Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Interviews and Photographs

Drawing "Welcome Home" posters for the Volf family

I know, I know! I feel the seething wrath of those of you who are holding me to my promised weekly posting. I know I'm late but I've got a good excuse. I had to go out of town for work the first couple of days this week. Plus, a lot has happened and I've got a couple of credits coming to me for posting more than once last week, huh?

Since our last posts, we have had two interview sessions and a photographer at our house. Let me explain. Our hometown paper, The Times-Call, is doing a story on us and our adoption process. Maggie, the reporter, came one day to interview us all. The kids really enjoyed it. I don't remember the questions that were asked of the kids, but each got to say a little. Mom and Dad did most of the talking, though. On Saturday, Morgan the newspaper photographer came to our house and stayed three hours to catch us and the kids doing "what we do". The kids knew this was a big day and insisted on a morning shower. They wanted to wear their best clothes and do their hair to look their best for the camera, without any input from us! It was a cute gesture on their parts. I was worried that they would try and pose, look at the camera, or be shy with someone around snapping pictures. Morgan had a couple of cameras that are way cooler than ours, so I was concerned about that too. However, the kids acted natural and were themselves. I guess they are used to being photographed now. We went outside for a snowball fight and photo shoot, too.

Maggie is a new face, but Heidi and I know Morgan from the UOO camps she has photographed for the paper. Morgan sent Heidi some enlargements of this summer's camp and one of the photos of me and Zhenya was framed as my birthday gift. I will always treasure it and think of him. I trust in Maggie, Morgan and the paper to do a great story as they have done in the past. When the story comes out, I will be sure to link the article to our blog so that you may see it. I didn't get word of when it would be published, so hang tight!

Donna, our social worker came out Tuesday while I was gone for our first home visit interview. Again, the kids were fine with all the attention. Donna gave us rave reviews and big thumbs up on our success with the kids. She said that they have bonded with us and are doing great in the process of learning how to live in a happy and healthy family.

Donna agrees with our assessment of Julia and offered her input as to where we could go for needed services such as special education, Occupational Therapy for children, and Speech Therapy. These are all things Julia will need as she is quite behind in school. She needs help speaking correctly (Ukrainian & English), and she need OT help to ease her confusion if she is left or right-handed and some other basic movements. Julia needs special assistance with school and a traditional classroom setting is not ideal for her right now. We have another appointment soon with her teacher and a special education teacher to assess her situation. None of us thinks Julia is not capable, mentally. She just never received a good learning foundation to build upon and she needs help in reading, writing and mathematics. She was so sick for so long that she missed years of school. Julia had pneumonia when she was taken from her bio-parents home. There are signs too, that she was never nurtured as a baby and no one took the time to teach her simple life skills. We believe that our friends, the Spanish family she went to on hosting trips, potty trained her at the age of eight! I bet my sweetie is capable of great achievements once we help her master the basics!

Some great achievements for Julia this week were her touching and pinching at school. The teacher said Julia understood our talk with her through our translator (Lilya) and it has done wonders. She controls herself and knows that "touching is only for family", as we say. Julia also sailed through her dental appointment on Monday. She was supposed to have only one cavity filled and have the next one done a week later. Our dentist recognized that giving her two shots of Novocaine on two different sides of her mouth might be traumatic for her. We had two appointments. So, he started the one tooth and she was terrific! He told her that the other tooth just needed a little work and she let him finish it without more Novocaine, on the non-numb side of her mouth. I can't do that! He was in and out fast and she received two prizes for her superior performance!. We got to cancel next weeks appointment for her. So we have two out of three kid's dentals completed.

