Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Growing Pains

This week is Spring break for the kids. I have resolved to take this week off in the years to come once our next adoption trip is complete. For now, I can't. Heidi is taking Friday off to take them to the zoo with the Volf family. Yesterday, Heidi and I pretended to plan our sailing vacation to the Bahamas the summer after Lizzie gets home. We are definitely going in June of 2011! Hi and I have our Captain license and we can bareboat sail up to 50' catamarans or monohulls!

It's hard to realize that Rimma will have been home four calendar weeks, tomorrow. It seems as though she has been here all along. Heidi and I have considered her our daughter since December 2007, when we met her and Lizzie. Some nights, before we fall asleep, we say "did we really pull it off, did we really get her home?" It all seems like no big deal sometimes, again, like she was her all along.

Now, that's not to say that there have been some difficult days. When Rimma started school, she was bullied by some "gang-banger" girls who threatened to beat her up. Come to find out, they had family issues at home and were threatened by the "new, cute girl" that their boyfriends were paying attention to. A situation we quickly resolved. By the way, we don't do the boyfriend/girlfriend thing unless you are ready to marry. Not sure how long it will last or if we can pull it off, but everyone in the house knows where we stand on it!

Yesterday, Rimma and Kole got into a huge fight with some rock throwing, finger-flipping, and shouting in Russian (bad words, i'm sure). Ugh, I was so ashamed and disappointed in them! I'm not sure how it all went down because Kari and Eileen took them to a park for an outing and Heidi and I were not present. Both kids were punished last night and repented their actions. Needless to say Hi and I are embarrassed by the BOB behavior and would never allow them to disrespect another adult, other kids, or us. There are a few apology letters being written today to those present and Rimma accepted her punishment with grace yesterday. A stern face and a few words from me to Kole had him in instant tears. Rimma tip-toed around me for most of the evening as well.

We went to the mountains this weekend. It was the first trip with Rimma since we have been home. It only took four weeks! It's funny that when you get used to something being in your backyard, you take it for granted. The kids are getting excited about going camping this year, Rimma included. She and Nadia already pitched one of the tents in the back yard. Initially, Rimma didn't want to take a ride to the mountains, but as you can see from the pictures, she enjoyed it once we got there. Here's a few pictures dispersed throughout the post for you.

Today is Nadia's 14th birthday! She was 12 when we brought her home. In fact, she was the size that Julia is now. We marked on a door at home Nadia's height over the last year. Over all she has grown about 12" and gained 35 lbs. She used to be shorter than Heidi and now she is taller than me by half-an-inch. Julia is showing signs of starting the growth spurt soon and we feel this will be her year. Kole is still small, but if his bio sisters are any indication of things to come, he too will be tall. Rimma said that Lizzie and Oksana commented that she has a fuller face and "American-accented" Russian speech now. So, all of the kids are changing!

