I can’t believe how quickly our little ones are growing. Several years ago a song came out that had these words: “I don’t want to close my eyes. I don’t want to fall asleep cuz I’ll miss you babe and don’t want to miss a thing.” This really summarizes well how I feel about my children growing up. I never want to look back on my life and wish I had spent more time with them while they were growing. I don’t want to look back and wish I’d taught them better, hugged them more or played more games. God has entrusted 4 wonderful blessings to Tim and I and I don’t want to miss a thing.
Friday, May 27, 2011
27 May 2011
When we finally said “Yes” to Brandon at the SDA office in Kiev back on April 8th, the only information about Brandon they had to share from his file were two adjectives—Neat and Joyful. What in the world did his caregivers mean by “neat and joyful???” Now that we’ve officially known Brandon for 6 weeks, we fully understand what they meant.
Brandon is neat in most every area in his life. He keeps his bedroom neat. Brandon eats neatly. He pours his drinks neatly. He likes his hair neat. His penmanship is very neat. He likes his toys neat and his bookcase neat. He even keeps his upstairs bathroom (that he shares with Katie) VERY neat. I hardly had to clean it this week. Besides being “neat” as in clean, he is also “neat” as in he is a really cool kid! He is very well-rounded. He loves sports and is really good at most that he tries. He’s obedient. He’s helpful around the house. He eagerly helps to set the table, pour drinks, clear the table, sweep the floor, help mow the grass and take out the trash. He’s friendly with his sisters. Don’t get me wrong. He is a very big tease! But he is very good with his sisters. He shares with them and lets them play in his bedroom.
As far as being joyful—you can clearly see the joy on his face. He wakes up with a giant smile and falls asleep with a smile. His laughter and smiling is pretty constant throughout the day. He is happy even when he has to do things he doesn’t like to do such as work on English Rosetta Stone or tuck in his shirt. He’s so full of life and so thankful for each and every thing. For example, I handed him a pile of freshly cleaned clothing that I wanted him to put away in his dresser. As I handed it to him I expected grumbling about having to put them away. Instead, he said, “Thank you, Mama” and he took a deep breath as he smelled his clean clothes. At every meal he thanks me for pouring his drink and putting food on his plate. He even eats anything and everything and 2 helpings of every dinner I prepare!!
As he smelled his clean clothing, I teared up because I thought that this sweet, little boy has never ever had a mother who washed his clothes, changed his sheets, hugged him as she tucked him to bed at night or told him she loves him and thinks he is the best little boy in the whole world. What a tragedy it is that there are thousands of precious little boys (and girls) out there with no mommy to do these things. I’ve heard so many people say they would adopt if they had more money or they would adopt if they were guaranteed a “good” child. Many are afraid of adopting an older child. Why not just trust God to work out all the “what ifs” and doubts you might have? Had we not obeyed God’s calling in our life, what a NEAT and JOYFUL child we would have missed out on the privilege of knowing and raising!
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
17 May 2011
On May 14, 2011 Brandon and I needed to wake up at 4:00am to get to the airport in Kiev on time. As usual, Brandon awoke with a smile. He helped sit on the suitcase while I zipped it up. He carried his own suitcase down the 8 flights of stairs as well as his backpack stuffed to the brim. He even held the door while I struggled to get my 50 pound suitcase, backpack and purse out the narrow doorway. He’s a little gentleman!
Throughout the flight he was super good. He never ever complained. He never asked for anything except “How long until we see Papa?” in Russian. He was fascinated at the airport with watching planes take off and landing. He loved the food on board the plane. He enjoyed the movie and music service on the 10 hour flight. 22 hours in all was our travel time and he was an absolute joy to hang out with!
We arrived safely in the States around 7pm on 5/14/2011!!! Our luggage, however, did not arrive. It made me a bit nervous because I checked my laptop. My laptop has all my college instructor files and student grades and a million priceless family photos that I really should back up! I checked the laptop because our layovers were very short and I had a lot to accomplish during the layovers. Brandon needed special paperwork at Passport Control. We had to visit the Green Visa area and we needed to check our luggage, go through security and re-check our luggage. There was no time to mess with a laptop! Anyway, thankfully our luggage was returned to us the following evening.