We start medicals and establishing pediatric care for them over the next couple of weeks. Everyone seems to be in excellent health now and Kolya has even grown an inch since he's been with us and eating! Julia's has gained a few pounds too and her face and body has filled out. Gone are the dark circles under her eyes. Nadia looks healthier too and is happy and doing quite well in school. All of the kids are talking in English as a choice sometimes and we get the occasional argument in English. Not long after her eighth day of intensive English, Nadia could speak, read, write and talk in English. She could do a little before, but she has exploded since being home. So has Kolya. All of the kids get to see Lilya once a week for an hour or two to reinforce their Ukrainian/Russian skills. I suppose they will keep their Spanish too as it is spoken in the hallways, playgrounds and at home when we can't get the message across. Their teachers use it with them too when needed. So, we have some tri-lingual kidos!

Also this week, we talked with our contact in Ukraine who is working Zina's registration. Things are happening and there are indications that Zina could be registered within a couple of months. I can't tell you much about it now, so I'll invoke the attorney-client privilege rule! Remember, once Zina is registered, we will have to wait one year for international adoption. Rimma was registered in October, so she will be eligible for us in October 2009. The plan is to get them both at the same time, so Rimma will need to wait until Zina's clock expires. Both girls know this and understand, they both want to come home together. Rimma will wait, she has already turned down two adoptions since her registration. Hmmnn, Spring to Summer of 2010 for adoption, Ukraine here we come again!

Now you are getting the picture of why we haven't posted this week. Stay tuned, things are getting interesting around here. I might have more to say this week, too. You never know!

~ Felix ~

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Dental Police!

The Dental Policeman just pulled me over!

"Is there a problem officer?", I say as I roll down the window.

"Ill need to see your Insurance card and Visa. Son, do you have any idea why I pulled you over?"

"Uhh, well, no officer. What did I do"

"A few days ago I noticed that you and your eldest were doing the dental speed limit. No cavities, great teeth, no problem. The other day you zoomed by with your middle daughter. Even though she had two small topical cavities, I looked the other way. Now here you come along with your son, Kole, and 'BANG', major accident! Sorry son, but this time I'm throwing the book at you! You and he will have to come down to the Orthodontic Head Quarters and explain yourselves to the Judge!"

"But officer, I didn't know he wasn't brushing his teeth!"

"Ignorance is no excuse, son! You could have killed all those Molars and Bi-cuspids. It's bad enough that this accident has occurred. There are teeth splayed out everywhere and I don't know if we can save them all... , Felix, Felix, FELIX", says Dr. Kelson as I come out of my shocking daydream. "How do you want to take care of this. Here's your referral slip to the Orthodontists that I recommend."
The story above is funny, but true. The sad fact is that Kolya will have to have major work done over the next few years to bring his teeth to a "normal" state. Dr. Kelson thinks that Kolya had a major fever or illness that kept his teeth from ever growing or coming in at all. He is missing about eight permanent teeth that are just not there in the X-rays. I know, I saw it! When his badly pitted baby teeth fall out, he will have no teeth below to fill in the spaces. He also has some un-restorable permanent teeth which means they will need to be pulled. Another tooth or two are growing in sideways, so who knows what will happen. Dr Kelson recommended implants but he warned that this can't be done really until he fully develops physically. He wants us to go to an Orthodontists and have him come up with a long-term plan to restore Kole's teeth. So with great chagrin, I took his referral slip. We scheduled the visit already and I left confounded. How is it that the two girls' teeth were superb and Kole's isn't? Nadia had perfect teeth with no apparent work done he said. Julia, although she had two very minor cavities, had even better and straighter teeth than Nadia. Also, no apparent work was done. But Kolya, Wow!

It became apparent last night as we caught Kolya in a lie. He's been telling us, and probably everyone his whole life, that he has brushed his teeth when asked. We went up to check this one time and we saw a dry brush, a full one-month-old tube of toothpaste, and an almost full bottle of ACT dental rinse. He has been sticking a little tooth paste in his mouth and blowing in our face to show that he has brushed.

Now, I don't blame the little guy. He doesn't know any better because he has never been taught any better. After he was busted, I marched him upstairs and told him to brush his teeth while I watched. I cried as I discovered that my son doesn't know how to brush his teeth. It was surreal. I couldn't believe it, he really had no clue how to properly do it other than stick paste on the brush and put it in his mouth!