For the past two weeks we have been able to video Skype with Lizzie and Oksana. In case you don't remember, Oksana is the aged-out former orphan who translates for us when we go to Kherson. We met her through AGAPE and we have been helping them support her in university. Oksana visits Lizzie at the orphanage and brings her to her home on weekends. However. last week was Spring break for Lizzie and she went to Oksana's home everyday...by herself! When I asked how and why, she told me that the director and caretaker saw Oksana everyday with me at the orphanage and that they trusted Oksana to take care of her. They let her check herself out of the orphanage and ride the martshutka to Oksana's home routinely now. I was a little alarmed by this and asked her to be careful, but alas, there is nothing I can do about it half a world away. It's only a couple of miles each way and she travels during daylight hours. In their culture, it's no big deal for a lone single 14 year old girl to ride the buses. On the plus side, we get to see and talk with Lizzie every weekend. Saturday I forgot and said "Hi Zina" to her. She QUICKLY corrected me, exclaiming "Dad! I'm no Zina! My name is Lizzie Rogé!"
On Friday of last week, it became official (well, as official as it can get in Ukraine). Lizzie and Vika are on Frontier Horizon's list as having been confirmed to travel to us for the long summer hosting trip! If you look at past posts you will read that the director shot down our requests to bring Rimma and Lizzie home for the last two summers. When Lizzie was inconsolable right after Rimma and I left, the director promised her that she could go to America to stay with her family provided that Victoria, one of their caretakers, would accompany her. Well, that was all fine and dandy. But now that the ball was in our court, we had to find a way to do the invitation letter and visas. Not an easy task when you consider that the embassy gets suspicious as to why a single girl is going to the US and traditionally denies such visitation visas in fear of them not returning. Lizzie has twice traveled to the US, but as part of a larger group performing the Shoemaker play. Also, all hosting trips by FH, UOO, AGAPE, etc send kids as a group. FH then places them in individual homes once they are in the US.
So we called upon FH and prayed that the director would approve this time. I guess his trust and confidence in us that we did indeed adopt Rimma and fulfilled a promise we made to them helped our case. We also asked Karen Springs to explain to Victoria the caretaker, the complexity of getting visas and that this was really the only way to get it done easily. Well, I guess Victoria and the director had the talk because Lizzie is coming this summer for ten weeks or so! Angie and Eric Carman, who kept Vika during the 2007 UOO camp asked if she could accompany them. She was approved, too. So, it will be Lizzie, Vika and Victoria coming to Colorado this summer, finally!
This should lift Lizzie's spirit and help to break up the year-long wait until we get there for her adoption. Roman, the orphanage lawyer, told Lizzie that she would be available in November to December. Our numbers tell us that she won't be available until January to March 2011. Our facilitator asked me to call him a month after we get home and remind him to check on Lizzie's status at the SDA. That month is over, so we will be making that call soon. This summer, we will be a complete family for a little while, at least.
~ Felix ~

Friday, March 19, 2010

Purrr-fectly Happy

You will get the title later, especially with the last two pictures. For now, suffice it to say the entire family is happy and doing great. Rimma is learning English and exercising her previously learned skills, at a rapid rate. That is good! She is bent on getting out of the Newcomers program as fast as possible. Everyday she asks to go to regular middle school, the one Nadia and Julia attend that is within walking distance of our house. She read to us last night and Heidi and I are astonished at her amazing vocabulary and use of big words. Simply amazing. She is more animated and talkative with us now and each day we see a little more confidence and growth as the newest family member. Still, she relies on Nadia as a Russian language translator a bit too much and we tell her that until we are convinced that she can stand on her own in this English speaking environment, she must stay in her present school. The other middle school has ESL too, but at a limited level and only once a day for an hour.

All of the kids are still getting along well. Everyone plays together nicely, too. Rimma prefers to do girly things with Nadia. They put a tent in the back yard this week and were out there playing together quite nicely. Julia, being the TV junkie of the family, has shown Rimma all the finer kids programing . Too bad that they only get TV from Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, and limited time at that. For outdoor play, there's Kole. Rimma and he can often be found riding bikes together or doing some skateboarding. In these pictures, Rimma & Kole play Twister while Julia spins the wheel. They each traded off so the other two could play.