We were greeted by our family—Tim, Katie, Kylie and Haley—holding a sign that said in Russian “Welcome to America, Brandon.” We shared hugs and we were happy that Brandon was fine with giving and receiving hugs from 3 anxious little sisters. All 4 kids immediately teased, laughed and played with each other.
Sunday 5/15/11 Tim and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary!!! I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate our marriage by spending the entire day together (after 7 long weeks of traveling). Even though it was Sunday and we would normally go to church, we really thought it best to spend the day bonding together. The kids swam in the pool, we hit some baseballs, all 4 kids rode their bikes and we introduced Brandon to the wonderful American experience of Wal*Mart!! Finally, Tim took us all out to Carrabba’s to celebrate Brandon’s homecoming and our anniversary! How exciting it was to finally hear for the very first time “Kerr, Party of SIX. Your table is ready.”
Monday, May 16, 2011
16 May 2011
There are worse things in life than being poor. The Bible says what a tragedy it would be for a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul (Matthew 16:26). For Tim and I, adoption has never been solely about rescuing a poor orphan. It has not been about blessing a child with material wealth and physical happiness. Our motivation all along has been to obey God's call in our lives to adopt. It was not until we actually went through the process that we realized that earthly adoption is simply a picture of our heavenly adoption.
To some "heavenly adoption" makes no sense, so let me try to explain. Heavenly adoption is salvation through Jesus Christ. It is accepting the truth that Jesus Christ obeyed the heavenly Father and came to live on this filthy earth for the purpose of giving the message of hope and ultimately giving His life so that our sins would be forgiven. The message of hope is that we don't have to stay sinners, lost and destined for an eternity in Hell.
Earthly adoption parallels this. We left wonderful, beautiful America to travel to the poverty of Ukraine. While Tim and I are far from perfect, we did travel with a message of hope. However, for us, like Christ, we were rejected. Maxim did not want to give up his status as an orphan. He was happy the way he was, with his friends. Many people believe they are fine the way they are. They figure "I pay my taxes. I give to the poor. I'm a pretty good person." They figure they do not need a God or the Bible. When Maxim said he would rather be with his friends we wanted to shake him. Don't know what you are rejecting? You're rejecting a loving home, material blessing, family and friends that love you and hope for a future outside of the orphanage! Don't you know how much we love you??!! Likewise, when people reject Christ, they are rejecting what no eye has seen or mind could imagine (1 Cor. 2:9)!! To Maxim, it did not matter. He figured he was fine the way he was. For as much as rejection hurt us, how much more our heavenly Father hurts when humans reject Him.
What pained us more was the fact that his decision directly affected his little brother's life. What is so tragic was he not only rejected this hope for himself, but he also led his brother down the same path of hopelessness. When people reject Christ, they are also influencing their children, their friends and other family members to reject Christ.
Adoption in Christ is based upon the Father's love for the Son. It is not anything you and I have done. There is absolutely nothing our dear son, Brandon ever did to make us want to adopt him. We went out and searched for him. We loved him before we even knew him and before he even loved us. We went to him and offered him the chance to be adopted. All he did was accept that offer. In his wisdom beyond his years, he recognized that he was without hope of a future in Ukraine. And he gladly set aside everything to follow us.
We could not do anything to convince Maxim and Roman to be adopted. We could not force them to come to America. They saw no need to change the way they were or give up their status as orphans. It is because they did not see and understand the implications of what they were rejecting. Have you considered that may there is a life after death and not everyone is going to get into Heaven? Like Maxim and Roman, I cannot force you to believe in Christ. I cannot drag you into Heaven. Maxim and Roman may very well be fine now at the orphanage. But what happens in life after the orphanage? That's not something they considered. They are fine NOW.
It is my deepest heart's desire that all 4 of my children repent and trust Christ. Katie has already trusted Christ in her life. What a glorious day when one by one the other 3 first recognize that as precious as they are, they are lost sinners and they need to repent and turn to Christ as their only hope. I pray they each grow to love Him with all of their hearts, souls and minds. I pray you will consider trusting Christ if you have not already done so.
