, but how did we end up with Zhen too? She was looking at a picture of Alec when I came home from work one Friday and she said this is the one we are going to commit to. And I said ok, oh wait, who is that little guy, the picture above Alec’s? She said oh that is Zhenya, he is in the same orphanage as Alec. I said he is a handsome little guy. Then I laughed and said you know what is going to happen? We are going to get over there and we will end up bringing him home too, and walked out of the room. I came home Monday from working and she said ok, it is done...I just committed to Alec and Zhenya! I don’t remember what my first reaction was, but ok, so now we bring home two! (editorial comment from Stephanie - actually James gave me the OK to commit to Zhenya as well on Valentines Day. I'll never forget it!)

And this is where we are at today. My loving, caring wife is half way around the world with my oldest son by her side, in the final stages of bringing home our babies! Theodore Honor and Zhen Ezekiel Nance! Hurry home guys, the rest of the family wants their turn to play with you and show you the love you deserve!

Another hot day...

Another hot day here in beautiful Simferopol. You pronounce it sim-fur-ropel. :)

It is 3:30pm and I have to make a decision, do we visit the orphanage this afternoon or not? The temperature outside is 100F and the heat index is 104F. I obviously can not take the children out in such weather. The question is will they be better off sticking to their regular daily schedule or getting dressed to visit with me? And, does it matter considering that your regular daily schedule is lying in a crib all day long? If that is the case are the children better off staying in the orphanage, where the rooms can be as hot or hotter than 90F, or coming to stay with me in an apartment without a crib, playpen, highchair or childproofing of any sort for the next 4-5 days when we will uproot them yet again to a different apartment in a different city, similarly inappropriate for said children?

You see I have far more questions than answers. Some questions are pertinent and some are peripheral. Is a dog in a bank lobby an omen? What is a Lombard? Why are these disposable diapers hanging on the line? Who is meant to adopt these funny looking children? Can only cute children find homes? Why does the blue handle turn on the hot water?

If the uncertainty of what to do about the children isn’t enough, I find myself visited almost daily by mysteries and intrigues. Some of these I can share with you and some of them I cannot. Today a woman approached me in front of the orphanage. She was nervous and weeping, trying her best to speak a little English. She introduced herself and stopped to wipe away a tear. “Mother” she said. “Christian.“ My heart was in my throat, wondering who this woman could possibly be!

I asked her to sit down with me as she was obviously under stress. My mind was swirling instantly with thoughts of one of my boys birth mother tracking me down. But why? She never visited him, she gave him away forever. I pointed to Zhen and then Theo. “Mamma?” I asked. No.

The woman held a piece of paper with some writing on it…broken English, perhaps done with the aid of an online translating program. The words “Happy bathday to your, Micha! 08.08.10” jumped out at me.

Misha!! Instantly I knew. This was Misha’s God mother and she wanted to wish him a happy birthday and to know that he is ok. She asked me for photos and gave me her address and phone number and she slipped away as quickly as she appeared. I almost cannot believe that this woman spent the time and the money to come to the orphanage today on the off chance that I would still be here and that I would be able to help her. I’m fascinated and stunned.

Our visit with the boys was very nice today. We spied some children of interest and decided to play near them in the hopes that I could pass along some much wanted information about them. Of course, it is completely against the rules to take photos, but no one can tell me not to look with my eyes, right?

We didn’t last long in the play spot, but it was long enough for me to gather some information. The group of children who “own” the play spot showed up and we were asked through coughing and apologetic looks to move along. Our visit was ended when the heat started to rise and the children became thirsty and unhappy.

After handing the children over I showed Wesley the market near the orphanage. We walked through, bought him a little bottle of juice, some batteries, looked at some junk (literally - old tools, miscellaneous metal pieces and bath fixtures and such) and bought some diapers to take back to the orphanage.

I brought Zhen size 4 diapers initially when James and I first got here. He’s not that big, but I think they like an extra absorbent diaper. Probably the same reason why they asked for size 4 diapers for Theo. How they would keep a size 4 from falling off his little boney butt is beyond me!! I do know that they use a cloth diaper under the disposable diaper. The cloth diaper catches the poop and the disposable one keeps the clothing and bed sheets dry. The disposable diapers are then hung out on the line to dry and use over again. Pretty clever, huh? I guess you do what you have to do to care for these children.

