Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day 7

We are finished with our additional paperwork in the capital.  We will be going back to "Bowen's" city tomorrow via overnight train.

We have gotten permission to post some pictures.  I have updated the blog posts for the last few days with some pictures and videos.

Hopefully we should have a court date soon.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Days 5 and 6

We made the newspaper!

On Day 5, we were letting "Bowen" draw using markers.  He actually chose his own colors!  He would stop drawing, then stare intently at the marker he wanted to use.  We would install the new marker, and he would draw for a bit.... then stare at another color.  He kept this up for a while, then stopped.  He did not look at any of the markers presented - instead, he stared fixedly at the backpack across the room where we keep his prosthetic "arm extension".  We got it out and asked "Do you want this?"  He smiled and nodded happily.  He proceeded to play with the toy truck on the veranda the rest of the time we were there.  It is great that he can communicate with us!

We had him sitting the entire time.  He lost his balance on a couple of times, and used his prosthetic to catch himself.

He is very much a truck boy.  He does not like plush animals at all, but he loves to play with the toy cars.

He also communicated to us that he does not like his Baby Tea (he can shake his head "No" very well).  He ate all of his baby food.


Day 6 we took the 1:30AM train back to the capital.   We spent five very boring hours in the train station waiting for our train to arrive.   The only thing to break the monotony was a couple of very drunk men trying to navigate the stairs.  One drunk man came near where we were sitting and took a bottle of water from another passenger.  This passenger thought about it for a minute, then just shrugged and went back to waiting for the train.

We went to the capital to fill out some additional paperwork with the Department of Children's Services.  Does anyone remember the jingle for Wrigley's gum?  We will be back in region on Thursday to see Andrew...

Oh look!  A rainbow! We saw a spectacular double bow before we left yesterday.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Days Three and Four

Nothing terribly noteworthy these past two days.

We went on a walk with "Bowen" today (he rode in the stroller).  He lasted about 10 minutes and went straight to sleep.

The orphanage has lots of greenery.  Many of the irises are in bloom.  It is a lovely place to visit.  This morning when we visited the older children were singing "Alleluia" with some adults.  The feel of this orphanage is very relaxed.  The nurses seem very happy the "Bowen" is finding a home.  The other children we have seen all look to be in good condition.  The staff:children ratio is very good and the whole feel of the orphanage is much better than the one we  were at last time.

Tonight "Bowen" used his $3.50 prosthetic the whole evening.  He has gotten very good with it.  He moved a truck back and forth precisely, even flipping it over and righting it again.  He enjoyed playing with many of the toys in the play room with new arm.  Even though I made two prosthetics, so far he is only comfortable with one at a time.  However, his experience using the prosthetic has shown him how to play with toys and manipulate objects.  He is leaning down to play with toys, and combining his prosthetic on one side with his arm on the other to play with things "two-handed".  His accuracy has improved enough that he wanted to play with a matchbox car.  The car's small size made it hard for him to move it with his prosthetic - a challenge that he wanted.  He was studying the problem very intently and improving his skill at moving the little car.  The prosthetic came loose several times during the evening (I don't want to make it too tight), and he held it up and looked at me, communicating "fix it".

He also understands choices.  We asked him several times in the course of the evening to pick a toy or an activity and he would look at or point to the desired activity.

Also, here are some pictures of the flowers.

Friday, May 24, 2013

National News

Today we were playing with "Bowen" when the national news media showed up.  They interviewed us for about an hour and took a lot of video.  The spot aired later this afternoon.  Yes there is a link to the video; we will post it once we are cleared to post pictures.

We had no warning about this; we wish we had had advance notice so that we could make ourselves more presentable.  We also thought it was just a local news crew - we were wrong, it was NATIONAL.  We got phone calls from our facilitators in the capital - they saw us on TV.  Nothing encourages humility more than suddenly being thrust into the national spotlight. 

We had attached a marker to his arm with rubber bands.  "Bowen" had great fun coloring on a notebook we had brought.  He also had great fun coloring on Ezra (who was holding the notebook).

