“Thank you for finding me in Ukrainia”

Sweet words  that Ian spoke at bedtime a few months ago.  “Thank you for finding me…”  Words to make any mother become emotional and so affirming about the journey we have been on.   It is so ironic that he thinks we “found him”.  It was a great opportunity to share how God brought us together and made us a family.  It  has been such a blessing to see how Ian blooming.   He has transitioned so incredibly well.  He has done fantastic at school and socially and will head to third grade next year (he’ll have some tutoring over the summer).  He has mastered English so quickly and is a happy little boy.  There are still food issues which is mostly about control, and a hypervigilence that mimics ADHD that is common with children with his background but it is managable for the most part. He has made friends, and has become much less “clingy” to me.   He played Upward basketball and Upward Soccor and did great!  Now he has joined the neighborhood summer swim team, which he loves!  Considering that he didn’t even know how to swim when he came home last August, he has conquored a lot in his short time here.   It is so rewarding to see him growing, maturing, and loving his new life.  But the journey  is also so hard sometimes.   The hardest part is managing the sibling issues with the twins that are closest to Ian’s age.  Ian thinks he should be able to do all the same things the twins do because there is only a year difference between them,  but he is much younger developmentally and the maturity level is much lower (but obviously I can’t really say that to him in that way).   There is still a lot of “competition” for my time and affection which wears on me.  If one of the kids is needing my attention or we are in conversation, Ian usually does something in the background to distract.   There are a lot of attention getting behaviors that my kids find very very annoying.  Ian’s life was filled with choas – it was his norm.  So, he often tries to recreate his norm, and creates choas at home.  There are many behaviors that were  adaptable in his previous life, but in a family setting, it drives my younger kids crazy ( and me). There is a lot more neediness,  tension and squabbling  then we are used to at home and it has tested me in so many ways.  In the big picture, I know that my kids will someday look back on this journey and see the big picure, see that we followed God’s leading and  even though it was not easy, we have been blessed.

Now for the griddy stuff….going into our adoption, there were things I thought might be issues and they  have turned out not to be (so far).  But one thing I thought for sure I would be able to do is just love him unconditionally. I will be dead honest and say that I am struggling with this.   I sometimes have a hard time loving him, accepting him, giving him the breaks that I give my other kids.  I really thought it would come easily to me but it hasn’t.  It makes me feel really really awful.  Why is this hard?  I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect boy to join our family.  I have to give it to God so often and pray that God’s power will be in me today and will help me to love Ian in a way a mamma should.  It humbles me so much.  Finally I get the whole thing about God adopting me, becoming my father and loving me unconditionally, having such patience with me, giving me grace when I mess up so much.  I do believe it will all fall into place,  but for now, I have to rely on the Almighty to help me with this.  I am so so thankful that God  “found me” and  everyday I thank God for my little boy who thinks I “found” him in Ukraine.

Sorry for the long delay in updating.  I always say I will do better, but I never do, so I won’t make a promise.  But, I am going to try to at least get pictures up more frequently.  Thanks for those who have been prodding me to update, and thanks especially to all who have been praying and thinking of us!

Finally, a new family picture with Ian! 

The handsome man himself

Always the character!

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“Chicken Bells, Chicken Bells, Chicken all the way….

The Christmas Spirit is alive and well at our home this year!  It is truly is a magical time to experience Ian’s first Christmas with us!  He is like a kid in a candy store all the time  and everything is new and exciting for him!  He can’t wait for Christmas!  He likes to listen to the music of the season, but, I have to say, when he sings “Jingle Bells”,  for some reason, it sounds like “chicken bells” to me – it cracks me up (hence the odd title)!!  Everything is a possiblity to him, and he wants everything, and wants to do everthing (including every sport known).  We will start with Upward Basketball in January and see how that goes.  Since Ian is athletic, outgoing and competitve, I think it will go well.  Most everyone will tell you that there isn’t anything shy or reserved about him.  He is doing great in school – he is on level for second grade math, and gets special help with language.  We have just been blown away by how well he speaks, and he understands most everything.  He has made many friends at schools and at Indian Guides.  The sad part is that he has lost his native language.   We recently skyped with his former home  on his “Ukrainian Birthday” and he had a hard time understanding.  But, his friends came and sang Happy Birthday to him, first in English, and then in Ukraine.  It was so sweet.  It was great to see some of the kids again that we spent so much time with over the summer in Ukraine.  