Today I bought size 3's. I don't want to lug two packs of diapers around on the train or plane, or whatever we decide to take back to Kyiv. Hope they don't get mad!

The caregivers say that the orphanage spends all it’s money on medicine for the children, because there are so many sick children here. So much, they say that there is often not money left to buy the everyday things that children need. I have no way of knowing how much of that is true. But for the children it is reality either way…they often do not have the things that they need.

The children of Yolochka are mostly happy, the ones that are not in pain anyway. Why not? This is the only life that they know. My father died six months before I was born. I never knew him. I never understood what I was missing until I saw my little girl, my sixth child, snuggling and smooching on her daddy. Only then did I get a glimpse of what I had missed.

The kids need daddies and mommies and nutritious food and lots of love. Gosh, that almost sounds too simple!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another fun filled day...

Another busy, fun filled day in Ukraine!

Yesterday when I returned to the apartment I found that my first born son was waiting for me! I’m so happy that he is here to help me and experience this amazing place.

After a morning jog to the Tatar market for water (we were both quite dehydrated) and some sweet rolls we took off at 8:15 for the tax office. Here in Ukraine, if you don’t want to wait in a ginourmous line you show up well before they open. We were quite early, but even so, there was one lady ahead of us in line.

So guess what, the Tax ID lady wanted extra photocopies. (Everyone here wants another document or an extra copy of something. It is about to drive me mad.) Our facilitator told us to sit and not leave the lady’s office while she RAN to get the copies made. We actually got fairly quick service at the tax office after she returned.

Next stop, get the Tax ID slips notarized. I think. We just sat in the car.

Next stop, detsky dom. Wesley and I get the children while the facilitator does some paperwork. This was the most fun part of the day. I handed the ladies some outfits for the children and they dressed them for us to take to the passport agency. The boys looked so cute! Zhen wore one of Ralph’s old favorites. Ralph does not fit into it anymore but it was roomy on Zhen. So now I know that Zhen is a bit smaller than Ralph.

Theo wore a 3-6 month sized one piece outfit. It fit him beautifully! Here he is with one of my favorite caregivers. This lady always has a smile for us. She was very emotional when she first found out that we had agreed to adopt Theo. She is kind to all the children.

One of the caregivers from Zhen’s group insisted on leaving the orphanage to to go to the passport office with us. I guess our facilitator talked her out of going. Good thing…we were gone a very long time! At the passport agency you must ring a bell to ask to be let into the building. Add to that a passport lady who needs to feel very important and who wants to let you know how very busy she is and what do you get? You wait outside for 20 minutes and try to buzz in several times before they even let you into the waiting room!! It was so hot out there and Theo started to cry. I hope someone pokes this lady in the eye.

Finally, our facilitator was able to talk someone into letting us in the building. The waiting room was cool and air conditioned…and EMPTY. I had no problem waiting in the wonderful coolness, but we were soon led into a room for photos.

This was not too fun. The boys are far too small to just sit in the chair and be seen by the camera. I suggest sitting them on something, but I am ignored by everyone in the room. I tried sitting sideways and putting Theo on my leg. Our facilitator said I was too big (ummm…you mean fat??) and to let her do it. She ended up holding them out to the side, hanging off her hands. So her hands are in both of their passport photos! Zhen just would NOT look at the camera. It took several tries before we got something acceptable. His photo is hilarious…he looks very mean in it!

After this we load up a new car, with a new driver and head over to the social worker‘s office. Something was wrong with our regular driver’s car so he sent us a replacement. (I know what is wrong with his car - it is mad at him for the way he drove yesterday!) Our facilitator had some papers to drop at that office so we waited in the car. It took her almost 45 minutes, meanwhile Theo started to cry. He was hungry and missing lunch, but what could we do? The car was air conditioned…the front seat anyway. The back seat still gets hot and this particular driver must have had all the vents blowing on his stinky armpits so you can imagine how pleased I was to be waiting so long in a hot, stinky car.