Kole doesn't like it when I don't believe him and it annoys him to be watched while brushing. But, it has to be done. Kole and I have a new game now. We brush or teeth together even if one or both of us already have. I'll grab my brush and head over to his room (all of our bedrooms have their own bathroom inside, a feature I love about our house. But I digress!). We brush together and he copies my actions, up, down, side to side, in and out. I make a big deal about it with much drama. "Ooohh, Kolya! That makes my teeth feel so good and very happy!" Afterwards, I thank him over and over for helping me make my teeth pretty and white and for saving them. I'll also tell him that his are happy and pretty too. So far he loves it and it is working.
~ Felix ~

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Martian Child

"It doesn't matter where you come from, as long as you find where you belong." That's the movie tag-line. Has everyone seen the movie, Martian Child? I did, back in 2007. It's one of those sappy date movies staring John Cusak. It was cute, nothing to wrtite home about, and forgotten until recently. Recently, that is, until we brought one home!

Julia craves attention, she can't get enough of it and usually I channel her need and energy into a bit of wrestle-mania each night. I knew going into all this that each of my children would have special needs, but Julia has special-special needs! She passes in and out of this phase of hers quite regularly. That is, she can be a typical "tween" one minute and a five year old the next. In case you forgot, she's 11. She stands out from the others because she does things differently, not badly, just differently.

Recently, though, Julia has been pushing everyones buttons. She's needed a lot more "management". She worries herself that Nadia gets 1 extra minute of our time or Nadia gets to do this or that or Nadia went to take a shower and used one more drop of water than she got to use. We have to tell her constantly that "she is not Nadia's Mamma or Papa, we are. Only worry about Julia!" We tell her this a hundred times a day.

Also, we need your help. We are teaching Julia that it is not OK to touch everybody she meets, it's not OK to hop in everyone's lap or play with their hair and face. Julia does have an attachment problem, just in the opposite direction. She knows who her parents are, but she craves the attention she never got as a baby so she attaches to everyone and anyone who will play and interact with her. Our words to her are "no hands". Help us, help her and thank you for understanding.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not busting on Julia. I love her and her individuality. I like that she's different. I like that she wears her shades to watch TV, even though the lights are out. I like that she wears short skirt summer-wear when it's time for winter fashion, I like that she needs an umbrella "just in case" when the sun is shining or that she draws equally well on her body as she does her papers. I especially like that she can write or draw with either hand instead of moving the paper or pen to the other side. Most times, whereever or whatever we are doing, she is doing her own thing. Sometimes that's good, sometimes it's when we are crossing the street, for example. I call it her "dooty-doo" mode! You know what I'm talking about! When there is chaos all around but there's that one person looking at the scenery and smelling the roses. Julia smells the roses, and I love her for that, just not in traffic.

Side note: Perhaps you haven't seen the voting bar on the right side of our blog. It's fun, it's friendly! So go cast your vote. Go, go, go now! ---------------------------->

~ Felix ~

Monday, January 19, 2009

Love One Another

Wall climbing at the Longmont Rec Center this weekend

"Love one another"! That's what the sidewalk inscription read. Saturday as I was riding my bike with Nadia and Julia, I stopped to wait for the girls at this particular spot for no other apparent reason. I looked down at the scribbled words and at first I thought it would read someone's name or a "Jack loves Jill" type of thing. But no, there it was. Someone had come out (10 or more years ago) and written those words in the drying concrete. The sun was shining, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, it was 60-ish degrees, the mountains were gleaming in their majesty, and overhead (no kidding) a Bald-Eagle was circling over me and the girls. The girls rode up behind me and kept quiet as I said a quick prayer for all that has been bestowed upon me. I told them about the importance of the bird circling over us and that she was a national treasure, the most important bird to the US and a rare treat to see one.