There is no greater joy than to know that my children walk in truth. (3 John 1:4)
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Tim and I decided before we were even married that we were going to make a big deal each year on our anniversary. We did not want to be one of those couples that puts their all into their children and once the children are gone, the couple hardly knows what to do with each other. Our trips and making a big deal each year is costly, but we both consider it a value investment. We also swore we would always stay physically fit for each other. I did not want to be one of these wives that has babies and then sort of lets myself go. Thank goodness we have been blessed to keep these pacts to one another for 12 years now!
I'm trying to remember what we've done each year on our anniversary....
Honey Moon-Went on a 7-Day Carnival Cruise to the Caribbean. It was absolutely incredible to finally have Tim alllllll to myself after being apart for 1 1/2 years while he was in the military and I was working in NY at BSB Bank & Trust earning money for the wedding. It was so fun running from one end of the ship to the other exploring. We could not believe how HUGE the ship was. We enjoyed touring the islands, snorkeling, taking pictures and of course sunbathing! Oh, and it was hilarious because since we were only 19 and 20 years old at the time we had to carry our marriage license with us every where we went----Otherwise, since we were under 21 years of age, we would have had to have a chaperon on our Honey Moon! Ha!
1 Year Anniversary-Drove from Keesler AFB to Orlando to Disney World. We were about to PCS to Patrick AFB and we wanted to check out the area. It was a lot of fun hanging out at the pool and going to Disney World together. We could not WAIT to move to Florida. It was the location I have always said I wanted to live. Tim and one other guy were chosen for this special duty assignment out of about 200 other people. We felt SO blessed.
2 Year Anniversary-Was Preggo with Baby Katie in 2001, so Tim rented a pool house in Orlando and we retreated out to where we were alone and my Preggo self could swim all I wanted without being stared at!
3 Year Anniversary-Caribbean Cruise 2002!!!!! Tim had just come back from deployment to Saudi Arabia. Again, it was SO nice to be alone with my man. I believe our dear friends, Jason and Michelle watched Baby Katie for us. I think this is where Jason fed her a bottle of milk (she was lactose intolerant) and her tiny body erupted like a volcano for the entire evening. :) On our cruise, Tim and I played in a volley ball tournament in CocoaCay and took 1st Place!! We enjoyed kayaking. I actually snorkeled and enjoyed it. We visited Nassau and some other islands in the Bahamas.
4 Year Anniversary-Caesar Pocono Resorts in 2003. I had just had our second daughter, Kylie. The girls stayed with Tim's grandparents in NY while we enjoyed a weekend get away. We had traveled up north for Steve's (Tim's brother) high school graduation. We wanted to do something different than our normal beach vacations, so we headed to the Pocono Mountains in PA. We boated, golfed, rode horses, hiked and did some archery. They also had an indoor sports facility where we got to ice skate, play tennis, and play air hockey/ping pong, etc. This is where we overflowed the heart shaped hot tub. We'd purchased some bubble bath from the gift shop. It clearly did not work when we added 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 cap fulls of the "bubbles." We'd decided the stuff was garbage. There were NO bubbles at all. Well, then the jets started in and let's just say they probably had to file an insurance claim on us and we did not get our deposit money back. Oh, well. We never laughed so hard in all our lives! ;)
5 Year Anniversary-May 2004-I don't remember taking a trip this year, but we did transition out of active duty Air Force to Air Force Reserves and civilian world. We had to be out of base housing so we had a joint yard sale with Jason and Michelle. We sold all our baby stuff--the crib, the swing, the Mega-Saucer, the car seat and stroller duo. Our "big deal" this year was that we purchased our very first home. Little did I know we were expecting a "surprise" named Little Miss Haley Alissa.
6 Year Anniversary-Cruise of May 2005-Rebecca Kennon watched all 3 girls for us while we took our 3rd cruise! Katie was 3 1/2, Kylie was 2 and Haley was just 4 months old. Though I missed the girls terribly, Tim and I had a wonderful time. We rock climbed, kayaked, snorkeled, ate, and of course we participated in the Volley Ball Tourny at CocoaCay AND took 1st Place again. We love our cruises!
7 Year Anniversary-May 2006-I cannot remember for the life of me what we did on our 7 year anniversary. I remember this was about the time Haley needed surgery. Tim was interviewing in NC. I will have to see if Tim remembers what we did in 2006.