Ian at the Christmas Parade

To back up a bit, we had a family reunion with my husband’s side of the family at THanksgiving.  it was awesome for Ian to finally meet most all his aunts and uncles and cousins – there were 31 of us there!  Albeit, it was chaotic at times, entrenched with family dynamics, but Ian had a blast getting lots of attention and babying from his cousins!

Ian with some of his cousins in Duck over Thanksgiving

Ian getting a haircut from his cousin Reagan over Thanksgiving

As far as attachment issues go, Ian is more on the clingy side of things which is sometimes hard (but better than having emotional distance issues).  He seperates well to go to school, but at home, I cannot leave his sight before he is  asking where I am, where I’m going, and sometimes litterally hanging on my body! It feels a bit like having a toddler at home again!   When I’m trying to manage a household, get dinner going, help 3 other kids with homework and get them to where they need to go, and work part-time, it’s very frustrating at times.  I find myself getting annoyed a lot, which I feel badly about.  He is high maintenance and sometimes I can’t figure out  how much is  part personality, part adjustment, part issues becuase of what he has experienced in life.  It’s a toughie.  I’ve noticed that he tends to dominate the household environment and has a hard time sharing my attentions.  If I’m having an intent conversation with another child, he will inevibly be in the background with a distracting behavior or talking loudly.  I think these are all normal issues (and really pretty minor compared to what the possbilites are), but sometimes I feel like I’m muttling through the dark figuring out how to parent all the changing dynamics at home right now!  On the upside, Ian and his brother have really started to bond well – engaging in imaginative play activies and looking out for one another.  It’s obvious that Ian really looks up to his big brother and it is a real answer to prayer  because Ayden was my one child that I worried the most about in terms of bonding and transition.  He is a kid that likes his space and he has had to sacrifice that – along with sharing his room, toys, and mommie’s time.

 Ayden and Ian going out for Halloween together

We’ve been reading a book together as a family called Castaway Kid by R.B. Mitchell.  IT’s about a kid that grows up in an American orphanage, and his life story (non-fiction).  While Ian really hasn’t been able to follow along, it’s been impactful on my other kids and eye opening about what it might be like to grow up longing for a family.  It has been helpful for me.  I tend to get caught up in the day to day struggles, feeling frequently overwhelmed, and forget to step back and  reflect on the big picture – to remember that God had clearly chosen us as Ian’s family,  to reflect on the blessings and joy he brings, to remember that, if he were not with us now, he would have likely already been transferred to a horrible institution and lost any hope of ever having a family.  So, in the middle of chaos and the daily tattle-telling I am trying to thank God for every minute of it.

Even though I’m not faithful about keeping the blog updated, I know that many of you  still faithfully pray and think of us often.  It means a lot and many Christmas blessing to you and your families!

 