After taking the children back to the orphanage and making sure that they would get some lunch we headed to our last stop of the day…the bank. Oh my. Where do I start? This place was so strange. There was a skinny man squatting, smoking at the entrance. He followed us in and spoke to our facilitator. Apparently he is some sort of security guard. He had placed a table and a chair so that they were blocking some of the teller windows that were closed for their lunch break. One window was open and our facilitator handed over our documents. The guard instructed us to sit on a bench on the other side of the table and chair. I had to move the chair to get over there. I didn’t put it back just right so he came over and fixed it so no one could get through. It is 1:50pm.

OK, I had to cut out a bunch of stuff from my personal journal here. No need to go into all that garbage here. Long story short, they want another document. 3pm. A dog wanders into the bank. No lie. We are dripping sweat and tired. Finally our hardworking facilitator comes back, I sign some slips of paper and the cashier counts out the money. We are done.

It is cloudy and a bit cooler outside. What a pleasant surprise. About four raindrops land on the car windshield as we head for home. I pay the driver 400 grivna for today. That’s all I have in my wallet excepting bus money.

I’ve been here too long I think. While waiting at the bank I had to close my eyes because the signage in Cyrillic was driving me insane. I kept compulsively trying to sound out the same words over and over again. I swear I had to close my eyes to keep from trying to decode the multitude of words on the walls around me.

When we got home, Wesley collapsed on the couch and I checked email. We had time to get ready to go to church this evening but we were both feeling rotten, tired, and half sick. Sunday we will go and we will bring the children. I want to thank all the people there who have prayed for us and wished us well. We are so pleased to have made some great friends here. We are blessed by them.

Yesterday's photos

I don't know whether it was the heat or the car trip that made me feel so sick yesterday. I'm still feeling bad today and I went and uploaded these photos in reverse order. I'm feeling a little mean today, so sue me.

The beach in Yalta, or one of them anyway. Lovely no? Everyone wears a bikini, women, young, old, thin, fat...bikini. I had no desire to join them.

No sand here. Tiny pebbles. It reminded me of a parking lot. With a bunch of half-naked people!

This is an elaborate photo place. There are all sorts of fancy costumes to get your picture taken in.

Same portrait studio, different set.

The mountains in the distance run right into the sea. Beautiful!

These sailboat are waiting to take people on rides in the sea, I think.
Some scenery on the way into Yalta.
We drove by this beach at 6am and lots of people were already out swimming.
Another view of the same sandy beach, which happens to be outside of Feodosia. We were very jealous of these people having fun on the beach.
This was our first stop of the day...the administration building of the city of Kerch. We arrived at 7am and tried to sleep in the car until about 8am. But there was a beeping noise that kept bothering me. I found out later that the beeping was a crosswalk that beeps for blind people. Maybe half-deaf people, too, since it was so loud!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sweet Success!

Today was birth certificate day.

It started at 3:30 am and we rolled out of town at 4:30 am on our way to Kerch, where Theodore was born. The driver nearly ran over a dog twice on the way out of town! We got to Kerch at 7am. We waited in the car until nearly eight and then went inside to ensure that we were first in line. The woman who takes care of the birth certificates was so nice! Really, this level of service with a smile is unheard of around these parts. She congratulated me a half hour later when the new bith certificate was handed over. James and I are listed as parents!

We were feeling pretty good that things went so fast in Kerch because we still had to travel to Yalta today. On the way our of town our driver made an error, turned the wrong way on a street and was pulled over by the traffic cop. The cop wanted to take his license away!! It took sooooo long to clear this up. I think some money changed hands, but I really don’t want to know. Police here are not heroes. Theirs is considered one of the lowest of occupations.

By the time this was done and we started out again the traffic had started to get heavy. It was very frustrating for me sitting in the backseat. Not only the traffic, but the stunt-driver style of driving. I’ve never been carsick before today. The hair-raising ride, plus the intense humid heat, plus not much to eat made me feel quite sick all afternoon.

We had to backtrack all the way to travel to Yalta. We were several hours late due to the traffic. This is the holiday season and Yalta is a popular destination.. It is a very beautiful city surrounded by mountains and the sea. Just gorgeous. And HOT. The administration building felt like a steam bath. I was feeling very light headed and thought I might pass out. I kept thinking of that song, Breath of Heaven, hold me together…and I would imagine a cool breeze blowing on my face.