Hop-on Pop is always a kid favorite around our house, me being the victim though. I put up a mild fuss just for show. I'm sure if they knew that I loved it, it would cease immediately. It's a good way to get a workout and play with the kids, all at the same time. Rimma has become a whole lot more affectionate than she already was. She always let Heidi and me hold her hand or wrap our arms around her, but now she seeks us out and eagerly engages. Such a nice thing for Hi and me! Of course, we love that time with all four of them too. Way cool!
Two weeks ago Heidi started taking Nadia to a Path to Purity class at church. It is a frank discussion about God's Precious Princesses and how it is His design that they keep themselves pure. There was a group meeting and classes one night a week with required mother & daughter readings each night. Heidi was required to read from the book to Nadia about everything from the "birds and the bees" to the function of both sexes, and their responsibility to take care of their "gift" and bodies. There were sections that Nadia needed to read with Heidi, too. After the first week, Rimma became interested and asked to go to the group meeting, something that we wanted to wait on until the next session. One night Nadia and Rimma bounded downstairs and jumped on either side of me on our sofa. They giggled and cupped their faces as they tried to explain that they now knew about all things "Dad". Later, Heidi got some mortified looks as she explained what "Mommy's & Daddy's do".
There was some sharing of testimonials at the church from a woman who had a baby as a teenager and gave it up for adoption. This hit home with our girls and Rimma wrote on her question and answer sheet that she wanted to wait until marriage and not have a baby at a young age. I'm so proud of my teens and I think it is important to do this before kids try something on their own due to curiosity. From an e-mail Heidi let me read, many of the moms have grown closer to their daughters as a result of this experience and it has open a dialog of communication and questions not realized before. On our side, it seems the girls can't wait to read together with Heidi and have many questions, some of which have resulted in, "Oohhh, Daaaad!" coming from their room. Teens need to learn from their parents rather than from their peers and we're glad to have the jump on this subject. There is a session for Dads and sons too, and I can't wait to take Kole when he is age appropriate.
As I said before, Rimma has been working hard in school and doing her best. Many days, she comes home tired and heads up to her room for a quick nap before we get home. Wow, English IS hard! Every one's bedtime is 8pm and Rimma doesn't get up until 6am, so she gets 10 hours a night. This is far more than she got at the orphanage, she said, and she loves it. But, after a hard day of Intensive English, it's always relaxing to take a snooze with a cat! I came home early yesterday and snapped this picture before she woke up 15 minutes later.
Of course, turnabout is fair play! Even Dad gets exhausted running behind four kids and two jobs! Rimma retaliated with the camera and caught me snoozing, literally. Now you get the meaning behind the title. However, can anyone explain to me why cats love to sleep on humans?!
~ Felix ~

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Everybody loves Rimma

The last week has been great. Everyone is impressed with Rimma and she has fit into our family very nicely, as though she were here all along. And indeed she has! We told our first three about R & Z even as we were adopting them. There are pictures of R & Z throughout our house and the fact that we talk of them as their sisters all along has all helped with the transition, I'm sure. Also, it's nice to be able to call Ukraine and talk with Lizzie (Z), just as we did with Rimma.

I have caught several instances of Rimma walking arm in arm with Nadia and Julia. Rimma and Nadia were tucked under the covers of Nadia's bed last week giggling and speaking in rapid-fire Russian about something. When I walked in they giggled at me, each saying something that I didn't understand.

Rimma shares a room with Julia, so those two have a lot to talk about usually. Rimma just adores Kole, he doesn't mind too much unless she gets too rough with the play wrestling they engage in. He complains that she doesn't know when to stop sometimes. Last night I saw her scratching his back while we were watching a movie.

Rimma started school this past Monday and started riding the bus on Tuesday. She goes to a different middle school than she would if she was an English speaker. Our district has a special "Newcomers" program that teaches English all day for the entire school year. Nadia attended this program last year and graduated six months ahead of schedule. Rimma came home this Wednesday with a homework assignment. When she was finished, it was a whole paragraph in English, flawlessly written with proper spelling, grammar, tense and punctuation. Wow!

That prompted Heidi and me to tell the girls to quit speaking Russian during dinner. It felt as if there were two sets of family at the table. Nadia and Rimma would chat non stop and never offer any translation and on several occasions admit that what they were saying was secret. When Kole or Julia would offer to tell us what they were talking about, the girls would shush them. Nope, that wasn't going to happen! They can have their private conversations when they are together, but family time is that, family time. We got a little pouting over that decision. Oh well.

So, everything is going well. We seem to be stuck in this "Family Honeymoon" and nothing serious has happened. Heidi keeps expecting the other shoe to drop, but thus far, nothing but a tiny bit of jealousy from the oldest. However, even she realizes that Rimma is newly arrived and needs time to adjust. She is helping her sister immensely.

I can't help but feeling the situation is like having a new baby at home but you don't have to change it's diapers or clean up after it. Heidi and I would love to just hold her and love on her 24/7, but she would think we are crazy or something. Most days we want to get home as soon as possible to see all four of them. I still wake up at night and realize that she is actually here...in the other room and we did it, we did the impossible, something that wasn't supposed to be accomplished. We did it with God's assistance, we did His will, His work!

