Hello World! I am Roman!

Yesterday was a success! We were even able to wrap things up earlier than anticipated. We set out on our journey with Roman around 9:30 and got him back for his dinner by 6:30. He did incredibly well for being in a car for that length of time and seeing more of the world than he’s ever seen before. The first two hours were spent in silence as he took in the moving picture occurring outside his window with an occasional look in my direction to smile.  He held my hand for two hours straight and when I stopped rubbing his, he would begin rubbing mine. Just precious.  I knew the second I whipped out a toy or book, it would all be over; so, as long as he was content, we just set there and snuggled hands. Here are some pictures before we left the orphanage and a few minutes after getting in the car. He had such a curious look. My sweet Roman seeing the world for the first time.

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When we stopped at the first town to get his new birth certificate, we had to wait longer than expected, but he did fairly well. He kept asking, “Mama kwaka? Mama kwaka?” We also ventured into the office building for a bathroom break after he said, “Mama pee pee!” Just like handsome Crawford, Roman’s cute face earned him a chocolate bar from the lady up front. He is a curious little one, however, as he LOVEs cords and attempted to reach for a good tug of one in the director’s office where we were signing some documents.  He followed that up with knocking over a tray of her papers – oh my! The director was very kind and seemed unfazed by it which was a relief. Roman is 4, yes, but he’s never explored the endless wonders this world has to offer. It’s as if he’s seeing everything from the eyes of a newborn.  So, these are things we will have to be especially vigilant about over the next several months. I’m trying to give him enough space to safely make choices so that he can begin to understand their consequences (i.e., throw book, book gets put up) and also hear the associated phrases in English. All in all, I thought he did excellent! Here are some fun pics in the car.

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Another pleasure as a mommy was getting to watch him fall asleep for the first time, and although he was slightly grumpy beforehand (which was cute too), it was something I’ve been looking forward to so very much. He still has the pouty lip thing going on from a slight fit he had just prior. Everybody throws fits, so it’s only fair that he’s allowed one from time to time.  Prepare to be melted. 🙂

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We met with the orphanage director and Roman’s doctors and caregivers today to give them our  gifts and express our thanks.  I unfortunately have very few pictures, but hope to get some before we leave town later this week!!

Dustin and Crawford are very excited. Our hearts are full.  We’re ready to bring this boy home. I’m still hoping to have him home by my birthday next week, March 6th!! We cannot thank everyone enough for all the love, prayers, and support that have helped lead us to these last few days! Then, let the true journey commence!!

Preparations

Preparations, but maybe I should have entitled this Perspirations because I’m giddy, anxious, and hot which equate to sweaty. I knew my husband left me with his men’s deodorant for a reason. Thanks babe!! Tomorrow’s huge for so many reasons. We have our Judgement hearing; we travel to two separate towns to update birth certificate and identification information for Roman; then, we hope to wrap up the day by traveling to Donetsk to get his passport information processed. It will also likely be Roman’s first time traveling in a vehicle for that length of time while also discovering the wonders of being safely strapped into a car seat. Hopefully, he’ll be distracted by the wonders of the scenic view outside his window instead. I have packed a bag full of fun goodies to divert his attention if/when needed. I tried to keep these as noise and mess free as possible in effort to maintain the sanity of  my facilitator and her husband – haha! We need tomorrow to go well, so whatever your mode of spirituality may be, please keep us in your thoughts and send us your prayers.

I likely won’t have time to post tomorrow, but here’s a sweet video of Roman and me a day or two ago. He’s really taken an interest in counting and colors lately. He definitely struggles with some motor planning for speech along with the added difficulties of learning a new language, so hand/visual cues and simplified productions of the target words are very helpful to him. He’s catchin’ on quickly! If any PTs are watching this, my apologies for the W sitting – ahhhh!! We are working on this too, I promise!!