I explained to the girls about the writing. I hope they understood, I don't know. The kids have been struggling with that one lately. We have only a short list of 10 rules in the Rogé home. The first and most important one is this: Be kind (or nice) and love one another. However, they have a knock-down-drag-out fight at least once a day. Usually Nadia wins with one of the other two in tears or extremely upset. She has a way of stabbing them in the heart with her words. On the rare occasion (yesterday) when she loses, she pouts and force-crys. I call it pretend crying because she makes herself do it. I am constantly reminding them of rule #1!

Of course, I see it for what it's all about. Nadia is losing her reign, her control, her power over the other two. The other two now realize, through the empowerment Heidi and I have given them, that they too have an opinion and that it can be heard and expressed. Also, a lot of times, Nadia just wants her way. She tells the other two that they can't do this or they can't do that for no other reason other than it is her will. Julia and Kolya are branching out and pushing past Nadia's boundaries and control. For the first time in their young lives, they are free.

I don't want to paint a dismal picture because actually, things are wonderful. This is really our one and only source of pain right now. I call it growing pains because the little ones are growing into their own and Nadia is growing into her new role of eldest sibling instead of mother-hen. The kids are extremely clingy and needy right now, too. They constantly compete for our attention and we can't be in all places at all times. This weekend at the pool I tried my best to equally divide my time between them. But as usual, one or more of them thinks that you are spending all your time with someone else and they get moody and pouty. We had to leave after one such episode. No matter that you are at the pool with slides, a lazy river, a diving board, etc, etc, Ugghh! During bedtime reading, they will time you on their watches to see who is getting more parent time. I routinely hear, "Koya, 25 minutes. Julia 30 minutes. Me, 5 minutes!", followed by fake "boo-hoo-hoo". I jokingly told her last time, "Ooopps, thanks for pointing out to me that I shorted Kolya by 5 minutes!" I can stand the "needy-ness" from them. I like being the center of their universe! But really, why do I have the only family in America where siblings fight! (Hee-hee, I thought you'd like that one!).

If the past few weeks have been painful, then the past weekend has made up for it by being sweet and loving. Nadia routinely takes my arm and walks with me wherever we are going. She did so on her first day of school in front of other kids. I'm loving it and I know that there will come a day when she figures out that it isn't cool to walk arm-in-arm with your Papa. Nadia has also become more "touchy-feely" with me too. She likes to cuddle (there's that word again, Matt) with me on the couch, rug, wherever when are reading or watching a movie with the family. Kolya is already there and likes to snuggle up too (i'm killin ya, aren't I, Matt). Since being home, I can now rub Kolya's back, head and shoulders and he loves it. I no longer have to sneak a kiss on the head to him or any of the others for that matter. The same goes with Heidi and their relationships. I dare say that Nadia is becoming a daddy's girl and Kolya is becoming a mamma's boy. Julia is all Heidi. We have our moments, though. She came to me and sat with me at dinner the other night. She also hopped into bed Sunday morning when Heidi got up. She just felt the need to put her arms around me I guess. She stayed for 15 minutes. Also, she needs me when she wants to be defended against Nadia, when she wants to wrestle, or when we are in the pool. Cool stuff!

They are slowing becoming adjusted to life in a family and they love it. They tell our friend Lilya this, so we know. We also know because of the "glow" in their full faces. Faces, that unlike the gaunt, ashen ones we saw in Ukraine, are full of energy, vitality and happiness. Little Kolya shared a story with Heidi the other day about one of his reasons that he is thankful to be in our family. I saw that she is writing an entry, so I won't steal her thunder. She can tell you about it. It seems you may get more than one post this week!

The response, "Rule number One!" is heard several times throughout the day whenever a fight or argument breaks out. The other day I heard Kolya yell it to one of his sisters. Nadia rolled her eyes and repeated, albeit sarcastically "Be nice, be nice!" the other day when I got onto her for yelling at her sister. They get it, they understand, and they do love one another. And, they are starting to love us more with each passing day. Love one another is taking hold at the Rogé home.

~ Felix ~

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Open Wide!