I pray to be waking up at night next year with the same feelings and emotions when Lizzie comes home for good. God will make that possible, too. Of that I am sure and I'm not losing sleep over the possibility at all. I've learned to put it all in His hands and let go of the worry.

It's the same with Lizzie's summer trip to our home, her home. If it is His plan it will happen. It seems the ony trouble now may be getting visas for them to come, so we will pray. Today we heard from a friend in Ukraine that the caretaker that will chaperon Lizzie to the US wants to be our housekeeper and cook for bringing them here this summer. Hey, no problem! Perhaps we'll be like the Brady bunch and call her Alice!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Bonding Time

The honeymoon phase has started and all is well at the House of Rogé! Rimma can't quite get that grin off her face and we are the same. She has taken an instant liking to her new brother and sisters, even using that term several times the past few days. There have been no problems to speak of, except that the first three want to stay home from school to be with her. Rimma eagerly runs to them with hugs and greetings when they walk in the door after school. N, J, and K's behavior and tidiness have improved as well, something that I'm thankful for!

Thursday was a stay at home rest day for Heidi, Rimma and me. On Friday we ran a few errands, such as a taking the birth certificate and immunization record to the school. Rimma got to see her new class and teacher. Natasha and Pasha were there and both are speaking excellent English, having been home now only three months. So Rimma was impressed and comfortable that she will improve her already good English.

Rimma took quick note that girls her age in America don't wear the knee-high boots that they wear in Ukraine. We needed to buy a few more clothing items for her anyway, so we added two pairs of shoes to the list. She opted for a nice pair of converse shoes like all her Ukie friends at the airport were wearing, and ones that she saw other girls at school wearing. She also got a pair of dressier slipper-type shoes (I don't know what they are called, I'm a guy). I think we may have seen the end of the "Goo-chie" boots for awhile. She let Julia wear them last night to Red Robin and they show signs of splitting open really soon. Yeah!

I've caught moments of Rimma walking hand-in-hand with Nadia and Julia. Right now I can hear them giggling in one of their rooms and having fun. Rimma really likes Kole too. Having a little brother is a novelty for her and she can't get enough of him it seems. They play together like they have been together for years. I think they have such a rapport because they are the two level-headed kids in the family. Nadia and Julia fight a lot and this confuses and bewilders Rimma, she often looks at me or Heidi to see what we will do when those two misbehave. Two nights ago, she herself called them out when they started fussing at each other over nothing. This has Nadia and Julia "towing" the line and self-governing their behavior, a nice change I might add.
Reading my friend, Karen Springs' blog, I recall the same dinnertime conversation that Rimma had with us the night before our departure. She said, "you know, I've seen a lot of kids go to America because they think they'll have a better life, more money, and more opportunities. And I know that I'll have those things...but honestly the only reason I ever wanted to go to America was so that I would have a family to love me and to support me....I've never had that. I've never had that kind of love."

I'm so happy that Rimma "gets it". That's what it is all about! Zina, too, is wise beyond her years, often saying the same things with an in depth maturity that you don't expect from children this age. She and Rimma just want a family, one for all time to give them the love and support they so richly deserve. Zina's only break with reality was when she texted me while I was on the train last Saturday night, leaving Kherson.

"Daddy go (come) back, Daddy please." I will, I promise Sweetheart, I will!

~ Felix ~

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Home at last!

We are home and Rimma has joined her new family. Quite a few adoptive families were on hand to greet Rimma and me at the airport.
I've gotten 3 hours sleep in the past 48, so I'll blog once we rest up and have settled in...in a day or so. Thank you for all the prayers. Just one more piece to the Roge' puzzle...Lizzie (Z)!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

No More Days!

3 AM here in Ukraine, 6pm back at home. We are leaving for the airport now. In 2 hours and 50 minutes we will be wheels up and a dream that started two years and three months ago has been realized for one special girl that wanted a family.

I still hear the words from their chaperone back in December 2007 echoing in my mind..."These girls are not registered, just choose some other girls!"

Other harsh words came from the American person we hired to put together our first adoption dossier (we didn't use her again and we subsequetly accomplished our own dossier this time)..."Don't do it, you'll only be hurt, you'll spend tons of money, it won't happen and you'll get your hearts broken!"