8 Year Anniversary-The Great Smokey Mountains of 2007!! We stayed in a log cabin resort. We got to hike and paddle boat. There was also a zip line course and an obstacle course. There was a climb to a ledge called the "pulpit." You were supposed to jump from the pulpit to a trapeze bar. The pulpit was around 50 feet off the ground, but it overlooked the valley of the Smokey Mountain so it looked like it was several THOUSAND feet high. The first time I jumped and missed the bar. My hand was sweaty and it slipped. I was ready to quit and go back to my comfy, cabin room, but Tim knew I would regret not having tried again. So I climbed that thing again, wiped my sweaty palms, prayed and jumped yet again! I did it! I grabbed the trapeze bar. I was SO stinking proud of myself. You have no idea how afraid I was and I conquered that fear!
9 Year Anniversary-Cruise 2008. Our fourth cruise was to the Western Caribbean. We visited Mexico, Jamaica, Haiti and all kinds of neat places that Tim can remember the names better than I can. :) We got to zip line in Haiti. We got to snorkel in Mexico. We also participated in the obstacle course where you had to climb the 80 foot rock climbing all, walk along planks that were arranged on 2 ropes, zip line, etc. Tim participated in the Men's Dodgeball tourny and almost decapitated a few men with the force of his throw, but hey, they should have "dodged" the ball. Of course we sat in the sun, swam, shopped and just relaxed. It was SO much fun.
10 Year Anniversary-May 2009--This was a BIG year for me. I graduated with my Master of Science Degree from Liberty University. It was Mother's Day weekend. AND it was our BIG 10-year anniversary!!! Tim took me to a beautiful Bed and Breakfast in Lynchburg, VA. We had an awesome time at the graduation events. We hiked Liberty Mountain, broke all sorts of PDA (Public Display of Affection) rules in front of Dr. Jerry Fallwell's chapel on campus and shopped for my very special frame for my diploma. It was SO much fun!
11 Year Anniversary-May 2010-We took a weekend get-away to Carolina Beach. We stayed in a lovely hotel right on the beach. We walked the board walk and enjoyed a horse drawn carriage ride. Our "big deal" this year was that we put in a pool in our back yard for the family. We have already spent HOURS enjoying friends and family time. What a great investment the pool has been!
12 Year Anniversary-May 2011-We consider our 12-Year Anniversary present our precious son, Brandon Sergey and our trip was 6 or 7 weeks long to Ukraine!
Friday, May 13, 2011
A Burden Lifted
Today a 25 year burden on my heart was lifted! For the majority of my life I have been burdened to adopt a child. And today we completed our last step in our adoption. Tears of joy flood my eyes!! God is so good and the last week God has been so involved directly in this process.
We got a call on Wednesday that Brandon's passport was ready! That was a miracle since the passport office was closed both on Friday and on Monday. How on earth did his passport get from Odessa to Kiev (12 hour train ride) and from Kiev back to Odessa (12 hour train ride) from Tuesday to Wednesday? God had His hand in that.
After we had his passport we were free to travel back to Kiev. Only hours before the train was ready to leave, we were able to purchase train tickets side by side on the train. This never, ever happens. A few hours before a train leaves they are usually sold out and never are there seats together.
We were able to get right in for his head-to-toe physical on Thursday morning at 9 am. There was a multitude of people at the medical center, yet somehow we were moved to the front, and out of there by 10:30 am.
Next, we had to travel to the American Embassy to begin paperwork for his American Visa. This only took an hour and they said they would have it ready today (Friday) by 2 o'clock.
In the meantime, Tim was looking for tickets for us to fly out on Saturday. We were prepared to pay several thousand dollars to change our tickets from May 20th to May 14th. The first time we changed tickets (back in April it cost together an extra $1400). These two new tickets were FREE to trade. Yes, FREE. God had His hand in that as well.
Things went smoothly at the VISA office today, and I was able to pick up his VISA in under 2 hours. So, now everything is done for the adoption and I have a whopping $100 grevna to spare ($12). This will pay for our dinner tonight. God knew exactly how much money I would need!
Through all of these appointments, Brandon has never ever complained not once. He has been easy going through it all. He has sat for hours on end and done absolutely nothing.
