Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Home Life

Well we have been home for 5 weeks, thought I'd give you an update on how it's going around here with the kids.

The kids, I think, have been adjusting well to life in America and our family. They are well-behaved so far and are doing well in school, or as well as we can expect.

We enrolled Valya and Sergey at Mitchell Christian School, which is where Mark has attended since he was in preschool. Wow, now we have $1,000 per month tuition. That is painful, but worth it as I can't imagine our kids in a government school.

Valya is in 6th grade here, while Sergey is in 5th. They are both 2 years below where their ages say they should be, but neither child is able to be one grade up, let alone two. It will be interesting to see if they will be able to make up time during the coming years or if they will always be two years behind. I don't like the thought of them graduating from high school at 20 years old, but I suppose it is possible. We plan to enroll Valya in summer school this year, not sure about Sergey yet. Overall, they both enjoy school and their teachers say they don't get into trouble. Valya spends 2 hours a day using Rosetta Stone to learn English. One of those hours, she has a female high school student with her as well to help tutor. Valya is now on the 2nd of the 3 Rosetta Stone disks. At home, her English is getting better. We haven't reached that point yet where she has really taken off, but we can tell she understands MUCH more than she is willing to speak. She is quite a drama queen so it should be interesting when she starts REALLY talking to us!

The kids have the week off this week as it is Spring Break. The school shuts down because the Juniors go on a mission trip every Spring. They went to Jamaica.

Mark and Valya are both in track. Valya will be running jr. high, while Mark will be competing at the high school level. They have workouts every day after school for at least an hour. Valya's coach is trying to teach her to pace herself. As far as I know, she has never participated in an organized sport. She loves volleyball and is anxious for that to start in the Fall.

Sergey is now in Boy Scouts, and his new patrol was just inducted into the troop last Tuesday. He will be going to Boy Scout camp this summer for a week.

Both of the kids have made some good friends. In fact, Valya stayed overnight last night at a friend's house. Sergey has had a friend stay overnight with him here.

Gradually, the kids' taste in food has been adapting to ours. Initially, it was challenging to find things that Valya would eat but that has been getting easier. Valya usually won't eat the school lunches, so we have to give her something to take to school. She especially loves fruit. Valya would eat 10 bananas a day if we let her. When we first got home she would hide them in her room! We have gone through a case of Clementines a week since we've been home, and untold grapes, plums, pears, and apples.

We have the kids attending Sunday School and youth group at our church. They have been enjoying that. Both of the children were baptized into the Christian faith, Valya as a baby, and Sergey about 5 years ago. I posted Sergey's story before. Speaking of which, Sergey recently wrote a letter to his Godmother in Russian, which I scanned in and emailed to her. She was wondering how it was going for him and was glad to hear from him.

We have had very nice Spring weather since we have been home, even with temps up into the 70's, but today we are having a blizzard. Seems like that happens every Spring in South Dakota. Mark and Valya's first track meet of the season was supposed to be today but was canceled.

Here are some pictures.

A couple of days after we got back, Nancy took Valya over to see the Tolly's. Lienna and Tanya were from Valya's orphanage, and it was through the Tolly's that we learned of Valya. She doesn't realize it yet, but she owes a lot to them for their part in finding her a family. This picture shows 2 of the 4 Tolly girls, Tanya and Morgan.

Here is Valya with one of her friends, Ellie. We painted her room bright colors and she loves it. We ordered the bedroom set from JCPenney catalog, but the night stand was backordered and now has been discontinued. Figures. Now we are looking for one for her that will match her new pieces so that she can have a clock and lamp next to her bed. We ordered the pieces while we were home between our two adoption trips in January. That red bag on the bed is the one that I got her at the Privoz market in Odessa the day that I took her from her orphanage. It still has the Lufthansa ID tag attached.

Playing Uno a couple of days after coming home.

The weekend after we got back home, Mark had an 8th grade basketball tournament that lasted a good part of a Saturday. Valya and Sergey came and watched. Valya especially enjoyed the snack bar. Here is Mark in a shootout.

Nancy's sister, Karen, was not able to meet us at the airport when we arrived. She and 3 of her 5 children did come down to Mitchell from northern Minnesota to stay with us for a couple of days. Valya and Sergey got to meet yet three more of their new cousins, Britta, Sophie, and Isaac. They adopted their little boy a year ago, and are in the process of adopting another little one.

Valya with our dog, Sparkle.

Valya with some more of her friends, Kelsey and Kaitlyn.

Valya at home, and on the trampoline. When we first arrived, Energy Girl would get up in the morning and jump on the trampoline before school. Now, she will come home after track practice and jump for a 1/2 hour. And jump vigorously, kicking her legs, throwing her arms, doing flips, running circles. I don't know how she does it.

Sergey at Lake Mitchell.

On one of the nicer Saturday's recently, Sergey and I went on a bike trek to the James River and had a picnic. I showed Sergey some trees damaged and killed by beavers.

Nancy's sister, Valerie, and some of her family stopped in as they were passing through the area, and got to spend some time with the kids.

Here is Sergey working on a Merit Badge for Boy Scouts. He was inducted into Troop 75 recently.

Valya discovered Mark's old scooter in the garage and likes to ride it. I have offered several times to teach her how to ride a bike but she refuses. One time when I wasn't home she got on it by herself and crashed and banged up her leg and foot bad enough that she couldn't run track.

It's never dull when Valentina's around.