GLAD WE DIDN'T LISTEN! (yes, that's me yelling!)

Lizzie, you're next!

~ Felix ~

Day 46 - Have Visa...Will Travel

The picture says it all...see you in America. We fly out at 5:40 am, tomorrow morning!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Day 45 - America Island

America Island, that's what I think of everytime we go to the US Embassy. It's like this little oasis of home. Can't wait to fly to the mainland!

We showed up right at 8 am. For reasons not understood by me, we were escorted to the front of a very long line. I felt guilty, but grateful. No one shouted at us, so I guess its standard practice.

There were no adoptive families that I could see when we made it to the adoption department. There were several "couples" waiting there, with two more couples at the window counters. When one of the counters became available another couple got up and went to the window. I figured we would need to wait our turn here unlike the entrance facility. The gentleman behind the glass spoke up, "Is anyone here for adoption?" I raised my hand. He told the couple to take a seat and motioned for me to approach! I suppose adoption takes priority and these folks are spill over from another department, but I'm not sure. Again, I was grateful.

I had all the documentation ready, all lined up on the counter. One by one, he asked for this and that form. The whole thing took 15 minutes and we were done, outta there! Oleg and Nadia were shocked when I walked out 15 minutes after I entered!

O & N took us to the medical examiner's office. Rimma started her examination and had to get the x-ray for the TB results she has recorded. No problem there. After Rimma's x-ray and subsequent physical, I was called in to the office. It was the same lady doctor we had for our other three kids in 2008. I asked her if she remembered me, but in typical Ukrainian tone she said, "I see hundreds of kids each year, how do you expect me to remember you?" Nice, thanks! How 'bout, "No, sorry" next time.

Try as I may, I could not convince her to not require Rimma to take a shot. I explained that all my kids will have to have their shots all over again due to Kaiser Permanente's policies. She said she would not sign the release until we did so and that Rimma only needed the first Hep B shot. Is it me or is it another way to extort more money out of adoptive parents. It's how I feel when I go get my oil changed but the attendant tries to sell you a tranny oil change, a flush and fill on the radiator, new wiper blades, etc. They make you feel guilty for not doing it, like you don't take care of your car. Same thing here..."well, if you don't immunize your daughter, you must not care about her" is what I felt she was thinking!

So Rimma took a shot for the greater good and the possibility that she could contract the Hep B virus on the plane. Unfortunately, she wore the white turtleneck under her pink sweater and stained it with blood. Score Clinic 2, Felix 0!

140 grivna for the shot and $110 USD for the physical exam and we were outta there! I'm pretty sure they forgot to charge me for the x-ray because everyone had to pay $110 USD for the exam. Score Clinic 3, Felix 1!

So, the embassy said to return tomorrow at 2pm for the exit interview and visa. He said it was a formality and that we would have our visa that day. We will be on that 5:40 am flight to Frankfurt!

In other news, word has gotten to me that Zina is doing better. She was so distraught and inconsolable the past three days that her caretakers took her to the main office where the orphanage lawyer, Roman, spoke with her. He told her that he completed her documents and that she would be availble for us in November to December timeframe. This perked her up and I hope that this timeframe holds true. I know Roman and he has an excellent reputation and is honest and forthright. However, he can't control the situation once it leaves his desk. But let's pray he is right. In a phone call today, Lizzie (Z) said that this "would be a happy birthday present for her."

Oleg, without me asking, told me today to remind him in one month to go to the SDA to check on Z's availabilty. "No problem", I told him. A lot of people are stepping forward in Kherson and Kiev in attempts to bring a lonely girl home to her family to visit this summer in Colorado, if only for a short while. Thank you and God Bless you all, you know who you are.


Not two minutes after I publshed this post, Victoria (one of three caretakers for R & Z's groupa) called Rimma. She said the director pulled Zina into his office due to her condition and told her that he would let her come to Colorado for two months with Victoria as a chaperone. Rimma is jumping up and down and I can hear Z and Victoria on the other side. Everyone is talking a hundred miles an hour! I guess we will have to get travel visas! Praise God!

~ 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.