The girl at the administration office in Yalta was friendly, but slow. S.L.O.W. I think that Zhens’ birth certificate may have been all she did today! When we were finally done our driver took me to the seaside for a stroll. I can say that I was splashed by a wave of the Black Sea. For some reason it reminded me of Lake Michigan. It was 6pm as we left to go home for the evening.

It was a hard day, but we accomplished everything that we set out to do! Success!

I’m beat. Photos tomorrow, OK?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday's photos

See the expression on Zhen's face?

That's what he looks like when he is about to grab the camera!

Zhen loves books. He thinks they are delicious!

Oh, look! Pictures!

Theo is secure in his manhood. The frilly pink socks don't bother him a bit.

When you rarely receive any sort of loving touch, every little touch tickles!
So I asked the ladies in Zhen's room to help me get photos for immigration. The sweet ladies dug up a white sheet for the background and quick slipped a pretty pink shirt on him! *sigh* No, I won't be using this particular photo!
After pictures it was potty time!!
I walked through the market today. Milk or sour cream anyone? As I walked past the guy with the funnel licked some cream off his fingers. Must be good stuff!

Only one more day until I pick up the court decree! Then early Tuesday morning I'll be traveling to the boys' birth cities for new birth certificates. I can't wait to see some of the countryside. And the Black Sea, of course.
Wesley is leaving Sunday afternoon and arriving here Tuesday morning. That is a long trip, time change or no. Maybe I'll have him do a guest post. What do you think?

Friday, August 6, 2010

What do I do with it all?

I found a little booth at the Tatar bazzar that sells batteries so I should have camera fired up again tomorrow. Actually, there is not much that you cannot buy at this little mini-mall of sorts. I found a bread lady that speaks some English! Naturally, I shop her booth every day. I get flaky jam turnovers for breakfast and some bread to go with dinner. Good stuff!

Theo had a runny nose this morning. I pray that he doesn't get sick. They may not let me bust him out then. :(

If Zhen gets sick I will not be a bit surprised. Today the little stinker found a lump of bird poop on the playpen guessed...he ate it! OK, shouldn't a 3 1/2year old child know what is food and what is not? He doesn't have a clue. Yesterday it was a pinecone.

I've got to get a translator to come visit with me. The language barrier is getting me down. Today I sat with Theo after coming inside. He was hot. So I took off his shirt, knowing he would be put back into his crib when I left. Along comes a nurse with a shirt and stuffs him in it! Huh?

Oh, and the good nurse was on duty in Theo's room today and you know what that means! Children I never see are suddenly up and playing. Dear, sweet Edwin (RR Other Angels) has a dimples I noticed today! Like all the kids in this room, he is severely deconditioned. (Think "concentration camp survivor") But he is strong and can actually lift his head!

Other children are not on Reece's Rainbow, but should be. There is a boy named Dima, with CP?, who army crawls over toward me in the playpen when he sees me. He has a sparkle in his eye and I know he doesn't belong here. How I would love to see him crawling around his family's living room, exploring and learning.

There are more children with Down Syndrome in Zhen's room. How many more I do not know. I did see Anastasia today. Her photo on RR doesn't do her justice. She's cute as a button!

The closer we get to going home, the more emotional I get at the orphanage each day. What do I do with the things I've witnessed? Why has God allowed me to see what I have seen, smelled what I have smelled and heard what I have heard?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wow! Could it really be Thursday?

Sorry, no new photos today. :(

The kids wear the same clothes nearly every day. Today's photos would have looked like yesterday's, and the day before, and so on. Today I figured it was pointless.

I continue to attempt to visit both boys at the same time. I get Theo first, as he lives upstairs. I bring him down, put him in the stroller and then stroll into Zhen's room to get him. He helps me push the stroller out the door and down the stairs! We're careful! Not a single ramp in the place.

Oh, I take that back. There is a ramp in a new wing of the orphanage. It's pretty steep and leads up to a shiny new kitchen. I honestly don't think this kitchen is or has ever been used. Strange. Creepy.

So Zhen and I push Theo outside and we find an empty playpen for Zhen. That's easy because none of the groups are currently playing outside at all. Zhen plays with his car or some books while I take off Theo's socks, hat and shirt.