The Gully, Gully, Gully

When I married into my husband’s family and had Crawford, I had the pleasure of watching my mother-in-law show me how to do The Gully, Gully, Gully on Crawford. It’s such a fun way to teach body parts AND be affectionate with your child. Crawford loved it, and now Roman is growing increasingly fond of it as well. I’ve witnessed some even sweeter Gully, Gully moments than captured here that would have only diminished in value had I paused to get the camera. So, let’s just let those stay between momma and son. 🙂

To maintain our flow as a new family, Roman and I have been visiting with Dustin and Crawford via pre-recorded videos every time we meet. Roman loves seeing his papa and bwa-bwa and grins from ear to ear until their videos to him are complete. We recently exchanged Gully, Gully videos. Welcome to The Gully, Gully, Gully!

Papa and bwa-bwa responded with this:

Soccer Stars

Soccer was such a large part of my early existence as I spent 14 years of my life enjoying the physical challenges, camaraderie, and the overall exhilaration that came with the game. However, after one year of collegiate ball and complete burnout, I was ready to explore other areas of my life. There have been few moments since that I’ve even looked at a soccer ball. I have a feeling it’s about to make a comeback. Crawford is starting practices next week; and after spending a week entertaining Roman with frequent soccer matches of our own, I think we may have two little soccer stars in our midst. I can’t wait to see them both in a pair of shinguards and cleats – there is nothing cuter!

Here’s a fun video of one of Roman’s first introductions to the sport. Check out that kick! What finesse and power he demonstrates.  It also looks like we’re gonna have two lefties in the family!

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A Little Taste of Kramatorsk (KPAMATOPCK)

It’s another beautifully, snowy day here in Kramatorsk. I’ve had several sleepless nights throughout my stay here, but I am motivated when I awaken to such a lovely snowfall each morning, not to mention all the many other wonderful reasons to get my tired body up. The people here at the hotel have been very kind to me, and everyone from the cleaning ladies to the girls at the hotel cafe has been patient with me when I, for the four-hundreth time, use my one or two phrases I know in Russian. When I moved to my third room, one of the cleaning ladies asked if I knew Spanish, and I excitedly said, “Sí, Yo hablo un poco español!” It felt so good to TALK to someone!! Haha! We now exchange words (although minimal) whenever we see each other. The girls at the coffee shop know what I want when I walk in the door, and we all have a good laugh when I try to use my numbers in Russian. I’m trying here, people! Gotta respect someone who’s willing to try, right?

My apologies for taking so long on this post. There were so many other adorable moments I couldn’t resist sharing with you all first! Therefore, here you have it, my current home away from home. My facilitator, Olga, stated it perfectly the other day, “Home is in here.”  – as she tearfully points to her heart. I’m thinking, is she gonna think I’m a complete cream puff if I cry on her right now? Apparently, my inner dialogue did not help me inhibit this response because  I did cry a little. 🙂 Anyway, here’s my Ukrainian home for just a few more days!!

Here is the view outside my window.

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Old Russian Ladas all over town.

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My little bungalow…..entryway and bathroom

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My bedroom/living area, dining area, and kitchen

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Close-up of kitchen and trusty ol’ teapot. That teapot is my lifeline to endless amounts of ramen noodles, instant coffee, and tea.

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Things that get me through!! Basic necessities of coffee, tea, chocolate, cheese, wine, and chips. The wine bottle with the intricate pattern that you see in the pic above was homemade, made by our lovely driver, Vladymir. It was delicious and tasted just like port….yum.

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The store. Have a sweet tooth? Have no fear, chocolate is here! The chocolate here is mouth-watering to even write about.  I’ve already had some requests (these people will be left unnamed) to bring some back with me.

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An endless array of sweet biscuits, wafers, and cookies!

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Roman’s home for a few more days……..Antoshka.

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In Ukraine, it is customary to remove your shoes and wear slippers when you go inside someone’s home or, in this case, an orphanage. I thought I’d show off my hot pink river shoes! They have been a hit here at Antoshka, specifically when coordinated with black leggings – haha!!

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Roman and I have been doing very well, just missing the other half of our family. BUT, it won’t be much longer before we can all be together once again!! Post coming soon with more videos and pics. Enjoy the rest of your Friday everyone!! Love and miss everyone back home!