Ayden, Ian and Annalise with Santa

The 6fishies discovering history at the Lost Colony museum in NC

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Transition time

6 Fishies getting our pumpkins!

I apologize for the very overdue update.  Our sweet Ian has really done well with the many changes that have taken place in his life over the past  months.  He seems very happy and is easy going – has the confidence to take on anything, and continues to be loving and affectionate.  Having said that, the transition journey is not always easy, but more on that later.  Ian spent the better part of the first two months of the school year at home with me, and has picked up English amazing fast!  Since he is VERY expressive and animated, what words he doesn’t know, he fills in the blanks with sound effects and body language. I had been told that he would probably start losing his native language within a few months, and that certainly has happened.  It’s sad, and while we have tried to Skype with his center in Ukraine and have had some people come over to allow him to speak in his native language (which he participated little in), the reality is that there isn’t enough exposure to keep it up.  But, he has been eager to learn English and Ian was ready for school sooner than we anticipated.  He would ask every day when he could go, and would go to the bus stop every day with his siblings with his back pack ready to go!  Finally, the day came just this week, when he actually got to join them getting on the bus! ( Hence, mom finally has a moment to update the blog). He was thrilled!  We have a wonderful little school that has been so accommodating and Ian was placed with a wonderful 2nd grade teacher!  He sits next to a sweet boy whose family hosted a child from Latvia this past summer, so he really took Ian under his wing.  I just had to smile with how God worked out that perfect little detail for him!  While only a few short days in, Ian has loved everything about school!  But today, I noticed that he felt a bit overloaded and tired.  I can only imagine how tiring the stimulation and newness must be for him.

Before school started, we managed to get some of the unpleasantries out of the way.  He’s had numerous Dr. appointments, had blood drawn from both arms, is undergoing a catch up immunization schedule, and had 7 fillings filled and a tooth extracted ( over 5 dental appts).  Not only has he endured all this without major tears or protests, he was actually happy about it!!!  After every filling, he would run to the bathroom and admire his teeth and say “look mamma, teeth good now”!  I feel very sorry that I didn’t think to take a picture of his rotted tooth!  Parents all around the world could have used it as motivation for their kids to brush their teeth better!! One day,  Ian told me that his “Ukrainian mom” didn’t give him his medication for months, I realized that he sees all this as being cared for and loved!  What an incredible perspective for an 8 y.o to have!

While the gift of adding onto our family has been an incredible blessing (and I know those blessings will have life changing impacts for all of us) there are certainly challenges.  While I think Ian has been doing great, the shifting dynamics of everyone’s place in the family has changed and with that there have been many challenges.   Much of my energies are managing these changing dynamics – the tatttle-telling, the power struggles, teaching that when Ian might say something to a sibling that hurts their feelings, that he needs to own up and apologize.  Ian has a strong personality, and often we see the learned survival behaviors of orphange living (grabbing, not sharing, manipulating) and it’s a process of  re-teaching these behaviors, while dealing with the ruffled feathers of his siblings that is energy and time consuming.  Ian also asks and needs a lot of praise and affirmation.    I try to give it to him, but often the younger of my children feel I’m giving him more than I give them of my time, love and attention.  As much as we talk about it, it’s hard for them to understand that while they have had 9 years of my consistent, constant love and care, Ian has not, and needs a little extra.

We continue to struggle with getting him to eat.  He can go almost all day without eating – it’s almost like he isn’t in touch with his hunger cues.  He hasn’t budged from the 49 lb mark, despite trips to the Eastern European market to try to find things for him to eat.  The reality is that with a family of 6, I can’t be making tailored multiple meals, so Ian is usually required to eat most of what is on his plate, which usually requires lots of coaxing.

I am so grateful for the reassurance that God gives me that He has called us so specifically to be Ian’s family.  There have been nights, when hubby has been out of town,  and I’ve been up since 5:30 a.m. (the only time I can squeeze in a run), and I’ve spent much of my energies managing squabbles, tattle telling, and meltdowns, homework, navigating the dinner meal, followed by an overdrawn  bed time procrastination attempt, that I fall into bed and wonder how I’ll do it again tomorrow.  Luckily, I am continually lifted up by the holy spirit, friends and family, and incredibly, the energy, faith, perseverance, and perspective comes again with each day.

On an end note, we were given the opportunity by Mat’s parents to get away to the mountains last weekend as a family.  I could not have foreseen what I believe to have been a critical bonding time for our family.  Try as we might,  we couldn’t get the “just right” picture, but we are still working on it!

Thanks for tuning in!

 

Going to the bus stop on Ian’s  1st day of school in America!