Last week, our school had their Fine Arts festival. Mark is in 8th grade and gave his last ever speech for this. He has been doing them since 1st grade. He spoke on his "Spiritual Benchmarks". One of the points in his speech was how he saw God move for us during our adoption trip in December. Sergey read a piece called, "Where is Heaven?" and received a Superior rating. He did a very nice job. I told him that if I had to read Russian I would have received an Inferior rating!

Valya didn't participate with her classmates because she can't speak or read English yet. Here she is with her 6th grade teacher, Miss Fenske.

Here's a picture of all of us together at the school. The week after we got here, we posed for a professional portrait. Our church delayed the church directory until we could get back to have our portrait taken. That was very nice of them.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ukrainian Baby Boom

I have posted before about the demographic problem in Ukraine. There is some recent positive news about the birthrate.

"Yushchenko stated that the birth rate in the country has considerably increased. The number of children born per year has risen from 413,000 in 2005 to 510,000 in 2008. As a result, the country’s demographic situation has returned to its early 1990s levels, which in itself is a reason for optimism."

Ukrainian Baby Boom
By Vadym Ryzhkov
The Day, Dnipropetrovsk

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Done with a Big Project

I have had this project at work since October 2008, started just before we left for our adoption trip in November. I needed to make progress on this all during our "vacation" in London and both of our adoption trips to Ukraine. My company has a VPN and I was able to remote into the computer at my desk in Mitchell, wherever we were in the world. That is, wherever we had fast internet. When I remote in, I see my desktop, just as if I were sitting at my desk.

I think back to all of the mornings in Odessa, first when we were staying with our friend M at her apartment, then on our second trip in the Odessa Executive Suites, where I would get up early to work. When we were at M's, at times we had up to 8 of us staying in this small apartment (3 roommates, Matt & Sheila Nasekos, and Nancy, Mark, and I). They have a very small water heater and if you wanted a hot shower, getting up early was the best time to get one. So many mornings I would get up at 5 or 5:30, shower, and work before the adoption tasks with our facilitator.

Then over at OES, during our 10-day wait after Nancy went back to America, I worked 12 or 14 hour days (until our internet went out when someone stole equipment at the ISP). There was a couple of days I never even left the apartment. After I got Valya and Sergey, I worked every morning from about 3:00 or 3:30 until they would get up at 7:30. That was very tiring. I usually fell asleep on the couch for an hour right after supper while they would watch movies, then everyone to bed again at 9:00. Since we've been back home, all of my extra time has been spent on it (instead of blogging!). Now, yesterday, at 4:00, I finally finished it and it is definitely a relief.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pray for Turners

Don't usually do this but I have great concern for Jim Bob and Conethia Turner. Many of you know Conethia because she has participated in so many of our blogs, including ours, and has been a great encouragement to us. They are in Ukraine now and have had 2 SDA referrals and neither of them went well. They are heartbroken and so badly want this adoption to work. Please pray that they get a 3rd SDA appt. and that they would find their child...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


We have 29 Blogger followers and about a million lurkers. Thanks for sticking with us waiting for an update from me. It is Mar. 10 today. March 15 will mark one month home as a new family. What fun it has been to have our new kids here.

As you can imagine, this has been a time of firsts for our Ukies, both little (the first experience with an electric can opener) and big (school!).

We arrived in Mitchell Sunday evening, Feb. 15. The next day, we gave the kids haircuts. Sergey was in desperate need of one, and Valya had been indicating since before I took her from her orphanage that she had been wanting to cut it shorter (using charades, snipping with her fingers like scissors). The day I took Sergey out of his orphanage, we walked about a mile in Odessa looking for a barber that could take us in immediately, without luck.

A friend of ours from Rapid City, who by a fortunate coincidence, was in the area and was able to meet us at the airport, is a hair stylist and she stopped in to do the cuts. She is also the one who gave Mark his first haircut when he was a baby.

They did the haircuts while I was at work. After work, Valya would run and hide from me and wouldn't let me see her hair. The reason was because she knew that I preferred it long. Before, when she would show that she wanted it cut, I would say, "no, no, it's beautiful!" Eventually, I was able to grab her and bearhug her and tell her that her new hair was beautiful, too.

She loves her short hair. When she sees pictures of herself with long hair, she says, Bad. Actually, almost all pictures of herself she thinks are bad. I try to tell her often that she is beautiful, maybe it will help. When I tell her she is beautiful, she usually says No! One time she even pretended to punch her face or cut herself with scissors to prove that she is not beautiful. Something in her past has given her a poor selfimage, I do not know what yet.

Cindie gave Mark his first haircut at 12 mo., in Sept. 1995. Valya was also 1 year old, and Sergey would be born a month from then. The seeds of a new family were being put into place on the other side of the world.

This is the only picture we have of Valya getting her hair cut now. She deleted all of the other pictures off of the camera before I could get them uploaded to the computer, including one with a big pile of hair on the floor. She is like that - she will quietly delete pictures off of the camera that she doesn't like, so now I am very careful with the camera and make sure she doesn't delete pictures from it. Sergey has also been known to do that. In Odessa, more than once he deleted some pictures I had taken at Orphanage #4 without permission or telling me he did it. It was only when I'd get back to the apartment that I would notice they were gone.

Sergey would have been just happy if we didn't cut his hair. He wanted it longer. Actually he looks pretty good with longer hair. We will have to experiment with it after school gets out.

After picture with Sparkle!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Blog Overload

Hmmm... Added a few more blogs tonight... thought I'd count them to see how many we link to... yikes 325!