 On our evening visit, we tried "Bowen" out with a prosthetic arm we had made the night before from a trip to the supermarket.  One potholder + one wooden spoon + a package of badminton birdies + string + duct tape +  rubber bands = about $3.50 USD to make.  He had great fun with it.  He was able to hit balls around the veranda.  He was also able to move a toy train around and play percussion.  More importantly. it allows him to manipulate objects that are further away.   He is very smart and learned how to use his extension very quickly.  We tried it with him this morning before the news crew arrived, but he did not want to use it then.

We had dinner and a nice conversation with V.  She is the instigator of advocacy for "Bowen".  It was she who got the ball rolling and raised a tremendous amount of support for him, keeping him in the public spotlight so that people knew about him and he would not be forgotten.  She has people all over multiple countries praying for him and helping send supplies such as diapers and food.  We are very touched to hear about the hard work and striving that has happened before we were in the picture at all.

2nd Day

The orphanage allows us to to visit twice per day.  When we went in the morning, we caught the right bus, but in the wrong direction.  We had a very nice tour of the city before getting to the orphanage and it only cost us an hour delay.

We went for a walk with "Bowen" in a stroller around the grounds. He enjoyed the fresh air and loved going for a ride.  We fed "Bowen" some apricot baby food.  He eats very neatly.

Ezra spent the afternoon studying bus routes and our afternoon trip was much easier.  It was raining, so we did not go on another walk.  Instead, we stayed inside and worked with him on balance.  When we saw Bowen yesterday, he was unable to sit up by himself (both on the medical report and in actuality).  We immediately began working with him in the veranda/playroom, balancing him on balls and helping him learn to support himself.  We did the same thing this morning.

By this afternoon, he was sitting very well by himself for long periods (fifteen minutes).  He was good at shifting his balance around to stay stable even when playing with toys.  We suspect they have been working on his sitting also; a nurse came in and saw him sitting and did not seem surprised by it.

In a similar manner, when we first met him he seemed angry that he could not play with toys like a ball.  We have been showing him how he can play with a ball with his arms and legs.   We attached toy rattles to his sleeves.  He had a grand time making noise by moving his arms.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Our first meeting

Our train ride was long; we got in early in the morning and walked around the beautiful downtown area.

We had our first appointment with the child services officials today and then went to the orphanage to meet with "Bowen".

In our first meeting, he cried at first because he was scared of strangers.   He quickly got over this and enjoyed playing with us for an hour until he fell asleep.  He seems to be a sweet and good-natured boy.  He copied us at several points and seems to be quite intelligent.   He will be able to a lot once back in America.  Ezra has worked with many children who have more disabilities than "Bowen" does.  He will be able to play with toys, turn on lights by himself, and use a computer - even  without prosthetics.  With prosthetics (we will start the process of evaluation for prosthetics when we get home), we hope he will be able to run and jump and play sports.  We know a little boy (five years old) who has similar missing limbs as "Bowen"; he is playing junior baseball now.

In our second meeting, we played cause-and-effect games with him.   He understood very quickly and enjoyed attempting to kick a ball or knock a toy off our hands.

He is a very cute boy.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

These are pictures of our apartment.  The apartment is very nice.  Like many Soviet-era apartment buildings, the building itself is crumbling away.  The elevator buttons have long since fallen off and have been replaced with other buttons.  Our flat is on the 6th floor, cleverly labeled "11".

The camera flash actually makes things look a lot better.  It is much grimier and much less well-lit in person.

And then to contrast - here are pictures of the apartment.





We leave in a few moments to for a late-night train ride to our region.

Monday, May 20, 2013


This is the Cathedrl of St. Volodmyr, as seen from our bedroom window.

This is the cathedral of St. Andrews, across the street from the office of children's services.

This is for the people clamoring for pictures.

Arriving Safe

We have arrived safely.  We had no problems with our flights.

Last time we went over the arctic circle.  This time, we flew east.  This meant that we saw the sun set behind us, then rise again in front of us 6 hours later.  That was a weird feeling.