Today there was piles of cigarette ashes and some butts in the playpen. I looked like someone had a party there last night. The orphanage grounds are pitifully fenced. The chainlink has huge holes in many locations and I have seen young men cutting through the grounds in broad daylight. I can't figure out why. There are paths all over the place and it's not really shorter.

When I get Theo stripped down for comfort I put Zhen in the swing. He's barefoot! He has a way of wedging his shoes in the bars of the playpen and slipping out of his shoes. It totally makes me smile. I put Zhen in the swing and I gently grab his toes when he swings my way. I'm trying to teach him the word "piggies!" I turn and play with Theos' piggies for a moment, too.

I place the Ipod in Theo's stroller, wondering if he can hear the music, and I'm singing to the kids and hoping that God can hear me...

As we lift up our hands
As we call on your name
Will you visit this place
By your mercy and grace

Satan is well pleased with the lives he is destroying here. No secret. But it just hit me hard this afternoon.

I visited Zhen this afternoon, thinking that it was only going to get hotter this weekend. I didn't want to take him outside in the heat so the caregivers let us play in the mostly unused play/therapy/music room. From this room there is a window to the room where all the cribs from this grouppa are located. I saw rows of babies (2-3 year olds) laying very quietly. Quite still. No toys. Nothing to do but wait.

Folks, this is the "good" room at this orphanage! And, that's all I've got to say about that.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What day is it?

Honest, I keep forgetting what day it is! Crazy. I went to church tonight, so maybe that will help me get a grip on the rest of the week.

I didn't get many photos today because the camera is running low on batteries. I need to hit the grocery store and try to find some good batteries. Wish me luck.

Zhen always lays down to play with a car. Funny, huh?

Theo is complaining because all the other kids here get to go outside in just their underwear. At least he wasn't stuffed into some long sleeve pj's like last week. Shortly after this photo he lost the hat, shirt and the socks!

Zhen, or Zhen-ka as they like to call him around here, was trying to put a hat on this balloon! How cute!
After church tonight I got to tag along with the pastor and his wife. We went out to the teen camp that they are running this week. I got to see some of the countryside and learn some history about the road from Simferopol to Yalta. Then I got to listen to some excellent preaching in the hottest room ever! Seriously the building we were in had one door and none of the windows open. The walls were, no kidding, three feet thick. My camera was locked in his trunk, but maybe someone else has some photos.
On the way back to the city, we stopped at a cafe to eat a late dinner. We had a private, air conditioned room to eat in. How fun is that? What a blessing to have made some friends here!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Trying something new!

I was quite proud of myself for getting out of the apartment on time this morning. It is difficult to get to bed on time because late nights here are a great time to catch up with stuff at home in the afternoon. Midnight here is 4pm at home.

So as I'm walking to the bus stop I notice lots of cars parked on my street. I didn't take much notice. Then as I'm walking up the wooded path I notice people hanging around on the path. Very unusual. More and more people as I approach the main street where the buses run.

Pretty soon I'm am pushing through a crowd. There are policemen, military personnel, blue tents set up and people with flags. When I make it to the crosswalk there are military men standing shoulder to shoulder. The crossing light turned green and I pointed to the bus and tried to get through but they moved together so that I couldn't cross.

I wanted to get my camera out, but I had an odd feeling like maybe that would be a bad idea. I had to get on the bus, so I walked down to a corner and tried to cross. The traffic was insane so I went ahead and snapped a photo while I was waiting to cross. This is looking back toward my bus stop.

I got this photo after I crossed over and was walking back up toward the stop.

Ignore the man in the blue tank. The military people in the red berets in the background were the ones that were blocking the crosswalk. It was almost 9am by the time I actually got on the bus. So much for getting out on time. I was hunting on the internet this afternoon trying to figure out what is going on. I did find out the the blue flag people are from a political party called Party of Regions. There were even more of them when I came home at lunchtime. I had to take the bus to the next stop and walk down the hill to get home.

I pick up Theo first in the mornings, but this morning the caregiver would not let me have him. I had to call my facilitator to find out what was up. It seems that the doctor assigned to the groupa has to personally look (examine?) at each child each day. She had not yet seen Theo this morning, so I would have to wait.
No problem, I just went to get Zhen. He was happy to see me! He has some purple medicine dotted on his face.

I wish he was waving hello, but no. He is trying to grab the camera!