He loves to listen to my iPod. He has no idea that he's listening to doctrinally sound, Christian music. I pray that he will learn English quickly, will thrive in America and will fall in love with the very God of this Universe that made this entire adoption happen! Until that day, please continue to pray for us.
Thank you for following along with this journey. Love to all of you!!
13 May 2011
Many of you have been asking about Brandon's background and to all of you we have said we are not sharing this information. I hope and pray that none of you take offense to this or think we don't love you, or think you are close to us. But rather we hope that you respect that he is a little human being and has feelings. I will type out our instruction brochure that we were given and hope that it makes a bit more sense the way they have it worded.
Personal and Confidential Information About Your Child
During the adoption process, you will receive personal information about your child, his or her birth family, previous living situations and/or the reason the child was released for adoption.
Please remember that this information should be kept confidential between you and your spouse only. Out of respect for your child, and his or her birth parents, this information should not be shared with any family members or friends, no matter how close you are. There will come a time with your child asks questions and he or she should be the one to decide if they want others to know about their birth history. By sharing this information with anyone else, you risk the possibility of your child accidentally learning something that could be hurtful or embarrassing before they are emotionally prepared to hear their full birth history.
Kinds of things that should be kept confidential may include but is not limited to:
1. Birth parents names, information
2. Information about siblings
3. Reasons for release or termination of rights
4. Place of abandonment
5. Orphanage conditions/previous living conditions oor situations
6. Social or medical information
Thank you from the bottom of my heart all of you that have prayed for us during this process and thank you for your continued prayers over Brandon's life! He is a gift from God!
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Today it started out raining all morning. It finally let up for a bit around 11am. I could sense Brandon was getting antsy so we ventured out in attempts to find the Dolphintarium. It was a 45 minute walk (ugh, I'm tired), and we never ended up finding it. None of the streets were labeled so the map was pointless.
|What happens when Brandon becomes antsy|
Thankfully, instead we found a carnival going on. He wanted to shoot the guns. He did about 10 rounds before he figured out how to aim the thing. He did pretty well after that. We blew $10 on shooting guns! We both had a blast though.
Then we did bumper cars. He didn't know you were allowed to slam into someone else. Once he got the hang of it, he really enjoyed that. Last, we visited a big trampoline. He jumped for about 20 minutes in there nonstop. I can’t believe he didn't even get tired. The ticket only lasted 20 minutes. I think we used about $20 total on all the things we did. It is a lot cheaper than US carnivals!
Food wise the carnival isn't like an American carnival with cotton candy, hot dog stands, pizza, pretzels, etc. It only had tiny croissant looking things and Brandon didn't want them. I am SOOO hungry. But it is raining again so we can't go out and walk for food just yet. 3:30 in the afternoon and I haven’t eat all day.
Anyway, I hate to say it, but I'm bored to tears, tired and did I mention hungry? I'm enjoying the bonding time with Brandon, but I just want to come home. Foreign travel is just not my thing.
Monday, May 9, 2011
In the afternoon yesterday we decided to go to a big park that was in the tourist guide I got. We took the soccer ball we just pumped up thinking it was a park like in the US. However, it was actually more like our American Botanical Gardens or something that you just walk through, have picnics and look at the pretty plants. There were people there picking flowers and herbs. It is a holiday today called Victory Day. This is the day they gained Victory over the Germans in 1945.
There was a marching band, and military dress men/women marching, lots of people, families and flowers laid at the statues of various men. We walked to the Black Sea. It is so beautiful. I really could have lingered there longer, but Brandon was ready to keep moving. I did manage to snap a few pictures. After it turned dark there was a huge fireworks display that we were able to watch from our apartment balcony. As annoying as it is for our paperwork to be held up since everything is closed down for this holiday, I am happy I had the privilege to experience Victory Day in Ukraine.