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Ian’s first weeks at home…


Ian has had many firsts over the few short 3 weeks we’ve been home!  It has been so much fun  - meeting the first of many cousins, first Beach vacation, saw his first baseball game, swimming and tubing at a lake outing, digging in the backyard with his new brother, playing dress up as a family, roasting marshmellows (which he didn’t eat), swimming at the neighborhood pool, playing WII…..and so much more!  When he first came, he was very afraid of dogs.  I had known that he was bitten when he was young and was very afraid of them, and was a little concerned about how he would take to our dog Rexi.  It only took a matter of about 2 days, and now they are best buds!  He also gives lots of love to the kittens we have (who also need a good home –  anyone?!  ).

I would say, that overall, Ian has been transitioning really well into family life.  He seems to have a good intuitive sense and is understanding so much English already!  I think that he will be speaking fluently within a few months!   The other kids are having fun “babying” him and Ian eats it up!  I think there is lots of “babying” to make for!   There are power struggles (who’s really the boss here), but only one real major meltdown which was over the introduction of the household chore chart.  It became pretty evident  early on that Ian felt that if he whined enough, he could get his way.   I’m happy to say we’ve pretty much nipped that one in the butt already (well, getting there!).   A big one for Ian is whether everything is “fair”.  I can just hear the first phrase to come out of his mouth to be …”but it’s not fair”!  He’s always worried that someone got or did something that he didn’t do.   We understand that this likely from his background, but it sure is annoying at times.   The hardest part for me is managing the dynamics at home between Ian and our bio kids.  Some of the honeymoon phase has worn off and the kids are feeling a power struggle over my time and attention.  The transition is tough, and I feel stretched thin, but I know that we will work through it all with time, love, patience, and God on our side!

I  have been doing a little homeschooling with Ian at home, but he can’t wait to go to real school.  In this picture, he got all dressed up and put on his backpack to get ready for school!

I’ll try to update more frequently…thanks for continued prayers!

 

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Ian traveling

In looking at the pictures that Kristin had, I thought that her pictures of Ian traveling to America where the most telling.  You have to wonder when you look at them, what is going through Ian’s mind.

Ian looking at the planes at the airport in Kiev

Ian excited about helping out with the luggage.

Ian excited about boarding the airplane

What is going on in his thoughts???

Ian and Sissy on the plane - almost there!

Ian in America!!!

Ian taking a bath in America!

Dad, Olivia, Ayden, Ian and Annalise on the beach at HHI.

Annalise loving on Ian

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Home Sweet Home!

Last night Kristin, Ian and Olivia arrived into Savannah, GA.  Everyone was excited and thankful to be all together.  Here are some pictures and I will add more as I swift through the 300+ pics that Kristin took.

Mom, Olivia, Ayden, Annalise and Ian at the airport

Here is a picture from Gotcha day:

Olivia and Ian at McD’s on Gotcha Day!

Olivia, Ian and Kristin in Kiev on Gotcha Day!

Ian is a bike rider like his Pappa!

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On the way to America

So, I got off the phone with Kristin at 9pm, (so it was 4AM in the morning in Kiev) and she, Olivia and Ian were leaving for the airport.  I am so excited!  Tomorrow at around this  time we should be picking them up in Savannah.  A brutal trip home, but we will be together as a family tomorrow.  Praise God! 

Ian is very excited to be on his way to America and we are looking forward to being together as a family. Of course there is a threat of a hurricane for this weekend, but we don’t care.  We will be together!

Currently, me, Ayden and Annalise are in Hilton Head with Kristin’s parents waiting for Kristin and company to arrive.  Ayden and I are going deep sea fishing tomorrow.  We need to catch lots of fish to feed our expanded family.  This will be a great time for me and Ayden to hang out and do something together.  They are providing fishing poles to use and bait to catch our fish.  They are even going to clean our fish for us.  We will let you know how many we catch in another post.

Annalise saw a beautiful bride today who got married on the beach at sunset.  Her name was Amber and she even shook Annalise’s hand.  Ayden said that she had very nice hair and Annalise thought she was very, very beautiful.  This was the cap of a nice day at the beach, but we are all looking forward to spending time together as a whole family when Mom, Olivia and Ian arrive tomorrow.

Thank you for all of your prayers and we will keep you posted as we come together as a family.

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