We tried a little something new today. I ran out of small bills yesterday and I needed to grab a bus. Not wanting to hand the driver a 100, I ducked into a pharmacy and found these cute toothbrushes! I bought some cotton swabs too. You don't even want to know what it is like to go three weeks without those!!
Zhen did really well chewing on his toothbrush!
Theo was a little harder to convince.
I was pleasantly surprised that he let me put the brush in his mouth. He even let me move it around a bit. One of our first stops at home will be the dentist. He's going to need some work in that department.
It was very hot even this morning. Somehow Theo's shirt "fell" off! As great as he is doing and as much progress that I've seen...well, he has a very long way to go.
I get the impression (even translated it is difficult to understand) that the orphanage doctor is opposed to giving Theo extra calories due to the summer heat. Does this make sense to anyone? I have offered to bring him fish oil, high calorie formula, whatever to help him fill out a bit, but no. We just cannot get home soon enough.

Monday, August 2, 2010


There is a handbook created by Reece's Rainbow for families who are planning to travel to Ukraine to adopt. It has been an irreplaceable asset for us. However, there are some practical things that it doesn't cover. I mean, really, it could be hundreds of pages long and still not cover everything, right?

Also, there are some specific information that solely pertains to the city I am in which would be very nice for families to know about. Like, which bus stops closest to the orphanage? Where is a good restaurant and how do I order?

I've started a blog to share some of this kind of specific information with families who are coming to Simferopol. It is a private blog, intended only for families who are officially committed to a child here.

If you have been here and you have some tips you would like to share, please leave me a comment here. If you are committed to a child here and would like an invite, please leave a comment here as well. Thanks!

Me again.

It's me again. My brain is fried from sitting in the sauna (bus) too long. I can't think of a snappy title for the post!

This morning we had a fantastic visit! This afternoon...well it didn't happen. I got all the way over to the other side of town before I decided that it was too hot to play with the kids. It would not be fair to them to take them out in this heat. I checked the temp when I got back home and it was 37C/98F but 42C/107F with the heat index. Then I didn't feel so bad. I may just stick to morning visits if this heatwave does not break.

Again, I'm visiting with both boys at one time. The caregivers generally help me get the stroller down the steps, which I am thankful for! I'm sure they would love to have a ramp. (Thinking mission project in my head.)

Zhenya is well trained to push a stroller! You just put his hands on it and away we go. He may complain but he doesn't quit or try to run/crawl away.

Look at Theo sitting up tall! This boy is getting stronger and stronger every single day. God is so good! Zhenya decided to sample some dirt while I was getting this pic. The boy will eat anything he can grab!

My favorite caregiver showed up. Actually, come to think of it, she walked out with us. I was curious about her, so I called my facilitator to ask her some questions. It turns out that she is a speech therapist and works to improve the conditions for all the children in the orphanage. She is a great asset to the place and deserves a huge raise. Here she is working with Theo.

Handsome boy!

James, you know what this face means! It is hard to believe that he could barely sit up when we met him two weeks ago.

Yes, you are still handsome! Thanks for looking at the camera.

There are some lovely girls in the background here. We asked about one of them that James fell in love with. Turns out that she has parents with rights to her AND a brother in this orphanage as well. She is not available. :(

I just love this lady. She works hard for these kids. I wasn't too sure about the swing for Theo after the last time I tried, but he did great today! Oops! How did Masha get in the photo! I'm telling you, this little girl is FULL of life. She is just a joy! I'm praying her family will feel God nudging them to step forward.

Say da-da-da-da-da!

Yes, he is tied into the swing. It's a common practice here. I was OK with it because we weren't going to leave him there or anything. This place could really use some baby swings. After all , it is a baby house. The oldest kids are 4, 5, or 6, depending on what sort of special needs they might have.

There is that face again. He is snorting snot. Sinus issues perhaps.

Therapist working with Theo and Masha in the playpen. Yep, he is tied in. It gives him a little more support to sit up straight.


Oh, you are OK!

See? What a big boy you are!!
I'm glad that I called the facilitator and had her ask questions from the therapist. She shared with me that they have seen big changes in both boys since we arrived. She is so happy for them and for us. She wants to take pictures of us together all the time. What a great lady. What a fun morning!

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