Yesterday was the first of many upcoming dental and medical visits. Going to the doctor, dentist, and ophthalmologist are welcomed by most orphans that I have met. They value the importance and understand that it is in their best interests that we are doing this. Our kids are no exception. Even Zina asked us if we would be taking care of her health needs once she gets adopted.

Starting everything off was Nadia. She was scheduled first for the dentist so that the other two would get an idea of what they would be going through next week. We took the whole family and made an evening of it. Nadia was scheduled for an hour's worth of checkups, X-rays, and cleaning. However, her teeth were in such great shape, she was done in 30 minutes! The dentist was astounded, he has seen our other host orphans and what dental challenges may be present in them. Nadia's teeth are straight, clean & white, and without cavities at all! Her gums are in good shape too. Praise God for this bit of good news! At a glance, Julia and Kolya's teeth seem to be in good condition, too. Whether this is good hygiene habits or dental cleanings performed by our children's wonderful former Spanish host families, we don't know. We and the children are eternally grateful in either case! I didn't see any filings for former cavities and I didn't ask the dentist if he saw evidence of prior work, but we will take it, a clean bill of dental health! One down, two to go!

The dentist let the other two come in and see their sister doing well in the chair. He joked that Julia seemed more interested in Nadia's teeth than Nadia was! She did have a lot of questions and watched all that she could in the few minutes they were allowed. It was good to see Dr. Kelson, Linda and Nicole again. Even the "Old Hand", Dr. McCarty, came out to see me, as he usually does when I'm there. We are both old Air Force dogs, so we have a bit in common. It feels like family there and they have been following our blog via Linda's updates. I saw tears in your eyes, Linda, I did! Thanks guys for all the care you give us!

Since we had some time left in Nadia's appointment, I brought up the fact that I needed some dental attention. I was going to wait until my cleaning in February, but it has been bothering me lately. I felt as if I broke a tooth or a filing while in Ukraine. There was a piece of bone in something one night at a restaurant and I felt it then. Sure enough, a quick examination by Nicole and Dr. Kelson revealed a broken tooth and some missing filing. I've had this tooth extensively repaired in the past, always dodging the inevitable expensive work that was needed. This time I accepted the fact that the whole tooth will need a crown, an expensive one at that, just shy of a thousand bucks! Insurance will pay half, so it's not too bad. I will have it done next week.

English is coming along at an outstanding rate. My favorite times of day are homework help, wrestle-mania, and bedtime story reading. Little Kolya is his class favorite and he is learning English the quickest, he is a little sponge. Julia needs the most help and will be a challenge, but she speaks the most Spanish and prefers it to the other languages. Problem is, Heidi's Spanish is limited and mine is almost non-existent. Nadia loves her New Comers class and is doing quite well. All three have been placed in grades, but are being allowed to be comfortable and proceed at their own pace. Nadia will be in the New Comers class for another year to year-and-a-half. She is in 6th grade, Julia is in 5th and Kole is in 4th. Everyday they all ride the bus to and from school and arrive home with smiles on their faces. We have received great reports from all three teachers thus far.

I used to wonder why all the adoptive parents either slowed down or stopped blogging all together once they arrived home. After all, I was entitled to know what was happening on the home front, too! I had been a faithful follower, perhaps not ever commenting, but a faithful follower none the less! I gotta know! That's my family too, albeit my electronic blog family (lol). Believe me, I feel your pain! I want to tell you everything about everything. But, our three take up lots of our time. We hear, "Mom" and "Pop" more times a day than you blink your eyes! And it's fun, too! It's what we wanted, it's what we prayed for, it's our gift from the Father. But OH MY GOSH...can I have a minute KIDS! Needless to say, we are hurriedly establishing boundaries, rules and relationships.

So how about a compromise? I'll post once a week, more if time allows or something big happens, and I'll see you here on Monday or Tuesday? That way, you can find out what we did, if anything, for the past week and the weekend. Once things get rolling for Rimma and Zina we will ramp up the adoption process again and of course, we will tell you all about it. For those of you who have told me that we should write a book, put me in touch with a good co-writer and editor! We need to finish the basement for Rimma and Zina and perhaps one more boy to round things off. I gotta pay for it somehow, any one got a pen??!!