It also made me think - the speed and reliability of air travel can diminish a lot of history.  For instance, there are many small towns in the US that used to be thriving until the interstate came through.  Nobody visited, and eventually the towns dwindle into obscurity, with people driving by and never knowing the town was there at all.  The jet-set socialite crowd jeeringly refer to the non-coastal states as "fly-over country" - country full of peasants and rednecks and assume that there is nothing of value in these states that they never travel to - only over.

In the same way - in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  Whoop-de-do.  We just flew the same distance in seven hours.  Charles Lindbergh flew New York to Paris in 33 hours.  We did more than that in seven hours.  Likewise - we crossed the English Channel in mere minutes.  We crossed all of Great Britain in minutes.  Cities that factor prominently in our history (Oxford, Paris, etc.) became just dots of the map that quickly sped by.

Riding above the clouds, above the storms, above the weather, above even the sunset - WWI and WWII just seem so trite and petty.  We have been given such a large and beautiful world - and we kill each other over trifles like billionaires fighting over pennies.


N.   picked us up from the airport and brought us to a rental apartment.  It is very nice; the decor is good.  It is on the 6th floor of an apartment complex (marked 11 in the elevator).  We can see an ornate cathedral  (St. Volodymyrs) from our bedroom window.  We have a very nice apartment; it is very ornately decorated. 

We had a bit of a problem yesterday.  The wifi in our room did not work, so we were using our laptop.  Microsoft decided it was time to run some automatic updates, restarted (without asking) and proceeded to crash while installing the updates..... thus leaving our computer unable to boot.  This was a rotten development - this is the only way we can talk to our friends and family at home (especially our daughters).  We would much rather be without lights or hot water - we need our internet!  We were able to get a technician to fix it today (Ezra had not brought his PC repair tools - packing light and that sort of thing).  God is good!

We had our appointment today and got our referral to visit "Bowen" in the orphanage.  Remember everyone, we are not allowed to use his real name until we have completed the adoption.  "Bowen" is just an alias.

We were able to Skype to our daughters at home.  This was the first time the girls have seen a video chat.  They have seen still pictures, and they have seen movies - so at first they just pointed and said "mama, dada" (as they do to pictures in our house).  When they realized it was more than just a picture - that we could see them and hear them - Juliana waved at us vigorously.  She stretched out her arms for us to pick her up; it was very sad for us not to be able to hold her.  Skype doesn't work that well yet. :-)  Elena was busy making faces into the "reflection" camera and signing "S...k.... y.....p.....e...." (the logo is visible on the screen). 

Hopefully we leave tomorrow to go to his region and see him for the first time.  We may not be in communication for a day or so.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Our time runs short.  We are at the day and a half point.  We no longer count days; now we are counting hours.    It is so different this time.  Last time, it was just us going.  We packed our many many bags and headed out.

This time, it is still just us going.  We haven't packed as we wanted because our little helpers unpack the bags for us.  This time, we leave half our hearts behind; we have never been away from our girls this long.  This time, we pack much lighter - yet we are yet more unprepared.

The inescapable question is "Why?   Why adopt more children?   Don't you know children are expensive?"

We know children are expensive little life-altering bundles of joy (and also poop, as we have been constantly reminded).   The inescapable answer is that these children need families.  These orphans need someone to love them.  They need someone to look out for them and sing songs with them and read to them and to be invested in their lives.  So many of these children are languishing in the auspices of the orphanage and the institution.  How can we turn a blind eye to their plight?  We can not say "these children need families" and yet be unwilling to serve in this way.  Empty platitudes are no comfort to empty tummies and empty arms.

The time is so short.  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Two weeks

We are about at the two-week point (plus a couple days).  Two weeks.......  two weeks until we get on a plane, bid goodbye to friends and family (including our daughters) and leave to go OverThere.  There is so much yet to do.  Mentally, we haven't realized how short two weeks can be.   We can only guess how much our lives will be different two months from now.

Bread sales continue to do well.  We have had many people make donations and additional contributions to our fundraising.  We are closing in on our target amount of funding.  We are down to about the last $3300 needed.

 The girls are bathed are going to bed.  Kelly  is reading "I love you Stinky face" to Elena (one of her favorite books).  Juliana is giving kisses.  Another night draws to a close.