Hungry Little Mouths

They awaken from their afternoon naps to a dimly lit room while the pale sky provides a pinch of light through their three windows on the second floor. Agile, but clumsy feet pitter patter with excitement to the round table. Little voices chatter from their porcelain white faces until they are seated …….and then silence. Thump, thump go the sounds of wafers as they hit the table where each child resides. Trickle, goes the water as it’s poured into each of their cups. Then, their hungry mouths eat and eat and eat. A fulfillment of a basic need as bellies fill and dopamine rushes through their little bodies. Contentment for a little while.  In this moment, of yet another day, they can find contentment while their little hearts wait in the hope that a mommy and daddy will find them and love them too. I’m observing from the entryway leading into their room where the babbas have so graciously provided me with a chair to sit while Roman has his afternoon snack. My heart aches. These children, they ARE strength. I know nothing of strength. I know nothing of loneliness. Yet another humbling picture is seared into my mind. I know my heart will never allow me to forget this moment.

This is only one scenario of millions. Millions of little faces and little feet waiting for the basic need of love. We all need this basic need fulfilled. Those of us with the opportunity to read this from the luxury of our comfortable dwellings; those of us who get to lay ourselves down on clean sheets and fluffy pillows; we who have the capacity to protest, to vote, to shout loudly to the world our opinions, we were given a life so precious.  We choose how we want to live it because we HAVE the freedom of choice. Many of these children will never see that day. They will never feel the grass beneath their feet or feel the touch of a mother’s hand on their full bellies. They will never feel their father caress their cheeks and kiss on their sweet faces…….unless we choose to confront this problem.  Not turn our heads for one more day in hopes someone else will handle it, but truly effect change. Whatever way that may be for you! I realize not everyone feels they can adopt a child, especially a child with special needs, but we can spread the word; we can come together and create change within our own communities and abroad; and some of us can adopt! Each one of these actions is important.

This, unfortunately, is a better scenario than most. Many of the children in Roman’s room will go on to another orphanage and will likely get some type of schooling and provision of services until they age out at 18 years; in which case, they will be released into the world with no place to call home and likely deemed “incapacitated”. Others face a much grimmer future. Many children with special needs face transfer to institutions where survival of the fittest takes on a whole new meaning. Many of those with severe disabilities don’t survive more than a few months. One young man in particular faces transfer in coming months. His name is Darren. He, too, is a life so precious, just like you and me. Please take time to turn your attention to this little guy. This is not in effort to guilt anyone into adopting, but rather to inform. Whether you have interest of your own or know someone who would be a good fit for Darren, please take the time to check out his Facebook Page for further information: http://www.facebook.com/DarrenNeedsAFamily

Here are some pictures of sweet Darren:

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Introduction to the Almighty Slice of Pizza

Okay, this post does include more than just Roman’s introduction to pizza, but I feel pizza plays such an integral role in our lives that it’s almost an entity in its own right.  THE pizza.  I love making the dough, letting it rise, tossing it, spreading the sauce and then topping it with a glorious array of fresh veggies, creamy, fresh mozzarella, and a sprinkle of garden fresh basil and oregano.  Can you tell I miss cooking? I can’t wait to get Roman and Crawford in the kitchen with me to make a homemade pizza!  It will be a mess, just as it is when I’m cooking solo, but with more widely dispersed flour and sauce. Thankfully, I have two new aprons waiting for use when I get home!

This video is so funny because Roman is all smiles until he’s eating, and then he means business. He immediately shows us what he thinks of the pizza.  You know they say sometimes it takes a child up to 9-10 exposures to a new food before they decide they like it.  Better get started now because this family enjoys weekly stops at US Pizza!

Roman is also beginning to complete intraverbals!! They’re not 100% accurate, but would they be for any of us learning a new language? What better way to start than with the ABCs? I’ve been singing this song, among 2-3 others, repeatedly over the last few weeks. He did so good, and you can see he’s so proud!