~ Felix ~

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Rogé Village

Our kids had the day off from school due to placement issues. They start full-time again tomorrow, Wednesday, January 7th. Lilya babysat for us because Heidi nor myself could slide our work commitments. The kids love to speak Ukrainian with her and this will allow us to keep our goal of helping the kids retain their native language. Lilya is wonderful and we are praying that she and Todd continue to have a happy and successful start in their marriage. Lilya is looking for work and Todd is a new pastor looking for a church home. If anyone in the Northern Colorado foothills is looking for a pastor, let him know!

Since the kids had a lot of time on their hands, we came home to this creation. It's named (by them in their handwriting) Rogé Village. It comes with adequate parking and a garden. They collected rocks, pine cones, pieces of a pine tree and berries from outside to make it. The main street is Louis St (my middle name). How cool! I'm not sure why there is a baby in a bassinet next to Mama & Papa? Hmmnn, are they suggesting something?

Monday, January 5, 2009

First Day of School

Pictures are worth a thousand words, here are a few from today and this past weekend.

(from top, counterclockwise) Julia & Kolya outside Rocky Mountain Elementary; Up at the crack of dawn with Nadia at Trail Ridge MS, later we would enroll at Heritage MS; Julia (5th grade) & Kole (4th grade) reluctantly follow Papa into the school

Gifts of clothes arrived today from Heidi's relatives in Illinois. "Thank You for the new clothes & books!" says N, J & K.

Chasing groundhogs & rabbits at Sandstone Ranch with Longs Peak in the background

"Sheriff Felix, thars a new new posse in town and yer betta git ready!" (guess who found Papa's cowboy hats)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Remembering Zina and Rimma

Zina called us today. We had been trying to call her all morning, but to no avail. She did our usual routine of dropping a call into us and we called her right back. All incoming calls are free for them. Despite the ration of 25 grivna on the phone each month, the girls manage to use it all up by calling and texting each other at the internat.
Zina was noticeably upset as she asked for a translator. Usually when she does that, she wants to go into some detail in her conversations. We obliged her and got Lilya on the phone and returned a three way call to her. Thank you for your help today, Lilya!
Zina explained that she was upset because yet again one of her caretakers (we know who, just not saying) has been telling her that she will never be able to come home to us and she will never be eligible for adoption. A few friends have been telling her the same. These people that have been telling her these things don't know about her situation and are speculating. I don't know if they are intentionally hurting her feelings, but they need to stop. She knows we are doing all we can and that it is a document problem. We reassured her that it is our intention to return for her and Rimma once they are eligible. Without going into much detail, we told her that we have secured the help of a good lawyer who says registering her is possible. She knows we are doing all we can and in her words, "she just needed to hear our voices ." We let her know too that if she never gets registered that we would try to bring her home with a student visa. She asked if there was anything that she could do and we told her to pray and to be on her best behavior, not to anger anyone. She told us that she and Rimma pray for their dream to be with us, everyday.
She asked if it were possible that she and Rimma could come home and spend the summer with us. We said that we would try and we reminded both girls that we asked the director last summer and he said no. But, that was before he knew of us. Zina said that it is her English teacher's dream to travel to America too and Heidi and I asked the teacher in November if she would chaperon the girls if we could get permission for them to come. We promised to try again, but we couldn't guarantee that the director would say yes or that visas could be secured for all three. The girls were satisfied with our answer.
We talked to Rimma for awhile too. She said that she pretends and dreams everyday that we will come for them. She too prays and asks for us to be a family. I know the Lord hears these little girls and that they will be home forever, one day.
~ Felix ~

About Us

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Longmont, Colorado, United States
Heidi loves to play sand volleyball, sail and garden. Felix loves to fly at the local aeroclub, sail and fish.