We had lunch back at the same restaurant that we've eaten at every day since we've arrived in Odessa. It's a little weird here because they will have things in their menu, but they don't actually have it. For example, I ordered chocolate cake, but they didn't have it. I ordered cheesecake with chocolate syrup, but they didn't have it. He ordered a certain salad, they didn't have it. I ordered Borscht, they didn't have it. I ordered chicken with pesto noodles, they didn't have that. It's frustrating because my Russian vocabulary is very limited and I’m already a picky eater. So needless to say, I'm starved. Brandon ordered pizza with chicken on it. I ordered cheese lasagna and the waitress didn’t tell me that they didn't have the lasagna either. Brandon had polished off all the pizza (except 2 slices) and I was still waiting for my lasagna. I was like "Izvineetya, Gdyeh moi lasagna?" (Excuse me, where is my lasagna?) That's when she told me they were all out of it. Well, why didn't she tell me so I could order something else? 2 pieces of thin crust pizza is not enough to make me full especially with all this exercise.
That park was probably 2 mile walk. So there and back was 4 miles. After lunch he wanted to play futbol, so we went down in that parking lot area for that. It's only 7:30pm here and I am just BEAT. I can't wait to be home. I am so ready to eat when I’m hungry and drive my car when I’m ready to go. This lack of independence really cramps my style.
Friday, May 6, 2011
|Brandon & I in front of the Odessa Opera House|
|A view of the quaint town|
Our translator has to leave so today Brandon and I will be on our own. I am only panicking a little. I remember when I first left the hospital with our baby Katie, I had a similar sensation. I thought to myself, "Are you sure I can take her? Unsupervised? Where's the instruction manual?" Somehow she's still alive 9 years later...even without the instruction manual.
|Along the Black Sea River Walk|
|Architecture in downtown Odessa|
Thursday, May 5, 2011
5 May 2011
There is one less lonely heart tonight!!!! Praise the Lord, we drove away from the orphange forever today. I love my son!
10pm 5/5/11. I just got to the apartment in Odessa. What a LONNNNNNNG (but productive) day!
The train ride was fine. I hardly slept. I'm not sure why. I was tired enough after not really sleeping on the airplane and getting my sleep interrupted in my hotel by phone calls in Kiev.
Let me back up a bit. We got to VIP Hotel in Izmail around 9:30 a.m. Roman went right to the courthouse to pick up the adoption decree. I had 20 minutes to shower and be downstairs. We had to go to the orphanage right away for documents. Babuskha (Brandon’s grandmother) and her son (Brandon's uncle) were there to say good bye. They both gave me the biggest possible hugs, thanked me over and over for adopting him and made me promise to take very good care of him and keep in touch. She gave him a gift (remote control car) and best of all she gave me TWO baby pictures of him! I was thrilled beyond belief! Baby pictures are not something most adoptive parents get to see.
|Brandon saying Good Bye to his Deputy Director at the orphanage|
One thing I thought was funny was he had told his Uncle 'both my mama and my papa play futbol" and his uncle told me that and then gave me the biggest hug. Right before we left the orphanage to go run errands, I was able to take a picture of the Babuska, uncle and Brandon. I was SO glad about that.
Anyway, we went to the notary, then to vital records for birth certertificate, then we had to go to a place for what is the equivalent of a US social security number. He needed his new "social security" card. Bad news. The office closed at 1 and it was now 4pm!!! It just so "happened" that our cab driver's mom works there and had a friend that was still on duty at 4pm and we were able to get his new card. If we hadn't been able to get his card at 4pm, we would have had to stay the night in Izmail pushing everything back a full day.
Next he changed into his new clothes. He actually left the orphanage with not even the clothing on his back. He had to return ALL of his shredded clothing (including socks and underwear) to the orphanage. Once he had changed into the clothing we bought for him back in the States, he placed the clothing that belonged to the orphanage in the plastic bag and we all got in the taxi to drop it off at the orphanage. He said in English "Bye Bye Internot" (Internot is the name of the orphanage) to make me laugh as we drove away. I was so thankful he did not cry. He was completely thrilled with his new outfit, Adidas jacket, backpack, etc. I waited about an hour into the Odessa taxi ride to pull out the DSI Nintendo Game. He LOVES that thing. He had never seen or played with one before but he has already figured out on his own how to paint and draw on it and how to play the games. I think his favorite game is Mario Kart....a boy after his daddy's own heart! He also likes the Hot Wheels racing game.
|His first American Outfit|
|Brandon playing with his Monster Truck from "Babuskha"|