Okay, so this is what melted my heart tonight.  There are times when Roman will obsess over a repetitive task (these moments are rare, but it happens), and I’ll try to break him from the cycle and encourage him to engage with me. He has been loving the swing the last few days and signing for me to sing itsy bitsy spider and twinkle twinkle. Tonight he began filling the swing with balls from the ball pit.  I wasn’t sure where he was going with this, but he was in the zone.  I wanted to let it play out in effort to determine what kind of cognition was at play. He filled the swing, positioned a large ball in front of the swing, and get ready for this…..proceeded to sit on the ball like mommy does when she’s swinging him!!! It was the sweetest thing! I found a few stuffed animals throughout the room and placed them in the swing so Roman could swing them. He loved it and loved that mommy made them talk. When they fell out, Roman and I would kiss on them, rub their noggins, and soothe them. Roman falls a lot and bumps his head. I think due to a combo of sensory processing and having had to soothe himself, he just gets right back up and keeps going. I want him to be able to process pain and understand it when it occurs; also to know momma and papa are here to cradle him when it does happen. He’s had some nasty falls due to muscle weakness/coordination in his legs and trunk, maybe even warranting a helmet when we get home to prevent head trauma until he can build enough strength. Here’s a sweet picture that I captured of him!

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All Appointments Set for Gotcha Day!

Our facilitator is awesome!!!! She was able to get all appointments scheduled for our Judgement Day on the 25th.  This was a big deal because some of the offices we needed to meet with are not scheduled to be open on this day, so great news.  We will also be busy making stops around Donetsk with our little Romachka (cute nickname in Russian). Yep, you read it right, we get to snag our baby from the orphanage for good!!  Gonna be a long day, but could save us days in the process. Wahoooo! I’ll try to post some videos soon, but here are some pictures from today!

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We Love You

What a wonderful day ’tis been! Roman and I had great visits both times today. We are  developing some little play routines of our own since my other two, favorite men have left. Roman is becoming quite the communicator! He, apparently, did not talk, but is now doing amazingly well in this area. I am challenging him a little, but am really trying to embed this in play so that he doesn’t really even notice. He thrives on social praise which is a great start because a lot of young children seem to prefer tangible reinforcers.  If you don’t need it, why go there, right?  Granted, during feedings, we do work on communication. It’s crucial. I want to encourage and honor his communicative requests to eat. In an orphanage, they are very regimented and stick to a strict feeding schedule. Roman would scarf his food down quickly by the fistfuls during our first visits with him, but I think he’s beginning to gain a sense that we will provide. We will not let him down.  He will get to eat. He’s also beginning to use phrases in tandem with his signs that we started out with. He’s identifying body parts such as nose, ears, mouth, belly, eyes, hands, and feet!! He is naming the color blue pretty consistently.  He says the following words pretty independently: eat, more, go, mama, papa, hi, yeah (“lah”), nana, cracker, juice, wawa/water, shoes, ball, and bye.  He is beginning to understand commands such as: shoes on, shoes off, throw in trash, put in, sit down, kisses, no touch, stop, and go. I am so proud of this boy! Also, I got my very first smackaroo right on the lips today!!! As mothers, this is what we live for right!?!  Look at this kid using two-word phrases!!! (The Pancake in this video was provided by Mr. Alex Ko – haha!)

We’ve been looking at videos and pictures of Papa and brother every visit.  Roman lights up every time he sees them.  He loves and misses them so much, I know.  We’ll see you soon!! Papa and bwa-bwa (i.e., simplified “brother”), this one’s for you!! We love you!!

 

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Morning again! Happy Valentines Day to everyone! May you show a little extra love to your loved ones today in your own Valentiney way.

Dustin and Crawford made it home safely last night – yay!! Thank you for the prayers for a safe return home. Now 50% of our family is in Eastern Europe while the other 50% is back in the states on this lovely holiday. Trying to think of ways to show some love so many miles away. Just wanted to let you both know how much I love you. Hope your hearts swell with love when you play my gift to you! Here’s a little something special just for you, Dustin and Crawfordpooh.